Amanda sat in the hospital waiting room, watching the other occupants around her. The atmosphere was tense, the room filled with fear, stress, and hope. She’d always hated hospitals; two births, her father’s health issues, not to mention the frequent visit due to her job left her feeling weary, anxious whenever she had to step foot in one.
She felt more anxious than usual in the hospital tonight because she was waiting for news about her friend and captain. Olivia had been in a car wreck leaving Fin and Phoebe’s non-wedding, and before Amanda could relieve her babysitter after her little tryst in the courthouse with Sonny, she’d received a call from Fin about the accident. Now the squad was gathered at the hospital, needing to be together until they knew for sure Olivia would be alright.
Allegedly, when her car collided with the bridge, Olivia had been on the phone with him, her former partner Elliot Stabler. This was the same man currently pacing the floor in front of Amanda, nervously checking his watch and looking like he could explode at literally any moment.
As he paced in front of her now, Amanda studied him, attempting to finally get a read on the man. Before Captain Cragen ordered Olivia to pack up Elliot’s belongings all those years ago, she’d gotten a glimpse of a photo of him and presumably one of his children that sat collecting dust on the empty desk. He was an attractive man; unfairly still in incredible shape, and if Olivia was considering allowing their relationship to progress to more than partners, more than friends, she was definitely a lucky woman on that front.
Before being distracted by Carisi, Amanda had observed the man with Olivia during the non-wedding reception. Stabler stood a little closer to Olivia than Amanda had liked, and after arriving extremely late, Amanda wasn’t sure he’d even spoken to anyone other than Olivia the whole evening. The former partners stood off by the water together, heads nearly touching as they spoke, conversations with their mouths and their eyes.
With every tick of the clock, the stress radiating from Elliot increased, as did his pacing. She looked over at Fin, silently asking him to do something. Fin just shrugged his shoulders, electing to stay out of it, per usual.
Amanda hadn’t spent any amount of time with Stabler, not even a formal introduction. However, she probably knew more about him than he’d ever know about her. A part of Amanda thought Stabler didn’t deserve to be present at the hospital, not after everything he’d put Liv through.
It was just a few weeks after Stabler’s departure that Amanda arrived at SVU. She’d heard the buzz about the near-unstoppable Benson-Stabler team and about the shooting that was still under investigation.
Then, before Amanda ever even had a chance to meet him, Stabler put in his papers.
A decade ago she’d seen how broken Olivia was after receiving Stabler’s retirement news. It was a pain so deep that Amanda understood that in some ways, the murmurings about more than partnership between the two were true, whether anything physical happened between them or not.
Amanda witnessed the wall Olivia put up when Amaro first came on the scene, refusing to partner with either of them until Captain Cragen forced her to begin working cases with Nick. Eventually they’d grown together as a partnership, just as she and Olivia had developed a friendship years later.
Olivia had been good to Amanda, treating her far better than she deserved, both as a commanding officer and a friend. Amanda recognized she put Olivia through hell in the early years, but once they both became mothers, they’d gravitated to each other, relying on each other to help raise their children. She loved Noah like he was her own, and she knew her girls meant the world to Olivia.
From the sidelines, she’d watched as Olivia tried to move on and put Stabler behind her. She’d seen bits and pieces of the David Haden relationship that Olivia tried to keep hidden. Brian Cassidy’s presence in her life drove Amanda insane, and she’ll never understand how Olivia ever trusted Ed Tucker.
To her knowledge, Olivia hadn’t dated anyone since the Tucker relationship fizzled. There were plenty of men that were interested in the beautiful captain, but Amanda had seen Olivia’s wall slowly rebuild itself over the years and a new sadness fall over her.
Then Stabler returned.
Since her former partner fell back into her life, Amanda could tell Olivia was conflicted by his presence, but she’d pushed aside her feelings to help him through the traumatic loss of his wife. While unsure of how long Stabler intended to stay in New York, a big part of Amanda wished Olivia would keep her distance.
“Will you please sit down?” Amanda finally said, more exhausted by the minute from all of his pacing in front of her.
Elliot stopped and looked at her. “Excuse me?” he said, acknowledging her presence for the first time since her arrival at the hospital.
Amanda let out a frustrated sigh, gesturing toward him. “Stop the pacing. It’s not helping Liv, and it’s real annoying.”
“Do you know what happened to her tonight?” Elliot asked, glaring at her, and Amanda could almost feel the daggers his eyes were shooting at her. “Were you on the phone with Liv when she crashed? Did you hear her moaning in pain and worrying that whoever ran her off the road targeted her? I don’t think so! So how ‘bout you back off?”
Rising to her feet and stepping toward him, Amanda said, “No! I wasn’t on the phone with her! And if you hadn’t been, maybe we wouldn’t be here right now!”
She watched as her insinuation appeared to fuel Stabler’s rage even more. “So you’re blaming me for this? For someone running her off the road?” he yelled.
Just then, Olivia’s doctor entered the waiting room, interrupting the argument before it could escalate any further. “Captain Benson’s family?”
They all rushed over to him, and Amanda purposefully stepped in front of Stabler, her way of reminding him that although he was there, he wasn’t part of Olivia’s squad or her family, not anymore.
“We’re her squad, and I’m her emergency contact,” Fin said.
Amanda cut her eyes at Elliot and saw him drop his head for a moment at Fin’s words, confirming what she’d suspected, that years ago, Elliot must have filled that role for Liv.
“How is she?” Elliot asked.
“She’s going to be fine,” the doctor answered. “Slight concussion, and her ankle is most likely broken. She’ll need to wait a few days for the swelling to go down and then get an MRI to check for further damage. Until then, she needs to stay off of it as much as possible.”
Shaking the doctor’s hand, Fin said, “We’ll make sure of it.”
Before leaving, the doctor gave a few last minute instructions. “I’d like to keep Captain Benson overnight to monitor her. She needs to rest, but she can have a few visitors. Just make it quick unless you’re staying the night with her. She could use the help.”
Elliot quickly volunteered. “I’ll stay with her.”
“You will not,” Amanda said, glaring at him over her shoulder.
“Enough! Both of you!” Fin said, standing between them. “Liv is the priority right now, and she doesn’t need this. Until you two can get yourselves under control, neither one of you are setting foot in that room.” He nodded toward Carisi. “Let’s go check on her.”
Amanda watched Carisi and Fin walk away, and as Fin’s words sunk in, she felt extremely guilty for the way she was acting. This really wasn’t the time or the place to be giving Stabler a piece of her mind, but she was concerned about her friend, and she just couldn’t sit by and watch her potentially get hurt again.
When the others were out of sight, Elliot interrupted Amanda’s thoughts by quietly but firmly asking, “What is your problem?”
Amanda stared at him for a few moments, trying to resist the urge to pummel him with her fists while also wishing she was carrying her weapon.
“Do you even understand what you did to her?” she finally asked.
“What are you talking about?”
Amanda rolled her eyes, annoyed at whatever this was, deceit or ignorance. “I’m talking about Liv, about what you leaving without a word did to her.”
She took a couple of steps toward him. “I came to SVU just a few weeks after you left, and I was here when Cragen had to tell Liv that you retired, because you didn’t have the balls to tell her yourself,” she spat at him.
Amanda knew she should probably stop her verbal assault, but for ten years she’d been holding back her anger at this man, and it really felt good to release it.
“I don’t know what you two have talked about or what you know about…the things that happened to her, but Liv has literally been through hell,” she continued. “She needed you, and even when she didn’t need you, she wanted you!”
Amanda threw her hands in the air in frustration. “I don’t understand it, not after the way you abandoned her, but she’s wanted you so badly! Then all of a sudden, you just…drop out of the sky, and you lean on her, and she tries to fix you, but she shouldn’t have to! You’ve hurt her enough! She shouldn’t have to pick up your broken pieces!”
Amanda watched with a little bit of satisfaction as Stabler’s jaw clenched, a guilty look stretching across his face.
“I know,” Elliot said softly after a moment. “I know I hurt her. I never wanted to, and you’re right. She shouldn’t have to fix me, and I’m working hard to try to…figure out how to get through all of this. Liv is…”
Amanda was surprised to see the man’s eyes begin to glisten with tears, and she felt her heart soften toward him just a little bit.
“She deserves everything,” he said with a whisper.
After taking a moment to compose himself, Elliot quietly said, “I know I can’t erase the past, but I’m working on building…something with her. I don’t know that she’ll ever be able to forgive me, and I probably don’t deserve her forgiveness.”
He looked up at her. “But whatever is going on between me and Liv…I don’t see how that’s any of your business.”
“It is my business when it involves Liv,” Amanda said through gritted teeth. “I’ve been looking out for her since you stopped being here to do it. Me, and Fin, and Carisi, and Amaro…we’re the ones who were there for her, during some of the best and worst days of her life. When we see her heading into a situation where she might get hurt, we make it our business.”
Elliot sighed, brushing his hand over his face. “I’m not expecting our…relationship to go back to what it was before I left. I have a lot of work to do on myself, and Liv and I have a lot to work through together. But I’m here, and I’m staying, and I’m doing everything I can to prove that to her. I…she means the world to me Rollins, and I want to be in her life however she’ll allow me to be.”
Amanda crossed her arms in front of her. “Liv is a grown woman, and I will support her in whatever decision she chooses to make, despite how I may feel about you personally. If you try to move forward with her into…something more, you have to really be there for her. Don’t you dare hurt her again, do you understand me?”
Elliot nodded. “I understand. And I won’t hurt her.”
“I’m a real good shot, Stabler. You hurt her, and you’re done.”
“Are you threatening me?” Elliot asked with a chuckle. “I’m not afraid of you.”
As Fin and Carisi walked down the hall toward them, Amanda leaned close to Elliot’s ear, lowering her voice where he could just barely make out her words. “You should be.”
“If you two can handle yourselves, you can go see Liv now,” Fin said.
Amanda shot Elliot one last glaring look before rushing down the hall to Olivia’s room. When she stepped into the room, her heart broke a little at her friend’s condition. Olivia had a bandage on her forehead, her splint-wrapped foot elevated, and Amanda was surprised at how small her strong, fearless captain looked lying in the hospital bed.
“I’m sure you’re sick of people asking, but how are you feeling?” she asked Olivia.
Olivia gave her a tiny smile. “I’ll be ok,” she answered. “In some pain, but I’ll be ok. Is Noah ok? Does he know?”
“I checked in with Lucy, and she’s taking care of him overnight,” Amanda assured her. “I’ll go get him in the morning, and he can stay with me and the girls until you’re home and ready for him to come back.”
Olivia lifted her hand to press against her forehead, and Amanda could tell she was still in a lot of pain.
“Thank you Amanda,” Olivia said. “You don’t know much it means to me and how big of a weight this lifts off of my shoulders.”
Amanda shrugged. “It’s not a big deal, Liv. I know if the situation were reversed, you’d do the same for me.”
“I would.” Amanda watched Olivia’s eyes drift to the window, where Stabler was standing on the other side, pretending not to watch them.
“He was here when we got here,” Amanda said quietly, rolling her eyes while Olivia’s attention was away from her. “Want me to kick him out? Because that would definitely make me feel better.”
“No,” Olivia said quietly, her eyes still watching the man in the hall. “He needs to be here. We were on the phone when the accident happened, and he heard everything. Somehow he was able to keep himself together, and he kept me calm until the ambulance got there.”
Amanda sighed. “Yeah, he told us that.”
Olivia finally looked up at her. “Go easy on him. He’s been through a lot lately.”
“So have you,” Amanda insisted. “You’ve been through the worst times of your life, and he wasn’t here. Now he just swoops back in like everything was fine!”
“He’s not acting like everything is fine,” Olivia said. “He’s struggling, but he’s trying. He…he loves me, Amanda. Right now, we’re just…we’re working on being friends again. You have to trust me when I say I know what I’m doing.”
“I trust you, but…” Amanda said, hesitating before she continued. “I don’t know that I trust him.”
Olivia immediately answered, “But I do.”
Amanda’s head dropped for a moment, understanding where Olivia was coming from, that her friend knew this man far better than she did, but still struggling with the feelings of protectiveness over her. “I just don’t want to see you get hurt, Liv. None of us want to see you get hurt.”
She watched as Olivia’s gaze returned to the window. “Amanda. I have to try. I…I won’t be able to live with myself if I don’t at least try to work things out with him.”
“You love him too,” Amanda said quietly.
Olivia nodded. “For a long time.”
Amanda reluctantly accepted that she’d have to let Olivia make her own decision about Stabler, even if she wasn’t sure it was the correct one. “Ok,” she said. “But just so you know, I’ll shoot him for you if you need me too.”
Olivia laughed. “I appreciate that, and I’ll let you know if I need you to.”
Amanda nodded her head toward the window. “Want me to let him in?”
Olivia smiled as she nodded. “Yeah, he’s waited long enough, and he’s going to wear a hole in the floor until he gets in here.”
Amanda reached for Olivia’s hand, giving it a quick squeeze. “I’ll call tomorrow when I have Noah and let him talk to you.”
When she stepped into the hall, an eager Elliot looked at her expectantly.
“Go on in,” she said. “Just don’t forget what I said, ok?”
Elliot nodded and quickly rushed into Olivia’s room.
Amanda couldn’t help herself and stood at the window, watching them through the glass. Stabler walked over to Olivia’s bed, and after silently asking permission, he sat down on the edge, facing Olivia. His hand reached for hers, and a tear came to Amanda’s eyes as she watched him lift it to his mouth, pressing his lips against the back of it. After a moment, one of his hands extended toward her broken foot, briefly touching her leg above the injury, his face full of pain and guilt. When he turned back to Olivia, he said something Amanda couldn’t quite make out, and with Olivia’s head nod, he moved to sit next to her, slipping his arm around her shoulders and pulling her into his side. When his lips gently pressed against the side of her head, Olivia sank into his embrace, closing her eyes as she leaned further into him, and moments later, Amanda could tell she’d drifted off to sleep.
She hated admitting it, but there was something different, a new sparkle in Liv’s eyes when she looked at Stabler. Whatever this thing was that was going on between them obviously made her happy, and at the end of the day, happiness was really all Amanda ever wanted for her friend. Olivia had been dealt such a difficult hand over the last decade, experiencing some of the worst things life had to offer. But no matter how bad things were, Olivia never folded, taking chances and moving forward. Stabler should’ve been there for her all these years, but he was here now, and maybe Olivia wouldn’t have to navigate the rest of her life alone.
As Sonny stepped up behind her, gently placing his hand on her back, Amanda smiled up at him. Before they walked away, she took one last look at Olivia and Elliot. Sonny hesitated briefly before taking her hand, and as they walked down the hall together, Amanda realized that maybe, maybe there was still a chance for her and Olivia both to find a little bit of happiness.