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belonging

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The loud conversations and clattering of plates didn't bother Olivia. Growing up in a house where silence was a rule, being surrounded by life was everything she has ever wanted.

For the past four years now that was her reality. Once a month they would all drive up to Jersey to visit Bernie, who was getting older everyday, but always happy to see her family. All the Stabler kids and her own would reunite to eat good food and tell stories, something Olivia has never really experienced before them. But sometimes the feeling of finally belonging would get too overwhelming so she walked to the patio to get away from the noise for a second.

Four years and she still couldn't wrap her head around the fact that this is now her life.

She has a mother in law who loves her and Noah and never saw them as less family than the other Stablers. She has Eli who trusts her and she takes pride in it, being extremely attached to the sweet 17 year old boy that has been living with her for the past years. She has Dickie who took some time to like her, but now calls her every week and invites them over for game night. She has Maureen, who has a baby daughter that calls her Grammy Lib and she has never loved a nickname more. She has Kathleen who – to be honest – always felt like a daughter to her, and her fiancée Rebecca who joined the family around the same time Liv did. She has Lizzy, who is seven months pregnant and asked her to be the godmother. Noah loves them like siblings, and raising him thinking they would never get anything remotely close to a family larger than the two of them, it felt like a blessing.

She has a husband who she loves so much that sometimes it feels like she's gonna rip in half.

She has so much more than she ever dreamed of, so sometimes she feels like she doesn't deserve it. Like it's too good to be true and it's gonna be taken from her at anytime.

She can feel him before she hears him. Ten years apart were not enough to break the unexplainable connection they share. His arms wrap around her from behind and she relaxes, because now she has a home to rest. His arms and his heart.

"I saved you some cake," he said after a few moments of silence. "Eli said he will eat it if you don't."

She smiles, leaning on his chest.

"Kathleen wants to take a family picture for the wedding video."

She doesn't move, and somehow he knows what is going through her head.

"They are waiting for you."

She tries not to let it show, but he knows her so well that he holds her face on both hands and gives her a chaste kiss, smiling at her and nodding.

They head back to the house to their family.