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First Flight Home

Chapter Text

“She didn’t tell him, Mo.” Kathleen had called her sisters and brother for an emergency sibling meeting. They were all crowded into the twin’s cramped apartment. “Anything. It isn’t right. How can she not tell him about Olivia being missing?”

“We said we’d stay out of it.” Lizzie had been the most reluctant to chat behind their parent’s backs. “Let them figure it out.”

“They aren’t. And now they're halfway around the fucking world.” Richard complained. “We never see them. We don’t see Eli. And dad’s miserable. You know he is.”

“Can you imagine dad finding out Olivia was hurt….or worse? Months later? And we knew the whole time.” Kathleen knew he’d be devastated. “I’m calling him.”

“Katie.”

“Do you want that on your conscious? Liv saved me. She helped me when dad couldn’t. She helped Dickie. She saved mom and Eli. Saved them. How many times has she saved dad’s life?” Kathleen shot to her feet. She scowled down at her siblings. “We’ve all spent two years acting like she doesn’t exist. It’s so messed up. What if she dies and he could’ve saved her?”

“Call her.” Maureen threw in her vote.

“Call.” Richard glanced over at his twin who rolled her eyes but finally nodded. “Mom’s going to kill us.”

“I’d rather mom be pissed off than deal with dad finding out we knew and never said a word.” Kathleen knew it was the right decision but her fingers trembled while searching for her dad’s number in her contacts. Send. Please don’t let mom decide to answer. His sleepy hello had her glancing at her siblings for support. “Dad?”

“Katie? Are you okay?”

“I’m….okay.” She hesitated. “We’re all here. And we are all okay.”

“Kathleen? What’s going on?” He sounded alert now. “Some family reunion you didn’t tell us about?”

“Dad. Are you alone?” Kathleen ignored the raised eyebrows from her siblings. She hated hiding things but their mom had put them all in a difficult place. “It’s important.”

“Hang on.”

Kathleen waited until she heard a door closing and he told her to go ahead. “Are you sitting down?”

“Katie. Get to the point,” he insisted impatiently.

"I think you should sit down." Kathleen paced in the twin's living room. Not being able to see his face. To be there made this twice as hard.

"I'm sitting."

“Have you heard any news from the NYPD recently?” Kathleen heard his sharp intake of breath. She stayed quiet for several seconds. A hoarse ‘no’ came over the phone. “It’s Olivia, dad.”

“Is she….”

“They don’t know. It was on the news last night. Someone abducted her.” Kathleen stopped for the third time. She was glad for the foresight of not putting the phone on speaker when a sob echoed in her ear. “I spoke to Detective Tutuola. He—”

“Give me a second, Katie.”

“All right, dad.” Kathleen wiped a stray tear from her eyes. She didn’t care what her mother had to say. They had definitely made the right decision. “I’m here.”

He breathed through what sounded like tears for several minutes. “What did Fin say?”

“He wouldn’t give me details. Just said they had no idea where she was taken. And the news made it sound like she’d been hurt badly.” Kathleen glanced over at Richard who’d written down a name on a piece of paper. “The man who took is called William Lewis.”

“William Lewis?” Her dad had lost the tears in his voice. He sounded angry. “Why are you calling me now?”

“I….”

“Kathleen.”

She sent a prayer up for forgiveness. “I called mom. You were at work. I didn’t want to disturb you. She promised to tell you…then she made us promise not to say anything.”

“For fuck’s….” He trailed off. “I’ll be on the first flight home. I’ll contact Fin.”

She stared at her phone. “He’s angry.”

“Good. Maybe they’ll get a divorce and move on with life.” Richard held his hands up when his sisters all turned to stare at him. “What? They’re miserable. They’re making us anxious. Who knows what poor Eli is going through. I know it’s a sin but surely they deserve to be happy. Even if it’s happy with other people.”

“Careful. You might use up all your good sense for the week in one go,” Lizzie teased him.

"I'm just saying." He shoved her off the couch. "What do we do now?"

"I'm going to call Detective Tutuola again." Kathleen knew they'd all go a little wild if they didn't have a direction to go. "If Olivia's apartment was destroyed like the news says, she's going to need somewhere to stay. She'll need clothes. Dad's going to need a place to stay as well. Let's see if we can't figure something out for them."

"Them?" Lizzie asked.

"You really think dad's going to leave her twice?" Maureen stepped in with the answer they all knew was correct.

 

Chapter Text

In his time away from the NYPD, Elliot had worked for and developed a close relationship with the head of an international private security firm. His boss, Mark, was also a retired marine. He’d been the first call Elliot made after hanging upon his daughter.

Over the course of working together, Elliot had talked about Olivia with him. Confessed the level of his feelings, needing to share with someone. Mark had called him a fool.

A tragic accident had taken Mark’s husband away from him. He’d called Elliot a fool for wasting time. What are you waiting for? What happens if you look up one day and it’s too late? What will you do then?

The words punched Elliot in the gut as hard as any fist would. 

Mark was kind enough not to say I told you so. He promised to put a team on standby. They’d have the earliest flight from Rome available booked for Elliot. Mark would pick him up at the airport in New York.

Their intel team had already begun work on William Lewis. Elliot had suggested contacting Fin, who’d readily provided what they had. They’d gotten details about the trial and her abduction.

How had no one checked on her? Two whole days. Olivia had been gone before anyone even bothered to give her a call. Elliot had never wanted to punch something more than he did at that moment.

Control your rage.

Channel it.

Find. Her.

Find her alive.

Please God, please let us find her alive.

“Are you going somewhere?” Kathy found him packing his toiletries in the bathroom. He’d tried not to wake her. they’d been sleeping in separate bedrooms for the last three months. “Elliot? It’s four in the morning. What are you doing?”

“I’m flying out in a couple of hours.” Elliot carried his toiletry bag into the bedroom. He had his suitcase half-filled already. Kathy followed him. “Did you honestly believe I wouldn’t find out about Liv’s abduction?”

“Elliot.”

“Don’t bother.” He peered over his shoulder at him. “She saved your life. Saved Eli’s life. And you tried to hide it from me. Why?”

“I was worried about you.”

“Worried about me? Or worried we’d have to face the state of our failed marriage once and for all?” Elliot threw the rest of his clothes haphazardly into the suitcase. “I’ll call you when I’m in New York.”

“Elliot.” She tried again. Her hand reached out towards him.

“Not right now, Kath. Not right now.”

They don’t speak again, not even when Elliot is walking out the door. He made sure to kiss Eli goodbye. New York had called him home.

And he hoped he wasn’t too late.

Elliot had raced through JFK the instant he’d gotten off the plane. He’d found Mark waiting outside of the airport in one of their company vehicles. “What’ve we got?”

“We’ve followed his trail of carnage out to a remote beach. There’s a handful of beach houses.” Mark gestured to the file on the dashboard. “Read up. We’re meeting the team and heading out. Jesse managed to hack into camera feeds in the area. We’ve narrowed it down to four places. All supposed to be empty.”

“NYPD?”

“You’re friend mentioned they were having trouble getting a warrant to access the cameras. Their ADA has put his career on the line…and still can’t get a judge to sign off.” Mark shrugged. “What they don’t know can’t hurt them. We’ve given them two of the places. We’ll check the others.”

“Do they know that?”

“Do I have to repeat myself? What they don’t know can’t hurt them.” Mark was always a little too cavalier about local authorities when it came to hostage rescue. They’d lost a hostage once because of police politics. He’d promised himself never to do so again. “We’ll get your girl back.”

“Not a girl.” And not mine.

Not yet.

The drive out of the city took longer than Elliot remembered. He’d texted back and forth with his children on the way. They’d wanted to know what was happening.

He also read through the files on William Lewis. Mark had pulled over to allow him to dry heave on the side of the road when he’d read about the pan on the stove. Melted keys. Cigarettes. A small courtesy badge found on the floor.

“Elliot?” Mark had allowed him to seethe in silence up until they’d turned off on the road leading to the last beach house. “Do I have to worry about you killing him?”

“No.” Elliot lied.

Mark reached out to clasp him on the shoulder. “I don’t care if you do. I just want to know if we’re going to have to stage the scene. He’s a monster. No one’s going to have a problem with him being killed in self-defence. No one's going to mourn his loss.”

"Self-defence?"

"Repeat after me. He came at me with a weapon while I was attempting to rescue Detective Benson. He fired and missed. I did not." Mark slowed the vehicle down, stopping out of sight of the beach house. "We'll walk in from here. Dark enough we should be able to sneak up on the bastard."

Chapter Text

“We’ve got your six, Elliot. However you want this to end.” Mark kept his voice low. “On your six. Let’s get your girl.”

“Not a girl,” Elliot repeated.

Night had allowed them to surround the house without being seen. Crashing waves in the distance muffled any footsteps, not that they made much sound. They were dark shadows converging on a single location.

In rescues, Elliot had learned there was often only one chance to get things right. They’d normally go in with a flashbang. Shock and awe. It lowered the risk of their hostage getting injured.

They didn’t have that luxury this time. The last thing they wanted was CSU finding evidence of an incendiary device. It would be too hard to explain.

Instead, Jesse had the idea for a bait and switch. She’d stripped out of her gear down to a tank-top and jeans. She knocked on the front door, ready with her excuse of ‘my car broke down, can you help?’

Half of their team remained out of sight with their weapons trained on Jesse. Ready to take a shot. Mark and Elliot slipped around the back of the house. They eased open the sliding door and entered without William Lewis any the wise.

Smells immediately assaulted his senses. The damp. Alcohol. It reeked worse than a dive bar after hours. Burnt flesh. Urine. The smell alone would give Elliot nightmares for the rest of his life.

The place reeked.

With a nod to Mark, Elliot snuck through the house. He had William Lewis subdued, disarmed, and cuffed in a disappointingly short amount of time. It hadn’t even required a punch.

Or seven.

They’d deal with him after.

First, Olivia.

“Elliot?” Mark’s normally steady voice wavered when he called out to him from deeper in the house. “She’s in here. Hurry up.”

Elliot yanked the mask off his head and shoved it in his pocket. He wanted her to be able to see his face. A friendly face. His heart stopped when he finally saw her bound to the bed. “Oh god.”

His mind reeled, trying to process the room and her. Is that a blow torch? Vodka bottles littered the floor. He spied a pill bottle on the filthy matters. Olivia’s clothing had been ripped and partially burned.

“C’mon, man. Head in the game.” Mark kept his voice low, trying not to spook Olivia, who hadn’t opened her eyes yet. They could tell she was breathing, at least. “Let’s get her free. No idea what the extent of her injuries are aside from what we can see.”

Elliot prayed for strength then took measured steps across the room. He knelt on the bed, reaching out to gently brush her hair out of her face. “Liv? Sweetheart? Can you hear me? It’s El. I need you to open your eyes for me.”

“You don’t get to talk about him,” Olivia whispered without opening her eyes. Her speech was slightly slurred. He wondered how much of the pills and vodka Lewis had forced into her. “You don’t get to talk about my partner.

Shit.

What had William Lewis drawn out of her? About me?

Was she drugged? Drunk? Both? Fuck.

They released her ankles and wrists. Elliot moved up, speaking to her the whole time. He hesitantly lifted her up into his arms.

“No, no, no.” She fought weakly against him.

“Liv. I need you to open your eyes for me.” Elliot held her loosely in his arms. “I’m here. Swear to god that I’m here. For you. He’ll never touch you again.”

“No.” Olivia kept shaking her head, repeating the one word over and over.

“If you don’t open your eyes, I’m going to tell Cragen who wrecked the sedan that one time.” Elliot watched her blink a few times before her bleary gaze met his. The crash was a secret they’d kept between themselves. “Hey there.”

“El?” Her hand reached up toward him. Her fingers traced his jaw and scratched at the stubble there. “Is he dead?”

“He can be,” Mark commented mildly. He stepped around the bed so Olivia could see him. “I’m Mark. Elliot works for me. We make a habit of rescuing people. Heard a lot about you, ma’am. How about we get you to a hospital? Don’t worry about Lewis. He’s not going anywhere.”

“He’ll get away with it.” Olivia’s fingers clutched at Elliot’s bulletproof vest. Her head fell against his shoulder as if it was too heavy to hold up. “He’ll get away with it. He always gets away with it.”

“Not this time.” Elliot met Mark’s gaze over her head. “I’m going to let our medic get a look at you. I’ll be right back. I promise.”

He carried her out of the beach house toward the vehicles they’d parked down the road. They’d kept them there to avoid tire tracks on the sand near the house. He set her down on the backseat, leaving her in the capable hands of Alex, who’d been a combat medic for seven years before retiring from the military.

“Well?” Mark nodded to where William Lewis lay struggling on the floor. “What’d we do with this monster?”

It required careful planning. Elliot refused to do anything that might put Olivia in danger. IAB had arrested her for murder once in the past; he doubted Tucker had improved much as a human being in two years.

Elliot considered all the options. Everything he’d read about Lewis. The man who always seemed to escape justice.  He couldn’t be allowed a second chance at Olivia. “Take him back in the room. Jess. Tell Alex not to patch Olivia up. We’re going to need both us to be ‘found’ here by the police.”

“Remember what I said when I hired you?”

“We’re not cops. We’re good guys who save people. But sometimes justice requires difficult decisions that might weigh on your conscious.” Elliot glanced over his shoulder to where two of their team are dragging a struggling Lewis back to the room where he’d tortured Olivia. “I’ll sleep like a baby tonight.”

“Good. Lewis’s weapon.” Mark held a pistol up in his gloved hand. “Let’s get this done right. We’ll have to make sure the trajectory matches. You’ll know they’ll check.”

Two shots were fired in the house before Elliot called Fin. One hit the wall to the left of Elliot. The other hit William Lewis in the head.

CSU would find gunshot residue on William Lewis’s hands. They would find no signs of anyone other than Lewis, Elliot, and Olivia in the house. The team was gone before sirens could be heard in the distance.

Elliot sat steps of the deck with Olivia in his arms. She was in and out of consciousness. She’d wake up and tug on his hair as if checking if he was real. “Still here, Liv. Not going anywhere.”

“He’s dead?”

“Fired a shot at me. I returned fire.” Elliot glanced down when she grabbed the back of his neck. “Liv?”

“I saw it. You shooting him to save me.” Olivia reached for the water bottle that he’d brought. She sipped a little of it. “Anyone asks. That’s what I’m saying.”

“Get ready for a lot of chaos,” Elliot warned when lights pierced the darkness. He heard multiple sirens. Vehicles. “Looks like your rescuers are here.”

“You saved me.” She took another sip of water, watching as one vehicle after another came flying toward them. “How am I going to survive this, El?”

“One step at a time.” Elliot kept his arm tightly around her.  “You won’t have to do it alone. I’ll be there every step of the way.”

A sedan skidded to a halt in front of them. Fin jumped out with a dark-haired detective close behind that Elliot didn’t recognize. They raced over when they spotted the two of them on the steps.

“Liv.” Fin crouched down in front of them. “You okay?”

“She needs a hospital,” Elliot answered for her when Olivia pressed her head against his chest. “Lewis is dead in the house. I entered. Announced my presence. He fired a shot at him and I returned fire.”

“That true?” Fin glanced at Olivia who nodded. “Good enough for me. Let’s get you to the hospital.”

Chapter Text

Hospitals had never been Olivia’s favourite place to be. Nothing good had ever come from being at one. Working with special victims, she’d spent far too much time with victims while they relived their trauma.

Evidence gathering was necessary but invasive.

It often added to the trauma.

The doctors and nurses meant well. They hadn’t understood her reticence to speak. She’d stayed silent through the exam and while her injuries were patched up.

They’d tested her hands (and Elliot's) for gunshot residue. Her clothes had been exchanged for hospital scrubs. Olivia noticed Mark along with two other people in suits standing outside of her hospital room.

They were keeping her for observation until the booze and drinks were safely out of her system. She sat silently. Her gaze fell on the man sleeping in the chair beside her bed.

Elliot hadn’t moved from the chair even when the doctor asked him to leave.  Olivia had asked him to stay. He was apparently staying.

End of story.

Fin stepped into the room after a knock on the door. He glanced once at Elliot then came over to the bed. “Baby girl.”

Olivia grabbed Fin by the hand. “I’m okay.”

“Nah. You aren’t.” He shook his head. “Beach house is a mess. CSU is still processing the place. Lewis left a mess of hurt and pain across the state. IAB wants your statement. Barba’s not going after Elliot. They’re declaring it self-defence based on the evidence.”

“So why’s IAB sticking their nose in?” Elliot sat up in the chair. Nap apparently over.  “Don’t talk to them without a lawyer, Liv.”

“I’ve got nothing to hide.”

“Yeah, and last time you said that about IAB, Tucker tried to arrest you for murder.” Elliot made what he obviously considered was an excellent point. “I’m messaging Mark. We’ve got defence counsel on call for the firm.”

“Take the advice, Liv.” Fin gestured toward Elliot. “We’ve got your back. No matter what.”

Olivia sank back into the hospital bed. “When can I get out of here?”

“Tomorrow.” Fin set a bag on the end of the bed. “I managed to sneak into your place to get some clothes. Cassidy was sniffing around the precinct, by the way. Might come to see you here.”

“Fin.” Olivia glanced around him to see a smirking Elliot. She decided not to worry about Cassidy. He hadn’t been concerned about her. “Lewis made me listen to his message.”

“What message?” Elliot shifted out of the chair to sit on the edge of the bed.

“Brian. We were going out. Left a message.” Olivia remembered her stomach dropping when Lewis had played the messaging. Laughing at her. “I knew I was alone. No one was coming.”

“Not true.” Elliot took the hand Fin wasn’t holding. “I’m just sorry I wasn’t here sooner. Don’t worry about Cassidy.”

“El.” Olivia had to smile at the familiarity of his unnecessary jealousy. “Where am I going to say?”

“Kathleen coordinated with Mark. There’s a safe house in the city that we don’t use. Nice brownstone. You’ll hate it. Has a backyard with actual grass.” He teased. “We can crash there since your apartment is a crime scene.”

“We?” She scowled at Fin when he laughed. “You’re not helping.”

“Cassidy’s on his way up. Amanda just texted me.” Fin ignored her groan. “Maybe I’m not helping. Tell you what I am doing.  I’m keeping my camera ready, so I can film this car crash for Munch. He’ll be pissed that he missed it.”

There was a blissful moment of silence. Olivia watched the door to her room. The curtain was drawn to block the view from the hallway.

A measure of privacy from prying eyes.

Her rescue had been all over the news. Her doctor had mentioned the press had been camped out since her arrival. She was not looking forward to leaving.

Maybe they’ll let us sneak out from another exit.

I do not need my face plastered all over the news.

There was a knock. Then a shout. Then a scuffle by the door. Olivia glared at the two men laughing. She’d forgotten the private security stationed outside of her room.

Cassidy certainly didn’t know about them. He tended to be bull-headed at the best of times. And he hadn’t been at the beach house or hospital to see them.

“Elliot? Please? Tell them to let him in.” Olivia pleaded with him. She decided to go with emotional blackmail when he kept laughing. “Do you really want me to get out of my hospital bed to deal with it?”

“Low blow, Liv.” Elliot stalked over to yank the door open. “Cassidy.”

“You know this dick?”

From her vantage point, Olivia could see Mark had Cassidy in a headlock. Elliot waited a full minute before telling them to let him go. He strolled back over to sit on the edge of the bed

“Could you seem less pleased?” Olivia whispered.

“What the fuck is he doing here?” Cassidy finished straightening up his shirt from where he’d been roughed up a little. “Really, Liv? Stabler?”

All sense of a good mood fled from Olivia. She started off the bed only to have both Fin and Elliot reach for her. Cassidy grumbled under his breath while they fussed.

“I’m fine. I’m fine. I can stand up for a second.” Olivia tried to shove their hands off. “El.”

“Doctor said you need rest.” Elliot insisted. “Fin? Why don’t you have a chat with Cassidy?”

“C’mon, Liv.” Cassidy eyed Fin, who’d immediately stalked toward him. “He abandoned you.”

She grabbed for Elliot’s hand a second too late. He was off the bed with Cassidy slammed up against the wall in seconds. “Can you all remember we’re in a hospital room? Please? Mark?”

Elliot’s boss heard her call his name. Thankfully, they hadn’t closed the door. He stepped into the room and quickly assessed the situation.

“Why don’t we go for a walk?” Mark grabbed Elliot by the shirt and dragged him off Cassidy. He glanced over at Fin. “Trust you to keep an eye on her.”

“Of course.”

“Brian.” Olivia didn’t have the emotional energy to have this conversation. She wished he hadn’t come to the hospital. “Why are you here?”

“I was worried. We had a date.”

“That you bailed on. Again.” Olivia didn’t blame Cassidy for her abduction. She’d have been angry even if she hadn’t been taking by William Lewis. “I’m not going to be with someone who’s always half-in and half-out of my life, Bri. I think you should go.”

“Liv…don’t.”

“She wants you to go, man.” Fin stepped around the bed and began ushering him out of the room. “Maybe steer clear of Stabler on the way out.”

“Always fucking Stabler.” Cassidy slammed the door shut behind him.

Fin snorted in amusement, then turned back to Olivia. He dragged a chair close enough to sit beside the bed. “You want to talk about what happened in the house.”

“I already told you.”

“Baby girl. I’ve got your back. That man flew around the world to save you. I don’t fault him for doing what I wanted to do.” Fin glanced over his shoulder toward the closed door. “Tucker’s going to have questions. He knows Stabler was there. You know those two are like oil and water.”

“The evidence backs up our story,” Olivia insisted.

“I know.”

 

Chapter Text

“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.

Anything.

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.”

“Elliot.”

“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.”

Chapter Text

Are you feeling sad?

You’re gonna cry his name out at some point.

Are you feeling sad?

“Fuck.” Olivia shot up in bed. She groaned in the movement pulled at her sore muscles and her healing burns. “Where—”

She couldn’t breathe.

Where am I?

Where’s El?

I need him.

You’re gonna cry his name out at some point.

Shuffling her way to the edge of the bed, Olivia got hesitantly to her feet. She grasped the lamp from the nightstand, holding it to her chest. Her other hand pressed to the wall while she inched her way toward the door in the darkness.

She inched her way through the house. Listening. Waiting. She froze halfway to the front door when her memory broke through her panic.  Shit.

Setting the lamp on a chair, Olivia managed to get to the sofa before her legs went out from under her. She dragged her fingers through her sweat-soaked hair and gave a shaky laugh. I am losing it.  Completely. Totally.

Are you feeling sad?

“Get out of my head,” Olivia whispered. She grabbed one of the pillows off the sofa and clutched it to her chest. She rested her face against it, letting the fabric soak up her tears.

“Liv?” Elliot’s quiet voice washed over her. She sensed him close by and felt him kneel in front of her. His hands gently rested on her knees. “Olivia? Bad dream?”

“Maybe.” She wasn’t sure if it had been a dream or simply a memory poking at her mind. “I don’t know. I….”

“Had a flashback that made you think you were back at the beach?” Elliot hazarded a guess. He gently squeezed her knees. “How can I help?”

“Could I—” Olivia cut herself off. She didn’t think it was right to ask for what she wanted. He was still married. She’d felt safest with him close by, though. Waking up alone in an unknown room had terrified her. “I’m fine.”

“Anything you need, Liv.”

“I’m fine.”

“You’re not. You will be. But healing takes time. PTSD is a bitch. And you’re going to have as many bad days as good ones.” Elliot was brutally honest with her. She lifted her head up to glare at him. “Am I wrong?”

“You could lie.”

“I could but you’d be as annoyed with the lie as you are with the truth.” He smiled when she made a face at him. “Why don’t we bring you upstairs to my room?”

“Elliot.”

“You’ve probably made your sheets messed up and sweaty. The monster is clearly hiding under your bed so you can sleep with me. In mine.” Elliot got to his feet and reached down to take her hand. “Come on. I need my beauty sleep.”

“Elliot. I can’t sleep in your bed.”

“Why?” Elliot glanced over at her. “Some husband I need to worry about?”

“Wife.” She reached out to touch his ring finger only to find it empty. “El?”

“We’re getting divorced. Again. She already filed. She apparently had the papers already written up.” Elliot waved her whispered apology. “Nothing to do with you. We were miserable. Going to another country didn’t help just made me work even longer hours. Our kids will be far happier with us separated than they were with us living in misery and marriage.”

“Elliot.”

“It’s two in the morning. I am exhausted. You’re exhausted. I have no doubt you’re in pain since you won’t take anything stronger than the extra-strength Tylenol I got you.” Elliot lifted her into his arms and began to carry her up the stairs. “There. Problem solved.  Can you open the door for me?”

“You’re such a….”

“Hero?”

Olivia chuckled weakly. She dropped her head against his shoulder. “What if this is a mountain I can’t climb, El?”

He carried her into his room and set her gently on the bed. “It will be if you’re looking at the top. Just think about where you’re reaching for next. Not the final destination.”

“I don’t know if I can do this.” She didn’t argue when Elliot tucked her into his bed. He climbed under the covers beside her. She hesitated before curling up in his arms under the blanket. “I don’t know if I’m strong enough.”

“You’re the strongest person I’ve ever met.” Elliot countered immediately. “No one feels ready while trauma is fresh. Trauma happens in an instant, Liv. Healing takes time. And I’m strong enough to carry you whenever you need.”

 

Chapter Text

It had been a restless night for Elliot. He’d watched over Olivia, half hoping he’d keep the nightmares at bay simply by being there. She’d managed to sleep a little, at least, while tucked in his arms.

There was a peacefulness to the way she’d twisted around and slept with her head on his chest. He’d tried to shift a few times. She’d immediately moved to follow him.

Olivia jolted awake in his arms, relaxing a second later. “You kept the monster at bay.”

“I slew the monster,” Elliot whispered into her hair. He cherished the way her body fit against his. Her warmth. Proof that she’d survived. “I’d do it again to keep you safe.”

And he would.  He held no guilt over William Lewis’s death. He’d done the right thing.

There would be no visiting church to unload on his priest. Elliot had nothing to confess. If there was anything such as a righteous kill, William Lewis was it.

“Kath had the papers overnighted to me. She’s decided to stay in Italy with Eli.” Elliot felt Olivia tense in his arms. “I just want you to know there’s no going back for me. I’ve no intentions of it. I’ve talked with the kids. They’re mostly happy that their parents are going to try to be happy again. We’ve apparently been ‘miserable’ to deal with.”

Olivia relaxed in his arms again. “What am I going to do now?”

“Heal. We should check your burns and cuts. Put some of the stuff the doc gave you on them.” Elliot hesitated before bringing up the therapist. “Mark’s got the number for our company shrink.  They do good work. If you want to set up an appointment….”

Olivia rolled away from him onto her back. She stared up at the ceiling. “Probably a good idea.”

“Even if you hate it?”

“When has either of us been thrilled with unloading our thoughts on a therapist?” She nudged his arm. “Think IAB is going to cause problems for either of us?”

“Doubtful.” Elliot wasn’t worried about Tucker. They had nothing on him. Or, on Olivia. He had every intention of creating something of a public relations nightmare for them if they tried. “They’ll leave you be. Cragen said you’ve got plenty of days off to recover.”

“If they’ll let me come back.”

“They will.” Elliot would go to war for her if they tried to keep her off the force.

“Not sure I want to get up and face the world.” Olivia dragged a pillow over her head.

“Then don’t.” Elliot stretched an arm out to grab his phone from the nightstand. “Why don’t I get some food delivered for us? We’ll make sure your injuries are healing. Stay in bed and have a late breakfast.”

And I can keep you safe from everyone—including yourself until you’re back on your feet.

Chapter Text

Sitting outside in the backyard, Olivia could almost understand the attraction to living outside of Manhattan. Almost. She clutched the mug of tea she’d made between her hands. It was almost peaceful.

Almost.

“How are you doing?”

Olivia glanced over at Nick who’d come by the safe house after her third therapist appointment. It had been ten days since Elliot had found her. “I don’t know, Nick.”

“Therapy helping?”

“Gets worse before it gets better.” Olivia was clinging to that sliver of hope. She had two therapy sessions a week plus a check-up with her regular doctor. Elliot hadn’t wanted to take any chances. “Physically, I’m healing. No infections. I’m doing okay.”

“Liv. I’m so—”

“This wasn’t your fault, Nick.” Olivia had grown tired of the people in her life apologizing for things out of their control. “You weren’t the one standing in my apartment with a gun to my head. What part of my abduction was in your control, Nick?”

“I should’ve checked in on you.”

“Based on what? You had no reason to expect something was going to happen to me.” Olivia didn’t feel the need to mention Elliot would’ve checked on her that night. Blink your lights. What good would it do? Nick wasn’t Elliot. They were different people. No one was to blame for what happened aside from William Lewis. “He's dead, Nick. Dead and gone. He’s not hurting anyone ever again.”

Except for in my dreams.

“I can’t help thinking we should’ve found you sooner.”

“Hey, Nick, listen. This doesn’t help anyone. Those thoughts? It’s not helping me or you. You have to let it go. I’m alive. Safe.” Olivia wanted him to be able to let go of the guilt. She certainly didn’t have the energy to expend on it. “How are things at the precinct?”

“Tense.” Nick leaned forward in the chair. He glanced over his shoulder where Elliot was watching them through the back window. “They closed the William Lewis investigation. Justifiable homicide.”

“But?”

“IAB’s still sniffing around. Captain thinks they’re combing through old files just looking for something.” Nick confirmed her worst fears. Someone at IAB, probably Tucker, had decided she needed to be gone. They’d already pushed Elliot out. “They’re going to require you to pass a psych test at the least before you get your gun back.”

Translation? Cragen thought IAB had already made the decision to force her to retire. Some way, somehow. They were going to dig until they had something. Olivia grimaced when she realized her tea had gone cold.

“Liv?”

She set the mug down on the arm of the deckchair. “I’ll make plans. Don’t worry Nick. I’m going to be fine.”

She felt tired again. Sinking back into the cushions Elliot had added to the chair, she wished Nick would leave. It had been good to see him.

She was ready to be alone.

Not alone. Elliot was one of the few people around her who was content to sit in silence. He didn’t take energy to deal with.

“Hey, Amaro. Captain wants you back at the precinct.” Elliot called from the house despite no one having called the house or Nick’s phone. Her partner proved once again how well he knew her.

“Did he?” Nick glanced from Olivia back to the house. “Suppose I’ll take my leave. See you later, Olivia.”

“Thanks Nick.” Olivia waved him off. She rested her head against the pillow behind her. Healing was exhausting. She’d never thought about it when dealing with victims. How absolutely tired she felt every morning when she woke up. All day. “I can hear you thinking.”

“Can’t. I wasn’t thinking.” Elliot dragged Nick’s chair until it was right next to hers then sat down. “Mark’s bringing Chinese.”

“Again?”

“It’s the only thing you don’t seem like you’re forcing yourself to eat.” Elliot’s narrowed gaze dared her to argue. She didn’t. “He’s also got a job offer.”

“For?”

“You.”

“Doing what?” Olivia didn’t believe she qualified for being part of their team. “I’m an SVU detective, El.”

“Consulting.”

“Consulting?” Olivia raised both of her eyebrows. “Consulting on what?”

“Things.” Elliot grinned when she glared at him. “Ask him. Not me. I’m just here to look pretty and chase people away.”

“Well, one out of two isn’t bad.” Olivia caught his hand when he reached out toward her. "I've never been more grateful for how well you know me than I've been lately."

"Partners, Liv. For better or worse."

Chapter Text

“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."

Chapter Text

“You didn’t win.” Olivia stood over the unmarked grave where William Lewis had been buried. “You didn’t win. I’m going to thrive. Thrive. And be happy. And you’re going to be dead. Dust. Nothing. You can’t hurt anyone ever again.”

Ever again.

It had been five months since Elliot had come to her rescue. Olivia’s physical injuries had fully recovered. The scars remained.

Her night terrors had almost completely disappeared. She’d gone from multiple therapy visits a week to twice a month. It had been hard work.

Harder than anything else Olivia had ever done in her life.

She’d survived.

Survived.

There had been times over the last six months where Olivia had considered giving up. Times where she had more appreciation for what her mother had gone through than ever before. Trauma lingered.

It sunk its claws into a person.

And lingered.

In her darkest moments, Elliot had been there to keep her going. To keep her standing. He'd chased the monsters away in the middle of the night when she couldn't sleep.

“You ready?” Elliot joined her by the grave. He glanced at her before moving forward to spit on the grave. "Still wish I could've shot him twice."

“Was that necessary?”

“Yes.” Elliot held his hand out to her. She turned her back on William Lewis for the last time and slipped her fingers into his. “Any other stops before we head to the airport?”

“Nope.” Olivia knew Elliot didn’t really understand why she’d needed to stop by Lewis’s grave. It felt like closure, being able to have the last word. “We can grab coffee at the airport.”

With her NYPD pension, Olivia had decided to take a break. She wanted to think about the future with a clear mind and heart. Mark had offered to hire her on as a consultant—helping them deal with rescued hostages.

It felt like a sympathy job.

Or maybe, his way of helping Elliot keep her close.

She’d turned him down for the moment. She had her pension. She had time.

William Lewis hadn’t stolen her future from her.

And while Olivia thought about her future, she’d agreed to move with Elliot to Mark’s company’s Paris office. Why not? She had nothing holding her to New York.

They’d be there for at least the next six months.

Six months in Paris.

Olivia leaned into Elliot while they made their way through the cemetery to the waiting Tahoe. “El?

“Yeah?”

“I love you.”

Elliot lifted her hand up to his lips. “I’m not kissing you in the cemetery.”

“Oh?”

“But I will kiss you every single day for the rest of our lives.”