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The Lovely

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“I want you to come home.” The words escape her mouth before her brain can register what she’s really saying.

God I sound like a controlling wife…Olivia thought to herself. She didn’t want to, and she certainly didn’t have the *right* to. Having her back to him helped not show her panic. He didn’t comment on it, so she let it slide.

“I intend to.”

He didn’t get it…

“Before it’s too late.” She tried to reinforce her point.

She turned at the fence, he opened it and stepped close to her.

“Liv, I’m being careful.” He tried to reassure her.

Olivia wanted him to really get her message. Still in the moment, she put her hand to his neck, making him stare at her. She tried not to notice his stillness at the contact, the way his eyes soften nor how he leaned into her hand ever so slightly. Before it was too much, she took it back.

“I mean, before Eddie Wagner takes over, and Elliot Stabler is nowhere to be found.” She pleaded with her eyes.

She had noticed how much he changed during the few months of undercover. Some of his reactions surprised her, and she began to think that Eddie Wagner took more and more space in his head. His quick reaction to Navarro, shooting him in plain arrestation. His response when she brought up the involvement of Flutura at the party. She *knew* him. She knew his defense mechanisms, noticed his misplaced anger when he felt guilty.

Elliot took her comment in and stared at her. After a moment, he let a quick laugh escape his lips.

“How do you do that?” he asked softly.

“What?”

“Say the exact right thing, at the exact time I need to hear it?”

She had done so in her car, when she called out his PTSD. She was doing it again, just as he felt he was about to lose himself in his undercover. Elliot was amazed at how she could read him and stop him from making bad decisions just as he was about to.

“I don’t always…” she said, a bit taken aback by his comment.

“You do.” He replied seriously. “I’m the one with the worst timing and never choosing the right words…”

Their thoughts both went back almost a year before, at the failed intervention. Olivia smiled but didn’t reply right away.

“Will you think about it though? Getting out soon?” she asked after a moment.  

Elliot inhaled.

“I have already…that’s why I said that.” He referred to his latest comment.

Olivia nodded, satisfied for now by his answer.

“Being Eddie helps not thinking about Elliot’s failures and problems…but I know it’s not the solution.” He admitted.

“It might take time to readjust, but you’ll get there with time. I know you will.”

Elliot looked at her, taking in her encouragement. He couldn’t believe how she was still standing before him, after what he had put her through. He had so much gratitude and love towards her. He wanted to touch her, to take her in his arm, to never leave her again.

Olivia felt his shift, his emotions radiating from him. He was communicating everything with his eyes. She knew he wanted to say things to her that she wasn’t ready to hear. Not tonight. Not when Eddie Wagner was so present in his head.

Elliot opened his mouth to speak.

“Liv-“

“Don’t.” she whispered, breaking their eye contact. He got the message. Not tonight.

He looked down at their feet.

“I don’t deserve your kindness.” He settled for.

Olivia looked at back him and smiled, grateful for the light turn of the conversation.

“Probably not.”

He smiled too.

She raised her hand again, needing to touch him one more time before leaving, but stopped at his upper arm this time.

“Take care of yourself, Elliot.” She squeezed his arm in a reassuring attempt.

He put his hand over hers, just long enough to convey his thanks, and let her go. Olivia walked back to her car and he closed the fence behind her. He lingered a moment, looking at her figure until she disappeared.

Chapter Text

Olivia extended her arm to take the coffee offered to her. This was odd. Elliot Stabler brining her coffee in the middle of the day, at the precinct. He was still undercover, she feared this would put him in danger but he reassured her that he took all precautions necessary to be here. They made small talk. She ignored the looks from her team in the bullpen. He hadn’t closed the door behind him when he had entered her office, so she assumed this was going to stay a light conversation. And it was, for the most part, talking about their last case and delivering some messages from Ayanna. And when she thought he was about to leave, he lingered just a moment too long. She knew then he had something to tell her, something personal.

Elliot looked nervous. He took a few steps in the small office to give himself the courage to speak.

“My mom…she really liked seeing you the other day.”

Bernie was so welcoming when she had gone to his house after their last mission.

“It was nice to see her too.” She replied, smiling.

“She um…she wanted me to invite you to dinner Friday night. She’s gonna cook her famous chicken cordon bleu.” Seeing Olivia stare in surprise at him, he continued. “The kids will be there too, I’m sure they’d be glad to see you.” He looked anxious of her answer.

Oh. Olivia nodded and seemed to think about it.

“I understand If you’re busy, that’s no problem, I’ll just tell them-“

“No, it’s fine. I’d be honored to join you guys.” She smiled, his nervous energy transferring to her. And then added. “I mean, if you want me there as well…”

“’Course. I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t.” he replied seriously.

Elliot felt like a nervous teenager asking her out…through his mother’s request, on top of it all. He shook his head, feeling stupid about it. Olivia seemed to understand and smiled. If they had been a bit more on solid ground in their relationship, she would have teased him about it. But this was still fragile territory. She kept her teasing to herself.  

“Okay. Just give me the time and I’ll be there.”

“Whenever you can…seven-ish.” He spoke warmly.

Olivia nodded and Elliot left shortly after that. For the rest of the week, she thought about that dinner with anticipation, and a bit of longing.

***

“Dinner was fabulous, Bernie. Thank you so much.” Olivia said as she finished her plate.

“It was mom, it’s been so long since I tasted your cordon bleu, but it was even better than in my memories.” Elliot added.

Bernie was sitting at one end of the table, Elliot at the other. Olivia sat on the first seat on his left, and on her left was Kathleen. Eli was on Elliot’s right, and in front of Olivia. The other children were scattered on either side of the table.

“I’m glad you liked it. It was my pleasure to cook for you all. I’m just happy I remembered the recipe enough.” She half-joked.

The kids started gathering the plates and rose from their chair. Olivia started to do the same but Kathleen put her hand on her shoulder.

“Let us, Olivia. Just sit back and relax.”

Smiling, Elliot served her another glass and poured one for himself as well.

“Is this what it’s like to have grown up kids? They do the dishes and everything?” Olivia joked and Elliot laughed at her comment. “I can’t wait for Noah to be their age.”

“Noah is your little boy, right?” Bernie asked.

“That’s right.” Olivia beamed with pride.

“How old is he?”

“Nine.”

“And may I ask where is his father?” Bernie continued, curious.

“Mom-“

“It’s okay, El.” She put her hand on his forearm for a moment and took it back. “He’s dead, he was never in the picture.”

“Oh poor kid.”

“It was for the best, he wasn’t a very nice man.”

Bernie nodded as if she was taking the information in. Olivia waited a moment and decided to tell the whole story. The kids were still going around the table when she spoke up.

“Actually, his mother died as well.” After the initial shock made everyone look at her, she continued. “Noah’s adopted.”

“Really?” Kathleen exclaimed.

Olivia smiled in confirmation. She felt Elliot move slightly, sitting forward so his words were for her ears only.

“I didn’t know that…”

“You never asked.” She whispered back, turning to him. She wasn’t angry.

His eyes told her he was proud of her.

“I’m glad they changed their minds.” He referred to their conversation more than a decade ago. She smiled fondly.

“He’s lucky to have you, Olivia.” Bernie stated.

“Thank you. Truth is, I am the lucky one.” Olivia replied.

They finished cleaning the table in comfortable silence. Everyone sat back down and started playing a game of cards. Olivia felt part of this family, almost as if she belonged there. Almost. Eli was next to pick up the deck. As he started to pass out the cards around, he spoke softly.

“You know, this is the most “normal” I’ve felt since mom…” he couldn’t bring itself to say it, but everyone understood.

Olivia felt herself retreating, not wanting to break their family moment. To her surprise, Eli continued, his eyes still on the cards.

“I miss her, you know…a lot…but at the same time, for a moment tonight I just felt like this was normal…like a parallel universe where we don’t hurt as much.” He finished, putting the deck of cards down in the middle of the table.

Both Olivia’s and Elliot’s hearts skipped a bit at his comment. Elliot even coughed his surprise.

“What…what did you just say?” he asked his son.

Eli looked up at him, and then at Olivia.

“Nothing, sorry.”

Elliot frowned and opened his mouth to speak again but Dickie went first.

“I get what you’re saying Eli, this is a nice evening for all of us.” He looked around the table as the whole family agreed.

Olivia felt as an imposter. She didn’t know if she was included in everyone’s comment or not. She certainly didn’t want to overstep a boundary. She tentatively looked at Elliot, who seemed still in shock after his son’s comment.

Bernie raised her glass then.

“To family.”

Everyone was still in their minds and didn’t notice Olivia letting them have their moment and keeping her glass to herself. This was not her place.

“Now, who wants dessert?” Bernie stood up and went into the kitchen and the air seemed to dissipate a bit, returning to the light, loving ambiance there was all night.

Olivia took that opportunity to stand up, walk quietly on the terrace and closed the door behind her. She felt emotional and needed some fresh air. In fact, if she listened to herself, she would have left altogether, leaving them be as a family. Why she didn’t leave though, she wasn’t sure. Maybe it was the way she was feeling, being included in their family, as if she belonged there since forever.

Chapter Text

Out on the terrace, Olivia walked a few steps and looked up at the sky. Even with the last conversation was a bit awkward, she was happy. This night, with the Stabler family, filled her heart. It had been a long time since she felt like this. Family was everything, and even though team Noah-Olivia was great, she had longed for a bigger family for so long. She felt she somewhat belonged in the Stabler family before, but not like this. This was new. The kids were welcoming. Bernie treated her like her own daughter. Elliot…Elliot made her feel like she was the only person in the room. He was making her feel loved. And it didn’t have to do with his actions, necessarily. Just the way he looked at her, served her wine, his leg brushed hers under the table a few times. This was the Elliot she always wanted for herself. But was it real? Or was he only picturing his wife there with their family? Olivia had so many questions and part of her didn’t want to let herself believe it could happen to her.  

Her thoughts were interrupted by the glass door opening. Elliot stepped through, two glasses of wine in one hand. He closed the door behind him and walked up to her, handing her a glass. She took it with a smile.

He looked up to the sky, where her eyes were a moment ago. She let herself look at him.

“Chilly night.” He said.

“Is it?” she replied softly, really asking him.

His eyes descended on hers. They stared a moment and smiled.

“Thank you for tonight.”

“Thank my mother. She made all of the food.” He half-joked.

“Thank you for inviting me in your home, in your family.” She specified, even though she didn’t need to.

“You’re always welcome here, Liv.”

They smiled and turned their heads to the sky once again. They enjoyed their moment before Elliot spoke softly.

“I’m…I’m sorry about what Eli said…if it made you uncomfortable…I’m not sure where it came from honestly.” He seemed as shaken as her.

“It’s okay…”

After a moment, she couldn’t help herself but ask.

“Do you think….do you think he read the letter?”

She made sure not to refer to it as your letter, and they both knew why. Elliot inhaled loudly.

“I don’t think so.” He answered, frowning and thinking about it. “I don’t see how he could have.”

Olivia nodded, trusting him.

“I think it was just an expression…”

Olivia looked at him, then. She wasn’t sure how to take his comment…

“An expression…”

Elliot couldn’t look into her eyes so he turned and went to the chairs on the patio. He sat down and put his glass on the small table. This night was peaceful up until then…he wasn’t ready for it to be over and returning to their usual tensed conversations.

“I didn’t want to say it at dinner, but I’m getting out of UC next week.” He turned to see Olivia descend her eyes to him. The change in subject was welcomed by both of them.

“Good.” She exhaled. “How do you feel about it?”

Elliot inhaled, thinking.

“Mixed emotions I guess. I worked so hard to get in, to win their trust. I feel bad about betraying them. It was also nice to be able to escape Elliot Stabler for a while…”

Olivia let his words sink in and sat down in the opposite chair.

“To be honest, I’m not sure who Elliot Stabler is anymore…with all of the changes…I’m not sure I want to go back to that man who has hurt so many people around him…”

Elliot felt Olivia’s eyes on him, but he didn’t care. He was tired of hiding from her. He was willing to let her see his struggles, his vulnerability.

“Before I went undercover, I felt so much guilt, Liv…It was suffocating me.” He admitted, closing his eyes. “I don’t want to face that again, I don’t want to go back to that man…”

Olivia felt for him. But she couldn’t find the words to help him. Instead, she extended her hand on the table between them, palm up. He looked at her hand and reached out so they intertwined their fingers tightly together.

“It’s gonna take time, Elliot, and it’s okay. Just go at it one day at a time. I know you’ll find a way to get through this.” She squeezed his fingers into hers.

Elliot took a moment to look at their connexion. He inhaled again before looking straight at her, fear in his eyes.

“Will you help me, Liv?” he asked.

At her questioned look, he added.

“Truth is, I feel the most myself when I’m with you.”

Olivia’s breath hitch at his admission. His eyes showed so much. She was his lifeline, his lighthouse. He desperately needed her to guide him through this. She squeezed his fingers once more, not trusting herself with words right now.

Their gazes returned to the sky and Liv took back her hand to take a sip of her wine. She still had some reservations about where his head was at. She couldn’t open up to him before knowing for sure that he was back 100% and he was solid enough to have the real conversations they needed to have. A few minutes passed in comfortable silence before Elliot spoke up, his eyes still upwards.

“About Noah…you said I never asked…but to be honest, I didn’t think I had a right to.”

Liv frowned and turned to him. He looked so sad, and guilty. For having missed so much in the last ten years, for hurting her, for pushing her away when he came back. She couldn’t help but feel for him.

“You do, El. I want you to.” She gave him permission. Permission to ask about the last ten years, implying of course that they had to take things slow.

He looked back at her then, his eyes filled with tears of gratitude. His eyes went to his hand, still extended on the table between them. She replaced hers in his and he squeezed so hard she felt everything he wasn’t saying.

“Just come home…” she asked once more. She couldn’t rest until he got out of UC.

“I will…wherever home is…” he looked lost, his eyes turning to his house.

She tried to reassure him, it wasn’t as far as he seemed to think.

“I’d say home is right there, Elliot, with your kids and your mother.”

Elliot took a moment to look inside the house. She was right. Almost.

“As long as it includes this terrace right now, with you.” He finished, his eyes burning into hers. “It’s not home unless you’re in it, Liv.” he admitted.

Once again, his eyes told so much Olivia almost couldn’t handle it. Did he have those thoughts during the ten years they didn’t see each other? Was he replacing Kathy with her, in his mind? Did he really think home included her? His eyes seemed to tell her so. Olivia replied the only way she could, under the circumstances.

“Then, here I am.”

And squeezed his hand once more as reassurance. She felt her chest invaded by the love she had for this man. He just admitted to not being home unless she was there. And she felt the exact same way. Maybe there was hope for them, after all.