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Olivia walked up to the gate and laughed at the handwritten sign taped to the front of it. 

 

Warning: A decorated, experienced Detective lives here. TP-ing this house would not be a good idea. 

 

She opened it and was stopped by a booming, familiar voice. 

 

“Who is daring to enter the gates?” 

 

She rolled her eyes and laughed. Of course, he’d be this much of a goof, but she loved to see him in these lighter moments. “Let me in, Stabler.” 

 

“Ah, ‘tis just the most beautiful lady in all the land.” 

 

Just ?” 

 

“Sorry. The Queen has arrived! Welcome, your Majesty.” He corrected and she giggled.

 

“Better.” He took her hand and raised it delicately to his lips, where he placed a tender kiss on it; she almost melted from the chivalry. “Where’s your costume?” 

 

“I don’t need one. I’m already scary enough as it is.” Flexing his muscles, he grinned at her. 

 

“Maybe to those that don’t know you as well, but those of us that do all know you’re really a big teddy bear underneath that tough exterior.” 

 

“Grizzly. I’m a papa grizzly bear. My woman and my cubs get the tender parts, but if anyone tries to mess with them-” 

 

“The claws come out.” 

 

He growled and kissed her. “Damn right.” He kissed her again, deeper this time. “I haven’t gotten to kiss you in twenty four hours.” He groaned into her mouth. “That’s a long time.” 

 

“That’s unfortunate for you.” 

 

“Very.” He grinned as he felt her body reacting to his kisses. “And I think it’s been at least a week,” He nipped at her perfect jawline. “Since I’ve gotten to make love to you.” 

 

She moaned softly, relishing the feeling of him lavishing his attention on her. “That’s unfortunate for both of us.” Wrapping her arms around his neck, she pulled him close.

 

“It sure is.” He kissed her nose. “Oh, well, we should probably go inside before the trick or treaters come.” 

 

She smacked his ass. “Tease!” 

 

“Sorry, Captain.” 

 

X

 

“Hey, Dad?” Eli walked into the kitchen hesitantly a little while later, as Olivia and Elliot sat by the island chatting. “Can I go out?” 

 

“No.” 

 

“It would give you and Olivia more alone time.” 

 

Elliot chuckled. “Nice try, but no. If you want to go out you can sit on the terrace. That’s it.” 

 

“Dad, I'm fourteen. Noah is seven, and he’s at a fuck-” 

 

“Language!”

 

“He’s at a Halloween party.” 

 

“Noah’s friends aren’t involved with drugs.” 

 

“Your dad is just trying to keep you safe, Eli.” 

 

“Whatever. He just doesn’t want to have to pay to bail me out of jail.” 

 

“That’s not true. He’s-” 

 

“Forget it. He doesn’t care. He never has!” A moment later, they heard the door to his room slamming shut. 

 

Elliot sighed, sliding his hand down his face and cupping his jaw; he shook his head. “I never should’ve gone undercover.” 

 

“El, he’s a teenager who lost his mother tragically. This could’ve happened if you were home too. It’s not you. He’s just gone through a lot of changes this year, and he has unhealthy coping mechanisms.” 

 

“What do I do?” 

 

She rubbed his back and kissed his head. “Have you tried getting him counseling?” 

 

“He started going last week, yeah. I need to find a way to get him to stop talking to those ‘friends’ of his. He’s not gonna get better if he keeps talking to them.” 

 

She wrapped her arms around him from behind and leaned her head on his shoulder. “Anything I can do?” 

 

He shook his head and sighed. “You shouldn’t have to keep cleaning up our messes, ‘Livia.” 

 

“I don’t clean them because I have to. I clean them because I love you. All of you.” She kissed him before he could think to reply. “Especially you.” 

 

“We don’t deserve you, but we are damn lucky.” He turned in her arms, in order to hold her tightly with his own. “Love you so much, Liv.” He kissed her sweetly. “Glad I came home to you.”

 

“I’m glad you did too.” Coming home, to them, didn’t only mean from his recent undercover operation, but also from Rome, from the ten year absence in her life. Either way, he was home, and this time it was for good.

 

He held her tighter and they stood in the kitchen, holding each other and breathing each other in, for a few minutes before he spoke again. “I think Mama’s still taking care of the trick or treaters outside. You wanna eat some candy and watch a movie with me?” 

 

She nodded enthusiastically. Technically, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to stay awake for an entire movie, but she wanted to be curled up safely in his embrace, and this would allow her to do that, so she wasn’t going to complain. At all.

 

Elliot grabbed the candy dish from the counter and a blanket off the back of the couch for them to share. He wrapped it around them both and pulled her close to him; he wasn’t sure he’d be able to stay awake for the whole movie either, but it gave him a perfect excuse to hold her the way he wanted to, so he wasn’t going to complain any more than she was. 

 

X

 

“You two look sweet like that,” Bernie said, and Olivia cracked one eye open to see the credits of Sleepy Hollow rolling across the screen. “Oh, if only I wasn’t out of film, it would make such a precious picture. Anyway, don’t eat too much sugar, you two, Mama Bernie’s going to bed; I saw enough superheroes tonight to make a new movie! Good night!”

 

Elliot looked up at his mom and tucked his arm around Olivia even more. “Good night, mama.”

 

“Sleep well,” Olivia said, taking the remote in her hands and clicking off the movie. As they heard the gentle creak of her bedroom door closing, she tilted her head up to look at Elliot and laughed.

 

“I said the same thing to Noah. Don’t eat too much candy at the sleepover, yet here I am, eating all your candy.” 

 

Elliot chuckled. “You can have as much sugar as you want.” He kissed her neck. “Sugar.” 

 

She smacked his chest playfully with her open palm. “Oh no, we are not making that a thing. I will kick your ass.”

 

“Ok, cupcake.”

 

“Wrong holiday, and I will still kick your ass if you call me that on Valentine’s Day.”

 

“Sorry, pumpkin.” He teased.

 

“Shut up and kiss me.”

 

“Aye, aye, Captain.” A series of pounds on the door interrupted their sensual kiss, and Olivia let out a whimper of disappointment at the loud and intrusive noises. They both jumped slightly and Elliot groaned as the pounding didn’t stop. “Oh hell no. If that’s one of Eli’s friends I’m gonna kill them.” 

 

Olivia rolled her eyes. “No, you’re not. You’re gonna be nice. Maybe remind them you’re a cop, but be nice.” 

 

“No promises.” 

 

Olivia shook her head at his grumbling and laughed as she took the candy dish back to the kitchen and placed it on the counter; there were still a few chocolate bars left for whoever wanted them in the morning. “Who the hell are you?” she heard Elliot ask, as he opened the door. 

 

“Elliot! Be nice! Don’t scare the kid.” The slurred voice she heard in response made her shudder. 

 

“Is Captain Benson here?” That was definitely not one of Eli’s friends. 

 

“Who’s asking?” Elliot covered the doorway with his body, ensuring whoever this man was couldn’t see Olivia, even as she moved closer to the door. 

 

The stranger’s eyes were bloodshot and he reeked of alcohol. He was also holding a half-empty bottle of vodka in his quaking hand. It didn’t take a genius to know he was drunk. He didn’t know the man, and he didn’t know what his intentions were, but he didn’t like him. Instinct.

 

“An old friend.” Even if that were true, Elliot could tell this man was a walking trigger for Olivia’s PTSD, so there was no way in hell he was letting him through the door. Someone who was truly an old friend would be just as welcome sober.

 

Olivia placed her hand on Elliot’s shoulder to ground herself before fixing a pointed gaze on the intruder. 

 

“How’d you find me, Burton?” Her voice was angry, but Elliot could hear the unsteadiness. 

 

“You know I have ways of finding my girls .” The man, Burton, slurred his words and pitched forward slightly on his feet, but managed to hold his balance.

 

Those words, in addition to the unease he felt radiating off Olivia, made Elliot snap. He grabbed Burton by the throat and slammed him up against the wall outside. 

 

“You need to leave. Now.” He growled. “She clearly doesn’t want to talk to you, so leave .” 

 

“Olivia, are you just going to let this man assault me like this? You’re a Captain. You are supposed to protect me.” He slurred and made eye contact with her; his eyes spun in circles.

 

She felt bile rising in her throat at the idea of this man, this rapist claiming he was being assaulted. “No. No, I don't have to do anything, you sick bastard.” 

 

“Are we still on this? Really? You still think you were a victim?” 

 

“I was sixteen.” She could feel Elliot stop breathing at her words and the raw vulnerability he heard in her voice. “You groomed me. You took advantage of me.” 

 

“Took advantage? Oh, that’s not what you used to call it, sweetheart.” 

 

She gripped the hem of Elliot’s shirt, fighting off a flashback to another sick bastard she faced eight years ago. 

 

“You thirsty, sweetheart?” 

 

Elliot kicked him hard in the stomach, knocking him to the ground. 

 

“You raped me, Burton! Just like you did all those other women.” She wondered if she should have any regrets about blurting that out: not because she gave a fuck about Burton, but because that statement could easily cause Elliot to earn a murder rap. The sound of Burton’s skull being slammed into the pavement made her wonder if she should say something to stop her partner, but she didn’t. This monster deserved his wrath. 

 

Rape? You didn’t put up much of a fi-” A blow to the face cut off his words as he clutched his nose. “Well, aren’t you awfully protective of her, when I don’t see a ring on her finger. I gave her one, once; have you? Who are you to her exactly? She never mentioned you, not when-” 

 

“I’m her partner.” His growl was feral and murderous, and Olivia didn’t think she’d ever seen him so angry. Anyone else might be terrified of him, but she knew him, better than she knew anyone else. Unlike Burton, who she thought she knew once, she did know Elliot, and she knew this rage would never be directed towards her. “I’m her partner, and if I ever see or hear that you came near her again, I will hunt you down and kill you. Slowly. Do I make myself clear?” 

 

Olivia found her voice again. 

 

“Seriously. He will make you suffer. You should leave now and get a head start.” 

 

Elliot started to stand up, and started to give him a chance to leave, but then his eyes locked with Olivia’s fearful one. He saw the scared young girl who only wanted someone to love her and had fallen prey to an older man’s charm. He saw the woman he’d fallen in love with twenty-three years ago, who had never had someone defend her until they were partners. He saw the Detective from eight years ago who would’ve given anything for that protection. He saw the Captain, the survivor she was today. He saw the tears in her eyes, the shame on her face. He saw the lifetime of pain and suffering she’d gone through, and pulled his gun from his pocket, aiming it straight at Burton’s head. 

 

“Elliot,” she said, more as a warning than anything. “Your mother and Eli are inside sleeping. They shouldn’t hear this.” She took a step towards him. One clean shot, one she knew he could make in his sleep, and this would all be over.

 

“Oh, look, she’s gonna save me.” Burton had a maniacal, drunken grin on his face.

 

Olivia grimaced. “I’m not saving you, you prick.” She was saving Elliot, saving herself from having to lose Elliot again. The consequence of allowing Burton to continue breathing, by comparison, was a small price to pay.

 

“Olivia, he shouldn’t be allowed back on the streets.” 

 

“No, he shouldn’t. He belongs in prison. You don’t . Give me the gun.” 

 

“Liv-” 

 

“Let’s call it in.” 

 

“You’re gonna call the police?” Burton spat blood in her direction and she moved out of the way, neatly dodging his poorly-executed aim. “Statute of limitations protected me, sweetheart. You remember that, don’t you?” 

 

Olivia ignored him, focusing solely on Elliot. “We’ll get him. For something. El-” She reached for the gun and cautiously removed it from his hands, knowing he wouldn’t risk hurting her when she reached for it. “Call it in.” 

 

“I’m not leaving you alone with this bastard.” In his current state, it was unlikely that Burton would be able to physically hurt Olivia, but Elliot wanted to protect her from any further emotional trauma Burton could inflict with his words. “You go call it in. I’ll behave.” 

 

“Promise?” She raised an eyebrow, knowing what could happen if she left those two alone together.

 

“Promise. I swear.” 

 

X

 

The uniformed officers that showed up arrested Burton on a drunk and disorderly charge, and Amanda told Olivia she’d talk to Carisi about getting a restraining order. Fin stayed for a few minutes to make sure Olivia was ok and told Elliot if anyone asked about Burton’s injuries, he’d tell them it was self-defense. This scumbag didn’t deserve to take Elliot’s career or freedom. 

 

Elliot pulled Olivia into his arms and held her shaking form securely, once it was the two of them again. 

 

“Was that-” 

 

“Yeah.” She’d told him about both Burton and Lewis when he got back from the undercover; she’d cried in his arms as she told him how dirty and damaged she felt, and how warped they’d twisted her perceptions. In reply, he’d told her that she was the most beautiful woman in the world and there was absolutely nothing that would make him stop loving her, that nothing that happened to her was her fault. “I can’t believe I thought he was my soulmate at one point.” She shook her head in disgust, wishing she could make it not be true.

 

“You were just a baby, Liv.” 

 

“The first time, yeah. Not the second. When he came back I was a fifty-seven year old SVU Captain.” 

 

“You can’t blame yourself. He manipulated you. You needed someone to love you and he took advantage of that. This is on him. Not you.” 

 

“El, when I went to confront him-” Her voice was small and full of anguish and pain. “I was scared because-” 

 

“You didn’t want to believe it was true.” 

 

“No, I mean, yes, that was part of it, but he-he was drunk like tonight, and angry.” 

 

“Did he hurt you?” His voice rose slightly in alarm; she hadn’t told him this part of the story.

 

“No, no, he didn’t, but it reminded me of my mother, especially that night she threw the bottle at me.” 

 

“Oh honey-” 

 

“And Lewis.” Her voice cracked in despair.

 

“Shh, you’re safe now. You’re safe. I swear.” He ran his hands over her hair and held her tightly against him.

 

She wrapped her arms around him even tighter now. “When I left his hotel room, after the door closed I heard-I heard him throw a bottle at the door, and it s-shattered.” Sobs wracked her chest. “All I could think about was-” 

 

“Your mother throwing the bottle?” 

 

“Y-yeah, and wishing I’d listened to her.” 

 

“‘Livia, even if she’d been trying to protect you, even if she was right to be concerned about this guy, that does not excuse the way she treated you. That didn’t make it ok for her to hurt you.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Do you? Because you have nothing to feel guilty about, and you sound like you’re feeling guilty.”

 

“I am a little. I always assumed she hated me, but-” 

 

“I-” He chose his words carefully. “I don’t think she hated you, but she didn’t understand how to truly show you that she loved you. Hurting you wasn’t love. Controlling you wasn’t love. I do think she loved you, baby.” He kissed her tears. “She loved you, but she needed help. She needed help coping, but even though she may have had you write the letter to protect you from Burton, her hurting you, her throwing the bottle at you, that was not ok. Nothing excuses that. Her being right about him doesn’t negate or invalidate the abuse she put you through. Ever.” 

 

She sniffled and rested her chin on his shoulder. “I didn’t have anyone back then. El, If she didn’t love me, if he didn’t-then no one did.” 

 

His heart snapped in two, and not for the first time, he wished he’d been there to show her this kind of love then. “Baby-” 

 

“I have to believe she loved me, El.” 

 

“Oh, Liv, I’m sure she wanted to, honey. She just didn’t know how, and that wasn’t your fault, but listen.” He brushed loose locks of her hair out of her face and smiled when he saw her looking at him, with that look of trust gleaming in her eyes. “Listen to me, ok? You have so many people who love you now,” he said, his voice soothing and low as he thought about everyone who meant something to her. “ So many .” His kids, he knew even Eli cared more than he’d let on; her squad, both past and present; him and Noah, the two guys in her life. And that was the ones he knew of.

 

“I know.” 

 

“Do you? Do you know how much I love you?” 

 

“Well, I know it’s not nearly as much as I love you.” 

 

He chuckled and kissed her sweetly, tasting the faint taste of Halloween chocolate on her lips. “I doubt that. I’ve loved you for twenty-three years Olivia Benson. I always have and always will.” 

 

She returned his kiss with a deeper one, pouring the passion and love she had for him into the tender action. “I love you too.” She snuggled into him. “I guess I should probably get going.” 

 

“No, no, you should stay right here where I can protect you.”

 

“He’s in custody. You heard the unis. He’s not getting out anytime soon, and Carisi will make sure that the restraining order is the most binding one he can find.” 

 

“I know, but-” He sighed. “I just don’t think you should be alone right now. Please stay?” 

 

“I-”

 

“Unless you really want to be alone?” 

 

She thought for a minute. The monsters in the Halloween stories had nothing on the ones who walked the streets and looked as human as any of them. “No. I don’t.” 

 

“Then, there is absolutely no reason for you to be. Come here.” Together, they shuffled in their embrace, moving from the hallway to his bedroom. He continued to hold her tight as they laid under the covers, and he kissed the top of her head. “Sweet dreams, ‘Livia. Nothing can hurt you here. I promise.” 

 

“Good,” she whispered, feeling drowsy. She snuggled closer to him and hummed contentedly. There was no place in the world she felt safer than in Elliot’s warm, comforting embrace, where she knew she was protected from all her monsters. Past and present.