He’s laying on the couch and staring up at the ceiling, trying to calm his overactive brain. The images flash before him, like a rolodex of terror and love.
It always starts with Maureen, her quiet smile that always makes her look so much like Kathy followed by the image of her laying there bleeding on the steps to her house. Then it moves to Kathleen, followed by her being stuck in her car after a horrible accident. Dickie, then lying on the ground outside of the building he’s the head of security for with a bullet to the head. Lizzie, then her gasping from the stab wounds that leave her lying on the sidewalk. Eli, laying in the middle of the road after a car hit him.
He shakes his head, tries to remind himself that the kids are fine, they are all at home. He hates his brain for producing the horrific images, hates his brain for constantly supplying them in a barrage against his senses, which are only intensified because of the drug induced haze he was in while he heard their deaths described to him.
Their faces, both smiling and mangled still continue to rotate in the back of his mind as he tries to push his brain somewhere else.
He looks over towards the kitchen, barely able to see around the island when he notices that the ground sparkles and he takes a deep breath before letting it out slowly.
The glass that is sprinkled across the ground is sparkling gently in the late morning sun, and he can’t believe that he forgot about it. He pushes himself off the couch, groaning as he does so before heading for the kitchen.
He grabs the broom and pan laying off to the side, starts sweeping the dusting of glass towards the middle of the kitchen, trying to avoid getting the tiny slivers into his feet. The mundaneness of the task finally pushes the kids completely out of his head and he focuses on getting every last tiny piece sprinkling the ground, briefly wondering just what it was that he had broken considering there are no pieces big enough to give him a clue.
As he pours the broken glass into the garbage bag, he realizes then that he hasn’t heard any movement from Eli’s bedroom this morning. He sets the broom and dustpan back where they were before heading back for Eli’s room. He listens carefully for any signs that he’s in there, but when he hears none, he gently knocks on the door, leaning his ear against it.
After a minute of dead silence, he finally opens the door only to panic the second he sees Eli’s bed empty. His eyes skirt around Eli’s room, looking for some sign of a struggle before rushing back to the living room in search of his cell phone.
There’s only one message waiting and it’s from Kathleen. He holds his breath as he opens it to see the words, “Eli is with me.”
He sees it’s from last night, time stamped at 11:57 and he scrubs his face as he tries to think about the last thing he remembers before waking up on the couch this morning.
Dinner. He thinks suddenly, and he opens his eyes. The last thing he remembers is coming home from grabbing dinner with Eli. But once they walk through the door, the rest of the night is black.
He growls in frustration, irritation coursing through him as he tries to remember what the fuck happened last night. But alas, just as it was the case with every other night since he’s been home, it never comes.
It’s hard for him to accept that he can’t remember about half of each day. Can’t remember those few precious hours that cause him to do something, only knowing that when he awakes the next day, he wakes up to destruction, usually contained to the kitchen.
“Small blessings,” he thinks casually before sighing and scrubbing at his face. He tries to fall asleep again, hoping that maybe once his body is caught up on his lack of sleep, it will help the images and the violence fade a bit.
And he does manage to sleep, manages to even hit a deep sleep, one that allows him to dream…
But then Olivia is on the ground, covered in her own blood from multiple bullets to the chest and he’s sitting up gasping for air, trying to scrub the image from his mind.
He turns on the tv then, hoping that the noise will help pull his mind off the image of Olivia dying on the ground as he tries to even out his breathing. Flashes of her gasping on the ground keep invading his senses before he stands up suddenly and starts pacing.
He forces himself to find something to ground him, and he notices suddenly that it’s darker in his place than it was earlier and he wonders if he actually managed to get a couple hours of sleep. He curls his toes into the carpet below him and takes a deep breath, leaning his head back to look up at the ceiling.
He debates about calling Olivia, the urge to hear her voice overwhelming him when all of a sudden, there’s a knock at his door.
She obsessively checks her phone as she walks out the door, hoping for a text message to come rolling in as she heads for her car.
It never does and the brief relief she had felt earlier in her apartment is quickly dissipating as she climbs into the driver seat.
A message from Eli rolls in and she assumes it’s his list of items to grab tonight before she brings him some other time this week to grab everything else.
She debates about calling Elliot, debates about giving him a chance to prepare himself for the storm that is coming his way, but decides that after all the secrets of the week, what’s one more?
The rage still stewing in her rebuilds the closer she gets to his building, and for a moment she’s grateful that she doesn’t have a longer drive to his place. Grateful that she doesn’t have to see the beast that is sleeping so close to the surface awaken inside her.
She rushes up to his place and slams her fist against the door in three quick motions. She lets her arm rest against the door frame for a moment, staring a hole into the door as she waits for it to swing open.
After a minute passes, she hits the door again and leans against the frame.
“Elliot it’s me, come open the door.” She listens for any sign of movement and when she’s met with none, she feels the anxiety start to build in her stomach.
“Elliot, if I have to bust down this door I’m going to be pissed,” she calls out as she starts to feel for his spare key. She runs her hand over the top of the frame twice with no success and huffs as her hands drop to her side.
She starts to run her eyes across the entryway, looking for any sign of something hidden when she suddenly hears the lock click in front of her.
The door swings open as she settles onto her feet squarely in front of him and she immediately sags when she sees him.
His beard is unkempt, small tufts of hair sticking out at odd angles. His hair finally looks like it’s starting to grow back in, but the scruff seems almost patchy. But his eyes, his eyes tell her everything she needs to know.
The bags under his eyes are so deep that they make his eyes look sunken in. They’re a deep purple and they only serve to worsen the exhaustion that is deep set in his eyes.
She doesn’t wait for him to move aside this time, instead barreling her way past him into his place, her eyes scanning their surroundings for any signs that she may have missed during the course of the week that would’ve warned her of what was to come.
She feels him watching her as she scans the kitchen, looking for something, anything, that tells her of the chaos in this apartment over the course of the week. She feels the world continue to spin on its axis, moving a little further to turning everything she thought she knew upside down, before storming to his living room.
She catches a glimpse of his face as she passes him, sees the confusion that overtakes it, before she’s standing in the middle of the living room, once again carefully scanning the room for a sign.
She doesn’t know if she’s disappointed or relieved that she doesn’t notice any warning signs of what was to come and her shoulders drop. However, as she steels herself to face him, to not cave at the expression on his face, she hears Eli’s voice echoing in her head.
“Night turns him into a monster.” With Eli’s voice full of terror ringing in her ears, she turns to face him. When he stiffens as her eyes fall on him, she can only imagine what he’s seeing. Can only imagine how prevalent the rage that hums just below her skin is in her eyes.
“What the fuck is wrong with you Elliot?” She starts, running a hand through her hair before starting to pace back and forth in the small space in front of his coffee table.
His eyebrows furrowed together. “I don’t know what-“
She whirls towards him, her eyes aflame. “I would not complete that sentence,” she interrupts, her eyes narrowing.
His mouth opens and shuts twice as he looks at her desperately, looking at her to help guide him. She shakes her head and looks up at the ceiling.
“Elliot I swear to god, if you know what’s good for you, you will use your brain for five seconds before you finish that sentence.” His jaw drops at her tone and when she sees how absolutely lost he is at the origins of her anger, it finally makes her snap.
“Eli, Elliot. Tell me why your son finally gathered the courage to tell me about all the shit you’ve put him through this week.” He forces himself to meet her eyes finally, having chosen a spot past her head to focus on after she interrupted him and when he does, he immediately shrinks into himself, the fire in her eyes warning him of the danger that is to come.
“I... I didn’t mean to hurt him, Liv.” She softens for a second, watches the confusion and pain wash over him as he realizes just how bad it’s been for Eli.
As his head drops to his chest, a small voice in the back of her head reminds her that this wasn’t a one off. Hell, it wasn’t even something that had happened twice. It was something that had happened almost every single night. And while he may not have been able to control it in the moment, he had the chance more than once to reach out to Kathleen, Maureen, Bernie, hell even her to start to make things right for all of them. The realization makes the water poured on the inferno within her almost nonexistent, the flames beginning to burn bright once again.
“You sure have a hell of a way of showing that Elliot,” she bites out, her eyes narrowed as she stares at the top of his head. He whips his head up at her words, his own eyes narrowed in fury as well and she startles when she sees that his eyes are the most focused they’ve been in a week.
“What the hell did you want me to do Olivia, just stop having flashbacks?” He accuses, throwing his arms up in frustration. Her back straightens as her shoulders roll back.
“No Elliot, I want you to go get help. I want you to stop traumatizing your son in the process because you seem to think everything is fine.” He glares at her and she shakes her head.
“Eli isn’t traumatized-”
“Bullshit Elliot!” she cries out, pointing a finger at him. “I am calling complete bullshit on that and the fact that you even think that Eli has been fine during all of this is almost more terrifying than anything else.” He gapes at her then, his fists clenching and unclenching at his sides.
“And how the hell would you know how my kid has been feeling Liv, he barely knows you.” She flinches as the words leave his mouth and he immediately regrets them, knows that the words aren’t even true and he starts to backpedal.
“That’s not what I-”
“No,” she interrupts, slowly nodding her head. “No, that's exactly what you meant. And you know what Elliot, it just further proves my point because you’re wrong.” He watches as she starts to stalk towards him, her eyes burning.
“Do you even know where Eli is right now Elliot?” His eyes narrow at her and he scoffs.
“Of course I know where Eli is right now.” She crosses her arms across her chest and stares at him expectantly, waiting for the answer. It doesn’t come.
“Well? Where is he then Elliot?” His eyes dart up to the ceiling in thought before he meets her eyes once again.
“Kathleen’s. He went there last night.” The smile that crosses her face is anything but good, filled with anger and ridicule and he knows this smile, knows it’s the smile she gets when a perp has accidentally said something incriminating.
“Wrong.” His mouth starts opening and closing as he tries to wrack his brain where else Eli could be and how Olivia knows the difference.
“Your son Elliot,” she starts, her head tilting in disdain, “is at my apartment. And he is with my son and your oldest daughters.” He deflates at her words, knowing that he genuinely has no idea what is going on with his own family.
“Your son Elliot, your thirteen year old child, Elliot, called you a monster,” she manages to choke out as the tears clog her throat. “Your son is so afraid of you at times Elliot, that he finally told me so I’d help him fix it.” His eyes go wide at her words and she watches him stagger to the couch before dropping down onto the cushions. She swallows before finally telling him her purpose for being here.
“He’s so afraid of you at times Elliot that he asked to stay with me and I told him yes.” She lets the words rest on his skin, lets them leave their mark before finally asking the question that has been bothering ever since Eli has told her about it.
“Why have you been back a week and only seen the shitty department assigned counselor and not gone back to your own therapist?” He shakes his head and clasps his hands together tightly.
“I don’t need to go back Liv, I’m-”
“Elliot, I swear to God if the next words that leave your mouth are “fine” and I will pull my gun and shoot you where you stand,” she tells him, her eyes glaring at him. His shoulders drop as he realizes that he hasn’t been at the end of this look in a long time. He used to tell her that she was going to light him on fire when she looked at him like this. She always said it’s because when she was giving him that look, she usually was wishing he would burst into a ball of flames. He lets his mouth fall shut.
“Because fine is the last thing you are right now.” His brain decides then is the best time to remind him of the dream where Liv is on the ground bleeding out and he starts shaking his head before standing up and heading back towards the kitchen. Olivia however, views his head shaking as him being stubborn once again, and she decides to pull out the biggest weapon she has. She knows she’ll regret her words later, but she hopes it will finally push him towards realization and past wherever he is now.
She waits until he’s in the kitchen, pacing back and forth in the small area and she leans to her left against the counter as she watches him, his eyes torn.
“What was the point of making it out of the sewers Elliot if you were going to let them ruin your family anyway?” She watches him stop suddenly and look at her, his eyes filled with tears. It almost makes her stop, but she wants to know that he’s heard her, has heard the consequences of his choices since Eli running away every night hasn’t taught him yet.
“Are you really just going to let what they did ruin your life and destroy your family? I know you better than that Elliot.” She sets a hand on his shoulders and he looks at her, but she can tell he doesn’t really see her, but she decides to push the dagger as far as possible. “So why aren’t you fighting for it? Why aren’t you doing everything in your power to not let this consume you?”
It starts so suddenly that she’s not ready for the loud crescendo of noise that fills the apartment as the first glass shatters as it hits the wall behind her. She ducks at the noise, unsure of where it came from until she looks up at Elliot to see him just reaching blindly for whatever his hands can reach and unfortunately he’s got a dish drainer full of clean plates and glasses.
“Elliot!” She calls, wanting to reach for him but catching the mottling on her wrist as she is about to grab his arm. It makes her pause and he throws a plate towards the cupboards to his left. She watches as a giant shard bounces off the wood and against his calf as it starts bleeding.
Fuck, she thinks briefly and watches as he grabs a glass and it shatters a few feet to the right of her, the shards of glass scrapping across the top of her feet. She decides then that a punch is better than wherever this is heading and reaches for his arm that is extending back towards the dish drainer.
She pulls it harshly and his other arm comes up on her left to grab at her but she manages to trap that wrist as well and wrap it tightly around his back.
He struggles against her for a couple moments and she’s worried he’s about to break free before he suddenly falls limp, letting his head fall against her shoulder as his breathing turns ragged.
She lets them stand there, the destruction around them glinting as the bright light of his kitchen is reflected in them and she feels the tears press at the backs of her eyes as she wraps her arms around him.
“I’m sorry El,” she says as he starts shaking in her arms. She puts a hand at the back of his head to cradle it. “I’m so sorry.” She looks down to see the blood that pools at his feet and she suddenly remembers the large gash on the back of his calf. She looks carefully around them to see just how bad the glass is shattered around them and when she sees the broom within arms reach of her, she gently taps the back of his head.
“I’m gonna grab the broom so I can sweep us a path so I can get you seated to clean that cut up okay?” She waits but he doesn’t give her any indication that he’s heard her so she sighs before starting to carefully reach for the broom. She barely gets it into her grasp, but manages to pull it towards her without it falling out of reach and she sweeps as much as she can with Elliot leaning heavily into her and the fact that she can barely move with all the glass at her feet.
When she’s satisfied with the pathway she’s created, she guides him to the chair closest to them and he falls heavily into it, his eyes still husks of themselves. She shudders at them before turning back towards his apartment to search for his first aid kit. She finds it under the sink in the bathroom and makes her way back to him, gently turning his leg so she can get as much access to the gash as possible. She sighs as she briefly wonders if he’ll need stitches and knows that if doesn’t have butterfly stitches in the kit, she’ll have to take him to the hospital.
Luckily she finds about ten of them and lets out a sigh of relief before starting to clean the gash, looking for any stray glass that may have embedded itself. She doesn’t see any and notices that once all the blood is wiped away, that the cut isn’t bleeding as profusely as she would’ve thought as she applies the first butterfly stitch. It takes seven to close it entirely, but it looks like it should do the job and she rocks back onto her ankles with a sigh of relief as she finishes.
She looks up at him then and sees that he’s still staring blindly off at the wall in front of him and she shakes her head before standing up in search of her phone. She finds it in her coat that hangs on the back of a chair and calls Maureen.
“What happened?” Maureen greets her with and Olivia sighs.
“You need to come sit with him, Maureen. He went into one of his states. Threw a bunch, gave himself a pretty bad cut on his leg.” She happens to look down at her feet then and notices the small cuts that are scattered across the tops of her feet before sighing.
“I don’t trust him to be alone right now and honestly you should check the cut to make sure the butterfly stitches I put on will actually heal it.” Maureen sighs before she hears a chair scrape against the floor.
“I’ll be there as quickly as I can. Katie will stay with the boys.” Olivia nods and hangs up then, shock still lingering in her system from Elliot’s explosion. The guilt already begins to work itself through her, knowing that her words had set him off but she reminds herself that hopefully, this wasn’t done in vain, that hopefully he will finally start to help himself. She goes to sweep up the rest of the glass before realizing that this may be the first time that Maureen has seen the aftermath of one of his rages so she leaves it.
Maureen appears a few minutes later and when she walks into the carnage of the apartment, she stops in her tracks.
“Liv...” she stars before trailing off as her eyes grow wide in disbelief.
“I’m gonna finish sweeping and then go pack up the things Eli needs for tonight. We’ll have to work out a day for him and I to come over without Elliot here if that’s what he wants. But I’m just worried about what he needs for tomorrow first.” Maureen slowly closes the door behind her as she nods.
“Liv, I’ll get the glass,” she says, her head gently shaking back and forth as she surveys the damage.
“You go get Eli’s stuff so you can get back to the boys.” Olivia goes to argue with her before just nodding and heading back towards Eli’s room. She grabs a duffel bag out of the top of his closet and keeps looking at the message from him as she searches his room, stuffing each item into the bag as she finds it. It takes her about fifteen minutes, but finally she has everything that will get him through the next day or two before heading back out to the living room to find Maureen forcing Elliot onto the couch.
“You got everything Liv?” Maureen asks her quietly, eyeing Elliot as he settles further into the couch. Olivia nods as she stares at him, his eyes looking off to the side of her blankly.
“Yeah. I’ll bring him over here sometime this week so he can get some more stuff but I’m not too worried about that right now.” Maureen nods as she walks towards Olivia, reaching for her arm as soon as she’s close enough.
“We never knew it was this bad Liv,” she whispers, her eyes still trained on her father. Olivia shakes her head.
“Neither did I Maureen. Neither did I.” Maureen squeezes her arm before letting go and Olivia takes it as her cue to finally escape. She slides her shoes back on, grimacing as the fabric rubs against the small cuts. When she finally makes it into the sanctuary of her car, she lets her head fall back against the headrest as the tears rush down her cheeks.
She realizes then that she can’t do this anymore. She can’t come and rescue him when he gets this bad because the more she does, the more likely she is to fall with him. She glances over at the bag resting in her passenger seat and takes a deep breath.
One of them needs to be strong for their boys, she realizes then. And she knows that it can’t be him right now, she does. But she cannot bear the weight of his trauma and grief and take care of herself too. The more she does, the more likely his weight will crush her too. So she promises herself then that she won’t let herself be crushed by him. That even though she wants to be his rock, she can’t right now. And she hopes that the compromise of taking in Eli is enough to balance that decision.
She takes a deep breath to calm herself and looks up at his place before picking her head up off the headrest and pulling away from the curb to head back to her own place.