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First Flight Home

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“Olivia.”

She opened her eyes, blinking in the afternoon sun, sitting outside in a deck chair had become her favourite way to spend her days. “I sense a horde of blondes.”

“Technically, not all of us are blondes. Does five really count as a horde? Especially when only three of us are here.” Kathleen came out into the backyard. She bent down to give Olivia a hug. Maureen stepped up beside her. “Dickie’s with dad. Lizzie had class or she’d be here as well.”

Olivia sat up and twisted around to face the oldest of the Stabler kids. They weren’t kids anymore but she could still picture them when they were young. “I’m happy to see you both. I can’t believe how grown-up you all are.”

“How are you doing? Kathleen sat on the chair that her dad usually occupied.

“Better. Your dad has been taking good care of me.” Olivia glanced between the two sisters. “He said you’d called him. That he didn’t know I’d been taken.Thank you.”

“We….Mom….” Mauren trailed off. Neither of them seemed to know how to complete the sentence.

Olivia waved a hand to stop them. “It doesn’t matter. I just wanted you that you probably saved my life. I don’t blame your mom. Or you. Or your dad. For anything. No explanations or apologies are required. It is what it is. I’m alive. I’m healing. Now tell me about how you’re both doing.”

Life was too short. Elliot had saved her life. Her sanity. She didn’t know what Lewis had planned next but she’d never shake the feeling that it might’ve broken her.

“Katie’s got a boyfriend.” Maureen teased her younger sister with a grin. “Don’t tell dad.”

“Maureen’s got a boyfriend too.” Kathleen shoved her sister. “Dad hates him on principle alone.”

“Of course he does.” Olivia laughed at the siblings' playful argument.

They were such a bright spark. She’d always adored the Stabler children. She’d known them for so long.

When they’d been yanked out of her life, it had broken her heart almost as much as Elliot being gone. She’d felt their absence. Their laughter lightened something inside of her. Some of the lingering darkness faded away.

Healing happened a little at a time.

Slowly.

Some days Olivia thought she was going backwards. And then moments like listening to their laughter and bickering, she found herself taking massive steps forward. It reminded her things were actually going to be okay.

She was going to be okay.

“Liv? You want something other than Chinese for once?” Elliot yelled from the back door. He had a grumbling Dickie by the head. “This one’s offering to pay for pizza.”

“I am not.” Dickie shoved at the arm around him. “Let me up. I’m not five.”

“Sure you’re not.” Kathleen retorted.

Olivia shook her head, laughing at their antics. “Pizza is fine. I’ll buy.”

“Since when?” Elliot scoffed then dragged his son back into the house.

They ended up buying six pizzas when Mark showed up a couple of members of his team. It was a fun evening. Olivia felt normal.

It was nice.

More than nice.

“You okay?” Elliot asked once they were finally alone. He sat on the couch beside her not complaining when she switched channels on the TV endlessly.

“I told Fin to get the retirement forms for me.”

“Liv.”

“I don’t know if I’ll take Mark up on his offer. I don’t really understand what the position entails. But frankly, I can live off my retirement if I wanted to. They’re not going to fight me on it after everything that happened with Lewis.” Olivia had talked it over with her therapist and with Fin. She had a feeling he intended to follow her out of SVU. “It’s time.”

“You sure?”

“I hated thinking Lewis had stolen SVU from me.” Olivia paused. She smiled when Elliot reached out to take her hand, offering silent encouragement. “I can still find a way to help survivors. SVU isn’t my identity. It’s not all of who I am. Maybe it’s time for me to let go.”

“I’m here, Liv. Whatever you decide. Whatever your next steps are.” He tugged her over until she was leaning into him. His arm went around her shoulders. "Partners."