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Two Days

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He slams the door so hard when he walks out of his chief’s office he hears something fall off his wall.

“Good.” He thinks offhandedly as he heads for the stairs to pound his way down them, hoping that it will distract him from the anger he feels overtaking his entire being. When he finally bursts out of the building, he stands on the sidewalk for a moment, rubbing his hands back and forth over the top of his head. He tries to take a steadying breath, but he can’t the rage filling his chest.

He’s pissed. God, he’s furious


“Elliot, we’ve gotta put you under.” Elliot stared at his chief, and chuckled a little bit.

“I know you’re not talkin’ about me.” He says and when his chief gives him the “of course I’m talking about you” look, he feels his stomach drop.

“Chief, all due respect, I’m not necessarily in the place to go undercover right now.” Eli flashes to the front of his mind and he can’t do this to him right now, not after he just moved back in with him.

“I recognize that Elliot but no one else fits the description.” Elliot shakes his head and runs a hand over his shorn hair.

“And no offence Chief, but I’m the single parent to a teenager who just lost his mother a couple months ago and was forced out of the only place he’s known.” His Chief has the good grace to look down.

“I know Elliot, but it won’t be long. Two days at the most. Just a quick in and out.” Elliot looks up at the ceiling.

“And you and I both know that most undercover ops start out small and then suddenly it’s a month past your expected time and you’re still deep under.”

The Chief sighs. “I realize that Elliot, and I hate to tell you, but it’s part of the job.”

With that, he sees red. 

“I know it’s part of the job, but you know Chief, I didn’t fully expect to lose my wife and disrupt my son’s life all because of this fucking job either.” It falls deadly silent in the office and Elliot feels an apology rise up his throat but quickly swallows it down because he knows he isn’t wrong.

“You’ve got four hours Elliot. I’m sorry that Washburn will stick out like a sore thumb if he were the one going under, but we have no other options. Meet back here at 19:00 and we’ll debrief before we send you out.”


He understands why he’s the one that has to go. The older cop that is bitter against the NYPD, looking for a way out to sweeten his retirement. His background and just... everything fits better than Washburn. 

Doesn’t make him any less angry about it though.

He drives back to his squad room on autopilot. When he storms upstairs, he paces back and forth, causing even Jet to eye him carefully.

He doesn’t know how long they all sit in silence as he goes back and forth. Ayanna just sits on her desk and looks at him, knowing that he’s about to burst. She doesn’t even try to calm him down, knows that he needs to have whatever outburst is coming and let him explode.

“I’ve just gotten Eli back!” He yells suddenly, causing Jet to jump slightly in her chair. He gives her an apologetic look before looking back at Ayanna.

“Eli just moved back in two weeks ago and things are finally going good and this is... this is just going to fuck things up all over again!” He hasn’t stopped moving and he sees Jet giving him a sympathetic look out of the corner of his eye and he sees that even Ayanna has softened.

Ayanna stands up then and sets a hand on his arm. 

“We’ll take care of Eli. You make sure to give Maureen my number.” She looks down for a second. “Have you told Liv yet?” She says quietly and he blanches, feeling all the blood drain out of his face.

He feels despair creep inside him for a second before the red hot anger climbs up him again.

“God fucking damn it.” He spits out and starts pacing again as Ayanna drifts back to her desk. Jet is looking at her, debating if she should do anything and Ayanna gives her a look and then cocks her head towards the exit, signaling her to take a walk. Jet quietly slinks down, hesitating for a second behind Elliot, raising a hand slightly towards him before shaking her head and heading out of the squad room. He paces back and forth for a solid ten minutes before finally letting out a breath and knowing he needs to go take care of things.

He has three hours before he goes under, something that makes him even more infuriated because they’ve sprung this on him so suddenly, so as he walks out of the squad room, he calls Maureen. He misses the fact that Ayanna pulls out her own phone as he walks out to make her own warnings.

Maureen is disappointed at first and he’s right alongside her. In the drive from the squad room to his apartment, he contemplates retirement four different times. But he knows that he needs this job, needs to support him and Eli and that the longer he can hold out, the easier his actual retirement will finally be. And he’s finally found another second family, and he’s not about to let that go again.

When he pulls up to the apartment, he lets out a long sigh before dragging himself up the stairs. Eli stands in the living room, staring at the door with his arms crossed, as if waiting for him.

“Are you serious?” He asks and Elliot looks down at the ground, knowing that Maureen has called him.

“Eli-”

“No dad.” He interrupts. “Are you serious? You couldn’t tell them no? Tell them that you have a kid at home?” Elliot feels his heart shred in his chest.

“Eli, of course I tried to tell them no-”

“It sure seems that way dad. That’s why I’m going to Maureen’s.” Elliot resigns himself to the fact that Eli’s anger isn’t going to go away before he drops him off and sighs once again. When he really looks at Eli, his eyes are dark and stormy and all he wants to do is hold him tight against him and remind him that this is all temporary. 

But he doesn’t have time for that so he walks across the room and sets his hands on his shoulders and looks him straight in the eye.

“Eli, you have to know that I love you, and that this is the absolute last thing I want to do right now. I told them it wasn’t fair to you but I didn't make the final call.” Eli looks at him for a minute before he shrugs his hands off his shoulders and storms to his bedroom. He knows that Eli doesn’t believe a word of it and he doesn’t blame him one bit. He’s only been back with him for not even two weeks and he prays that this op really is only two days because if he stays under longer, he thinks Eli will never trust him again.

After about ten minutes, Eli storms out of his room, duffel bag in hand, and stares at Elliot from the front door. They head downstairs to the SUV and Eli throws his stuff in the backseat before throwing himself into the passenger seat.

As they drive to Maureen’s, Elliot takes a deep breath.

“I just want to prepare you. They say right now it will only be two days. But undercover operations can be unpredictable.” He looks over at Eli who still stares out the window.

“It could turn into a week or even longer, and I won’t be able to contact you guys to let you know one way or the other.” The only reason he knows Eli hears him and understands what he’s saying is that he crosses his arms across his chest.

Elliot sighs and scrubs his face. “I’ll make sure to leave you Sergeant Bell and Olivia’s phone numbers. That way if you really need something they can help.” Eli finally gives him a quick nod and he looks back to the road.

The longer the silence fills the car, the more he wants to punch something. The more he talks with Maureen and Eli, and god he should really call Kathleen, Dickie, and Lizzie before he goes under too, to take away some of the responsibility of Maureen, the more furious he gets at being forced under.

They pull up to Maureen’s house not long after that and Eli is out of the car the second it’s in park and he practically runs into her house. Elliot sighs before heading upstairs, Maureen appearing at the door.

“Hi Mo.” She leans against the door frame. 

“Hi dad.” He scrubs his hand over his face.

“Do you wanna go grab your phone for me real quick? I wanna make sure you have Ayanna and Liv’s phone numbers.” He misses her gently rolling her eyes, knowing that she has the numbers already saved but she goes to grab it anyway to appease him in his agitated state.

When she shows him both contacts, that yes that is Liv’s correct phone number and not the one from when they were partners, he relaxes slightly.

“Hopefully it won’t be long, it’s only two days they say. But these things are unpredictable-”

“Could be two days, could be four, could even turn into weeks and months and we won’t be able to find out.” She shrugs. “It’s not new dad. I know what comes with all this. Eli may not, but I do. We’ll watch out for you.” He leans forward to kiss Maureen’s forehead then.

“I love you, love you both.” He puts his hands on her shoulders. “Will you just... remind Eli that this is nowhere near a permanent thing. I’m just as pissed as he is Mo but he needs to know I’ll be back.” Maureen’s eyes fill with tears.

“I know. I’ll remind him dad.” She sniffles. “Do I need to call Kathleen, Lizzie, and Dickie?” She asks as she wipes away a tear.

“No. No, you’ve done enough. I’ll call them on my way to my debrief.” Elliot looks up the stairs.

“Eli bud, I’m leaving.” He calls. He waits a few seconds but doesn’t hear any noise from upstairs. He doesn’t come down to say goodbye and Elliot wants to be angry, but sighs in acceptance. 

Maureen’s eyes fill with tears once again and he kisses her forehead one more time. “I’ll hopefully be back by Thursday. Remember, call Liv or Ayanna if you need anything okay?” She nods and he squeezes her shoulder before walking out of her house.

When he gets back to his car, he realizes that he has one more hour before he has to report and decides to take a detour to SVU. He calls Kathleen, Lizzie, and Dickie on his drive there. He gets to talk to Kathleen and Lizzie ever so briefly, remind them to check in with Maureen and Eli, make sure Eli is handling the whole thing okay and tells them he loves them both. Dickie doesn’t answer but he leaves him a voicemail.

After getting a chance to finally touch base with each of his kids, his mind finally wanders to Olivia. On top of Eli just coming home, he’d finally felt like he and Liv were back on solid ground. He no longer feels like one of them is off step just a little, one of them always a little ahead or behind the other, just trying to bring the other to stand next to them. But sometime in the past month, they’ve finally managed to end up back in sync and heading... somewhere that he’s almost too afraid to name in fear of running her off. And now here he is, fucking everything up once again.

When he finally arrives at the 16th, he takes the elevator up to SVU, and starts pacing once he starts making the ascent there.

When the elevator doors open, he storms straight towards her office door. He registers that Amanda and Fin are the only ones there and he sees Amanda start to say something to him when Fin puts a hand on her arm to stop her. Fin knows the look on Elliot’s face, knows that there is a storm brewing inside him and that Liv will be the only one who can calm it.

Luckily, the door is open and he almost stops dead in his tracks when he sees Olivia in her glasses. It’s a minor derailment from the rage he’s felt for the past two hours, but it’s a welcome one.

She looks up at him and he quietly closes the door behind him before starting to pace back and forth in front of her desk.

“Ayanna told me.” She says quietly and he turns to look at her suddenly, his eyes ablaze. As quickly as the anger lights his eyes, they go out and turn to despair.

“Liv, I can’t fucking do this right now.” He says as he sits down on her couch and buries his head into his hands.

“I just got Eli back home with me. He’s gonna hate me more than he already does.” At this, Olivia rises from her desk, sliding her glasses off her face and setting them down before sitting down next to him.

“Eli doesn’t hate you.” She whispers, setting a hand on his knee.

“If he doesn’t it’s a fucking miracle.” He takes a deep breath and holds it for a second before letting it out slowly through his nose, running his hands back and forth over his shorn head. 

Finally, he stops and looks at Olivia and his breath catches in his throat when their eyes meet.

Her eyes are somber, but also understanding and she’s looking at him like she’s trying to memorize every last detail about him. It just about knocks the breath out of him.

“I’ll be back.” He whispers and she nods, squeezing his knee.

“I know. Deep down I know.” She gives him a watery smile. “Just… still a little hard is all.”

The rage builds in him once more, knows the path of destruction he is leaving in his wake from this decision and to see how even Olivia is distressed by it all? It damn well destroys the little piece of him that was left after dropping off Eli.

He stands back up to pace again, needing something to do with the angry energy that builds inside him.

“What if this takes longer than two days, Liv? I’ve never seen an op that short.” He starts wringing his hands together. “It’s like they lied to me because they knew the longer I would be under, the more likely I would be to turn it down.” The cogs are turning in his head and she starts to stand as he starts waving his hands.

“If this turns into a month op, I’m going to be ruined. They’re gonna leave me in there as long as they need to and they aren’t gonna give a damn about Eli.” He turns towards Liv and his eyes are wild. They both hear the rest of the sentence, floating unsaid around them. Won't give a damn about us. She reaches out to him and sets a hand on his arm.

“And we’ll handle it. I’m assuming Maureen has Eli.” He nods, scrubbing his face with his hand.

Olivia grabs both of his hands then, and his head falls with the weight of everything.

“It’s only two days. Maureen and Eli can handle two days.” She lets go of one of his hands to set a hand underneath his chin to pick it up enough so she can meet his eyes.

“We can handle two days.” He nods and leans forward to rest his forehead against hers and they stand there in silence for a couple minutes. They both keep their eyes closed, their fingers intertwined between them and Elliot feels himself start to settle, the roller coaster of the day finally starting to level out.

Elliot is the one to pull away first, knowing that he has to get going but he kisses her forehead, letting his lips sit there for a moment before fully pulling away.

He looks at her and she has a small, content smile on her face, her eyes still closed. Their fingers are still interlocked and he feels a small smile grace his own face as he looks at her.

He glances over her shoulder to see that it’s 18:30 and he knows that he should really get going, as his Chief is probably already pissed enough at him and he doesn’t want him to think he’s gone AWOL.

“Liv.” He whispers. She hums at him in response and it makes his smile grow a little more.

“Liv, I’ve gotta get going.” She shakes her head slightly.

“See when you say things like that, it ruins it.” She finally opens her eyes and gives him a melancholy smile that he mirrors.

“Two days.” He says and he squeezes her hands. She squeezes them back and rises on her toes to plant a brief kiss to his cheek.

“Two days.” They continue to stand there and look at each other, and he feels the words bubble up in his chest, “I love you”, and he swallows them back down. He can’t do that to her again. Especially not before an undercover op. The only plus side at this point is that his kids wouldn’t be here to hear him say it.

Finally he’s the one to let go first and they slowly start to separate.

“Maureen has my number right?” She asks, leaning back against her desk as he leans against her door.

He gives her a small smile. “Of course she does. I told her to call in case she or Eli needed anything. They’ve got you and Ayanna.” She nods and he opens the door.

“Two days.” She says and he gives her a small smile before walking out of her office.

“Two days.” He repeats in return and as he walks out of SVU, Fin watching him with a smirk on his face, it is the most at peace he’s felt all afternoon.

Chapter Text

He’s been under for twenty six days.

With each day that passes, the more angry she gets. Not at him, but more at the brass who has decided that the two day undercover op that has now turned into an almost month is perfectly fine. She keeps waiting for someone to pull him, to know that this has just gone too far, just as he’d feared and the longer he’s gone, the more she’s about to use her status to find out just what the fuck is going on.

And if she thinks she’s going crazy, his kids are going even more nuts.

After a week, Maureen had called her to see if she knew anything. If she had heard any chatter now that she’s a Captain and she’s even annoyed with herself at the fact that she knows nothing.

The longer he stays under, the more attitude Eli gets and she understands him, she really does, but it’s starting to take a toll on Maureen. Finally, ten days in, Maureen cracks and calls Olivia once again.

“Hi Maureen.” She greets her, tucking her phone into the crook of her shoulder as she refocuses on her computer.

“You’ve gotta talk to Eli.” She blurts out and Olivia sits up straight in her chair.

“What do you mean?” She asks as she slides her glasses off her face, rubbing her finger over her eyebrow.

“I mean he’s become unbearable. I know that dad can’t control anything that’s going on right now, but Eli just doesn’t or won’t or... I don’t really know what it is, but I’m wondering if maybe hearing from another cop, especially you, will help?” Olivia lets out a long breath, pinching the bridge of her nose ever so briefly.

“I can try Maureen, but I don’t think Eli will be necessarily... receptive to seeing me.” The disastrous dinner with Elliot and Eli a few weeks prior floats to the front of her mind and she grimaces. Noah had been away with friends for the weekend and Elliot had thought it would be a good idea for Eli to get to know Olivia. What had come of the night was Eli exploding at Elliot, claiming that Olivia was trying to take Kathy’s place and locking himself in his bedroom.

“Well honestly Olivia, none of us love dealing with him. I’ve even had Kathleen and Dickie talk to him, both together and separately and we’re about to start playing hot potato with him if he doesn’t stop giving us all such a hard time.” She hears Maureen take a deep breath. 

“We love him Liv, we do, but good God he’s driving us all nuts with how... nasty he’s being about dad being undercover.” Maureen huffs before Olivia hears something scrape, assumedly a chair, on the other side of the line. “We all get it Liv. All the older ones, and we thought that if we all told him about some of the times he had gone undercover it would help but... if anything Liv it has just made him more angry.” Olivia lets out a sigh herself before burying her face in her hands briefly before leaning back in her chair.

“Yeah. Yeah I’ll take a crack at him. You set it up Maureen and I’ll talk to him.”

“I know it’s last minute,” she starts, “but what about tonight? I’ll even watch Noah if that’s an issue but... the sooner this can happen Liv, the better.” Olivia sharply inhales, not expecting to have to deal with this so suddenly but she agrees with Maureen, that if she can manage to help, sooner is better than later.

“Yeah, we can do it tonight Maureen. Noah has dance until eight tonight so if we could do it around six that would work.” 

“Yeah we can do six. I can definitely do six.”

“Can you drop him off at the diner near my apartment? The one on 90th Street? That way he won’t feel like we’re cornering him by having me go to your place or having him come to mine.”

“I can also do that.” She hears Maureen let out a long breath. “I really hope this works Liv.” She says quietly and Olivia lets out a quiet sigh.

“I hope so too Maureen.”


She’s managed to snag them a booth in the corner of the diner, far enough away from the other patrons so that if Eli has an outburst, it won’t cause a large scene. She watches as Maureen pulls in front of the diner and she stands up so they can see her and she sees Eli step out of the car, his head hung low as he walks in.

“Hi Eli.” She greets him as he walks towards her, walking past her to slide into the booth. She fights the annoyance that fills her and shakes her head slightly before sitting down.

The waitress doesn’t give them time to even start talking before she comes and takes their orders. When she leaves, Eli is still staring at the table and Olivia looks at him carefully.

She doesn’t want to start, knowing that more than likely Eli will react hotheadedly to whatever she says and so she waits for him. 

“Just like his father,” crosses her mind and she leans back against the booth and interlaces her fingers together in front of her. The waitress drops off their drinks and Eli takes a long sip before continuing to drop his head.

She’ll wait him out, she decides then. She spent over a decade dealing with his father and she figures that maybe she can use the same tactics to deal with the youngest Stabler.

Their food comes out after a few minutes and Eli stays silent as he picks at his hamburger, eyeing the sweet potato fries that Liv has on her own plate.

She sees the opportunity that sits in front of her and turns her plate towards him and keeps eating her chicken sandwich. Slowly, she watches Eli reach for a fry and she hears him hum in contentment as he takes a bite.

“I just don’t understand why he couldn’t tell them no.” He says suddenly, his voice barely rising above the chatter of the diner and Olivia sets down her sandwich.

“He tried. God, did he try Eli.” He looks up at her, a small scowl on his face.

“And how would you know?” He accuses, stuffing one of his own regular french fries in his mouth.

“Because he told me and because I heard about it from his Captain.” And she had. His Captain had come tearing into her office the next morning, wondering if she knew what the hell was up with him and she had almost ripped him to shreds from one end to the next, outlining almost the exact same things that Elliot had said to his Chief.

Eli sags back against the booth and meets her eyes, just for a second.

“Well obviously he couldn’t have tried that hard if he still went.” She sighs and she sees deep into Eli’s motivations now.

“Eli. When they told him, the first thing out of his mouth was that he couldn’t do this to you. Not after everything you’d been through in the past seven months. He knew exactly what it would do to you if he had to leave. Which is why he reminded them that you had also made sacrifices for his job and that it wasn’t fair to you to do it again.” Eli shoves his fries around his plate before reaching for another one of Liv’s fries.

“It’s already been over a week.” He murmurs, so quiet that she almost doesn’t hear him and she reaches across the table to set a hand on his arm.

“I know. He was worried about that too. He was worried that anything over two days was going to ruin any progress he had made with you. He told them he needed to be out after two days.” Eli looks up at her then and she takes her hand back.

“The thing is, he doesn’t get any say about undercover. He doesn’t get to decide when to get out, someone much higher than even me decides that.” Eli eyes her as he grabs another fry.

“Really?” She nods.

“Really.” She leans forward. “If I’m being honest Eli, I also want to find out what’s going on and I’m tempted to pull rank to find out.” He finally looks up at her, like he’s finally fully acknowledging her presence and he has a small smirk on his face.

“You must really like my dad if you’re as worried as I am.” Olivia lets out a single chuckle.

“I know you don’t really know me, but your dad and I were close for a lot of years. We still are. He would be doing the same thing I am if he were in my place.” Eli nods, tracing a finger against the table. 

“Yeah I know. He talks about you sometimes.” He grabs another one of Liv’s fries and leans back against the booth.

She’s intrigued by it, but tries not to signal that to Eli and he smirks, but it’s in a joking kind of way, no malous behind it.

“I can tell you’re dad’s best friend. That you were his best friend when I was little.” He snags another one of her fries and she realizes that he’s eaten almost half of them and she almost smiles about it. “Sometimes he doesn’t shut up about you, telling me old stories.” He looks up at her.

“He told me that you helped deliver me.” Olivia smiles.

“I did. One of the scariest moments of my life.” Eli sets down the fry he was about to eat and makes sure to make eye contact with her when he speaks next.

“Why? Dad didn’t really explain it to me. I didn’t even know about it until a couple weeks ago. He mentioned it by accident.” Olivia sighs, a sad smile gracing her face.

“I was taking your mom to one of her appointments. Someone ran a red light and t-boned the car I was driving. Your mom was stuck in the car and she went into labor. None of the EMT’s could get to her so I had to help.” Her eyes start to fill with tears.

“I still remember how small you were. I was so afraid for you guys.” She blinks and looks at him. “And now here you are, almost 14 years old.”  She hears a thumping noise begin suddenly and she starts to look around the diner before she realizes that he’s kicking the wall below him, the table jiggling with the movement of his leg. She watches as his dark hair covers his face and she wonders for a second if he’s crying. It takes him a minute before he finally speaks again.

“So you knew my mom?” He asks quietly, his voice choked up. She nods and gives him a sad smile.

“I did. Your mom was a wonderful woman. The patience of a saint.” Eli chuckles.

“Yeah, that sounds like mom.” They both smile at each other, Eli’s eyes filling with sadness and at that moment, all Olivia wants to do is pull him into her arms and she wonders for a second if he’s gotten a good hug since all this happened.

“I’m sorry for what I said to you at dinner.” He says quietly, looking down at the table. She gives him a small smile and reaches her arm across once more to set her hand on him.

“I know. It’s okay.” He looks up and gives her a small smile.

“I get why Kathleen likes you so much.” She laughs then, taken by surprise by Eli’s comment. Eli chuckles alongside her and steals another fry. He falls silent once more, tapping his finger against the table before looking up at her.

“Is he going to come back soon, Olivia?” He asks, his voice barely above a whisper. She nods.

“Soon. I don’t know exactly when, but hopefully sooner rather than later.”


Ten days turns into fourteen, which turns into twenty, and is now finally at twenty six.

Every morning she checks her phone, holding her breath to see if there’s a message from him or one of his kids, letting her know that he’s come home. And every day for twenty four days, she lets out a breath of disappointment.

Ayanna and her have their suspicions, that Elliot has uncovered something bigger, but they haven’t even said anything to Ayanna about his undercover in the almost four weeks he’s been gone. And anytime she asks for another body to help them, she’s ignored and even she is getting pissed.

The only good thing to come out of this is that Olivia has finally been able to build a relationship with Eli.

Eli comes and eats dinner with her and Noah, at least three times a week. Maureen swears that Olivia’s done something, drugged him, something because the boy she had dropped off at that diner is not the same boy she picked up. 

He’s become attached to Liv now, and it makes the other Stabler’s happy that he’s finally not lashing out at all of them. Kathleen especially is excited that Eli finally likes Olivia, realizing just how important she is to them.

She almost finds it funny to see how much has changed in Elliot’s absence, the fact that Eli and Noah are now thick as thieves, that Eli wants to spend time with her.

And when Eli comes in her door that night, she greets him with a smile and he gives her a quick hug. As he shrugs off his jacket, he quietly asks her if she’s heard anything and she gives him a small no, setting a hand on his shoulder. He looks up at her sorrowfully, and takes a deep breath before heading to the living room to sit with Noah.

She starts making dinner, both Eli and Noah’s favorite, tacos, keeping an eye on them as Eli hooks his Switch up to her tv to start their recurring Mario Kart race. 

Olivia’s phone rings as she starts the meat and she sees it’s Ayanna.

“Hello.” She greets and she sees Eli’s head whip her way, hopefulness blooming across his face.

“Hey, have you heard anything?” Olivia shakes her head.

“No nothing yet. What about you?” She can almost hear Ayanna shaking her own head.

“Nope, though I think I managed to piss off my captain today.” She shakes her head at Eli, an apologetic look on her face, and he sags back down to his seat, Noah almost a full lap ahead of him now.

“And how’d you manage that one?”

“Told him that he must not give a damn about my squad to leave me a body down, and not just anybody, but my best detective, with no explanation for almost a month.” Olivia chuckles.

“Jesus Ayanna, don’t hold back at all.” She hears dishes clanking in the background.

“Well I’m just getting pissed that no one has said a word to me. It’s almost like he’s just disappeared and we’re the only ones who are looking out for him. It’s honestly starting to freak me out a little, Liv.” Olivia turns back towards the meat cooking on the stove and starts stirring it.

“Same here. And I’ve tried pulling rank and it’s not getting me anywhere either.” Ayanna sighs.

“I’m giving them two more days, Liv and if we don’t get anywhere, I’m going to my Chief and camping out at his office. I’m sick of the radio silence and this shit is gonna end.” Olivia nods and tucks her phone into the crook of her neck while she reaches for spices in the cupboard.

“And I’ll be right next to you.” She drops her voice. “Eli is really struggling with it and at this point, I am too.” She grabs some of the toppings out of the fridge and sets them on the counter. She hears Ayanna’s son’s cries come through on the other side of the line and Ayanna sighs.

“I gotta go Liv, I’ll touch base tomorrow.” She hangs up and Olivia slides her phone onto the counter. Her head drops to her chest and she grips the counter with both hands. She stands there for a second before she lets out a long breath. She rolls her head back and forth before she stands up and continues to take out the rest of the ingredients for tacos.

“Boys, dinner’s almost ready. Come grab your plates.” She hears a slight ruckus and then Noah’s giggles erupt and Eli has Noah tossed over his shoulder, a smirk across his face as he enters the kitchen.

“Mom, Eli’s mad because I won.” She hears Noah say to Eli’s back. Eli holds up a hand at Olivia, trying hard to hold back a laugh. 

“Ah ah ah, I believe that you said it yourself, “If I win, you have to carry me to dinner.” You never said how.” Noah huffs and Olivia smiles at the two of them as Eli gently sets Noah down on the counter and Noah turns to look at her.

“He only carried me like that because he lost.” He says as he crosses his arms. At first, she thinks he’s serious but then she notices the smile he’s trying, and failing, to suppress and she chuckles.

“I don’t know Noah. Sounds like you weren’t very clear in your directions.” His jaw drops and Olivia picks him up from the counter and sets him down.

“Now go grab your plates or else I’ll just eat all the tacos without you two.” Noah rushes towards the cupboard and looks at Eli impatiently, who rolls his eyes, a smile plastered on his face as he grabs Noah’s plate for him and a plate for himself.

The boys continue to bicker about their game as they eat and Olivia can’t help but smile sometimes at the two of them. When they finish, the boys slide their plates into the sink and head to Noah’s room to work on their LEGO project for an hour before Eli heads back to Maureen’s for the night.

She just finishes the dishes when there is a knock on her door and Maureen is standing there.

“Hi, I’m early.” She says, walking in as Olivia pulls open the door wider. “I just wanted to sit and talk for a bit before Eli and I headed home.” Olivia nods and gestures towards her couch.

“Of course. The boys are working on their LEGO project so they won’t miss us.” Maureen smiles and shrugs off her light jacket, the late October air getting colder and colder as each day passes.

They sit on the couch and Maureen plays with the hem of her sweater.

“Liv, I’m really getting worried.” She says quietly, her eyes darting to the hallway where they can hear the boys’ quiet chatter. Olivia sighs.

“Not to make you anymore worried Maureen, but so aren’t I.” Maureen’s eyes get wide and she looks to her right to stare a hole into Olivia’s carpet. Olivia leans across the couch and sets a hand on her knee.

“Ayanna and I are taking care of it though.” Maureen whips her head back towards her, relief flooding her features.

“Really?” She asks, her shoulders dropping. Olivia hears the relief flow through her voice.

“We’re giving it two more days. That will be four weeks total. Ayanna and I are getting radio silence from everyone and we’re pretty sick of it.” Maureen nods and sets a hand on top of Olivia’s.

“That makes me feel a little better.” She glances back towards Noah’s room and she smiles.

“I will say the one good thing to come out of all of this is the fact that Eli is so close to you now.” An embarrassed smile crosses Olivia’s face and she shrugs.

“I’m just happy he finally feels comfortable around me. I just wanted to see him happy.” Maureen squeezes her hand.

“Olivia, if I’m being completely honest here. This is the happiest I’ve seen Eli since he’s moved to New York. You and Noah have just been so... good for him.” Olivia squeezes Maureen’s knee before leaning back against the arm of the couch.

“He’s been good for Noah. I think they’ve just been good for each other.” 

“Mom!” They hear called out from down the hall. Olivia smiles and stands up.

“Liv!” Eli calls next and Olivia rolls her eyes.

“I’m coming boys, I’m coming.” Eli and Noah come crashing into the living room then, both of them with excited smiles, Noah almost bouncing.

“Mom, we finished another part of Bowser’s tower, you’ve gotta come see it.” Noah notices Maureen first and he waves at her.

“Hi Mo.” Eli smiles at his sister.

“Hey Mo, you should come see what we’ve been working on.” Maureen smiles and stands up as well.

The boys rush back to Noah’s room and they present the half finished castle to them both and Maureen’s smile grows even larger. They gush about their project, talking about the most exciting times and the times that have led to them almost giving up and Olivia and Maureen can’t help but watch them both of adoration in their eyes.

Suddenly, Eli lets out a sad sigh and turns to face Maureen.

“We’ve gotta go home now don’t we?” Maureen gives him a small, regretful smile and nods.

“Unfortunately you both have school in the morning.” Eli sighs before rustling Noah’s hair.

“More for us to do next time, right little dude?” Noah smiles up at him, Eli’s nickname making him burst with pride.

“Next time we’ll get to finish the other tower!” Eli smiles and they all begin to walk towards the front door. Noah manages to rush ahead of them, trying to talk to Maureen with the limited time they have, and as they reach the end of the hallway, Eli quickly reaches for Olivia, pulling her in for a hug.

She almost trips with the sudden lack of movement surrounding her before she wraps her arms around Eli. They stand there for a couple seconds before Eli pulls away, his cheeks flushed.

“Thanks for everything Liv.” He says quietly and Olivia smiles before putting a hand at the base of his neck to pull his head towards her to kiss the top of it.

“Anytime Eli.” She looks up to see Maureen watching them with a melancholy smile on her face, trying both to witness the moment but also to listen to Noah tell her about his races with Eli earlier in the night.

They say their brief goodbyes and they depart then. Noah, knowing that they are finally at his favorite point in the night, goes to his bedroom to grab the large blanket that typically sits on the back of the couch.

He climbs onto the couch and Olivia follows closely behind him, pulling him close to her as they get ready to watch an episode of their favorite show together, some Disney show that Olivia is never quite sure of the plot of, before Noah finally heads to bed for the night. 

He gets ready for bed easily, yawning as he brushes his teeth and he’s asleep only two pages into the chapter of Harry Potter that Olivia is reading. She smiles as she brushes back some of his hair, shutting off the lights and heading back to the kitchen to make sure their mess from dinner is cleaned up. 

Not long after Noah goes to bed, there’s a quiet knock at her door. On the nights that Eli comes over, he always sleeps like a rock and she’s grateful for it at that moment. 

She jumps at the noise, startled and she heads towards the kitchen to grab her backup weapon from the locker on the top of the fridge, her service weapon already locked up for the night. She tentatively makes her way to the door, trying to keep her footsteps quiet to make sure Noah doesn’t wake up.

She isn’t expecting anyone, especially not anyone who doesn’t contact her before coming to her door. It’s not particularly late, but it’s also not early enough in the evening for an unannounced visitor either.

When she looks out the peephole, she sees him standing there, head down, staring at the ground. He’s wearing a sweatshirt that looks like it needed to be washed a couple days ago, and he looks exhausted. She sets her backup on the top shelf of the closet to her left and opens the door and she gets a much clearer picture of him and it makes her take a step back.

He’s grown a goatee in the time he’s been under. It’s thick and bushy and she can finally see the grey hair she’s been sure he had. The jeans he wears are just as dirty as the t-shirt and the first thought she has when he finally walks in the door is good god when is the last time anything has been cleaned?

The door is still open behind him but she is overwhelmed by the smell of sweat and dirt and something especially dirty, she thinks sewer almost, but shoves it away in hopes that he’s just been so deep he hasn’t had access to these things and not something more sinister.

He closes the door then and closes his eyes as the door clicks behind him. She leans into him to lock the door behind him and leans back, looking up at him carefully as he continues to stand there. 

She watches his chest rise as he takes a deep breath before he takes a step towards her. He steps so close to her that their noses almost touch and Olivia has to tilt her head up to meet his eyes. They’re closed, but she continues to look at him, knowing that eventually he’ll open them. After a minute, he finally opens his eyes, but he stays silent. 

When she finally gets a clear look at him, she almost gasps at what swirls within them. The first thought that crosses her mind is that he looks lost at sea in the storm that is brewing in his eyes. In fourteen years of knowing him, she has never seen him look so… lost. Even after Kathy he hadn’t been this bad.

She pulls his hands into hers and just holds them, rubbing circles into the backs of his hands with her thumbs. She watches as his shoulders drop and he closes his eyes once more before leaning his forehead down onto hers.

She closes her eyes and suddenly she feels like she’s back in her office, their foreheads touching and their hands intertwined and it’s only when Elliot takes a shuddering breath does she come back to the present.

They stand there so long that Olivia isn’t quite sure how much time has passed. She knows she won’t do anything to disrupt him, wants him to lead her through this process of becoming himself once again.

After a while though, the smell of him becomes almost unbearable.

“Elliot, why don’t you take a shower.” She whispers.

If he hears her, he doesn’t acknowledge it in any way and she sighs.

“You look like you haven’t been able to shower for a week. Come on, I’ll grab you some clean clothes.” She decides to move first then. Elliot at least opens his eyes, but stays silent as she leads him to the bathroom in her bedroom. 

She stops him right outside the bathroom door, his eyes staring unfocused ahead of him, and she looks for the t-shirt and sweatpants she knows have already made their way into her apartment in his time back.

She finally finds them tucked away in a drawer and leads him into the bathroom. She lays them on the sink, reaching around him to grab a towel from the small cupboard in there as well. She puts it on the towel rack and turns back to look at him.

At least now, he keeps his eyes on her, watching her flit around the room. She reaches for his hands and he grabs hers tightly, like he’s reaching for a life raft in the middle of the storm.

She looks at him questioningly, trying to find a hint of what has forced him essentially mute at this point in his eyes.

All she sees is terror and it frightens her because even that night in the hospital, both with Kathy and with Angela, she hadn’t seen him look like this. 

“I’ll just be outside.” She says, watching him carefully as she walks out of her bathroom, slowly closing the door as he continues to stand there. She stands there, ready to go in at a moment’s notice when she hears the water start and she lets out a breath of relief.

She goes looking for her phone then, trying to remember where she set it before he had just showed up at her door. 

She heads for the kitchen first, does a quick glance and when she doesn’t see it, heads for the living room. She finds it sitting on the couch, abandoned from TV time with Noah.

She unlocks it and pulls up Ayanna, shooting her a message that he’s showed up to her place. As it sends, she feels a sense of dread creep up her spine.

‘What if he went AWOL?’ She thinks briefly. She shakes the thought away and debates about texting Maureen. She opens her messages to her and thinks about writing out a message but changes her mind at the last second.

It’s just early enough that Maureen would still bring Eli over, and she can’t bear to let either of them see him in his current state.

She heads back to her room, locking the bedroom door behind her so Noah can’t intrude in the middle of the night unknowingly and she lets out a breath of relief when she still hears the shower running.

She sits on the bed, sliding her phone onto her nightstand and she waits for the water to shut off. After a few more minutes, it finally does and she hears the small noises that tell her that he’s actually stepping out and getting dressed. When the noises stop and the door doesn’t open, she counts to thirty before she stands up and knocks on the bathroom door.

“Elliot?” She says quietly, leaning her head towards the door. When she doesn’t hear anything, she slowly opens the door and finds him standing in front of the sink, sweatpants on, but his t-shirt clutched tightly in his hand. His head is dropped to his chest and he stares unblinkingly into the sink.

“Oh El.” She says softly, making her way closer to him. She slowly reaches out to him, setting a hand on his arm, his head still dropped. When he doesn’t react she steps closer and sets her other hand on his cheek, slowly turning his head towards her.

“Elliot.” She says faintly. When his eyes are finally facing her, she can tell he’s not really seeing her, if anything he’s looking straight through her. She sighs before grabbing the shirt out of his hand, slowly putting it over his head. She waits for him to come back to himself, for him to register that she’s standing in front of him. He still doesn’t and she slowly eases one arm and then the next through his shirt.

She watches him carefully, her head tilting as she looks into his eyes and he still seems separated from himself, like he’s only a shell of himself.

“Elliot, you’re with me, remember?” She whispers as she sets a hand back on his cheek, trying to root him back to reality.

He starts blinking and Olivia brings her other hand up to his face and cradles his face, rubbing her thumbs back and forth, the feeling of his new facial hair throwing her.

“El.” Finally she watches as he grounds himself back to her, blinking rapidly before finally letting a small smile of relief cross his face as he sets his forehead against hers.

“Hi.” She says softly and she pulls his head down so she can kiss his forehead, ever so briefly. She rests her head back against his and they stand in the cramped bathroom for longer than they should. Elliot’s hands slide up her arms to her elbows and he runs his hands slowly up and down her upper arms.

Olivia opens her eyes to him still standing there, eyes closed. His hands still move up and down on her arms and she reaches one of her hands up to stop him.

“Come on, let’s go to bed.” She gently leads him out to her bed, shutting the lights off as he climbs in.

They lay in her bed in silence, both of them close to the edge of the mattress. As they both lay there, staring at the ceiling in the darkness, she reaches her hand out towards him. Elliot finds it not long after and it breaks any residual walls that remain. 

He rolls onto his side and pulls her towards him and she moves without hesitation. She rolls away from him and he pulls her flush to his chest, his arms wrapped tightly around her torso.

She feels his head fall to the base of his neck and she carefully reaches her hand back to rest against his cheek once more. She feels his hot breath against her and she slowly starts to feel sleep reach for her. 

“God Liv, I was so afraid.” He says into the back of her neck and when she hears him finally speak, the words jolt her awake and she rolls in his arms to face him. That these are the first words he’s said in the almost hour he’s been in her apartment, fills her with a fear that grips every crevice of her body. She brings her hands up to his cheeks, tilting his head up so she can meet his eyes.

His eyes are filled with tears, terror lingering behind them and she just looks at him, waiting for him to press on.

“For a solid week, I thought they were gonna kill me. And all I could think about was you and the kids.”

“You’re here now.” She whispers, getting as close to him as she can, sliding her legs between his own.

He nods and presses his forehead to hers.

“I know.” She wants to press but doesn’t, knows that the comfort they are both gaining in this moment is more important than any information she could possibly learn.

She watches as his eyes slide closed and she watches him for a minute before letting herself join him.

They lay there together, their breath intertwining in the space between them until sleep pulls at them both, slowly covering them both in a calm and heavy blanket as first Elliot, and then Olivia succumb to the relief that unconsciousness provides.

Chapter Text

The next morning, the sun slowly crawls over them and Olivia wakes up first. They are still nose to nose, legs tangled together.

She stares at him for a second, noting the peaceful look on his face. She reaches up and sets a hand on his face and lies there for a moment before knowing that there’s no way she’s going in today. 

Carefully, she slides her legs out from his, slowly pushing herself away from him so she can reach her phone to call Fin.

When she finally reaches the edge of the bed and he hasn’t woken up, she lets out a quiet sigh of relief and stands up. She grabs her phone from her nightstand and silently makes her way out of her bedroom. 

As she’s shutting her bedroom door, Noah comes out of his room.

“Morning mom.” He says, wiping at his eyes. Olivia smiles and crouches down so she can properly hug him.

“Morning baby.” She pulls back. “How about some breakfast before school huh?” Noah nods and yawns as Olivia stands up.

“And if you get dressed quick enough, I’ll even take you to the diner for breakfast instead of just cereal.” His eyes light up and he rushes towards his bedroom. 

She chuckles and heads to the kitchen where she searches for a piece of paper and a pen while she dials Fin’s number.

She finds a paper and pen as her phone rings.

“Hey Liv, what’s up?” He greets her and Olivia sighs and smiles to herself.

“Hey, I’m probably going to be out for the next two days.” She glances down the hall and when she doesn’t see Noah, she drops her voice.

“Elliot showed up at my door last night.” It’s silent for a second.

“He didn’t go AWOL, Liv, did he?” She takes in a deep breath before letting it out through her nose.

“Honestly, Fin, I’m not a hundred percent sure. It doesn’t seem like it but... something definitely happened. He smelled like he hadn’t showered in a week and-” She stops suddenly, the look in his eyes haunting her.

“Liv.” He says quietly. She shakes her head and starts writing a note for Elliot.

“He just... didn’t look good.” Noah comes out of his bedroom then, his backpack in his hand. His shoulders drop when he sees Olivia still isn’t ready.

“I’ll have my phone on me if you really need me.”

“I can hold down the fort, Cap. Take care of him, let me know if you need anything.” She smiles before folding the note.

“Thanks Fin.” She hangs up with him and ruffles Noah’s hair.

“I know, I’m going. I’ll just be a few minutes. Slide your shoes on for me okay?” She heads back to her bedroom where she slowly opens the bedroom door, closing it softly behind her and locking it once again so Noah won’t barge in, demanding she hurry up.

Elliot still lays in the middle of the bed, as fast asleep as he was when she left him. She leaves the note on the pillow her head had been resting on and quickly grabs a sweatshirt and some jeans to change into to hurry Noah out of the apartment.

She only throws her hair into a low ponytail and she checks on Elliot one more time, still peacefully asleep, and then quietly slides back out of the bedroom. 

Noah sits on the couch when she walks out, his foot tapping against it since he’s still too short to touch the floor.

“Come on, let's go.” A large smile graces Noah’s face and he bounces his way next to her, grabbing her hand.

He dutifully climbs into the backseat of the SUV and they drive to the diner two blocks away from his school. It’s quiet for most of the drive, Noah just being excited to be able to eat pancakes before school.

She manages to snag a spot not too far from the diner, on the side closer to Noah’s school, and Noah is in such a content mood that he reaches for Olivia’s hand again as they walk down the sidewalk.

She looks down and smiles at him. As he has started to get closer and closer to double digits, he is less likely to be affectionate in public, so for him to be the one to reach for Olivia makes her heart melt.

They eat breakfast together and Olivia happily looks at her boy as he talks about Eli and school and anything else that comes to mind and her heart melts as he eats his chocolate chip pancake with a large smile on his face.

“Mom, you’re super quiet.” He says as he gets ready to take his last bite and Olivia is startled away from her plate that she’s been picking at.

“What do you mean?” Noah shrugs and pops in his last bite.

“I don’t know, you’re just quiet.” He says around his mouthful and Olivia’s eyes narrow.

“Manners.” She reminds him and his cheeks flush.

“Sorry.” He mumbles out, making sure to swallow his pancakes before looking back at his mother again. He looks at her with a look that is so her that she wants to roll her eyes. 

“I just had a weird day yesterday. But I’ve been listening to you honey. I’m so happy that you and Eli get along.” Noah smiles big again. 

“Eli’s the best. We’re gonna be done with our LEGOs soon though. We’ve only got two more towers left!” Liv smiles and takes a final sip of her coffee.

“Well I guess I’m gonna have to look for your next project huh?” Noah nods excitedly as Olivia looks down at her watch.

“We gotta get going. We’ll snag your backpack from the car and then walk to school, sound like a plan?” Noah nods and they slide out of the booth and back out into the brisk October morning.

They walk to the SUV and grab Noah’s backpack and lunch pail and continue on the block and a half left to school.

“Why have I not met Eli’s dad?” Noah asks, his hands wrapped around his backpack straps. Olivia hesitates for a second, her steps faulting before she presses on, Elliot sleeping in her bed pressing at the front of her mind.

“Well... he’s been gone for a little bit.” She watches as Noah wrings at the straps.

“But Eli says you guys have known each other for a while.” Olivia sighs and looks up into the sky briefly.

“I mean, we have. Eli’s dad used to be my partner a long time ago.” Noah takes in the information and lets it ruminate in his mind.

“Like Uncle Nick?” Olivia nods.

“Yeah, just like Uncle Nick.” Noah looks down at the ground.

“So why did he stop being your partner?” He looks up at her and Olivia sighs and wants to rub her fingers across her temple but holds it back, knowing that Noah knows that it’s her sign that she doesn’t want to talk about something.

“Something happened. And then he left the police department. He moved to Italy.”  

“Oh. Why did he move to Italy?” They reach Noah’s school then and Liv squats down in front of him.

“How about this? At some point, not tonight, you can ask me all these questions and I’ll answer them for you as best I can.” Noah eyes her suspiciously, like she’s trying to pull one over on him, but he nods anyway.

“Alright. I’ll see you after dance class.” She says. Olivia stands up and ruffles his hair. 

“Mooom.” He whines, straightening up his hair.

“Alright, alright, get going.” He gives her a mischievous smile and heads to the steps up to school, yelling out a “bye, mom” as he climbs up them.

Olivia smiles and shakes her head before heading back towards her SUV.

She checks her watch and she hopes briefly for a second that Elliot is still asleep when she gets back home. It had been a risk to leave him there by himself, no phone, in a place that he wasn’t the most familiar with, especially with how he’d been the night prior.

But she also didn’t need him coming into the living room in any state similar to last night with Noah still home either.

Luckily she manages to find a spot almost directly in front of her apartment and when she opens her door, it’s still quiet. She mentally crosses her fingers and when she slowly opens the door to her bedroom, she finds Elliot still dead asleep.

She lets out a sigh of relief before going to snag the note from her pillow, eyeing him carefully to make sure he is still fully asleep before heading back out to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee.

She tidies up some of the remnants of dinner from the night before as the coffee starts to drip into the pot and she grabs two mugs from the cupboard and sets them next to the coffee as she puts away the last dish.

She gets a message from Ayanna right as she goes to pour the coffee.

“He’s with you?? I don’t have many details but they finally made arrests last night. He was supposed to come in this morning and no one has heard from him.” She stares at her phone for a minute, relief flooding her at the fact that he’s not AWOL. However confusion over the fact he hasn’t debriefed yet, makes her wonder just how badly things had gone to shit at the end for him to mindlessly make his way back to her place.

“I’ll let you know when he’s awake. Last night was rough, but I’ll make sure he gets to you as soon as he can.” She doesn’t let herself think it over, and sends the message before she can change her mind.

She sets her phone back down on the counter, looking at it for a second before shaking her head and heading back to the coffee maker.

She pours them both a cup and carefully walks back to her bedroom. When she opens the door, he’s starting to stir, his legs starting to move.

He sits up suddenly and it startles her, causing her to almost spill coffee down the front of her and she almost reaches her hand up to her chest.

“Elliot.” She says softly, trying to gage just how with her he is and after a moment, he turns to look at her.

“Liv.” He scrubs his face with his hands. “What the hell. I’ve gotta stop dreaming.” Her eyebrows furrow together and she sets both mugs on the nightstand next to him to stand in front of him.

“Elliot.” She says again, this time setting her hands on his shoulders. It makes him stop moving completely and he sits there completely still for a second before removing his hands slowly from his face.

“Liv?” He questions, looking up at her again like she isn’t real, that she shouldn’t be real and she tilts her head at him, setting a hand on his cheek.

“You came to my place last night around nine thirty. You barely said a word last night.” She chooses not to bring up “I thought they were gonna kill me”, unsure just of how much he remembers from the night before.

He shakes his head before running a hand over it and looking up at her, looking confused.

“I don’t even remember what happened last night. The last thing I remember is my Captain telling me to check in in the morning.” He starts looking around her room quickly.

“Shit, what time is it Liv? I was supposed to be at my Captain’s at eight sharp.” Liv grimaces and lifts up her watch.

“It’s quarter to ten.” He scrubs his face once again, a quiet, fuck, escaping his lips. Liv sighs, watching as his shoulders become weighted by the pressure of the op.

“Come on, let's go.” She says, bringing her hands back to herself. He looks up at her, confusion chiseling his features before he shakes his head.

“Why are you even here Liv?” He asks quietly, and she hears the unasked questions in it. Why are you still here, why do you still have my back after everything I’ve done? But she decides to press on with the literal question.

“You were a mess last night El.” She whispers. “I couldn’t just leave you here.” He looks down at his lap and they stand there for a minute, like statues frozen in place.

Olivia breaks the silence first.

“Do you want me to bring you to your apartment so you can get dressed first?” He nods and stands up. 

It’s not often that she realizes the height difference between them. But with her toes digging into the carpet of her bedroom and Elliot looking down at her, his eyes an endless blue sea, those few inches feel like mountains between them. 

“Let me just change really quick. Drink your coffee, wake yourself up.” He just looks down at her for a second, his mouth turning into a small smile and she heads for her closet, grabbing a blouse to trade out her sweatshirt for.

She redoes her ponytail quickly, pulling out some pieces at the front to frame her face and when she walks back out to her bedroom, Elliot is gone.

Her heart rate picks up unexplainably, even though she knows that he’s probably just out in her living room. She heads out of her bedroom and when she walks into the kitchen, she finds him pouring their mugs of coffee into two of her travel mugs.

He gives her a small smile, almost like he’s done something wrong and he’s been caught, but she takes the cup gratefully and brings it to her lips.

“Thanks.” She jerks her head towards the door. “Come on, I'll drop you by your place so you can change and then bring you to your squad room.” 

They quietly walk out of her apartment. She leads the way once they get out onto the sidewalk. They stay silent, but they migrate so close to each other that their shoulders keep bumping together as they walk.

He climbs in the car first and when she pulls away, he’s staring at his hands in his lap.

“Liv…” he starts before trailing off. She glances over at him.

“Yeah?” She hears him take a shaky breath.

“This op was fucking awful.” She grips her steering wheel tight and looks over at him. She doesn’t prompt him, just waits for him to continue as he flexes his hand around his mug.

“The whole last week.” He begins, his voice rough. “The whole last week I was underground somewhere. They put me in this tiny room.” He scrubs his head. “Jesus I felt like I was back at Sing Sing again.”

The comment throws her and she racks her brain to try and think of when he was at Sing Sing and the three days he spent in isolation come back to her. When he had come back to work after those days, she remembers that she had walked on eggshells around him because he would snap at the smallest things. Cragen had wanted him to take two days off to decompress, but knew that him being around his kids and Kathy would make the situation worse than it already was.

“Elliot.” She says quietly and glances over at him again. He shakes his head.

“They realized I wasn’t doing it for myself, that I was undercover. And they shoved me down in the sewers and they’d come in and... taunt me.” His leg starts shaking up and down and she almost wants to pull the car over and pull him into her arms, but instead she sets her hand on his leg and waits for him to keep going. 

He swallows hard and doesn’t look at her for a moment before taking her hand in his and taking a deep breath.

“They... they kept telling me about Maureen and Eli. Told me when they would leave, told me where Eli went to school. Told me about Kathleen, Dickie, Lizzie. Gave me details about where they lived and worked.” He rubs his hand over his head. 

“They-” He stops himself and Olivia looks over at him again. They’re almost to his apartment and she’s grateful for it. He looks like he’s about to crumble.

“Told me about you. That Eli was going to your house.” She hears him swallow roughly. “It was bad Liv.” She pulls into a parking spot then and she watches him retreat back into himself, just like he had been when he showed up at her door.

“El.” She says as she rotates herself so she can face him as much as possible given the steering wheel that traps her. She reaches her free hand up to his cheek and she watches as the emptiness retreats from him and he looks over at her, devastation written across his face.

“I’m gonna go change.” He says, turning his head away from her. 

“I’ll come with you-” She starts as she turns towards her door.

“Liv.” He interrupts and she looks back at him.

“I’ll be okay. I’ll be right back.” He reaches over and squeezes her hand before setting his mug into the empty cup holder.

“Okay.” She says softly and he gets out of the SUV, closing the door and looking back at her for a second before bounding into his apartment building.

She lets out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding and grabs her phone. 

“He’s just changing. Is your Captain in your squad room? He’s in no place to be staying after he’s done his debrief.” She sends it and eyes the front door of his building before glancing at her clock.

She’ll give him ten minutes and then she’s going in. Ayanna responds almost immediately.

“What the hell happened to him? He should be here in the next five minutes. What’s your ETA?” She rubs two of her fingers together, unsure of where to even start with Elliot’s state of mind before shaking her head.

“We should be there in 30 minutes. I’ll come up with him and touch base with you.” She slides her phone back into the middle console and watches her clock for the next seven minutes, gearing herself to get ready to come up to his apartment, come hell or high water.

But luckily for them both, he comes down with one minute to spare, now donning a pair of jeans and a long sleeve shirt. He climbs back in and gives her a tight lipped smile that she returns before pulling back into traffic and heading towards his squad room. 

They sit in silence for the first five minutes until Elliot finally bursts out, “So did Eli actually go to your house?”

She tightens her grip on the steering wheel. She doesn’t know if confirming that will make him more fearful or just relieved that Eli is talking to her, just like it had made her and she debates with herself for a couple seconds before sighing.

“Yeah. He and Noah really hit it off.” She hears him chuckle slightly besides her and she glances at him confusedly.

“Of course all my kids have met Noah before I have.” She feels guilt rise up in her chest for a second as she realizes that the statement is true, but tries to swallow it down by justifying that Dickie had been an accident and Kathleen and Lizzie were well, Kathleen and Lizzie. But she doesn’t hear bitterness in his voice, only humor and that also tampers it down as well.

“Eli’s got him hooked on Mario Kart. They’ve even got a huge Mario LEGO project they’ve been working on that they’re almost done.” 

Elliot smiles wistfully.

“Eli used to love LEGO’s. Used to beg me and Kathy to get him the kits until he was about eleven. Then one day he just didn’t like them anymore.” Olivia looks over at him and smiles before reaching her hand back out to him. He clutches it tightly, interlacing their fingers together and they drive in silence the rest of the way to his squad room. 

When she pulls into the alley, he looks at her and she sees that fear from earlier starting to creep its way back in. 

“I can’t do this again, Liv.” He says so softly that she almost misses it. She isn’t quite sure what he means, what exactly this is, but squeezes his hand nonetheless.

“You’ve got this. I’ll take you back home after your debrief. I’ll touch base with Ayanna while you talk to your Captain.” He nods and takes a deep breath, squeezing her hand once more before releasing it slowly to open his door and head upstairs.

She watches as the tension rises in his shoulders as she walks around to his side of the car and she wants to shove him back in the passenger seat and drive away but knows that today can only do good. Let his Captain and squad know the extent of just how much they need to watch him and his family after all of this and hopefully make sure that the bastard they’ve arrested stays in prison. 

He takes a deep breath and looks over at her before they start walking side by side, steps matching, to his squad room.

Chapter Text

When they finally get upstairs, Elliot is immediately escorted to his Captain’s office and Liv is left to her own devices, scanning the room for Ayanna.

She finds her tucked up on the platform behind Jet, who sees her first.

“Hi Captain Benson.” Jet calls out, still typing out whatever she’s working on unphased. 

“You know you don’t have to call me that Jet.” She shrugs but continues working as Ayanna looks up and meets her eye, putting a hand on Jet’s shoulder and saying something quietly to her before heading down the stairs.

“Hey Liv, let’s head somewhere a little more private.” She leads her down a hallway and Olivia’s lost after the third turn since she’s never been down this part of the building and Ayanna gestures towards a nondescript door that opens to reveal a room with some mismatched chairs scattered around it.

“So what the hell happened?” She starts, pacing back and forth in the small space. Olivia feels the headache forming in her forehead and she stops herself from rubbing it. Ayanna’s pacing reminds her too much of Elliot and she’s reminded of why they get along so well.

“He showed up at my place last night not long before I messaged you.” She takes a deep breath. “Ayanna, it was bad.” Him standing there, his eyes empty, flashes in her mind and she takes a sharp breath.

“He smelled... god awful. Looked like he hadn’t showered in a week and had been in the same clothes for just as long.” She hesitates for a second and realization smacks her hard. 

“It almost smelled like he’d been in a sewer.” She says quietly and her heart sinks when she realizes that she had been right last night, and it’s the absolute last thing she wanted to be true. It stuns her so much that she slowly sits down in one of the chairs.

“Liv?” Ayanna stops when she sees her sit, and she watches her carefully.

“They held him in the sewers for the last week.” Escapes her lips softly and she looks over at Ayanna who is stunned into silence. Olivia watches as Ayanna’s face turns from shock, to disbelief, to pure anger.

“They what?” She spits out, venom lacing her voice. 

“He said that’s where they found him when they made all the arrests. That he had been down in the sewers for a week.” Ayanna’s eyes sharpen and she scowls.

“You mean to tell me, he was kidnapped for a week, it sounds like they knew about it, and they never said a god damn word?” She starts pacing again and the words settle over Olivia like a prickly blanket. Her hearing is overwhelmed by a dull roar and she watches Ayanna as she goes back and forth, her mouth moving but Olivia not hearing a word.

They knew. Maybe not that he had been abducted, not from day one. But they knew they had no contact with him starting eight days ago. And they didn’t worry enough to even bring in his squad to start looking for him.

Her mind wanders, “He wouldn’t have had to be under that long if they just would’ve admitted they sent him too deep. He wouldn’t have been held against his will in the goddamn sewers if they would’ve just admitted that they needed to find him. Eli wouldn’t have been so worried about his father and for such a good reason-”

“Liv.” Ayanna finally breaks through and she shakes her head before looking over at her.

Ayanna looks furious. Like she’s going to burst out of this room and go up and down every person ranked above her and give them the worst tongue lashing of their life. The longer she stares at her though, the more she softens.

“Olivia.” She says softly. Olivia feels tears welling up in her eyes and shakes her head.

“I’ve worked with him for thirteen years, Ayanna. Thirteen years, and I’ve never seen him look the way he did when he came to my door last night.” Her voice cracks as she speaks and she looks down ashamedly at her lap. She and Ayanna are slowly becoming friends, but letting her see this side of her makes her feel ashamed, especially given her status. Ayanna sits down in the chair closest to her and sets a hand on her knee.

“We got them though Liv. And Elliot’s tough. This is just a small setback and he’ll be back to annoying the living hell out of us in no time.” Olivia looks up at her, tears on the brink of falling and a smile on her face.

“I just can’t believe they let it happen to him.” She immediately retracts her sentence in her head. She can believe they let it happen, she’s just angry that it happened to him.

“And we’re gonna give ‘em hell for it.” Ayanna says, patting her knee before standing up.

“Do Maureen and Eli know he’s back?” Olivia shakes her head and looks down in guilt this time.

“No, not yet.” She says quietly and then looks up at Ayanna. “I didn’t want them showing up at my door to find him like that. I’m gonna text them when I get him back to his place. Hopefully seeing Eli will ground him a little more.” She sighs.

“There’s one more thing though.” She takes a deep breath, trying to steady herself. “He said they told him about his kids.” Ayanna’s eyes grow large.

“What do you mean they told him about his kids?” Olivia runs a hand through her hair.

“He said that they told him where Eli went to school. That they knew when they left the house. Told him where Kathleen, Dickie, and Lizzie all lived and worked. They even knew that Eli had been coming to my house.”  Ayanna’s hands ball up into fists and she throws open the door to the room.

“Oh fuck this.” Olivia hears her say before she storms out. She hurries out after her and watches as Ayanna storms past Jet and towards her Captain. Elliot is standing up and Olivia hopes that he’s done because Ayanna slams open the door.

“What the hell did you all think that you were doing?” She all but screams, her eyes dead set on their Captain. Elliot nods at him and walks out, shutting the door behind him and Olivia can hear Ayanna’s voice rumble through the door. 

Olivia turns her attention towards Elliot and he looks like he’s somewhere far away, like his brain has taken a break and left the rest of him here with them. 

“El.” She says quietly, reaching out for his hand. She grabs it and squeezes and she watches him slowly return to himself enough to look at her.

“Come on, let me take you home.” He nods slowly and Olivia gently tugs at him until his feet start to move below him and follow her down the stairs and out to the car.

He relies on Olivia to guide him outside. She feels him physically relying on her pulling him forward to keep him moving and when they finally reach her car, he doesn’t move to open the door at all. She gives him a second. Tries to see if he’ll go and open it for himself and when he doesn’t move a muscle, she opens it and gives him a gentle push towards the passenger seat that he plops himself in.

They drive to his apartment in silence. Elliot doesn’t even attempt to speak once the whole ride and every time she looks at him, she feels like he’s slipping further and further into himself.

Finally, they arrive at his place and even after she gets out of the car, Elliot doesn’t move from the position he’s been stuck in since she threw him in twenty minutes earlier.

She opens his door and leans against the frame of her car.

“El.” She says quietly, waiting to see if he registers her voice. When he doesn’t move, she leans closer to him, her face close to his shoulder and reaches for one of his hands.

“Elliot.” She says again and she squeezes his hand. He slowly turns his head towards her and the emptiness in his eyes scares her. Somehow, instead of managing to come back to himself more, he has managed to slip away further from her and she wonders just what the hell happened in those sewers.

She hadn’t seen any bruises on his torso when she dressed him the night before, and he’s not limping or giving her any other clues that anything physical has happened to him. It crosses her mind briefly, what if this, the pure fear of knowing that all his children could be in danger and he couldn’t do a thing to stop it, is what had finally broken him.

She tugs at him a little harder and he finally turns to put his legs out of the car and stands up. She sighs in relief and pulls him up the stairs, his legs thankfully still going wherever she pulls him to. 

She thanks some God above for the fact that his building has an elevator because leading him up six flights of stairs to his apartment is at the very bottom of the list of things she wants to do at that moment.

When they reach his apartment she sighs when she realizes that she has no idea where his spare key is, if he even has one since he hasn’t been in this place too terribly long, and turns to look at him.

“El.” She says, squeezing his hand and tilting her head to try and meet his eyes. “El, where’s your keys?” He stares past her, and she notices then that the circles under his eyes are even more prominent than they were this morning.

“Elliot. We’ve gotta get in your apartment. Where are your keys?” When he doesn’t move, she sighs and turns towards his door, sliding her hands on the top of the frame to see if he’s snuck a key up there when suddenly she hears a jingle behind her.

She turns around and Elliot holds his keys out to her and she sighs before grabbing them and trying each of the keys until finally she finds the one that lets them in.

Now he finally follows her without the pull of her hand and he settles himself onto a cushion on the couch. She lets out a small breath of relief and starts wandering around his apartment, making sure that everything is ready for Maureen and Eli to come over and she finds his clothes from earlier scattered in the hallway leading to his bedroom.

She gathers them and tosses them into his bedroom onto his bed. Once she shuts the door to his room once again, she leans against the door and tilts her head back against it.

She’s feeling herself starting to spiral right alongside him and it briefly crosses her mind that she doesn’t think she can do it this time.

Even after Kathy’s death he hadn’t been this bad. And dear God he had said “I love you” in front of his kids during that breakdown. She scrubs her face with her hands and stares up at the ceiling.

It had taken him months to even just have the appearance of being better. Eli’s move back in had been a big milestone in his healing and even then he wasn’t fully healed, or at least as healed as he could be after a loss that monumental. 

She could throttle his Chief for sending him. They knew better and he should have been evaluated before it had even been considered. But alas, this was the NYPD and when was the last time the brass cared about their officers. She scrubs at her face once more, tries to shove her anger aside and focus on the man who is more than likely still sitting on the couch staring at nothing.

She takes a deep breath and heads back towards the living room, but when she finally spots him, his elbows are on his knees, his hands running back and forth over the back of his head as he looks at the ground, his body softly rocking.

“Elliot.” She rushes towards him, his posture completely taking her off guard and kneels in front of him.

“El, what’s wrong?”

He stays silent, his hands still going back and forth and Olivia forces her way through his arms, making enough room so he has to look at her face.

“Elliot.” She says once again, urgency filling her voice as she reaches up to set a hand on his cheek.

He looks up at her after a couple minutes and his eyes are so dark that she almost gasps, but bites it back before it escapes.

“I can’t do this again, Liv.” He repeats for the second time today. She rubs her thumb across his cheek and reaches for one of his hands, pulling it from the back of his head.

“You can’t do what again?” He looks past her then and she almost sighs before he lets out a shaky breath.

“Italy.” He looks at her. “Losing someone else.” It makes her heart stop for a second, the way he looks at her when he says it and she tries to swallow but she feels frozen.

When he sits up, finally opening himself to her and then turns towards the inside of the couch, Olivia takes it as her sign to join him.

She waits for him to continue, knowing that this conversation needs to go at his own pace. She watches as he opens his mouth and then shuts it, changing his mind before he finally takes a deep breath and looks up at her.

“Italy.” He starts, his voice rumbling low in his chest and she watches as he slowly starts to disappear from her again.

“It was my second year there. They had sent me undercover for a month and the mob that we were investigating abducted me.” He shakes his head and runs a hand over his head.

“It wasn’t long, only two days.” He chuckles. “NYPD fucking panicked then because they didn’t want an international incident with an American police officer being held hostage in an international setting.” Olivia squeezes his hand then because she knows what he’s trying to say with that sentence.

“Unlike this time.”

 

He meets her eyes again and gives his mouth ticks up in an almost smile.

“And it wasn’t bad, but they talked about Kathy and Eli. Told me where Eli went to school, just like this asshole.” He shakes his head. “But that time... I wasn’t surprised by it. I mean, they knew the drug bust was about to happen and they were just using me as a bargaining chip. They were hoping that if they scared me enough, they could save up enough time to try and evade the drug bust but I wasn’t phased. I knew that we lived near a bunch of law enforcement and that nothing would happen to them.” He shrugs and slips his hand out of Olivia’s, causing her to furrow her eyebrows at him.

His leg starts bouncing and Olivia watches as he starts wringing his hands together.

“Devon Attwater. The guy in charge of the Irish gang that just got arrested?” Elliot shakes his head. “He is a whole other level of demented.”

Olivia watches as the muscles along his jaw and neck jump as he clenches his jaw.

“He... he uh,” Elliot rubs at the back of his neck. “It was like he knew everything about me before I even went under. Like he knew that I was going to be the one they were sending and he still let me in anyway.” He falls silent again and his leg starts bouncing impossibly faster.

“He let me see... some of the worst parts of their operation for three weeks.” He stops and takes a deep breath. “Let me see it and knew I was undercover the whole time.” Olivia feels her heart drop to her stomach because the implications there are... terrifying. That this gang leader knew that Elliot was undercover and let him see all the horrific parts of their operation? It shows that either Attwater was never planning on letting Elliot live long enough to tell about what he had seen, or that he was sure he would get Elliot on his side.

She watches him carefully as he tries to gather himself together to continue on, and she fights the urge to grab him since he had been the one to pull away earlier.

“He kept hinting after a while that he wanted me to be a mole. Implied it for the first two weeks and then that last week, he really pressed on it.” Elliot looks up at the ceiling. “When he finally cornered me and made me answer and I told him no, that’s when he finally shoved me in the sewers.”

“It was terrifying Liv. How much he knew about you all.” He looks up at her. “How much he knew about you.”

He looks down again and rubs his hand on the back of his neck. “Liv it was worse than Wheatley. What he knew.” The shivers that climb down her spine make her whole body tremble.

Richard Wheatley had been a catalyst for their relationship. When Elliot had confided in Olivia what Richard had said in that interrogation room with Angela and then once they figured out that it was Richard that had sent her to the hospital, they had to have a conversation that led them to discuss their own relationship, with the promise of “one day”. 

But to consider what had led up to that, that Wheatley had told Elliot all of that? To know that he probably knew more than that and then think that Attwater was worse than Wheatley? That was something she didn’t even want to consider.

“I’m worried that it’s going to happen again.” He says quietly and she watches as his eyes well up with tears and she finally reaches for him once again, gently pulling his hand into hers.

“I can’t lose you both this year Liv. I just got you back and… it will... it will break me.” Olivia scoots closer to him so that their knees are touching and puts a hand on either side of his face, the scratch of his facial hair on her palms soothing her.

They sit there in silence, Olivia rubbing her thumbs across his cheeks while Elliot slowly lets his head become more and more held by her hands until she is the only thing keeping his head up.

He closes his eyes then and leans his head against her right hand and lets out a sigh.

“I’m right here El.” She says softly, tilting her head as she paints each detail of his face into her mind. “I’m right here and I’m not going anywhere.”

Chapter Text

They stay that way for a while and for a second she thinks that he’s fallen asleep in her hands until he suddenly picks his head up and opens his eyes. It’s the clearest his eyes have been all morning and she almost breathes a sigh of relief. They stare at each other for a bit before Olivia gives him a small smile.

“I should probably call Maureen. She and Eli will be excited that you’re home.” He gives her a small smile in return and nods.

He rubs the back of his neck and Olivia looks around for the tv remote. She finally finds it tucked near the window and she turns on the tv and pops on a comedy movie that she knows neither of them will watch, but hopefully will fill the large holes in the apartment left by the silence between them.

“I’ll be right back.” She says as she squeezes his knee while she walks past him.

When she’s finally out of sight from him, she leans against the wall separating his living room from his kitchen and she takes a deep breath and holds it in before shakily letting it out.

She’s trying. She’s trying so hard to be his rock, but god this time hurts. 

She presses her hand against her sternum and feels the tears well up in her eyes as she stares at the ceiling.

She loves him, she really truly does and she knows that he loves her. But she’s trying so hard to hold both of them together that she feels the small fissures growing with the weight that she bears from his own trauma and grief. 

She takes one more deep breath and closes her eyes briefly before releasing it slowly. When she opens her eyes, she drops her head back down and starts looking for her phone. 

After she finally finds her phone deposited near the door, she grabs it and dials Maureen’s number before tucking it in between her ear and her shoulder.

“Hey Liv.” Maureen greets her. 

“Hey.” She glances around the corner to get a peek at Elliot and sees him still staring absentmindedly at the tv. “Your dad is back.” She says quietly into the phone.

“What?!” Maureen cries out. “When? Why isn’t he calling? Where is he?”

Olivia sighs and rubs a finger over her eyebrow, “Maureen honey, it’s bad.”

“What do you mean Liv?” Olivia shakes her head.

“He came to my door last night and he was in a near catatonic state. I haven’t heard your father this quiet ever. He was getting there and then he had his debrief this morning and he’s almost worse than he was last night when he showed up.” She turns around and leans against the counter. “It’s bad Maureen, so you’ve gotta warn Eli before you show up here. I’m hoping Eli will help but honestly, I don’t know.”

Maureen sighs and she can almost picture her running her hand through her hair.

“Eli gets home from school around quarter to three. So when he gets home, I’ll toss him in the car and warn him as we drive out there.” She falls silent for a moment. “Olivia, is he going to be okay?” She asks softly and Olivia’s heart cracks.

Her first thought is “I don’t know” but she knows that is the last thing that Maureen wants to hear so she tells her the next best thing. 

“Maybe not right now, but at some point honey. We’ll figure it out together okay?” 

“Okay. I’ll text you when we head out Liv. See you in a bit.” She hangs up then and Olivia sighs before pulling her phone close to her chest. She thinks about texting Kathleen, Lizzie, and Dickie and decides otherwise about it because having the same conversation three more times exhausts her just thinking about it, let alone if one of them stopped by while he’s like this and scares them more than they have already been.

She rubs her fingers across her forehead once more before leaning her head back, straightening her back, taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly before heading back into the living room.

When she rounds the corner, he turns and looks at her, his eyes burning into her, and it’s the first time she really lets herself drink him in as his glance stops her in her tracks. 

The facial hair is still throwing her just a bit, but the longer she looks at it, the more she likes it and it crosses her mind briefly that she hopes he keeps it long enough for her to enjoy it. The circles under his eyes are so dark they almost look like black eyes, and for a second she wonders if they are but the longer she stares at his eyes, the more she can tell that they aren’t actual bruises because they haven’t yellowed at all.

Suddenly, he gives her a small smile and it breaks her from her trance and she continues walking to the couch.

She sits down next to him, closer than before and if she wanted to, she could lean into his side and curl herself around him. But she doesn’t and he’s the one that reaches for her hand and interlaces their fingers together. 

They don’t say anything and they both stare at the tv, though Olivia hasn’t paid enough attention to know what is happening because she’s too busy glancing over at him. His eyes have glossed back over, though his thumb keeps running over her skin, a soothing motion that almost makes her not as worried about him.

She doesn’t know how long they stay like that, when her phone suddenly starts buzzing and she sees Ayanna’s name on her screen.

“Hey Ayanna.” She greets.

“Hey Liv. How’s Elliot?” She glances over at him as he still stares glossy eyed at the tv screen and fights back a grimace.

“Better, but not much.” Ayanna sighs.

“Well, put me on speaker real quick I’ve gotta tell you both something.” She puts her phone on speaker, and squeezes Elliot’s hand and taps his knee.

“Elliot, Ayanna’s on the phone.” He looks at her and she’s relieved that she doesn’t have to try harder to pull him back to her with Ayanna listening and she almost lets out a sigh of relief.

“Okay.” 

“I’ve got a detail on each of the kids, you and Liv. And I’m not hearing a single argument about it. It’s happening and it’s staying that way until we know for sure no one is going to go after one of them. I am not having another Richard Wheatley on our hands.” Olivia continues to look at Elliot and her shoulders drop, a tension she didn’t realize she was holding released by the news. 

Elliot finally speaks for the first time since this morning, “No, that’s good Ayanna. That’s probably the best thing at the moment for everyone, thank you.” 

She’s met with silence on the other end and she can tell he’s taken Ayanna by storm, knows that she had expected a fight and hadn’t even gotten a complaint.

A knock sounds at the door then and Olivia is almost grateful for the interruption.

“Maureen and Eli are here, Ayanna, we’ll talk later.” She hangs up then and Elliot looks over at her with slight confusion in his eyes. She squeezes his hand before she stands up to go let the kids in.

When she opens the door, Maureen’s eyes widen as Eli pushes by her.

“You look exhausted, Liv.” She says quietly and Olivia sighs. 

“Dad?” They hear Eli from the living room and Olivia rushes in at the tone in his voice. When she walks in, Eli is standing almost right in front of Elliot and he’s barely registering him, almost staring straight through him. Olivia slowly walks up behind Eli and when she sets a hand on his shoulder, he backs into her touch so he can back away from Elliot.

Finally, Elliot shakes his head and gives Eli a tight lipped smile, glancing up at Olivia.

“Hey bud, I’ve missed you.” Elliot holds his arms up slightly and Eli looks up and back at Olivia, still unsettled by earlier. Olivia squeezes his shoulder and gently pushes the small of his back and it’s all he needs to launch himself at Elliot.

“Hi dad.” Olivia hears and she lets out a sigh of relief before turning to look at Maureen. When she gets a good look at her, Maureen is staring in disbelief at her father and Eli and she looks over at Olivia, the fear evident in her eyes.

Maureen walks into the living room more and when Eli finally lets go of Elliot, he moves to look at Maureen.

“Hey Mo.” He gives her the same tight lipped smile that he gave Eli and Maureen leans against a wall and crosses her arms as she eyes him carefully.

“Hey dad, how’s it going?” She asks, glancing over at Eli as if to remind him that he’s standing there and Olivia feels her cheeks become rosy because she can hear the warning tone in Maureen’s question and she knows why she’s warning him, can almost hear the echo of the “I love you”  in the back of her head.

Olivia watches Elliot as he opens and shuts his mouth, continually glancing at Eli as he does so. She can tell he wants to be honest, but not in front of Eli, doesn’t want to scare him like he had done before.

“Alright Mo. Just happy to see you guys.” With that, Eli finally decides to sit on the couch next to Elliot, glancing over at Olivia to see if everything is still okay.

Elliot glances over at Eli and a playful smile crosses his face and for a second, Olivia thinks everything is fine. “I heard you’ve been going to Liv’s.” 

It makes her heart stop, how casually he says it. Especially given that the Irish mob had held it over him, used it to taunt him.

Maureen and Eli don’t notice her panic though, and a large smile spreads over Eli’s face.

“Liv’s great. I don’t know why you didn’t introduce us earlier. And Noah’s awesome. We have this wicked cool LEGO project that Liv got us and we’re almost done. You’ll have to see it when we go over.” He stops suddenly and looks over at Olivia.

“Cause we’ll go back over, right Liv?” It startles her, his sudden insecurity, and Olivia nods profusely.

“Well of course. We can’t miss our dinners, besides Noah would come hunting you down so you could finish your project.” Eli smiles once again, though it’s small and he looks down, embarrassed.

It all manages to break the ice though and she sits around with Eli, Maureen, and Elliot for an hour, Maureen giving her confused and questioning glances the longer they sit there and all Olivia feels is relief that seeing some of his children has managed to bring him back to himself, especially for such an extended period of time.

Eventually though, she realizes that Lucy and Noah should be heading home from dance class and she stands up, causing all three of them to look up at her.

“Noah should be getting home from dance class soon so I should get going.” She looks at Elliot. “You’ll call me if you need anything?” She asks softly, eyeing him with concern. Elliot gives her a smile and nods.

“Of course.” He looks over at Eli and ruffles his hair. “Should be good though.” Maureen stands up then, eyeing Elliot and Eli carefully.

“I’ll walk you out Liv.” She waves to Elliot and Eli and they both wave back and as soon as they are out of earshot, Maureen turns to her.

“I’m gonna stay for a while. Message the rest of them and let them know he’s home. But he seems to be doing good, right?” She asks optimistically. Olivia smiles despite the pit knotting in her stomach, hopeful that everything will stay just as it is, but nervous nonetheless.

“He does. This is the best he’s been since last night.” Maureen nods and crosses her arms across her chest.

“I’ll probably take Eli home with me though, just to be safe. Maybe have Kathleen come check in or stay with him.” Olivia nods and Maureen pulls her into her arms.

“I can never thank you enough Liv.” She says quietly, and squeezes her tightly. Olivia squeezes her back before pulling away, keeping her hands on her biceps.

“I’ll always be here for you guys.” She squeezes her arms briefly. “You call me if you need me okay? I’m not far.” Maureen nods and tucks a piece of hair behind her ear.

“Okay.” Liv squeezes her gently one more time before sliding her shoes on and heading down to her car.

The rest of the night is pretty quiet. Maureen messages her around 8 o’clock and says that Eli refused to come home with her, that he said “I’m not afraid of him, I’m fine.” Olivia shakes her head at his stubbornness, his father shining through and through, and messages Eli to remind him that if he needs anything she’s a call away.

Noah is also quiet, though she wonders if that’s from the line of questioning from earlier and the fact that she had told him not tonight, and he wants to watch a movie for their night activity and that’s how they end up watching Luca on her couch, buried under the blankets until his bedtime.

She manages to finish an entire chapter of Harry Potter that night, not that they had gotten far the night before and she is amazed that it has only been a little over twenty four hours since he and Eli had been showing her and Maureen their LEGO’s.

He falls asleep quickly after Olivia tucks him in and she goes about cleaning the house for a little bit before deciding to turn in early herself. 

She goes to bed around nine thirty, but she tosses and turns, her worry about Elliot and Eli consuming her brain, and she keeps checking her phone to make sure no one has messaged her and that her ringer is all the way up, even though it almost always is.

Finally after two hours, she finally feels sleep taking over her body when suddenly she hears her phone buzzing. When she looks over, Eli’s name is filling up the screen and any sleepiness she feels is gone when she sees it’s him.

“Eli honey, what’s wrong?” She asks, trying to hold back the panic in her voice. He sniffles.

“Hi Liv.” She hears him trying not to cry and she throws the covers off her.

“Eli, are you safe?” She asks and she starts tearing around her room for a sweatshirt and a pair of shoes.

“Yeah.” He chokes out. “Yeah I’m safe. Can uh, can you come open your door?” She freezes for a second before she throws her bedroom door open and jogs to the front door. 

When she finally wrenches the door open, she finds Eli standing there, phone against his ear, his head tucked to his chest with his long hair covering most of his face, and a small backpack on his shoulder.

He looks up when she opens the door and tears are streaming down his face.

“Hi Liv.” He greets and Olivia immediately pulls him into her arms.

“Oh Eli.” She says and she puts her hand at the back of his head, cradling it as she squeezes him to her.

She feels him shaking against her and she suddenly hears a sob burst out of him, even though it’s muffled by her shirt.

“Come on bud let’s go inside.” She says, gently escorting him into her hallway, Eli clutching at her tightly still.

The second the door shuts, he starts. “Liv it was just so bad, I don’t even recognize him. I thought he was bad after mom but he’s even worse,” he sobs out. His breath catches in his throat and he tries to even out his breath before he keeps going. “He’s not gonna hurt himself, but he’s just a fucking shell. He punched the wall again and I just left.” The cursing takes her aback, but she doesn’t say anything about it, instead choosing to rub circles in his back as he buries his face into her shoulder.

She shushes him and rocks him back and forth as he continues to cry against her and she sets her head against his.

“I’ve got you. Shhhh. It’s alright now, you’re safe. We’ve got this.” She repeats it over and over again like a mantra against his cheek, rubbing a hand over his hair over and over again until she starts to feel him sag against her.

She pulls away finally and when she gets a good look at him, she sees how red his eyes are, his face blotchy from all the crying.

“Come on, I’ll put you on the couch for tonight, okay?” She asks quietly, gently taking his backpack from him and setting it against the wall in the living room.

He nods and walks to the couch himself, curling up onto it. Olivia pulls the blanket from the back of it and covers him, kneeling in front of him and brushing his hair out of his eyes and off his forehead.

“Was your dad still home when you left?” She asks gently, and Eli nods. She kisses his forehead and walks over to the window to close the blinds so the light from outside stops streaming into the living room.

“Go to bed, we’ll take care of it all in the morning.” She walks back to her entryway and she hears quietly from the couch, “Love you Liv,” and she walks back over to the couch and crouches in front of him once more.

“Love you too. Now sleep. I’m right down the hall.” He nods and pulls the blanket closer underneath his chin and Olivia watches him close his eyes before she heads back to her entryway to grab her discarded phone.

She doesn’t have any missed calls and she feels the panic rise in her once again because she can’t imagine why Elliot hasn’t called her about Eli just leaving.

She waits until she’s in her bedroom to call him, flicking on the lights as she shuts the door and when he doesn’t answer the first time, she almost gets dressed again. She decides to try one more time before calling one of the girls to come and sit with the boys while she goes over there when he answers on the third ring.

“Elliot.” She says sharply, concern overtaking her voice. When he doesn’t respond, she feels pins and needles start in her hands at the panic that threatens to overtake her completely.

“Elliot, do you know where Eli is right now?” She’s met with silence once again. “El.” She says quietly.

“He left.” He says so softly that she barely hears him. She pulls her phone away from her ear and swipes up to pull up her messages to Kathleen.

“Are you up?” She sends and she stares at her phone as she swallows.

“He’s with me.” She says, sharpness filling her voice. She takes a breath before she softens. “Elliot, he showed up at my door in tears, what the hell happened?”

“Yeah, why what’s wrong?” Kathleen responds and Olivia lets out a breath of relief.

“You need to go to your father’s. Eli just showed up at my door in tears. Said he punched the wall again and he is completely out of it. I have both the boys or else I would.” She sends back right as Elliot starts talking.

“They’re watching us Liv. I just know it. None of them are safe. You aren’t safe.” She sighs and sits on her bed as Kathleen sends her one more message.

“I’m on my way. I’ll let you know when I get there.” 

“Elliot, Ayanna said each of us will have a protective detail. Remember? She told us that earlier.” She hears his footsteps pounding over the phone and she hopes that his downstairs don’t call the cops because it’s the last thing she needs right now.

“And how many times have you skirted a protective detail because you didn’t want it?” He bites out and she fights back a sigh. 

“El, this is different. I know how serious this is. I was there for Richard Wheatley, remember? I was there in that hospital and I remember that conversation we had to have.” She regrets it the second it leaves her mouth, knows that there is a better time and place to bring this up and she hopes that he’ll just go past it.

“And just because Angela Wheatley didn’t kill who she wanted to doesn’t mean that Devon Attwater won’t.” He throws back at her and she hears something crash on the other line and she assumes he’s thrown something.

“Elliot, you've got to calm down.” She says softly. She decides then to FaceTime him and presses the button. “Answer the phone, so I can see your face.” It’s silent for a second and she thinks he’s going to ignore her before suddenly his face appears on her screen. The easiness from earlier is gone from his eyes, but she’s almost thankful for the anger and fear that fills them and not the emptiness from before.

“I can take care of myself.” She says, watching his face carefully, watches as he opens his mouth in protest. “Let me finish.” She interjects and he shuts his mouth, eyes still aflame.

“I can take care of myself but I know that a protective detail will help me with an extra set of eyes to catch what I might not. And as long as they aren’t in my squad room and on top of me at a scene, I’m fully ready for a protective detail El, just like all your kids will be.” It crosses her mind that Eli just walked five blocks and she wonders if the protective detail had followed him here, if it had even started yet and she’s grateful that he made it to her apartment in one piece. She also knows that if the kids catch on to a car following them all the time they’ll freak out so she makes a mental note to message each of them to let them know about the detail.

“I just can’t lose any of you.” He says quietly and the steps in the background fade out and she hears the soft plop as he sits on the couch.

“And you won’t. Not if any of us have a say in it.” She stops for a second and watches his face. “Kathleen is on her way.” He opens his mouth. “I’m not hearing it, Elliot. You scared the shit out of Eli, out of me, and I can’t leave the boys.” Not a second after she says it, she hears a quiet “Dad?” on the other side.

“In here.” He calls back and she hears Kathleen sigh.

“Is that Liv?” Kathleen asks and Elliot nods as the phone slides out of his hand and Kathleen appears instead.

“I’m here.” She glances around the apartment and grimaces. “I’ve got it from here.”

Olivia sighs. “If you need me, call me and we’ll just switch okay?” Kathleen nods and she assumes looks at Elliot.

“We’ll be okay.” Olivia nods.

“I’ll be there in the morning after I drop the boys off, so if you’ve got work in the morning I’ll get there as soon as I can.” Kathleen gives her a sad smile and shakes her head.

“I’ve got it, Liv, I promise. I’ll call you if I need anything. Go to bed. I’ll see you in the morning.”  Olivia sighs and nods and Kathleen hangs up.

Olivia stands up to open her door a crack and shut off her light again before she climbs back into bed. She tosses and turns once again before finally rolling onto her stomach and letting a frustrated scream out into the pillow before rolling on her back again to stare at the ceiling.

Eventually, after another hour of sleep escaping her, she falls into an empty slumber, encompassed by the blackness that allows her brain to finally rest.

Chapter Text

She wakes up to chatter outside her bedroom. After waking up almost every thirty minutes, she had finally managed to fall asleep around five. She scrubs at her eyes and sees that it’s six thirty and ugh she’s going to have to rush Noah this morning and then Eli’s voice floats back to her room and she freezes. 

She’d forgotten all about last night. Forgot that she had both boys and she doesn’t even know what time Eli has to be in school and she can’t sign him in and- she tosses the blanket off her and heads out to the living room. 

The boys are sitting on the living room floor, bowls of cereal in front of them as the tv quietly plays in front of them. She realizes that Eli must’ve been the one to grab breakfast for them since the cereal is too high for Noah to reach. Noah is even dressed, actually pretty decently, and she realizes that Eli must have something to do with that too since Noah’s outfit choices are usually loud and unmatching. Eli is also dressed, with jeans and a long sleeve shirt on, his backpack from the night before sitting on the couch behind him.

Noah is shoveling a spoonful into his mouth when he spots Olivia in the hallway and puts his hands on his hips, his mouth turning into a pout as he tries to frown at her. He swallows his food and gives her a frown, even though she sees the edges of it turning up and she gives him a look of “What?”

“You never told me Eli was staying last night!” Olivia shrugs and looks over at Eli who is staring into his cereal bowl.

“It was last minute, and besides where would he sleep since you haven’t cleaned your room yet this week like I’ve asked.” His mouth drops and Olivia fights a smile. She knows his room is actually pretty clean besides some toys scattered here and there, but it had been on his chore list for the past two nights and had been neglected each night, not that she hadn’t exactly been pushing him to do it.

“Well... I...” He stutters. Olivia walks up to him and drops a kiss on the top of his head before ruffling his hair. 

“You’ll just have to make sure you get your room done tonight, huh?” Noah nods and turns back to give her a playful glare and she chuckles before setting a hand on Eli’s shoulder and crouching down on his left side to whisper, “Are you alright?” in his ear so Noah can’t hear. He turns and looks at her and nods before turning back to his cereal, letting his hair fall in his face.

“What time does school start for you Eli?” She asks as she heads to the kitchen to start her coffee maker.

“Seven forty-five, though the doors lock at seven thirty. I still don’t know why though.” She tries to think of where Eli even goes to school, but the name escapes her.

“And where do you go to school?” She calls out as she reaches for her coffee mug.

“Eleanor Roosevelt. On East 76th.” She looks at the clock and decides that fifteen minutes should be enough time to get him there, especially since Noah doesn’t have to go to school until eight and realizes she has about thirty five minutes to get ready and she sighs in relief when she realizes she has time to shower.

She pops back into the living room, leaning against the entryway as the boys continue to eat.

“Well I’m gonna take a shower then before we get ready to go. Noah, you have all your school stuff ready, homework is put away, you grabbed your drink for your lunch?” He nods, his mouth full once again and points his spoon at the chair behind her.

“On the chair.” He says and he takes another bite. She glances through his bag, spotting his homework folder tucked in behind his lunch pail, a Gatorade tucked into the side pocket of his backpack and she smiles. When she looks at his lunch pail once again though, she turns back to the living room to look at Eli.

“Eli, do you need me to pack you a lunch?” She asks softly, unsure of what he’s been doing this year.

He looks down at the coffee table and grumbles at it.

“I didn’t hear you.”

“You don’t have to.” He says louder, stirring his spoon around his mostly empty bowl. She walks into the living room and crouches besides him.

“I know I don’t have to,” she says softly, gently brushing the hair away from his eyes, “But I’m asking if you need me to. Do you usually bring your lunch?” He stares at the coffee table for a minute longer before looking over at her and nodding.

“I’m still getting used to American food and school lunch sucks.” He murmurs and Olivia squeezes his shoulder before standing up.

“Then I’ll make you one real quick. Do you like peanut butter and jelly? I have grape or raspberry jelly.”

“Raspberry please. Do you have another Gatorade I can bring?” He looks up at her and the anguish in his eyes nearly breaks her.

“Of course, I’ll get it all ready for you okay.” He nods and looks back down at the table as she walks away.

“Thanks Liv.” He calls after her and she smiles to herself. It only takes her five minutes to make his lunch and she packs it in Noah’s plainest lunch box, a black one with a Captain America shield on it, since she knows he wouldn’t like an Octonauts lunch box to bring to high school with him.

With the time she has left she jumps into the shower, and lets the hot water run over her for longer than she should. She spends more time letting the heat seep into her bones than she does actually washing anything and when she finally forces herself out of the shower, she only has ten minutes until she and the boys have to be out and into the car and she curses herself.

She quickly throws her hair into a towel and bounds into her bedroom, searching for jeans and a sweatshirt in her dresser.

“Boys, make sure you’re ready when I’m dressed. We’ve gotta leave in the next ten minutes.” She hears their faint voices confirm they’ve heard her as she finds her favorite navy sweatshirt buried deep in her drawer. She tosses it on her bed and heads to her closet for her jeans and she snags the first pair she sees.

She gets dressed quickly, leaving her hair down to dry naturally, before heading out of her bedroom to see the boys standing near the door, shrugging on their coats.

“Don’t forget your stuff.” She says and Eli pulls up his backpack and lunch pail from the chair behind her as Noah goes to grab his own.

They head down to the car and drive to Eli’s school in silence. He stares out the window the whole time and Olivia wants to talk to him, know just how he’s doing but she doesn’t want Noah to know the particulars of just why Eli is there. She decides to let Eli start if he wants to, but he doesn’t and they pull up to his high school with three minutes to spare.

She thinks he’s going to just get out of the car without a word but then he turns to look at her.

“Thanks, Liv.” He says quietly, looking down at his lap. She reaches over to brush the hair out of his face.

“Of course. Anytime, you know that.” He looks up and the side of his mouth ticks up in a quick smile.

“I know.” He turns around to look at Noah.

“Bye little dude. I’ll be over sometime this week alright? Maybe we’ll finish the last towers this week.” Noah smiles at him brightly and Eli gives him a small smile in return before he looks at Liv one more time, a soft “Thanks” sliding from his lips before he’s out of the car and heading up the stairs to school.

Olivia sighs before pulling away, looking at Noah in the rearview.

He’s staring out the window so she decides to let them sit in silence for the drive back uptown to his school. It doesn’t last long though.

“Mom, did something happen with Eli’s dad?” He asks and it’s lucky that she’s coming to a stop light because she presses her foot hard against the brake, taken aback by his question.

“What do you mean?” She asks, trying to see Noah’s eyes in the rearview, though he still stays staring out the window.

“Eli said his dad had a bad nightmare last night, that’s why he was at our house. Does his dad have nightmares like you used to? Because something bad happened to him too?” She turns around in her seat then to look at him.

She opens and closes her mouth more times than she should, but then a beep behind her lets her know that the light has turned green and she continues on their drive.

Noah had woken up to her screams from a nightmare more than once, more often than she would have ever wanted him to. After a while he had finally asked why they were happening and all she had offered up was that something bad had happened to her a long time ago and that sometimes her dreams reminded her about it. She takes a deep breath in through her nose before looking up at the rearview.

“Yeah, he has nightmares too.” She watches him look down at his lap, hoping that he’ll leave it at that.

“Did something bad happen to him too?” She presses her lips together.

“Yes, something bad happened to him too.” She confirms and he nods his head before looking back out the window.

“Did something bad happen to Eli?” He asks quietly and luckily they pull up to his school then so once she’s parked in a space, she turns around to look at him once again.

“Why do you ask that?” She asks, watching Noah’s face for any hints. She watches as he starts tapping his fingers together and she knows it’s his tell for when he has to tell her something he doesn’t really want to.

“Honey, what happened?” Noah looks up at her, his eyes filled with tears.

“I heard a noise in the living room last night. Eli was crying on the couch but he was still sleeping. I woke him up so I could help him but I scared him when I did it. He came and slept on the floor in my room after that.” Her heart shatters and she tries to not let the despair she feels creeping up her spine overtake her face.

She reaches for Noah and sets a hand on his face.

“You know how you used to get really scared when my nightmares woke you up?” She asks him gently and he nods, leaning slightly into her hand.

“That’s all baby, Eli’s dad’s nightmares scared him too. He’ll be okay though.” Noah nods once more and Olivia slowly takes her hand back. 

“Okay.” He finally says, continuing to slowly nod. “I’ll see you tonight.” He stands up and leans forward to kiss Olivia’s cheek before opening the back door and walking towards his school, turning back to give her a quick wave as he passes the gate.

She lets out a heavy sigh before letting her head fall back against her headrest, exhaustion hitting her like a wall. She takes a deep breath before sitting back up and driving off towards Elliot’s, hoping that Kathleen hasn’t had too rough of a night.

By the time she parks and makes her way up to his apartment, she wonders if Kathleen is even still there since it’s approaching 8:30. She knocks before deciding to search for his spare key, hopeful that he’ll answer. But Kathleen is the one to open the door.

“Hi Liv.” She says quietly, waving her in. She doesn’t have to walk too far in to see the hole in the wall, and she sighs to herself. Kathleen looks back at her. 

“He fell asleep not long after I got here. I think after he talked to you it calmed him down enough to knock him out.” She walks into the living room, picking up a turnt over picture frame.

“It was a mess when I got here. I’ve spent all morning picking up glass shards in the kitchen.” She says, tilting her head back behind her. 

Olivia looks back towards the kitchen before looking back at Kathleen.

“Kathleen, honey.” She starts but Kathleen shrugs.

“It’s really fine Liv. We knew it could happen.” Kathleen finally looks up at her to make eye contact. “It’s part of the job, it’s just unfortunate it happened to him after mom. We’ll figure it out.” She looks back towards the other picture frames that have been casualties of the night.

Olivia’s heart breaks at how casually Kathleen handles it as she turns to look at her. 

“You’ve also gotta remember Liv, I see people like dad all the time. This is tame compared to what some of my clients have done.” Olivia sighs.

“Doesn’t make it any easier to deal with it with someone you love though.” She says softly, reaching for Kathleen’s arm.

Kathleen looks up at her and gives her a small smile.

“But I also know that he’ll be able to get the help he needs and have a strong support system along the way.” Kathleen squeezes Olivia’s hand then and looks at the clock.

“I’ve gotta get going to work.” She turns back to Olivia. “I’ll be back later okay?” Olivia presses her lips together and nods as Kathleen heads to the entryway and quietly makes her escape. 

Olivia sighs before walking back towards Elliot’s bedroom and she slowly opens the door so she doesn’t startle him. At first glance, she thinks he’s asleep. He’s curled up on his side away from the door and she almost shuts the door when she notices his foot shaking gently.

She walks further into the bedroom and when she finally sees his face, she finds him laying there, his eyes open.

“Elliot.” She says quietly, walking towards the foot of his bed. “El.” She reaches for his calf and as she sets her hand down on his leg, he shoots up and grabs her wrist tightly.

“Elliot.” She bites out, trying not to let the pain from his grip soak through her voice. 

“Elliot.” She yells, the pain creeping into her voice as her wrist turns white from the pressure. Right as she goes to disarm him, it’s like he finally opens his eyes. The second he sees that it’s her, he rips his hand off of her like her skin is an oven and she’s burned him.

“Fuck.” He runs his hands over his head. “Liv, I’m sorry.” He pulls his knees towards his chest and rests his elbows on top of them, holding his head. She pulls her wrist into her chest, rubbing gently at the already appearing red mark.

Olivia carefully walks to the side of his bed, slowly settling herself next to him. She sits there for a second before slowly reaching her hand out towards him once more.

“El.” She says softly, tilting her head as she tries to meet his eyes. “Elliot.” She says more firmly, but still quiet. She waits for him to lift his head, his eyes filled with tears.

“Elliot, what the hell happened?” His head drops again, though he rests his cheek against his arm so he can continue looking at Olivia.

“I don’t know Liv.” He scrubs his face. “I felt... fine until a little bit after Maureen left. And then I just... wasn’t.” She watches him as he stares at the wall ahead of him before turning to look at her.

“I don’t even know what happened last night. I can’t tell you when Eli left, when Kathleen came.” He shakes his head and she furrows her brow.

“Do you remember talking to me last night?” His head shoots back up.

“What? No.” Olivia presses her lips together in a tight smile.

“I called you after Eli came to my house. I heard you throw something.” He scrubs his face once again before settling his forehead back on his knees.

“I must’ve scared the shit out of him.” It’s so quiet that she barely hears it and she leans against him.

“You couldn’t control what you were doing. He understands.” She pauses for a second, letting her reassurances wash over him. She looks down at the floor.

“But you’re right you did scare the shit out of him. When I opened my door, he was crying.” She lets the words settle on his skin, lets them leave their mark before she hesitantly looks at him.

“El, when’s the last time you saw your therapist?” She braces herself for the blow up, for him to start yelling when his shoulders sag and he looks up at her.

“I had just stopped right before I went under. Maybe a week or so earlier. She said I only had to go once a month.” Olivia looks at him carefully, watching him as he looks up at her with desperate eyes.

“Maybe you should go back to your therapist.” His shoulders tense up and she waits for his protests before they suddenly relax.

“Yeah. Yeah I probably should.” He says quietly, laying his head down. They sit there, Olivia’s hand on Elliot’s arm as Elliot’s cheek rests against his other arm, for a long time. Finally, she sighs and she squeezes his arm before standing up.

She drags him out of his bed and towards the living room, if only to make it so he doesn’t stay in his bedroom all day. However, when he walks into the living room and sees some of the picture frames still scattered among the room, he freezes in the hallway. Olivia drags him to the couch and forces him to sit as he looks up at her in despair. She picks up what is left, knowing that any rougher carnage had been cleaned up earlier by Kathleen.

Once she’s done, she settles in on the couch next to him and he stays silent for the rest of the day. She’d prefer to hear him talk about what has happened, but the fact that his eyes stay clear all day, that he doesn’t disappear into himself, makes her accept the silence gratefully. 

They let comedy movies play one after the other, even though they don’t watch a single one, to fill the emptiness in the apartment. She also notices that he makes sure to have some form of physical contact with her throughout the entire day, whether it be her hand in his, or sitting close enough to her that some part of him is touching her. 

The only good of the day is that he finally sleeps. At some point, his head ends up on her shoulder and she thinks he sleeps for almost four hours straight. He even snores for a bit and it relieves her that he’s finally resting. Even that first night, she had felt him restless in her arms, would awake for a second to him fidgeting beside her.

While he sleeps, she messages all of his kids besides Eli to let them know about the protective detail and they all take it with a grain of salt. Lizzie is the only one to question it a little, and she asks Olivia what has happened. She gives her a brief summary of the past day which is met with an “oh” and the full acceptance of a detail then.

When Elliot wakes up, it’s quiet and the only reason she knows he’s up is because his head lifts off her shoulder. They continue to sit in silence for the rest of the day until she hears a key in the door, a noise that makes Elliot sit straight up on the couch, pushing himself to the edge of the couch to block Olivia when Eli calls out, “Dad?”

She looks at the clock, surprised both at how much time has passed and the fact that Eli has come back here and she sets a hand on Elliot’s arm to reassure him as Eli walks into the room.

He hesitates when he sees Elliot perched on the edge of the couch and Olivia watches him take a step back towards the kitchen. He looks over at her and his shoulders drop.

“Hey Liv.” Eli says, looking at her in concern, his eyes flashing back and forth between her and Elliot.

Olivia squeezes Elliot’s arm before standing up.

“Hey, how was school?” She asks. He shrugs and slides his backpack off to lean against the wall.

“Okay I guess.” He digs in his backpack and pulls out Noah’s lunch box. “Thanks for letting me borrow this,” he says as he holds it out to her. She gives him a small smile and takes it from him before setting it on the stand a few feet to her right next to the door.

“Anytime.” He looks down at the ground and Olivia puts her hands on his shoulders, trying to meet his gaze.

“Do you want me to take you to Maureen’s?” She asks quietly, not wanting Elliot to hear her. Eli shakes his head, still looking down at the ground.

“I’m fine.” He looks up at her then, his brown eyes hardened in pride. “I’m not afraid of him. He’s just had it rough. We can handle it.” A small sigh escapes Olivia’s lips and Eli looks around Olivia towards Elliot.

“Hi dad.” Elliot smiles at him.

“Hey bud.” Eli scrubs at the back of his neck.

“Are you, uh. Are you feeling better?” Eli looks down at the floor, too embarrassed to look up at him and Elliot stands up.

“Yeah. Yeah, you could say that.” He comes from behind Olivia, running a hand gently across her back as he walks by her, causing shivers to run up her spine at the sudden contact before embracing Eli in a hug. She watches as Eli hardens and then melts into him, wrapping his arms tightly around his torso.

After a second, she feels like an intruder. Like she has walked into something she shouldn’t be watching and takes a step back and averts her eyes to the ground.

When they pull apart, Eli looks at her.

“Does Noah have dance class tonight?” It startles her, the sudden shift, and she shakes her head.

“No, not tonight. He’ll be with Lucy until 5 though.” Eli nods before glancing down at his backpack.

“Well I’ve got homework to do so... I guess I’ll go do that.” He snags his backpack before quickly retreating back to his bedroom and Olivia lets out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. Elliot turns to look at her, his mouth open when the front door opens once more and Kathleen walks in.

“Hey, my last client cancelled.” She says as she starts sliding her jacket off, unaware of Elliot and Olivia standing a few feet away from her.

“Oh. Hey. How was today?” She asks carefully, quickly scanning her eyes over her father before glancing over at Olivia.

“Good.” Elliot responds and Olivia’s head whips towards him, straightening her back in preparation for a fight. It’s not technically a lie. But she wouldn’t call complete silence, good, either.

“Okay.” She says and it’s Elliot’s turn to look at her. There’s a hint of annoyance in his eyes before he stalks off to the living room once again. She relaxes and turns towards Kathleen, who has only grown more concerned by the exchange.

“It was quiet.” Olivia says as she tilts her head back towards the kitchen. It doesn’t give them complete privacy, but it gives her enough space to talk with Kathleen without fear of Elliot hearing them. 

“He wasn’t asleep when I went in this morning. Just kinda... staring. I went to set my hand on his leg and...” she trails off, glancing down at her wrist. She hasn’t noticed the light bruise that is starting to blossom across it and the colorful mark makes anything she was about to say float away.

Kathleen follows her eyes and when she sees her wrist, her eyes widen.

“Christ Liv, what the hell did he do?” She demands, slowly taking her wrist into her hands and rotating it back and forth to examine the extent of the damage.

“He just grabbed it. That was it. I almost had to take him off myself before he finally saw that it was me.” Kathleen looks up at her in surprise.

“He had your wrist that long?” Her eyes fixated back on her bruise. Olivia nods.

A quiet “fuck” escapes her lips and she looks up at Olivia in a desperation not unsimilar to when she had sat across from her in the diner.

“Let’s go talk to Eli.” Kathleen says suddenly, any hint of worry sliding away as she straightens herself before heading back towards his bedroom. Olivia tugs her sweatshirt sleeve down to hide the bruise, stopping at the hallway entryway to glance back at Elliot who is standing at the window. She sighs before continuing to follow Kathleen into Eli’s bedroom, where she has already started.

“I don’t want to stay with you. And I don’t want to stay with Maureen either.” He says, his body turned towards her. He looks up at Olivia.

“Liv, I’ll be fine. He just had a bad night last night. He just got back, I know stuff was bad.” He turns back towards Kathleen. “He just made me worried last night, that's it. I’m not running to yours or Maureen’s just because you don’t think I can handle it.” He crosses his arms over his chest, his eyes aflame with anger and Olivia sighs.

“What about staying with me and Noah?” Eli looks up at her and his eyes soften for a second before they harden once again.

“I don’t need to stay anywhere.” He emphasizes, turning back towards his desk. “Dad would never hurt me. He just might have nightmares. Who doesn’t have nightmares?” He picks up his pencil and Olivia’s heart breaks as she hears Noah’s voice in the back of her head. Olivia walks over to his chair and squats next to him.

“And we’re not saying he will honey. And it’s not fair that your dad has to deal with what he’s dealing with right now, but it’s not fair to you either.” Eli’s pencil stops for a second and Olivia thinks she’s gotten through to him for a second before he starts writing once again.

“I’m not going anywhere. And you can’t force me.” He turns towards Kathleen. “You’re not my parent, stop acting like it.” The words hit Olivia like a knife to the chest and she slowly stands up as Eli turns back towards his homework. Olivia walks out first, almost in a daze as Eli’s words echo in her head and Kathleen follows closely behind her, closing Eli’s door as she exits.

Even though the words hadn’t been directed at her, they might as well have been. Her chest tightens at the thought of them and all she can think about is that she needs to get out of here.

Kathleen sighs.

“I don’t want to push him.” She says, running her hand through her hair. “But god I don’t even know how to approach this. He’s almost worse than he was when dad was gone.” Kathleen looks up at Olivia.

“Maybe I’ll just stay here tonight. Or maybe I’ll get Mo to help me convince him since he won’t listen to either of us.” Olivia doesn’t respond, the “you’re not my parent, stop acting like it”, echoing in her head over and over again. Kathleen sighs, taking Olivia’s silence for the exhaustion Kathleen sees written all over her face.

“Why don’t you go home Liv.” Kathleen says, reaching out for Olivia. Her first instinct is to flinch at Kathleen’s touch. Because she’s not a parent to any of them and this moment is only emphasizing it. That these children that she would jump in front of a bullet for aren’t hers. That these children she would drop everything to protect, just like she would for the little boy that is waiting for her at home, aren’t hers to protect. That some, if not all of them, may not want her to protect them. She reels the flinch into a slight shiver and Kathleen sighs in sympathy, unaware of the battle in Olivia’s mind.

“You look exhausted. And you’ve done so much already. Taking in Eli, taking care of dad. Go take care of yourself and cuddle with Noah. We can take it from here.” Olivia nods, swallowing harshly around the lump of tears that sits in her throat. 

She turns away from Kathleen without another word, the need for air overwhelming her, her eyes filling with tears to the point that the world around her is blurring and god she just needs out of this apartment. She grabs Noah’s lunch box and her keys as she shoves her feet into her shoes and luckily Elliot either doesn’t register her leaving or he doesn’t care and she lets herself out of his apartment, racing down the stairs to the reprieve of her car.

The second she slams the door to her car, the tears escape and sobs erupt from her mouth. She covers her mouth in an attempt to mute them but all it does is make her cry harder and she sits in the driver seat for a long time, tears continuing to flow as everything from the past forty eight hours slams into her. She feels like she has fallen from space onto the hard, unforgiving ground. The initial impact is painful, but the time to evaluate her body makes her aware of every ache and tear and hurts even more.

The longer she sits in her car, the more she falls apart. It takes her so long to even consider pulling herself together long enough to think about driving that it crosses her mind that she might have to call Fin to come get her. But luckily, after a long forty five minutes, her tears have managed to run dry, her breath no longer coming out in heaving sobs, and she starts to feel at least a little bit calmer.

When she sees that the clock says four fifteen, she sighs. She’ll take whatever extra time she can get with Noah right now, even though it eats at her for a second that if she would have managed to pull it together before now, she could have seen him as soon as he got home from school, a rarity for the two of them.

She doesn’t remember much of the drive to her apartment, though it is luckily a short one. She trudges up the stairs but as soon as she opens the door to her own apartment, Noah is in her arms and it removes the complete and utter heartache that had consumed her earlier.

Lucy eyes her carefully, noticing that she’s not dressed like she had to work today. And if she sees how red her eyes are, she chooses to ignore them as well.

Olivia doesn’t let go of Noah, pulling him into her arms and onto her hip even though he’s getting too big and she’s getting too old for this, unwilling to let him out of her grip.

“Do you need me to stay?” Lucy asks carefully, and Olivia hears what she wants to say. “Are you okay?” Olivia shakes her head.

“No. No you head home Lucy. Thank you though.” Lucy gives her a tight smile and squeezes Olivia’s arm before heading towards the door. Olivia feels Lucy’s eyes on her as she puts on her shoes and hears the quiet click of the door followed by the turn of the lock.

It turns into another lazy night. She makes sure Noah has his homework done before they head to the couch. They turn on a Marvel movie, Ironman, which then turns into Inside Out. She orders pizza and they don’t leave the couch for the rest of the evening.

Noah is cuddly and quiet. He asks how Eli is and she tells him that everything is okay, that his family is taking care of him. They actually end up falling asleep on the couch at the beginning of Inside Out, and Olivia wakes up as Bing Bong disappears. Noah is cuddled into her side still so she shuts off the tv and carries him to his bed, tucking him in before climbing into her own. 

She checks her phone out of habit right before she’s about to fall asleep, checks for a message from Eli or Elliot or any of the other Stabler brood, but when she sees none, it allows her to fall asleep with a little less worry.

Chapter Text

She has another night of fitful sleep, waking up almost every hour to check her phone for any contact from a Stabler but her phone doesn’t buzz at all.

She gives up on the hope for more than an hour of consecutive sleep around four thirty, deciding to take advantage of the early morning to catch up on missed emails from the past two days.

Luckily, there aren’t too many. By the time Noah wakes up at six, she only has three unanswered emails left.

“Hi mom.” She hears as his steps get louder behind her. She closes her laptop and slides her readers off her face before turning around to smile at him.

“Morning honey. Did you sleep alright?” He yawns and nods his head.

“Yeah. Mom, can I bring leftover pizza today?” She rolls her eyes and smiles at him as she stands up. 

“I guess.” She teases, leaning down to kiss the top of his head.

He looks up at her in excitement. 

“Awesome, thanks mom.” He goes back to his room to grab his backpack to slam it into a kitchen chair.

He runs into the kitchen and grabs the pizza out of the fridge and throws it onto the counter. She smiles as she watches him take care of it all by himself, searching for a sandwich baggie in their drawers to put the slice in. Her phone pings behind her and she checks it, though it’s just Fin making sure that she is coming in today.

She texts him back confirming that yes, she will be back today, and she turns around to Noah setting his lunch pail and his water on the counter.

“Did you pack some strawberries?” Noah lets his head fall back.

“But moooooom.” He whines and Olivia holds up a hand.

“Nope, pack a fruit with that lunch or else you can’t bring pizza.” He sighs and rolls his eyes.

“Fineeeee.” He drags out, turning around to open the fridge one more time. It’s her turn to roll her eyes now at him and a smile graces her face as she walks up to him and kisses the top of his head.

“Do you want to walk to school today?” She asks as she pours herself another cup of coffee.

She turns to look at him as he puts the strawberries in his lunch pail.

“Really?” He asks. It’s a rarity for them to take the time to walk to school, but with the week they’ve had, she thinks it’s well needed.

“Yeah, I’ve got time this morning. And it’s warm out today.” Noah smiles at her.

“Yeah!” Olivia pulls down oatmeal from the cupboard for him and starts making his bowl. 

“Go get dressed then and I’ll make your breakfast.” She makes sure to add a bunch of brown sugar into his oatmeal and she sets it on the table as he walks in, eyeing the bowl hungrily.

“I’m gonna take a shower. Make sure to put your bowl in the sink when you’re done and then you can watch some tv before we leave.” He nods and looks up at her. 

“Okay mom.” He says around a mouthful of oatmeal. She gives him a look and color rises to his cheeks and he swallows his oatmeal.

“Sorry.” He looks down at the table and Olivia runs a hand over his head.

“I’ll be back. Don’t forget to put your lunch pail in your backpack.” She walks back to her bedroom then and hops into the shower. 

She doesn’t let herself stay in long, knowing that while the walk to school won’t take her much longer, the walk back will. She gives herself a minute to stand under the hot water, letting it just run over her and ease her aching muscles and hopefully lift away some of her exhaustion before finally shutting it off.

She puts on work clothes for the first time in almost four days and they feel odd as she slides them on, like the person who wore these clothes and the person who is now sliding them on are two completely different people. She shakes her head at herself, knows it’s just the exhaustion and everything else happening catching up with her, and searches for a blouse.

She checks her phone for any messages and sees none. She doesn’t know if it makes her relieved, or unsettled, but pushes it down to blow dry her hair. By the time she’s done, she’s pushing getting herself to work on time but she finds she can’t bring herself to care.

When she walks out to the living room, Noah’s backpack is resting next to him, his water bottle tucked into the side pocket and she smiles because she knows that he’s packed his lunch.

“Come on, let’s go.” She says and Noah smiles before shutting off the tv and jumping up to join her. She slides on her heeled boots for the first time in a few days as well and when she raises three inches, it almost makes her fall.

Noah however is oblivious to the whole thing, waiting for her in the hallway outside their front door.

When they walk outside, she looks around for her detail but can’t determine with 100% certainty which car is for her. She doesn’t dwell on it and they start walking, Noah grabbing her hand and starting to chatter just like normal and it’s the first time she’s felt like her life isn’t falling apart at the seam in days.

She doesn’t listen to him much, only picking up bits and pieces of the stories from school the past two days, inspecting the leaves of the trees they pass, wondering when they had started to change color. 

When she crosses 1st Avenue and then East 92nd Street, she finally pinpoints the detail as they cruise past her because of the one way. She had thought it would make her feel uneasy, having someone follow her every move. But after everything over the past two days and how exhausted she feels, she welcomes the extra set of eyes. 

She walks extra slowly and it allows the detail to weave up and down the one ways they cross, making sure to spot them as they go down each block.

When they go to walk across the last crosswalk before Noah’s school, she has to pull Noah back towards her as a white SUV barrels through the intersection and she scowls. She’s reminded of why she won’t let him walk the four and a half blocks to their apartment on his own, no matter how much he begs because “my friends who live six blocks away get to walk one way to school”.

They make the final crosswalk and take the left towards his school when she notices a small circle in a keychain hanging from the backpack of the little girl ahead of them, an Apple shining on the silver metal. At first glance, she thinks it’s a metal keychain but the longer she looks, the more the Apple on the circle looks like the same Apple on her phone and she makes note to Google it once Noah is in the building. 

“I love you, have a good day at school.” She says, dropping a kiss onto the top of his head. Instead of running through the gate like he normally does, he looks up at her.

“Is Eli going to come over this week?” He asks, his blue eyes piercing into her. She sighs.

“I don’t know honey. Eli’s got a lot going on this week, but we’ll see.” He sighs before turning towards the stairs.

“Bye mom.” He calls out, though it’s not nearly as enthusiastic as it usually is.

She watches him and waits until he’s through the doors before she starts walking back to their apartment to grab her car.

She googles “silver circle Apple keychain” and that’s when she learns about something called an AirTag. She spends the rest of her walk looking into it and by the time she’s reached her apartment, she’s ordered one to put on Noah’s backpack as a trial run.

What’s the harm in one more layer of protection? She thinks to herself.

The drive to work is welcome, she feels like she’s slowly slipping back into herself and smiles when she watches the dark blue Ford drive past her as she parks at the precinct.

When she gets upstairs, it’s fairly quiet, only a few people scattered around the squad room and she doesn’t spot Fin or Amanda.

“Hey Cap.” She hears from behind her and she turns around to see Kat approaching her with a smile.

“Hi Kat. Anything major happen while I was out?” Kat shrugs and takes a sip of her coffee.

“Nothing really. Got the confession and DNA to confirm that the neighbor was our rapist in the Jacobs case.” Olivia nods.

“Good. I’m going to go catch up on some stuff but keep me updated.” Kat lifts her mug to her in acknowledgment and Olivia heads back to her office. She goes to send a message to Eli to check in on him, but his words from the night before echo back at her so she deletes it against her better judgment.

Instead, she messages Elliot to check on him. He doesn’t respond immediately, and she has caught up on about 1/4 of the phone calls she’s missed over the past two days when he texts her back.

“I’m fine.” She rolls her eyes and looks at the clock in her office. She makes a deal with herself that if she manages to get through 2/3 of her phone calls by lunch time, she’ll take her lunch to go check on him. She knows he’ll probably be annoyed at her insistent presence. But at this point, she’s stuck between the thought that he’s going to do something stupid like go after the Attwater gang, or that one of them will walk into the apartment to have found him after he’s ate his gun. A full body shiver runs up her spine at the thought and she locks it back in her brain, annoyed and slightly afraid that it had even occurred to her anyway.

She not only hits her goal, but smashes it when she goes through all her missed calls by 11. She decides to take an early lunch and looks out in the squad room for Fin. Neither he or Amanda or back yet and she writes a note on a post-it for Fin to tell him of her whereabouts that she sticks onto his keyboard.

Kat has also disappeared, so no one sees her leave the squad room. She drives on autopilot to Elliot’s, and to be honest, when she pulls up in front of Elliot’s apartment, she realizes she doesn’t remember almost any of the drive. She makes a note to be aware of it for the drive home, that she can’t let herself disassociate that much on the drive back to the squad room.

She takes the elevator up, too tired to take the stairs. The walk to his door seems impossibly long and when she knocks on the door, she’s hopeful that he’ll answer. Right as she is about to go searching for his spare key, the door swings open and she bites back a gasp.

He looks worse than last night. He seems pale, and she wonders when the last time he ate was. She hasn’t forced food into him in all their time together and she wonders if his kids have fed him.

He stares at her for a while before she takes a step towards him. 

“You look like shit.” She says after a beat and it causes a small smile to spread across his face as he steps back to let her in.

“Thanks. You don’t look so hot yourself.” It causes a smile to spread across her own face, the bickering a positive sign for her.

He closes the door behind her and she walks back into the living room. The tv is on, even though it’s muted, and it relaxes her just a bit, to see the attempt at something normal. She doesn’t hear him pad up behind her until his arms are wrapped around the top of her chest, wrapped around her shoulders and he leans his forehead onto the back of her head. Her breath puffs warm against her neck and she reaches a hand up to squeeze his forearm.

“Have you slept?” Her voice floats around them, the words barely audible. She feels the slight shake of his head on hers and she sighs.

“Try and take a nap.” She leans her head to her left to rest her cheek against his arm. “You’ve gotta sleep.” She gently pries his arms off of her, grabbing his right hand to guide him back to the living room and she sees the blanket that usually lies at the end of his bed draped across the back of the couch and she holds back a sigh.

She hopes it doesn’t turn into a regular thing, him sleeping on his couch. But for today, it will have to do. He lays down without any prompting and Olivia sits on the ground in front of him, and as her knees ache as she lowers herself, shit we’re getting too old for this, crosses her mind.

“I can’t stay long, I’m only on my lunch, but I just wanted to check in on you.” She hears him hum in acknowledgement behind her and she doesn’t want to turn to look at him, to see what his eyes bring her today, so instead she leans forward to reach for the remote on the coffee table. 

She isn’t thinking when she reaches her right hand out, causing the sleeve of her blazer to slide up and she knows he’s seen the bruise the second she hears the sharp inhale behind her. She’s amazed that he doesn’t immediately reach for her arm, allows her to unmute the tv to let the noise permeate the air around them before he slowly slides his hand down her arm, gripping lightly at her elbow before guiding her arm up to pull her wrist closer to him.

She doesn’t say anything, lets him rotate her arm back and forth to see the extent of the darkening bruise that encompasses her wrist. She hears the undercurrent of anger and despair in his breathing as each breath turns more ragged and as she gets ready to turn her head to look at him, he presses a kiss to the inside of her wrist. It is her turn to struggle to catch her breath and she hears him let out a harsh sigh behind her.

Fuck Liv, I’m so sorry.” She finally allows herself to turn back and look at him and while his eyes are filled with anguish, they are also filled with a fierce protectiveness, and she can’t tell if he means to protect her from Attwater or from himself. They stare at each other for longer than they should, and the silent conversation between them allows her to show her forgiveness for something that she isn’t even angry over, something that isn’t any of his doing, not really, and it in turn allows him to show her that he’s coming to realize how bad this is all fucking turning.

They don’t say anything as he presses one more kiss to the pressure point on the inside of her wrist, Elliot making sure to keep eye contact with her as he does so, before gently letting go. She lets her arm stay there for a second before slowly lowering it back into her lap. She gives him a small smile before she turns back to face the tv.

After a minute, she feels his hand slide slowly across her shoulders to stop at the base of her neck. Her breath catches as his fingers splay wide, feeling some of them come to tangle in the hair at the base of her neck and some slide underneath her shirt and she’s reminded of the last few years of their partnership when this was his go to way of comfort. To slide a hand at the base of her neck as if to remind her that he’s there and it’s all going to be okay. It’s almost ironic how things have changed.

She almost hums in contentment, but swallows it before it can escape her vocal cords and instead lets her head drop to her chest. He squeezes lightly, and he starts rubbing his thumb back and forth. There is a small part of her that screams to stop him, that it’s too much too soon with everything he has just gone through, even without considering Kathy. But the part of her that knows this is only leading to the inevitable lets it happen because she knows the touch is only benefitting him at this moment.

The longer they sit there, the slower his thumb becomes until it stops moving and she hears his breathing turn into the deep breaths of sleep. She lets herself sit there for the rest of her lunch break, knows that she has to get back to the station even though all she wants to do is crawl into his bed and tuck herself into his side so they can both sleep.

But she can’t and she sighs before she slowly leans forward and feels his fingers slide out of her hair until they are there no longer. She shudders from the loss of his warmth and she turns back to look at him, to see if the loss of her under his hand has managed to wake him but his breathing still stays deep and even, just as it was, and she lets out a breath she doesn’t realize she’d been holding.

She stands up slowly, bites back the groan that rises up her throat as her knees protest her standing up and looks down at him one last time. He reminds her of that first night, the peacefulness that covers him in sleep is a look she hasn’t seen very often since he’s reappeared in her life, and she sighs in contentment. She grabs the blanket that rests on the back of the couch and drapes it over him gently. Watches as he nuzzles the blanket closer to his chin and all she can think about is Eli when he does it and the sudden jolt of pain that runs through her chest reminds her that she needs to go back to work and she really needs to set some boundaries.

She can at least remember her drive back to the precinct, and she takes it for the small victory it is, though the blue Ford that trails behind her is quick to remind her of just how bad things really are at the moment. 

When she walks back into the squadroom, Fin is finally back, Amanda and Kat still absent and she gives him a small smile when he spots her coming out the elevator doors.

He doesn’t give her any time before he trails close behind her, following her as she walks to her office and she barely gets time to set her stuff down before he starts in on her.

“Is everything okay?” She sighs, rubbing a few fingers over her forehead before looking up at him.

“I mean, I guess it depends on how you categorize “okay”.” She spits out and she doesn’t mean for it to be so bitter, but the exhaustion makes it hard for her to reel it in.

He stops, shoving his hands in his pockets before tilting his head to look at her.

She sighs and falls into her chair.

“He’s… exhausting me Fin.” She rubs her eyes with her left hand. “And I know it’s not his fault but he’s worse than he was after Kathy and I didn’t think that was possible.” She leaves her eyes covered and Fin goes to kneel next to her.

“How’s Eli?” She turns to look at him, running her hand through her hair.

“Well, Monday night he ended up at my apartment at 11:30 at night because Elliot started throwing shit across their place.” She shakes her head. “He went into such a bad dissociative state that he doesn’t remember when Eli left, when Kathleen got there and when I called him.” It is Fin’s turn to shake his head.

“Liv, do you ever think that maybe you need to take a second and take a step back?” Her head whips up. 

“No.” She near growls, and the tone surprises not only Fin, but herself. She rubs her hand over her face again, letting out a long breath.

“It’s not like he did this to himself, Fin. And the kids… Eli is struggling and I don’t foresee this getting any better, in fact I only see it going to get worse.” Fin puts a hand on her shoulder.

“I know his kids are struggling, Liv, but how are you doing?” At that, she drops her head and Fin knows the answer.

“Liv, I know it goes against everything you’ve ever done, but you can’t give so much of yourself that you have nothing left when you go home.” She picks up her head and sets it on her hands to look at him. 

“I know.” She says quietly. They stare at each other silently, Fin staring at her in concern as Olivia looks back at him, exhaustion creeping into her already. 

“I’ve got it, Fin. I’m just trying to make sure that Eli and Elliot make it through this.” He gives her a tight smile and squeezes her shoulder. She smiles back at him and runs her right hand through her hair when suddenly Fin grabs her right below her wrist.

“What the hell happened?” She looks at her wrist and the light kisses that Elliot had pressed against them earlier are gone and instead are replaced by a light ache.

“It’s nothing Fin.” She tries pulling her wrist away but he makes sure to keep his fingers around her lightly, knowing that if she really doesn’t want to talk about it she won’t, but trying to force her cards anyway.

She sighs and looks up at him and he loosens his grip even more until she slowly slides her hand back onto her desk.

“I went over yesterday morning and Kathleen thought he was sleeping.” She shakes her head and runs a hand through her hair. “When I walked in he was just laying in his bed, staring at nothing.” She feels her throat start to close and she looks away from him for a second. She gathers herself before she turns back to him.

“I went to touch him and he grabbed my wrist.” Her throat closes once again and this time she has to clear it before she can move on. “He held on so long I thought I was going to have to force him off myself.” She feels the tears push at her eyes and she looks up at the ceiling. “When he realized it was me though, he let go so fast.”

He steps closer to her and crouches right next to her, using the arm of her chair to support him as he reaches over to press a kiss to the side of her head. He lingers for a second until he feels her sag back against the chair and he pulls away, eyeing her carefully.

“I’ll beat his ass for you baby girl.” It does what he expected it to, and she lets out a loud laugh before she turns to look at him.

“I know you would Fin. He’s got enough demons to fight though, doesn’t need to fight you too.” He squeezes her arm in response and walks towards the door. When the door clicks shut behind him, the tears well up in her eyes once again and she is left alone with her thoughts once again.

The rest of the day goes pretty quickly. She keeps checking her phone for messages from Elliot or one of his children but they never come. She doesn’t stay late today even though she should, not even halfway caught up with the work that she’s missed.

But instead she thinks of her sweet boy at home, and thinks of the smile that will grace his face when she gets home not too long after he does. And when she walks into her apartment at 3:30 that day, he meets her expectations completely with a smile that encompasses his entire face and launches himself into her arms.

Lucy sneaks out quietly then and Olivia prompts him to start his homework with the promises of ice cream and a movie if it’s all done before dinner.

He doesn’t require any assistance during his homework and when she double checks his work to make sure they are correct, her heart hurts as she realizes her little boy is growing up. When he’s done he decides to go color and she starts dinner, playing quiet music to float around the apartment as she preps.

She cooks spaghetti, something quick and easy and she is thankful that her boy isn’t picky because with her cooking, he wouldn’t be eating much variety, not that she has a large amount of recipes in her repertoire as it is.

It turns into yet another quiet night. Noah talks about school and how he’s excited for tomorrow’s dance class but not much else. He picks up the table without her even asking and her heart swells once again at just how much he is growing and she wishes that time would stop catching up to her like this.

They decide to watch an episode of his favorite Disney show before grabbing ice cream and settling in for a movie. He giggles throughout the whole show and Olivia can’t help but look down and smile at him with each new giggle that escapes his mouth.

When the show is done, they head to the kitchen for ice cream and she’s thankful that she’s just bought his favorite popsicles because it is one less dish to do and when she tells him that they can eat in the living room, his eyes light up like she’s told him that he can finally get a puppy.

She lets him pick the movie, grateful when he picks Soul and not a Marvel movie, and they settle back into the couch. As the movie plays, she gets the feeling that she’s forgotten something and it sits with her for a couple minutes.

She racks through her brain for a bit before she grabs her phone off the arm of the couch and looks to see if she has any notifications. She doesn’t, but she does notice the date. Wednesday, October 20th. It jarrs her suddenly, the knowledge she possesses and she looks down at Noah.

It is the first Wednesday in a few weeks that Eli isn’t here working on his LEGO project with Noah. She’s surprised that Noah hasn’t said anything besides the brief mention from earlier, but grateful at the same time because she knows she wouldn’t have been able to explain it to Noah in a way that wouldn’t have hurt his feelings. She knows that it’s just that Eli’s adjusting back to yet another change in his life, that in all the hustle and bustle of the week he has probably also forgotten. Yet she hears the impossibly quiet “you’re not my parent, stop acting like it” echo in her mind and she burrows her chin into Noah’s head anyway and tries to let the movie consume her.

Chapter Text

Fin waits until the next morning to go to Elliot’s apartment. Knows that if he goes to his apartment after work that day that he will say and do things that will make Liv upset with him and he can’t do that to her. He figures that he’s safe after 8am, figures that Eli should be at school by then but pulls up to his apartment at 8:15 to give himself some wiggle room and also just enough time to confront him without being late to the squad room.

As Fin walks out of the elevator and towards his apartment, he feels fury coursing through his veins. He knocks on the door, hard, and he realizes that he wants to punch him because how dare he-

He doesn’t get to finish the thought because Elliot swings open the door then and the first thing Fin notes are the bruise like circles under his eyes. He’s the palest he’s ever seen him, and the bulk he has built in his time away has dwindled and it seems like he has almost lost half of his muscle mass.

“Holy shit, what the fuck happened?” Fin asks and Elliot steps back to hold open the door more.

“Fucking Irish mob,” is all he says before he walks to the kitchen. Fin shuts the door behind him and watches Elliot carefully, noting the crunch of something as he walks over to the fridge.

Whatever had driven him here has faded completely the longer he stares at the apartment, at the man who seems to be withering away in front of him.

He comes back with two bottles of water, and the crunch is still there as he walks back towards Fin and holds one of the bottles out towards him, and he shakes his head.

Elliot shrugs and sets it on the table before pulling out one of the chairs and throwing himself into it, gesturing for Fin to join him at one of the other empty chairs.

“Man, are you even sleeping?” Fin finally asks after staring at him for a solid minute and Elliot scoffs. 

“Only when my body collapses out of exhaustion.” The response only makes Fin stare at him longer. He doesn’t know what he quite expected to find when he came over here. Only wanted to confront Elliot about hurting Olivia and not giving a damn about it to find that he can barely not hurt himself. He finally realizes what the crunching from earlier was when he sees a large chunk of glass in the kitchen from what he assumes is one of his glasses.

“Where the hell is your kid?” Elliot looks down at the table and tugs at the label on his water bottle before rubbing his hand across the back of his neck.

“Pretty sure he’s at Kathleen’s. Either there or Maureen’s, I’m not 100% sure to be honest.” Fin feels like he’s lost his footing once more, not expecting an answer anywhere similar to one Elliot has said.

“Elliot. What is going on?” At that Elliot rubs the back of his neck before almost jumping out of his chair and pacing behind it.

“I don’t sleep, Fin. It’s like my brain shuts off for half the goddamn day even though my body doesn’t and usually when it turns back on, I come back to my house looking like this.” He gestures wildly around the kitchen. “All I can think about is that they’re going to get one of them. One of the kids. Liv.” He takes in a shaky breath and his hands end up on the back of his head as he tries to regulate his breathing.

Fin leans back against the chair, trying to take in all the information.

“What happened?” Elliot runs his hands over his head, pacing back and forth, the glass grinding against the tile.

“Devon Attwater fucking happened, that’s what happened. The head of the Irish fucking mob tried to turn me into a mole and when I turned him down, he forced me down in the fucking sewers for a week. Drugged me so much that I thought I was going to die and then let me go into withdrawals so deep that when he started taunting me by telling me everyone’s movements, that it fucked with my head even more.” Fin’s eyes go wide at the information being tossed at him so casually, and he wonders briefly if Olivia knows. 

“He told me where Maureen’s house was, where Kathleen’s job was, what kind of car Dickie drove and what time he started work, what subway Lizzie takes to visit Queens, where Eli goes to school, that Eli has been going to Liv’s.” He whips towards Fin then and his eyes are wild, and Fin briefly hopes that Elliot doesn’t have a weapon anywhere near him.

But as quickly as he had turned feral, he folds into himself, his shoulder hunching forward as he bent his head down.

“I can’t let any of them get hurt, Fin.” He says quietly, as if talking to himself. “I can’t let that happen again.” And Fin hears the undercurrent, I can’t let what happened to Kathy happen to one of them.

“Elliot, have you talked to anyone?” Elliot scoffs.

“Yeah I got forced to see a shrink by NYPD Monday afternoon briefly during my debrief with my Captain. She says it’s just my PTSD causing my anxiety, but it’s not Fin. I know it’s not.” Fin sighs and stands up, pondering over his words knowing he has to choose them carefully.

“I don’t think you’re wrong Elliot. But you need better coping skills to help you get through the day.” He gestures towards the kitchen.

“Eli here when that happened?” It makes Elliot stop in his tracks. He stares at the glass shards on the ground and Fin watches as his shoulders tense up the longer he stares. 

The silence tells him all he needs to know.

“Elliot, you need to get help. You’re gonna hurt Eli, hurt yourself if you don’t start to take control of the situation.” Elliot turns towards him, his eyes filled with fire before his shoulders drop down and the fire disappears from his eyes.

“My brain just... shuts off sometimes. I’ll be sitting on the couch, and everything will be fine until suddenly I’m standing in the middle of the kitchen with broken glass around me.” Fin sighs.

“Elliot, that's dangerous.” Elliot sits back down and meets Fin’s eyes and he sees the ghost in them, and it reminds him too much of Liv after Lewis and he has to fight back a shiver.

“I know. I just... I get so worried and it’s like my brain just shuts down. I’ve tried to use some of the techniques I learned after Kathy but... they just aren’t working.” Fin watches him as his hands keep going back and forth over his head as he sits back down in his chair.

“Have you said any of this to your kids? To your sarge?” He hesitates. “To Liv?” Elliot’s head whips up, as if suddenly realizing what could happen with the information he’s shared today.

“No. God no. They’re worried enough about me, Fin. I can’t put more on them.” Fin gives him a look, almost glaring at him.

“And you don’t think that they would prefer that you tell them just how bad you’re struggling instead of finding you after you’ve hurt yourself?” Elliot looks up in shock.

“I wouldn’t-”

“But how do you know?” Fin interrupts, cocking an eyebrow at him. “You said it yourself Elliot, you’re not remembering chunks of time. How do you know you wouldn’t hurt yourself?” The revelation makes Elliot fall back against his seat because he really can’t answer the question.

“You gotta tell someone Elliot. And if you don’t, I’m gonna tell Liv.” Fin says as he stands up out of his chair. Elliot looks up at him, his eyes wild and panicked.

“Fin-” 

“Elliot. I know you’ve been through some shit, but weigh your options here. Do you keep this to yourself and pray that you don’t hurt yourself or your kid even? Or do you tell Liv and it helps everyone make sure that you’re healing and also not injuring yourself.” Elliot is quiet, staring at the ground. Fin lets his words run over Elliot’s skin, lets the words weigh on him to make their impact.

“What is worse? Liv or Eli or any of your other kids finding you dead in your apartment? Or admitting that you need a little more help from the people who are already there with you.” He sets a hand on Elliot’s shoulder and squeezes before heading out the door.


Olivia goes to his apartment for lunch again that day and tries not to read too much into the look Fin gives her as she walks out of the precinct.

She’d been so busy that morning tying up the last of her loose ends from the two days she missed that she didn't even realize she hadn’t messaged Elliot. But as soon as she thinks about it, it’s almost as if he’s read her mind, even across the city, with a quick, “Busy day?”

She rolls her eyes as she climbs into her SUV to drive to his apartment, deciding to ignore his text since she’ll see him in less than ten minutes.

She feels a knot of anticipation build in the pit of her stomach as she waits at the last light before she’ll reach his apartment. She’s trying to tamper it down, reminding herself that boundaries, boundaries are important. The light turns green and she starts to ease her way into the intersection when a white SUV races through the red light and she has to slam on her brakes. She sees the undercover car behind her eye them suspiciously but follow her through the intersection anyway.

She ends up having to park down the block from his building and makes the trek up to his place. By the time she’s knocking on the door, she only has thirty minutes to see him and she finds herself... almost upset about it.

When she gets to his door she can’t remember if she’d brought her cell phone with her so she starts digging in her purse before knocking, knowing that if she left it in the car she’d have to go get it. Right as she finds it, she looks up to see the door swinging open, Elliot standing there. She slides her phone into her back pocket as she takes him in. He doesn’t look any worse than he has. Still pale, still with the same dark circles under his eyes and she wonders how much longer he slept after she left yesterday. She doesn’t know if it relieves her or not.

He doesn’t say anything, only steps back to let her walk in and she almost trips on a pair of Eli’s shoes dumped haphazardly by the door and she rolls her eyes. Boys. 

She eyes the kitchen for signs that he’s been feeding himself and Eli, but the closest she gets is that there seems to be a new garbage bag in the can. She takes it as a good sign, hopes that they’ve just been eating a lot of fast food, and chooses not to bring up his eating habits today. She heads towards the living room and she feels Elliot start stalking towards her back before he comes to rest close behind her. 

She tenses, waits for his hands to land somewhere on her but instead he just lets his forehead come to rest on the back of her neck again, feeling the puffs of hot air against her back. They stand there for a minute and as his head becomes heavier against her, her body starts to itch in anticipation. At first she doesn’t know why, but eventually she realizes that she wants his arms around her, wants the pressure of him pulling her tightly against his chest. She lets her eyes fall close as she imagines his arms winding their way around her. Until he’s putting so much of his weight on her that she stumbles, breaking the reverie.

His arms catch her almost instantly, wrapping tightly around her biceps to keep her upright and because she manages to catch herself, he ends up hauling her into his chest with how hard he pulls at her to keep her from falling.

They stand there for a couple seconds, their heavy breathing the only sound filling the apartment before Elliot slides his arms around her midsection, squeezing her tightly before suddenly she feels cold and a shiver runs up her spine. He releases her suddenly and she can’t even mourn the loss of him before he brushes past her, his fingers brushing against the outside of her thigh, as he heads for the couch. She shakes her head to clear it, and when she finally looks over at him, he’s sitting in the middle of the couch, his eyes focused on the dark tv in front of him.

She sighs and heads towards him, grabbing the remote to bring the tv to life, letting the sound of some kind of show with a god awful laugh track fill the room.

She sits next to him, making sure to place herself against the arm of the couch, trying to give them some distance, her brain insistently screaming, boundaries!, to her. They manage to stay apart for a few minutes, until suddenly she feels the couch shift next to her and the heat of Elliot’s body sears into hers as he presses himself next to her and his hand lands on her lower thigh.

They stay like this for another few minutes, Olivia fighting the urge to look over at him before suddenly she hears a yawn escape him.

Suddenly his head is on her shoulder and his body relaxes. It relaxes so much that it’s almost concerning because she hadn’t realized how on edge he was. As he leans against her shoulder, his head heavy against her, she feels relaxed. When she sees that his eyes are closed she decides to let herself watch the show that’s playing for once.

It’s short lived once she feels one of his hands snaking its way underneath her shirt. She fights the urge to tense her entire body, to grab his hand and stop him because he’s in no place to start something like this. Her breath catches in her throat instead, the rest of her body frozen and her stomach stops moving as she holds her breath.

His hand doesn’t go far, stopping once his entire palm rests against her hip bone and she relaxes when he starts rubbing his thumb back and forth.

She glances down at him once more and sees that his eyes are still closed and she takes a deep breath of relief. Right as his thumb starts to slow down, signaling that he’s starting to drift, her phone starts ringing, still loud even though it’s muffled by the couch.

She sighs, debates about going for it when Elliot picks his head up off of her and his hand slips away. She takes it as her signal and pushes herself off the couch so she can reach in her back pocket for her phone. Ayanna’s name flashes across the screen and panic flashes in her chest before she answers.

“Hello?” She answers, putting her on speakerphone and briefly praying that she isn’t about to deliver bad news.

“Hey, Liv. Just wanted to check in. See how things were going.” Olivia looks over at Elliot and they meet each other’s eyes.

“Better.” She says, her shoulder lifting into a small shrug. Elliot looks away from her. It’s quiet for a beat too long before Ayanna presses on.

“I just wanted to update you about the protective details. Everyone has their own detail, 24/7. We’re hoping we’re just overreacting, and it seems like we are because there’s been no red flags noticed yet.” Olivia lets out a breath of relief before turning back towards Elliot, his elbows resting against his knees, his hands linked in front of him in a tight fist.

She waits a moment to see if he’ll respond before taking Ayanna off of speakerphone and bringing the phone to her ear.

“Thanks Ayanna.” She says, starting to stand and running her hand up Elliot’s spine as she does. She looks down at him once she’s fully upright, however his eyes stay trained on the tv in front of him.

She walks to the kitchen and leans against the counter.

“How’s he really doing?” Ayanna asks then, as if she’s aware of exactly what has just transpired.

“Still rough. Overly quiet. Jumpy. Overreactive.” Her eyes drop to her wrist and she flinches. “Still better than Monday.” She can picture Ayanna nodding.

“As long as it’s better, gotta take even the small wins, right?” Olivia sighs, shrugging her shoulders before settling harder against the counter.

“I guess.” It’s quiet for a second.

“How are you doing Liv?” Ayanna asks softly, as if she is approaching a bomb that is about to explode at the slightest noise. She sighs and rubs a finger over her eyebrow.

“I mean, I’ve been better. Exhausted, worried.” Olivia leans her head back to look up at the ceiling. “I just don’t want this to destroy them is all.” It’s quiet once again.

“You can’t let it destroy you either Liv.” She quickly lifts her head and looks suspiciously towards her phone.

“You sure you and Fin don’t talk?” A loud laugh erupts from the other end.

“Yeah I’m sure. He said the same thing?” Olivia looks out towards the living room.

“Yeah.” The alarm on her phone starts buzzing then, a reminder to head back to the world outside these four walls. She sighs.

“I’ve gotta go Ayanna. Thanks for the update.” 

“Not a problem Liv. Keep me updated all right?” Olivia nods.

“You got it.” She hangs up then and heads back towards the living room. When she walks back in, Elliot is still in the same position, except he’s looking towards her expectantly.

She sighs and leans against the wall to her left.

“I’ve gotta head back to the precinct. You good?” She asks softly, trying to explore his eyes for the truth. He nods.

“I’m good.” She gives him a look and he gives her a small smile. “I promise Liv, I’m okay.” He stands up and moves his head from side to side. 

“Head back to your squad. I’ll be fine.” She walks up to him and takes his left hand in her right, taking the chance to look at him up close for any last clues that something’s wrong. She doesn’t find any and squeezes his hand before heading back towards the hallway.

“Alright. You call if you need something okay?” He nods and gives her a mock salute.

“Aye, aye Captain.” She rolls her eyes and slides her shoes back on.

“Bye Elliot.” She calls out softly as she opens his apartment door.

“Bye Olivia.” Reaches her just as she gently shuts the door. She hesitates for a second after she hears the click, and she debates about going back in before heading back to her car.

When she gets back to the precinct, it’s empty. It stays that way for the rest of the day, only interrupted by quick pop ins of first Kat, then Amanda. 

As five o’clock climbs closer and closer, she’s grateful for the fact that at least the cases aren’t crazy.

Sonny pops in about fifteen minutes before she leaves, updates her on an upcoming trial and when she walks out of her office, she feels… light. Like there’s nothing to worry about and she doesn’t have to take work home with her for once.

She smiles as she takes the elevator down and heads home, hopeful that she can take this normal, quiet day and give that to Noah as well.

However, when she opens the door to her empty apartment, she frowns before remembering that it is Thursday and Noah won’t be home until almost 7 because he has dance.

A surge of panic goes through her as she realizes that she’ll be home by herself for at least an hour. And while the time to herself sounds amazing, it’s also the fact that she’ll finally have time for the thoughts she’s been pushing aside to consume her.

She tries to busy herself, do the chores she’s been neglecting in the hectic week until she’s met with an article of clothing that she finds in Noah’s room on the floor, confusion overtaking her as she holds the shirt that’s too large for her some until she remembers that, oh, it’s probably Eli’s.

That’s all it takes before she slowly sits on Noah’s bed, Eli’s t-shirt clutched tightly in her right hand. Her chest starts rising faster and faster until she realizes that she’s sobbing and instead of fighting it, she lets it consume her for the moment. She holds his shirt against her chest, the all consuming worry filling her as each Stabler takes front and center in her mind.

By the time the sobs have subsided, she goes to text Kathleen and goes searching for her phone, Eli’s shirt still in her hand.

She types out a message asking her how they are all doing, specifically how Eli is doing, but when she goes to press send, she hesitates.

Eli’s words make a vicious reappearance, loud and brash, “you’re not my parent, stop acting like it” bouncing around her mind. She sets her phone down on the counter, letting the message stare at her as she grips the counter and takes a deep breath.

Once she gets her bearings, she deletes the message. She tells herself that if they need her, that if something was terribly wrong, they would contact her, she knows it. These kids are not hers, an unfortunate fact that she is reminded of almost daily, and she doesn’t want to be overbearing. For all she knows, they could be tolerating her presence because she was one of the few people who could manage to reel their father in.

She doesn’t get to ruminate any longer when the apartment door swings open and Noah comes rushing in.

“Mom!” He cries out as he runs to her, crashing into her legs as he reaches her. When his arms wrap around her, the knot of anxiety and worry loosens and she leans down to hug him.

“Hi baby, how was dance class?” He looks up at her without letting go and a large smile overtakes his face.

Noah’s presence pushes everything that had managed to come up aside and Lucy leaves with a quiet smile and a wave. He chatters all night, talking about school and his friends as they eat dinner. 

He does his homework without asking, and when they climb onto the couch that night he’s already in his pajamas. When she asks him what he wants to watch tonight, he turns it around on her and says whatever she wants to watch and it takes her aback.

“Who are you and where is my son?” She questions before tickling him, causing giggles to erupt from him. She ends up turning on Lilo and Stitch and he’s never seen this movie before but is instantly enthralled. She’s reminded halfway through just why she’s never turned this movie on  as tears start to press at the back of her eyes, almost escaping when Nani and Lilo are in the hammock saying goodbye and Olivia squeezes Noah.

When Stitch tells the Councilwoman about how his family was broken, but still good, she doesn’t notice that tears had escaped until she feels Noah’s hand against her cheek, wiping them away.

“I love our Ohana.” Noah tells her as he settles back into her side and if she thought she wasn’t crying hard before, she definitely is now. The movie credits roll not long after, and Noah stands up to kiss her cheek before bounding towards his bedroom. She’s left frozen on the couch for a minute, wondering just how she got so lucky with him, before trailing after him.

He’s already curled up in bed by the time she enters his bedroom and she leans against the door frame to look at him for a second before he rolls over to meet her eyes.

“Love you mom.” He says, giving her a small smile as he burrows into his bed further. She gives him a smile in return as she walks towards him to then lean down and kiss his temple.

“Love you too my sweet boy.” She sits down at the edge of his bed and stares at him, brushing the hair on his forehead back as she tries to take in every small detail about him.

“Want to read a chapter tonight?” He shakes his head and yawns.

“Not tonight. I’m sleepy.” She nods before leaning forward to kiss his forehead once more.

“Alright. I’ll see you in the morning.” She stands up and heads for the door.

“Night mom.” He calls quietly as she starts to pull the door shut.

“Night Noah.” She closes the door then and leans against the wall next to it, taking a deep breath.

She decides to turn in early then and heads for her bedroom. She goes through her night routine quickly and before climbing into bed. She checks her phone to see if there are any messages from the kids and she doesn’t see any. It occurs to her that maybe she should worry, but she pushes the thought away before settling into bed and luckily, sleep overtakes her quickly.

Chapter Text

She’s almost glad that it’s almost daylight savings. That the day feels like it starts later and later until suddenly it’s 7:15 and the sunrise is finally happening, catching up with everyone else who is about to start their day.

But damn if she wouldn’t like to give the sun as the excuse for the reason why she’s out of bed at 5:30. 

She doesn’t sleep well. Again. Even though she’d managed to be under the covers before 9, she still tossed and turned. She refused to look at her phone though, and for good reason. No texts await her, as confirmed by finally checking at 5:25. 

She heads out to the kitchen and immediately towards the coffee maker, aching for something warm to hold in her hands. She shivers when her bare feet touch the tiled floor of the kitchen and she makes note to check the thermostat to see if the heat should be kicking on. 

Finally, thermostat turned up, sweatshirt thrown on and coffee cup in hand, she settles into the couch and flips through the tv before finally settling on Antiques Roadshow. It’s not something she’d particularly like to watch, but it’s better than the infomercials on most of the other channels.

She settles in against the cushions, watches as they gesture towards a painting that looks almost moldy she dare says, before letting her head fall against the top of the couch and closes her eyes.

She’s already restarted drinking her sleepy time tea after dinner. She also knows she should probably take some melatonin again. Begrudgingly acknowledge that they work, at least a little, confirmed after Lewis. A few months after, she had finally caved to the exhaustion that was overtaking her entire body and took one. It was the first night she had slept longer than two hours at a time.

But she hasn’t had to rely on them in a couple years. But now? It’s only been five nights, but this waking up every hour shit is getting old, fast. 

She stays like that for a bit, the lull of the voice on tv soothing her back into not quite sleep, but relaxation. She misses the footsteps coming towards her, only notices that someone is in the room when Noah climbs up next to her, cuddling into her side. She pops open an eye to look for a clock and she sees that it’s a little before six.

“Did the tv wake you up?” She asks quietly after a minute, hoping that he’s managed to fall asleep.

He shakes his head against her.

“No, just woke up.” She turns her head to look down at him. He’s staring at the tv, arms wrapped around her torso, legs tucked beneath him. She looks back up at the ceiling.

“Bub, is everything okay?” He nods once again before looking up at her and she turns her head enough to meet his eyes.

“Can I ask you about Eli’s dad now?” If she wasn’t awake before, she sure is now. Every ounce of sleepiness has run out of her body and instead been replaced by the quick beating of her heart. She hopes Noah doesn’t notice how her breathing is shaky before she picks up her head to look at him.

She wants to tell him no. She doesn’t know what questions she’ll ask, how honest she should be, if he’ll tell Eli something he shouldn’t-

“Yeah. Yeah, you can ask about Eli’s dad now.” She adjusts herself to turn more towards him and he pulls away to sit cross legged next to her, facing her.

“What do I call Eli’s dad?” She nods, that’s an easy one.

“You can just call him by his name. Elliot.” He nods, watching her carefully. She wonders if this is how perps feel in interrogation.

“How do you know him?” She sighs. Well, that didn’t last quick.

“Elliot was my partner before Uncle Nick was.” He nods, his eyes looking up at the ceiling.

“So before you had me?” She nods, notes how he words it and reminds herself that she needs to have that conversation about his adoption soon. Maybe once everything is settled with Elliot, she’ll get him to help her figure out what to say.

“Yes, before you.” His head keeps nodding.

“Were you partners long?” That causes her to take in a deep breath before letting it out in a heavy sigh.

“Yeah. We were partners for 13 years.” Noah’s eyes get big.

“That’s older than I am.” She smirks and tilts her head off to the side. 

“That it is.” She smiles at him, watches as he wracks his brain for his next question.

“Did you like him?” Her heart races for a second before she decides to press back.

“What do you mean?” Noah looks up at the sky, trying to figure out how he wants to press. She hopes that he just means were they friends. Otherwise she’s gonna hit that “should I be honest here?” point quicker than she thought.

“Was he like Uncle Nick? Was he your friend?” She lets out the breath she’d been holding.

“Yeah. My best friend.” His eyes light up. 

“Like Addie is my best friend?” She smiles at him. Addison has been his best friend since their first day of Kindergarten. They’d managed to get the same teacher every year since and when Noah joined dance, Addie begrudgingly joined him. When Addie had tried gymnastics, Noah had tried right along with her. It almost reminds her of her and Elliot, following each other wherever they went. Never quite happy without the other.

“Yeah sweetie, like Addie is your best friend.” He smiles and nods, looking over at the tv to think before pressing on.

“Why haven’t I met him before?” Now that ends up a solid punch to the gut. The first thought that comes to mind is, Well, he left me because he wanted the best for me, even if it meant not having him. That IAB was pressing him to retire because if he wanted to stay on the force, they’d start looking at me too. That to leave me, he had to abandon me because we’d always been too close and if he hadn’t, well, who knows what would've happened because he hadn’t been exaggerating when he said that he wouldn’t have been able to leave if he heard my voice. That he would’ve loved to have seen me adopt you. Been Uncle Elliot just like Uncle Fin and Uncle Munch.

She must’ve let her thoughts run for too long because Noah’s solid stare is starting to grow worried. She gives him a small smile before taking a deep breath.

“Well. He had to stop being a police officer for a little bit. He moved away a couple years ago, did you know he and Eli lived in Italy?” Noah shakes his head. “Well they moved to Italy about four years ago and he started working for the NYPD again. And he came to visit and well, that’s the first time he’d been in New York in a long time.” He squints at her.

“You’ve never talked about him before though.” Her eyebrows lift slightly. He’s got her there. She’d never found it productive to bring up Elliot to him before now. No reason to bring up a man who, while once the most important person in her life, would never meet him. She lets the awe wash over her again. Sometimes she still can’t believe he’s managed to make his way back to her, even after all this time.

She looks down at him, brushing a stray piece of hair out of his face.

“Well. I hadn’t talked to him in a long time. The first time I saw him was a little bit before Easter this year. I hadn’t seen or talked to him in ten years when I saw him then.” Noah’s eyebrows knit together. 

“But moving isn’t a good reason to not talk to someone!” He cries out suddenly, leaning back so he can truly look at his mother. “Uncle Rafa moved all the way across the country and you still talk to him! We FaceTime him all the time.” She gives him a sad smile and wishes that she had the brain her eight year old possesses. Wishes that all of this could just be that easy.

“Well Uncle Rafa can’t go without his monthly Noah calls.” She teases, tickling at his side, causing him to squirm closer to her. She stops quickly, and when he’s finally stopped giggling, his face turns serious before he looks up at her.

“So he didn’t help you after the bad thing happened? The bad thing that you sometimes have bad dreams about?” God he’s really going for the jugular today huh? She thinks as she closes her eyes. 

“No.” She chokes out, clearing her throat. “No, he didn’t know about the bad thing, baby, so he couldn’t help me.” Noah’s nose crinkles, almost like it does when she puts a vegetable he doesn’t like on his plate. They stay quiet for a second and Noah meets her eyes once again.

“What happened to Eli’s mom?” She takes a sharp breath in.

“Well. She got hurt really badly and her body couldn’t heal enough to keep her alive.” She says carefully, trying to explain her explosion as gently as she can. He’s quiet for a second, starts fiddling with his fingers before his mouth screws together on the left side of his face.

“Eli misses his mom a lot. He kept asking for her in his sleep when he stayed the night.” Olivia’s chest aches suddenly, and she could almost keel over at the casual way Noah tells her that. Olivia wraps her arms around him, pulling him close to her.

“I know he does baby. Both he and his dad miss her. She was super important to them. It’s a big change for them both. But maybe she was visiting him in his dreams that night. To remind him that she would always be nearby.” She skirts talking about the death of a parent. Doesn’t even know how to approach that with him since she is it. If she were to die, he’d have no father to rely on for backup. She shoves that into the back of her mind as well.

She looks at the clock and sees that it’s 6:30 and she nudges him.

“That’s it for this morning, it’s time to get dressed.” He groans and she nudges him one more time.

“You can ask me more later,” she reminds him. “But we gotta get ready now. It’s Friday at least, so get going.” She lightly pushes him and he finally sighs and rolls his eyes before hopping off the couch.

She lets out a long breath, relief flooding her that she at least has pushed off this already difficult conversation for a little longer.

She finally pushes herself off the couch, knowing that she herself needs to get going and once the day starts, it goes by quickly. Noah doesn’t press her anymore during the car ride to school. In fact, he’s unusually quiet but makes sure to press a kiss to her cheek when he leaves the car.

The rest of the day goes by just like that, a blur. The second she’d walked in the precinct, she’d been mobbed by both Amanda and Kat letting her know that there had been a new case and it was already a mess, further complicated by the fact that Fin had taken the day off.

She spends the rest of the day helping put out the small fires that rise up and when she finally takes a second to glance at a clock, it’s four thirty. She rubs at her eyes, the strain of staring at her computer all day finally taking its toll.

She leans her head back and decides that today is not going to be a day where she works past time, not unless it’s absolutely necessary. The prospect of maybe actually sleeping tonight convinces her even more of that.

Amanda and Kat are out pursuing leads and she takes a deep breath before standing up to gather her stuff to head home for the night.

She thinks about Noah, wonders if his demeanor from earlier will stick around for the night on the drive back to her apartment and she suddenly realizes that she hasn’t heard from Elliot once today.

She picks up her phone quickly, looks at her messages to confirm that yes, she really hadn’t talked to him since leaving his apartment at the end of her lunch break.

The thought almost makes her decide to head towards his place, but she decides against it, decides to head home to spend the night with her family instead.

When she opens the door to her place, Noah is sitting at the counter and when he looks up, his eyes light up.

“Hi Mom!” He calls out, setting down his colored pencil to turn in his stool. Olivia smiles.

“Hi baby, how was school?” Noah shrugs before turning back towards whatever sits in front of him. Olivia rolls her eyes before walking up to him to drop a kiss on the top of his head. Lucy comes up next to her, and Olivia is reminded why she loves Lucy so much, that she is always so calm and reassuring.

“Hi Liv. Think you’ll need me this weekend?” Olivia shakes her head. 

“I shouldn’t unless a major case comes up, but I think you should be good for the weekend.” A large smile crosses Lucy’s face as she heads towards the entryway.

“Sounds great! Noah I’ll see you Monday,” she calls out as she slides on her light jacket.

“Bye Lucy, see you later!” He yells back, beginning to color on the paper in front of him once again. She hears the door click and she lets out a sigh before turning back towards Noah. He’s coloring a page with a huge dragon on it, and she wonders briefly when he got that coloring book.

She leans against the counter so she can watch him for a few minutes. Watches as he changes through colors, watches his hands hover over the colors he thinks he might want before ending up snatching the color he has chosen.

She decides to leave him then, just presses another kiss to his forehead as she makes her way towards the living room. His socks that are starting to bury their way under the couch have her rolling her eyes and launches her into picking up the rest of the living room.

Once she finishes there, she throws the offending socks into the washer before heading to his room to grab any dirty laundry that sits in his basket. One task leads from one to another and then suddenly it’s been an hour since she walked in the door and she wonders if Noah is still sitting idly at the counter coloring.

She walks back into the kitchen to find him sitting there just as he had been when she left an hour ago, but this time the dragon is almost three quarters of the way complete. She leans against the counter opposite him, content to just watch him once more.

She almost forgets that it’s Friday until there’s a knock at the door and Noah bolts through the kitchen.

“Eli!” He cries out as he runs past her, and she stares after him, confused, until she remembers that this is their normal. That Eli always comes on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. But his absence on Wednesday had been heavily noticed by Noah, and after the conversation Eli had had with her and Kathleen, she thought that he didn’t want to come by anymore so she gave him his space to decide that for himself. To let himself make a decision during a time she’s sure he’s not getting enough opportunities to do so.

She is still surprised nevertheless when Noah throws open the door and Eli is standing there, his head dropped against his chest. His eyes brighten when he sees Noah, even though the bags under his eyes tell her everything she needs to know.

“Hey little dude!” Noah slams himself against him, wraps his arms tightly around Eli and he smiles as Eli wraps his arms around Noah in return. He looks up at Olivia and she watches the doubt grow in his eyes, watches as uncertainty takes over his stance.

“Hi Eli.” She calls softly, watching him as he lets his gaze fall away from her.

“Hi Olivia.” The sound of her full name makes her flinch slightly and she watches Eli carefully, seeing that his shoulders still stand rigid even with Noah in his arms. Noah pulls away and heads for the living room, knowing what is to come, as Eli still stands in the doorway. She watches him gingerly, wanting to let him say what he wants to say before she intervenes.

“Is this still okay? That I came over?” He asks so quietly that the words barely float to her and any hesitation she’s felt over the past week washes away as she takes quick steps towards him. When she reaches him, she puts a hand on either side of his face and gently tilts his head up so he has to look at her.

“You are always welcome in my home Eli. Always.” She watches the tension melt from his body and he reaches for her, wrapping his arms tightly around her as he tucks his chin into her shoulder and she is reminded of just how impossibly tall he is for a thirteen year old.

“Thanks Liv.” She squeezes her arms in acknowledgement and she waits for him to pull away first. She tries not to notice that he’s alone, doesn’t want to push, but her curiosity gets the better of her.

“Anyone drop you off?” She tries to make it sound casual, but she knows she sounds anything but.

“Yeah my brother did. He had to head downtown and it was on the way.” He walks past her then, satisfied by his answer and all she can think about is Elliot. She grabs her phone to touch base but decides against it, decides to focus on Eli instead for now.

They fall into their routine quickly. The boys start their Mario Kart race and Olivia hears them bickering with each other, the small jabs at their rustiness since they haven’t played in almost a week.

It’s surprising how normal it makes her feel to hear the boys in her living room. She closes her eyes and relishes in the moment, letting their voices marked by the small clicks of their game controllers and the quiet background music of the game float to her ears and surround her. She decides then to buy pizza because honestly, she hasn’t been grocery shopping all week and whatever food is left in the fridge probably isn’t good.

She calls and places the order quietly, hoping to surprise the boys when they finally decide to come wander in to find their dinner.

But amazingly a bathroom break is what causes Eli to come meandering into the kitchen first and he plops himself down onto one of her kitchen stools, head tucked against his chest.

Liv looks at him carefully, watches as his chest rises as he takes a shaky, deep breath. She goes to brush the hair out of his eyes so she can better see him but stops herself right before her hand can touch his forehead. She pulls her hand back slowly before taking a deep breath of her own.

“Eli, is everything okay?” He sits still for a second before just shrugging. 

“I guess.” He whispers and Olivia sighs, dropping her weight onto her left leg.

“Is there anything I can do to help?” He shakes his head and finally picks up his head, roughly shoving his bangs back.

“No. Just coming here is enough.” She looks at him questioningly and goes to ask what he means when Noah comes barreling back into the kitchen, climbing into the stool next to Eli.

“What’s for dinner?” Noah asks once he’s finally settled into his stool, folding his hands in front of him to mirror Eli. Olivia smiles as a knock comes at the door.

“This is.” She says, walking over to the door. Once she’s managed to hand over the money to the delivery person, she turns around and Noah’s beaming.

“No way, pizza again?” He cries eagerly, clamoring for the box the second Olivia has set it down on the counter.

“Eh, eh, eh.” She reminds, tilting her head towards Eli. “Manners. Eli goes first.” Noah huffs before falling dramatically back onto the stool.

“I knowwww.” He whines, and Olivia wants to quip back at him but stops when she catches sight of Eli, shoulders still folded in on themself.

Eli must feel her eyes on him because he sits up then and reaches for the box, instinctively knowing which one is cheese and bacon, just like he and Noah like. 

They eat in quiet after that, Noah too busy stuffing his mouth as quickly as possible and Eli relying on his pizza as a distraction so he doesn’t have to look up at Olivia.

She watches them both carefully until they head to Noah’s room to hopefully finish their project. She aches with the urge to go and listen, but the prospect of being found hovering encourages her not to so instead she takes Eli’s seat and takes a bite of their pizza.

It bothers her, this line that she’s created. Or maybe even a line that had existed but she’d never been aware of until Eli had informed them they’d crossed it.

There had been no way the phrase had been directed at just Kathleen. She can’t believe he would’ve said that when he did if he didn’t mean it towards the both of them, even if he didn’t look at her when he said it.

But why is it bothering you so much then? Her brain helpfully supplies. She takes another forceful bite of pizza as she mules over it.

Why is the fact that Eli had said “you’re not my parent, stop acting like it” bothering her so much? Is it because it’s true? Or is it because she wishes it were true? She shifts uncomfortably on her stool before taking another bite of pizza.

She knows that the line is thin between a caring adult and mother, especially with her and Eli. This past month had not only confirmed that, but made it worse. And not only had it done that, but it had also brought up memories that she’d shoved so far down, she wasn’t sure they’d ever see the light of day again.

Eli had been only a couple months old when she suddenly noticed those deep brown eyes. She hadn’t realized it until Elliot was undercover and Kathy was threatening to leave. She’d walked in their house to her packing a suitcase, telling her that she was going to leave him, that she couldn’t believe he hadn’t told her he was going under.  And then Eli had started crying and Kathy was so frazzled that Olivia had stopped her, told her, “I’ve got him, you take a second,” before heading to his nursery. 

The second she’d come into his view, his cries tapered and when she could finally see his face, his deep brown eyes sparkled back at her. It had thrown her, that his eyes were brown, the only Stabler child to have them that deep chocolate. She picked him up even though he’d stopped crying and when she continued to stare into his eyes, she’d felt tears well up. And then the thought had crossed her mind and she’d been immediately ashamed and brought him down to Kathy. It had haunted her for over a decade. What if you were mine like you should’ve been?

She’s startled by the knock at the door. Checks her watch that she’s been sitting there for over an hour, the pizza in front of her now cold and then the knock comes again.

She rushes towards the door, checking the peephole to find Dickie standing there, his hands buried deep in his pockets. She throws the door open and he looks up at her.

“Dickie.” She breathes out. He looks up and gives her a small smile.

“Hey Liv.” She steps back so he can walk in, and he hesitantly crosses the entryway.

“Eli still here?” He asks, scuffing at the carpet below him. Her brain freezes for a second.

“Yeah!” She says suddenly, heading towards the hallway. “Yeah, he and Noah are working on their LEGO project.” She leans down the hall.

“Eli, Dickie is here to pick you up.” She turns back towards Dickie and gives him a small smile.

“They’re almost done. You give them too long to come out here though, they’ll just keep pressing until it’s done.” A small chuckle escapes him and he shakes his head. Olivia runs her eyes over him, finally able to take the time to truly see him for the first time in almost twelve years, able to see the man he has become.

Dickie had grown up a lot over the years. He seems nervous to be in her apartment, like he knows she has a bomb hidden somewhere and as long as he escapes before it goes off, it will be fine. His hands still remain deep in his pocket, though she catches the heel of his foot jiggling, making his entire leg try to bounce. Looks wise, he reminds her a lot of a younger Elliot. Dark hair, same piercing blue eyes, just shorter and more facial hair and the realization makes the edges of her mouth tick up. 

Suddenly his eyes flick over her shoulder and she hears footsteps behind her.

Eli appears at her side, and he lets out a long sigh before looking over at her. She wants to tell him to stop growing. God wasn’t it just six months ago he was two inches shorter than her?

“Thanks for letting me come over Liv. I missed you guys.” He leans into her side for a hug, wrapping his arm around her waist and she wraps her arm around his shoulders.

“We missed you too. And you’re welcome anytime here, you know that.” He nods and she decides she won’t pull away first and because of that, they stay in that position for a minute or two.

She takes a peek at Dickie and the look in his eyes is unreadable and she wonders if she has crossed some kind of unspoken boundary, and that’s what causes her to end up pulling away first.

Eli takes in a quick, shaky breath and she wants to ask him about it before he starts heading towards Dickie.

“Night Liv.” He turns around quickly. “Can I still come on Sunday?” He asks, uncertainty creeping into his voice.

Olivia softs, lets out a small huff of air before giving him a small smile. “Of course you can come on Sunday. Like I said, you’re welcome here anytime.” Eli nods slowly before looking over at Dickie.

“Thanks Liv. Tell Noah I said good night for me.” He heads towards the door and Dickie looks at her as Eli puts on his shoes.

He steps close to her so he can speak low enough that his words don’t float to Eli. “Liv you don’t have to have him over if it’s too much, we’d all under-“

“He’s fine Dickie.” She interrupts, her eyes narrowing in irritation. “I wouldn’t tell him that if I wasn’t okay with it.” Dickie sighs and nods his head before rubbing at the back of his neck. A Stabler indeed, she thinks.

“All right.” He looks at her for a second and his eyes seem... worried. It makes her heart rate pick up and she realizes she hasn’t talked to Elliot all day and god has something happened, when the look quickly disappears. She wonders if he has something to tell her, but then she hears Eli’s voice faintly from the door and he looks away.

“See you later Liv.” Dickie walks towards the door and Olivia watches him carefully.

“Bye Eli, bye Dickie.” Dickie waves a hand at her as he closes the door and with the soft click, silence surrounds her for a moment. She takes in a deep breath so big that it hurts her ribs before letting it out slowly. She lets her head fall back all the way so that she’s staring at the ceiling, convincing the tears that are slowly rising to make their way back down.

“Did Eli leave?” She hears from behind her and she whips around to face Noah standing in the hallway, already in his pajamas.

“Yeah, his brother came to pick him up.” Noah nodded and headed towards the kitchen stool.

“He didn’t say bye.” He murmurs, kicking out his leg over and over. Olivia sighs and sits next to him.

“Well he told me to say good night to you, so don’t you worry about that.” A small smile crosses his face and he looks up at her. She reaches out her hand to rub at his hair and Noah looks up at the yellow and purple mottled wrist and gasps. She’s confused for a moment when she realizes what he’s looking at and goes to pull back her wrist quickly when he snatches her hand.

“Mom, what happened?” He asks, his eyes wide.

She sighs, debates lying and decides there’s no reason to lie to him. No matter how much she doesn’t want to admit their origins.

“You remember how you said Eli got scared when you woke him up from his nightmare?” She starts and Noah nods, his wide eyes starting to fill with tears. “Well I tried waking up his dad the other day from a nightmare and he grabbed my wrist tight because he thought I was trying to hurt him. He didn’t mean to, and it doesn’t hurt. I just scared him like you scared Eli.” Tears threaten to fall and Noah meets her eyes and she wants to pull him into her lap, protect him from the world before he starts nodding.

“Okay.” He chokes out, lets go of her hand and Olivia doesn’t hesitate before pulling him into her arms, where she feels a few stray tears fall on her shirt.

She tucks him more securely against herself, his chest shuttering against her as he finally lets the tears fall completely. She finally settles on the couch and Noah wraps his arms around her neck and she sets a hand on his back, rubbing small circles.

Oh my sensitive boy. She thinks, leaning her head against his. He continues crying for a minute or so until his breathing starts to even out. When he pulls away, she reaches up to wipe away any stray tears off his face.

“Did you know Eli’s mom?” He asks then, his eyes sad and Olivia gives him a sad smile.

“I did. Actually, I helped deliver Eli.” Noah’s eyes grow wide.

“Whoa, really?” He asks, still staring at her in disbelief.

“Yeah. His mom and I had gotten in a car accident and Eli decided he wanted to join the world that day.” She smiles slightly. “His mom had gotten a little hurt and his dad was away on a case so I held her hand while she gave birth to him.” Noah’s eyes are still big, shock in them as he tries to process the information.

“Wow.” He says quietly and Olivia smiles at the awe on his face. He sits there for a minute in silence before looking back at her directly.

“What’s Eli’s dad like?” Olivia smiles. This question is easy.

“Well. He’s kind. Cares a lot about the people he loves.” Noah perks up.

“Like you!” She smiles and puts a hand on Noah’s cheek.

“Yeah, like me.” She takes a deep breath and lets her hand fall back to Noah’s back.

“He’s funny sometimes. But don’t tell him I said that or it will only encourage his corny jokes.” Noah giggles and Olivia chuckles with him before continuing on.

“He can be quiet sometimes, but it’s because he’s a good listener. He has a good heart. He looks out for the people he loves, protects them in a way that no one else could ever dream of.” She falls quiet, trying to decide how to bookend the conversation.

“The short story is that he’s a good man who takes care of the people he loves, makes sure that they are safe. That he’s a little scary at first, but really he’s just like a teddy bear underneath, soft and fluffy.” Noah smiles at her for a second before the smile starts to slowly fall off his face as his eyes fill with curiosity.

“Do you love Elliot?” He asks suddenly and her heart skips a few beats before finally resuming. She debates about playing coy, not understanding the question and pushing it aside, but decides otherwise and lets out a deep sigh.

“I’m not sure sometimes.” She starts, her head tilting slightly to the side as she meets Noah’s eyes. “He was gone for a long time bub and he hasn’t been back very long.” She pauses and they both stare at each other, Noah’s red rimmed eyes staring at her, entranced. 

“I can say that he’s important to me. That I hope he’ll be important to you one day,” she bops his nose and he giggles. “And I hope he is involved in our lives more once he gets better. That he stays in our lives. But sometimes I feel hurt when I think about the time he was gone and it makes me confused.” Noah’s nose crinkles as he frowns, but then finally he nods before nuzzling into her chest.

“One day he and Eli can be part of our Ohana too,” he mutters into her and her eyes immediately fill with tears. She swallows roughly before leaning down to press a kiss to the top of his head.

“I hope so No.” She says, resting her cheek on top of his head. They sit there for a minute and it finally occurs to her that Noah doesn’t fit as well in her arms as he once did. That his legs are bent into sharp angles at her side. It hits her then that her son is growing up. That one day he won’t be able to even sit on her lap like this anymore, be able to wrap himself around her like a cocoon and hold on tight as he lets whatever emotions he was feeling run through him in the security of her arms. It hurts here even more to realize that that day is sooner than she would ever like to admit.

She doesn’t know how long they stay like that, she only knows that Noah falls asleep in her arms by the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest accompanied by a quiet snore.

After she’s 100% sure he’s asleep, she struggles to lift them both off the couch for a minute before finally standing up and heading for his room. She’s thankful that he’s already in his pj’s when she lays him in his bed, tucking him under the blankets as he curls into a ball.

“Night mom.” He mumbles. Olivia smiles and presses a kiss to his forehead.

“Night Noah. Love you.” He hums and rolls over and Olivia stands up fully to head back out to the living room.

She finishes the little bit of chores left over from Eli’s sudden appearance earlier and when she finally makes it to her bedroom after an hour and a half, the exhaustion slams into her the second she sits on her bed.

She barely manages to get changed into her pajamas, her eyes struggling to stay open as she flits around her bedroom.

However, while her body feels exhausted, her brain is still buzzing from the evening.

Her mind keeps pressing back to her line of thinking from earlier. She gets stuck on those steps after the Sennet case a lot, even more frequently now that he’s back. The thought of them beginning something that early morning, well it was the kindling to the fire created when she saw Eli’s brown eyes. 

And she hates to admit it, but the thought of Eli being hers in another universe still crosses her mind, even now, especially now. But even though that thought is still prevalent, she still isn’t trying to replace Kathy. She knows she will never be what Kathy was to Eli. And she’s okay with that and wants that. She just doesn’t know how to tell him that without pressing that ever present line in their relationship.

Finally, she manages to flop down on her bed unceremoniously. She checks her phone for any messages and sees none, but can’t let any wave of concern hit her about Elliot’s radio silence of the day because she’s unconscious the second her phone hits the nightstand.

Chapter Text

She didn’t sleep well that night, only managing to get an hour and a half of sleep before waking up, continuing the tossing and turning of previous nights. However, she’d woken up that next morning to a text message from Elliot asking her about her previous day. Noting that she must've been busy since he hadn’t heard from her. She tells him that it had been busy, that they’d spent a lot of the day chasing leads, but it was nice to see Eli last night.

She didn’t end up hearing back from him for the rest of the day, though it goes unnoticed with the time she spends with Noah.

She had ended up taking him to the museum of Natural History, a favorite since he’d been a toddler, and they’d ended up making a day of the whole thing. He’d spent hours wandering around the museum, especially awestruck by the color exhibition that’s at the museum for the year. Olivia had watched him just slowly circle around the room, drinking in the colors that danced around him. He’d spent almost thirty minutes in that room alone.

She thinks about Eli and Elliot more often than she’d care to admit, but it’s almost like Noah can sense it because he interrupts her thoughts almost immediately when they stray to them.

The trip had been good for both of them. Olivia felt the most relaxed she had been in the past week. Noah was beaming under his mask almost the entire time, chattering the second they were out of the museum and back out on the street. She noticed the plainclothes officer who trailed behind them as they made their way through Central Park to head back home.

Noah continued to chatter, content with only noises of acknowledgement coming from Olivia as he gushed about exhibition after exhibition. She watched his animated movements below her, his arms swinging around as he talked about the solar system, the color exhibit. She smiled at him when she noticed a dark blip off to the side, closer to the reservoir than the street. She had barely looked over at him, but noticed that he was staring intently at Noah.

She looked down at Noah fully then, grabbed one of his hands to keep him closer to her side.

She glanced back over at the man, dressed in black from head to toe, wearing a mask and she knew it’s not because of COVID as she watched him. She picked Noah up then, and he’s heavy and her steps stuttered when she lifted him into her arms. He’s confused when she did it, but laid his head against her shoulder as they continued on through the park. When she looked over once more, he’s gone, but she refused to put Noah down, spooked by the attention of the man, no matter how brief.

However when she glanced back at her protective detail, he’s still scanning the area, seemingly unphased by what Olivia had just witnessed.

She carried Noah in her arms until they’re about a block from the apartment. Even then, she only had let him down because she wasn’t sure how much longer she could carry him.

They’d watched two Disney movies that night, The Emperor's New Groove and Tangled, finishing off the pizza from the night before for dinner and they finally fell asleep around 10pm.

Sunday hits hard. She continues her streak of an hour of sleep at a time, her night punctuated by periods of restlessness while she lays in her bed. However, when she looks over at the clock, she realizes that it’s 9:30, and that is late for both of them. She tries listening for the telltale noises that signal that Noah is awake, but she doesn’t hear any so she throws off her comforter to head for his bedroom.

When she cracks open the door, she sees him still curled up in a ball in his bed and she smiles before walking up to him.

“Oh Noah.” She sings, sitting down next to him on his bed.

“Noah baby, it’s time to wake up.” She runs a hand over his forehead, noting that he’s not running warm so he’s not sick, he’s honestly tired.

His eyes blink open slowly and a smile grows on his face when he sees his mother.

“Morning mom.” Olivia smiles and leans forward to press a kiss to his head.

“Morning baby. It’s late, we should get up.” Noah yawns and sits up in bed, stretching his arms up.

“Okay. Do you think Eli is going to come over today?” He asks as his eyes fall on the LEGO project on his desk. “We’ve just got the last half of the tower left and then we’re done.”

Olivia sighs before running a hand over his hair.

“I’m not sure bub. Hopefully. But he’s still dealing with stuff with his dad so I don’t wanna push it right now.” Noah’s face falls and he sighs.

“Oh. Okay.” She leans forward and presses a kiss to his forehead.

“It’s not because he doesn’t want to see you baby. Eli’s just got a lot going on. But I’ll let you know if I figure out one way or the other, okay?” Noah sighs once again but gives her a small, sad smile.

“Yeah. I guess.” She sets a hand on his cheek before standing up.

“Do you want pancakes?” She asks and a small fills his face. 

“Chocolate chip?” He pleads and Olivia rolls her eyes before heading towards his door.

“Well if I have to,” she teases. Noah launches from his bed, almost pushing her out the door and towards the kitchen to start breakfast. She fights back a laugh before turning around and picking him up suddenly, causing him to erupt into loud giggles.

“Moooooom,” he whines as she throws him over her shoulder, “put me down!” It’s all words, no actual request behind them as he giggles throughout them.

She sets him down on the counter when she walks into the kitchen, putting a hand on either side of his face to look at him briefly before turning to the coffee maker to start it.

When the coffee maker starts making noise, she starts pulling out the ingredients for pancakes, making sure to pull out the bag of chocolate chips as well.

She turns towards Noah, whose eyes get wide with excitement as she sets the ingredients next to him, readying the counter for him to help her mix the batter. The coffee maker is silent so she turns to grab her mug, curling her hands around it as she pulls the mug up to her lips for a first sip, her nose crinkling as the coffee touches her tongue.

She and Noah decide to tackle making pancake batter then. However, by the time they are ready to put the batter in a pan, they’re covered in pancake mix and Noah keeps sneaking chocolate chips into his mouth.

They spend the rest of the morning taking care of the aftermath of breakfast. She and Noah clean up their mess, however it only leads to a little more mess when he accidentally puts too much dish soap in the sink leading to a mountain of bubbles. They have a bubble war, scooping bubbles and placing them on each other, Olivia giving Noah a beard, Noah keeps trying to put as many bubbles on her nose as possible. 

However, they finally manage to finish cleaning up and Olivia shoves him towards the bathroom to wash the pancake mix out of his hair. She looks over at the clock and it’s been two hours since she woke him up and she can’t help the smile that grows on her face. 

She gets dressed while Noah gets ready and when they end up in the living room back on the couch, he asks if they can read a chapter of Harry Potter together now since they hadn’t read a lot all week.

They end up reading two chapters and after they finish, he goes to get his coloring book and crayons and sits down in front of the couch to color on the coffee table. 

She goes and grabs her own book and settles behind Noah on the couch, leaning forward to press a kiss to the back of his head as she sits down. He turns back to look at her, a mischievous look on his face, before turning back to his coloring book.

She pulls her phone out of the pocket of her jeans and starts a playlist that Spotify recommends, making it so it plays on Alexa and it fills the apartment. She smiles to herself and settles against the couch, opening her book. They stay like that for a little under an hour until there’s a knock on her door. 

She checks her phone, doesn’t see any messages warning her of anyone’s arrival and she notes that it’s a little after two.

When she checks in the peephole, her heart stops and she stands there for a second before another knock comes and she throws open the door.

Eli stands there, his shoulders curled into himself, his head tucked to his chest, hair in front of his face and Olivia sighs.

“Eli. You’re here early.” He looks up then and her heart breaks at the bags under his eyes. They’re darker than they were on Friday and even his eyes are exhausted.

“I’m sorry,” he starts. “I can come back-” He starts to turn around before Olivia reaches for his arm.

“No. No, you don’t have to do that Eli.” He stops and looks up at her and she sees his eyes start to water. 

“It was just an observation. I’m more than alright with you being here early. Noah and I are just reading and coloring right now, he’ll be more than happy to see you.” She steps back enough for him to walk in.

“Come on in. He’s at the coffee table.” Eli gives her a tight smile before brushing past her and Olivia looks up at the ceiling in despair before shutting the door.

She hears Noah shout, “Eli!” and she comes back to herself, trying to decide what exactly she wants to do with Eli’s sudden appearance at her door.

She heads back to the living room and Eli has a torn out coloring page in front of him and Noah has the colored pencils sitting between the two of them. Eli looks up at her as she walks in and gives her another small smile before turning back to his coloring page. 

“Mom, you didn’t tell me that you knew Eli was coming today!” She’s confused for a minute before remembering their conversation from earlier and she shrugs.

“I must’ve forgot baby, I’m sorry.” Noah huffs before turning back to his coloring page and she thinks that he’s going to launch into conversation with Eli but they stay quiet. She’s grateful and she thinks Eli is too.

She sits down on the couch behind them and grabs her phone. There’s still no messages but she decides to check in with Elliot.

“Eli is here. Haven’t heard from you since Saturday morning. Everything alright?” She sends it and looks down at the boys. 

She tries to start reading her book again but fails miserably. She reads the same page five times before finally giving up and she looks down at the boys again. They’re still quiet, though Noah looks over at Eli then and says quietly, “You wanna play UNO?”

Eli just nods and Noah scrambles out of his spot and towards the bookshelf across the room, opening the cupboard on the bottom left to pull out their UNO cards and when he turns around he meets Olivia’s eyes. He smiles at her before heading towards Eli, putting the cards on the table to then help Eli pick up their colored pencils.

She watches their first two rounds quietly, chuckling to herself when Eli throws the first round. However, after the second round the boys rope her in and they play five more rounds. With each round, she watches Eli come out of his shell a little more. By the time they start their fifth round, he’s got a small smile on his face and she finally sees the boy that had been coming over for Mario Kart and LEGO’s. After they finish that round, Eli asks if they have Phase 10 and they play a game of that as well.

However once they finish, Eli grows quiet once again and Olivia looks at him carefully as Noah finishes picking up the cards.

“Noah, is it okay if I talk to your mom alone for a bit?” Noah looks up at him, confusion evident on his face as Olivia freezes.

“Why?” Olivia goes to berate him when Eli starts again.

“I need to talk to her about stuff. I need your mom’s advice because mom’s always give the best advice don’t they?” Olivia’s heart sinks into her stomach at the unspoken words, “I don’t have my mom to ask so can I use yours instead?” as Noah nods.

“Yeah. And my mom is especially good to talk to. Can we play Mario Kart after though?” Eli smiles at him.

“Yeah. Gotta win back my title somehow right?” A wide smile graces Noah’s face and he looks up at Olivia for confirmation that everything is okay and she nods at him. He heads back to his room and they hear the door click shut, leaving the two of them alone in the living room.

She waits for him to start talking, doesn’t have a clue where he could be going with all of this, and watches him carefully as he stays on the ground next to the coffee table. He wipes at his face before looking up at her, his face red.

He takes in a deep breath before joining her on the couch and he wipes at his face again.

“I haven’t been staying at my dad’s.” He says quietly and Olivia’s eyes go wide as she moves closer to him.

“What do you mean you haven’t been staying at your dad’s? I’ve seen your stuff there when I go check on him? You went there after school on Tuesday.” Eli looks up at her as tears run down his face.

“I’ve tried every night. I go there after school. Usually he’s okay when I get home, quiet, but okay.” He falls silent and Olivia feels like she can hear both of their heartbeats in the quiet room. “Night? Night makes him crazy,” he whispers and Olivia feels her stomach drop and she’s overwhelmed with the urge to throw up.

Eli takes in a shaky breath before looking up at the ceiling.

“He’d be okay. But then at night... it’s like something would... trigger him. He turns into this... this completely different person at night. Like someone takes over his brain and it’s not really him standing there. And then all of sudden I’d hear glass... shattering in the kitchen and I knew he was gone again.” He stops and looks back at her, wiping at his face once again.

“So every night, I’d try to stay with him and then the throwing would start...” He shakes his head. “I’ve been going between everyone since then. Mostly with Mo though.” He starts crying harder then and Olivia pulls him into her arms. He tucks his head into the crook of her neck, his chin pressing hard into her collarbone.

“Why is he so angry this time?!” He sobs into her and Olivia starts rubbing circles into his back. “He was angry after mom, but never this angry.” He starts shaking and Olivia pulls him closer. 

“I tried one last time last night, but that’s it. I can’t do it anymore.” His sobs take over him so hard that he struggles to catch his breath.

“Shhhh.” She whispers to him, running a hand down his head. “Shhhh, I hear you. I know. I know. Shhh.” His sobs start to fade, though he tightens his arms around her.

“We had an okay day together yesterday, Liv. It was almost like before he went under. But night? Night turns him into a monster.” He starts sobbing again and the devastation that encompasses her starts to transform into absolute rage.

She can understand why Eli hasn’t told her. He’s so young and he had finally gotten Elliot back, again. But he’s been bouncing between his siblings for almost a week. Why the fuck had none of them called her?

She lets him continue to cry in her arms, though she thinks even if she did want to pull away, his arms are wrapped so tightly around her that she can’t move even a centimeter. Eventually his chest stops heaving and he starts to loosen his grip on her. Olivia squeezes him quickly before he finally pulls away.

His entire face is puffy and beet red. His eyes are a little swollen and bloodshot and he wipes roughly at his face.

She gives him a second to collect himself before she sets a hand on his cheek.

“Eli, sweetie. Why didn’t you tell me before now?” His mouth scrunches up like he’s going to cry again and he takes a deep breath.

“I didn’t want to tell you because you’ve already taken enough care of me and my dad.” He swallows roughly and shakes his head. “I didn’t want you to worry. You have Noah to think about-”

“And I have you to think about too.” She rubs her thumb across his cheek bone and he gives her a tight smile before looking down at the couch.

After a few moments, he looks up at her and gives her a small smile.

“I’m sorry Liv-”

“You have nothing to apologize for.” She interrupts, putting her other hand on his cheek so her hands frame his face.

“There was nothing you could do. I’m just happy you’re safe and that I know now. Okay?” Eli nods and she pulls his head towards her to press a kiss to his forehead. She looks at him closely once more before letting her hands fall to her sides.

“Why don’t you go hang out with Noah for a bit? I’m sure he’s anxiously waiting for you so you can finish your LEGO project.” Another smile graces his face and he looks up at Olivia sullenly, though she also sees the hope buried deep in his eyes as well. He nods and leans forward to hug her once more before standing up.

She watches him walk to the hallway and he turns around right as he hits the entry to give her one more smile before finally making his way into Noah’s room. She hears the door click behind him and the second she hears it, rage consumes her.

She stands up suddenly and starts pacing and she doesn’t even know where to begin. 

I haven’t been staying at my dad’s. She’d been to Elliot’s almost every day that week. Had almost tripped over his sneakers the other day. Had seen other small touches of him around the apartment. To find out that he’s been with one of his siblings, she’s ready to... well murder them. 

Why hadn’t any of them told her? Why had they let it get this bad? She stops in her tracks suddenly and thinks back to the night she and Kathleen had talked to Eli. Maybe she had been right. Maybe none of them wanted her in their lives. Maybe they had only truly seen her as a way to get through to Elliot. The thought makes her stomach turn.

She realizes then that truly, there’s only one way to find out how they’d all gotten there. And while she isn’t in love with the idea, they’ve got to figure out what to do about Eli and they needed to do it sometime early last week.

She searches her call log for her name and presses it, hopeful that she’ll answer. It rings only twice before she’s greeted with, “Hey Liv, what’s up?”

There’s chatter in the background and it makes her hesitate for a second before she decides to drop the bomb anyway. “Kathleen, why did Eli just tell me that he hasn’t stayed with your father all week.” 

The chatter stops and Kathleen sighs.

“Mo’s here with me.” She pauses for a second. “She knows.” It sounds farther away and she hears a heavy sigh on the other end from who she assumes is Maureen.

“Liv, it’s not like that-” Maureen starts.

“Bullshit.” She spits out. She surprises herself for a second, at the anger she directs towards his two eldest. But she’s just so furious at what has just happened that she can’t bring herself to care.

“Dickie and Lizzie wanted to tell you on Wednesday, after the first night he came to one of us. We told them no.” Kathleen tells her. While it’s meant to soothe her, it only serves to fan the flames of rage that only continue to build and she looks up at the ceiling for a way to tamper it back.

“You’re not my parent, stop acting like it,” plays suddenly in her mind and it manages to smother some of the rage inside her, but she finally decides to ignore the words for once.

“I want you both at my place ASAP. We have to do something and we have to do it tonight.” The girls start to protest but Olivia makes a noise of interruption.

“That is not a request Maureen and Kathleen. He just sat here and sobbed in my arms because he’s so distraught over the entire thing. And obviously whatever you four have been trying to do all week isn’t working.” They sit there in silence for a moment before Kathleen finally responds.

“We’ll be right over Liv. We’re sorry-” She hangs up the phone then and throws it onto the couch as she looks down the hall towards Noah’s room, Eli consuming her thoughts.

Chapter Text

She paces heavily back and forth in her living room, trying to wrap her head around the entire situation. She keeps checking her phone, not quite sure what she’s expecting, though deep down she realizes that she’s hoping Elliot will message her back. He still hasn’t responded to her earlier check in text and she feels dread start to create a knot in her stomach.

A loud giggle comes from Noah’s room and she startles at the noise before realizing that it’s Noah that she hears from down the hall and she takes a deep breath to calm herself, letting his giggle repeat over and over in her head to tamper down the fire that courses through her veins.

After a minute, she ends up collapsing onto the couch and lets her head fall into her hands. There’s a small part of her that wants tears to rise up. To let all of the anger that roams throughout her body escape one teardrop at a time.

But they never come and instead she’s left feeling like she needs to hit something. She stands back up as the anger takes over her in the form of nervous energy and she starts pacing once again.

She doesn’t know what she’ll say to the girls. Doesn’t know if she’ll respond in anger or compassion, but the longer she feels strung out on her rage, the more she realizes where she’ll fall.

It’s five o’clock when she hears a light knock on the door and she heads straight for it, throwing it open knowing that it will be them.

They have the grace to look shamefaced as she opens the door to them, both of them looking at her feet.

She doesn’t say anything as she steps back and gestures them in, still glaring at them as they slink past her. They slide off their shoes and coats without a word and head for the dining room table where they sit next to each other arms crossed in front of them as they both lean against the table. Maureen sits tall though while Kathleen curves into herself and she softens for a moment before remembering why they are there and the rage builds up in her once again.

“What the hell were you two thinking??” She damn near hisses, making sure to keep her voice low so it doesn’t travel to the boys as she braces herself against the table. The girls look up at her, the shame apparent on their faces.

“Liv, we were trying to take care of it. Eli wanted to keep trying to stay.” Olivia scoffs.

“You all thought it would be better to subject Eli to night after night of terror instead of just putting your foot down and forcing him out?! He is thirteen. Are you trying to tell me that between the four of you, you couldn’t manage to make him leave?!” She fumes. Her chest starts heaving as she tries to catch her breath against the rising tide of her anger.

“Your father could have hurt him! Hell, we’re lucky your father hasn’t hurt himself yet with what Eli told me!” Both the girls look down at her words and Olivia shakes her head before throwing her hands up in the air. 

Jesus you two. Maureen, you're a nurse. Kathleen, you’re a goddamn counselor. Neither of you looked at the situation and thought, ‘Wow, we better take care of that?’” Both remain silent, still staring holes into her table. She slams a hand onto the table, causing both of them to flinch.

“God damn it you two, one of you fucking answer me.” Kathleen finds her voice first.

“We thought we had it under control.” She croaks out. Olivia lets out a loud, dry laugh.

“Does it look like it’s under control, Kathleen? Did it look under control when Eli was leaving your father’s at God knows what time of night and going to one of yours?” A thought occurs to her that guts her so much, she’s stunned into her seat.

Both of them watch her with worried eyes.

“You all let him walk around in the middle of the night when you all have a protective detail on each of you?” She wants to throw up when the words leave her mouth, nausea rising in her at the implication. Both Maureen and Kathleen pale at the realization.

“I... I didn’t even think-” Maureen starts, but Olivia as quick as the anger had dissipated, it rises up just as fast and she stands up with the force of it.

“But that’s the entire point you two. You didn’t think.” Kathleen looks up at her then, her eyes beginning to spark in anger.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean Olivia? We were just trying to keep them both safe, keep them both happy!” Olivia scoffs.

“It sure seems that way Kathleen. That’s why it’s all fallen to shit and Eli is the one suffering the most! They sure seem safe and they sure as hell seem happy,” she bites out. She knows she’s being a little over the top. Knows that she may cross lines that she should have never even gotten near. But at this moment she can’t bring herself to care. All she can hope for is that this doesn’t destroy her relationship with Elliot after the smoke clears.

Her words however make the spark disappear out of Kathleen and causes her to lean back against her chair in defeat.

“Jesus Christ, you two.” Olivia shakes her head, her fingers linked together as she sets them on top of her head as she continues to pace. “Eli called him a monster.” Both of their heads whip up at the words, terror written all over Maureen’s face, devastation written across Kathleen’s. Olivia lets her hands fall to her sides.

“Eli told me that night makes him crazy. Makes him a monster. You’re telling me that none of you realized that when he was coming to one of your places in the middle of the night?!” Olivia shakes her head once again, disappointment crossing her face.

“I just don’t understand why none of you told me. God guys, he’s been home almost a week. Did you think that I would just never figure it out?” It’s quiet then, almost too quiet before Maureen looks up at her.

“We thought that you knew Liv. Maybe not all of it, but some. I mean... You’ve seen dad almost every day.” She stops in her tracks and turns towards Maureen, her eyes burning with fury.

“You think,” she starts out low and slow, “if I knew this was happening,” her voice grows louder, “I wouldn’t have done this five days ago?”  The words escape louder than she would’ve liked, but she takes a deep breath to reel her anger back in. The girls watch her as she takes a few breaths to level herself.

“Liv,” Kathleen starts, looking down at the table. “We thought... we assumed that because Eli had gone to you after dad punched the wall... and then you saw the apartment that next morning...” Kathleen shakes her head as she trails off.

Olivia is left speechless for a moment, her mouth agape at the accusation.

“I thought that was a one off! It’s not like it’s something your father had never done before. Hell, he’d done it after your mother, I just assumed he’d done it again!” Olivia starts pacing once more, running her hands through hair as everything starts slamming into her. The empty garbage bag. It wasn’t because he’d eaten, it was because he’d picked up his mess so she wouldn’t see it. 

The thought makes her fall back into her chair.

“Liv, we swear that we thought you knew. Maybe not all of it. Not how bad it was. But we assumed with how much you’d been to the apartment this week... we thought you had seen the damage he’d done,” Maureen whispers. Olivia shakes her head, barely moving it back and forth.

“Everything seemed fine,” she says so quietly that both of them can barely hear it. They sit there in silence for a long time, all three of them unsure of where to go next.

“Why didn’t you just tell me?” Olivia pleads, looking between the both of them. Kathleen sighs.

“We love you Liv. We trust you with our entire lives. But the second I saw you with that bruise on your wrist, I knew we had to do something. And you’ve done more than enough for our family over the past twenty years. We just wanted to take some of the weight off of you and handle it ourselves.” Olivia shakes her head.

“Well we’ve gotta do something different.” Maureen reaches for her arm and sets a hand on it with a gentle squeeze.

“We know. We’re sorry Liv.” Olivia sighs before running a hand through her hair.

“You guys know that I would do anything for you. Any of you.” The tears she had wished for earlier are pressing at the backs of her eyes and she blinks rapidly to push them back down. Kathleen reaches for her left hand and pulls it towards her, squeezing her hand gently.

“We know Liv. You’re... a beacon in our lives. A place that we all feel safe enough to head back to when we’ve strayed too far.” Kathleen’s eyes water and she looks up at Olivia. “We would never want to ruin that Olivia. And we’re sorry that we kept you out of the loop. We didn’t mean to hurt you. Didn’t mean to hurt anyone.” Kathleen swallows hard and Olivia watches a tear run down her cheek. Maureen puts a hand on Kathleen’s back and flashes a tight smile at Olivia.

“You’ve been hurt enough by our family Liv,” she says, giving her a sad smile. “We just wanted to give you a break for once.”

They stare at each other for a moment before Olivia takes a deep breath and sighs.

“Okay, so we know that he’s gotta get out of that apartment, that’s a given. How do we want to do that ?” Maureen and Katie look at each other knowingly, as if they’ve had this discussion before.

“Well, I was thinking he would come back to me,” Maureen starts, looking over at Katie warily. Kathleen sits up straight in her chair.

“Mo, Eli’s already been with you for a month. You and Carl deserve a break too. Why not just let him stay with me? You know he really doesn’t care who he’s with.” Maureen sighs and shakes her head.

“Katie, that's the point. He’s already been with me for a month, why not let him keep that stability and just come back with me?” They start bickering back and forth and Olivia lets it happen for a couple minutes before stopping them.

“Girls.” They both stop suddenly and look up at her guiltily, as if they’ve been caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

“Why don’t we let Eli pick? I mean, he’s had enough of his decisions made for him this year, had enough taken from him.” She watches both Maureen and Kathleen’s eyes grow wet. “Why don’t we let him pick?” She repeats. They nod then, and Olivia spots the tear that slides down Maureen’s cheek.

She stands up then. 

“I’ll go get him then so we can get started.” She walks behind both of them and sets a hand on both of their shoulders and squeezes, causing them to both look all at her and give watery smiles.

As she walks towards Noah’s bedroom, she notices that there’s now music playing somewhere and slows down as she realizes it’s coming from Noah’s room through the small opening in his door.

“But my mom loves you!” She hears Noah cry suddenly and she freezes. It’s quiet, only the low thrum of the music filling the room before she hears Eli sigh.

“I know that little dude. And I’m not saying she doesn’t, but that’s a lot to ask.” She waits a minute to see if they continue, but when she is met with the sound of LEGOs being pushed around, she gently presses the door open to slide in.

They both look up once she’s fully in the room and Eli’s face immediately drops when he meets her eyes. She had come in with the idea of making small talk before dropping the bomb. But seeing Eli’s face drop tells her that her poker face really needs to be stronger.

She decides to rip off the bandaid quickly. “Eli, you wanna head out to the dining room really quick?” He pauses the music before he nods and stands up and Noah watches him with careful eyes as he walks out of the bathroom.

“What’s wrong mom? Is Eli in trouble?” He looks up at her as tears fill his eyes and she squats down in front of him while she runs her hand down his head.

“No baby. That’s the last thing Eli is, is in trouble.” His shoulders drop slightly in relief but the tears floating in his eyes persist and she sighs.

She sets a hand on his cheek. “You know how you told me that Eli had a nightmare that night you found him on the couch?” 

He nods, and she watches his eyes begin to fill with panic and the tears that were barely there before are now threatening to fall off the edge.

“We’re just trying to figure out how to help him with that now okay?” She wipes away a tear of his that manages to escape.

“But why can’t I sit with him?” He asks so softly that she barely hears him. She sighs and sits on his bed, patting the spot next to her so he will join her. He climbs next to her quickly and continues to stare at her.

“I know you just want to help Eli honey,” she starts, pulling Noah into her lap as tears continue to rush down his cheeks. He rests his head against her collar bone. “But some of the things we need to talk about may be scary for you.” He looks up at her.

“I’m not scared of nothin’!” He exclaims, hand on his hip as he tilts his head back to look up at her. She smiles and presses a kiss to his temple.

“I know, baby. But Eli’s had a bad week and he’s had to deal with a lot. And I don’t want Eli to feel like he can’t tell us something because he’s worried he’ll scare you.” Noah’s eyes widened in realization. “So can you just stay in here a little while longer while we talk?”

He nods and launches himself into her chest hard, causing the breath to be knocked out of her as his head slams against her sternum. She runs a hand over his head once more before she hears him take a deep breath.

“I just want Eli to be happy.” He chokes out. She pulls away to look into his blue eyes that shimmer behind a sheen of tears and her chest aches at the thought that intrudes her mind. As she stares into her son’s eyes, it occurs to her then that maybe in some other path of life, maybe Noah was also always meant to be hers. And not just hers, but Elliot’s too. 

She pushes the thought into the same box that holds the same idea about Eli and slams it tight, double checking the lock as she kisses his temple one more time.

He slides off her lap then and Olivia stands up, running her hand over his hair one last time.

“We won’t be long, baby, I promise.” He nods as she walks towards his bedroom door and she makes sure to close it tightly, listening for the click of the door jamb as it comes to rest in the frame.

She hesitates in the hallway, listening to see if she can hear any of the Stablers that currently sit in her dining room. She’s met with silence and takes a deep breath before heading back to them.

When she walks in, she sees that Eli’s eyes are already filled with tears as he stares at the table. She feels the anger from earlier start to ignite in her once more, ready to yell at Kathleen and Maureen for setting him off in such a short amount of time.

He looks up at her then, and he lets out a shaky sigh as a tear slips from his eye.

“I know what you’re all going to tell me,” he starts. Olivia lets out a small sigh of relief that the girls must have sat there in silence with him as she leans against the wall.

“I know that I need to move out.” He glanced over at Kathleen and Maureen before looking down at the table. “I just worry about him.”

More tears escape as he stares determinedly into the table as Kathleen and Maureen look at each other.

“Eli, bud…” Maureen starts, peering up at Olivia who watches them concernedly.

“You’re too young to have to worry about dad like that.” Kathleen interjects, setting a hand on his arm.

Maureen nods and reaches across the table to set a hand on his joined hands. Olivia watches Eli as he processes Kathleen’s comment and sees his eyebrows furrowed together. She pushes herself off the wall, about 90% sure of what is going to come next, but not wanting to intrude in case the 10% of her that isn’t is correct.

“Yeah Eli, let us worry about him. You’re too young to be worrying about this,” Maureen adds, giving him a tight smile as she squeezes his hands. Olivia watches as Eli screws his mouth tightly to the side before he explodes out of the chair.

Kathleen and Maureen jump back, surprised by the noise of the chair crashing to the floor as Olivia takes a few steps closer to him.

“I’m not a baby!” He yells, his brown eyes aflame with hurt and anger at being patronized. “I know I’m not an adult. That I don’t have a job and my own place.” He’s looking back and forth between Kathleen and Maureen who start off meeting his eyes, but slowly end up dropping their gaze to the table in shame. “But he’s my dad too. I get to be worried about him just as much as the rest of you do. Hell, I should be more worried than the rest of you because I live with him.” His chest heaves as he finishes his harangue, looking back and forth between his sisters, almost daring one of them to meet his eyes once again.

Olivia takes the opportunity to come up next to him and gently places an arm on his bicep. He flinches at her touch but once he turns to look at her, he softens.

“We know that honey. But it’s okay for us all to worry about him, but also about you,” she says, emphasizing her point with a squeeze of his arm. “You have enough on your plate as it is with school and soccer. And I know you’ll worry about him Eli. We all worry about him. But you being out of the apartment will not only make it less of a burden on you, but also one less thing for us to all worry about.” She watches as his eyes well up with tears and sees his Adam's apple bob as he swallows hard.

“We know how your dad has been Eli. And we just want everyone to be safe. And one way to do that is move you out, just for a little bit. Plus, that will help take a lot of worry off of everyone’s plate since we won’t have to worry about your dad accidentally hurting you when he’s in one of his fits, right?” He nods then and gives Olivia a watery smile before sighing and dropping back into his chair. Olivia walks behind him, running a hand across the top of his back, before sitting down in the chair between him and Maureen.

He’s staring at his hands that are clasped tightly together in his lap, his right leg bouncing up and down causing the table to shake a little.

Kathleen reaches for him then and sets a hand on his shoulder, causing him to jerk his head up towards her.

“We want you to be able to decide where you want to stay. Mo and I are obviously okay with it, but we can ask Dickie or Lizzie too if you’d prefer to stay with one of them.” He lets his head fall then and Olivia watches him pull his bottom lip into his mouth to gnaw on it. 

They watch him in silence, and Olivia notices that his eyes dart towards the hallway quickly before landing back on his lap a few times. 

Finally he takes a deep breath and looks up at both of his sisters before turning towards Olivia.

“Well...” he starts, trailing off as he rubs a hand on the back of his neck. “What about if I stay here? At Liv’s?” He meets her eyes then, and when she sees the fear of rejection in them with the hint of hope buried deep down, her heart melts and she feels her own eyes fill with tears. 

He drops his gaze back down to his lap and Olivia is frozen by what has just occurred. He’s picking you. Her brain helpfully reminds her, over and over.

The girls are still struck silent, Maureen’s jaw dropped open slightly and Kathleen on the edge of tears. But when they see Olivia’s tearfilled eyes, they assume the worst.

“Eli bud-”

“Maybe that’s not-” They both start at the same time as Olivia slides her chair closer to him so that she can fully reach him, able to pull him into a hug if that’s what he truly needs. She sets a hand on his knee and it causes him to look over at her.

The girls fall silent then and they just watch the scene in front of them unfold. 

“Is that really what you want? To stay with me and Noah? Because if it is, I’ll let you stay with me as long as you want,” she says quietly. He hesitates for a second before he nods, a tear escaping out of the corner of his eye before he looks up to meet her eyes. 

She stands up then to pull him into a hug and Eli quickly joins her. He wraps his arms tightly around her neck, burying his nose into her collar bone and she feels him take a shaky, deep breath in her arms. She holds him tightly for a minute before he squeezes her and starts to pull away to face his sisters, his face filled with guilt.

He gravitates back towards Olivia’s side until his shoulder is touching hers and he tucks himself tightly against her side.

“I’ve spent so much time with the both of you in the past month that honestly, I know we’re all getting sick of each other.” Maureen and Kathleen both go to open their mouths when Eli just tilts his head at both of them, giving them the “are you really about to argue with me?” look and they both immediately back down.

“I just think staying with Liv might give us all a little break,” he says, glancing back and forth between his sisters. “I think if I have to hear Carl talk about geometry one more time, I’m gonna throw a compass at him.” A small smile breaks across his face as he looks between his sisters. 

“Besides, I’ll get to hang out with Noah way more this way and he’s so bright that you can’t be sad around him.” A ghost of a smile crosses his lips and he glances towards the hall where Noah sits in his bedroom. “It’ll be good for me. He’ll be good for me.” Olivia’s eyes water as the words leave his mouth and she is overwhelmed by the urge to hug him. He looks up at her and she sees the tears that fill his eyes as well and he gives her a big smile.

“I think staying with Liv and Noah will be best for all of us right now. Noah and I get to hang out together. You two get a break from me. And I get to be with Liv.” Her heart aches at his proclamation, watches him as he turns towards his sisters with that same smile plastered on his face. 

Kathleen and Maureen must see something in him then and she watches them both relax back against their chairs. Eli sees it too so he leaves her side to go stand between his sisters. He wraps his arms around both of them, Kathleen behind her shoulders and one arm slung across Maureen’s neck and leans forward to sort of hug them.

“I love you guys,” he whispers and Maureen and Kathleen each wrap an arm around his back and reach with their other arm to grab part of him that is wrapped around their shoulder, Kathleen grabbing his hand, Maureen setting a hand on his forearm that lays across her neck.

“We love you too,” Katie says, closing her eyes and bumping her temple into Eli’s chin gently. They stand there for a minute and after a few seconds, Olivia feels like she’s intruding. Right as she’s about to remind them of her presence, Eli stands upright, leaving a hand on both Maureen and Kathleen’s shoulders.

The lightness of the moment starts to dissipate as Eli meets Olivia’s eyes.

“So what do we do now?” He asks quietly, looking down in guilt at the table. Olivia sits down as Maureen reaches for his hand that rests on her shoulder and wraps her fingers around his.

“Well, it’s really up to you Eli. We can do whatever you feel comfortable doing. If you just want us to go get your clothes, one of us can do that. If you want to come with us, then you can come with us. Whatever you want to do bud.” Eli falls silent then and his hand that is on Kathleen’s shoulder rises to the back of his neck subconsciously, rubbing back and forth.

“Can I just... stay?” He asks quietly, glancing up at Olivia in confirmation that he’s not an awful child for not wanting to see his father, for not wanting to deal with the potential fallout of what his father will learn tonight. Olivia gives him a soft smile.

“Of course. One of us can go get you some of your clothes and other stuff for school tomorrow?” Eli nods before tucking his head towards his chest. They stand there in silence once again before she hears the padding of Noah’s feet down the hall.

Eli hears them too and he looks over towards the hallway as Noah cautiously pokes his head past the entryway. Noah stops when he meets his mother’s eyes and begins to slink away, thinking that he’s interrupted something.

“Hey little dude,” Eli calls and Noah’s head reappears suddenly, his blue eyes tentatively looking back and forth between Eli and Liv as he slowly steps into the living room to approach them.

Olivia meets his eyes and jerks her head towards the group and Noah takes the first hesitant steps to approach them. He finally sees Katie and Mo and his eyes go big before he looks up at Eli and then back down at them.

“Hi Katie. Hi Mo.” The girls smile and wave at him, quiet greetings escaping their lips.

“Why don’t you guys go start your Mario Kart for the night?” Liv suggests, meeting eyes with Eli to push him into the living room. To signal that the worst is over now, he can go relax with her boy. Eli’s shoulders drop and he gives Liv a small smile before letting his hands slip from his sisters’ shoulders.

“I don’t know. I don’t think Noah is ready for my comeback,” Eli says as he heads towards Noah. Noah gasps and his hands land on his hips in offense.

“No way, I’ve won the past three times!” He proclaims, a pout appearing. Noah’s head tilts back as Eli approaches him to glare at him playfully. A smirk crosses Eli’s face before suddenly he’s scooping Noah into his arms and tossing him over his shoulder. Noah shrieks in joy, causing a smile to cross all three of the women who sit at the table’s faces.

“I think your winning streak is over now Benson. Time for a new champ!” Noah’s giggles fade as they pass the wall that separates the dining room from her living room and she hears the well known ping of the Switch coming to life. She lets herself stay in the small moment once more before she sighs and turns back towards Maureen and Kathleen.

“Can you guys stay here while I run to your dad’s? I’ll grab some of Eli’s stuff and check on your father.” Kathleen sits up straighter in her chair.

“Liv, why don’t one of us go with you? Dad might get mad when you tell him about Eli and I don’t want you to have to deal with the brunt of that on your own when it was everyone’s decision.” Olivia shrugs and gives her a tight smile.

“I’m sure your dad and I have fought worse before than we will over Eli Katie. And if we do? Well, I’m not too worried about it. Might do us good to scream at each other for a bit.” Maureen and Kathleen glance at each other worriedly before looking back at Olivia.

Olivia leans forward and places a hand on each of their arms. 

“Everything will be fine. I’ll take care of your dad. You take care of the boys. I want to talk to him and figure out what the hell has been going on.” She stands up then and heads for the living room.

“I’ll be right back boys. Katie and Mo are gonna stay with you while I’m out.” Noah nods absentmindedly while Eli whips his head towards her, eyes wide in almost fear. She gives him a reassuring smile.

“I’m just gonna go grab some things, talk to him, and then be right back. Katie and Mo will be right here. Text me if there’s something specific you want me to grab alright?” Eli gives her a tight smile and nods. She nods back before heading back to the dining room and towards her entryway.

“I shouldn’t be long. Not more than an hour or two. But you call me if something happens, alright?” She gives them both a pointed look and color rises to both of their cheeks at the implication behind it.

“You got it Liv. Anything and we’ll call you,” Katie says as she rises from her chair and heads for her.

Katie pulls Olivia into her arms and squeezes her tightly.

“Thank you Olivia. For everything.” Olivia tightens her arms around her before pulling back.

“Don’t thank me yet. Let me see how bad I piss off your father before you’re thanking me.”

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

She finds herself relieved that the first couple nights go by without any issues. She spends Sunday and Monday night waiting for the other shoe to drop, for Eli to decide that this was a bad decision. For Elliot to realize that he is the parent here, not her.

But it doesn’t come. Eli ends up sitting on the couch with her Sunday night, albeit curled against the end farthest away from her, but when he stands up to go to bed, he whispers a quiet, “Thanks Liv,” that makes her smile.

Maureen makes the executive decision to force all of her siblings to take turns with their father, Sunday night’s explosion and the gory aftermath reminding her that she should’ve done so early last week.

At first, Olivia handles it well. Knows that his children will help ground him (hopefully) in ways that can only be healing.

However she can’t help but shudder every time she thinks of the haunted look in his eyes, and she comes to the chilling realization that she genuinely thinks he could hurt himself. That he could easily turn those sessions of rage against himself and kill himself in the process.

She tries not to dwell on it too much though, knows that deep down, Elliot could never hurt himself.

But is he really Elliot right now? A helpful voice in the back of her head reminds her. She shakes her head to push the thought away.

She takes Monday off to stay at home with Eli. He’s so despondent when she wakes the boys up that morning she pulls him to the side and gives him the option of school or staying at her place for the day and he picks her. Once Noah is dropped off, they go back to her place for a bit before she ends up taking Eli to their place to gather more of his things, to grab more clothes and shoes, the small things that he hadn’t necessarily thought of when making his requests to her.

It takes everything in her not to shake Elliot by the shoulders as he watches them sadly carry on throughout the apartment, his eyes watching Eli as he carries bag after bag out of his room. For the amount he watches them though, he doesn’t say a word, not to her and not to Eli, but she watches Eli hesitate almost every time he walks by him before shaking his head and pressing on.

After it’s all been said and done and the trunk of her SUV is filled with a couple duffel bags of clothes and other stuff for school and soccer, they climb in and head back home. It’s quiet the whole drive, Eli staring out the window as they make the short trek home.

However, when Eli quietly whispers to her, “I miss my dad Liv,” as they pull up to her apartment, she tries not to cry alongside him.

When they finally settle in for the night, she watches Noah tuck himself into Eli’s side and wrap his arms tightly around him, and they watch a Marvel movie, Eli’s choice, Ant-Man.

Noah stays latched onto Eli for the first twenty minutes of the movie, and Olivia notices the tears that have started streaming down Eli’s face as he finally wraps his arms around Noah in return. They hug for a couple minutes, both of them still watching the movie and the breath has been kicked out of her as she watches their boys so casually taking care of each other in front of her.

When Ant-Man is done, the sadness that had plagued him for most of the night is gone as he hikes Noah over his shoulder when Liv announces that it’s time for bed. Noah’s giggles fill the apartment as Eli spouts nonsense, marching his way back towards their room. As Noah finally changes into his pajamas, running towards the bathroom, Eli reblows up the air mattress that he has claimed as his.

She frowns as she watches him, wishes that there were a better solution to their predicament but knowing there isn’t and Eli glances back at her sitting on Noah’s bed.

“It really doesn’t bother me Liv.” She tilts her head and he looks down at his sleeping arrangements quickly before looking back up at her. “The air mattress.” She sighs as he turns back towards it, turning off the pump causing the room to fall silent.

She shakes her head at him and wonders for a second if it’s a Stabler family trait to know just exactly what she’s thinking.

“Well I wish I could give you something better to sleep on,” she says quietly and he gives her a small smile.

“You gave me a safe place to land Liv. That’s more than enough.” Tears swell in her eyes and she goes to respond when Noah comes bursting in, clamoring into his bed and settling himself against the pillows, looking at Liv expectantly.

“Can you read a whole chapter of Harry Potter tonight since we didn’t get to read last night?” She shakes her head to clear the tears and hesitates for a second. Once she takes a deep breath, she glances back at Eli to gauge his reaction.

“What book are you guys on?” He asks, climbing onto the air mattress and covering himself up. 

“Prisoner of Azkeban,” Noah chimes in, poking his head around Olivia. “Have you read that book?” 

Eli nods and sits up enough so that he can rest his head on his hand, his elbow digging into his pillows. “That’s my favorite book out of the whole series. Which chapter are you guys on?” 

They end up reading a whole chapter and then some, Eli falling asleep quickly, within the first couple pages. She keeps reading though until Noah falls asleep, smiling softly when she starts to hear small snores coming from Eli.

Slowly, she heads to the door, turning on the nightlight near his bedroom door before turning to take in the bedroom one last time.

Noah has already made his way to the wall, his back pressed tightly against it as his arms are sprawled out in front of him, causing a quiet chuckle to come from her before she glances over at Eli.

He’s laying on his stomach, his arms tucked underneath his pillow as his head is turned towards Noah. It looks like he has one of his legs tucked up towards him, but with the blanket, it’s hard to tell and a small smile graces her face as she leans her head against the door frame.

She sends a small thought out to the universe, asking someone to watch out for her boys and Elliot, to help her make sure she’s not going to fuck all this up more than it already is. Finally, she sighs and shuts the bedroom door, hesitating for a second outside it before heading back to the living room to clean up for the day.


Tuesday ends up being its own beast. She barely drops Noah and then Eli off on time for school, making a note to herself that she needs to find a way to get onto Eli’s contact list for school in case she ever did drop him off late.

The distraction of work ends up more than welcome, her brain craving the mindlessness of paperwork. However, when she’s caught up and it’s lunchtime, she immediately thinks of doing one thing.

She grabs her coat to battle the slight chill that had been there that morning and heads down to her car to begin the trek across Manhattan.

She’s at his door within twenty minutes, knocking gently on the door. She hears the padding of feet not long after and the door swings open to reveal Elliot. He’s wearing a henley and a worn pair of jeans and she notices that he has shoes on.

Her eyebrows draw together in confusion as he steps away from the door, letting her in.

She takes off her coat, sliding it onto the back of one of the chairs as Elliot passes her and heads back into the living room.

He’s sitting on one of the far ends of the couch, leaning heavily against it, as if to tell her that he’s trying to leave her space for her to sit as well. She takes the other end of the couch and angles herself towards him, encouraging him to do the same.

After a moment, his knees turn towards her and he slowly meets her eyes as she watches him carefully.

They’re silent for a moment as they stare at each other, Olivia both in concern and slight anger and Elliot with guilt.

“I-” They both start and Olivia sighs as Elliot looks to his lap.

“You go first,” she responds softly, curious to see what he has to say. He hesitates for a minute before lifting up his head and taking a deep breath.

“I went to therapy today. My therapist. The one I was seeing before my undercover.” Of all the things that she expected to come out of his mouth, that wasn’t it and her shoulders deflate.

“I’m sorry for what I said to you Sunday night. I was just so scared, Elliot. I’d been here nearly every day last week and I had no idea what was going on with you. And Eli was just so... lost when he told me what was going on...” she trails off, unsure of how to keep going.

He shakes his head. “I needed to hear that Liv. As much as it hurt,” she flinches, “I needed to hear how badly I was fucking up because I’d convinced myself that things were fine.”

They’re quiet for a few minutes, Elliot finally meeting her eyes and they do what they do best. They talk without words. After a few minutes, Elliot’s shoulders lighten from the guilt that he has held so heavily on them and the tension in Olivia’s back slowly releases, leaving them both on the couch slumped and exhausted.

All of a sudden, Elliot is pressed tightly against her, his thighs touching hers, their arms lined up against each other. She deflates fully then as his head falls against her shoulder and she grabs his hand in a show of solidarity.

“I’m sorry I’m such a wreck Liv,” he says quietly into the living room. She squeezes his hand and rests her cheek on top of his head.

“Don’t apologize. Just take the time to get better. That’s all we’re asking Elliot.” They let the silent consume them again, just letting the world around them continue as they sit on his couch. His breathing starts to slow and she thinks he’s fallen asleep until he takes a deep breath.

“So the Attwater family... they had their hands in a lot of stuff,” he husks out, his voice rough with emotion. “Drugs. Sex Trafficking. Guns. A little bit of everything.” 

She stiffens against him, but if he notices it, he doesn’t let it stop him.

“We didn’t know it at the time, but they made new members try some of their product. Not even three days under and I had to snort it.” He shivers against her, shaking his head. “I hated it. The high, all of it. Felt like shit for three days, but had to act like everything was fine so I wouldn’t blow my cover.” She feels like the air has been kicked out of her and she picks her head up.

“Elliot,” she starts, looking down at him.

He shakes his head again.

“That was just initiation Liv. Fucking initiation.” He picks his head up to look at her, his eyes bloodshot. “This fucking op was awful Olivia. I feel like I’ll never be myself again. The shit I saw,” he shivers again.

“You guys were right to force Eli out, I should’ve just noticed it myself first.” Olivia puts her hands on either side of his face and forces him to look at her straight on.

“You are not going to guilt yourself about Eli. Not now. All the matters is that he’s somewhere safe and comfortable and now we’re going to focus on you,” she emphasizes with a gentle squeeze. “It wasn’t great El, but it’s fixed now and that’s all that matters. We’ve solved one problem, now we just gotta keep going.” He nods and she nods with him, the tension that had slipped away quickly rebuilding in her back.

They stay like that for a bit, her hands on his cheeks, carefully looking into each other’s eyes, both of them glistening with tears for completely different reasons. 

“That was one of my tasks from my therapist, to tell someone what happened while I was under,” he whispers. She gives him a sad smile and shakes her head.

“Well I’m glad you’re telling me.” 

When her alarm reminding her to go back to work goes off, they both jump, though Elliot brings his hands up to her elbows to clutch at them tightly for a second before realizing what the noise was. 

She sighs and lets her hands fall from his face, already mourning the warmth beneath her fingertips.

“I’ve gotta head back to the precinct,” she murmurs, her eyes still not leaving his. He smiles sadly and grabs her hand to squeeze it quickly.

“Well you know where to find me,” he chuckles out and she gives him a sad smile before squeezing his hand in return. She stands up then and heads towards the door before stopping and turning back towards him.

“Eli’s got a game tomorrow at his usual field. I’m sure he’d like to see you there.” Elliot nods carefully.

“Text me the time?” She nods and her shoulders drop in satisfaction.

“Yeah, yeah I can do that.” They stare at each other for a moment before Olivia’s phone buzzes from a text from Carisi. She sighs and looks back up at him.

“I’ve gotta go,” she says softly and he waves a hand at her from across the room.

“Go be a Captain. The mess will be here whenever you want to come back.” She tilts her head at him and frowns.

“You’re not a mess Elliot.” He shrugs.

“And you’re not lying right now.” He shakes his head. “I’ll see you at Eli’s game tomorrow, just one of you tell me what time it’s at and I’ll make sure I’m there.” She smiles softly.

“Bye El.”

“Bye Liv, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Work goes by quickly after her lunch with Elliot, though Kat picks up a case that requires her to stay late at work. She calls Eli first.

“Hey Liv, I just finished soccer practice. Are you on your way?” She cringes against the phone and lets her head fall back against her desk chair.

“Hey, so I just had a case come up so I’ve gotta stay at the precinct a couple more hours. Can you get a ride home or do you want me to call Lucy to come get you?” He sighs.

“I mean, I usually walked home anyway when I was with dad and you technically live closer so I can walk home I guess.” She hears the disappointment in his voice and she doesn’t expect the hurt that blooms in her chest.

“I’m sorry about the last minute of it all Eli. But I promise I’ll make it to your game tomorrow alright? Do you want me to ask your dad to come?” He’s quiet and she can hear the cogs of his brain turning.

“Yeah. Yeah you can ask him to come.” She hears yelling on the other side of the phone and Eli must cover his own because he sounds muted when he yells back.

“I gotta go Liv, the guys I usually walk with are heading out so I wanna catch up with them. I’ll see you later then.” He hangs up and she sighs as she lets her head fall back against the chair once again.

She stays at work until 10, and even then she forces herself to leave then, Fin and Kat deep into the case, Fin having sent Amanda home an hour earlier after Jesse had called crying.

When she gets into her apartment, Lucy is hanging out at the counter and Eli is settled into one of her chairs, his legs tucked to the side.

Lucy spies her first and smiles.

“Hey Liv, Noah fell asleep around an hour ago,” Lucy tilts her head back towards Eli. “This one seems to not know the concept of sleep.” Olivia smiles, though she knows Eli doesn’t typically head to bed until 11, much to her own chagrin, and nods.

“Yeah, he’s a little bit of a night owl.” Eli looks up at her and scowls a bit, and she frowns.

Lucy makes her escape then, and she notes to text Lucy about Eli’s sleep schedule as the door clicks shut.

“I’m not a kid,” Eli calls out from the living room and Olivia shakes her head as she makes her way towards him.

“Well, you are, you’re just not as young as Noah is all.” His eyes dart up to her in annoyance then and she prays that Noah won’t be like this when he reaches his teenage years.

“She kept telling me to go to bed around 9. Threatened to call you and everything. But I knew you were working so I told her not to bother you. Then you never answered your phone anyway.” Her eyebrows knit together and she pulls her phone out of her pocket to indeed reveal three missed calls from Lucy.

She slides her phone back into her pocket and sits on the couch across from him.

“I’m sorry about tonight. I know I threw everything off with having to stay late tonight.” She watches him settle further into the couch and reopen his book.

“It’s fine.” 

She leans forward and gently closes the book for him and he scowls at her one more time.

“But it’s not. And I’m apologizing. I know you haven’t seen this part of our life yet.” Eli sits still for a minute before shrugging.

“I mean, Noah was fine. And I should’ve been fine,” he starts, his eyes averted down to the arm of the chair. “I just-”

“It was just another change in an already rough week,” she finishes and he looks up at her before nodding.

“Yeah.” Olivia sets a hand on his leg.

“I know. I’ll tell Lucy you don’t have to go to bed so early.” Her eyes dart towards the clock. “However, it is eleven now so you really should be going to bed.” He rolls his eyes playfully and grabs his book back from her as he stands.

“Yes Liv, I’m going to bed now.” He takes a few steps towards his and Noah’s room before stopping and heading back towards her. He drops a kiss on Liv’s head and gives her a small smile.

“Night Liv,” he whispers before quickly walking back towards their room. She smiles when she hears the door shut.

“Night,” she whispers into the empty room.