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Eli had been trying to remember her full name when he heard the knock at the front door. He didn’t feel comfortable only knowing Liv through the use of her nickname. He didn’t feel comfortable either, knowing this woman through the perspective of his siblings. She was a stranger. A woman they’d maybe seen on tv a few times, reporters called her wonder Benson, like a real-life marvel character disguised in more normal, appropriate attire. Despite this, Eli didn’t feel comfortable using that description either.

His siblings seemed to respect her, trusted her which accounted for something. A few of them maybe even admired her, but he thought none of them really knew who she was, and Eli found that infuriating. That they could trust this stranger with their personal business all because she was dad’s former partner. A ghost from his past.

Eli remained seated when his four siblings stood in unison at the knock. Such fragile looking faces they wore, he thought. It was like staring into a mirror, every time.

“It could be dad.” Lizzie said, nervous. They never had any reason to fear their own father. The man who’d helped raise them. The man who gave them every piece of his character except for his time. Eli had a nagging feeling there was more skeletons his father refused to share with them. 

“I’ll get it.” Kathleen jumps. Lizzie follows her, and the murmured voices at the door call for his attention. “Hi Liv. Thanks for coming.”

The first time he ever saw her was when he was parked next his mother’s casket. She’d whispered something to his sister’s ear before walking away, and then she’d touched his shoulder and there was something so relaxing about her touch, maternal. He remembers wishing the touch would linger longer; speak for the absence of his own mom, the absence of his father too. Elliot wasn’t here with them, neither literally nor metaphorically. He was somewhere else entirely. He remembers carefully studying the way his father reached out to her at the funeral, thanking her by the arm. Eli thought she flinched at the touch, but she nodded absentmindedly, and the fact that she didn’t linger long for his father wasn’t lost on any of them. She mourned with them, grief-stricken, but she’d disappeared almost as soon as she’d arrived, and she’d hardly said a word to his dad. When she walked off to a big black SUV parked yards away, it occurred to Eli that maybe they weren’t on the best of terms. That maybe she was only there for his mother.

It wasn’t until days later he learned who she was. Dad’s former partner. Someone who knew him better than all of them combined, Kathleen had described. Eli didn’t like the degree of definition, or the fact that neither of his other siblings seemed to object at such a bold claim. Afterall, he didn’t know who this woman was. She was a stranger to him and nothing but a memory to the rest of his family. But she was here now, and she was somehow special enough to be the only other soul invited to his mother’s funeral, even with New York covid rules allowing for more. His father demanded privacy, not even Grandma Bernie was summoned, and no other guests had shown up either. But somehow, this Liv was an exception.

Eli fades in and out as the rest of his siblings talk to her. The soft warm hum of her voice arrives as a stark contrast to the gloominess that hung the apartment. She’d managed to calm Kathleen down in the matter of a few minutes, which was no easy task, while reminding her, reminding all of them, that this exclusively needed to be about Elliot. It’s exactly what Kathleen needed, Eli thinks, because she’d been making this about herself for days and it was driving him to the nearest madhouse.

Maureen offers to make tea, and the apartment feels lighter, calmer.

It was nice, to feel the changes already. Like she’d come in and managed to repaint the walls of their grief with some of her patience.

Olivia’s eyes linger on Eli in the corner of the room, and he feels her gaze almost instantly, looks up to meet her.

She’s different from what he last saw. Dressed down in jeans and a sweater. She looks like a mom, a normal human being. Unalike from how he imagined her, different from the stories he’d heard and the pictures he’d seen. Here, standing in their dining room, she was just a woman with the name Liv. The image of Kathy dressed in something similar resurfaces to his mind and he drops his gaze. Feels like trauma every time.

He bites his lip in fear of bursting into tears. He just wants his mom.

But he feels Olivia look right through him, like she can read his mind and no, Eli thinks, please no. He can’t answer any more questions. His mother was blown up. Dead. He didn’t even get to say goodbye. He wasn’t even in the same continent.

But she must be a mind reader of some sort because she keeps her distance, only offering him a gentle smile. She looked away to answer one of his sister’s questions, and her voice was different this time, like she was speaking of something or someone holy and sacred. “Noah? He’s seven going on seventeen.” She chuckled.

She’s a mom. Of course, she is. It makes sense now.

She’s actually really pretty, he thinks. For a mom, that is. There’s nothing similar about her to his own mother. Olivia carries a certain strength and resilience where his mom held a high level of gentle sweetness. Liv speaks with confidence and experience, like she owns the room. While his mom used to get anxiety amidst unfamiliar crowds. Liv has dark brunette hair and olive skin, she’s only slightly rounder in some areas, smaller in others too and it looks like muscle more than anything. Like she spends most of her time carrying the weight of the world. And maybe she does, but she shows little signs of old age. Its why she fits so well around his sisters, as if she might be their friend and not their father’s.

It’s all rather different to his mom’s graceful fragility. His mother was the kindest person he’d ever known, but she was also painfully tolerant, compliant to his father coming and going for work whenever he pleased. Spending weeks away to catch some bad guys in the undergrounds of Venice while Eli and his mother blissfully lived on with their dreams in Rome.

Olivia settles in a nearby chair as Maureen places a pot of tea in front of her. Wonder Benson thanks her, listening intently to Lizzie discuss the attack outside the hotel lobby. All that Eli can focus on is the fact that she doesn’t touch her tea.

Concern etches through her, but she nods her head, as if she’s heard this before.

“Eli tried to call the police, but dad told him not to. That he would handle it himself. I have no idea what that means.” Lizzie’s bottom lip trembles.

Jesus, Eli thinks. Please don’t cry. That’s not what this is for. They’re here for answers, they’re here so this lady he doesn’t know can fix his father.

“I’m so sorry that happened to you Eli. That must have been really scary.” Her voice is kind, but he doesn’t like where she’s going with this, so he keeps his gaze on the carpet.

It didn’t happen to me.

“How long can you stay, Olivia?” Maureen interrupted.

Olivia. Yes, that’s her name! Of course it is.

It felt a bit presumptuous referring to a stranger by her nickname, for all of them, because that’s what she was. Kathleen said ten years. She and their father hadn’t seen each other in ten years. A stranger.

Olivia looks down at the nice watch on her wrist, answers. “I have time honey. Don’t worry about me.”

His sister seems to breathe at that.

Everyone except for Eli and Olivia stand at the sound of the apartment door unlocking. Eli braces his elbows against his knees just as Olivia stands, moving in front of him.

The door slams, and he hears his father’s voice. “What’s going on, everything okay?”

“Everything’s good. We’re all okay.”

“Everything’s fine.”

“Yeah.” Someone else agreed.

No its not. Nothing about this is fine.

As soon as his father enters the room, the tranquility that Olivia had brought with her vanishes, replaced with fear and anxiety, all brought on by Elliot. It was like he carried it with him, infecting people as he passed by.

“We just all wanted to get together and talk.” Kathleen explains.

Eli feels Olivia’s gaze on him then, but he’s too preoccupied with his father’s face to meet hers. His dad tears his eyes away from Olivia only briefly as he places his keys on the draw. “You wanna talk? Okay, lets talk. About what?”

Kathleen is a trembling mess, already, Eli can feel it. “About you.”

“Go ahead Kathleen.” Olivia encouraged.

His father still hasn’t stopped looking at her. It feels invasive. It feels like she’s the only one he sees.

“This is an intervention.”

“Uh-huh. Yeah, that’s what I thought. An intervention. Okay.”

Disappointed, he looks around the room. “And what are we intervening on?”

“About what you and I… discussed.” Replied Olivia.

Discussed what? What did you discuss?

“You and I discussed in private?” Elliot bites.

Oh, oh. His father had already opened up to her. When and where was irrelevant, but it still plagued Eli’s mind.   

A battle ground forms itself between the two cops in the room, but Olivia wants no part of it as she replies. “Elliot, it’s not a secret.”

“Not anymore.” He gruffs and his neck twists.

“I went to Olivia myself to ask for her help.”

Liv, Fix him.

“Nobody here thinks you’re an addict.” Eli speaks for the first time that night. He’s desperate for his father to relax, afraid of what he might do if he doesn’t.

“Thank you Eli, appreciate that. What does everyone think?”

“You need help, dad.”

“I need help.” he replies, unconvinced.

Olivia steps in front of Kathleen as if she wishes to protect her, protect all of them. Eli thinks there’s nothing she can do to shield them from the wrath of their father’s rage. He’s never laid a hand on any of them in his life, but ever since his mom’s death, he’s becoming a walking gun. “Elliot, I’m here because your family is worried about you...”

“I didn’t ask you to be here.” He snaps.

Olivia appears to be the least intimidated one here. Fearless, totally unafraid of the man with the fresh scars on his face and a hole in the drywall. Eli wants to know where she gets it from.

“They’re worried about you because of all the things we have witnessed.”

His father twitches his neck again.

Eli can’t tolerate it anymore. “Like that. You do that all the time.”

“And they’re worried about you Elliot because they care about you, so… do you think you could just listen..” she’s sounds as if she’s done this before, and Eli wonders if she has. If she has other former partners, friends, family with holes in their walls too.

“No! I really don’t think I can.” Olivia still doesn’t flinch, even when he has just raised his voice to her. His mom would stand and scold him for being so rude to their guest, so petulant, but his mom isn’t here anymore, and his dad is.

There’s an expression tied to her face now that Eli can’t see, but it seems to lower the volume of his father’s voice. He lies through his teeth, mentioning his new partner and his new job and whatever else.

Everything falls silent again.

Olivia looks like she might just give up on him. Like she might just grab her keys and her cellphone and walk out on them. She drops her hands to her sides and sighs.

Fix him.

Its unexpected, but when she says it, it feels like the beginning of therapy. Feels like everything they’ve been trying to put into words and more. “Elliot, tell us what you need.”

His father pauses; she’s still the only person in the room for him.

 “I love you.”

All hell promptly breaks loose.

Nobody says anything for a long time, even after his father clarifies what he means and it’s all bullshit. Eli knows this, his siblings know this too, but he wonders if Olivia knows.

His mother is dead, and he just declared that he loves Olivia. He wonders if this is a grieving man or if this has been his father all along.

Olivia looks like she might try and escape. Eli can’t blame her. His attention falls to her left hand for the first time ever, and there’s no ring there. But she has a son and a nice big SUV and a life of her own and she’s actually rather kind and pretty. Maybe she just doesn’t believe in marriage.

Kathleen begs him to stay, rambling on about how he’s not well and how she’s a therapist and she knows these things. Dickie intervenes when his father grabs his keys, ready to bolt, and then they start yelling at each other and Kathleen starts crying and it’s all a fucking mess.

Still, Olivia doesn’t panic. Her face stays straight, calm in the middle of a New York blizzard, especially when she places her hands between Dickie and his father as she anticipates what might come next. Dickie is his father’s son when Elliot makes a comment about the rest of them minding their own damn business. His brother looks like he might throw him a punch but Olivia stops as she places her hands against their father’s chest.

Elliot steps away from her touch as if it burns him but she still doesn’t flinch, telling him calmly.

“Elliot. Listen to us. Listen to what Richard has to say. Please. You’re grieving Elliot and that’s normal, but you’re not making any sense.” It’s a reminder of his slip up. But it wasn’t a mistake, people don’t just randomly tell strangers they love them for no reason at all.

Olivia seems to think it was an error of judgement, which might be a little relieving if it were true.

His father twitches his neck again. “Don’t talk to me like that Liv, don’t talk to me like I’m one of your fucking victims. I’m not a child!”

Eli gapes, speechless, as are the rest of his siblings. Did he really just say that to her?

Incredibly, Olivia doesn’t recoil, she doesn’t snap or correct him. Instead, with two firm feet fixed to the floor, she calmly responds, “And how would you like me to talk to you Elliot?”

“I don’t know… like like I’m me, maybe? Like I’m more than just someone for you to fix and then discard when I’m all patched up again.” he throws his hand in the air. Eli’s eyes widen even more. This is all new to him, he’s never seen his father so open, so raw. He wasn’t even this alive when his mother was still breathing.

“Okay.” Sighed Olivia. She placed her own hands up in the air, unarmed. “Is that what you need?”

“Yes!.. yes that’s what I need. I need you to help me.” He pleads.

Her face softens, “I’m right here Elliot.”

“No no no… I don’t want to talk. I want you to help me find Kathy’s killer. Like old times, I want my partner back.” His eyes are bloodshot with grief, and she was right, Eli realizes, he’s making no sense.

“Elliot, that’s not going to happen.” Its earnest and she talks to him like a child. Its twistedly satisfying to watch his father finally unravel. “Please, let’s just sit down and talk.” she begged.

He ignores her. “Come on Liv. You have connections with Moening’s people. They worship the ground you walk on. Can’t you just give them a call? Find out what’s taking so long? I need to know why my wife is dead.”

“Elliot, I’ve already tried. More than once!” She snaps, losing a little bit of her mastered self-control.

Silence permeates the distance between them. Olivia’s cheeks blush, her eyes widening in slight shock. Eli realizes that she wasn’t meant to share that bit of information, like she might be in serious trouble for even mentioning it.

“What?” his father murmurs. He looks just as surprised as the rest of them.

She pauses, searching his face and she ignores his line of questioning. She’s quite good at that. “Is there another way that I… that we –” gestures to everyone in the room. “Can help you, together?”

He huffs in annoyance. She’s avoided his first request but Eli knows his father won’t let this go. “I need to find out why Kathy is gone.” He repeats.

“Okay.” Olivia sighed, dropping her hands as well as her defenses. “Okay.”

No, he thinks. It’s not okay and she’s not that different from his mother after all. Olivia can be tolerant of his father too; it shows in these moments when she begins to second guess herself, falling into his step. The wonder woman armor she wears so easily beginning to slide off as his father begs her for justice. Begs her to put his needs and desires before any of theirs. Eli wonders if she’ll let him drag her down too and before thinking, Eli speaks.

“Does it even occur to you that maybe we don’t want to know about any of it? That maybe we don’t want to relive the experience of mom dying. Over and over again because you can’t forgive yourself?” Eli has said little more than a few sentences all night, but it feels good to finally get some of his own anger out too.

Despite the relief, he regrets it as soon as he feels their eyes on him, gaping and dumbstruck. Nobody says anything for a long moment. The silence is unbearable.

“Eli is right.” Olivia eventually speaks, piercing the silent bubble he had just created.

I am?

Eli looks at her, studies as she stares intently at his father, willing him to understand.

The man with the scars on his face slumps onto the coffee table, his side profile facing Eli as he rubs his face in his hands. Its progress. He isn’t running.

“I’m sorry Eli.” His father whispers sincere, and he touches Eli’s knee with his hand. “I don’t… I didn’t think of it that way.” He admits, finally.

“Can’t you just let the police handle it?” Eli murmurs.

“But I am the police.”

“You were my father first before you were a cop.” Maureen whispers, folding her arms.

His father looks up at Olivia then, like her reaction might mean something to him. She’s pensive as she stares at Maureen, looks down to meet his gaze and she swallows a lump of emotion in her throat. Olivia looks away as soon as she meets his father’s gaze, and she swipes something under her eye. It shifts the mood between them, no longer the sober superhero in the room, she reveals a little sign of vulnerability. His father looks like he might reach out to her, but then she shifts on her feet, as if she senses it and crosses to the other side of the room. It puzzles Eli. She doesn’t want to be close to him. Is she scared of him too? Did he hurt her? He can’t imagine his father ever laying a hand on a woman. That’s always been his exception when it comes to his rage. Women and children, his children especially, he would never harm. But with the sudden look of anguish on Olivia’s face, he wonders what else his father might be capable of. She hides it well, masks it perfectly with a professional poker face.

Despite this, his father keeps his attention on her form.

“Daddy? You aren’t well.” Maureen reminds him and her bottom lip trembles.

Hell, don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.   

Eli knows this will kill his father, can already see it as he drops his head. Maureen is dad’s favorite out of his daughters, everybody knows this. Maybe even Olivia too.

“We’re all here for you, Dad. You can’t keep shutting us out.” Dickie reveals.

“I just don’t want you all involved. These people. They… they’re dangerous and I can’t stop until they’re put in prison.”

Eli shakes his head. His father just doesn’t get it.

Searching the faces of his family, Eli wills any of them to change their father’s mind, but they look just as hopeless as he feels, like they already believe there’s no convincing him otherwise.

Eli looks up at Olivia then, and her attention is lost on the wall of destruction in the dining room.

Fix him.

“Elliot..” Olivia speaks again and Eli listens, studying her with interest.

Fix him.

“You have to stop blaming yourself for Kathy’s death. It’s not your fault Elliot. Its Not. Your. Fault.” She insists, and it feels like she’s reminding all of them of this fact, not just their father.

Eli’s breath hitches in his throat. Olivia has only been in the room for less than 20 minutes and already, she’s figured them out. She can see the trauma and guilt that not only plagues Elliot but eats away at some of his kids too.

“Then whose fault is it, Liv? If it isn’t mine?”

They all look at her then, acutely waiting for her answer like their lives depend on it, and her face wraps into something familiar, compassion.

“Hate. That’s where the fault lies Elliot, in hate.”

Silence fills the room once more. Eli feels his stomach drop. She’s right, isn’t she?

There is absolutely no good in wishing it was his father and not his mother taken away from him. Eli didn’t need to be told this twice, but there was also no good in hating his father for choosing to deal with his grief on his own. There’s enough hate already in their name. They can’t let it interfere with their relationships too.

He looks over at his sister Kathleen just as she covers her face with her hands, beginning to sob. Lizzie comforts her but it’s too late. At Olivia’s initiation, the floodgates have been unlocked. Eli wonders if she knows how to close them as efficiently as she does in exposing them.

His father still stares at Olivia, like her words have made a difference to his conscience, but still, he’s totally unaware of how invasive and unapologetic his staring appears to be. Eli wants to shake him, snap him out of it. Mom is dead and Olivia is a stranger. It’s been ten years. She’s here out of sheer kindness and goodwill, but she has her own family to go home to. A family with no scars or holes in their walls. Elliot is not her responsibility, and she’s not his either.

“If you continue going down this road, hate is going to get you too.” Olivia adds, resolute.

His father inhales a sharp breath and then he closes his eyes for the first time. He looks like he can breathe, like wonder Benson has given him a lifeline.

“Daddy, do you understand now? Why we’re doing this?” Maureen probes.

His father nods, takes her hand as she nears him. “Yea, honey. I understand.”

“And you’ll stop being… reckless? You’ll get help, right?”

“Yes. I’ll get help.” He promises.

The mood in the room changes almost instantly.

Lizzie asks him a question, but Eli doesn’t hear it as his attention lands on Olivia’s phone. Next to his father, it flashes silently on the coffee table for the second time in the last minute. The name ‘Fin’ appears across the screen. None of them have noticed it except for him. Olivia’s attention is solely focused on the conversation in the room, and he wonders if it might be rude to interrupt the sensitivity of it all. Just to remind her that she has a life outside of this room.

Before he must decide, the screen goes black again and it’s a relief.

His line of sight looks back up at her again. She’s nodding at something that his father is saying, earnest and patient. She doesn’t look as worried about him now.

He wonders if Fin is her spouse. Its late at night and she’s not home and Fin, a man, has called twice already. If she’s anything like his father, she probably spends enough time away from her family. Being here might just be another thing that takes her away. He looks at the back of his father’s head from where he sits, his attention is turned to Lizzie as he listens carefully to what she has to say. It’s the most still Elliot has been in weeks. His shoulders seem less tense, and he hasn’t twitched his neck yet. Its progress.

He looks back up at Olivia. You fixed him.

On cue, she looks over at Eli, as if aware that she’s suddenly become a line in his thoughts, and she smiles gently at him. Like a mom.

He looks away, reluctant to share some of his thoughts with her. His gaze returns to her phone as it flashes again. This time an unknown number appears across the screen. A touch of guilt hits him in the chest as he remembers that he’s been silent all this time. Not wanting her to leave, not wanting to see his father shut down again.

But guilt was something that had been eating away at him too, and so he darts across the sofa, grabbing the phone, Eli stands and hands it to her rather abruptly

“Your phone… it’s been flashing for a while now.”

Kathleen stops talking and Liv pulls her gaze away from her to a waiting, reluctant Eli.

She takes the phone, “Thank you.” and she looks genuinely surprised that he even made the effort. He’s surprised too.

She takes one look at the screen and swipes into decline. Lifting her head up to a waiting Stabler clan, she speaks again. “I agree with Kathleen...None of us can force you to do therapy. That has to be something you want to do.”

His father nods in agreement, and suddenly, Eli is confused. Confused because she’d just ignored Fin, and confused too because she’d just agreed to no therapy. Wasn’t the whole point of this intervention for his father to seek help?

“Look… I.. I’ll think about it, okay? I just need time, time to process. I’ll get to the counselling soon enough, just not right at this moment.” Eli studies as his father looks to her for guidance, confirmation that he’s doing the right thing.

“That’s okay Elliot.” she reassures.

“What about you guys?” his father probes and suddenly, he’s their father again. All worried and compassionate and trusting. “Do any of you want counselling? Or something else?”

Weeks ago, Eli would have told his father that he wanted to go back to Rome, but he was having doubts. He wouldn’t be able to cope with Elliot on his own overseas. He’d need the support of his sisters and he’d need Dickie’s stubborn confidence. Most of all, reluctantly, he’d need Olivia too.

When Maureen finishes answering, everything goes quiet again. Olivia’s phone flashes once more in her hand and this time it chimes loudly. She takes one look at the screen and her brows furrow in puzzlement. She and his father share a knowing stare before she swiftly apologizes, excusing herself.

She shifts to the dining room, presses the phone against her ear and Eli can still hear her, even under the hushed tones of his father talking to them again.

“Captain Benson.” She answers.

Eli looks down at the ground, recognition filling the void of speculation he had about her job, her life. She’s the captain. He didn’t know that. All he knew was that she worked in sex crimes and was once his father’s partner. Nobody told him she was captain now, that she was the boss. Nobody tells him anything. They all treat him like a child.

“When?” he hears her say into the phone. She sounds upset, anxious.

“And where?... Okay. Yeah.” She sighed. “I’m on my way.”

His father studies her as she reenters. “Everything okay?”

She hides her emotions well, but there’s something in her face that suddenly means something. She looks around the room, slightly anxious, like she doesn’t know how to respond. But his still father waits. “Another serial on 8th street.” She answered, simply before adding. “I’m sorry, I have to leave.”

Elliot’s face changes into concern. It’s in that moment that Eli realises she deals with monsters every day. His father isn’t a monster, and nowhere near those that she comes across, but the fear is that his father could still turn into something horrifying if she doesn’t fix him.

Mo and Katie thank Olivia for coming, for doing what she seems good at, but Olivia waves them off. Murmuring “Anytime, sweetie.”

As she bids them all goodbye, she looks as though she’s no longer here with them, like she’s at work already. His father offers to walk her to the door, and when she objects, he ignores her anyway as he treads across the apartment. Eli studies as she follows him to the front of the apartment, coat in hand.

Dickie mentions something about a football game to Lizzie, and the conversation turns into light banter. He waits for his father to come back, and when he doesn’t, Eli shifts, mumbling something about a glass of water.

Olivia and his father stand next to the hole in the wall in the passageway, and Eli quietly moves into the kitchen where he isn’t seen or heard. He can hear them now from where he stands at the counter.

“Liv… I don’t know what to say.”

“How about you say that you’ll eat something and get some sleep?” Olivia tries to joke, but there’s a heavy gravity in her tone.

“Thank you.” He finally says. “Thank you for coming.. I think the kids really appreciated it. I appreciate it.”

“Promise me you’ll get some sleep, Elliot.”

His father pauses.

“I’ll try… I will. I just, you know, my head spins when its quiet.”

“I get it. I really do.”

Eli would like to know what she means by that, but then he remembers, she encounters monsters every day.

He thinks she might be moving when the sound of one of her heels shifts across the floorboards, but then he hears his father speak again. “Wait.. Liv.. What I said before..”

“Elliot.” She warns, and her voice suddenly sounds so dark, scary almost.

“About you discarding me when I’m fixed again. You know I didn’t mean that right?”

Its unexpected but she chuckles, “Of course, I do. Do you know me at all?”

His father fails to respond to that and somehow it speaks more volumes about their relationship than any of the stories he’s heard about them. Ten years, Eli remembers. They didn’t see each other for ten whole years. Normally, that wouldn’t mean much to Eli, but the short stories he’s heard have all detailed one way or another how she was his dad’s best best friend. Was.

“Olivia..”

“I have to go.” She proclaims, and whatever conversation she might be trying to avoid, he’s grateful for it. He wants her to stay away from his family, but there’s a tiny part of him that would like to know her more. To know more of his father.

“Okay.” Sighed Elliot. “You uh.. you got your weapon on you?”

Her what?

“My... No Elliot. I didn’t come to your damn apartment, armed. You have a fourteen-year-old here.” She chastises him and it brings a ghost of a smile to Eli’s face.

“Nothing he hasn’t seen before.” Aint that the truth.

His father continues, “So, you’re telling me you’re gonna go looking for a rapist dressed like that with no protection on you?”

“What’s wrong with the way I’m dressed?” she demands.

“Nothing. You look great...” he slips. “I just mean, well, you know what I mean...”

“I can look after myself Elliot. I’ve been doing this for twen..”

“Twenty-two years, I know.” He finishes for her. The two fall into one of their rhythmic movements of silence, and Eli thinks that maybe they’re no longer there when he hears his father clear his throat.

“I meant it.” He tells her, sincerely. “I meant what I said, before Liv. You're my best friend.” Eli was starting to think she meant more to him than just that. He's never ever in his 14 years of living, felt his father so vulnerable before. Like every syllable he says to her hangs on the edge of his lips, like he speaks just to hear her voice again. 

She doesn’t ask for clarification. She just ignores his line of thoughts again and the fact that they speak telepathy is unfair to those closest to them. It prevents Eli from understanding his father even more.

“Elliot, let’s not do this.” She pleads.

He hears his father exhale. “Okay, yeah. Uh… listen, will you text me when you get home tonight? Just so I know you’re..”

“Jesus Christ, Elliot. My weapon is locked in the glovebox of my car and my squad will be meeting me there. I’ll be fine, all right?”

“I know you will.” He answered, and he sounds relieved already. “Just for my own conscience, alright?”

He continues when she snorts. “You’re the one who said paranoia is normal with sleep deprivation.”

She chuckles then, and its sweet and probably makes his father smile but it haunts Eli’s shoulders. They’re not strangers but they’re not friends either, he realizes. There’s nothing but memories there for them, but now they might just be creating new ones and that, frankly, scares the shit out of him.  

“I’ll only text you if you talk more with your kids tonight.” She compromises.

“Got it.” His father replies, remains leaned against the wall as she shifts to the front door, her heals leading a trail of her pending exit. “Liv?”

“Yeah?”

“Thank you, again.” he’s never heard or felt his father relieve so much debt before. As if thanking her for doing something so difficult and yet so seemingly effortless for her is all that he can speak for.

Just like the rest of their regular exchanges, Eli imagines Olivia’s reply is non-verbal, all in her face, because he hears nothing but silence.

And then the soft click of the door closing. She’s gone.