Chapter 1: Crash
Her ears were still ringing from the deafening crash. The doctors had told her she was very lucky to have gotten out of her car with only minor injuries. She'd been buckled up properly and the airbag had protected her. Her neck hurt a bit and she had a sprained wrist but aside from some nasty bruises, that was it.
The man she'd hit had not been so lucky. She'd rammed the driver's side of his car full on and he'd been severely injured. It was her fault. She couldn't remember every little detail but they had told her she'd ignored a red light. The traffic cameras would no doubt provide the proof soon enough. She knew she would be held accountable and she could only hope the other driver would pull through.
How could she explain that she hadn't been thinking clearly? That the case she had been working on all week had triggered severe flashbacks to her ordeal with Lewis, and that she'd been trying to get home to Noah as fast as she could while fighting off those flashbacks?
They were keeping her overnight for observation, just to be on the safe side, and she'd called Lucy and Sergeant Dodds to let them know what had happened. She had wanted to see Noah but had to agree with Lucy that it was too late to drag him across the city now. Lucy would spend the night at her apartment and would bring Noah to see her in the morning.
She wanted to see the other driver but her nurse had told her he was still in surgery. She had asked what his injuries were, but the nurse wasn't sure. She also wasn't sure if she should tell her at all.
She couldn't sleep. The woman in the bed next to hers was hooked up to a monitor that kept beeping each time she moved and Olivia was aware of every little sound in the corridor. She heard doctors talking and beds being wheeled to or from their rooms and got up after a while to see if she could find the man she'd hit. He should be out of surgery by now, shouldn't he? It was past one am already.
Before she could even leave the corridor to try and find the intensive care unit, she was stopped by a male nurse.
"Excuse me miss, are you a patient here?"
She figured the hospital gown would be a dead giveaway but kept a smart comment to herself. The nurse must have picked up on her mood anyway because he smiled, and added,
"I meant, are you a patient of this ward?"
She decided to be honest with the man, who was about her age, so he wasn't some rookie trying to be clever.
"My room is over there," she replied, pointing behind her. "I caused a car accident last night and I would like to know how the other driver is doing."
The man seemed to be debating in his head whether or not to tell her anything, and Olivia put on her bravest face.
"I just want to know if he's going to be alright, and to tell him I'm sorry. I take full responsibility for what happened."
"Well, he's out of surgery and has been taken to a medium care room," the nurse finally told her.
"Medium care? So that means he'll pull through?" she asked hopefully.
The nurse nodded and Olivia felt like a heavy weight was lifted off her shoulders.
"Can I see him?"
"Well, it's a special case. I ..."
The nurse hesitated again and she had to wonder what was so special about this patient.
"He suffers from memory loss."
Olivia swallowed hard. This wasn't good. Not at all.
"But it seems to us, that the memory loss was sustained prior to last night's accident."
She was getting curious now and the nurse finally relented and beckoned her to follow him.
"He's been awake for about an hour now after the anesthesia wore off but he should go to sleep soon. He has a broken hip and leg, a few cracked ribs and a concussion."
"No internal bleeding?"
"No, thank God. Despite the seriousness of his injuries, he's been lucky. We put a few pins in his hip and leg and the rest is up to him now. The memory loss is somewhat of a mystery though. You see, he does remember bits and pieces of the accident, and what he'd been doing earlier in the day."
They had reached the man's room and the nurse let her in. There was only one bed in the small room and the curtain was drawn halfway around it. She approached the bed slowly, not wanting to startle the man and peeked around the curtain. The sight before her hit her like a ton of bricks. She gasped and her knees buckled. The nurse caught her just in time, or she would have sunk to the floor. Her eyes were still fixed on the face of the man in the hospital bed, who had his eyes closed, and her brain was trying to process what she was seeing in combination with what she had just been told. This couldn't be. It had to be a mistake. Either that, or the gods were playing a very cruel joke on her.
She had just put Elliot Stabler in the hospital.
Dun dun! More soon!
PS. This is set in season 17 but in this universe, there is no Tuckson.
Chapter 2: Amnesia
The nurse had grabbed a chair for her and she plopped down on it, grabbing the edges of the seat to regain some sense of balance. She couldn't take her eyes off Elliot. He hadn't opened his eyes yet, but frowned and seemed to be aware that there was someone else in the room.
She'd had several speeches ready for this moment. Angry speeches, mostly. And emotional speeches that had forced her to admit to herself that she had felt more than betrayed by his sudden departure from not only the job, but from her life as well. She had been heartbroken.
Seeing him lying there in that hospital bed, so vulnerable, small even, and realizing that she had put him there, had made all the anger and bitterness seep out of her in an instant. She wasn't sure what she was feeling right now but when the helpful nurse held out a glass of water to her, she knew she must look like she'd just seen a ghost. In a way, she had. Of all the ways she had pictured her reunion with her old partner, this was never one of them. He had a broken leg and hip and would be out of commission for months. He was pale and looked like a shell of the big, strong, intense man she had always known.
He sighed and she felt her neck hair stand on end instantly. She hadn't even heard his voice yet but just that one sigh made her respond physically to him. And then he opened his eyes and tears welled up in her own. Those eyes. How she had missed his eyes. She could see confusion in his eyes for an instant, and she blinked quickly. She needed to see him clearly.
The nurse had walked up to him and spoke quietly.
"Mr. Stabler, you have a visitor."
His confusion gave way to realization. He remembered where he was. She could still read him without needing words.
His voice was raspy but strong and it hit her square in the gut. She took a deep breath when the nurse stepped aside so Elliot could see her. She stood up and took two small steps towards the hospital bed, and towards the man who had been the center of her world for over a decade, and finally met his eyes.
Elliot looked at her for a few seconds and she could tell that he was thinking really hard. She held her breath, waiting. The nurse must be wondering what they were doing, just looking at each other without speaking. But this was what they did. What they had always done. After long seconds, she saw his eyes light up ever so slightly.
"I know you," he said, lifting his left index finger and she felt like her legs were going to give out again.
The nurse quickly pulled up her chair and put it behind her, so she could sit down next to the bed.
"This is the lady who hit your car," the man explained quietly, and Elliot's eyes flicked to the nurse briefly and then back to hers.
"I'm so sorry," Olivia said quickly, and Elliot fixed his eyes on her face again.
"I do know you, right?" he asked, tapping his index finger on the bed.
Olivia had to make an effort not to grab his hand and hold it to her cheek. She stayed perfectly still and held Elliot's gaze. His eyes told her that he had lost his memory indeed. There was an emptiness there, but also a sense of peace that she had never seen in his eyes before. He wasn't the same person, yet he was. Her heart was pounding violently in her chest though. Elliot seemed to be sure he knew her so he remembered something.
She took another deep breath and breathed out slowly, using the breathing techniques she had learned during therapy to disconnect her body from the situation at hand and relax. And then she finally spoke.
"Where would you know me from?"
"I don't know ... yet," Elliot said, still studying her face. "You see, I have amnesia. I don't remember anything or anyone from before October 20, 2011."
The nurse grabbed Elliot's chart and jotted down the new information. He had been right. His patient's memory loss had not been caused by the car crash. He had lost his memory over four years ago. On his birthday?
"You are the first person I've met that I'm certain I knew before then," Elliot continued and Olivia's heart rate must be reaching dangerous levels by now.
"Not even your wife?" she had asked him before she could think about it.
Elliot looked away and closed his eyes.
"You know Kathy?"
His voice had sounded bitter and she reached for his hand instinctively. As soon as their hands touched, Elliot's eyes opened again.
"Please tell me who you are. You're not just the lady who put me here."
Breathe in. Breathe out.
"My name is Olivia."
Elliot wrapped his fingers around hers.
"It suits you."
"Thank you," she said softly.
She was still overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions and didn't feel like herself at all. She wasn't this trembling, insecure girl. She was a cop for crying out loud. But in this weird scenario, sitting at Elliot's hospital bed in the middle of the night after plowing her car straight into his, she wasn't a cop. She was trying to tread water in quicksand with no solid ground beneath her feet.
"So how do we know each other?" Elliot asked her, and the question forced her to focus on his situation again. He really didn't remember.
"We used to work together."
Elliot thought about her words for a few moments, never letting go of her hand. Olivia stroked the back of his hand with her thumb and somehow, it made her heart rate go down at last. Elliot was here. He was actually here and he was safe. Injured, but safe. And he had lost his memory over four years ago. That meant he hadn't stayed away from her intentionally all those years. It was what she wanted it to mean. She looked at his hand in hers and swallowed hard. It had been too long, and yet it almost felt like no time had passed at all. Elliot's next words brought her back to the present, and the chilling reality of his condition.
"They tell me I used to be a cop. So are you a cop too?"
I kind of enjoyed writing this in short bursts. I hope you all don't mind, as long as the bursts are frequent? And do you feel Olivia's initial reaction is in character for her under the circumstances?
Chapter 3: Family
"Yes. I'm a cop too."
"You're a pretty lousy driver for a cop."
Olivia laughed out loud at Elliot's dry comment and saw a twinkle in his eyes that made her stomach flutter.
"I am sorry," she said, squeezing his hand. "I have no excuse for running a red light."
"What's done is done," Elliot said calmly, holding her gaze and she was amazed at how laidback he was. "So while we're here, tell me more about our job. It's the least you can do, right?"
He grinned and her stomach clenched. He was still all Elliot and he wasn't. It was like the heavy burden that had always seemed to weigh down on him, was no longer there. He didn't even seem to care that he was in the hospital with serious injuries and a long road to recovery ahead of him. All he was focused on was probing her for information while he was still somewhat alert and sedated enough not to be in too much pain. Their world had been reduced to a bed and a chair in a hospital room in the middle of the night, and somehow, it felt right. She wasn't getting any sleep anyway so what better way to spend the night than to catch up with her long lost partner and friend?
She told him about the nature of their work at the Special Victims Unit and he listened, asking questions from time to time but mostly, he let her talk. Somewhere during their conversation, the nurse must have slipped out, because they didn't see him again for quite a while after he had adjusted Elliot's bed so he was now sitting up a bit. Olivia told Elliot about the people they had worked with and wondered why nobody in the squad had been informed of his condition years ago. They could have helped to try and jog his memory. She had to wonder why Kathy had never reached out to them when it became clear that his amnesia wasn't just a short phase. At least she would have known how he was doing.
The mention of her name startled her a bit and sent a chill up her spine. His voice was so familiar and so different at the same time. She realized she had gone quiet, and Elliot was trying to get her attention.
"Sorry," she said quickly. "I guess I drifted off for a bit there."
"Where did you go?"
She bit her lip, trying to decide if she should ask him about his family.
"Come on, detective. You're my only link to my past. Help me out here," Elliot pleaded, making her heart melt like only he could.
"So your wife and kids never seemed familiar to you at all?"
There. She'd asked him. She focused on her breathing while she waited for his answer. Elliot sighed and looked up at the ceiling. She saw pain in his eyes.
"I wanted to say they did. They're all nice people you know."
"Yes, I know."
He looked at her again.
"They never talked about my job. Said that the job had broken me and I was better off not remembering. Kathy ... my wife," he added bitterly, looking away from her again, "actually thought that we could start fresh and not let my job get between us again, like it had before apparently."
The truth hurt, physically even. Olivia felt like someone was pushing down hard on her chest. They had kept her away intentionally. Nobody had reached out to her or the squad, not even to let them know how Elliot was doing. They just let everyone believe he had abandoned them. Her. Especially her. It was disappointing to realize that not one of the children had bothered to contact her in any way. Not even Kathleen, with whom she thought she had had a special connection. She focused on her breathing once again, trying to breathe through the constricted feeling in her chest.
"It didn't work."
She'd lost his train of thought, too consumed with her own pain for the moment.
"That fresh start she wanted? Didn't work. I lived in their home for over a year but it just didn't feel right. We didn't know each other anymore."
He turned his head towards her and she saw pain in his eyes, again.
"Eli is a great kid though. It feels so good to hear him call me dad."
"Eli ..." Olivia mused, "he's what, eight now?"
"Yeah. Just turned eight last month. It's a great age."
Elliot smiled a real smile then, and she could tell he did love Eli, even if he didn't remember being his father. She was certain he was doing his best to be a father to the boy anyway.
"You see him often?"
Elliot nodded but winced at the movement. Olivia jumped up to check that he was alright, and noticed a few stitches behind his left ear.
"It's alright," Elliot said quickly but she remembered that he had a concussion, so most likely he was in some pain.
"Maybe I should let you sleep for a bit," Olivia offered, but Elliot grabbed her hand again.
"No! Please don't go."
The urgency in his voice struck her. He almost seemed afraid and she froze, still leaning over him partially.
"Elliot," she sighed and something changed in his eyes instantly when she said his name.
He gazed into her eyes and she could see the wheels turning.
"I do know you," he said once again. "Tell me what you were to me."
She choked up and couldn't hide the tears that welled up in her eyes fast enough. He'd already seen her reaction. She moved away quickly, sitting back down in the chair. She stared at the floor, noticing that some dust had collected underneath the bed and was moving because she had stood up and sat down again.
"Olivia," she heard him say, and his voice was so tender now, as if she was the patient in stead of him.
She looked up at him, still unsure of what to tell him. She had wondered for years what she had been to him, even while they still worked together. She had nothing but the truth to offer him right now, so she said quietly,
"I don't know."
Chapter 4: Unresolved
Elliot stared at her and she could see the wheels turning in his head once again. He tilted his head and she had to look away. She felt like he was looking straight into her soul. After what felt like an eternity, he finally spoke again.
"You don't know what you were to me. Do you realize how much that means? How much you've just told me?"
Olivia looked at him hesitantly and she could see he was dead serious.
"I mean, you could have said we were partners. Friends. Lovers even?"
Her stomach clenched. He wasn't joking, just staring at her.
"But saying you don't know after all those years ... that is telling. And painful."
Olivia bit the inside of her cheek and looked down at her hands. Was he going deep and analytical on her now? That wasn't very much like the Elliot she'd known. And he wasn't done.
"I have spent the last few years observing people. Trying to find out what makes them tick while trying to find out what makes me tick. I've got a nice pension. Kathy and most of the kids are doing their own thing now, so I can afford to just observe life. And I think I've become a pretty good judge of character."
Elliot chuckled to himself.
"Well, maybe I was that before, I wouldn't know. But what I'm saying is, if you can't tell me what you were to someone you worked with for over a decade, that means there are things between us that are unresolved. Am I right?"
Olivia wanted to scream. Her eyes had gone wide and she couldn't believe what Elliot was saying. He was Elliot and he wasn't. He was dissecting her skillfully but without all the heated tension that used to hang between them. Unresolved issues indeed. And she couldn't stop him. Not this time because he didn't remember her and he hadn't abandoned her. There was no reason to lash out at him and she felt deflated. And at the same time, she wanted to scream.
"I can feel something between us," Elliot continued, hacking away at her heart relentlessly, "and I want you to tell me what it is."
Olivia stood up abruptly and walked over to the window. It was dark outside and she didn't see much, but she couldn't sit so close to Elliot right now. He wanted her to tell him something she didn't understand herself. What could she say?
"We were never lovers," she settled on and she had spoken so softly that she wondered if he'd even heard her. But he had.
The question startled her and she spun around to look at him.
"You were married El," she said without thinking. It had been her only answer for so long that it just came out instantly.
Elliot just looked at her, tilting his head again.
"El," he said and she realized she had used his nickname.
She shrugged. How could she explain that to him?
"And if I hadn't been?"
She was trembling inside. They had never, ever addressed this topic. And with good reason. It was dangerous. They didn't go there because it could only end in disaster. Only they weren't partners now, and he wasn't married apparently, and he didn't remember the boundaries they had erected between their hearts and their bodies. She shook her head slowly, folding her arms in front of her chest to keep herself from shaking.
Elliot looked at the blanket covering most of his body and wiggled his toes. She wondered if he was in pain from his injuries. She could tell he was a little drowsy but his mind seemed to be clear nonetheless.
"Again, you're telling me so much by not saying anything."
She was almost getting annoyed with this philosophical version of her old partner.
"Well, since you seem to know everything these days, why don't you tell me what's between us!"
She had spoken fast and a little agitatedly, and wanted to apologize almost immediately. She couldn't treat Elliot like she had in the past. He wasn't himself. At least not the person she had known all those years. But she didn't apologize because he was smiling at her. And his smile could still turn her to mush in an instant.
"Was I as headstrong as you are?" he asked her, and she couldn't help but laugh at the question.
"And then some."
"That would explain a lot, I guess."
Olivia finally sat down in the chair again. She was feeling wobbly and thought it might be wise to try and get some sleep. She hadn't been hurt badly in the crash but her body was still somewhat in shock. And seeing Elliot again so unexpectedly wasn't helping either. The new and improved Elliot - if she could consider this kind, balanced and thoughtful version of her beloved hothead an improvement.
Elliot wiggled his toes again, watching the movement of his blanket attentively.
"Are you in pain?" she asked him.
"A little," he admitted. "But mostly, my left foot is going numb."
Olivia stood up and moved the blanket off his feet. His left leg was in a cast but his toes were sticking out. She touched them gingerly with her fingers and looked at Elliot for a reaction. He just shrugged. She touched his right foot then, and he nodded.
"I'll get the nurse," Olivia said, and she started walking off before Elliot could object.
She found the male nurse that had taken her to Elliot's room and asked him to come with her to check on Elliot's leg and foot. The nurse called the doctor in and Olivia waited by the window to hear what their conclusion was. She heard them talking about vascular damage and blood thinners and watched the nurse readjust Elliot's bed so he was almost flat on his back again. When the doctor left, she asked the nurse,
"Will he be alright?"
"I expect he will, miss. This isn't uncommon when a hip and leg have both been broken. He will need to rest now though, so ..."
"Oh, I see," she said quickly and she glanced at Elliot.
She moved closer to his face until he could see her and told him,
"I'm going to go now. You need to sleep."
He did look exhausted now, and she wondered if he'd put on a brave face while they had been talking.
"Come again tomorrow?" Elliot asked hopefully. "To finish our conversation?"
She wasn't sure she wanted to finish that particular conversation and her first instinct was to run. But the pleading look in his eyes struck her. He might pretend to be this wise, observant and friendly giant, but deep down, he was still desperately trying to find himself again. And he needed her to do that. Their connection hadn't been wiped out completely. And while that scared the shit out of her, she couldn't abandon him now. And so she nodded.
"I'll check in with you in the morning."
She turned around and started leaving the room when she heard him answer,
Olivia broke down as soon as she was outside Elliot's room. His use of her nickname had hit her hard and she pressed a hand to her mouth. She rushed off to her own room before someone would see her cry. The woman in the other bed was snoring so Olivia crawled into bed, pulling the blanket over her head, and allowed herself to cry. All of her pain of the past four years was coming out, as well as the stress of the accident and the shock of seeing Elliot again so unexpectedly, only to find that he didn't remember her anymore. The fact that he remembered something only made her cry harder. She hated Kathy for keeping her away and she grieved over the time they had lost because of it. He could have been there when Lewis took her. He would have found her, she was certain of it. He would have killed the bastard so he wouldn't have taken her again. She'd longed for him then, more than ever before. She had prayed that he would come for her. And he could have shared in her joy when she adopted Noah. He had always wanted that for her, and now he didn't even know her anymore. She wanted to scream at the unfairness of it all and cried until she had no tears left, finally falling into a deep, dreamless sleep.
Light was coming in through the windows already when Olivia woke up and she saw that the woman in the other bed was sitting up and eating breakfast. Olivia felt like she'd been hit over the head and had been unconscious for hours. She probably had been. As soon as she sat up, the memories of the night before came flooding back. She swallowed hard when the reality of it all sank in.
She wobbled to the bathroom to use the toilet, avoiding looking at herself in the mirror. She knew she'd look like hell after bawling her eyes out and then basically passing out, and she didn't need to see it. When she came back, a helpful young nurse asked her if she was ready for breakfast.
"Yes, thank you," she said softly, climbing back into bed.
After breakfast, a doctor came in to check her vitals, her eyes and her reflexes. Everything checked out and the doctor told her he would get her discharge papers ready after finishing his rounds. He did recommend taking a few days to get some rest before going back to work. Olivia wasn't sure she would be able to stay home, but she promised the doctor she'd try to rest.
"Oh, and the officers who were here yesterday to take your statement, would like another word with you," the doctor added. "You can use the office behind the nurses station."
"Okay. But I don't have any clothes yet."
Lucy was going to bring her fresh clothes when she brought Noah, but she wasn't going to be there for another hour.
"I'll have the nurse get you a robe," the doctor promised her, and after she had received the robe she went to talk to the officers.
They showed her the traffic cam footage and sure enough, she had ignored a red light. But she'd known that already. Seeing her car crash into Elliot's was horrific. It would have been horrific in any situation, but knowing she could very well have killed Elliot made it even more shocking to actually see the accident caught on camera.
"I'm so sorry. I've already apologized to the other driver," she told the officers, who nodded sympathetically.
"We've just spoken with him as well and have shown him the footage. But he's not pressing charges, Lieutenant," the older of the two men told her.
"We're all NYPD and we know there was no foul play," the younger one added. "Your insurance companies can deal with the damage to your cars and the hospital bills."
"I will pay for any expenses his insurance won't cover," Olivia told them. "I want to do the right thing here. I ... I was upset, but that doesn't mean I'm not responsible."
"Upset?" the older officer asked her.
"Yeah. I work at SVU and ... well, the case we're working kinda got to me."
The officer flipped through his notebook and then looked up at her.
"You're Olivia Benson."
She wondered why that was suddenly interesting. They had written down her name last night.
"You were the one that was kidnapped by that uhm ..."
"Yes, I am," Olivia interrupted quickly, not needing to hear the name.
"And you still work at SVU?"
There was surprise but also admiration in the man's voice. Maybe she was stupid to stay in the unit but she hadn't been able to leave. The victims still needed her and getting the perverts off the streets was still such a huge goal in her life. She got out of the conversation quickly and after saying goodbye to the officers, she made her way to Elliot's room.
She was actually a little nervous to see him again, but she was excited as well. After wondering for years what he was doing and why he had disappeared from her life, she could now just walk up to him and talk to him. It was weird that he didn't remember their time together on the job, but she had hope that some of his memory might come back. She knew she had triggered something in him, and she wanted to help him in any way she could.
"Hey," Elliot said happily when she came in.
He was pale and looked tired, but his eyes were clear.
"Hey. How are you feeling?"
"Like I was hit by a truck," Elliot said with a grin and Olivia rolled her eyes.
"It was a normal car Elliot. But still, I'm sorry."
Elliot tried to sit up a little straighter but winced, and Olivia rushed to his side quickly.
"You need an extra pillow?" she asked, putting her hand on his arm.
"No, it's fine," Elliot sighed, but she could tell he was in pain.
"Cracked ribs," he said by way of explanation while he sank back into the pillows that Olivia had fluffed up a little despite his objection.
"I'm sorry," Olivia said again.
Elliot put his hand over hers on his arm.
"Will you stop apologizing? I know you weren't trying to kill me. Shit happens."
"So," Elliot said, "where were we?"
Olivia cocked an eyebrow. He was going to push her about their non-relationship again?
"I'm being discharged," she told him, changing the subject quickly. "My nanny is bringing my son over and some clean clothes, and then I'm out of here."
The first time I published this, people seemed to think that Olivia was going to walk out on Elliot. FYI: That wasn't what she meant when she said "I'm out of here". She just meant that she was being discharged. I used the phrase completely innocently and it is how Elliot interprets it also. I know she runs a lot, but how could she, under these circumstances? She can't. Well, not yet anyway ... (Insert evil laugh.)
Chapter 6: Fight
Elliot stared at her for a few seconds, still covering her hand with his on his arm. She could feel his warmth and it warmed her as well. Still, part of her wanted to move away as well. They didn't touch each other like that. And the he asked her,
"You have a son?"
"Yes," she said, unable to suppress a wide smile, and Elliot returned her smile.
"That's great. How old?"
Elliot looked at her attentively again and she guessed what he must be thinking. How did an old spinster like herself end up with a two-year old?
"Are you married? Do you have more kids?"
Right. He didn't remember her.
"No. I've never been married and Noah is my only one. There's no daddy in the picture."
She wasn't going to dwell on the reason she had felt the need to add that little detail right away, and quickly continued,
"I keep forgetting that you don't remember me."
"I wish I could do that," Elliot said, smiling, and she smiled back at him.
"Maybe I can help."
"I'm sure of it," Elliot said, and the conviction in his voice made her believe it too.
She pulled her hand away and pulled up a chair to sit down, knowing he would have more questions for her. She had expected him to bring up the conversation they still needed to finish, but he surprised her when he told her,
"I dreamed about you last night."
"Yeah. Weird, isn't it? It wasn't much of a dream. Just you and me, walking down the street with a cup of coffee in our hands. You know, those Styrofoam cups?"
She knew. It was such a familiar image that she ached to be there again.
"That really happened, didn't it?" he asked her.
Olivia just nodded. It had been her life.
"So I'm dreaming actual memories now? Interesting."
"Have you ever dreamed of me before?"
The question was out there before she could stop it. And somehow, she knew it was alright to ask. This was Elliot, after all.
"I don't think so," Elliot answered but she could see he was still thinking about it.
He was quiet for a few moments and Olivia was very curious what he was thinking. She decided to wait for him to speak again. He was a lot more talkative now than he'd ever been so she expected him to speak up again soon. He didn't disappoint.
"You wanna know how I lost my memory?"
"It was my birthday. October 20, 2011. I turned 45 that day."
Elliot closed his eyes and frowned, as if he was straining to remember.
"We had this big bash in a restaurant with just about everyone we knew and everyone they knew, and they say I drank way too much. I don't remember that but I suppose I had good reason to drink that much," he added sadly, looking at her once more.
"They say I retired from the NYPD after a dramatic incident. Maureen told me most of this, and Kathy wasn't very eager to fill in the blanks so ..."
He sighed and Olivia waited.
"I got into this huge fight with Kathy. Maureen wasn't sure what it was about and Kathy wouldn't tell me. She used to say it's in the past so let's leave it there."
Olivia guessed that particular fight wasn't the only one Kathy had tried to leave in the past.
"So I was pretty drunk and stormed out of my own party, off to God knows where. I was hit over the head with a baseball bat by a homeless guy, and I was mugged. When I woke up in the hospital, I didn't have a clue as to who I was or what had happened to me. The only thing I remember clearly is, that I was desperate to go somewhere. Unfortunately, I don't remember where. They had to restrain me for a few hours before I would calm down enough to let them treat me and to see my family."
"I'm so sorry Elliot. I wish I had known ..."
"Me too, Olivia. You know, for weeks I had these restless dreams. I was still trying to get to wherever I was going. It was suffocating because I felt that I had a goal, but no one would tell me what it was or where it was."
"That must have been so frustrating," Olivia sighed, looking down at her lap and fiddling with the sash of her robe.
"I always felt like I was trying to find someone rather than something," Elliot continued. "I'd chase unknown people in my dreams. Well, shadows really. But I just couldn't ever catch up with them."
Her own nightmares would often involve trying to get away from something or someone, but Olivia could imagine that trying to catch up with someone and failing could be just as unnerving. When she looked up she saw that Elliot was gazing at her intently, his blue eyes piercing her browns.
"Olivia, you must have known me pretty well. Do you have any idea where I would have wanted to go that night?"
A/N Well, I think some of us may have an inkling by now ...
Chapter 7: Honest
While Elliot had been telling her about his dreams and his urge to find someone, Olivia had felt like someone was squeezing her throat shut. She had to make an effort to keep breathing. He was right. She knew where he used to go when he got into a fight with his wife or one of his kids, or when a case was bothering him, or when he just didn't want to go home.
He'd go to her ...
But at the time, they hadn't spoken in five months. He'd retired and hadn't answered any of her calls. She'd gone to his home several times, but each time Kathy would tell her that Elliot wasn't there, or he was sleeping, or he didn't want to talk to anyone from work. She was trying to wrap her brain around all the new information she would have to add to those phone calls and encounters with Kathy to interpret them correctly now.
At first, the woman would have wanted her to stay away because he was done with the job and needed to deal with all that had happened. She would have wanted to protect him. She could even imagine Elliot telling her he didn't want to talk to his partner. But Olivia knew there was more to it, and the fact that Kathy had kept all of them out of the loop after Elliot lost his memory, only confirmed that belief. She had wanted to keep her away from her husband because she felt threatened by her. Even Elliot's mother had once told her, she scared the pants off of Kathy. Olivia had tried to brush it off like she always did, but she knew there was some truth to it. And she'd even believed at times that Kathy had reason to worry, even though she had been afraid to believe it.
Elliot was watching her and she realized that he was still waiting for an answer. She would have to make a decision. Was she going to be completely honest with him, or keep dancing around the truth like they had always done? If there was any chance that his memory might come back, it would have to be the whole truth and nothing but the truth, she decided.
She'd spoken softly, almost whispering and didn't meet his eyes.
"What?" Elliot asked, and she could feel his eyes on her.
"You would have come to me."
Her chin was trembling and she scrubbed her hands down her face to regain some sense of control over herself. If he'd really planned to go to her that night, it meant so much that she could hardly process it. After five long months, he would have stood on her doorstep. Shivers ran up her spine and she wrapped her arms around herself.
"That's what I thought," Elliot said pensively and her eyes flicked back up to his.
She hated how insecure she sounded. Elliot nodded slowly and then rested his head against the mattress behind him, still looking at her.
"I can see how much I affect you, Olivia. Even if we weren't lovers, and I guess I'll have to take your word for it, we were more than just partners. Why else would you be so shaken up? And why else would you be the only one I seem to remember on some level? When I think about it, that fight with Kathy was probably about you. Which would explain why she wouldn't tell me about it."
His words pierced her like stabs of a knife. He was being brutally honest with no filter at all, and it was almost too much to handle. And at the same time, it was liberating. They were bringing things out in the open that they had tried to hide for years. Maybe now was the time. He didn't remember the strained boundaries that they had maintained between them and wasn't limited by them anymore. So why should she still be limited by them?
She looked at him and saw concern in his eyes. Could he be wondering if he'd gone too far? Been too honest? Was he still that attuned to her?
"I ... what do you want me to say?" she stammered, still trying to grasp what was happening.
"So you think you were the one I've been looking for all these years?"
She wasn't going to answer that question. It wasn't for her to answer. She took a deep breath, trying to keep herself from shaking and asked him,
"Do you think I'm the one you were looking for?"
Before Elliot could answer her, there was a soft knock on the door just before it opened.
"Look who's here," she heard Lucy's voice say softly, and then she heard the one voice that could light up the deepest darkness in her life.
She stood up quickly and turned around, bending slightly with her arms wide open when Lucy let go of Noah, who ran towards her immediately. Olivia scooped him up in her arms and held him close to her, pressing her cheek against his.
"Mommy missed you so much Noah. I'm so happy to see you," she sighed in her baby's neck, and it warmed her from the inside out to feel him hug her tightly too.
Lucy approached her cautiously and put a hand on her shoulder.
"How are you doing?" the nanny asked.
"I'm okay Lucy, just a few bruises, really."
She'd forgotten about her sprained wrist and ignored the pain while she held her son close.
"Unlike my victim," Olivia added, turning around to face Elliot again. "Lucy, I'd like you to meet Elliot. I ran him off the road last night."
Lucy looked at him a little shocked and Elliot waved at her, smiling reassuringly.
"I'll live. Hi Lucy."
"Hi there," Elliot said, looking at the boy in Olivia's arms, and she stepped closer to him so Noah could see Elliot and vice versa.
"Hey Noah, can you say hi to mommy's friend?" she asked her son gently.
Noah looked at the man in the hospital bed and surprised all of them when he pointed at Elliot and said triumphantly,
A/N That's enough for today ... What could Noah mean? You have one guess.
Chapter 8: Noah
Elliot's eyes moved from the child to Olivia and back. Olivia felt her cheeks get warm. She knew what Noah meant. They'd discussed the picture on her nightstand together many times. It was a picture of her and Elliot, standing close together at some party and smiling into the camera, his arm around her shoulders. She'd put it there after she and Brian had broken up and he had moved out. It had made her feel less alone at times, and more alone other times.
Meanwhile, Noah's head was bobbing excitedly.
"Mommy and Ewwie in the picture."
One corner of Elliot's mouth tugged up.
"And where is this picture, little man?"
Elliot's smile widened, and Lucy seemed to catch on at last. She moved next to Olivia and reached for Noah, but Noah seemed to have other plans.
"Noah sit on da bed?" he asked Olivia, putting his little hands on her cheeks and moving his face so close to hers that he was just a blur.
She looked at Elliot, who was still grinning contently and was now patting the space on the bed next to him.
"Sure, you can sit here. What's your name?"
"I'm Noah!" Noah said immediately, wriggling to get out of his mother's arms and onto the bed. "You Ewwie. No. Ewwie Ot."
Olivia couldn't help chuckling when her little boy corrected himself, like she had corrected him so often. Her initial embarrassment subsided when she saw that Elliot was now totally focusing on Noah.
"That's a silly name, right?" Elliot said to Noah with a grin. "Ellie Ot. I think Noah is a much nicer name."
Noah nodded again and Olivia stood close to him to make sure he wouldn't fall off the bed.
"We've got this, mommy," Elliot told her, and when he winked at her she felt her stomach flutter.
Elliot put his arm around Noah, who scooted closer to him instinctively. She'd never seen her son take to a stranger so quickly. But to Noah, this must not be a stranger. He was the man in the picture on her nightstand, so he was their friend. The world of a child was enviably simple.
Lucy tapped her arm and she looked at the nanny, who must be wondering what was going on.
"You hit the car of someone you know?" she asked her softly, not wanting to interrupt the intellectual conversation that was developing between Noah and Elliot.
Olivia walked a few steps away from the bed with the young woman and answered her softly.
"Yes. Can you believe that? He's my old partner. I haven't seen him in years."
"Well, this is an interesting reunion then."
"Yeah. And it gets more interesting. He's had amnesia for four years and doesn't remember me at all."
The 'at all' part might not be entirely true, but Lucy didn't need to know that yet. It was all still much too fresh for Olivia herself.
"Oh my. So how does he feel about you putting him in the hospital?"
Olivia blew out a breath and looked over her shoulder at the man and the boy in the hospital bed.
"He's surprisingly okay with it. He knows I didn't mean to put him here and he's been questioning me about the past. He really wants to remember."
"So you're going to help him with that."
It wasn't a question and Olivia nodded.
"How can I not? He doesn't remember the past but he seems to remember little things every now and then."
"A good bump on the head can do that," Lucy said dryly, and Olivia had to suppress a smile.
Lucy looked at the two people in the bed as well and smiled.
"Noah seems to be in love with him already."
Lucy's choice of words startled Olivia a little and she bit her lip. But she had to admit, it did look like love at first sight between Elliot and her son. They were goofing off together and she could tell that Elliot tried not to show that he was in pain. She decided to intervene to make sure Noah wouldn't bump into his cracked ribs or his sore hip, and approached the bed.
"Noah? Elliot has an ouch so you have to be careful with him, okay?"
Noah turned to Elliot, completely unfazed, and started telling him about the ouch he'd gotten in day care the day before. Olivia glanced at Lucy.
"Just a chafed knee, it's fine," Lucy told her softly but Elliot pretended to be in awe of Noah, because he was being so brave.
"Ewwie Ot show Noah da ouch?"
Olivia wondered how Elliot would solve this without shocking her little boy too much, but his fatherly instincts definitely had not been wiped out by his amnesia. Elliot beckoned Noah to come closer and once the boy was leaning against his side, the back of his head resting sideways against Elliot's broad chest, they peeked under the covers together. Olivia assumed that Elliot had been bandaged up and Noah would recognize bandages as something that covered an ouch.
"Hurts," Noah stated after taking in the bandages around Elliot's ribs.
"Yes, it hurts," Elliot said. "But the doctor is going to fix me and then it won't hurt anymore."
Noah nodded. Unfortunately, he knew about hospitals and doctors already. And just like that, he turned away from Elliot and reached for his mother.
"Noah off da bed?" he asked her.
Olivia lifted him off the bed and as soon as his feet hit the ground, he started looking around the room for something to play with. Lucy dashed after him and asked Olivia if she needed some more time 'here'. She glanced at Elliot, who pretended not to be listening to them. Olivia hesitated. She was anxious to get home with her son, but she didn't want to leave Elliot behind without at least talking about meeting up again. Their earlier conversation had ended abruptly when Lucy and Noah came in, but they would need to finish it soon.
She walked up to him and decided that this honesty thing might actually be a good idea. She was going to say something when Elliot beat her to the punch.
"Will I see you again?"
She could tell that he already knew her answer, but there was a small hint of insecurity in his eyes too. Could he be remembering how complicated they had been together in the past? She didn't want complicated anymore. She just wanted him back in her life. So she decided not to run for cover this time around.
"I would like to keep in touch Elliot. If I can help in any way to jog your memory, I want to do that. It's the least I can do after almost killing you."
Elliot nodded and she could see a twinge of relief in his eyes, and a lot of amusement.
"Well, I don't know about you, but I'm glad you bumped in to me."
That put a smile on her face and it didn't surprise her anymore when Elliot reached for her hand and squeezed it gently. She could get used to that.
"I don't think I'll be going anywhere soon, so you know where to find me."
"Go home to be with your son, Olivia. I'll see you soon?"
"Yeah. See you soon El."
A/N No evil cliffhanger this time. More soon. Comment?
Chapter 9: Fin
Olivia was still in a daze when they got home. She was glad to be in normal clothes again and in their own apartment. She was tired though. Exhausted, and not just physically. When Lucy offered to get them some groceries before she'd leave, Olivia accepted the offer gladly. Lucy reminded her that she'd been in an accident less than 24 hours earlier, and should take it easy. When she asked her if there was anyone who could drop by to check in on her, Olivia decided to call Fin. He was the only member of her squad who had known Elliot, and she really needed to talk about it with someone.
She had just tucked Noah in for the night when Fin arrived. He was curious why she'd asked him to come over, and looked at her with worry when she suggested he sit down first.
"You want a beer?" she asked him, walking into the kitchen to get them both a bottle.
"Sure. But what gives, Liv? What's this about?"
She walked back into the living room and handed Fin his beer before sitting down next to him on the couch with a sigh.
"The accident I caused last night?"
"Yeah? You wanna tell me what happened there? Why'd you run that light?"
"I don't know why I didn't see it Fin. I just ... this case ..."
"I get it. Too many similarities. You havin' any nightmares?"
She nodded slowly. The nightmares never really went away.
"And flashbacks. I had one in the car when it happened."
"That sucks Liv. You shouldn't be drivin' when that happens."
"I just wanted to get home. I thought I was fine until ... until I wasn't."
"So how's the other guy doin'? Dodds tells me you two met at the hospital?" Fin asked her.
Olivia took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. Then she took a long draw from her bottle and leaned her elbows on her knees before before looking at Fin sideways.
"That's what I wanted to tell you. We know him."
"I almost killed Elliot last night."
Fin jumped up at stood in front of her, so she had to sit up to look up at him.
"Maybe he had it comin'," he huffed. "Karma's a beautiful thing ya know."
"He's got amnesia," Olivia said flatly, looking Fin straight in the eyes. "He doesn't remember any of us."
Fin's shoulders sagged and part of the fight left him.
"The crash cause that?" he asked her, his tone much gentler than before.
Olivia shook her head.
"No. He lost his memory over four years ago."
She watched the implications of what she'd just told her friend sink in. Fin's face never showed too much emotion, but she could see it nonetheless. He was running out of reasons to be angry with Elliot fast.
"Four years Liv? For real?"
"I've spoken with him. He's a different person. He honestly doesn't remember."
Fin sat back down next to her and sighed, shaking his head.
"You'd know if it was an act," he stated and Olivia could only agree.
Fin knew that Elliot could never fool her. Not her.
"So now what? You gonna see him again?"
"I have to, Fin. He seems to remember small bits and pieces and he says it has to do with me."
"Wouldn't surprise me one bit," Fin said dryly. "You two were joined at the hip for so long. I can't believe he'd ever forget you completely."
"His wife kept us all away intentionally."
She knew she had sounded bitter. She was.
"Now why'd she do that? You'd think they'd try everything to get him to remember!"
Olivia couldn't agree more.
"Elliot says she wanted a fresh start and she told him he'd be better off not remembering the job."
Fin shook his head and drank his beer, emptying the bottle. Then he looked at her and said,
"That woman is nuts. She just din want you near her man anymore."
Olivia couldn't help chuckling at Fin's very accurate assessment of the situation.
"So what's he been up to these past four years?" Fin asked.
"Not much. He's retired and he says he's been 'observing' mostly. Watching other people while trying to find himself. He's pretty relaxed about it, but I can tell that deep down, he still wants his memory back desperately."
"He still married?"
Olivia chuckled again. Fin wasn't one to mince words and she needed that right now to make sense of the jumbled mess in her head.
"Liv, you want some company tonight? Ya know, to keep the bad dreams away?"
She appreciated the offer and pulled her friend into a spontaneous hug. Fin smiled shyly but she knew they were on the same page. Olivia knew her emotions were very close to the surface. She wouldn't let Fin see her cry but just knowing she wasn't alone would definitely help her relax. So Fin slept on her couch that night, keeping watch over her little family.
Fin would tell the squad that she wasn't coming in yet, and after dropping Noah off at day care, Olivia would go back to the hospital. She had taken a long shower, had put on a little makeup and had brushed her hair until it was smooth and shiny, and then she had to put some water on it again because it had become all static. It was early December and the frost in the air made her hair electric. But she wanted to look nice and caught herself dreaming away a bit in front of her bathroom mirror. Elliot was actually back in her life and she hadn't even yelled at him yet.
Remembering his confronting words about their relationship made her tremble inside. He could tell that he was affecting her, and he knew they had been more to each other than just partners. To hear him acknowledge that, even without really remembering it, had a more profound effect on her than she'd expected. She had always assumed it was the same for him as it was for her, but they had never talked about it. Never said anything out loud. Until now.
Kathy had had her chance. For the first time in her life, Olivia didn't feel guilty about her feelings for the woman's husband. Ex-husband. They had had their fresh start and it hadn't worked. It was over for good this time. Even Fin had encouraged her not to let him get away again. Not now.
Fin, of all people.
Olivia smiled at herself in the mirror and then walked into the living room to get Noah to take him to day care. And after that, she was going to visit Elliot again. She felt a little giddy. She was going to get her best friend back. And possibly, he would be more to her than her best friend. After all this time, he was still the center of her world. And they actually had a chance to start over. She'd be a fool not to take it.
Chapter 10: Dream
Her heart was thumping when she approached his room again. She couldn't help wondering if he was now remembering more than the day before. He'd already dreamed about their past his first night after the accident. She blew out a breath slowly and shook her hands before grabbing the door handle and pushing the door open.
Elliot was just getting into bed again with the help of another man. She wondered if it wasn't too soon for him to be up and about, but the other man seemed to know what he was doing. When Elliot spotted her, his eyes lit up. She could tell that he was in considerable pain while he tried to hoist his body back into place and readjust his IV, but he smiled at her nonetheless.
Olivia waited by the door until Elliot was settled in. She'd seen the cast around his left leg, that ran from his foot all the way up to his thigh. He was now wearing a hospital gown with an open back, that only just covered all the necessary parts. He wasn't wearing anything underneath. She knew he wouldn't like being so exposed and helpless, but he seemed to be okay with the man fiddling with his legs, his gown and his blanket. She was glad he had his own room. It was small but private.
"This is my physical therapist," Elliot told her, and the man turned around to see who he was talking to.
Olivia took it as her cue to come closer.
"I didn't think he would be allowed out of bed so soon," she told the man. "I'm Olivia Benson. I uhm ... kinda caused this," she added, gesturing at Elliot.
"Greg Daniels. Please call me Greg," the man said, extending his hand to her. "You did a real number on him, Ms. Benson."
Elliot smirked and Olivia decided that Greg was alright. He would know how to handle Elliot. She shook his hand and told the man,
"I didn't mean to."
Greg smiled at her.
"That goes without saying, Ms. Benson. Now, about Mr. Stabler getting out of bed so soon. We want to prevent stiffness of his hip. I know the broken leg complicates matters, but it's important that he continues to move, to keep the blood pumping so to speak, even if it's just a few minutes every now and then. It will help him heal faster. We just did a few simple exercises in the chair."
Greg nodded at the armchair that had been placed in Elliot's room to the left of his bed. He turned back to Elliot then and gave him a few instructions about food and movements that were and weren't allowed for now. He'd be back in the afternoon and after making sure that Elliot had understood his instructions, he left the room. Elliot rolled his eyes and Olivia cocked an eyebrow.
"I like him already," she said playfully and Elliot smirked.
"Great. Now it's two against one."
"I'm not against you, Elliot," Olivia said, standing next to his bed.
"I know," he replied softly, and his voice made her body tingle in several places.
He was so completely Elliot right now, that she almost forgot he didn't really know her anymore. Almost.
"You look really beautiful," Elliot blurted out.
It was a very clear reminder that he truly wasn't himself. No filter. Olivia decided that she kind of liked this filter-less Elliot. Maybe she could take pointers from him. If there was ever a chance of building something new with him from scratch, this was it.
"Thank you," she said, smiling.
In the past, she would have deflected the compliment or made a joke about it, but this wasn't the past. This was the present. And she tried to relax into it.
Elliot looked really tired after being on his feet - or foot - and she asked him if he wanted to rest.
"No. Not while you're here," he told her, reaching for her hand.
She let him hold her hand and reminded herself once more that this wasn't the past.
"I'm not going anywhere El," she told him reassuringly. "I can just sit here while you rest, and we can talk later. You've got a really comfortable chair here now."
Elliot gave her a lopsided smile and she wanted to hug him. The way he was looking at her despite being in pain and feeling tired, made all her feelings for him resurface full force. She decided it was too soon for a hug, and just squeezed his hand.
"I have a few magazines here," Elliot said, gesturing at his nightstand.
Olivia knew he was basically admitting that he did need to rest. She took off her coat and tossed it on the foot of the bed, and took the two magazines. Sports magazines, of course. She sat down in the chair and thought it was really comfortable indeed.
"There's a coffee machine in the corridor," Elliot said, stifling a yawn.
"I'll be fine, trust me," she said, smiling at him.
His bed had been lowered so she could just catch his eyes while sitting in the chair to his left. Her heart skipped a beat when he said softly,
Elliot had fallen asleep and Olivia had gotten herself a cup of coffee twice. She had read the magazines from start to finish and made a mental note to bring a book next time. The doctors and nurses seemed to accept that she was here to stay, and didn't comment that she wasn't sticking to visiting hours. Maybe they knew she had to take it easy too after the accident, and just let her be. Nobody else came to visit and Olivia wondered if Elliot's kids even knew he was in the hospital. Someone should call them. She didn't exactly feel inclined to do it herself. It was up to Elliot.
Around 10.30 am she heard Elliot groan a little, and stood up to check on him. His eyes were still closed but he seemed a little agitated. He wasn't hooked up to any monitors anymore but she guessed his heart rate was a bit high. Was he chasing shadows again in his dreams? She wasn't sure if she should wake him or not. She put a hand on his heaving chest tentatively. He was warm. Too warm, maybe? Elliot groaned again and sighed,
"No ... No ..."
She leaned a little closer to him and put a hand on his forehead. He was very warm.
"Elliot," she whispered, hoping to wake him without startling him.
He was still very agitated and Olivia shook his shoulders gently.
"El, wake up. It's just a dream."
She put a cool hand on his forehead again and almost jumped when his eyes popped open and he stared up at her, completely panicked.
"Olivia!" he gasped, but she wasn't sure if he was really seeing her yet.
"Ssshhh," she said, stroking his forehead gently.
"Olivia," Elliot said urgently again, "Somebody cut your throat. I thought I'd lost you!"
A/N Sounds familiar? What was Elliot dreaming?
Chapter 11: Relief
Olivia froze, still staring into Elliot's eyes. His panic was slowly subsiding but she was still shocked. What had he dreamed about exactly? She needed to know if another memory had resurfaced, so she should let him tell her the details and not ask him any leading questions.
"Olivia," he said again, grabbing her wrist.
"I'm here," she choked out. "It was a dream."
"It was so real."
"You want to tell me about it? Do you remember where you were?"
He'd whispered, and Olivia moved her hand from his forehead to his right cheek slowly. He closed his eyes and leaned into her touch, releasing his grip on her wrist but not letting go completely. Olivia swallowed hard. She knew Elliot was upset but it was still a very intimate moment. It was completely different from what they used to be. But in a way, it was such a natural continuance of what they used to be towards what they were becoming. Whatever that was.
"Can you describe what you saw?"
Elliot opened his eyes and put his right hand over her left hand on his cheek.
"It started just like it usually does. There were lots of people and I was running. I dream that a lot, you know," he added sadly. He took a deep breath and continued. " I was yelling at them to get out of the way. I was chasing someone. I knew it was dangerous. It was important, like I was on a mission. I ran down some stairs, pushing people aside."
Elliot stopped talking, slightly out of breath, and reached up to her face with his right hand. Olivia willed herself not to move away, and dropped her hand from his cheek to his shoulder. She knew what he was looking for and she closed her eyes briefly when he moved her hair aside to look at her neck. His eyes flicked back to hers and his voice trembled when he continued,
"A girl screamed and I saw a man with a knife ... he swung at you ... at you," he repeated, as if he was only just realizing that it had really been her. "And you went down."
He moved his hand to her neck and touched her skin gingerly. Olivia was still staying still consciously and held her breath while he traced the thin, faint white line that still adorned her neck from where Gitano had cut her all those years ago.
"I panicked. I ran over to you, calling your name and then I woke up and you were here."
Elliot let out a shaky breath.
"I've never dreamed that last part before and I ... I'm not sure if I really want to know that actually happened."
The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, Olivia told herself. It hadn't exactly been their finest hour but he needed to know it wasn't just a dream. It was an actual memory.
Elliot closed his eyes and moved his right hand over her hand again, pulling it up to his face. He kissed the inside of her hand.
"Thank God you survived," he said softly, his voice thick with emotion. "I ... all I could think in that moment was, that I couldn't lose you."
Olivia felt like she was going to explode. She was breathing faster than she should. A real memory had come back to him, and one of their most shocking moments at that. They had both chosen each other over the job during that case. It had changed them forever. And he had just kissed her hand and she didn't ever want him to let go of it. It was as if Elliot sensed what she was thinking.
"Liv," he said, his voice raspy. "Can I call you Liv?"
She wanted to cry and whispered,
"That feeling I had in my dream ... that really happened, too. I just know it. I couldn't lose you. I can't lose you. I do believe you're the one I've been looking for all this time."
Olivia bit her lip and tried to suppress a sob. She managed only partially, and pulled her hand away abruptly, standing up straight and covering her face with her hands. She had to keep breathing but it was just too much.
"Hey," Elliot said softly.
His voice wasn't so shaky anymore. She peeked through her fingers and saw his bright blue eyes looking at her. There was a tenderness in them that she'd seen before, but usually when he'd been talking to children.
"It wasn't a very nice memory to start off with, but I feel so relieved. I can finally stop running."
She moved her hands away from her face and took him in while takint a deep breath. He did look relieved. His eyes weren't empty anymore. She didn't dare acknowledge what she was seeing in them now. Not yet. It was too much too fast.
"I don't know what to say," she managed to mumble.
Elliot reached for her hand and she let hers slip into his without hesitation.
"Tell me you'll be here. That I won't lose you again."
She'd tried so hard to be able to go on without him. She'd tried to build a life for herself and had tried to accept that Elliot just didn't want her in his life anymore. And here he was, with just one partial memory of their bumpy past, asking her to stay with him. Telling her he needed her to be a part of his life. Telling her she was the one he'd been looking for all this time.
Olivia felt faint and if Elliot hadn't tugged at her hand, making her lean against the bed, she might have lost her balance.
"Please sit. I can't catch you yet."
The simplest words made her heart leap and her gut twist. I can't catch you yet. Meaning, I will want to catch you when I'm able.
"El," she sighed while sitting on the edge of the bed and turning her upper body to face him.
"I like that you call me that," he told her, his smile melting her heart.
She smiled and rubbed his hand, that was next to her on the mattress. She had missed him so and it felt new but right to be able to touch him now, without feeling like she was overstepping some invisible boundary. She was at a loss for words, but the silence between them wasn't uncomfortable. They both needed some time to digest what had just happened. Elliot was a long way away from remembering his life, but realizing that he had found the person he'd been looking for all those years, had created a huge shift between them. She felt connected to him again and she wanted to cry from relief.
It was Elliot who broke the quiet silence between them after a while.
"Please tell me more about our life together."
Olivia looked up at him and gave him a half smile.
"You make it sound like we were a couple."
He never broke eye contact when he answered,
"I think we were, in a way."
Olivia nodded. She knew he was right. They'd been a couple in their own way. They just hadn't ever called it that or addressed it.
"Is that dream still all you remember?"
She had hoped there would be more by now, but Elliot nodded.
"Yeah. That and what I can sense between us. I knew I knew you. The dream just confirms it, big time."
"Do you want me to tell you more about the case we were working when I got this scar?" Olivia asked, indicating the scar on her neck. Perhaps building on the memory he had already regained might trigger more, she reasoned.
"Yes, please. Tell me all you remember."
A/N Hmm. Are you sure you want him to remember this case, Olivia?
Chapter 12: Fever
"Why would they let someone like that ever get out of prison again?"
Anger had flared up in his eyes after she'd told him who the man with the knife had been, and for once, Olivia couldn't be happier about it. He would have been angry when confronted with a pervert like Gitano. He had been.
"He had been locked up for eighteen years," Olivia told him but Elliot shook his head.
"Not long enough. After doing that to a child? Life isn't long enough."
"They tried to have him committed after he'd served his sentence but he didn't fit the 'criteria'," Olivia explained, making air quotes when she said 'criteria'.
"Does he now?"
Olivia was still sitting on the egde of the bed and Elliot had put his hand on her knee. She put her hand over his and rubbed his hand, and she could tell it helped him relax slightly. He still felt very warm though, and she felt his forehead again.
"You're burning up, El," she said softly. "I think I should get the nurse in here."
She started to stand up but Elliot grabbed her hand again.
"You will tell me more about that case, right?"
She smiled reassuringly.
But after it was confirmed that Elliot was running a fever, he was subjected to a bunch of tests, and Olivia was asked to leave for a while. She hated not knowing what was going on in Elliot's room and had to admit she had easily slipped back into partner-mode, as if those four years apart had been wiped out completely. Sitting alone in the hospital cafeteria with a cup of tea did give her a little time to come to terms with what had happened earlier. Elliot had dreamed about the case that had almost broken them. And he'd dreamed the first part many times before. He'd been looking for her all along, while she had thought he didn't want her in his life anymore.
Her anger at Kathy flared up again and she considered calling the woman. But she wouldn't. Not without checking it with Elliot first. She decided to call Donald Cragen instead. He'd want to know what had happened to Elliot. She knew he and Eileen were in the city at the moment, and hoped that they could come to visit Elliot before they'd be off again, to some tropical destination or other.
Her old Captain was baffled. He almost tripped over his words and shared her indignation that they had never been appraised of Elliot's condition.
"We should almost be grateful you rammed your car into his," Cragen huffed, making Olivia chuckle despite the bitterness in his words.
"That's what Elliot says too."
"So he's remembering now?"
"No, just very tiny bits for now. Maybe seeing you will help."
"I'll be there this afternoon."
Olivia blew out a breath slowly after ending the call with her old Captain. The detective in her had re-awoken and she needed more manpower to crack the case of the missing memory. The next person she called was John Munch. John was in Chicago but promised to take an early flight back the next day. And finally, she called George Huang, who was shocked to learn about Elliot's amnesia, and promised to visit soon.
After finishing all her calls, Olivia wandered back to Elliot's room, hoping that the doctors would be done by now. One of the nurses just came out of the room when she walked up, and Olivia asked the young woman if they knew what was causing the fever yet.
"There seems to be an infected wound, but I'll let the doctor fill you in," the woman answered, gesturing at the door of Elliot's room.
Olivia took it as permission to go inside, and slipped into the room quietly. Another nurse was adjusting Elliot's IV and the doctor was writing something on his chart. Elliot was watching the nurse add something to his IV and seemed to accept that he needed extra medication. When he noticed her standing back, their eyes locked. He was pleading with her wordlessly to stay. She hadn't planned on leaving any time soon and she just smiled at him.
"Doctor? What are you giving him?" she asked once the doctor put Elliot's chart back in its holder.
"Some antibiotics to help his body fight the slight infection he has in the area of his hip we operated. We've removed the dressing and will monitor the wound closely. It's under control for now, miss ..."
The doctor looked at her questioningly and Olivia said quickly,
"Lieutenant Benson from the NYPD. Mr. Stabler is a former employee."
She avoided looking at Elliot for the moment and the doctor bought her excuse to be there. After he and the nurse had left, Olivia walked up to Elliot to feel his forehead again.
"Lieutenant Benson huh?" Elliot said, a sparkle of amusement in his eyes. "What happened to 'I'm the one who caused this'?"
She smiled and sat down on the edge of the bed again, taking his hand in her hands. It was becoming easier and more natural to touch him, and she refused to overthink what that meant right now. She could do that at home, alone. Not here with him, and not now. She needed to talk to him now.
"Elliot, don't you think you should call your kids to let them know you're in the hospital?"
Elliot frowned and she wondered if he had any contact with his older kids these days. She could see him thinking deeply about her question, and finally he told her,
"I think I'd like to talk to Kathleen."
Olivia nodded. Kathleen had always been close to his heart. To hers too, for that matter.
"Do you have her number?"
Elliot looked at his nightstand.
"You know, I'm not even sure I still have my phone."
Olivia stood up and walked around the bed to look in the drawer of his nightstand, and sure enough, there was a cellphone inside.
"This yours?" she asked, holding up the device.
"You wanna call her right away?"
He nodded and she handed him the phone.
"You want me to wait outside?" she asked modestly, but Elliot looked at her with astonishment written all over his face.
"Now why would I want that?" he asked her. "I want you with me every step of the way."
He focused his attention on his phone and finding his second daughter's number in his contacts, and it gave Olivia a minute to process what he'd just said. He wanted her with him every step of the way. Filter-less indeed. Her heart rate had gone up a little and she walked over to the window to distract herself and take a few deep breaths. When she looked at the feverish man in the hospital bed again, she could see that he was nervous about calling his child. He really did need her to help him through. And she would. She'd do anything for him. Just like she always had.
Any comments would be appreciated!
Chapter 13: Us
Kathleen was coming to visit Elliot that evening. Olivia had tried not to listen to Elliot's side of the brief conversation between father and daughter, but she had understood that Kathleen was working, and would come over right after dinner. She'd offered to inform her brothers and sisters but Elliot had told her not to for now. Olivia walked back up to the bed after he'd ended the call. Elliot was still looking down at his phone and she wondered what he was thinking. When he looked up at her, she could see sadness in his eyes.
"She tells me we had an intense relationship. I wish I could remember that. She's a wonderful person."
"She is," Olivia agreed. "And I'm sure she's taking your memory loss in stride."
Elliot smiled and nodded.
"I can tell that the others are still a little apprehensive around me - aside from Eli of course - but Kathleen is just ... Kathleen."
Elliot patted on the bed and Olivia sat down on it again.
"I'm sorry I won't be here when she comes to visit. I have to go get Noah around four."
"Oh. Okay," Elliot said but she knew he was a little disappointed. He was almost clinging to her like she was his only lifeline.
"But I did ask a few other people to come see you."
Elliot was surprised but interested, and it hit her again how the tension that had always hung between them was no longer there. She would have expected him to be annoyed that she had informed people without checking it with him first, but he wasn't. He was just curious.
"Our old Captain is coming over this afternoon and another former co-worker is flying in to see you tomorrow."
"You think people from work will be more likely to jog my memory than my own family?"
His tone wasn't accusatory at all but her reflex was still to defend herself.
"Well ... so far, they haven't helped you remember, and I have, so I thought ... I mean ..."
"Liv, it's okay," Elliot said, interrupting her and reaching for her hand to squeeze it. "It was just a question. And I hope you're right."
Olivia looked down at their hands, that were intertwined on her thigh once again, and nodded. It would take some time to get used to this new dynamic between them. They had always been in sync on the job but not always this harmonious as people, both having such a strong personality.
"Were you expecting an argument from me?" Elliot asked her.
She raised her eyes to meet his and shrugged lightly.
"I'm guessing we used to argue a lot," Elliot said, and she could see amusement in his eyes, again.
"Yeah. But it worked, in a way. We always got results in the end."
"You mean on the job."
"Yes. Of course."
What else would she mean?
"And for us?" Elliot asked, gesturing between them with the hand that wasn't holding hers. "Did it work for us?"
Olivia stared at him for a few seconds, her eyebrows raised. What should she say to that?
"There was no us outside the job," she settled on.
Elliot laughed out loud, startling her a bit.
"Right. Who are you trying to kid here?"
She closed her eyes briefly and told herself to keep breathing. He was doing it again. Pushing her about their relationship. Who was she trying to kid? Everyone, including herself. And him. That's who she'd been trying to kid. Telling herself he was off-limits because he was married, and hiding away her feelings for him in a little box inside her heart. Telling herself that him being her partner and her friend would be enough for her, until he wasn't even those things anymore. But while he was her partner, they had both kept their personal stuff to themselves mostly. They hadn't talked about their feelings or other things that were too close to their hearts. They'd tried to remain professional at all times, so they could stay partners.
And then Gitano had forced their feelings for each other out in the open and it had shaken both of them, almost costing them their friendship as well as their partnership. Why did that case have to be his first memory anyway?
She'd responded without thinking and looked at him. He was watching her and was still waiting for an answer.
"I ... there was something between us, but like I told you before, you were married and committed to your family so ... we just ... ignored it I guess."
Elliot thought about her words for a few moments, putting his other hand over hers as well. He rubbed the back of her hand with his thumb and asked her,
"What would you say if I told you I can't ignore it?"
Olivia's heart rate had doubled once again and she knew she had no choice but to tell him the truth. Him not remembering wat had been and just ascertaining what was, was completely disarming. She admitted with a shaky voice,
"I would say that that scares the shit out of me."
Elliot laughed again.
"I can see that, and I'm glad you're being so honest with me."
He continued rubbing her hand with his thumb and waited until she made eye contact with him again before he continued.
"I'll admit that this is pretty scary for me too. But for the first time since waking up without any memories, I feel like I'm finding some solid ground again and ... well, I'm kind of latching on to it. I really don't mean to push you but ... how did we ever manage to ignore this thing between us if I can just see it from a mile away without remembering it?"
Olivia chuckled despite getting increasingly nervous.
"We didn't want to break up our partnership," she said as quietly as she could manage.
"And did that work?"
"We thought so until ... until that very case happened that you dreamed about this morning."
"We fucked up."
Elliot raised his eyebrows at her choice of words.
"Sorry, but there is no other way to put it."
Olivia swallowed hard. She had never said any of this out loud. She knew Elliot had talked to Huang after Ryan's death, but she hadn't. Nobody knew what had happened in that warehouse when Gitano had his gun to Elliot's head. Nobody but them. Actually, it was just her now, since Elliot didn't remember it.
"What happened?" Elliot asked again. "That pervert cut your throat."
"We were trying to save the kids he'd taken. He'd let go of the boy. When I went down, you ran to me in stead of the boy."
"Just like in my dream."
Olivia put her hand over his and told him softly,
"He took the boy again after cutting me. He killed him."
Elliot pulled his hands from hers and leaned back against the pillows, frowning, and closed his eyes. He took a deep breath and Olivia wondered if he was remembering more. He seemed restless now and it wasn't just the fever.
"I could have saved him ..." he said, the realization hitting him hard.
"But I chose to save you."
"I didn't need saving. The cut wasn't that deep."
"I didn't know that. I panicked."
She could tell he was right there, inside the intense memory. The only memory he had so far. She scooted forward, closer to him, and put a hand on his chest. His heart was beating fast.
"El. It's in the past."
He opened his eyes and looked at her, and she could see the beginning of tears in his eyes.
"Olivia, I ... I know that I ... I'd choose you again."
The tears in her eyes now matched his.
"I know that case is in the past, but what I feel for you isn't. That's right here, right now."
Chapter 14: Afraid
I know that case is in the past, but what I feel for you isn't. That's right here, right now.
Elliot's hand closed over hers on his chest and one tear made its way down his cheek. Olivia reached up with her other hand to wipe it away gently. Her hand was shaking and she couldn't speak. So she just acted, and caressed his cheek, hoping he would understand that his admission was just too much for her to handle. Her world had been turned upside down completely over the past twenty-four hours and she felt like Elliot had just reached inside her chest and ripped her heart out. He was holding her heart in his hands and there was nothing she could do to get it back. Not that she wanted it back, but she was scared out of her mind. She knew he was desperate to get his memory back and was clinging to her at the moment because somehow, she was familiar to him. But what if he was mistaking the fact that she seemed familiar to him for something else? What if more memories would come back to him and he'd remember his commitment to Kathy? What if he remembered how complicated they used to be and wanted to give her heart back to her in a while? She was doomed one way or the other. Her heart had been his for as long as she'd known him.
She wanted to be here for Elliot, but at what cost to herself? It should be easy to just give in to her feelings, now that he was finally admitting that he felt the same way. But it wasn't easy at all. He didn't remember their past together, so he didn't remember all the reasons why they had never confessed their feelings to each other before. What if she gave in now, and he would regret this later on? It wasn't his marriage or his ex-wife stopping her now. It was her own deep-seeded fear that she just wasn't meant to have her cake and eat it too. That she was simply supposed to be alone and Elliot would never truly be hers. That they just weren't meant to be. She shouldn't abuse his memory loss to try and force a relationship that they shouldn't even have considered to begin with.
She snapped out of her confusing thoughts when Elliot returned her gesture and wiped a few tears off her cheeks as well. She hadn't even noticed that they were falling.
"Don't leave me, Liv," Elliot pleaded with her. "Please don't."
"Why would you think ..."
"I can see you're scared," he interrupted her, his voice getting stronger as he spoke. "I'm scared too, but not of my feelings for you. I'm scared that you'll run."
Olivia moved away from him. She remained seated on the bed, but turned her back to him. She tried to focus on her breathing. Breathe out slowly. Slowly. He could still read her and he could see her indecision. Fight or flight. She didn't want to leave him but she was so scared that the urge to run was overwhelming. She felt Elliot's hand wrap around her upper arm gently.
"Please don't run," he said and she could feel the sadness in his voice inside her chest.
"If you don't want me to run," she told him without looking at him, "then don't push me."
Elliot let go of her arm immediately and it made her look in his direction. Not into his eyes. Anywhere but into his eyes. She saw his Adam's apple bob and saw his chest tremble underneath the light blue hospital gown as he exhaled slowly. She saw him clasp his hands together nervously on his stomach and she finally looked at his face. He was terrified too. She was the only thing giving him any kind of hope to find himself again, and she was on the verge of abandoning him for fear of getting hurt. Snap out of it, she told herself. He needs you. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. You're the one who put him here, for God's sake.
"I won't push you, Olivia. I just can't bare the thought of losing you. If this thing between us freaks you out that much ..."
"It's not that!"
She wasn't sure why she'd felt the need to interrupt him but she finally looked into his eyes after that.
"Then what?" Elliot asked softly.
"I ... you don't remember how we used to be together," Olivia said, forcing herself to sound strong and in control. "What if you start remembering more and ..."
"You're afraid that it's not real."
Yes, that was exactly it. She was afraid he was just confused and didn't dare believe that he could have exactly the same feelings for her that she had for him.
"Olivia, let me tell you one thing," Elliot said, and she could see fresh tears brimming in his eyes. His voice was low and hoarse. "What I feel between us ... what I feel for you ... it's the realest thing I have ever known. And if I never, ever remember anything else, it's enough for me."
They both let out a shaky breath simultaneously and Olivia turned towards him again. When Elliot reached for her, she couldn't suppress a sob and she moved into his waiting arms. His arms wrapped around her waist and her hands went to his shoulders. Their hug was tentative at first, but once Olivia felt his arms around her, she sank into it and exhaled, resting her cheek against his. She felt his hand rub her back gently and couldn't stop another sob emanating from her throat. Elliot was trembling too and swallowing hard, and she moved one hand to the back of his head.
They were holding each other and comforting each other in a very uncharacteristic display of mutual vulnerability. Somehow it felt like a new chapter in their lives was beginning at last. The pages had remained empty for four long years, for both of them, and they had finally turned a new leaf. Elliot could stop running to try and find the one he had been searching for, and Olivia was beginning to heal now that she knew Elliot hadn't abandoned her after all.
"I've missed you," Olivia whispered into his neck once she found her voice again.
"I'm sorry," Elliot whispered back, rubbing her cheek with his.
"I was really angry that you had left without a word."
He held her a little tighter.
"I didn't know."
"I know that now."
"I won't leave you again."
Olivia wanted to say something but she didn't know what to say. She wanted to believe him. For now, she just enjoyed this moment, being in his arms, their tears mingling where their faces were pressed together, cheek to cheek. They were here now, together. Maybe forgetting the past wasn't such a bad idea.
Chapter 15: Cragen
They broke apart when a nurse's aide came in with Elliot's lunch. They were both a little shocked after the intense moment and Olivia needed some time to calm down. After lunch, Elliot would need to rest again so Olivia decided to grab a sandwich to go at the hospital cafetaria and to get some fresh air. She ended up walking a few blocks away from the hospital and into a small book store that sold second hand books. There was a reading table by the window and Olivia took her time finding a few books she'd like to sample before taking a seat at the table. Aside from the older lady running the store, she was the only person there and she welcomed the solitude. She needed some time to think.
Olivia couldn't really focus on the words on the pages. Her mind kept drifting to the man in the hospital. The man she'd known so well and who she was getting to know all over again. The man she'd been most furious with, had defended most passionately, had hated most deeply at times but above all, the man she loved with every fiber of her being. There was no running away from him. She'd tried but she had never been able to stay away. And even now, after thinking for four long years that he'd simply abandoned her, meaning he didn't care about her even a little bit, she'd been ready to accept his explanation and to stand by him again.
She still needed an explanation though, but not from him. Not from Elliot, but definitely from Kathy. And from their children. She had looked at Elliot's family as her own at times, and it had hurt all the more when not only Elliot, but all the Stablers shut her out of their lives. Elliot was the only one that could plead ignorance. He truly hadn't known. But they had. Kathy and the kids had.
She thought she'd been kind to Kathy and usually, Kathy had been polite to her. But she'd always felt an undercurrent of competition between them. In a rare moment of vulnerability, Kathy had even told her that Elliot was what they had in common. She'd asked her to look out for him after their divorce. Things had turned out differently in the end but Olivia had never expected the woman to keep them apart intentionally under the circumstances. She'd need to hear from the former Mrs. Stabler herself why she had kept her away.
And then there was Kathleen. The most intense member of the Stabler household, who had butted heads with her intense father the most, and whom he had always loved so intensely. He really wanted to remember her and Olivia wished that for him. Still, she had to wonder why Kathleen had never reached out to her either. Part of her wanted to be there when Elliot's middle daughter would come to visit him that evening. Another part of her knew that it would be better if it was just the two of them. She didn't want to confront the young woman in front of Elliot anyway, but she did want to talk to her.
Finally, one of the mystery books she'd selected actually grabbed her attention, and Olivia spent about an hour reading the first part of two books before buying them both and leaving the book store. She felt rested and refreshed once she returned to the hospital around 2.30 pm.
She spotted him immediately at the reception desk. Donald Cragen. He was even balder than she remembered him, but he was still all the Captain she'd served under for fifteen years. She walked up to him just when he was receiving directions to Elliot's room.
"I can show him the way," Olivia said, standing next to Cragen.
Her former boss turned to her and smiled.
They hugged and when they started walking, Olivia looped her arm through Cragen's.
"How are you holding up?" Cragen asked her as they walked.
"How 'bout I'm not?" she answered and Cragen raised an eyebrow when he looked at her.
"I would have bet money that you'd say 'I'm fine'."
"Yeah, well ..."
Olivia squeezed the older man's arm.
"Elliot's suddenly become this open book without any filter at all. I guess it's rubbing off."
"I can't wait to see that for myself," Cragen mused. "But you're not holding up?"
"It's ... intense. It's all so sudden and I feel like I've been on a rollercoaster ride for two days now. I don't know how I'm going to go back to work tomorrow."
Olivia shook her head, giving her former boss a half smile.
"I don't work for you anymore."
"Exactly," Cragen insisted. "Last time I checked, you were the boss. And I happen to know you have a qualified Sergeant working for you now. Take some time off for this. God knows you've got the overtime stacked up to pay for an extended break."
Olivia knew he was right. She could stay away for six weeks and still have vacation days left. But it wasn't like her to just drop all of their cases and take time off for personal reasons. Donald Cragen knew her only too well and added,
"Just look at it this way. Someone else needs your full attention right now. You're not abandoning the job, you just have another job to do first. Someone else to help."
She smiled. That was another way to look at it. She was always better in taking time off for someone else than for herself. She promised she'd think about it when they arrived at Elliot's room.
"Here we are," she said, gesturing at the door.
Cragen knocked once and then opened the door to walk in slowly and see his former detective for the first time in over four years. Olivia followed closely behind to see Elliot's reaction, and to introduce them if necessary. Elliot seemed to be asleep and they both walked up to his bed quietly. Cragen gestured at Olivia to just let him sleep, and she nodded. He looked at Elliot for a while, taking in his fragile state and the red blush on his cheeks, no doubt caused by the fever. Olivia stood on Elliot's right side and put a hand on his forehead gently. He was still a little warm. Elliot sighed and she retracted her hand quickly. She hadn't meant to wake him.
"Liv?" Elliot said without opening his eyes.
"I'm here," she replied softly, putting her hand on his shoulder.
Elliot groaned softly and she wondered if he was in pain. He was getting pain medication via his IV but maybe it wasn't enough. He opened his eyes suddenly and Olivia glanced at Cragen before focusing on Elliot.
"I'm here," she repeated, and Elliot relaxed, giving her a sleepy smile.
"You didn't run," he mumbled before closing his eyes again.
When it looked like Elliot had fallen asleep again, Olivia walked over to Cragen on the other side of the bed.
"Have a seat," she said, gesturing at the armchair.
"What did he mean, you didn't run?" Cragen asked her softly as he sat down.
Olivia blew out a breath slowly. She didn't exactly feel like relaying her earlier conversation with Elliot to him.
"He's just ehm ... a little clingy because he seems to remember me on some level," she explained as neutrally as she could.
It was actually what she was afraid of, that he was clinging to her for that reason alone, and not because he had real romantic feelings for her at all. Cragen seemed to buy it too and that didn't exactly help to ease her fears. Olivia pulled up a small chair, and they sat together in silence while they waited for Elliot to wake up again, both caught up in their own thoughts and concerns about the man in the hospital bed. They were startled out of their thoughts when they heard the patient ask,
"Olivia, who is this?"
Chapter 16: Home
Cragen stood up and stood next to the bed when he introduced himself.
"My name is Donald Cragen and you used to work for me at the Special Victims Unit for over a decade."
Elliot stared at the man for a few seconds and then his eyes flicked to Olivia's. She had stood up as well and they reached for each other's hand automatically.
"Remember I told you I asked our former boss to come? This is him."
Elliot looked at the older man again and Olivia could see that there was no recognition at all. If Cragen was disappointed, he wasn't showing it. Instead, he told Elliot,
"You and Benson here gave me quite a few headaches over the years, detective Stabler. I could tell you a few stories if you're interested."
Elliot forced a smile and Olivia knew he was disappointed as well that he didn't recognize his former boss.
"Sure," he said, but he didn't seem very excited about hearing Cragen's stories.
Cragen glanced at Olivia, who apologized wordlessly to him for Elliot's lack of response. Cragen nodded at her reassuringly. It was okay.
"So, I hear that you do recognize Olivia. That must be very strange for you."
Elliot perked up a little and reached for the controls of his bed to raise it so he would be sitting up.
"You need a hand with that?" Olivia asked.
"No, I've got it."
Some things hadn't changed. Cragen winked at Olivia, who just smirked at him.
"You know, it's very new to finally remember someone," Elliot started once he was done adjusting the angle of the bed, "but I wouldn't call it strange. It's a huge relief, like I'm finally going home again after being at sea for years."
"So Olivia is kind of your lighthouse, helping you get home," Cragen responded, but Elliot shook his head.
He squeezed her hand and Olivia felt butterflies in her stomach when he looked at her with so much tenderness in his eyes that she had to look away.
"She's not helping me get home. She is home."
Olivia took a deep breath and avoided looking at either of the men in the room with her. She wasn't used to Elliot's directness yet. At least Cragen would understand what she'd meant when she said Elliot was filter-less now. She didn't know what to say and was relieved when Cragen spoke again.
"I can't say that surprises me very much, son. You two were quite a team for so long, and I've always know you cared deeply about each other. More than partners should."
Olivia looked at her former boss.
"Yet you never split us up."
"I've wanted to, believe me," Cragen sighed, smiling at her and then looking at Elliot. "But it was pretty obvious that you two would always function better together than apart. Elliot, if we'd known about this ..."
Elliot held up one hand immediately, and interrupted the Captain,
"I know. They kept you all away. I'm sorry that it looked like I abandoned you."
His eyes had drifted to Olivia, who bit her lip and just nodded. The pain of his absence was still there but she knew that Elliot wasn't to blame. He'd been on his way back to her after just five months in stead of four years.
"Olivia had it rough. I'm glad she knows now that it was never your intention to stay away."
The Captain looked at her and Olivia had to blink the beginning of a few tears away. Captain Cragen had always been like a father to her. Stern but fair. And he knew how much she'd missed her partner. She suspected he knew how much she'd loved him. How much she still loved him and how no one could ever take his place despite their best efforts.
"I'm sorry I don't remember you, sir. You seem like a good man to me. You looked out for Olivia after I left?"
"I tried," Cragen said, and Elliot didn't miss the sadness in his voice and eyes. He frowned and looked between the two people at his bedside.
Olivia wanted to tell Cragen that Elliot didn't know anything about what had happened to her, but that would make him even more curious. She could see that Elliot was already wondering what he was missing. Cragen rescued her once again.
"I am glad you seem to be remembering Benson. You two need each other," the Captain stated. "I can only hope you will regain more of your memory over time. I'll be glad to help."
Both Olivia and Cragen sat down and Cragen talked with Elliot for a while, answering questions mostly and offering up a few anecdotes from the past. Olivia could tell that Elliot enjoyed the stories, especially when they were about her, but they didn't spark his memory. They exchanged a look from time to time and feeling their connection so strongly after all this time, made her stomach flutter despite the seriousness of the situation.
After about an hour, Cragen stood up to leave and Olivia walked him to the door.
"It's so strange to see him like this," Cragen told her softly when they were halfway through the door.
"I know. It's like he's the same person but with a completely clean slate," Olivia sighed, looking down at the floor.
"Not completely, Olivia," Cragen said, lowering his head to catch her eyes while he put a hand on her shoulder. "He remembers you."
"Works for me. You can build on that."
Olivia gave her former boss a half smile. He had no idea how eagerly Elliot wanted to build on that little scrap of memory he'd gotten back so far. Cragen turned around then and looked at Elliot from the doorway of the room.
"You take care of her, you hear me Stabler?"
Elliot looked surprised but grinned then.
After they had said their goodbyes and Cragen had promised he'd visit again soon, Olivia walked back into the room. Elliot was looking at the door she'd just closed, frowning, and she wondered what he was thinking. When she sat down on the edge of the bed, he looked up at her, tilting his head, and asked her,
"Did he always call us Benson and Stabler?"
Chapter 17: Comfortable
Olivia was afraid to ask if Elliot was possibly remembering their former Captain after all. He seemed to be deep in thought and Olivia checked her watch. She would need to get going soon to pick up Noah from day care. Just when she thought they were going to drop the subject, Elliot said pensively,
"When he called me Stabler just now, I could swear I'd heard that before. That voice ..."
Olivia stepped closer to the man in the hospital bed. She breathed out slowly through pursed lips. Could this really be? Could he actually remember his former boss and not his own wife and children? Elliot looked up at her.
"Everyone just calls me Elliot ... or El," he added with a half smile. "Or dad, or Mr. Stabler. But the way he just called me Stabler, like he was giving me an order ..."
"Well, he used to do that a lot," Olivia remarked, still unsure if she should just let Elliot figure it out or if she should help him in some way to remember, although she had no idea how to do that.
Elliot just nodded and when he remained silent, she decided to announce that she would be leaving for the day soon.
"Will you be back tomorrow?" Elliot asked her with hope in his voice, and his vulnerability was disarming.
Olivia wanted to say yes, but she would need to talk to her Sergeant first. And to his father, Chief Dodds, to discuss the possibility of taking some personal time off.
"I have to go to the station first tomorrow," she told Elliot.
"But you'll drop by afterwards?"
Olivia put her hand on his upper arm and rubbed it gently. It was becoming easier to touch him without being hit by a bout of nerves, and when he smiled at her warmly, she felt the desire to touch more of him. But she reigned herself in and just squeezed his impressive bicep. He had definitely stayed in shape.
"I'll be here tomorrow. Can't tell you what time yet, but I'll be back. And then you can tell me all about Kathleen's visit."
Elliot looked down at his hands in his lap and nodded.
"Yeah. I need to talk to her. Ask her why they never told you or the others at the NYPD about my memory loss. I don't get that."
"Neither do I," Olivia admitted softly, and the sadness in her voice made Elliot look up at her again.
He moved his left arm and put it around her waist tentatively, nudging her a little closer to him.
"I can't tell you enough how sorry I am about that Liv. I mean ... I guess I was a jerk too, to leave you hanging for a couple of months but ..."
Olivia shook her head, not wanting him to beat himself up about that. It was in the past. But Elliot continued despite her non-vocal objection, and she made an effort to concentrate on his words and not on the feeling of his hand on her hip or his thumb rubbing her hipbone gently.
"No, let me finish please. I have no doubt that I wasn't always the nicest person. Kathy let that slip on several occasions when we argued during the year I lived with them. But still, this shouldn't have gone on for four years. It's not fair. To anyone. And I will confront Kathy about that, trust me."
Olivia wanted to ask him if and when he was going to call Kathy, but she decided against it. It wasn't any of her business. Perhaps it was wise to use Kathleen as a buffer between the former spouses. And between her and Kathy too. She didn't know what she'd do or say if she were suddenly confronted with the blonde. Shaking off the uneasiness she felt whenever she thought of Kathy, Olivia told Elliot to just rest now, and not worry too much. He had a lot of healing to do, after all.
"I'll be fine here Liv, they're taking good care of me," Elliot said smiling, and Olivia found herself having difficulty moving out of his arm.
She was beginning to feel more and more comfortable with him and his open display of affection and wondered if he would be surprised if she kissed him on the cheek before leaving. Their eyes remained locked for several long seconds and they were both equally hesitant to say goodbye. Olivia was the first to break eye contact when she put a hand on his chest. She looked at her hand while she told him softly,
"I'm glad you're going to be okay."
"And I'm still glad you crashed into me," he answered immediately, and her eyes flicked back up to his.
His cocky grin made her heart flutter and her stomach clench. He still knew annoyingly well how to push her buttons. But in stead of brushing off the moment or feigning annoyance, like she used to do in the past when they got too close, she just acknowledged softly,
Noah was tired after a long day but still managed to wear his mother out before he was finally ready to admit that he might actually need some sleep. They had played with Noah's wooden dinosaur jigsaw puzzles for a while before Olivia started dinner, and she was pleased that Noah was eating so well lately. When she stood up to get them both some dessert, she listened to his quiet babbling about his friends in day care and his favorite stuffed animal, which was a dinosaur of course. She was surprised to hear him talk about Ewwie as well and when she sat back down at the table, she asked her son,
"Do you remember Elliot in the hospital, Noah?"
Noah nodded, picking up his spoon and tapping it on the table.
"Ewwie Ot ouch," Noah said, frowning. "Ewwie Ot better soon? Noah want to pway with Ewwie."
He looked at his mother hopefully and she smiled at her little boy. He wanted to play with Elliot?
"You like Elliot?"
Noah nodded again.
"Ewwie is Noah big friend."
Olivia's smile widened. Noah was the most important man in her life and him calling Elliot his big friend made her heart soar. She pushed away the fear that was immediately starting to gnaw at her new-found joy of having Elliot back in her life. Elliot was making it very clear that he wanted her to be a part of his life and he had taken to Noah right away and vice versa. There was no reason not to be happy about that and she shouldn't let her fear that happiness would never last for her, keep her from enjoying these moments.
"Well Noah, maybe we can bring one of your dinosaur puzzles to the hospital some time, and you can play with Elliot."
Noah clapped in his hands excitedly and Olivia made a mental note to ask Elliot if it was okay to bring Noah again. She had kind of promised her son already, but somehow she knew it would be okay. She let her mind wander a bit when Noah started eating his dessert. She liked the way things were between her and Elliot like this. She still hoped he would start to remember more, but she could get used to things not being so complicated for a change.
After Noah had finally nodded off in his bed, Olivia took a shower and changed into her favorite sweats. She had just gotten comfortable on the couch with a glass of wine and one of her new books, when the sound of her buzzer filled the apartment. She checked the time. It was almost 10 pm. Who could be dropping by at this hour? She hoisted herself up from the couch and walked to the intercom.
"Who is it?" she asked, hoping to sound stern and confident.
She still got nervous sometimes when she was alone in her apartment, remembering that one night in May when it turned out that she wasn't alone at all. The voice that answered her was one she hadn't expected.
"Olivia? It's Kathleen Stabler. Can I come up?"
Dun dun. Or rather, it's about time?
Chapter 18: Kathleen
Olivia waited by the door, leaning against it with one shoulder, until she heard footsteps in the hallway. Kathleen Stabler. She hadn't seen the girl or any of her siblings in over five years and she wondered why Kathleen had decided to come to see her now. She must have come over straight from the hospital after visiting her father. Olivia peeked through the peephole and saw the blonde young woman approach her door. She opened the door before Kathleen could knock, and they both froze for an instant when they were finally face to face. Olivia quickly regained her composure and greeted Kathleen formally.
"Hello Kathleen. It's been a long time."
Kathleen stared at her a few moments longer. Then she suddenly stepped forward, wrapping her arms around the older woman, and sighed,
"Olivia! I'm so sorry!"
Kathleen squeezed her arms tightly around Olivia's waist. Olivia was stunned and it took her a moment to understand that Kathleen was actually very happy to see her, and apparently apologizing for not contacting her sooner. She moved her arms around the younger woman loosely and patted her on the back when Kathleen showed no signs that she was going to let go of her any time soon.
"Ehm ... okay. Kathleen? Why don't you ehm ... come on in, and we can talk," Olivia suggested, trying not to let her nerves take over too much. She was the older of the two after all so she needed to show some semblance of self-control here.
Kathleen finally released her and looked up at her with tears in her eyes.
"I ... okay. It's ... good to see you, Olivia."
Olivia stepped back and told her,
"Please, come in and have a seat. You want something to drink?"
Kathleen nodded and seemed very relieved. She shrugged her coat off and tossed it on Olivia's rack by the door. The gesture reminded Olivia so much of Elliot, that she bit her lip and turned away from Kathleen.
"You want some wine?" she asked while walking towards the kitchen.
"No. No, thank you, I don't drink. Do you have any soda?"
Olivia checked her fridge but she didn't have any soda, just some beer, wine, milk and lemonade.
"I'm sorry, I'm all out. But I could fix you some lemonade?"
Kathleen was surprised. She had sat down on the couch and was looking around. When she spotted some toys in a box in the corner, her eyes lit up.
"You have a baby?"
Olivia placed the bottle of lemonade on the breakfast bar and looked at Elliot's middle daughter on her couch. It was a surreal moment.
"Yes, I have a son. Hence the lemonade."
"Wow ... well, sure. I'll have some of your son's lemonade. What's his name?"
"Noah. He's two."
Olivia busied herself making Kathleen a glass of lemonade. She walked back into the living area and handed the glass to the young woman before picking up her own wine glass from the coffee table and sitting down next to Kathleen.
"Thank you," Kathleen said quietly. "You must be wondering why I'm here after all this time."
When their eyes met, Olivia nodded.
"Yeah. Why don't you tell me."
"I went to visit dad in the hospital, but I guess you know that. And he told me ... he told me that apparently he just ... walked out of your life when he quit his job."
Kathleen was stammering a bit and Olivia wondered where she was going with this.
"I just want you to know, Olivia, that I had no idea."
Kathleen looked at her with despair in her eyes but Olivia wasn't following.
"No idea about what, Kathleen?"
Kathleen jumped up and started pacing and talking very fast, clutching her glass of lemonade with both hands.
"And then he lost his memory and mom told us he was better off not remembering the job and we agreed because we knew it was so tough on him and he was always so stressed out and angry and ... well ... Olivia, I honestly didn't know. None of us did."
She had stopped pacing and looked at Olivia with wide eyes. Olivia stood up as well and approached the frantic woman carefully.
"Honey, why don't you sit down again, and start at the beginning, okay? Because I'm really not following right now."
When she put a hand on Kathleen's arm, Kathleen blinked and nodded, and then walked back to the couch.
"Yes. Okay. The beginning."
Kathleen sat down, took a deep breath and started over, leaning her elbows on her knees and focusing on the wall behind the television while she spoke. Olivia sat back down next to her.
"Back when dad came home after shooting that girl, he was a mess. He was withdrawn and mom said he was walking around the house in the middle of the night a lot. It got a little better after he'd put his papers in, and he calmed down a bit but he still wasn't the dad we knew. I visited regularly to talk to him but he was very closed off. One day I asked him if he was at least talking to you, because I knew he could always talk to you about anything."
Kathleen had turned her head to look at Olivia when she mentioned her.
"I was really happy that he had you as a partner, you know. He and mom had such completely different lives, that he couldn't talk to her about work stuff at all."
Olivia had been painfully aware of that truth over the years. She'd tried to stay out of the way and not interfere in any way with her partner's marriage, but she knew he didn't talk to his wife enough. She'd told him that too. Told him that he was shutting Kathy out and that he was ruining his marriage. But it had never really changed. He'd wanted to shield his family from the horrors of the job, he'd said. But she knew there had been more to it. He just couldn't really talk to Kathy at all. Not even about ordinary things. The marriage had been strained for as long as she could remember, and probably before that.
She knew Elliot wouldn't have been the easiest person to live with. Talk about strained. But they had tried. They had been committed to their family and she had tried to support them.
"He told me that he didn't want to burden you with his problems," Kathleen continued. "That you needed to go on with your own life. I just assumed that you and he had talked about this because that was what you two did. I thought you had gone your separate ways as friends. I never would have imagined ..."
Kathleen shook her head and Olivia was beginning to understand what she was telling her.
"If I'd known he'd simply walked out on you, I would have kicked his ass Olivia. You gotta believe that."
Olivia wanted to reach out to the young woman but didn't. It was too painful to hear her explain how Elliot had told no one that he'd basically abandoned his partner after the shooting. Of course they hadn't expected it. No one had, least of all Olivia herself. That was exactly what had made the past four years so difficult for her. She'd tried to hate him for leaving her without a word, but she had missed him more than she had hated him, and she'd hated herself for it.
"I'm so sorry he did that," Kathleen said, her voice barely more than a whisper, and Olivia finally reached out to the young woman and put a hand on her back.
"Me too," she replied softly.
"And then he lost his memory and mom talked to all of us. She said that maybe this wasn't such a bad thing, and that our father would finally be able to leave the trauma of the shooting and the horrors of the job behind him."
Kathleen hung her head and sighed, and Olivia could tell that she was fighting back fresh tears.
"And we all agreed."
She took a deep breath and looked up at Olivia again.
"I'm so sorry. We all agreed not to contact his former squad. Mom said that his family and the safe surroundings of our family home should be enough for him, and that we would be there for him as a family as his memories came back to him."
"But they never did," Olivia said, watching Kathleen struggle with how she had handled the situation.
"No. Until he finally met you two nights ago. He told me tonight that he knew the instant he saw you, that he'd met you before. He ... he could have started healing years ago if we'd just called you."
Tears trickled down Kathleen's cheeks now and Olivia continued rubbing her back, as much for Kathleen's comfort as her own.
"You didn't know," she offered but Kathleen shook her head.
"Mom did! Mom knew!"
Kathleen jumped up again and Olivia stood with her.
"No. No, I'm sure she knew. She's always been jealous of how you could talk to dad when she couldn't. She'd joke about it, but I knew that deep down she was serious."
Kathleen laughed suddenly, a bitter laugh.
"Mom wanted him all to herself. Well, look how that turned out. He'll want nothing to do with her now."
Olivia was trembling. She was overwhelmed with different feelings and emotions. Part of her shared Kathleen's outrage that Kathy had kept her and the squad away intentionally. Another part was more relieved than she'd expected to know that there was no resentment at all between her and Kathleen. And she shared Kathleen's pain over her father's suffering. Because he had suffered from the amnesia. His restless dreams were proof of that. He may not have been haunted by memories of rape victims and crime scenes, but he'd been haunted in a different way. He'd been searching day and night, without knowing what he was looking for. Or whom. Kathleen and Elliot had butted heads many times but Olivia had always known that deep down, they had a very special bond.
Kathleen's love for her father was very visible now. She loved him so much that she'd been happy that he had his partner to support him in a way her mother couldn't. It was an amazing kind of loyalty to her father, that Olivia knew was very rare. Not all children could look at things the way Kathleen obviously could.
"Do your brothers and sisters know that Elliot was in an accident? And that he's regained a few memories?" she asked Kathleen.
Kathleen was still shaking her head at the whole situation and walked towards the box with Noah's toys. She picked up one of his toy cars, a police car, and studied it while she spoke again.
"Not yet. Neither does mom. Or grandma."
Grandma. Elliot's mother. Another person in the Stabler family that Olivia thought she'd had a good rapport with.
"Grandma's really happy with the new Elliot Stabler, you know," Kathleen said bitterly. "He adores her and she revels in the attention he gives her now. She won't accept that this isn't really who dad is. He is the son she always wanted now, so she won't be too happy if he does get all of his memories back."
Olivia blew out a breath slowly. Could she really blame Bernie? The woman had been desperate for Elliot's love, and the effects of her bipolar disorder combined with Elliot's sense of responsibility and his temper, had destroyed so much between mother and son. Of course she'd be happy to have the loving son she'd always wanted him to be. She couldn't blame the woman. So she didn't. She asked about Kathleen's brothers and sisters instead.
"How are Maureen and the twins handling your dad's amnesia?"
Kathleen was still studying the small police car in her hand and didn't look up when she smiled wryly.
"Maureen? She was already doing her own thing when it happened. Had a boyfriend she was really serious about and she was focused on law school. She tried to stay out of it the whole time. I think she knows more about mom and dad's argument at his surprise birthday party, but she won't talk about it. She got married two years ago and moved to LA. She's not really close to mom or dad. The only one of us she talks to regularly is Elizabeth."
Olivia knew what it was like to distance oneself from ones parents. Or parent, in her case. And she couldn't blame Maureen either. Kids shouldn't be burdened with their parents' problems and should live their own lives. As Maureen grew up after surviving puberty, she had always struck Olivia as a balanced person who had no trouble making sensible choices for herself. Choosing not to interfere with her parents' problems or her father's memory loss was a choice for herself, not against anyone else. Olivia couldn't and wouldn't take it personally.
Kathleen put the police car back in the box and took a long draw from her glass of lemonade. Olivia invited her to sit down again but Kathleen was too restless.
"I can't believe he is actually remembering stuff now," she said, moving back to the couch but not sitting down. "I kind of lost hope that this would happen but now ..."
"I'm not sure why I'm the one who seems to have jogged his memory," Olivia said, sitting down and picking up her glass of wine. "It should have been one of you, his family."
"You're not sure why you're the one? Well, that makes one of you then."
Olivia's eyebrows shot up.
"What do you mean?"
"It pretty obvious that dad is in love with you, Olivia," Kathleen said bluntly, almost sounding annoyed that Olivia wouldn't understand that. "Looking back now, I think he's always been in love with you. And don't tell me you didn't know that!"
Dun dun :)
When I wrote this I found out that the entire conversation between and Olivia and Kathleen would not fit into one chapter. I try not to skim over the emotions that go with conversations, so that's why this chapter is longer than the previous ones. The next one will be as well and this looked like a suitable place to cut it in half. I'd love to hear what you think of Kathleen so far before I post the second part of this. And how about Bernie and Maureen? Does it make sense from their perspectives?
Chapter 19: Blame
Olivia opened her mouth but she didn't know what to say. While she had never been certain that Elliot was in love with her, there was no denying their special connection, or her own love for her former partner. Kathleen had put it out there and she was at a loss for words. The young woman didn't seem upset by the notion of her father being in love with another woman than her mother, but it was still an awkward moment.
"I'm not trying to make you feel uncomfortable," she heard Kathleen say, and when she looked up at her, she could see that while Kathleen was a little shocked herself, there was no accusation in her eyes at all.
"Okay," she managed to say.
"I'm glad, you know. I always wanted my dad to be happier than he was. I know he tried to be the best husband and father he could be, but with his job ..."
Kathleen looked down and shook her head.
"His best just wasn't good enough for mom."
"Kathleen ..." Olivia started, but the young woman held up a hand to stop her.
"No, please. I'm just stating a fact. And I don't blame mom for that either. She had every right not to be satisfied with what she was getting because it wasn't enough. Dad was doing it all on willpower and his sense of responsibility, but in the end, his heart wasn't in it. Because his heart belonged to the job - and to you."
Olivia blew out a breath and swallowed. She looked at Kathleen when she finally sat back down on the couch.
"The fact that he remembers you only proves that, wouldn't you say?"
Olivia nodded. It certainly meant something that he remembered her and not his wife and children. Even Cragen seemed to have jiggled something inside Elliot. In the end, the job resonated more with Elliot than his own family, and in a way, that was sad. Kathleen was right. Kathy had had every reason not to be satisfied with the state of her marriage.
"What I do blame mom for, is trying to trick dad into a fake happy marriage after his memory loss. He wasn't happy before, and he wasn't happy afterwards. She should have just let him go. And I'm sorry I didn't realize that yet at the time."
Kathleen choked up and quickly took another sip of lemonade to mask her emotions.
"And where were you when all this happened, Kathleen? It's not all about your mom and dad, you know. You have your own life to live, too."
Kathleen smiled, blinking away her tears, and looked at her.
"I know, Olivia. And I didn't forget to live it. I moved from campus to Harlem. I have the best boyfriend in the world and I do freelance work as a reporter for several newspapers."
"Harlem? Why'd you move there?" Olivia asked.
"Terrence was born and raised there, so I moved to his 'hood'," Kathleen explained, making air quotes when she said 'hood'.
"Hood? You sound like Fin!" Olivia said with a chuckle.
"Hah. Well, it's entirely possible that they're related," Kathleen said with a grin, and then she continued proudly, "Terrence worked really hard to get ahead. Got into college with a sports scholarship and made the most of it. He majored in journalism like me and has a steady job as an editor now. Sometimes we even work together and that is so cool."
Olivia could tell that Kathleen was very happy and she was happy for her. But there were two Stabler kids left.
"What about Dickie? Where did he end up? Is he still in touch with his father?"
Kathleen looked away briefly and Olivia noticed some discomfort in her face at the mention of her brother.
"Richard," Kathleen said slowly, looking back at Olivia to make sure she understood that her brother didn't want to be called Dickie anymore, "he wasn't your biggest fan you know."
"I know," Olivia replied, remembering how the boy had once asked her quite bluntly if she'd ever slept with her partner; with his father.
"He's always been wary of you. You know, the whole sons siding with moms thing. He knew there was a lot of tension between mom and dad because of you, and he hated dad for choosing the job over his family, because he felt like he was choosing you over mom."
Olivia opened her mouth to say something, but Kathleen beat her to it.
"I know it wasn't like that, Olivia. And I know you never encouraged dad or led him on. It's just the way Richard felt, because it was the way mom felt."
"Fair enough," Olivia mumbled.
She drank her wine and tried to relax while Kathleen continued.
"But deep down, I know he always wanted to make dad proud of him. That's a son thing too, I suppose. He really looked up to dad professionally because he used to be in the Marines and because he was a cop. Maybe he wasn't the best husband or dad in the world, but he was doing something meaningful with his life. Richard wanted that too, so dad would be proud of him."
Kathleen paused and finished her drink. She set the empty glass down on the coffee table, and Olivia followed suit, downing the rest of her wine and setting her glass on the table as well.
"He joined the Marines after all and is in training to become a technical engineer on an aircraft carrier out in the Pacific. Dad's memory loss hit him hard, because he wanted the 'old' dad to be proud of him. Not this empty shell of a man who is trying to be his father but doesn't remember their history at all."
"Elliot is not an empty shell of a man," Olivia interjected, not pleased with the label that was being put on him.
Kathleen smiled widely at her then.
"I know. He's actually become this very balanced and deep, wise person, right? But he's not the dad that Richard wanted to make proud. If it turns out that you are the key to bring back dad's memories, I'm sure Richard will be eternally grateful. He'll be the first to welcome you into the family!"
Kathleen laughed at her own little joke and Olivia couldn't help chuckling with her, but Kathleen's comments didn't exactly help her relax. She seemed to think it was a given that she and Elliot were going to end up together.
"I hope he will start remembering more, Kathleen. I really do. It's just a little scary that he seems to be latching on to me like I'm the only one who can help him."
"Well, you have to admit it's kinda special after four years, that he's suddenly dreaming actual memories, and they're all about you. He says he can finally stop searching, because he's found the one he's been looking for all along."
"Yeah, he told me that, too," Olivia said softly.
"Don't be afraid of it, Olivia," Kathleen said.
Olivia could tell that the young woman had calmed down now, after the first surge of emotions when she'd come over to see her. She was actually the one comforting her, in stead of the other way around.
"He's still dad. You know him. You know that deep down, his personality hasn't changed. And you've always been able to handle him, so you'll be able to handle him now. I'm sure of it. In fact, I think you'll be the only one who will be able to handle him once more memories come back to him. It'll be intense and he'll need you more than ever."
Olivia knew Kathleen was right. And she wasn't afraid of Elliot. She was just afraid of getting hurt emotionally again. Of getting her hopes up, only to see them crushed later on. It had always been that way so she had just given up expecting anything else. Why would it be any different now?
"I guess you want to know about Elizabeth too, right?" Kathleen said, and Olivia focused on the conversation at hand again.
The youngest of the Stabler girls was the child she'd had the least contact with over the years and she waited for Kathleen to tell her about her younger sister.
"Liz basically feels the same way as Richard because they're twins, but she's keeping her distance, just like Maureen. I think Maureen told her to just let mom and dad work out their own issues, because she tried to stay out of every conversation, even though she still lived at home when dad lost his memory. She took care of Eli for a while when dad was in the hospital, and just kept taking care of him when dad came home. When dad decided to move out, she suddenly announced she was leaving too, to move in with a few friends in the city. The six of them rent a loft together and have their own little commune. I think she just needed to escape, but without a job, she couldn't afford a place of her own and she didn't want to live on campus. She's in her senior year of college now so hopefully, she'll be able to move out of that group soon."
Olivia cocked an eyebrow, her interest piqued by Kathleen's last remark.
"Why do you say that? Is something wrong with the group?"
"I'm not sure. I just ... the few times I visited her there, I just got a weird vibe from the group. It's like they do everything together and it creeped me out. You know, I wondered where they all sleep and what goes on at night, if you know what I mean."
"It's a mixed group?" Olivia asked, instantly concerned for Elizabeth.
"Yeah. Three girls and three boys. They smoke pot too, and I've seen stuff lying around in Liz's bedroom that definitely isn't hers. Girl stuff too. But hey, they're all consenting adults, right? I figure Liz would say something if there were things going on she wasn't okay with."
"I certainly hope so," Olivia said. "Do your parents know about her living conditions?"
Kathleen shrugged again.
"Mom's been to the loft maybe twice and Liz made sure everything was squeaky clean then. Dad never visits any of us, we always visit him at his place. And mom usually has us over too. It's easier for her and she likes to have us in the house we all grew up in."
It had been an intense conversation and a trip down memory lane for Olivia, and she was very tired. She covered her mouth to hide a yawn but Kathleen noticed anyway.
"I'm glad we had this talk, Olivia, and I'm glad there are no hard feelings between us," she said, standing up.
"Me too," Olivia said, standing up as well. "You're leaving?"
"Yeah. I should get home. Terrence will be wondering what's taking so long. I ehm ... hadn't expected to visit you tonight you know, just dad."
Olivia walked to the door with Kathleen and a thought hit her.
"Kathleen, how did you get my address? I'm pretty sure your father doesn't know where I live."
Kathleen put on her coat and turned around to face her.
"When I was with dad, Fin dropped by. He gave it to me."
Fin went to visit Elliot at the hospital? She'd have to ask him about that tomorrow.
"I hope to see you again soon, Olivia, and meet your little boy."
Olivia told Kathleen that she was always welcome.
"I'm going to talk to mom about this," Kathleen announced before opening the door. "She has to know how wrong she was to keep you away from dad. It was a very selfish thing to do and once again, I'm so sorry that I went along with it."
"It's alright Kathleen, I understand now," Olivia said.
And she did. It still hurt, but she could understand it from the kids' point of view. How could they have known that Elliot had never bothered to say goodbye to her, or that he'd been on his way to see her when he was mugged? Only Kathy had known that. And she'd used the fact that Elliot didn't remember it against him. Against both of them. After Kathleen had left, Olivia locked and bolted the door to her apartment and leaned against it. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When was this emotional roller-coaster going to slow down?
Chapter 20: Taking time off
I know most readers will be eager to see some more interaction between Olivia and Elliot, but there are more people involved here. I hope you'll enjoy this interlude!
Olivia didn't sleep much that night. Her thoughts were a jumbled mess. Talking to Kathleen and hearing her explain why she hadn't heard from the kids over the past four years had helped, but she still had a lot of questions. And nobody knew the answer to the biggest question of all: how much would Elliot remember eventually? And another big one for Olivia personally: how would their relationship develop if he did remember more, and what would it become if he didn't? Elliot had made it clear that he wanted her in his life and he'd even discussed it with his daughter. But would he feel the same if he started remembering more of their complicated history? She liked this relaxed, unhurried version of her old partner, but would his intense moods return along with his memory? Would they start pushing each other's buttons again like they used to do? She had to admit she even missed that part of their friendship slash partnership. Nobody could rile her up like Elliot could and it had made her feel so alive. Livid at times, but alive. And it made her look forward to seeing him again so much, that she had to make an effort to focus on what Sergeant Dodds was telling her.
"So these are the court cases you'll be expected to attend, and these are the ones I thought you'd want to know about."
Dodds handed her two lists, and she scanned the papers, relieved to see exact dates and times and the names of the victims involved. It would be a great help over the coming weeks to have this schedule, and it meant she didn't need to actually remember what Dodds was telling her.
"Please don't concern yourself with the case of the guy who brands his victims. We're going to handle it," her Sergeant assured her, and she knew he was aware that the case was hitting close to home for her.
She pushed the memories aside that were trying to invade her mind of another time where a rapist had branded his victims - her - and concentrated on tucking the two lists in her bag.
"I'll let you know if anything changes, and Barba will be in touch about the two cases you'll be testifying in. Other than that, we've got it covered. I already spoke with my father," Dodds added, and Olivia looked up at him, cocking an eyebrow.
She hadn't asked her Sergeant to talk to the chief. Mike Dodds smiled shyly and then clarified,
"I may have exaggerated your injuries after the accident a bit. I didn't think you'd want him to know the details of why you're taking some extra time off."
Olivia squinted but she could tell the younger man had meant well and she wasn't going to give him flak for his actions. So she just thanked him.
"Three weeks, right?" Dodds asked her, and she nodded.
"For now, yes."
She wasn't sure how long it would take for Elliot to recover from his injuries and become mobile, but it would be at least a few weeks before he'd be walking with crutches again. The holidays were coming up and she actually welcomed the time off. With emotions running high, it wasn't such a bad decision to evade the busiest time of the year for once. Typically, a lot of errors in judgement were made by people drinking too much during the holidays, resulting in a lot of unwanted sexual activity and he said/she said cases swamping the squad and the courts with work. She was going to be a little selfish for once, and choose to help someone else, like Cragen had put it. Elliot needed her right now and she would be there for him for as long as he wanted her to be.
Before leaving the station, Olivia walked up to Fin and asked him if they could talk. They went up to the break room together and Fin smirked at her when they sat down across from each other.
"I take it Kathleen told you I visited Stabler last night."
"Yeah, she did."
"You and she talk alright?"
"It was very enlightening."
"It was all Kathy, right?"
Olivia smiled. Fin wasn't a man of many words but he usually hit the nail right on the head.
"So what was it like for you, to see him again?" she asked her friend. "Did he recognize you?"
"Nah," Fin said, and he seemed a little sad. "But he asked about you Liv."
Olivia clasped her hands together in front of her on the table and studied the nails of her thumbs.
"What did he want to know?" she asked Fin quietly.
"Well, what you two were like, workin' together, stuff like that."
"What did you tell him?"
Olivia's eyes flicked up to Fin's, slightly shocked.
"Which is?" she asked, feeling her body tense up.
"That nothing could come between you two, not even when maybe it should have. That you both lived for the job and fueled each other. That everything you did was intense and that you fought like lions but always found each other again."
Olivia bobbed her head, looking down at her hands again. Fin's description of their partnership was very accurate.
"You know I'm not the guy's biggest fan but I know what he meant to you," Fin added, and she looked into his kind, honest eyes again. "Even assholes deserve a second chance, right? So I hope you two will find a way to hang out again, with or without his memory."
Olivia smiled and reached out to put a hand on Fin's arm.
"Thank you Fin," she said, her voice trembling slightly.
"If there's anything I can do," Fin said, trying not to show any emotions, and Olivia squeezed his arm.
"I know. Thanks Fin. Just ... keep an eye on Dodds for me, okay?"
"Will do, Lieutenant," Fin promised with a grin.
When they both stood up and Olivia got ready to leave, Fin gave her one last word of advice.
"Liv? Don't let him hurt you again."
She bit her lip. She shared Fin's concern. She knew Elliot wouldn't hurt her intentionally. In fact, he'd never hurt her intentionally, but he had hurt her. A lot. Just like she had hurt him. And she didn't know what was going to happen now. She was going to help him, there was no question there. At what cost to herself, was something she was going to find out. She gave Fin a small smile and left the break room to make her way to the hospital again. To Elliot. The new Elliot, who was still so much the old Elliot that it almost made her heart stop at times.
Chapter 21: Lunch
Olivia stopped by her apartment because she realized she'd forgotten her books. Days at the hospital crept by so slowly without any distraction, and she knew Elliot needed a lot of sleep. Still, she wanted to go as early as possible and Dodds junior had actually saved her a trip to 1PP so she walked into Elliot's room, coffee in hand, by 11 pm. Greg Daniels was just leaving and smiled at her. Olivia walked up to Elliot's bed and could tell immediately that he was tired. He'd just done his morning exercises no doubt, and she was a little disappointed. She had hoped they could catch up on Kathleen's visit to the hospital as well as to her.
"Hey," he said, his voice soft and raspy and managing a smile.
"Hey. Looks like I caught you at a bad time."
She put her coffee on the nightstand.
"It's never a bad time to see you," Elliot answered, holding out his hand to her.
She placed her hand in his and leaned against the bed. Elliot still looked so vulnerable, but at the same time he had such a powerful presence. She wondered if it was the same for everyone else or if it was just her. She'd always been able to sense his presence, even in a crowded room. She'd even wondered sometimes if she'd sense him if he'd be near her unexpectedly, and if they might one day just run into each other by chance. That it had happened so literally was something she still found incredible. Yet here they were, holding hands as if they had always done so, and smiling at each other, each caught up in their own thoughts.
"You wanna get some sleep?" she asked him, wondering if it would be out of line to caress his face.
He nodded only slightly and she could read so much in his eyes, even now that they were half closed. Their connection was there and growing, even without his memories. She could see the apology in his eyes that he was so tired and she sent him her reassurances the same way. His eyes slipped shut as the corners of his mouth tugged up. Olivia felt a pull towards him that was almost too strong to resist. She wanted to touch him. Caress his cheek or kiss his forehead, or both. She'd only ever felt this way with Noah and it took an effort to stay still and eventually pull her hand out of his grasp and step away from the bed.
Olivia took a deep breath and picked up her coffee. She got settled in the comfortable armchair and pulled a book out of her bag. There would be time, she told herself. They both weren't going anywhere for quite a while.
She must have dozed off as well, because she jolted upright when a nurse put a hand on her arm and shook it gently.
"Yeah, I'm up," she sighed, grabbing her book before it could slide off her lap.
"I'm sorry but we're serving lunch now and Mr. Stabler asked me to wake you so you could eat something too."
Olivia looked up at Elliot's bed and saw him, wide awake, sitting up in bed and smiling at her. She couldn't believe she had fallen asleep in the chair. She flexed the muscles in her shoulders and back and rolled her head from side to side.
"If you come up here I'll rub those kinks right out for you," Elliot said and she blinked a few times, looking at him as if she was seeing water burn.
The nurse just smiled and left them alone. Olivia stood up and spotted a bag from the hospital cafeteria on Elliot's lunch tray. She guessed Elliot had charmed the nurse into getting her some lunch from downstairs.
"Come on," Elliot said innocently, patting on the mattress next to him. "Park it. Don't tell me I never gave you a little massage before."
"No, you didn't," she said, wishing she could come up with something a little more original to say, but she was drawing blanks.
"Well, I should have," Elliot said firmly, placing his big hand on her shoulder as soon as she sat down on the edge of the bed. "Turn a bit? Yes, that's it."
Her back was turned to him and she felt his left hand knead her left shoulder. It felt so good that she relaxed into it, consciously blocking any thoughts about who was touching her. When he moved his hand to her right shoulder, she moaned softly. Elliot's hand stilled briefly and then continued, his thumb pressing into a particularly sore muscle, making her groan again. After about a minute, Olivia moved a little, indicating that she wanted him to stop. She didn't really want him to stop, but it seemed inappropriate so let the man work on her muscles while his bones had been broken because of her. He was still receiving pain killers through the IV in his right hand so he shouldn't wear himself out too much.
"Better?" Elliot asked, flashing an innocent smile when she turned to face him.
"I had the nurse bring you lunch," Elliot announced, pointing at the bag on his lunch tray on the nightstand.
"Thanks. You shouldn't have."
Elliot shrugged and Olivia just let it go. She helped him place the tray in his lap and they ate quietly, chatting about what they were eating. It was such a normal moment that it took Olivia a while to notice that they were eating from each other's food, just like old times. Before she could comment on it, or even decide if she wanted to make a comment, Elliot said,
"This is nice huh? Feels like we've done this a million times."
Olivia took a sip of Elliot's orange juice while deciding if she should or shouldn't tell him more about their past together. She didn't want to create the illusion of memories for him, but there was no denying that having lunch together was something utterly familiar for them.
"We have," she admitted. "And you always let me have your tomatoes."
Elliot's smile widened and something seemed to click in his head.
"I don't really hate tomatoes."
"I know, but you know I like them more."
"I do," he said. "I know you like them more."
The openness in his face and eyes was totally disarming and it helped Olivia to lower her defenses and open up a little too. She chuckled and picked up a piece of chicken from her own Caesar salad.
"Trade you for my chicken?"
Elliot opened his mouth without hesitation and Olivia popped the chunk of chicken in his mouth. She ignored the little electric shock she felt as his bottom lip grazed her thumb and felt like a lovesick teenager when Elliot picked up another slice of tomato and held it out to her. She leaned forward to eat it from his hand and when their eyes met, they both froze for an instant. Olivia quickly took the bite and started chewing while she moved back a little. They never broke eye contact and when Elliot took a breath to say something, Olivia knew something completely unfiltered was going to come out of his mouth. And the look in his eyes made her heart skip a beat even before she heard the words.
"I so want to kiss you right now."
Chapter 22: Munch
"I so want to kiss you right now."
She should have known. Filter-less Elliot was going to say out loud every single thing they'd always kept to themselves. Their boundaries didn't exist for him and if he kept this up, she was in for an intense ride. Not that it hadn't been intense before. But while Elliot was unknowingly ripping the band-aid off of all her old wounds, she was the one with the built-up frustration, pain and fear of years. Her utter shock must have registered clearly on her face, because she could see doubt rise up in his eyes. He was wondering if he'd made a mistake by just blurting out what he was thinking. Had he? Or was he on to something?
She'd hesitated too long and Elliot was pulling back. It was a reflex to lift her hand to his face and place her palm against his cheek.
Elliot stilled, not moving back further and not moving forward again. He closed his eyes and leaned into her touch. Olivia held her breath. Everything she had ever wanted was right here, in the palm of her hand. All she had to to was take it. But what if ... what if. Damn those what-ifs that wouldn't leave her alone. His eyes opened and she was mesmerized by all the shades of blue and grey in them. And the question that seemed to be oozing from them.
"I know you're the one Liv. You have to be or I wouldn't feel this way. But do you know it too?"
There was hope and pain and love and sadness in his eyes and he seemed to be reverting to the Elliot she'd known for so long. She'd seen exactly the same in his eyes then. The pain and powerlessness had often translated into anger but the look in his eyes was basically the same. Part of her didn't want him to become that man again, and that meant she couldn't be that woman anymore that she used to be. If she really wanted things to be different this time, she would have to be different. Drop the pretense. Drop the filter. Just admit the unadmittable. Say the unsayable. And do the unthinkable.
Her hand moved from his cheek down to his neck, and she wrapped her fingers around the back of his neck. Her fingers were tingling at the contact. She'd dreamed of touching his skin so often. Elliotwas staring into her eyes and hope was overriding the doubt and sadness in his eyes now.
"Please understand," Olivia said softly, almost whispering. "I can't just forget everything like you have."
She pulled him closer to her until their foreheads were touching.
"Was I that bad?" Elliot asked equally softly, placing his hands on her thighs and rubbing them gently.
"We both were," Olivia said with a sad smile.
"Tell me about that later?"
"Can I kiss you now?"
Her breath hitched but she was determined not to pull up that wall again.
Her eyes drifted shut when they both tilted their heads and she could feel Elliot trembling almost as much as she was when their lips brushed against each other. Her heart was almost beating out of her chest. They both breathed out simultaneously and Elliot finally pressed his lips to hers. He was soft and strong, exactly like she had expected, but not intrusive. And when he pulled back after a few seconds, she was reminded again of how much he'd lost along with his memory. In her fantasies, he would be passionate, almost trying to overpower her and they'd struggle to get close to each other, both equally determined to keep the upper hand. But this Elliot was tentative. Careful. Gentle. Almost afraid. Maybe he was beginning to realize just how complicated they had always been.
He was smiling hesitantly, probing her eyes for a reaction. For confirmation, she realized. She wanted to give him confirmation that she did want this with him, despite all the things that were still to be discussed, and smiled a real smile, albeit a little hesitantly. Elliot let out a shaky breath, clearly relieved that he hadn't spooked her too much.
"I dreamed about you again last night Liv. And I was really angry with you for some reason. I just needed to know that that was not an actual memory."
Olivia was going to tell him that it most likely was, but they were interrupted by a firm knock on the door. It opened immediately after that and Olivia moved back a little and dropped her hand into her lap, where Elliot's hands were still resting on her thighs. When she saw who it was, appearing from behind the door, she sighed his name.
"Olivia," John Munch said, approaching them.
She could tell he'd made a quick assessment of the situation, the detective in him always at work, and he winked at her when she stood up to greet him.
"I'm so glad you could come," she told her old friend sincerely while giving him a hug. "Come and meet Elliot."
She grabbed Munch's arm and pulled him along with her towards Elliot, who was looking at them both with great interest.
"John?" he asked. "Fin's partner?"
Olivia's mouth fell open in surprise. Where had that come from?
"This guy Fin was here last night," Elliot clarified, "and he told me a little bit about the unit where I used to work. He mentioned a John as his partner."
"Guilty as charged," Munch answered, extending his hand to the man in the hospital bed. "It's good to see you, Elliot, although I wish it had been under better circumstances."
Elliot shook his hand and said,
"Yeah, so do I. But Liv is taking good care of me, John."
"I'm sure she is."
Munch looked at her over the rim of his glasses and she smiled shyly. He'd seen enough when he came into the room to know they were already becoming close again.
"This is a woman you can trust with your life, Elliot. Never doubt that for even a second," Munch stated solemnly.
"I know," Elliot said, giving Olivia a wide smile.
The tender look in his eyes could melt her heart. She knew they had a lot to discuss and he'd come to realize eventually that they had, in fact, gotten very angry with each other over the years. If that dream meant another memory had come back to him, she wasn't sure if she should be happy or worried about that. She shook her head when the what-ifs started assaulting her brain again. No what-ifs. This was a new situation with new parameters.
Olivia tried to focus on Munch and Elliot, who were chatting a little now. She busied herself picking up what was left of their lunch and straightening Elliot's covers while listening to both men. Munch gave her a knowing smile and she felt a blush creep up her cheeks. The older man had always been on to her, even when Fin had still been in denial fiercely. Fin would never become Elliot's biggest fan. The two hotheads were simply incompatible. And that was part of the reason why Fin had refused to believe or understand that Olivia actually cared deeply about her partner. Even when he saw her falling apart after Elliot's abrupt departure, he'd been convinced she was better off without him. She had been pleasantly surprised by the change in his attitude and she wondered if it had to do with Fin's visit to the hospital the night before.
Munch on the other hand, knew that matters of the heart were not easily manipulated. He'd always been an staunch supporter of investigating everything, including feelings that should or shouldn't be there. And while his own relationships hadn't lasted, he still believed in true love. And aliens. And government cover-ups. Elliot's laughter filled the room and Olivia knew Munch was up to his old tricks again.
"Is he always like this?" Elliot asked her, still grinning but clutching his sore ribs that would no doubt hurt from laughing like that.
Olivia looked at her old friend and smiled.
"Yeah. He's unique. Is he trying to convince you that your amnesia is a result of secret testing by the government, or a ploy to make sure you didn't return to the NYPD?"
"Do not underestimate the power of Big Brother, Olivia," Munch warned her quite seriously.
"Sure," Olivia chuckled, pulling up a chair for Munch and gesturing at him to sit. "Next you're going to tell me that IAB has been behind it all along."
"I wouldn't put it past them," Munch replied seriously and Olivia's smile faded.
"Don't act like you don't know that Tucker pushed Elliot to retire Olivia. No one at IAB can be trusted. Well, aside from Cassidy of course."
Olivia rolled her eyes. Munch would always stand up for his old partner, no matter how different he and Brian were.
"Guys," Elliot said, looking between the two people next to his bed. "Enlighten me. Who are Tucker and Cassidy?"
A/N: I know our couple is getting interrupted a lot, by sleep as well as other people, and that they have a lot to discuss and work out. It's all coming, I promise - in bits and pieces. It's kinda like real life, right?
Chapter 23: Angry
Munch glanced at Olivia and back at Elliot. Olivia wondered if it was really such a bad thing that Elliot didn't remember Tucker or Brian. But he deserved an answer. He was feeling like an outsider every day as it was, and she didn't want to add to that feeling.
"Cassidy was my partner at SVU for a while," Munch clarified. "He's quite a bit younger than me but he's a good kid."
Olivia smiled at the reference. Brian was well into his forties by now, but to Munch, he'd always be a kid. When Munch continued, Olivia decided that it wasn't necessary to mention that she'd had a relationship with Brian for a while.
"After moving around units and precincts for a bit, he ended up at IAB. He reported to Tucker, who was assigned to our unit, among others. You know what IAB is, right?" Munch asked.
"I've read a few things about the NYPD. IAB are the guys that investigate cop-involved shootings and go after corrupt cops."
"And not so corrupt cops. In fact, they seem to go after everyone that does anything significant, to check if everything was done by the book. They were on your case a lot, Elliot."
"No!" Elliot said, feigning shock. "Don't tell me I wasn't a by-the-book kind of cop!"
Olivia cocked an eyebrow and Elliot winked at her. She gathered he knew perfectly well that he hadn't always played by the rules of the game.
"Well, I see you haven't changed that much," Munch observed. "What else do you remember so far, detective?"
Elliot had been looking at Olivia, who was standing at the foot of the bed, but when Munch called him detective, his eyes flicked back to the older man. He frowned slightly and then shook it off and scrubbed the stubble on his chin with his hand while he thought about the question.
"Olivia. I remember her," he said.
"What do you remember about her exactly?" Munch prodded. "Because if you'd remember her completely, I'd say you were cured of your amnesia."
"John!" Olivia whispered but Munch held up his hand.
"I mean it Olivia. What could he have left to remember if he remembered every part of his life that you played a role in?"
The man had a point. She'd basically been a part of every aspect of his life since becoming his partner, whether she had wanted to or not. She was curious what Elliot was going to tell Munch now. He hadn't told her the details of his dream yet. Elliot seemed to be contemplating what to tell the older man by his bedside.
"Ever since I met her, I've been dreaming little snippets about her," Elliot told Munch, "and she tells me that what I dream, are things that have actually happened. So I'm dreaming memories."
"I should have brought a note pad," Munch mumbled, checking his vest pockets but coming up empty.
Olivia grinned. Munch was taking the case of the missing memory very seriously.
"That's okay John, it's not that much yet," Elliot said. "And I doubt there is anything anyone can do to make them more."
"I beg to differ, detective," Munch said, wagging his index finger. "Seeing Olivia again has jogged your memory. There may be more ways to do that."
Elliot looked at Olivia and she shrugged, a small smile playing on her lips.
"Alright, I'll give you a list, detective John Munch," Elliot said.
"Actually, it's Sergeant now, and I'm retired."
"Not necessary. Please, begin."
Elliot told Munch about his very simple first dream, in which he and Olivia were walking the streets of New York with a Styrofoam cup of coffee in their hands. Then he told him about the dream in which Olivia was cut by Gitano, and explained that he'd dreamed the first part of that dream many times, but the second part had been added after meeting Olivia.
"This was that time at the bus terminal, yes?" Munch asked Olivia, who just nodded, her eyes still fixed on Elliot's face.
He seemed haunted by the memory even now and was looking at her with such an intense sadness in his eyes that Olivia wanted to look away. Only she couldn't.
"I knew then that I've been looking for Liv all along," Elliot added, his voice soft and hoarse and his eyes still trained on Olivia's face.
Munch just nodded and remained silent while Elliot and Olivia had a brief wordless conversation, during which she reassured him that she was very much alive and wasn't going anywhere. After a few long moments Munch chuckled.
"You two used to do that all the time. Are you sure you don't remember any of that, Elliot?"
Elliot was still staring at Olivia, and she glanced at Munch, wondering if Elliot was perhaps having another flashback to a real memory.
"Sometimes I ... I feel things," Elliot said pensively, and he finally broke eye contact with Olivia to look at the man next to his bed. "Those feelings are like memories too, only not of things that have happened. It's like ... like knowing someone without remembering how you got to know them. Is that even possible?"
"Nothing surprises me anymore, Elliot. The human mind is an intricate machine, or, as Marilynne Robinson puts it, 'an anomaly that in its wealth of error as well as of insight is exceptional, utterly unique as far as we know, properly an object of wonder'. So if you say you know Olivia, I believe you do."
Elliot nodded, although the quote Munch had used was a little confusing. He looked at her again when he continued.
"Last night I dreamed that I was angry with Olivia. And not just a normal angry. I was livid. Blaming her for something. I ... I feel like I've hurt her but I don't want to hurt her."
Munch's eyes moved from Elliot to Olivia and back, and he suppressed a sigh.
"Well, it was what you did. Both of you. We seem to be inclined to hurt the ones we love the most. Some say it's because familiarity breeds contempt. Others will say we let go of our restraints when we feel safe and know the other person will still love us afterwards. In your case, I would definitely say the latter was in order most of the time."
Olivia closed her eyes briefly, letting Munch's words sink in. She remembered that time on Elliot's stoop, when he'd admitted to her that he needed space to disagree with her without having to worry it would cost him their partnership. They were masters at disagreeing about anything and everything and still remaining close. But they only let go of a certain kind of restraint around each other. The other kinds were way too dangerous. Letting go of those restraints would have cost them their partnership, and their friendship. The underlying frustration had only fueled the disagreements they did have. She wondered which argument Elliot had dreamed of exactly, and before she could ask him, Munch asked about it for her.
"What do you remember from that dream, Elliot? Do you know where you were?"
"No," Elliot said, frowning while he concentrated on the memory. "It was some kind of hallway and there were other people around. Someone actually broke up our argument. It ..."
Elliot stopped talking abruptly and his eyes went a little wide.
"I think it was our boss."
Olivia felt a chill shoot up her spine. He wasn't just remembering her now, but other people around them.
"Do you remember what was said?" Munch asked quietly.
"I think ... I think I blamed Olivia for ... for getting cut by that creep. Gitano was it? Now why would I blame her for that? Was I always such an angry person?"
Chapter 24: Headache
"I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you, Elliot, but yes. You were a very angry person at the time."
Elliot heaved a sigh at Munch's words.
"I've been frustrated a lot over the past four years and I felt this ... something bubbling beneath the surface. I've learned to accept that life is what it is, but I think I've always known that I wasn't that way before."
Elliot looked up at Olivia again.
"And you put up with me for over twelve years?"
Olivia gave him a half smile and shrugged. She would have put up with him for another twelve years.
"I was your partner."
"For better or worse?"
The words struck her and she remembered when Elliot had said them to her years ago, about a year after becoming her partner. I'm your partner, for better or worse. And he had been, just like she had stood by him at all times. Munch must have noticed that Olivia was at a loss for words for the moment, and chimed in again.
"You'd take a bullet for each other, Elliot. It doesn't surprise me that Olivia is the one to open the door to your lost memories. In fact, she deserves to be the one."
Olivia looked at Munch, blinking to keep a few tears at bay and he gave her an encouraging nod.
"But why was I so angry with you then? In my dream?" Elliot asked.
Olivia took a deep breath. She knew they'd talked about it afterwards, but in that moment, when Elliot had blown up at her in the hallway of the station, he hadn't been rational. He had basically blamed her for not doing her job, and for making him run to her in stead of the boy they were trying to save. He had later admitted that she hadn't made him do anything, and it had been his choice to choose her over the job, just like she had chosen him later on at the warehouse. They had both known in that instant that they loved each other too much. And they had run from it. She had run physically, while Elliot had distanced himself from her emotionally, eventually ending up getting his estranged wife pregnant again and moving back home.
"It's difficult to explain El. We ... we just lashed out at each other when something was bothering us. We talked about it later so it's alright."
"No," Elliot said firmly, shaking his head. He seemed almost annoyed at how she tried to dismiss the argument. "It's not alright. And I don't think there was something trivial bothering me. The intensity of my rage was ... it was more than just anger and it wasn't just directed at you."
Elliot put a hand to his forehead and Munch glanced at Olivia before asking him,
"Are you feeling alright Elliot? Do you need something to drink?"
Elliot's face scrunched up for a second as if he was in pain.
"Headache," he choked out and Olivia rounded the bed quickly to feel his forehead.
His fever had gone down overnight but it wasn't gone completely yet. But he wasn't burning up. In fact, his forehead felt cold and clammy and his face was turning white as a sheet. Olivia looked at Munch, who nodded and stood up to get someone to check on Elliot. Elliot groaned and he was squeezing his eyes shut. Olivia wondered if he was having an acute migraine attack. She knew that would be completely debilitating. She rubbed his back while Elliot held his head with both hands, rocking back and forth slightly.
"Breathe El," she encouraged him, "Munch is getting the doctor."
Her hand touched the bare skin of his back and she tried to cover up his back with the gown. But exposing his back was the least of Elliot's worries right now. Olivia finally decided to sit down on the egde of the bed on Elliot's right side, and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. Elliot leaned heavily on her, his left hand still clutching his forehead and his right hand holding on to her shoulder. His breaths were hitting her shoulder in short puffs and she worried that he might start hyperventilating from the pain.
When Munch returned with the doctor, Olivia tried to disentangle herself from Elliot. It took some effort to pry him off her and his eyes rolled back in their sockets when Elliot finally slumped back against the pillows. The doctor asked him what he was feeling exactly and all Elliot could choke out again was 'headache'. Munch had walked over to Olivia and put an arm around her shoulders. She was trembling and couldn't bear to see Elliot in so much pain. She looked up at her old friend, who squeezed her shoulder comfortingly.
"What happened right before he got the headache?" the doctor asked them.
"He was telling us about a vivid memory," Munch explained quickly. "Maybe his brain is trying to shut the memory out because it was too intense."
The doctor checked Elliot's pupils and pulse again.
"Possibly," he answered. "Or the opposite could be happening and his brain can't process the memories all at once."
Olivia blew out a breath slowly. Could this really be? He was remembering bits and pieces of one of the most intense periods of their partnership. Could they really be forcing the door open to more memories? Or even all of them?
"Mr. Stabler," the doctor said, speaking clearly to try and get Elliot's attention. "I'm going to have the nurse switch the bag of your IV. You will receive a different kind of painkiller to combat your headache. It will take a while before you'll feel the effects but it's the best I can do right now."
Elliot grunted something and the doctor took off to get the nurse and give her instructions. Olivia took Elliot's hand in hers and rubbed the back of his hand gently.
"You'll be okay," she said softly. "You'll be fine El. You'll be fine."
Munch patted her back and then moved closer to the bed to lean over Elliot.
"Hang in there, my friend," he said gently. "We'll help you every step of the way."
Elliot's eyes were closed and he was frowning, no doubt because of the pain, but he squeezed Olivia's hand and opened his eyes briefly to look up at Munch.
"Thank you," he said softly.
His eyes closed again, and when the nurse came in, the Sergeant and the Lieutenant moved away from the bed to let her work. Olivia took a deep breath and tried to calm herself down. They were still being flung from one intense emotion into the other. From their very first kiss to this extreme pain within half an hour. But she could do this. She had to, for Elliot. She was grateful John Munch was there and she knew she could count on Fin and Cragen as well.
Elliot needed their old team now more than ever. And so did she.
Chapter 25: Shelter
Elliot had finally fallen asleep and Munch suggested to Olivia that they go get a cup of coffee and leave him alone for a bit.
"I want to be here when he wakes up," Olivia protested, but Munch told her she needed to take care of herself as well.
"You won't be able to help him if you don't take some time for yourself every now and then, Olivia. I know you'll want to support him 24/7 but you can't. You have to take care of yourself too, and you have a beautiful son who needs you as well. Come on. It's Olivia time now."
Olivia time. She smiled and gave in, accepting Munch's arm and walking out of Elliot's room with him. She had wanted to talk to Elliot so badly about everything Kathleen had told her, but ended up relaying everything to Munch over a hot cup of coffee at a diner near the hospital. Munch listened and nodded from time to time, and just let her get it all out. Her understanding of the kids and her anger at Kathy, who had tried to make sure Elliot would never remember her. And she told him about Bernie. Although she could understand that Bernie would revel in the attention she was getting from her son, she of all people should realize that he wasn't truly himself, shouldn't she?
"Well, I'm not so sure about that," Munch chimed in at last. "From what you've told me about her, she's all about being free and not being restricted by what other people expect from her. She would want her son to be free too, and in a way, Elliot has been released from a lot of burdens in his life now. Maybe she thinks he is more himself now than ever before. And maybe she's right."
Olivia hadn't looked at it like that and was a little surprised that Munch would try to see things from the perspective of an unmedicated bipolar mother. She tried to understand the older woman too, but she was still a little disappointed that Bernie hadn't reached out to her. They had only spoken twice, but she knew that Bernie had liked her a lot.
"There's only one way to find out why she didn't contact you, Olivia."
"I know. Ask her."
"Yes. But maybe you should be focusing on Elliot for now, and on yourself and Noah. The rest of the world can take care of itself for a while, wouldn't you say?"
She agreed and checked her watch. She wanted to pick Noah up from daycare herself, so she only had about two hours left.
"You wanna head back?" Munch asked, and she said she did.
"Don't try to rush things, Olivia. Elliot already has so much to process," her friend warned her.
"He and I both," Olivia sighed as she pushed herself up from the table.
They said their goodbyes after Munch had walked her back to the front entrance of the hospital, and Munch promised her he'd be back soon. He would be staying in town for a while and gave her his new cell phone number.
"Call me anytime, Olivia."
"Thank you, John."
Munch winked at her and took off, and Olivia went back inside, hoping to find her old partner awake.
Elliot was still dozing a bit, but he did try to smile when he saw her standing next to his bed.
"Hey, how's your head now?" she asked him softly, almost whispering.
"Better," he said, "but I'm confused."
Olivia sat down on the edge of the bed, taking the spot that was quickly becoming hers, and rubbed his arm.
"Confused how, El?"
"All these thoughts and images in my head ... it's like I'm caught in a sandstorm or something. I can barely think straight, let alone make sense of anything."
"Would it help if we tried to focus on one thing together?" Olivia asked.
She honestly didn't know how these things worked, but she did remember how Dr. Lindstrom had helped her find some balance during their therapy sessions whenever she was spiraling down or felt overwhelmed by bad memories or flashbacks.
"Like what?" Elliot asked, and his helplessness made her heart go out to him.
"How about you focus on me first," she suggested, and she watched Elliot struggle to open his eyes wider to look up at her. He must have been drugged heavily to combat his headaches.
"Olivia Benson," Elliot said, and he actually managed the beginnings of a small smile. "The most beautiful ... beautiful cop in the city."
Olivia smiled as well and shook her head. She wasn't fishing for compliments, but was just trying to give him something to hold on to in the middle of the sandstorm inside his head. But she did appreciate the compliment.
"My partner," Elliot said.
"Yeah. I'm your partner."
"For better or worse."
She nodded, swallowing at those words that meant so much to her.
"You've been hurt badly," he mumbled, reaching up to touch her cheek with his hand.
Olivia knew he couldn't mean Lewis. She stared into his blue eyes, that seemed very dark blue now, to find a clue as to what he was referring to.
Elliot shook his head and Olivia bit her lip.
"So beautiful and strong, yet so alone."
She took a deep breath and breathed out as slowly as she could. Was Elliot remembering or observing?
"And I couldn't ... I couldn't ..."
His eyes became so sad that Olivia had to look away. It was as if the impossibility of them was tangible between them, and it was utterly painful. Elliot seemed to be either feeling or remembering the pain of their impossibility and she didn't know how that had happened.
"I wanted to, but I couldn't Liv. You understand, right?"
Tears were glistening in his eyes and she wondered what he was remembering exactly. She was desperate for more information about how he'd felt all those years, but she needed to reassure him first. This wasn't the time for her to break down on him and ask for guidance. He needed her first.
"I understand," she whispered, not trusting her voice. "I understand El."
"I only made things worse."
A tear slipped from the corner of his eye and Olivia wiped it away gently.
"No El. You didn't. You were always there for me. You didn't make things worse at all."
She wanted to cry too but she had to keep this conversation going. Whatever it was that he was remembering, it made him see their relationship like it was.
"But I couldn't ..."
"Couldn't what, El?"
Elliot closed his eyes and let out a shaky sigh. He put a hand to his forehead then, and Olivia worried that his headache was increasing again. Maybe she shouldn't push him any further. He groaned and Olivia put a hand on his chest, caressing it gently.
"It's okay El. It's okay. I'm here and you're going to be fine. You can hide away from the storm with me."
Elliot dropped his hand away from his forehead and looked up at her, and Olivia leaned over him, cupping his cheeks with her hands.
"Let me be your shelter for a while El," she whispered.
When she felt Elliot's arms move around her waist, she leaned into him, resting one elbow next to his head on the pillow and caressing his face with her other hand. She could feel Elliot relaxing and when he closed his eyes, she closed hers too. She moved her face next to his and rested her forehead on her own arm, brushing her cheek against his. Elliot's breathing was returning to normal and when he rubbed her back gently with his hands, she relaxed as well.
She was his shelter.
But in a way, even now, he was hers too.
Comments make my day :)
Chapter 26: What I really wanted
They sat together in silence for a long time, holding each other and just breathing together. When they finally broke apart, Elliot looked up at Olivia. His eyes seemed calmer now than when she had first seen him wake up.
"I'm remembering things," he said. "Not really people or things that have happened, but ... it's like I remember my situation. Our situation."
"Yeah. You and me. I know I ... I loved you but I couldn't give you what you needed because ... because I was married."
His eyes lit up after a brief pause.
"I remember now that I was married!"
Elliot's hands were still resting on her waist and he rubbed her sides gently.
"I couldn't give you anything more than friendship ... but I wanted to Liv. I didn't want you to be alone all the time. You have to believe me."
Olivia was forcing herself to keep breathing. Her chest felt constricted. He had loved her all along. In a way, she had known, but she'd never allowed herself to believe it for the exact reason he was giving her now. He'd been married and she wasn't a home wrecker. Neither was he. He'd fought to keep doing the right thing.
"I believe you," she managed to whisper, caressing his cheek gently with a trembling hand.
"I couldn't break up my family. I'm not a cheater."
Olivia nodded, trying to keep her chin from trembling. It seemed like Elliot was telling himself some things about himself that were completely new for him and she needed to focus on him, not herself.
"Do you remember Kathy and the kids now?" she asked him. They still hadn't spoken about why the children had never contacted her or the squad. Maybe he'd remember more now about the situation leading up to the fight at his birthday party.
"No," Elliot said sadly. "I know I was married, but I don't have any images or memories to go with that knowledge. All I know clearly is, it kept me away from you. From what I really wanted with you."
She didn't know what to say to that. She had never wanted to be the reason that his marriage would end and had kept her distance all these years. Except her heart hadn't listened to her reasoning, and had kept beating for him, even while she was trying to love other men - before and after he left.
"You always tried to scare off my potential boyfriends, you know. So you did have a hand in keeping me alone."
Elliot seemed a little shocked and blinked a few times, but he didn't avoid her eyes.
"I did that?"
"Naturally, you wouldn't remember that part," Olivia muttered, and they cracked a smile at last.
"I'm so sorry that I hurt you Liv. I want to make it up to you," Elliot said earnestly.
"You just get well first, Elliot. Everything else can wait. How's your head now? You seem more awake."
Elliot looked down and reached for the controls of his bed.
"You want to sit up?" Olivia asked, but Elliot glanced at her with a clear message in his eyes. No helping. He was still Elliot.
"The head is better now," he told her after he was finally satisfied with the position of his bed. Olivia had scooted away from him a little and was waiting for him to continue.
"The sandstorm in there seems to have died down a little. It really helps to focus on one thing at a time. How did you know that?"
Olivia hadn't planned on telling Elliot about the last four years of her life any time soon, but she knew he'd start fishing as soon as she'd mention being in therapy. So she tried to work around it, explaining instead that she dealt with a lot of people who struggled with trauma, and that she'd learned some techniques to help them calm down, like while they were giving an initial statement after an assault. Elliot accepted her explanation for the time being, and she was relieved. She didn't want to add any disturbing memories about her time with Lewis to this emotional turmoil she was in with Elliot right now.
When she glanced at her watch, Elliot asked her if she had to be somewhere soon. She explained that she wanted to pick up Noah from daycare, and Elliot asked her when she was bringing him over again.
"You want to see Noah again?" she asked, unable to suppress a smile whenever her son was mentioned.
"Yeah. He's a great kid. And he's someone I don't need to remember from before. That feels pretty good you know. To actually meet someone that doesn't know things about you that you can't remember yourself."
Olivia hadn't thought of that, but now that Elliot mentioned it, she could really see how disturbing it would be to have everyone around you remember things about your life that you don't know. It might even be frightening.
"I can bring him tomorrow," she said immediately. "It's Saturday so I'll have him with me all day. We do have some errands to run, and I want to take him to the park to feed the ducks, but I can definitely bring him in the afternoon after his nap."
Elliot was very pleased with their plans for the next day, and they agreed that they both needed some time anyway to chew on what he had started to remember and what that meant for both of them. Elliot told her he was going to ask the nurse to bring him a journal to write in, and Olivia thought that was a great idea. When Olivia stood up and started to say goodbye, Elliot looked up at her expectantly.
"Do I get a kiss?" he asked innocently, and Olivia couldn't help laughing out loud.
"I didn't think I'd see the day," she chuckled.
"What do you mean?" Elliot asked.
"Well, the Elliot I know, wouldn't have asked. He would just have taken."
Elliot raised an eyebrow and she could tell he was quite amused.
"I'm that kind of guy, huh? A real Alpha male. I'll keep that in mind. But for now, I'm kinda helpless in this bed, so I'm asking this once, okay? Do I get a kiss, Olivia Benson?"
How could she refuse him? Olivia leaned over him and jumped a little when Elliot wrapped his left arm around her and pulled her close immediately.
"See, you're still that Alpha male," she grinned, resting her palms on his pillow next to his head.
When she bent her arms to give him a peck on the lips, Elliot moved his right hand up and wrapped his fingers around the back of her neck. When their lips touched, Elliot was less tentative than the first time. His kisses were soft but more urgent, as he pulled her lower lip between his lips before kissing her again. It felt like there was an electrical current running through her veins. Olivia sighed, torn between wanting and fearing more of the longing that was ignited inside her. It was so new and it wasn't. It had always been there between them, but they had never acted on it until now. When Elliot tugged at her lip once more, Olivia gave in and stopped thinking for a few moments. They moaned softly together when his tongue found hers and after a few beats Olivia had to pull away to catch her breath.
"Wow," Elliot sighed.
"Yeah," she replied shyly.
"We should do this again real soon."
They both chuckled nervously and Olivia straightened her back and reached for her coat.
"I'll ehm ... see you tomorrow," she stammered.
"Say hi to Noah for me."
Chapter 27: Lonely
Noah was excited to go and see his friend Elliot again and Olivia felt something in her chest that she could only describe as pure happiness when she watched him gather his toys that evening, telling his stuffed animals and his dinosaurs all about Ewwie Ot and trying to decide who could come with them the next day.
Olivia was sitting on the couch after dinner, sipping her tea and watching her little boy play. He was so uncomplicated and everything she'd needed when he came into her life. She had never thought she could love someone like she loved Noah. It actually made it more difficult for her to understand her own mother, but she gathered that the trauma of her rape, combined with the constant reminder of what had been done to her, had overshadowed the love that she no doubt had had for her daughter. How could a mother not love her own child? She'd seen it in Elly, a girl who had been destroyed by a lifestyle she claimed to have chosen, but that had eventually cost her her life. A girl who had given birth to the child of the ring leader who had broken her in, and who had been told her son had died. And she still only wanted the very best for her Noah because he was her child. Olivia wanted to honor Elly's memory by raising her son to the best of her abilities.
Serena Benson had tried to protect her daughter in her own way, by warning her not to flaunt her physical beauty, and telling her that all men were the same and not a single one of them should be trusted. After a while, Olivia had learned not to trust her mother either. She had learned at an early age to only trust herself, and when she became a cop and was allowed to carry a gun, it had become even easier to do. She could take care of herself. She was strong, well-trained and armed.
Only one man had ever managed to make her see that things could be different. After a while, she had lowered her defenses a little bit and he hadn't betrayed her trust. She hadn't let him in very far, but they had reached an understanding. They were partners. Benson and Stabler. For better or worse. They always had each others' back, always covered for each other an were brutally honest with each other. He'd been the only one she would feel safe enough with to blow a fuse and she'd taken his outbursts in stride, because they had this understanding. For better or worse. Semper Fi.
There had been something brewing between them for years. But they had never allowed it to grow into something more, because it couldn't. She'd accepted that and she could live with it, as long as he was in her life. Her friend and confidant. By her side day in and day out.
And then he wasn't.
She'd been crushed when he walked out of her life without a word. All her defenses had gone up again and she'd buried herself in her work. It was what she lived for, after all. Not for him. Not for Elliot. No, for the victims. But it hadn't been the same without him. Without being able to show up on his doorstep to talk to him for just a few minutes after tough case and knowing he knew what she was going through. Knowing that he knew her. Because that was what had made her not just be alone, but be lonely. After Elliot left, she had no one who knew her. Truly knew her. She didn't mind being alone, but the loneliness was killing her.
David as well as Brian had been an escape from the loneliness. It hadn't worked. Sure, she wasn't alone anymore, but she was still lonely. Because they didn't know her. Not like he did. Any man she'd let into her bed would be nothing more than an attempt to chase away the loneliness. And they would all fail because the didn't know her. They weren't intertwined with her, like he had been. And they never would be. Maybe it was her own doing, because she wouldn't let them in. Brian had tried, he really had. He'd wanted to be there for her after Lewis, but she hadn't let him in. It hadn't been Brian's name she cried out silently when Lewis was taunting her. It hadn't been Brian she wanted to call to finish the bastard off. The one man on her mind, the one person who had ever truly known her, and who still would have understood her without words years after leaving her, had been him. Elliot. Her partner.
But he wasn't there. He hadn't come for her, not even when she made all the headlines. He must have known, she used to think. So she assumed he just didn't care anymore. He knew how strong she was. He must have thought she would be fine. She didn't need him. But she did. If ever she had needed him, it had been after she got away from Lewis. They'd all tried to help her and they had all meant well. She knew they cared about her, Munch, Fin, Cragen, Nick, Brian, even Amanda. But they didn't know her. Not really.
Elliot would have known what to do. How to treat her. Not with kid gloves, like everyone was doing. He would have known better. It had been a heartache on top of everything else, that she had still missed him so much after two years.
And now here they were and suddenly, everything seemed to make sense again. He had left her, but not for good. He'd tried to recover from his trauma and build a new life away from the job, but he'd been on his way back to her when fate had struck and had wiped his memory clean. He hadn't just abandoned her and he hadn't purposefully ignored her when she was the breaking news on all the channels in New York. He hadn't know it was her. He hadn't know, and the instant he saw her that night at the hospital, something had clicked between them, and he had started to remember. He still knew her, and they were getting to know each other all over again. He remembered her. Not all the things they had said and done. Not all the crimes they'd investigated together. No, all he seemed to be remembering was her. Just her. Who she was and what she meant to him. He still knew her.
Noah had gotten up from the floor and was leaning against her knee.
"No cry momma," he said, reaching up to her face to wipe away the tears she didn't even know were falling.
Olivia smiled and wiped at her cheeks, putting her empty tea cup aside.
"Momma's okay honey."
"Noah give momma a hug so momma happy again."
Olivia laughed through her tears and picked up her son, holding him close to her. Noah wrapped his little arms tightly around her neck and Olivia took a few deep breaths. She didn't know when or why she'd started crying but she did know one thing. With Noah in her life, and Elliot coming back to her, she would never be alone and she would never be lonely again.
I thought it was important to write this to honor their history before we continue unraveling Elliot's memory. I hope you all agree!
Chapter 28: George Huang
They had made an early start the next morning, so Noah would be ready for his nap early as well. Olivia had made sure to bundle him up warmly so he wouldn't get an asthma attack because of the cold winter air. He had been doing so well lately and she didn't want him to catch a cold. But she didn't want to keep him cooped up all winter either. Noah had the time of his life, feeding the ducks that had gathered together in the part of the pond that hadn't frozen over yet and like she had hoped, he started to get tired around noon. Olivia had explained to him very clearly that they would go to visit Elliot after his nap and he went to sleep willingly after lunch, babbling happily about how Elliot was going to play with him with his dinosaur puzzle at the hospital.
Olivia decided to relax on the couch as well while Noah napped, and actually dozed off for a bit. She noticed she was beginning to relax more easily now that she wasn't swamped with horrifying cases and statements all day long. Elliot was on her mind constantly, but not in a disturbing way. It was like her heart was finally drifting back to a place of peace after she'd been restless for so long. She didn't know how much of Elliot's memory would come back to him eventually, but she did know that things had changed between them for good. They had actually kissed! She'd never been so affected by 'just' a kiss before. But that was because it was Elliot. With Elliot, it wasn't just a kiss. It was the beginning of a completely new chapter in their lives. And it felt right this time. It had been wrong for so long, but now, it was right.
She was trying not to dwell on their kiss too much, hoping their new relationship would evolve without too much tension, but still her heart skipped a beat when she opened the door to his room later that afternoon and saw his beautiful smile. She smiled back at him and turned her attention to Noah, who ran over to the bed immediately, his arms stretched out as if he was asking Elliot to lift him up. Olivia followed her son quickly and only then she noticed that Elliot had another visitor. George Huang.
"George," she said with a smile, picking up Noah and putting him on her hip.
"On the beeeed," Noah whined, still reaching for Elliot and Elliot chuckled.
"Go ahead mom, Noah can sit with me," he said.
George had stood up and was rounding the bed. Olivia handed Noah off to Elliot carefully and then turned to George to give him a cordial hug.
"It's so good to see you," she said. "Thanks for coming."
"Not a problem, Olivia," George said, smiling. "Elliot makes for a very interesting study subject."
Elliot smirked and Olivia could tell that he'd had a nice conversation with George so far. He didn't seem as confused as the day before.
"The doc here has put a few things in context for me and it's helping me to understand my memories," Elliot told her.
"Momma, puzzle!" Noah said urgently, and Olivia raised an eyebrow, looking sternly at her son.
"Noah, how do we ask for something we want?"
She knew he was excited but that was no reason to forget his manners. Noah got the message and tried again.
"Momma, Noah puzzle pease?"
She smiled and saw Elliot smiling as well, while he looked straight at her. If she didn't know any better, she'd say he was proud of her. She glanced at him again while digging through Noah's bag to find his dinosaur puzzle. He was proud of her.
"Here you go baby," she said, handing Noah the box with his puzzle of choice.
"Thank you baby," Elliot said softly, making Olivia blush instantly.
Noah's laugther filled the room and all the adults chuckled as well.
"Momma not a baby, silly!" the little boy said, grinning at Elliot.
Elliot immediately admitted his mistake, confirming that he was silly.
"But you're not a baby either, Noah. You're a big boy," he said.
Noah nodded and stuck two fingers in the air.
"Wow, you're two already. You're not a baby at all."
Olivia's heart was melting. It was so sweet to see Noah and Elliot together. She looked at George, who had watched the little exchange with great interest as well. Elliot and Noah started studying the dinosaur puzzle together and Olivia took off her coat, tossing it on the foot of the bed. She set Noah's bag on the bed too, so he and Elliot would be able to reach it to get his other toys out.
"Sit with me?" she asked George, gesturing at the armchair.
George nodded and walked back to the other side of the bed to get his wooden chair, and set it next to the armchair.
"So, what do you think?" Olivia asked the psychiatrist softly once they were seated.
"Well, it is very interesting that Elliot only has clear memories of one specific day so far. He seems to be remembering more about his life in general, like being married and being a cop, but the only vivid memories are of that day of the incident at the bus terminal."
Olivia glanced at Elliot and Noah and could tell that Elliot was listening to them as well as her son. And that was perfectly fine, of course. They were talking about him, after all.
"I decided to piece together the rest of that day for him, to see if he would remember more of it," George continued.
George wiggled his head and seemed to be doubtful.
"I'm not sure if he actually remembers more now, but at least now he understands the emotions he does remember from your argument in the hallway at the station."
It had been such an intense moment between them. She still remembered the raging fire in his eyes. The accusation in his voice. And the utter powerlessness behind it all.
"He was overwhelmed with guilt," George stated.
"Guilt? He blame me for screwing up," Olivia responded, hoping she'd kept her voice down enough so Noah wouldn't hear.
"That was what he said. It was not what he was experiencing."
Olivia waited, knowing that George had more to say.
"The incident at the bus terminal was the first time that his feelings for you got in the way so much, that it cost someone his life. His guilt over the boy's death was so enormous, that he needed to blame someone. He channelled his guilt into anger and directed that anger at you, the object of the feelings that had made him make a mistake."
"He seemed convinced that I had made a mistake, that I was somehow incompetent," Olivia replied, remembering the huge knot in her stomach as if it was yesterday. He'd never, ever questioned her like that before.
So this is my fault?
I can't do this anymore. I can't be looking over my shoulder making sure you're okay.
"Elliot had decided to run to you in stead of the boy, because he loved you. In his panic, he blamed you for that. He came to me afterwards and we talked about it. I explained all this to him before you and Noah came in."
Olivia looked at Elliot again. They had finished the puzzle and were now having a discussion about dinosaurs. He smiled at her and mouthed the word 'sorry' to her. She shook her head, letting him know that he didn't need to apologize.
"Why do you think that his first memories are of this particular day, Olivia?"
She turned her attention back to the psychiatrist.
"I ... I don't know. Why don't you tell me?"
George smiled again.
"What happened after you closed the case?" he asked her.
Olivia closed her eyes briefly, remembering their conversation on the bench at the hospital.
What about me?
Otherwise ... we can't be partners.
You and this job are the only things I've got anymore.
What about me?
"I asked Cragen for a new partner."
She swallowed hard and glanced at Elliot again.
"He knows," George said softly. "I told him earlier."
Elliot nodded at her but had to focus on Noah again then. Her son was introducing him to the three stuffed animals who had been chosen to come with them to meet Noah's big friend.
"So why do you think he remembers that day?" Olivia asked George.
"It was the first time you both openly admitted that you loved each other. Or," George added with a slight chuckle, "as openly as you two would admit anything."
"I never ..."
"I know, Olivia. But what you did say, and your actions, in fact said that you loved Elliot."
"And Elliot's actions?"
"He told me."
"The day after Ryan's death and your argument, Elliot came to talk to me. He told me then that he was in love with you."
Yes, he did. Off camera. Don't tell me he didn't. :)
Chapter 29: Complicated
Note: Underlined print is from the actual show. The part in italics is a flashback.
"The day after Ryan's death and your argument, Elliot came to talk to me. He told me then that he was in love with you."
Olivia's eyes had gone wide and she looked up at Elliot again.
"Sounds about right to me," Elliot said simply, after which he focused on Noah again.
Olivia blinked a few times and asked George,
"He just came out and said that?"
She couldn't imagine it. Not after the way he'd completely clammed up on her for the rest of the day. If anything, he had behaved as if he resented her. There had been absolutely no love lost between them that day.
"Well, not in so many words," George admitted, "but yes. He confirmed it eventually."
George remembered that morning very clearly. It had been the first and only time that Elliot had come to him voluntarily, without being ordered to come in for a psych eval by his boss.
Elliot walked in without a word, his body tense and his jaw set, clearly struggling.
"I heard about yesterday at the bus terminal. It's terrible. I'm really sorry," George offered.
Elliot didn't respond, he just crossed his arms in front of his chest.
"You know, in situations like this ..."
"Please don't tell me there's nothing I could've done. Thanks."
Elliot walked away from him, turning his back to him.
"I was gonna say," George said, "that in situations like this, there's no good choice. Every choice becomes a sacrifice."
"You had to choose between saving the little boy or saving Olivia."
"Yeah, but she didn't need me," Elliot said, finally turning around to look at him.
"You didn't know that."
Elliot was clearly uncomfortable, and was trying to find the right words to say.
"I wish I didn't ..." he started hesitantly.
"Didn't what? Didn't ... care so much? Elliot, that's what makes you a good partner," George said, avoiding the L-word for now, and walking up to the distraught detective.
"She made me turn away," Elliot said.
It was time to confront him, and George did.
"How? How does she make you do anything?"
Elliot remained silent then. George could see the realization hit him. He knew now what had really happened and why.
"She didn't," Elliot admitted. "It was my choice. Nobody else was responsible for it but me."
Apparently, seeing this truth was enough for Elliot, and he turned towards the door, ready to leave, thanking the psychiatrist. He started to leave and George called his name. As soon as Elliot had closed the door to his office, George walked after him into the hallway, calling his name again. Elliot turned back around, shaking his head even before George said anything.
"Don't, please," he pleaded.
"Don't what, Elliot?"
"Don't make me say it."
George sighed, knowing exactly what Elliot meant. He'd be a horrible profiler and psychiatrist if he hadn't seen their partnership evolve over time into what it was now. They were trying to contain it, stop it from evolving any further but this case seemed to have brought everything out in the open.
"Why not?" he simply asked the detective.
Elliot shook his head more fervently, clenching his fists and looking down at the floor.
"No. I've already lost my family. I ... I can't lose her as a partner and a friend. I can't fuck this up too."
"What do you think you would 'fuck up' as you put it by admitting to her how you feel about her?"
Elliot took a few deep breaths and looked up at him at last, his eyes red-rimmed from unshed tears.
"Too much is changing too fast. I need ... I need us to be the same. I need her and the job to be the same. At least for now."
"Do you think Olivia will understand that?"
Elliot swallowed hard and then said honestly,
"It's what we do. Understand each other without words."
"When you're in love with someone, it's not something you can just shut off, Elliot," George said gravely.
Elliot nodded, looking anywhere but at the psychiatrist and biting his lower lip.
"I know. But this is not the time to tell her."
George knew he couldn't and shouldn't push the tormented detective any further. He had basically admitted his feelings for Olivia to him, and most importantly, to himself. And that was more than he could have hoped for. He just hoped Elliot would be able to handle things going forward.
"I was the one who didn't handle things very well afterwards," Olivia said softly.
She felt a little overwhelmed. She finally knew for certain now what she'd suspected at the time, when Elliot had told her that she and the job were all he had left anymore, and that he didn't want to wreck that. She'd read him right then. He wanted them to ignore their feelings so they could remain partners and friends. He must have sensed that there was something between them that was very much mutual, but he hadn't been ready then. Neither had she. He wanted to stay her partner and she had run.
"You left for a different unit for a while," George said.
"Yeah. Couldn't stay away for long though," she said with a chuckle. "But we both needed that break to find our bearings again after ... that."
"To be able to maintain the status quo even when Elliot was separated from his wife."
George shook his head wearily and Olivia smiled.
"Yeah, I know. We were stubborn non-communicating hotheads and we wasted so much time."
"Are you finally ready to move forward now?" George asked.
Elliot immediately turned his head to look at her and their eyes locked. It didn't take her very long to put into words what their eyes were conveying to each other.
"Yes, we are."
George offered to take Noah downstairs for a treat so she and Elliot could talk alone for a while. She appreciated that a lot and once George and Noah left the room, Elliot remarked,
"He's very nice. I can see why I'd open up to him, even if it was just a little bit."
"Yeah," Olivia said, moving Noah's toys to the side so she could take her place on the bed.
"We were a complicated pair, weren't we?" Elliot asked her, taking her hands in his.
Olivia chuckled. It was the exact word she had used to explain to him back then why she had left for a while.
"Complicated. That about sums it up, yeah."
"Did I ever apologize to you for that outburst?"
Olivia wiggled her head.
"In a way."
"Let me guess. Without words. Man, we must have been so tiring!"
Olivia lifted a hand to caress his cheek, willing herself not to avoid touching him now that she was finally allowed.
"A short while later, we faced Gitano together. He had disarmed you and had a machine gun to your head. He threatened to kill you unless I lowered my gun."
"Wow. What did you do?"
"I didn't lower the gun but kept him talking. You told me that I shouldn't make the same mistake you had made and that it had been your fault, not mine. You told me to take the shot, but I couldn't. The risk that either I'd hit you or he would, was too great. I just ... couldn't," she finished, whispering.
Her hands were trembling and she felt like she was right there in that warehouse again, faced with the very real possibility of losing Elliot forever.
"So how did we get out?" Elliot asked her, taking her trembling hands in his again.
"A sniper took him out."
Elliot breathed a sigh of relief, as if he'd been on the edge of his seat to know if he'd survived. Olivia forced a smile. She could tell him about their conversation at the hospital but maybe this was enough for now.
"We found the girl unharmed and the case was closed," she finished.
"Did we ever talk about things afterwards?" Elliot asked.
Olivia closed her eyes briefly, still wondering if she should tell him everything all at once.
"Yeah. Yes, we did."
"And that's when you decided to take off to another unit?"
Chapter 30: I don't know much
Olivia nodded, looking down at their hands in her lap. She caressed the backs of his hands gently with her thumbs and kept looking down while she told Elliot,
"You had made it clear to me that you weren't ready to take a new step with me. Like you told George, you needed me and the job to stay the same for the time being while you dealt with your crumbling marriage. And you ... you told me we could never choose each other over the job again, or we couldn't be partners."
Olivia took a deep breath and breathed out slowly before continuing, lifting her eyes to meet his when she spoke again.
"I needed some time away from you to come to terms with that. I didn't know if I could do it because ... I knew I'd always choose you."
Elliot's eyes suddenly filled with tears and he squeezed her hands tightly.
"You and this job are the only things I've got anymore," he choked out, and Olivia gasped, his words hitting her like a freight train, even harder now than the first time she'd heard them.
"You remember?" she whispered, staring into his blue eyes, that now seemed haunted and full of pain.
"I remember saying that and ... feeling that," Elliot said, his voice trembling.
He let go of one of her hands, and brought right his hand to his right temple.
"Just gimme a minute."
Olivia waited, holding his left hand between hers and rubbing it soothingly. Elliot was trying to keep breathing as if he hoped to breathe the headache away.
"Almost feels like the barrel of a gun," he sighed after a few moments, still rubbing his right temple.
Olivia remembered the impression of Gitano's gun on his temple and she wondered if this was a normal way of someone's memory coming back. After a short while, the headache did seem to let up, and Elliot looked at Olivia again.
"That moment I remember ... I felt like everything was falling apart and I was such a failure."
"You're not a failure, Elliot," Olivia started but Elliot held up his hand to make her stop.
"No ... Just let me piece this together. I had failed that little boy. I had failed my family and I had failed you."
Elliot was taking deep breaths and Olivia wondered if it wasn't too much at once for him.
"I needed you. More than anything or anyone I needed you next to me on the job, to keep me grounded. So I ... I had to choose being your partner over anything else."
"You're remembering all of this?" she asked incredulously.
Elliot leaned his head back against the pillow and looked up at the ceiling. His breathing was still off and Olivia doubted his headache was really gone.
"It's like ... I remember my part of it but none of the other people involved. Except you, of course. I remember needing you."
"And then I left."
Olivia bowed her head, still feeling shame at her cowardly move all those years ago. But she'd needed some room to breathe, to get away from Elliot's intensity for a while and find her balance again. To accept that despite what had happened between them, nothing was going to change. Yet.
"But you came back."
She managed a small smile and Elliot gave her one of his own. He seemed very tired now, but he was still completely focused on her.
"When was this?"
"The spring of 2006, if I remember correctly."
"So why didn't we get together then?"
"That's something I'm hoping you will be able to explain to me one day. Shortly after I returned to SVU, I got involved in an undercover operation for the FBI and they whisked me away unexpectedly for several weeks. When I got back after that assignment, something was different."
"What?" Elliot asked but Olivia shook her head.
"I don't know. Maybe you'll remember one day. We were still a great team on the job but ... I dunno."
She shrugged. She wasn't going to tell him about Dani Beck. Or about Kathy asking her to encourage Elliot to sign the divorce papers he'd been holding on to for ages. Or about Elliot's attempts to move back home to Queens, which had eventually lead to another pregnancy, after which Elliot had indeed moved back in with his family. There was no sense in telling him all that, if he couldn't explain his side of those events to her.
"So I'm in love with you, separated from my wife and in stead of making a move on you, I get Kathy pregnant again?"
Shit. He was already putting the pieces together. She looked at him wearily. It was their story. They had avoided this thing between them at all costs, to save their partnership. In retrospect, they had both simply been too scared to make the first move, worrying that they were reading each other wrong. Fearing that they would do irreparable damage to their friendship if they spoke up and the other person didn't feel the same way. And after Elliot moved back home, they had gotten comfortable again in their status quo. The boundaries were clear again. They were partners. Partners and friends. And that was all they were ever going to be. It was never going to happen.
"Well, I'm not making that mistake again," Elliot said decisively. "I just hope you'll still have me, Olivia. Somehow I feel like I don't deserve you."
Olivia finally smiled a real smile and scooted closer to Elliot on the bed.
"Yes, I'll still have you, Elliot. I've missed you ..."
She had wanted to say more but she choked up again. She didn't feel like her badass self at all lately. Maybe it was because Elliot had shed all of his filters, that she was finally allowing her emotions to come out as well. They'd always been so tense. It had cost them so much energy to maintain the boundaries between them. It was a relief that they didn't have to do that anymore, but the feelings were overwhelming at times.
Elliot sat up and reached for her, and she moved into his arms willingly, allowing him to comfort her.
"How's your head?" she mumbled in his neck while her arms moved around his waist.
"It's bearable," he mumbled back, his lips grazing the skin behind her ear.
Goosebumps broke out all over her shoulder and back and she heard Elliot chuckle. When she turned her head to look at him, her lips were suddenly covered with his. Olivia let out a small sound of protest, but didn't pull back. Instead, she granted him access when Elliot wedged her lips apart, and she drowned in a passionate kiss. She felt overwhelmed again, but not by sadness this time. Elliot's arms were around her and her upper body pressed up against his, and she felt incredibly safe and wanted in that moment. Elliot was pouring out all of his love for her, as if he was remembering all those years of holding back at once and was trying to make up for them in one kiss. They moaned together and Olivia held him just as tightly while they explored each others's mouths and their hands roamed their bodies, making as much contact as possible under the circumstances.
When they broke apart briefly for lack of oxygen, Elliot sighed her name over and over again, peppering her cheek and neck with small kisses until their lips found each other again for another long kiss. Olivia pushed him back until he hit the pillows and kissed him passionately, needing to let him know just how much she'd missed him. When they broke apart again, Elliot put his hands on her shoulders gently and held her so she wouldn't move away too far. His bright blue eyes were shining and his smile was wide. There was no sign of fatigue or a headache left.
"I heard this song once," he told her, his voice low and raspy. "It's like it was written just for me. For us. It says, I don't know much, but I know I love you. And that may be all I need to know."
Olivia's chin started trembling and she blinked fast to keep the tears at bay. She'd waited for years to hear him say those words to her. It was nothing short of a miracle that she was the only one he remembered after four years of total amnesia. He really loved her. He always had. And there was only one thing she could say to him now. Only one way to make sure it had all not been for nothing.
"I love you too."
Their eyes remained locked, and somehow she could tell that he knew it wasn't easy for her to say it out loud. But she'd said it, and now that it was out there, she felt laughter bubbling up from deep within her chest. She chuckled and when Elliot started laughing too, she didn't hold it back. They laughed out loud together, both feeling completely free to do so, possibly for the first time ever since they had become partners and friends.