It’s a feeling in his heart before his brain catches on. Unexplainable dread followed by realization that she is too quiet and something is wrong. Elliot ends his frustrating conversation with the elevator emergency guy, brings his phone to life and looks at Olivia.
In that moment, he thinks he is getting a glimpse of what his personal experience in hell is going to be like. If God wants to punish him for all his transgressions, he can just make him endlessly relive these few seconds — when the light of his screen chases away some of the darkness and Elliot is left staring into the abyss of pure terror in her unfocused eyes.
In that moment, he is absolutely paralyzed with terror himself, his heart diving all the way through the floor and to the ground under this blasted building. Thankfully, his training and years at SVU allow him to recognize what is happening to her relatively quickly. Also thankfully, he is able to pull himself together enough to focus on getting her out of whatever personal horror she’s disappeared into. And of course, he has some idea of what it might be now.
Elliot calls out to her again and again as he moves closer, but Olivia doesn’t seem to hear him. He brings his eyes level with hers, trying to catch her attention.
“Liv, look at me. Focus on me.”
She is barely breathing.
“Liv, breathe, sweetheart. Deep slow breaths. Focus on me. Try to focus on me.”
Something shifts in her eyes.
“That’s it, you can do it. That’s it,” he continues to encourage her. Elliot can barely control his voice, but manages to keep it steady somehow.
Olivia seems to respond, her gaze slowly focusing on him. She blinks a couple of times.
“That’s it. That’s my girl.”
He thinks she is going to kill him later, if she remembers the ‘sweetheart’ and ‘my girl’, but he is only human and he doesn’t have the mental resources to censure himself at the moment.
“Stay with me. Breathe with me. In… Out…” he demonstrates, “In… Out…”
Elliot can see that she is trying, but it doesn’t quite work. He swears.
“Liv, I am going to touch you, hold you, okay? You are safe. I promise you, you are safe.” He gently, slowly embraces her stiff frame. “Just you and me here. No-one's gonna hurt you. You are safe.”
He tries to slow his own racing heart as he carefully checks her pulse. It’s through the roof. But she seems to be present in the here and now at least, so that’s progress, he reassures himself.
“You gotta try to calm down, okay?”
The screen of his phone goes dark and she jerks in his arms. Elliot immediately turns it on again.
“Shh. It’s okay. We got light. It’s okay.”
He runs one hand up and down her arm, trying to coax Olivia into relaxing her death grip on the railing, all the while telling her that she is safe. Eventually she lets go of the metal bar and clutches his jacket instead. Her breathing is still shallow and fast, though.
“Liv, slow deep breaths.”
This time she manages to fill her chest with air and let it out slowly.
“That’s it. Again,” he instructs. Olivia does as she is told a couple more times and then buries her nose in his shirt. In turn, Elliot buries his in her sweet-smelling hair as he draws her closer still.
Her stiffness gives way to trembling. He draws his hand up and down her back while the other holds the phone, making sure it doesn’t go to sleep, plunging them into darkness again.
“Maintenance crew is on the way. Everything is gonna be okay,” Elliot tells her. “You are safe. I am not gonna let anyone hurt you like that ever again,” he wows.
All of a sudden Olivia stiffens again.
“You know,” she whispers. “You know about Lewis.”