“Coffee.” Mark tapped Elliot on the shoulder and handed him a large cup. “Figured you could use it. How’s she doing?”
“Sleeping.” Elliot had managed a few hours throughout the night. He woke up each time needing to assure himself she was safe. Alive. Safe and alive. “I’m worried.”
“About?” Mark sat in the chair beside Elliot’s, sipping on his own coffee. “We got her out safely.”
“All those drugs. The alcohol. She wasn’t really feeling much of anything when we got here. You know how badly burns hurt. She’s got them everywhere, man. Everywhere. Not to mention the bruising.” Elliot sent up a prayer of thanks that Lewis hadn’t broken any bones. “She’s sleeping now but….”
“She’s going to be in a lot of pain when she wakes up.”
“She can hear you,” Olivia croaked out.
Elliot shot up out of his chair and rushed to bring her a glass of water while she shifted the bed to allow her to sit up. “Doctor should be here in about thirty minutes.”
It was a relief to see her eyes focused and clear. Elliot helped her with the water when her hands struggled a little. He could see how utterly exhausted she was.
Setting the cup on the little table beside her bed, Elliot went to move to his chair only for her to grab his hand. She moved on the bed and motioned for him to sit beside her. It was an awkward fit but allowed her to rest against him.
He felt her relax into him.
“Two of your detective friends stopped by about an hour ago. There’s apparently a push to interview you today if possible. They want to close the investigation as quickly as possible.” Mark provided a welcome distraction for Elliot. He’d lost himself for a second when Olivia had grabbed his hand. “We can drive you to the precinct after you’re released from the hospital.”
“They should give you time to rest,” Elliot grumbled.
“No, it’s better this way,” Olivia grunted in pain when she shifted her legs under the blanket. “Shit. I almost miss being blissfully unaware of how much I hurt.”
“Why is it better this way?” Elliot prompted when she lapsed into silence. “Liv?”
“I’m awake.” She patted his leg when he repeated her name a few times. “It’s better because I’m visibly injured. I’m sure I’m going to have a limp for a bit. I have bruises. Cuts. Burns. All quite evident. My voice is jacked up. I dare IAB to try and railroad me looking like this.”
“We’re going with you.” Elliot had no intentions of leaving her alone anyway but especially not with IAB. He’d made that mistake once, and Tucker had sent her to jail. “Mark’s already got an attorney on standby if needed.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“Classic Liv.” Elliot hated how much she’d always minimized her own struggles and hurt. He hated himself for letting her. It had been so easy to let her carry the weight of their partnership at times. He was going to do better for her. “You’ll be fine eventually. I doubt you are at the moment.”
Giving a weak shrug as a response, Olivia wilted against the pillow. Her head still rested against his arm. He glanced over at Mark, who smirked knowingly at him.
It was well into the afternoon when Olivia was finally checked out of the hospital. The doctor overwhelmed her with information on wound care, what medications she could take, and when it would be safe to take them. Elliot knew after a few minutes she’d tuned the doctor out.
Based on what little Olivia had shared about her days with the monster. Elliot highly doubted she would ever willingly take a pain pill stronger than an aspirin again. Instead, she’d tearfully admitted to being terrified of what she might’ve missed while lost in a haze of alcohol and drugs.
He was going to have to keep on her about taking care of her burns. About managing her pain. Olivia would probably fight him every step of the way.
He didn’t care. She’d won the fight to be discharged. He wouldn’t let up on making sure her injuries healed correctly.
Mark had promised to have their company medic swing by the safe house at least once a day. It settled some of Elliot’s anxiety. Alex was a dab hand at dealing with difficult patients.
His gaze caught the bag on the floor across the room. Her clothes. It made him think about the torn and singed clothing now residing in an evidence bag. Olivia had sworn it happened right before the knock on the door.
They’d been quite literally just in time.
He had still wanted to punch something.
Shooting William Lewis had been satisfying at the time. But, the more he watched Olivia cope with the growing emotional and physical pain, the more he wished it had been more drawn out. Maybe he was a bad Catholic.
Vengeance is mine sayeth the lord.
Maybe I could’ve borrowed a little more vengeance of my own.
“I’m fine. I can manage. I can walk.” Olivia grumbled at being taken out of the hospital in a wheelchair. However, she subsided when Elliot tilted the chair to push it on two wheels. “Are you popping wheelies?”
“Just enjoy the ride.” He grinned down at her.
The drive to the 16th precinct seemed to take forever. Elliot sat in the backseat while Olivia was ensconced upfront. She’d hyperventilated at the sight of the sedan Fin had; they’d immediately moved her toward their company Tahoe.
No one asked questions. Elliot knew Lewis had transported her in a trunk as well as in the backseat of his car. He wondered if she might struggle being in cars for a while.
A trigger point.
He had a feeling the next few days and weeks would be spent discovering a lot of those. He’d had Mark reach out to a therapist who worked specifically with military veterans and police officers. Once Olivia was ready, they’d have her make an appointment.
It had to be done in her time. Elliot would be there for her. He might push a little, but she would be in control.
Elliot hopped out of the vehicle and came around to open the door for her. They’d already decide to play up her injuries a little. From the faint sheen of sweat on her face, it wasn’t going to be playing up anything. “You ready?”
“No.” Olivia hesitated for a moment before taking his hand and sliding out of the seat. “They’re going to stare at me.”
“Nah. They’re going to be staring at me, wondering what the fuck I’m doing back at the precinct.” Elliot kept an arm around her waist. “Tell you what. If they keep staring, I’ll throw a punch at Tucker. That’ll give them something else to look at.”
“Joking.” He glanced toward the stairs leading into the building. “You’ve got friends waiting for you.”
Cragen and Munch were waiting by the doors for her. Elliot paused when she stopped moving. He heard her take a shaky breath, then a second one.
We should’ve waited.
Fuck. I’m getting her through this even if I have to go through Tucker to do so.
“Olivia.” Cragen smiled sadly at her. He hadn’t been at the hospital, but Elliot could see the strain and exhaustion in the man’s eyes. “I can’t tell you how glad I am to see you.”
“I’m fine, Cap.” Olivia’s smile was brittle. “Nothing to worry about.”
None of them corrected her. If she wanted to play at being fine, let her. For now. Elliot would fight the battles he needed to later when they didn’t have an audience.
Over the months since leaving, Elliot had thought about how he might feel returning to the precinct. It had changed enough that he didn’t have any flashbacks. Maybe he was too preoccupied with worries about Olivia.
“We’re set up in here.” Cragen directed them towards one of the conferences rooms on the floor. He glanced worriedly at Elliot. “Keep your temper.”
“I’m here for, Liv. Nothing’s distracting me from taking care of her.” Elliot spoke confidently.
And I’m eighty-five per cent certain I’m not going to deck the asshole.
“Lieutenant Tucker. Sergeant Draper. Ms Denzler. My friends Mark and Elliot are staying. Or, I leave, and you can deal with an attorney in my stead.” Olivia nodded at the two men from IAB and her delegate. She found a chair across the table from them and practically collapsed into it. Elliot sat on one side of her while Mark sat on the other. “Can we get started? I’m only just out of the hospital.”
The room was tense. Olivia sat stiffly in the chair. Elliot cursed the department for forcing her into being interviewed.
There was no need. They had plenty of evidence showing what William Lewis had done not only to her but to others. Elliot tried not to assume they were doing this all for show.
Traumatizing a victim for show.
Speaking in a stilted, painfully monotone voice, Olivia detailed the events of her abduction. What she could remember. Elliot hated how she seemed particularly fearful of the gaps in her memory.
The rape kit had come up with nothing. She’d been assaulted. Not raped. Elliot doubted in the long run, it made much of a difference.
William Lewis had scared her soul. Elliot made a promise to himself that he would be with her through every step of the grieving and healing process. There would be no failing her this time.
“You were force-fed alcohol and drugs. How can you be certain of what happened when Mr Stabler showed up?” Tucker asked once Olivia had finally finished. “Mr Stabler has a history of—”
“William Lewis had set my clothing on fire. He was about to rape then murder me. I was fully aware of that. I can promise you. It is etched into my brain.” Olivia sat forward, breathing heavily. “The doorbell rang. He went to check. Came back after no one was there. He grabbed his gun. Elliot came in with his own weapon drawn. Lewis fired one shot, and Elliot returned fire. So we are clear, Lieutenant, I would be dead without him. The NYPD would’ve been far too late to find me.”
She was clearly in pain. Elliot had to make a concerted effort not to drag her out of the room. Away from Tucker. And everyone else in the building.
“Easy, Elliot,” Mark muttered, making him realize he’d been about to stand up.
“Perhaps you should wait outside,” Tucker got to his feet. He ignored his partner, who placed a hand on his arm.
“Lieutenant.” Olivia stood up. She placed a hand on Elliot’s shoulder, leaning heavily on him. “Are you intending to arrest me for being abducted? For being tortured for four days?”
“No, we are not.” Draper seemed to understand the situation could quickly get out of control. And if it did, IAB would come out looking like the bad guys. “I believe we have enough to close our investigation.”
“Good.” Olivia stumbled toward the door. Elliot immediately rushed over to offer his support. “Get me out of here.”
“I’ve got you, Liv.” He wrapped an arm around her waist, keeping her upright. “Let’s take you home.”
“Home’s not home anymore,” Olivia murmured almost to herself.
“I’ll keep you safe until you find a new place to call home.” Elliot would do anything and everything in his power.
“Home was always safest with you.”