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A Very Safe Place

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Still Frames in Your Mind
Story 1: A Very Safe Place, Chapter 1: i'm too tired to have a pissing contest


She started to show up in places.

First, it was outside of his practices, her watchful eye making sure that he showed up and stayed the entire time. Then, it was his games.

She didn’t say anything to him at all, she just stood, watching, a stoic expression on her face.

At the games, she would take a seat next to Kathleen on the bench and smile, while watching him play. Sometimes, she brought her kid with her, and when the things were over, she would leave, quietly. Without a word to him, but with a smile and nod to his sister or grandmother.

He wasn’t sure what she was doing there, what she was doing anywhere. As though she just fit.

He was never sure why she just seemed to be present.

All he knew is that she had been the one who had discovered the pills he’d dropped on the floor a couple weeks ago. The one that had been the catalyst for the cameras that his father had installed. The ones that made the apartment feel like East Germany during the Cold War.

Then, his dad came back from being undercover.

She stopped showing up places, and instead, his father was standing there, sometimes in view, sometimes out of view. A couple of games he’d caught her sitting next to his father, but she’d disappear before the end of the match. She didn’t have her son with her when she was around his father though.

He’d get up to go get a glass of water at night, and they would be sitting on the back patio, a bottle of wine between the two of them and each holding a glass. He’d watch as his father would lean forward and say something, with a grin on his face that Eli had never been witness to, and she would throw her head back, laughing.

Eli began watching from around the corner. She’d show up, have one glass of wine, talk for about an hour, and then she’d leave.

His father would come back into the kitchen, a smile on his face, place the bottle of wine in the fridge, the proceed to the couch.

He didn’t understand why. He wanted to.

Then, she showed up at his school one day in February, waiting on him in the office. He’d gotten called out of class and had been instructed to take his things with him, he would be leaving for the afternoon. When he caught sight of her standing there, hands in her winter jacket, brows furrowed in concentration. It was odd, to have her picking him up from school.

“Where’s my dad?” He asked, his eyes wide. “Olivia?”

“He’s fine, Eli.” She took a deep breath, taking her hand out of her pocket and placed it on his shoulder. She gave him one of those quiet smiles he’d seen her give his father once or twice. The quiet, sad smile. He wasn’t sure what this look meant, but “We’ll talk in the car. You have everything?”

He looked into her eyes. Whatever it was, wasn’t anything major, otherwise, he was convinced that she would be a total basket-case.

Eli missed his mother. He missed the way she’d take him out for Gelato after soccer practice. Missed the way she’d laugh while they watched the movie Café Express together, a bowl of popcorn with grated Parmesan cheese and crushed Italian seasoning sprinkled over the top – Eli would turn his dark eyes towards her and watch as the laugh lines on her face would crinkle.

In many ways, he’d been told by his older siblings that he was lucky because he got their parents when they were more carefree. But, he’d also been told by them that he was also royally screwed because there wasn’t much he could try to pull over their heads – because having four siblings that came before you and that had been mostly grown by the time you were born, was a major buzzkill.

Climbing in the backseat of her vehicle, he reached around for the seatbelt and waited patiently as she climbed into the driver’s seat.

“Olivia. Are you going to tell me why you’re picking me up?” Eli asked, pulling his phone out of his bag and turning it on. She glanced back and held out her hand.

“Eli, listen carefully, I’m picking you up because your father asked me to.” The tone of her voice is sad, flat, and she doesn’t have that spark that he’s begun to make note of when she is around his father, grandmother, or sister.

“Why couldn’t he do it? And why pick me up before the end of the day?”

“Look, I have to go get Noah. You also need to hand me your phone, because of security. So, can we have this discussion later?” Eli handed Olivia the phone begrudgingly and watched as she dropped it into her bag, shutting it off as she did so.

I don’t want to have this discussion later.” Eli’s finally had enough of dancing around Olivia Benson and seeing her dance around his family. She’s been somewhat of a silent fixture in his family’s life. “I see you everywhere, and you’ve just kind of slid your way into my family, and I don’t understand.” He feels the anger boiling in his stomach, “No one will tell me anything about how or why you’re always around. No one talks about it at all. They just accepted you.”

Eli.” Her tone isn’t as cutting as the one he’d heard the one night when she’d gotten into a heated discussion with his father, not finished her glass of wine, and had stormed off. He’d heard his dad on the phone with her an hour later, apologizing profusely. Whatever it had been that he’d said was bad enough that his father was practically begging the woman in the Driver’s Seat to forgive him. “I have a history with your family. I knew all your siblings very well. Your father and I were partners.”

“I’m fully fucking aware of that, Olivia. Do you have a savior complex or something?”

She closed her eyes, jaw clenched, and took a deep breath. When she opened them he suddenly saw the shift in her dark eyes. How dare he use that language with her.

Listen. And listen closely.” Her voice suddenly has an edge to it, and Eli sat back in his seat, phone still in hand. “I know you hate me, for whatever reason. But let me tell you something, Eli, I was there on the day you were born. And no, I don’t have a savior complex.” She takes a deep breath, her hand still resting on the steering wheel and her elbow on middle console.

“I helped put the IV in your mother’s arm, I helped cover her while they cut her out of the car…She begged me not to leave her. So I didn’t. I kept whispering to her that I was right there for her, and she was doing great. When you finally came out – bloody, and perfect, she was so relieved. But then she crashed, and they handed you to me, and when I held you to my chest as we raced through the streets – I made a promise.”

Eli swallows, his mother had never told him the story of his birth, only that it was traumatic, and he was perfect, and she was grateful that he’d been healthy.

“I made a promise not only to your mother, while she was being resuscitated – but to you, and I whispered a promise to your father even though he wasn’t there. I’m a woman of my word, Elliot Joseph Stabler Junior.”

What was that?” A moment passes, and when she gets the first opportunity, she turns off the Bluetooth on her phone and quietly presses Elliot’s contact information on her ‘quick contacts’ screen, leaving the phone in between her thigh, she knows that Elliot has picked up on the other end of the line, because it says connected. “What promise did you make?”

“I promised that if anything ever happened to either of your parents, I would do everything within my power to make sure that you were taken care of and looked out for. You can hate me all you want, Eli, but I’m never going to stop loving you or your family. Regardless of whether or not your mother wanted to convince me that everything I felt was real or not, I know what’s real.”

He suddenly saw the vein to dig into, “Do you think you can just take her place? I bet you wish your son was his, don’t you? God, why is it that everyone is in love with you? Even Dad, and mom just died this last year. Are you going to ignore me now?””

 “Eli, maybe you should talk to your dad about all of this. Don’t ask questions you’re not prepared to hear the answer to.” She wasn’t going to approach what Eli had just said, what Elliot had said once in the midst of an Intervention, had a half-assed mention of on a partial voicemail, and then never brought up again.

“You show up – everywhere. I want to know the answers. Otherwise I wouldn’t have asked.

“Because your family was my family for thirteen years.”

They pull up to a stop light and he sees her hands clench on the steering wheel. She knows Elliot is listening on the other end of the line, and she should feel bad about doing this, but she’s had enough of his insolence when all she’s trying to do is keep her promise to make sure he stays safe, alive, and on the right track. “Why does my Grandma think you hung the stars? Why do you and dad sit outside every single night but refuse to acknowledge whatever it is you’re doing. What’s your endgame, here?”

“My endgame?” She asks, incredulous. Choose your words carefully, Benson. Elliot is listening. “Eli, I would never try to take your mother’s place. I fought for your parents’ marriage sometimes harder than they did. I kept my walls up all the time because I valued their relationship and devotion to something I always dreamed about but was never lucky enough to find. Up until recently I had thought your mother and I had become friends.” She states so matter-of-factly, as though it were as simple as breathing, “Yeah, I wish Noah was your dad’s son. Hell, you should have been mine and your father’s son. But you aren’t. I’ve learned to live with disappointment.”

Eli swallows thickly, maybe he shouldn’t have been such an asshole. She’d been right when she’d said not to ask questions he wasn’t prepared to hear the answers to.

“Why is everyone in love with me? I don’t know. Have your siblings spoken to you about their teenage years? Let me tell you something, sweetheart, compared to Kathleen and Richard’s problems, yours is nothing. I have been present because I don’t want to end up putting handcuffs on three out of five of your father’s children. I want to make sure you don’t end up in a box next to your mother. I fought like hell to help her bring you into this world, and by God, I don’t want to see you leave it.” She takes another deep breath as she turns down the street about five minutes away from Noah’s school. “I’m fiercely protective of the people I love.”

He thinks about apologizing, but he knows she’s not done talking when he catches her dark eyes in the mirror. It was funny, when he thought about it, his mother and father both had bright blue eyes just like all his siblings. Just like his Grandma Bernie and the photos of his Grandpa Joe. His mother’s parents had blue eyes too. He didn’t understand where his brown eyes came from. He wanted to understand. Someone said something about his great grandmother on his mother’s side had brown eyes, and he knows enough Biology to understand that it’s very possible their recessive gene was brown eyes.

But he’s stuck on the thing she just admitted. He should have been hers. What did that even mean?

“I never asked for your father to be in love with me, Eli. I don’t think he is. I think he’s in love with the idea of who I used to be, but he’s still learning who I am now. I didn’t ask to fall in love with your father, either. But I would go to the ends of the Earth for him, because…he’s my partner.”

“But you’re not, Olivia. You’re the Captain of SVU and he’s a Detective in OCCB. You haven’t been partners for over ten years.”

“A partnership doesn’t just go away, Eli. I’m going to go in and get Noah. If you have anything more to say, hold it until later – none of this gets repeated in front of him, do you understand me?” The teenager’s steely gaze is fixed on the woman in the front seat as she turns the vehicle off, grasping her phone in her hand and stepping out of the truck.

As she walks to the school, she puts the phone to her ear. “Liv, you there?”

“Yeah.”

“I have that photo tucked away somewhere.” He speaks softly into the phone, “The one of you holding him, with your shirt all bloody, - that goofy grin on your face.” She feels her breath catch in her throat. Unsure of what to say, “It’s actually wallet size, in the back of my wallet, right now.”

She’s not sure what to say about what he’s just admitted, luckily, she doesn’t have to.

“I’ll talk to Eli when you get here. Are you getting Noah now?” Elliot’s voice finally speaks directly to her and she stops for a second.

“Yeah.” she answers, walking to the front door where she pulls it open and is met with the Security Checkpoint. “Here to pick up Noah Benson.” She tells the guard, who pulls up her son’s information in the computer and then picks up the receiver, notifying his teacher to send her son to her.

“So, you’re in love with me?” He asks, expecting her to just say yeah again, because he can tell she’s rattled. Just wasn’t going to let his son intimidate her. Listening to her speak to him was eye-opening.

Shut up, Stabler.”

“Yes, Captain.” A moment of silence passes while she takes a seat on the hard plastic chair in the Security Vestibule.

“El? We’re going to be okay, right?”

“Liv, we’re going to be more than okay. And just so you know, I’m not in love with the idea of you. I know you’re not the same. Hell, I’m not the same. I’m not an idiot.” He chuckles at his last remark and she lets out a huff of air.

“You are an idiot, Stabler.”

“I’d be your idiot.”

Don’t say that.” She whispers. “I’ll see you in twenty.” She places her hand on her son’s backpack as she steers him out of the building and to the SUV where Elliot’s youngest child is waiting, she hangs up the phone and takes a deep breath, opening the back door and watching as Noah climbs in.

Once she’s in the driver’s seat again, she turns around.

“Eli, this is Noah, my son. Noah, this is Eli, Elliot’s son.”

As she began driving through the streets of the city, towards the safe house, she couldn’t help but be grateful for the silence in the backseat. Her son was studying the teenager next to him suspiciously and it made her chuckle slightly. Eli had pulled a book out of his bag and when she saw the title, she had to shake her head.

He was reading ‘Angels & Demons’ by Dan Brown. Better than the Graphic Novel she saw on his shelf while she was giving herself a tour of Elliot’s Apartment.

At least that was something they had in common, they both liked to read. She hoped that eventually, he would warm up to her, but at the moment, she was just chalking it up to teenage hormones.  

“So, Eli, do you like playing video games?” Noah asked, finally deciding to make contact with the teenager who was trying to ignore him.

“Yeah, I do.” Eli answered, lowering his book and Olivia watched in the mirror.

“Do you want to play a game? I have my Switch.” Noah asked, his eyes perking up.

“Nah, but I’ll watch you.” Eli tucked his book back in his bag and Olivia just watched the two boys finally interact. She watched, grateful that she didn’t have to intervene and grateful that they had found something to talk about.

 

Chapter Text

Still Frames in Your Mind
Story 1: A Very Safe Place, Chapter 2: you're not yet a lover, but you're more than a friend


She noticed her tail pick up on the way to the safe house. She knew it wasn’t a threat following her, because she could see the person driving the car. She trusted Officer Montero. Once they arrived at the rendezvous point, she drove into the building, glancing back at the two boys in her backseat.

“Listen.” She spoke quietly, with a tone that was reserved for mostly keeping victims calm. “We’re going to get out of this vehicle, and into one of the other ones.”

Eli looked out the window, noting that there were several SUVs that looked identical to the one they were currently in. He also noted that there seemed to be various officers standing outside of those SUVs. It was this moment that he noticed his father leaning against one of the many SUVs. She left the keys in the ignition, separating her actual keys from the ring and grabbed her bag.

“Make sure that you have everything.” She smiled at her son, “Noah, you have everything, right?”

“Yeah mom.”

She nodded, opening her door and then opening Noah’s, allowing him to climb out while Eli grabbed his bag from the floor and approached his father, who was standing there with his arms crossed, lips pressed together. “Hey dad.”

“Don’t, Eli. We need to have a talk, but not here.” Elliot took note of the way Eli’s face dropped when he realized whatever had been said on the phone call as she walked into the school was related to his actions.

He missed his mother. He was grieving. Eli made eye contact with Olivia who opened the door of the SUV she and Noah were climbing into the backseat of. Elliot’s eyes followed Eli’s gaze and when he made eye contact with Olivia he gave her a small smile as she made a motion to Noah that she’d be right back in just a moment.

While she kept eye contact with him, he opened the back door of the SUV that he and Eli would be climbing into. “Go ahead, get in. I’ll be right back.”

Taking a deep breath, Olivia had started walking toward Elliot.

Before she got close though, a member of the security team stepped in front of her. “Captain Benson, we have to go.”

“I’m aware of that, Sergeant Jones. However, I just need a minute.” She placed her hand on the man’s arm and stepped around him. “Just one minute. I promise. A sad smile on her lips, as she moved closer to Elliot.

“Liv, I’m sorry about all of this.

“Elliot, it’s fine. Really. It’s not –“ she turned to look back at the SUV that held her son. “We’ll talk about this later. I promise, but we have to get in the vehicles now, and get out of here before they get too angry with us.”

“I just –“

“El, stop.” She shook her head. “It’s going to be fine. You said it yourself. I trust you.”

“Do you?” He asks, grimacing slightly.

“Implicitly.” She placed her hand on his shoulder and smiled kindly. “See you in a bit, partner.”

Elliot just stared at her, his eyes searching for answers. Searching for reassurance. Digging for the strength that she always provided him. “Yeah.”

“El?” She stops as she is half-way back to her vehicle. He was watching her walk away, waiting until she got to her vehicle before he wanted to climb into the one he was riding in.

“Yeah?”

“Don’t be too hard on him. His mother just died, - and…I understand that. I mean, you know.” She puts her hands in her pockets, her head tilted to the side as her hair falls in front of her face, and it takes everything within him to not walk right up to her then and say ‘fuck it’ to the line they’d been teetering on. Their conversations at night had been rebuilding their relationship, but he wanted more.

She’d admitted to falling in love with him, but he didn’t know if she wanted him even though she admitted she had fallen in love with him. He wasn’t sure if it was past tense or if she had meant that she was in love with him, presently. Part of him wanted to know. But the fact that even after dealing with his rude son on the way there, she was still looking out for his well-being. “I won’t, Liv.”

“I’ll talk to him again, if you want me to.” She spoke quietly, looking around the warehouse. The security team that was there had the patience of saints. They also had the intelligence to pretend to not be listening.

Where the hell did he find her? By what grace had he been matched with her as a partner. He didn’t deserve her. Never did. But she had gone out of her way to continue to be a presence even when he thought she would kick him in the balls and walk away.

“We’ll talk about it. Just – let’s get out of here.”

She nodded, biting her bottom lip and turning on her heel to climb into the vehicle with her son. Her precious boy.

They’d talk about it. He knew they would, eventually. Maybe when they got to the safe house, they’d find a bottle of wine and be able to have their nightly conversation. Credible threats might just be small mercies.

They called one another partners, but they weren’t. Not anymore. That had been the one thing his son had said that was true. What were they?

 

                         

Chapter Text


Still Frames In Your Mind
Story 1: A Very Safe Place, Chapter 3i broke all the rules, but baby, i broke them all for you


It took six hours to get there.

They only stopped two times. Once at a nearly abandoned truck stop so everyone could go to the bathroom and change into more comfortable practical clothing and once at a rest area so everyone could go to the bathroom and grab a quick bite to eat and drink.

 The various other identical black SUVs eventually diverted away from them at various exits just in case there had been someone following them.

As Olivia turned to look at Noah, she smiled sadly. He’d fallen asleep after the second stop. They’d all handed over their cell phones at the first stop, and had been given new phones to use while they were sequestered away safely. The sun had almost disappeared beyond the horizon when the four remaining SUVs turned down a road and stopped at a gate.

“Mom?” Noah’s head popped up to look at her. “Where are we?”

“Somewhere safe.” Olivia ran her hand through her son’s curly hair, chewing on her bottom lip as she pulled him closer to her in the backseat, planting a kiss at the crown of his head. “We’re somewhere safe, sweet boy.”

“For how long?”

“Hopefully not too long.” She took a deep breath, looking at the vehicle in front of them which contained Elliot and Eli. The front and rear SUVs were the security detail. She’d been told very little about the drivers of the two vehicles they were riding in, but what she did know was that one of the SUVs was to be theirs to use while they were staying here.

As they made the two-mile journey down the road Noah had snuggled back into her side. The buildings came into view and she was pleasantly surprised to find that the lodgings for them looked half-way decent. At the end of the drive was a nice log cabin with a large garage next door.

The vehicles pulled into the garage and without so much as a word, the security teams all filed out of the vehicles and made their way up the stairs to what Olivia assumed was to be their lodgings for the foreseeable future. Nudging Noah awake, he began to stir and as she climbed out of the vehicle and managed somehow to get him to follow her.

Elliot was waiting outside of her door, his blue eyes studying Olivia’s brown ones as they made their way to the side door of the garage and along the path to the front porch of the cabin. Eli was dragging his feet with his head hung down as they walked up the front porch steps. Olivia was in awe of the beauty of this quiet place.

The cabin was situated on a slope, but the wrap-around porch looked beautiful. Elliot opened the front door and when they walked into the house, they were greeted with the living room. Elliot flipped the switch on, and watched as Eli and Noah both walked over to the couch and sat down, quietly, still wearing their jackets.

Elliot walked into the kitchen, placing his keys on the counter as Olivia followed behind, taking a seat at the kitchen island atop one of the barstools, she was glancing down the hallway to the closed doors. She counted four.

“The room straight ahead is mine – the first door on the right is the bathroom and the first door on the left is the linen closet. The next door on the left is your room. I figured you’d want the master.” He glanced up at the landing above them. “There’s a bedroom upstairs with a bathroom attached to it and a sitting area up there.”

“How do you know about this cabin?” She asked, quietly. Elliot just took a deep breath and looked over to where Eli was sitting on the couch next to Noah who seemed to have gotten a second wind following his nap in the truck.

“Eli, why don’t you and Noah go downstairs to watch a movie. I’ll make you guys popcorn, if that’s alright with you.” He turned to Olivia who was just watching him, nodding, a small smile on her face but still curious about this cabin.

Once Eli and Noah had gone down the stairs and the door had shut behind them Elliot moved around the kitchen island and took Olivia’s upper arms in his grasp. His eyes were searching her over, making sure that she was real and was in front of him. Actually in front of him. When the microwave dinged for the popcorn, Elliot dropped her arms and finished up the popcorn, he sprinkling some shredded parmesan and Italian seasoning on it. Elliot then walked over to the door to the basement, opened it and yelled down for Eli to come get it. A minute later she watched as the bowl disappeared from Elliot’s hands as the door closed once more.

Turning his attention back to Olivia he stuck his hands in his pockets. “Liv, I’m sorry that you had to - .”

“It’s fine, Elliot.” She took a deep breath, “Did you turn the heat on?” She asked, wrapping her jacket further around herself. There was still a slight chill in the air. Elliot pressed his lips together and walked over to the thermostat in the hallway. It was the tail-end of February, and there was snow on the ground outside – a lot of snow.

“I had Joseph turn it on about an hour before we got here, he’s also the one that cleared the driveway.”

“Joseph? Who exactly is Joseph?” She asked, raising her brows as Elliot took a deep breath, she rested her head on her fist. “How did you even know about this – beautiful secluded place? What’s downstairs, by the way?”

Elliot ran his hand over his head as he took the seat next to her, “Joseph Bradley is one of the security team members. When the threat came out against us – I made sure that everyone listed in the threat was sent somewhere safe. When they asked about us, I figured I’d miss our nightly chats.”

He threw her a sad smile as returned one, “So, I told them about this cabin, and they sent a few people up to make sure I wasn’t completely full of shit when I told them it was secure and secluded…that no one knew about it other than the people that built it.” He took a deep breath, wiping his hand over the top of the counter. “Downstairs is a media area I had built, the laundry room, a bar and game area, the fourth bedroom and another bathroom.”

“Who are the people that built it?” She asked, looking around. “And why?”

“I needed somewhere quiet to decompress. So, I found this nice slice of land that was fifty acres, secluded, and absolutely perfect.” He opened one of the cabinets and she smiled when he pulled out a hidden wine rack and selected a bottle of red wine. “The people that built it are all on the security team that’s residing above the garage until further notice.”

Pulling out two wine glasses he motioned his head towards the living room. They took a seat on the couch that was situated in front of a coffee table and the fireplace in the corner as he opened the wine with the corkscrew he’d grabbed next to the glasses and poured them each a glass.

“How secure is secure?”

“Do you trust me, Liv?”

“Yeah, I do, El.” She shrugged off her jacket and leaned back on the couch, hugging the wine glass to her chest.

“Then it’s secure.” They both took a sip of their glasses of wine, eyes locked.

Sitting in silence for several moments, she pushed herself off the couch with the wine glass still in hand and walked over to the windows, squinting to see outside past the reflection of the area behind her. Noticing her squinting eyes, Elliot walked over to the light switch and dimmed them, so she could see the undisturbed snow beyond the wrap-around porch. “Did you want to take a step out?”

“El, it’s twenty degrees out there, and my jacket is over there on the couch.”

“Just a second, Olivia, and I’ll keep you warm.” He watched her reflection as she took a deep breath, hugging the wine glass to her chest and closing her eyes. “I meant – “

“Elliot, it’s fine.” She turned around, placing her hand on his arm, her eyes darting from his mouth to his eyes. “I mean – you heard me on the phone.”

“I wanted to talk to you about that – “

“We’ll have time, Elliot.” She sounded quiet, slightly defeated as she raised her right hand and placed it on his chest, closing her eyes as she felt his heart beating under her palm. “We’ll have time.”

He just looked at her, his heart suddenly racing at the proximity of Olivia. They’d been talking for months, she’d told Eli she hadn’t meant to fall in love with him. “Liv, are you still in love with me, or was that past tense?”

Her eyes shot open as she withdrew her hand from his chest. Without saying anything, she made her way back into the kitchen area and sat the glass down on the counter, her shoulders falling as she stared down the hallway. Debating whether or not she should go to bed or face this question. Luckily, the door to the basement opened and Noah came through at that moment.

“Mom, I’m tired, can you take me upstairs and tuck me in?”

She swallowed as she turned and made eye contact with Elliot, and when she answered Noah, he wasn’t quite sure if it was actually Noah she was answering or if it was his question. “Yes.”

Whoever it was she was addressing, his heart was pounding out of his chest.

As she followed her son up the stairs, he watched as she turned her head in his direction when she got to the top, her hand resting on the railing and eyes locking with his own once more. It was for him, the answer of yes.

But to which part of his question?

Chapter Text


Still Frames In Your Mind
Story 1:
A Very Safe Place, Chapter 4: rubble left from the moment you left me


Elliot must have fallen asleep on the couch while waiting on her to come back down the stairs. Because the next thing he remembers is waking up and hearing the hushed voices of his youngest child and Olivia. He didn’t want to interrupt them. He’d had a six-hour drive to talk to his son about what he’d heard on the phone. What he hadn’t heard was what was said before she called his number.

Elliot could only assume that it had been something about Eli’s birth, because the part of their discussion he had heard she referenced his birth as well. When he questioned Eli about it, Eli had told him that she had given him the condensed version of the story of his birth, the one that Kathy had never told him. Elliot wasn’t mad at all, he always felt a little incensed that Kathy refused to acknowledge the full story.

He’d told his son that Olivia was important. Beyond important. She was a protector, it’s what she does. It’s who she is. That if he didn’t learn to tolerate her, he was going to be miserable for the next four years. He told his son that there was no doubt in his mind that Olivia loved him.

When Eli asked Elliot if he meant what he said to her at the intervention, Elliot decided that’s where to end the conversation. It wasn’t until two hours afterward that he had thought about the answer and told his son the truth.

Eli, I’ll always love your mother. But…Olivia is – Olivia.” And that’s where he stopped talking about it. As though just her name was good enough reason. Straining to hear what they were saying in hushed tones, he heard her telling Eli about John Munch and his insane conspiracy theories.

He just lay there, listening to her talking for about twenty minutes before Eli excused himself to go to bed and walked by the couch, glancing down at his father who was watching him with a stupid look on his face.

“Night dad.” Eli shook his head, walking up the steps. Elliot heard the chair get moved closer to the table and then her soft footsteps. Taking a deep breath, he tossed the throw that had been placed over him to the side and sat up in time to look over and meet her eyes.

She was always beautiful, but standing there, in the dim light of the living room, her arms crossed in front of her chest, her pajamas on, hair falling in loose waves on either side of her face, she was gorgeous. Glancing down at her feet he had to chuckle a little bit when he saw she had packed a pair of her boots when she’d been told about the threat.

“How long have you been awake, El?”

“Long enough to hear you tell about the time John was convinced that the CIA had bugged his phone on his desk and that Russia had ordered a hit on him in Baltimore.”

“That was half an hour ago.” She shakes her head, taking a seat next to him on the couch. “Eli wanted to know about who you were before he was born and the people we worked with.” She leaned back, grabbing the throw and tossing it over herself, head turned towards Elliot. Kicking off his shoes, he grabbed the edge of the throw and pulled it over the two of them.

“Thanks for being so great about all of this.”

“Not like I had much of a choice.” She licks her bottom lip as she maintains eye contact with him. “So, tell me about this place.”

Elliot shrugs now, his blue eyes still locked onto hers. “Not much to tell, like I said, I wanted somewhere to come to decompress.”

“How’d you pay for it?” she asks, point blank.

“You IAB now?” He leans back slightly, shaking his head. “I paid for it with the money I made overseas. Working private security for various high-ranking public officials.”

“How high-ranking?” She asks, eyes narrowed.

“You suddenly curious about all this? We’ve been talking for months, and you never asked me any of these questions.”

“Well, forgive me for being curious, Elliot. You know, I thought for sure when they whisked us away for safety that they would be taking us to some non-descript Safe House that the State has. Not like…your own private cabin that no one seems to have record of you owning.” His smile spreads on his face as she’s staring at him. “I think you’re finding this way too amusing. So spill, Stabler.”

“Does it really matter, Liv? I have this beautiful piece of land that only a few people know exists – and I wanted to keep you and Noah safe, and this is the safest place I could think of. Better than any State Safe House.”

She gives him a look. “El.”

“Look. I’ll show you around tomorrow – anything you want to see on this land. If you want. I’ll take you out on the snowmobile.”

“Fine. What about Joseph. How’d you meet him?”

“He was on one of the security teams I was part of.” Elliot took a deep breath, “He took a bullet meant for me, and I trust him with my life.” He narrows one of his eyes, watching her. She seems to be taking in that information that Joseph had Elliot’s back. She thinks of Fin in this moment. How he would take a bullet meant for her, and she understands the level of trust that Elliot has in the man. “He has a small cabin down by the large pond on the property, takes care of this place when I’m not around, makes sure it stays safe and secure.”

“He doesn’t have a family?” She asks, curious why a man would choose a life of seclusion.

“His wife and daughter were killed in the Twin Towers.”

“Oh.” She answers, running her hand through her hair. The tension suddenly feels thicker in the room than it had before Noah had interrupted.

“Liv.”

“El.”

They both attempted to speak at the same time. Elliot shook his head. “You go first.”

“No, I’ve been bombarding you with questions, you go.”

The silence in the cabin was overwhelming for a moment. She could hear the crackling of the fireplace in the corner and the sound of the clock that was in the kitchen, soft little ticks. He took a deep breath before moving the blanket off of himself, turning his body towards her.

“When you said yes a minute ago – what was the yes to?”

“I –“ she moves the blanket to the side as she stands up off the couch and begins pacing, her fingers intertwining nervously in front of her. “Look, we’ve had a great few months getting to know one another again, and there’s so much that we still haven’t talked about. I mean, you have a fucking plot of land here in the middle of nowhere – six hours away from the city – and you…have apologized profusely for everything, Elliot.”

“Yeah. I have.”

“Your son, he needs his father to guide him, and I don’t think jumping into a relationship at the moment is the best right now because Eli needs all your attention. He’s still grieving, and I know what it’s like to grieve your parent.”

“He’s allowed to grieve.”

“But he needs your support, Elliot.” She wraps her arms around herself, biting her bottom lip. “It’s why he’s angry. He’s mad that he’s seen us talking every single night – I mean, he accused me of trying to worm my way into your family.”

“You always had a spot in the family. You’re just finding your position again.”

“He doesn’t know me. He doesn’t know us.” She shakes her head, “Remember how it was with Richard for the longest time, Elliot?”

“That was different.”

“Was it? Did you see his face when you blurted out you loved me all those months ago? He was devastated. He looked like he felt sorry for me.”

“It was an inopportune moment. Yes, I agree.”

“Elliot.” She tilts her head to the side. “I don’t want your kids to hate me.”

“He can’t hate you, he doesn’t even know you all that well.” Elliot stood up, walking closer to the end of the couch where she kept pacing. She stopped in front of him, as he held his hand out. “Look, - I just asked you a question, because I wanted the answer. Can you answer it?”

“Yes.”

“Yes, what?”

“I love you, still.” She whispers, tears forming in her eyes. “God, I’ve loved you for – too long. I tried to hate you, but I couldn’t.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?” She asks, crossing her arms once more. “I – “

“I think that’s enough for tonight, Liv. Why don’t we go to bed, and we can talk more about all of this tomorrow?”

She stares at him for a moment, trying to decide whether or not this is really something she wants to sleep on. Swallowing, she decides it’s not. She doesn’t want to go to bed. She doesn’t want to continue this discussion in the morning. There’s been too much unsaid between the two of them for the past few months. She wanted him to know.

“No. Elliot, I tried to hate you, because you left me as a pile of rubble. I was a mess, and I can’t allow that to happen again, Elliot.” she inhales, “I want to believe you. I want to believe your promises.”

“I’ll do whatever it takes to protect you and Noah, Liv.”

“You weren’t there when I needed you, and I tried to move on.”

“But no matter what you did, you always heard my voice when it mattered most, right?” He puts his hands on her upper arm, eyes locked on hers.

“Yeah. Always in the back of my mind.”  

“Liv, would this be such a bad thing? To take a chance? To allow ourselves this one thing for once. To be selfish?”

She glances down at his hands on her arms, and is suddenly aware of the pounding of her heart in her ears. Trailing her eyes from his hands up to his face she sees it, there in his watery blue eyes in the dim light of the living room. Looking past his head, she sees that it’s begun snowing once more. Inhaling and allowing her eyes to travel back to his face, she glances down at his lips.

The universe has always had a cruel sense of humor when it comes to the two of them. Her tongue darts out as she licks her lips and notices their breathing is in synch. Closing her eyes, she leans forward as she feels his arms wrap around her waist. Embracing her in a hug, and it’s the first time it’s just a hug without any trauma, death, or destruction. She melts into his arms as she exhales a sigh of relief, of resignation. Maybe he’s right. Maybe she’s making this whole damn thing too complicated.

They stand there in middle of the room, locked in an embrace and neither of them notice the teenager leaning against the railing, watching the two adults below. Coming to understand what it was about the two of them that was so special.

Love.

 

 

Chapter Text



still frames in your mind
story: A Very Safe Place
chapter five • i can feel it when your heart starts pounding


 

Finally making it to bed, Olivia slid underneath the covers, inhaling the scent of the thick comforter. It was lavender and vanilla, which let her know what kind of fabric softener had been used on the wash – she was thankful for this small merciful thing because without the calming scent she was bound to have nightmares.

 Sleeping in new places had always been a challenge ever since Lewis. Just as she began to doze off, thinking of how it felt to have Elliot hold her in an embrace without having been traumatized unnecessarily beforehand.

They’d both been too tired to have any further discussions, but had agreed that they would address whatever came up the next day. He asked for her to think of this situation not as an “evasive safety protocol” but a “winter vacation in a safe place.”

Would that be a bad thing? A vacation?

A vacation under surveillance, one observed by nine individuals. However, as Elliot had pointed out before kissing her forehead, and squeezing her hand outside of the bedroom door, they wouldn’t even notice the others were around.

“There’s a lot of land here, Liv.”

Why was it always her forehead people chose to kiss?

She heard the handle on the door to the bedroom turn as her eyes shot open again and she careened her neck to see the door. Before she could register it, her son was standing alongside her bed, holding his stuffed elephant.

Seeing her son show up beside her bed hadn’t been something he’d done in a few years, but whenever he did show up in the middle of the night, she always tilted her head toward the other side of the bed and he would climb up and snuggle in close. As he snuggled next to her she turned and planted a kiss on his curly hair, smiling down at him and taking a deep breath. Maybe it wouldn’t happen tonight, the nightmares, because she had her son, Elliot was in the next room, and there were eight people watching over the four of them in the house. She was safe. She was very safe.

Probably the safest she’s been in ten years.

Sleep came easily and peacefully; despite the questions she had bouncing around in the back of her subconscious. Questions like ‘What happens next?’


Elliot woke up in the morning, convinced that he needed to talk to his son about everything. Things were changing, and Eli had to learn to accept them or just live with them, his youngest son needed to know just what Olivia meant in the grand scheme of life to not only his father, but the rest of his siblings. What he meant when he had told him that Olivia was…Olivia.

 So, as he made his way up the stairs to the room on the second floor, he’s decided he and Eli should take a small walk. So as he walks into the room he’s surprised to find that the bed Noah had occupied is empty. Shaking his son awake Eli sits up and notices his dad smiling at him. Groaning and letting his head fall back onto the pillow he mumbles something about needing to go back to bed and it’s early because the sun isn’t even up yet.

Elliot rolls his eyes but sits on the bed next to his kid. “Eli, c’mon. I want to talk.”

“Why couldn’t we do that here, dad? I mean, it’s ridiculous that you want to go outside where it’s still cold and dark.”

“I don’t want anyone to eavesdrop. Not like you did last night.”

Busted.

“How did you know I was eavesdropping?” Eli asks, sitting up in bed and glaring at his father.

“I’m a cop. You think I’m not aware when there are eyes on me? I know Olivia probably noticed as well.” Eli turned his head over to look at the bed where Noah had been laying. Elliot tossed a few almonds in his mouth as he watched his son turn back toward him. “I’m guessing he was scared and probably went to bed in his mom’s room. I’m sure you remember what that was like.”

“Dad. Can we not talk about mom?”

“No, I think we need to. Get dressed. I’ll be waiting on you and you have fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes before I send someone up here.” Elliot walked out of the room, pointing back at his son.

Eli let out a groan but did as he was told, he’d already known his was on his father’s shit list based off of the conversation they’d had on the way up. But witnessing them last night in the living room, and knowing that he had been caught watching them, he felt like maybe he should hear his father out.

Maybe he should give them both the benefit of the doubt. Olivia had shown up for him when his father hadn’t been able to. She’d been checking in on him and his grandmother when his father had been undercover. She’d said it herself, in the SUV when he’d been a total shit-head to her before they’d made the trip up to the cabin, she loved him as though he were one of her own. She loved all his siblings. She had fallen in love with his father.

He’d heard last night that she would walk away if he didn’t like her. It’s not that he didn’t like her, but he’d been listening to his mother’s remarks under her breath every once in a while throughout the years, and hadn’t heard one positive word about the woman from his father, nor had he heard anything about her from his siblings – partially because he believed that his mother had forbade them from talking about her.

But his grandmother, Bernie, had spoken nothing but praises about the woman.

She frightened Eli a bit, with her intense gaze she sometimes had. For the most part, he knew she was a nice person though, because her son was a nice kid and had good manners. You don’t get that without being taught how to act appropriately by a mother that loves you.

Watching the movie with Noah had been alright, and the kid had a good sense of humor with a decent laugh. It was nice to not be the youngest person in a room for a while. And he loved the popcorn the way that Eli had grown accustomed to it while in Italy.

Eli pulled on his boots and took a deep breath. If his dad knew he was eavesdropping last night, this was not going to be a pleasant walk.

As Eli reached the bottom of the steps, Elliot was standing there, holding out one of the thicker jackets that had been in the closet by the front door. “Can’t believe you want to walk in the cold.”

“It’ll get your blood pumping, Eli. C’mon, we have to have a chat.”

And with that, Elliot set off out the door with Eli at his side. As Eli glanced back, he saw that Joseph and Brad were watching them as they walked down the road together.


When Olivia finally woke up in the morning, she made her way to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. Obviously, Elliot had asked Joseph to pick up groceries as well before they had gotten there, because there were a variety of vegetables and fruits in the fridge and the cabinets had canned goods and boxes of cereal and rice and pasta.

Spotting a canister of oatmeal, she smiled to herself. Noah loved when she would make oatmeal with fresh fruit. Maybe tomorrow morning she would make oatmeal, but she wanted to make something better for everyone to be able to eat when they woke up. Pancakes. She could make pancakes.

As she reached in the fridge for the milk she suddenly felt like someone was watching her. She wished she had her pistol on her, but they’d reassured her that she wouldn’t need it with the security team right next door in the lodging above the garage. Closing the door to the fridge she was met with the woman who had ridden in the front of the SUV she and Noah had occupied on the way up. She couldn’t seem to recall her name, and the woman hadn’t said much, but she suddenly relaxed a little.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you.” She held in her hands a small pile of laundry. “I wanted to wash these and the guys are occupying our washer and dryer. Didn’t want my delicates to get thrown in the dryer by some knucklehead who has no idea what the hell they’re doing with clothes. Didn’t think Elliot would mind if I used his.”

“No, I don’t think he’d mind. Um, sorry, I can’t remember…”

“Gwen. Gwen McGinley.” She held her hand out as Olivia shook it. “I’ll help myself to the washer and dryer.”

Olivia watched as the woman made her way to the door leading down to the basement and furrowed her brow. How the hell did she know where everything was? Then again, she was in charge of security, so maybe she was familiar with the layout of the cabin and grounds. It was odd that she hadn’t seen Elliot yet, he was always an early riser. Ten minutes later, the woman entered the kitchen again.

“Thank you for that, by the way.” She slid onto the stool at the island as Olivia set about cutting up some bananas to put in the pancakes. “What are you making for breakfast? Has to be better than the crap the guys are cooking over there.”

“You the only female on the security team?” Olivia asked, her brown eyes meeting Gwen’s blue ones. There was something so familiar about this woman’s eyes.

“Ah. Yeah. Unfortunately, Stacy couldn’t be obtained for this special assignment. I’m sure El was disappointed, he said Stacy reminded him of this FBI agent that he used to work with back in the day – he fears for his safety when Stacy is around.”

“Dana.” Olivia shook her head. She remembered the last time she’d had a run-in with Dana she’d had to arrest her for murder. It was a shame, because part of her actually had liked Dana.

“Yeah, that was the name.”

“So, how long have you known Elliot?” Olivia asked, giving the blonde woman a side-eye. Gwen smirked as she walked over to the fridge and pulled out a carton of orange juice followed by a glass.

“A long time.” Gwen answered, pouring a glass and watching Olivia over the edge of the glass. “So, you know Bernie. What a riot, right?” She smirked at Olivia who was still watching Gwen suspiciously.

“She’s different. I like her.”

“She loves you.” Gwen stated, as she slid back onto the stool, taking another swig of her orange juice. Olivia made a non-committal noise as her attention was suddenly turned to the hallway where her son was standing.

“Hey, sweet boy, come sit, I’m making banana pancakes.” Gwen turned her attention to the child who happily jumped up on the stool next to her.

“Good morning.” Noah spoke softly to the blonde woman with blue eyes.

“Good morning, Noah.” Gwen smiled down at the kid, her eyes shining in the light. Noah looked a lot like Elliot.


As Eli and his father walked back up the hill next to the cabin, Eli stopped.

They’d discussed quite a bit on their walk, and Eli agreed that he would try to get to know Olivia before judging her unfairly. He’d admitted that he’d watched them last night, and understood that there was a level of love and trust between the two of them that he’d never been privy to between even his own parents.

Elliot had told Eli that he loved his mother, however, the last few years had been them co-parenting and agreeing to try to make things work out, but they weren’t in love. They hadn’t been in love in a long time. That sometimes adults do things because it’s the right thing to do, when they should do the things that will make everyone happier in the long-run.

Eli wasn’t going to promise to be one-hundred percent okay with it, but he agreed he’d put in an effort to get to know Olivia, to spend time with her while they were here, and to try. He understood that she was a woman of her word, especially when Elliot had told his son that he hadn’t asked her to check in on them while he’d been undercover, that was just who Olivia was.

“Dad.” Eli’s eyes suddenly widened as he looked up at the windows to the cabin. “Should we be concerned that Olivia is talking to Gwen?”

“Shit.” Elliot whispered, rubbing his hands together, because like an idiot, he’d forgotten his gloves.

“Dad?”

“I swear to God, she’s going to be the death of me.” Elliot swallowed as he began moving quicker through the snow. Eli was still standing in one spot for a minute when he yelled after his father.

“Olivia or Aunt Gwen?”

Elliot shot his son a look as he reached the porch and grabbed hold of the door handle, the breath in his lungs felt as though it were on fire as he stepped into the cabin. Eli followed in shortly after, removing his scarf and boots by the front door.

“Ladies.” Elliot’s voice came cautiously, as he removed the red scarf he had been wearing and tossed it over the back of the chair. “Noah.” He turned his eyes to Olivia’s son, who was happily digging into his pancakes.

“Olivia made banana pancakes, you should try some, El.” Gwen smiled at him, cutting into the pancake in front of her, which had added chocolate chips. “They’re delicious.”

Olivia watched, trying to figure out the dynamic between the two individuals in front of her. Eli swallowed as he came into view of his aunt. His favorite aunt. Before she could say anything to Eli though, Elliot had spoken up.

“McGinley, can I have a word with you?” Elliot motioned to the sliding doors on the other side of the kitchen table and Gwen’s nose scrunched as she rolled her eyes.

“Sure Stabler.” she rolled her eyes, hopping down off of the stool, ruffling Noah’s curly hair as she walked past him, picking up her jacket as she walked by the couch. “No one steal my pancakes.”

Olivia watched as the two of them walked outside and turned her head slowly to meet Eli’s dark eyes as she pointed to the plate in front of her. “I wasn’t sure what you wanted on your pancakes.”

“I’ll just have the regular banana ones, Liv.” Eli smiled kindly, strained, but kind. Olivia’s attention was obviously being drawn outside though, because she turned her head that direction, biting her lip.

 

Chapter Text


still frames in your mind
story: A Very Safe Place || chapter six : so don't hold your breath like that



Olivia hated it when she felt jealous. Not that she had any reason to feel jealous. It’s not like they’d put a label on whatever it was they had just agreed to explore. Her chest rose and fell in deep, measured breaths as her eyes felt moist. She couldn’t cry. She shouldn’t cry. As she bit her bottom lip she felt a hand land on her arm, which made her jump.

Turning her attention to the dark-eyed teenager in front of her she forced a smile as Eli let out a low chuckle. “I didn’t mean to startle you, Olivia.” He whispered.

“It’s alright, I was just – lost in thought for a moment.”

“Yeah. I know. Listen, I wanted to apologize for the way I acted yesterday afternoon.” Eli began but Olivia shook her head, cutting off a piece of her pancake with her fork.

“It’s alright, I understand more than you think, Eli. I mean, I was an adult when my mom died…and I remember being upset that I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye.” She took a deep breath, “I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like to lose my mom as a teenager…”

Noah was sitting at the dining room table now, feet kicking in the air from where he couldn’t quite reach the ground from the bench seating on either side of the table. She turned her head to look out the door but also in the guise of watching Noah eating.

“Yeah, it just…there’s so much she won’t see, you know?” He picked at his pancakes, watching Olivia watching Elliot and Gwen, a small smirk playing on his lips. She still had no idea that Gwen was his crazy aunt that was – different. Fun. Gwen was the fun aunt. “I miss her, Olivia.”

“You’re perfectly within your rights to miss her, Eli. I told you, I would never try to replace her.”


“Gwen, what were you talking about?”

“Nothing. She asked me if I was the only woman on the security team, so I answered.”

“Why were you even over here?” He pointed down at the ground and Gwen glanced down, her brows furrowed as she wrapped her arms around her, pulling her jacket tighter around her small frame.

“I can’t believe you, my over-protective big brother decided to throw me over there in the Garage Guest Suites with seven other guys. Seriously? Don’t you have another room in the house I can stay in? I am family.” Gwen took a deep breath, exhaling and watching her warm air come out in a puff of smoke due to the temperature. “For your information, Stabler, I needed to wash my delicates and Brad and James have been washing god only knows what in the washer and dryer over there. I didn’t want my bra to get thrown in the dryer on accident because they don’t know what the hell they’re doing.”

“So you decided to commandeer my washer and dryer?”

“Do you want me running around commando in a space with six other guys?” Gwen retorted, her brows raising as she shrugged, as though it wouldn’t bother her. Joe obviously had his own cabin, so he didn't count when he wasn't up there. But for all intents and purposes, she was literally living with six guys. The only female. She knew this question was going to irritate the hell out of the man in front of her. She was looking up at him, head tilted, her wavy blonde hair falling behind her.

“Maybe you’re right. Maybe you should stay in the downstairs bedroom.”

Gwen smiled smugly. “You know, El…when mom said your girlfriend was gorgeous, I was skeptical.” She peered around at Olivia who was talking to Eli in the kitchen.

“Gwen, don’t. I see the wheels turning in your head.” Elliot took a deep breath, looking at the petite yet older version of his second daughter.

“Don’t what?” She asked, one brow raised, kicking at the little bit of snow that had fallen onto the porch underneath the overhang.

“Don’t hit on her. Mom was wrong, she’s not my girlfriend.” Elliot stuffed his hands in his pockets as he turned to lean against the railing, glancing out at the trees allowing the early morning sun to land on his face, heating it in the chill.

“Well, not yet, anyway.” Gwen placed her elbows on the railing, facing out the same direction as her older brother. “You haven’t even really asked her, have you? So if it’s not official, why can’t I hit on her? You sure as hell haven’t made a move. Mom said you two sit out back on your patio every single night with a bottle of red wine and a glass. Said you drink one glass a piece and at the end of the glass, she gets up, you give a hug, a kiss on the forehead – “ Gwen pauses, turning her head to look at Elliot, rolling her eyes when he doesn’t look down at her. “And then rinse and repeat. Mom thinks you’re going to mess this all up, you know.”

“Mom thinks I am eternally going to mess this up. That I’m doomed to always follow in dad’s footsteps.”

Gwen’s cheek flinches at the mention of their father as she takes a deep breath in, and slowly exhales, pursing her lips as she does, watching the warm air mingle with the cool and drifting off in a cloud of vapor. “Have you even tried doing…anything since Kathy died?” She turned her head to look at her brother and when they made eye contact she started laughing nervously. “You have! God.” She shakes her head, “I bet it wasn’t Olivia though, was it?” At her brother’s silence she gets every answer she was looking for. Looking up at the tree line and rising sun she plays with her fingers inside of her gloves. “This is why I should hit on her.”

“Gwen.”

“Listen here…mom told me everything she’s done for the family. For the kids.” she pauses for a moment, placing her hand on his arm. “For you.”

“And?”

“It’s obvious she’s in love with you, dumbass.” Gwen takes this moment to nudge her brother with her bony elbow, causing him to look down at her and shake his head. “Wait…that look in your face, she’s told you she’s in love with you, hasn’t she? But you still haven’t kissed her.”

“What the hell? How did you become so accurate reading me?” Elliot asks, pushing off of the railing and pacing in front of her. She spins around, leaning back, crossing her feet in front of her, her elbows bracing herself off the wooden rail.

“And you still haven’t sealed the deal?”

“We agreed to take things slow, Gwen.”

“You’ve known one another how long?” Gwen asks, shaking her head in disbelief.

“Eli isn’t adjusting well to all the changes. He doesn’t fully understand how important Olivia was. Is. Continues to be.”

“So you’re going to let your teenager dictate your sex life? Jesus Christ, El…you’re fucked.” Gwen turns her head to look in the distance where she sees Joe leaning against the shed. “Well, maybe not. Listen, maybe you should make a move, that’s all I’m saying. She’s hot, and she’s not going to wait around forever.”

“Gwen.”

“Elliot.” Gwen bites her bottom lip as her eyes widen when she thinks of something, “Maybe you should tell her about Prague.”

“Why the hell would I tell her about Prague?”

“Because – we had a great conversation in Prague, don’t you remember?”

“Gwen, I barely remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday.” Elliot answers, shaking his head. “How the hell am I supposed to remember Prague?”

“Wow. I’m going to punch you in the balls. You remember, we were sitting in the back of that really shitty van, and you blurted out that you weren’t in love with Kathy anymore, and your former partner, Olivia was the love of your life? You don’t remember that conversation?”

Elliot stares down at his younger sister. It was because of her that he had gotten involved with private security. The same private security that paid for most of this land, and the cabin and everything else around the cabin. That was a story in itself.

“You don’t remember mom calling me, begging me to get you into a job because you were a hopeless lost puppy? She was worried that you were going to pick up a bottle and be a repeat of dad?” Gwen pushes herself off the bannister and begins pacing opposite of her brother, bumping into him each time they passed.

“I remember Prague, Gwen.”

“Do you? Listen, could you at least introduce me to her as your sister, and not Agent Gwen McGinley?”

“I’ll never understand why you took mom’s maiden name, Gwen.” Elliot stops pacing for a moment, staring into his sister’s blue eyes. Gwen takes a deep breath, turning her head towards the direction of the kitchen only to find Olivia almost done with her plate of pancakes, Gwen’s growing cold on the counter.

“Dad was an asshole; I couldn’t stand him…so I took mom’s maiden name as my own. El, introduce me…properly. I’ll put in a good word for you. Tell lots of cute stories that’ll make her melt. Not that I think any of that is necessary.”

“Gwen, if you hit on her, I swear to God.”

Gwen looked up at the sky, the colors swirling as the sun rose further. “You know…I could make out with her. Tell you if she’s a good kisser or not.”

“No. I’d like to find out that all on my own, thank you very much. I don’t need my little sister to find out if the woman I’m in love with is a decent kisser or not.” He thought back to when he’d been tied up to a chair and Olivia had kissed that Lab Tech that had killed O’Halloran.

No, I want him to watch.

Shaking his head, he runs his hand down his face. “I’ll introduce you, as long as you promise me you won’t make a move on her.”

“She gives off a vibe.” Gwen shrugs, “You only kiss her forehead.”

“Only because I’m terrified of fucking it all up, Gwen. She asked me that once, you know.” Elliot all but whispers, noticing that his little sister has begun bouncing up and down in her shoes. She’s a lot smaller than he is, but she looks frozen.

“Asked you what?”

“If she gives off a gay vibe.” Elliot clarifies. Gwen smirks at her brother.

“What did you say?”

“Would it matter if she did.” He shrugs. Gwen studies him for a moment.

“How’d I get so lucky to have you as my brother?”

“It’s only because I love you that shit like that doesn’t really bother me.” Elliot answers, pulling her into his side for a quick hug, forgetting that everyone is witnessing this exchange. It won’t matter in a minute, when he properly introduces the two women. “You taught me a lot about tolerance, Gwen. A lot about empathy.”

“I’m honored, El. Listen, she could play for both teams like I do, right?” Gwen asked, eyes shining mischievously. “I mean, I could find out and then maybe she’d spice things up and surprise you with every guy’s fantasy.”

“Gwen. I swear to God. Please Stop. I don’t want to know about any of this. You do realize that Olivia is a Captain for the NYPD, right?” Elliot pauses, shaking his head in disbelief, “That she’s in charge of Special Victims Unit. I wouldn’t want to share her with anyone ever…she’s the love of my life.”

“Oh.” She nudges her brother’s arm with her elbow, “I didn’t know it was that serious. Maybe you should really tell her.”

“Are we really back here again, Gwen?” Elliot asks, rolling his eyes and leaning back against the railing. His eyes locking with Olivia’s through the windows. She’s got that expression on her face where she’s trying to figure something out, and Elliot knows without a doubt that Eli hasn’t told her who or what Gwen really is to them.

“If you don’t tell her, I will.” Gwen punches Elliot in the arm, then crosses her arms across her chest.  

“Is that supposed to be a threat? Gwen, you’re like Five foot three. The only reason you’re on this security detail is because I trust you watching Noah’s back. I wouldn’t trust anyone else to make sure she’s safe…”

“Ouch. It’s not my fault I’m vertically challenged. You know I’d take a bullet for your girlfriend, right? I promised you that I would if it came down to it. It wasn’t a threat, it was a promise.”

“You won’t have to take a bullet, Gwen…I would first.” Elliot takes another deep breath, he feels his heart racing at the thought of anything happening to either of the two women who are currently in the fifty foot radius of him. “I’d jump in front of the bullet meant for either of you.”

“That’s how I know you’re super serious about this one, El.” She points her thumb back towards the kitchen. “If you don’t talk to her and tell her all this – how’s she ever going to know? She makes a pretty damn good banana pancake with chocolate chips – in case you were wondering.” Gwen takes a moment to pause, “Quickest way to my heart, good breakfast food.”

She leans back against the railing next to her brother, head tilted up as she blinks a few times, “That’s great. I’ll have to remember that. Chocolate Chip Banana Pancakes.”

“Does she do anything with Salmon? I’d love to know.” Elliot rolls his eyes again, nudging Gwen with his elbow. “Listen, El…Her son looks like he could be your kid. I was startled when I really looked into those Stabler blues.”

“I’d eventually like to approach the topic, if she’d allow me.” Elliot answers, glancing down at his boots. Gwen inhales deeply, crossing her arms.

“Have you told her that?” Elliot shakes his head and Gwen wants to scream or shoot him in the leg. “What the hell do you talk about on the back patio, Elliot?”

“Our days. Old cases. The kids.”

“But not how much you’d like to make her son your son as well? Jesus.”

“C’mon, McGinley, let me introduce you to her…properly. Just…promise me you won’t hit on her.”

“I make you no promises, Elli-boy. She’s a tall glass of water and I’m thirsty.”

“You’re unreal, Gwen. Where the hell do you learn things like that?” Elliot asks, throwing his arm around her shoulder as they move toward the door.

Gwen shrugs, placing her arm around her brother’s back. “Around. You love me though.”

“You are my favorite sister.”

“I know. Teresa is too boring. She gets that from dad. Look, my pancakes are cold, Elliot. So, introduce me to the love of your life and maybe she’ll make me some warm pancakes. I promise to be on my absolute best behavior.”

“That’s what I’m scared of, Gwen.”

The two pass one another conspiratorial looks as he opens the door and they step into the space, Olivia’s brown eyes locking with Elliot’s blue ones. The slight flash of hurt behind them threatens to take the air out of his lungs.

“Liv, I’d like to properly introduce you to my little sister, Gwen Stabler-McGinley.”

Eli watches as the realization dawns on Olivia’s face and her cheeks flush in embarrassment, as she brings her hands up in front of her face and hides from both of them. The expression on Elliot’s face is one of confusion as Gwen stands there a smirk.

“Aw. Look, you both have a jealous streak.” Gwen exclaims, looking between the two of them. “God, this is a match made in heaven.”

“Oh. My. God.” Elliot places his hands over his face, trying to now disappear from view as Olivia rests her hand against her mouth.

“I’m sorry, Gwen, I didn’t – “

“It’s okay, Olivia…really. No one would ever know because I’m much cuter than my brother. He’s a giant, and I’m a cute little pixie…that can kick people’s asses.” She winks at the taller woman, and slides back onto the stool, cutting into her cold chocolate chip pancake. “I can’t wait to get to know you properly now. I could tell you a million embarrassing stories that Elliot wishes would never get told again.” She winks at Olivia, who is staring at Elliot, with a look of sheer embarrassment and relief written across her features.

Olivia feels terrible that she would have ever thought anything differently than sister now. Now that she thinks about Gwen’s eyes in front of her, she can’t help but realize that damn, Noah did have blue eyes that were very similar to Elliot’s.

“Maybe we can have a girl’s night now…since we’re terribly outnumbered in this godforsaken situation. You. Me. A bottle of red wine. I promised I’d behave. I’d try to keep my hands to myself…for Elliot’s sake.”

Gwen.” Elliot finally finds his voice, whining, worried that his sister is going to frighten Olivia off. Olivia though, keeps watching Gwen as she cuts off a piece of the pancake and chews, happily, smiling at the love of his life.

“I’m the favorite sister, by the way.” Gwen winks. “Don’t let him lie to you about that. I’ve always been the favorite. At least, I’m his favorite.”

She turned her attention toward her brother who looked like he was holding his breath at this interaction. "Don't hold your breath like that, El...you'll pass out." 

 

Chapter Text


still frames in your mind
story: A Very Safe Place
chapter seven: if i treated you bad, you'd bruise my face


 

Finding out that Gwen was Elliot’s sister had been…a relief. The rest of the day had gone without much fuss, she’d arranged with someone to make sure that Noah and Eli could both continue with their schoolwork while they were trapped in the woods.

Elliot had helped grab Gwen’s suitcase and moved her into the room in the basement, mumbling about how he was an absolute moron for suggesting she stay in the space above the garage with the other guys.

Olivia couldn’t help but chuckle at his self-criticism, but the more she thought about it, the more it made sense. He’d never treated female officers or agents as anything other than ‘one of the guys’. It was one of the things she’d cherished about him the most while they’d been partners. He never told her she couldn’t do something just because she was a woman.

To Elliot, when you were in their line of work, you were just as capable. Especially if you’d proven yourself.

When she’d gone upstairs to grab Noah’s dirty clothes to bring down to the washer and dryer, she’d spotted the shelves in the sitting area above the living room. It’d been a long time since she’d had the opportunity to really sit down and read a book. Browsing the shelves, she found a copy of Shakespeare’s Sonnets – it had been a few years since she’d read these. Her favorite ones were part of the Dark Lady saga.

Sonnet 151 was particularly bawdy.

Smirking, she carries the book and the clothes down the steps to come face-to-face with Elliot’s sister.

“Let me take those from you.” She held out her hands as Olivia smiled kindly at her.  the

“Gwen, it’s fine. I can multi-task.”

“Not according to Elliot.” Gwen takes the clothes from Olivia’s hands, despite her insistence that she could do it.

“Oh.” Olivia is suddenly offended that Elliot would have said something so asinine. “I can’t multi-task…the man never finished his own damn paperwork when we were partners unless we chained him to the desk…but I can’t multitask. When did he say this?”

“Relax, Olivia, this was eons ago. I just remember things better than he’d like to remember them.” Gwen took a deep breath. “You seemed surprised that I’m Elliot’s sister.”

Olivia takes a moment, as they walk past the door to the basement where the washer and dryer are located and instead into the bedroom where Olivia has taken up residence. She leans down to pick up her pile of clothing and Gwen smiles at her holding her hand out suggesting that she can carry those clothes as well. Olivia ignores the motion, and tosses the book on the bed and keeps grip of her own clothing.

“Well, to be honest with you,” Olivia surveys the shorter woman with a kind smile on her face. “Elliot doesn’t particularly share many details about his childhood with people.”

“I’m completely aware of this, trust me.” Gwen’s eyes flash for a moment with a slight sadness as she purses her lips. “I just would have thought mom would have at least mentioned her other children – either during one of her manic episodes or while completely coherent. She loves her family, mom does, but she was completely bat-shit crazy when we were younger. Sometimes, I wonder if she remembers I was even present…Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.” Gwen trails off, but then quickly rights herself and smiles brightly at Olivia. “Let’s go throw these down in the wash, yeah?”

It’s then that Olivia recalls the story Bernie had told Kathleen years ago. She also remembers one of the slightly more recent conversations that she and Elliot have had. He still didn’t disclose much about his childhood. Olivia can only assume it’s because of their father that they have chosen to mostly wipe everything from their memories. Living with Serena hadn’t been a walk in the park either.  

“Gwen!” Elliot’s voice is heard as he walks back into the cabin. “You had better not be –“

“Elliot.” Gwen steps out of the Master Bedroom, holding Noah’s clothes. “Relax. I’m doing my job. Have a little faith in your girlfriend, Jesus.”

“She’s – “ Elliot stops when he meets Olivia’s eyes, her head slightly turned, her expression unreadable. It’s something new to him, the inability to read her as well as he used to. He supposes that he lost that right about the time he disappeared ten years prior. He doesn’t want to say she’s not his girlfriend, “She’s my partner. I’m not worried about that.” Elliot’s eyes are trained on his younger sibling, slightly narrowed as he watches her. She’s a confident individual, Olivia notes, who doesn’t easily back down to her older brother.

She admires the woman.  

“El – would you stop de-fucking-flecting the word girlfriend? It’s just a damn word.” Gwen rolls her eyes as she opens the door to the basement, disappearing from view and leaving Olivia standing in the hall with Elliot, who is watching his younger sister go down the steps.

“She’s going to be the death of me. I’m convinced.” He whispers. Olivia has to chuckle a little at his honesty in relation to his sister. “I’m sorry if she – “

“Elliot, it’s alright.” She takes a step closer to her former partner, bringing her hand that is able to move from her few articles of clothing up and resting it on his arm. “I like her.”

“That’s what scares me.” Elliot sighs, “Look, I don’t know what all she’s said to you…”

“Elliot. I’m a big girl. I can handle your sister.”

“I can’t handle my sister. I love her to bits, but she’s – Gwen.”

“You’ve been doing that a lot lately.”

“What?”

“Describing people by just saying their name. You used to be better at explaining people to other people. Do you just say I’m ‘Olivia’?”

“Pretty much. Hey, when you’re done with that – I’d like to show you something.” He places his hand over the top of Olivia’s and runs his thumb over the soft flesh on the back of her hand. “Where are the boys?”

“Noah and Eli are watching a movie. Or, that’s what Eli said they were going to do after breakfast.” She shrugs, “I think they should work on some of their homework, but I don’t want to be that person that tells them to do something when our circumstances aren’t particularly normal.”

“Yeah. I – you know, I’ll go down.” Olivia pulled her bottom lip in between her teeth as she raises her brow while trying not to laugh. Elliot suddenly realizes how the words he said sounded. “Oh, shit. No, Liv, that’s not what I – “

“Relax.” Olivia trailed her hand down his arm, turning to walk down the steps. She took two steps before stopping and turning in the stairwell, opened her mouth as though she were going to say something to him, but then thought better of it.


 

The rest of the afternoon went without a hitch. Well, without much of a hitch. They made lunch, Elliot met with the security team to discuss where they were with the information from the city (the threat was still credible and no one responsible had been arrested for it just yet). While Gwen was a handful, Elliot was relieved that she was in the same space as Olivia and the boys. There’s honestly no one, other than Joe, that he would entrust their safety with.

Olivia had introduced Noah to Elliot properly after breakfast that morning, and most of the afternoon, Noah had followed Elliot around asking a million questions (save for the moments when Noah had decided that Eli was more entertaining). That night, after dinner, Elliot sat with the boys at the dining room table, a board game in front of them his blue eyes keeping a close watch on Olivia and Gwen as they sat in the living room, on the couch in front of the fire.

He wasn’t intentionally eavesdropping, but the fact that his sister had teased him about hitting on Olivia had ignited a little bit of jealousy that he was reticent to admit. He knew Olivia wasn’t interested in his sister, that she was interested in him, but all the same – she was an attractive woman and it was really no surprise that Gwen had taken an instant liking to her.

Olivia had her head leaned back on the pillow as her brown hair framed her face. “It was a nice day today, but I think I’d like to go outside tomorrow. Get some fresh air.” Olivia’s foot was moving in small circles, her heel resting against the coffee table in front of them.

Gwen was resting her head on her fist, watching Olivia carefully. “I think that sounds fantastic, what do you think El?” she turned her head in the direction of the dining room table their blue eyes meeting in quiet understanding.

“As long as you let them know next door.” Elliot shrugged. “I don’t see the harm in it.”

“Has Joe exercised the horses lately?” Gwen asks, looking from her brother over to Olivia. Elliot moves his game piece and ruffles Noah’s hair as Eli takes his turn. Olivia’s heart feels like it could possibly burst at the ease in which Elliot and Noah have bonded. She’d been hesitant to introduce the two of them, partially because she was still afraid that Elliot was going to disappear again. “Have you ridden horses, Olivia?”

“Uh, yeah. When I was in Oregon a few years ago.” Elliot’s eyes meet Olivia’s across the room and he swallows visibly. “Can you ride them in winter?”

“Oregon? A city girl like you? And yes, you can ride them, we just have to take it slightly slower than usual.”

“I can be persuaded to like the country, believe it or not.”

“Nah, you strike me more as a beach babe or a city girl…not so much the country cabin type of woman.” Gwen’s smile is contagious and Olivia can’t help but feel completely at ease in her presence. It’s almost like she’s staring at a female version of Elliot. Gwen feels like home as well, and Olivia isn’t sure how to process this thought. So, she blinks a few times and looks away from her back to Elliot.

“I don’t know; this place could grow on me.” Olivia states, her chest rising and falling in deep, measured breaths. Her head feels slightly fuzzy from the two glasses of wine she’s had this evening, but for the most part, she’s just comfortable. This feels like family. And God knows she’s wanted that for so long. By the time the board game ends, she and Gwen have settled into a quiet sort of companionship on the couch, and Elliot volunteers to tuck Noah in for her. As she watches him climb the stairs Gwen finally breaks the silence.

“You’re absolutely smitten by him, aren’t you?”

Not really thinking too much about it, she just answers automatically. “Yeah. I think so.”

Gwen takes a deep breath and reaches out, grabbing Olivia’s hand, surprising her slightly. “I think I should tell you this while he’s out of the room and out of earshot, but – when he left the NYPD, he was pretty lost…for a while. I don’t know if he or mom mentioned it.” Olivia shakes her head, her eyes locked on Gwen’s. Gwen takes a sip of her glass of wine and her eyes trail up to the railing. “But she called me, and practically begged for me to give him something. Anything to do.” Gwen smiles into her glass. “At first, I was playing dumb with her, because we’d always told mom I was a travelling photographer.”

Olivia chuckles lightly, “I’m betting that Bernie didn’t believe that for one second?”

“Nah. Mom knew better. Told me to stop bullshitting her and give my big brother a security job.” Gwen’s voice slightly deflects. “So, I did.” She whispers. “I got him a job that was low-risk, high return. At first it was working private security for pop stars. Of course, Elliot thought it was boring as hell.”

Gwen rolls her eyes as she watches the railing to make sure he’s not listening in. “It wasn’t until I needed another body on this job in Prague – he’d been there before, and told me he knew a few people with Interpol. So, I brought him on. We were protecting a foreign dignitary. That’s the night we sat in a shitty little van off of the side of one of the streets and he confessed the reasons he left the NYPD.”

Olivia feels her breath hitch in her throat. “I knew – just looking at Elliot, that he was a hot mess. He was seven years older than me, you know. And the first person in our family that accepted me for who I was – other than mom. But he kept dad from taking out his temper on me. He protected me. I used to follow him everywhere.” She swallowed, “I uh, always wanted to be just like my big brother. Then, he met Kathy. I’m not going to get into that – but…”

“Yeah…let’s…not right now.” Olivia laughs a warm, deep, filling laugh. “I have my own – “

“The letter?” Gwen supplies, “Yeah. Elliot told me. I called him a clueless dumbass for at least three months straight.” She clears her throat. “Anyways, what I wanted to tell you was that he said part of the reason he had to leave was because he’d just shot at the teenager, - that you were there and his only thought had been ‘what if this hits Olivia, I can’t live without her.’”

Olivia feels as though someone’s hit her in the chest at this moment, because gazing into Gwen’s eyes she sees the honesty, the depth of how impactful that statement had been for him to admit to his younger sister.

“Gwen, - it was always so complicated between Elliot and me.”

“Well, he’s single now. You should just – go for it. I’m not saying you haven’t been respectful of Kathy – because you’ve been beyond patient and respectful.”  Gwen rolls her eyes. “Look, no love lost. I love all my nieces and nephews – but I always resented the fact that Elliot just vanished. Just…take a chance, and you two can work out all the other shit afterwards.”

“I’m familiar with that.”

“I know.” Gwen nods quietly, “He said he left without saying goodbye. I asked him if his brain was located in his balls and whether he’d had a lobotomy when they were shut in Kathy’s purse.”

Olivia is grateful that she wasn’t taking a sip of wine when Gwen hurriedly muttered that last bit. Yes, she decided she liked Gwen. Loved her sass.

Before Olivia could find out more though, they both heard the door close upstairs and Gwen stretched, moving the blanket from her lap as she looked down at Olivia. “I’m going to turn in. Just – think about that, yeah? Take a leap.” She winked as she reached out, gripping Olivia’s hand in her own and squeezing.

“Goodnight, El.” Gwen called as she trailed her hand along the railing of the stairs. “See you around, gorgeous.” She turned her head toward Olivia and winked eliciting a groan from Elliot on the stairs.

 

Olivia smirked, covering her mouth with her hand.

“Goodnight, Gwen. I’ll see you in the morning. We’ll go riding together.” Olivia called as Gwen stuck her hand around the corner, waving.

Elliot sat down on the couch next to Olivia, his head turned toward her. “So, you’re going to go riding with Gwen tomorrow?”

“Yeah, looks that way.” Olivia took a deep breath, her head resting on her fist. “El, can I ask a question?”

“You can ask me anything.”

“Why do you only kiss my forehead?” Elliot laughed nervously, but as soon as he saw Olivia’s raised brows, stopped immediately. “I don’t see this as funny, Elliot.”

“I don’t either. That wasn’t a funny ‘ha-ha’ type laugh…Liv, I’m just – “ he takes a deep breath, standing up, moving to the coffee table in front of her, lifting her legs up and putting them down on the ground, situating himself opposite of her. “I told you that you meant the world to me, Liv. All those months ago.”

“Yeah, I remember.” She bit the corner of her lip.

“Well, part of you meaning the world to me, it makes me afraid of things – things like…messing it all up.”

Olivia takes a deep breath. Son of a bitch. “Elliot.”

“Yeah?” She sits forward, taking his hands in her own, her eyes studying the man before her, the one she trusts with her life. The one she trusts with her son’s life. The one she’s tried to hate a million times.

“Come with me.” She stands from the couch, realizing not for the first time that chances are someone from the security team is standing outside the house, they take shifts, and they watch – to make sure no one sneaks in, so they see everything. Elliot had been transparent with this fact, that there was always someone watching, so as much as she’d like to just do whatever she feels like, she knows the living room isn’t the best place for this conversation, for whatever comes of it. Holding her hand down for him, he grabs hold of it and she smiles as she leads him down the hall, to the bedroom she’s staying in.

“Have a seat, El.” She whispers, as she watches him nervously walk over to the bed and have a seat on the end of it. Licking her lips, she dims the lights slightly and walks toward him. She doesn’t want to take this too far just yet, but  she wants him to know it’s okay.

Stopping in front of him, she places her hands on his shoulders, standing between his legs as he’s looking up at her. And damnit if it doesn’t feel exactly as it had months prior when he’d been drugged out of his mind and looking up at her as though she hung the stars in the sky. His blue eyes are just searching her brown ones as though they’ll give him the secret answer to a question that was whispered by the gods at the dawn of time.

Her hands trail from his shoulder up his neck, and cup his chin. The restraint he has is waning because all he wants to do is put his hands on her hips – trail them up her sides. She notices the way his tongue darts out and wets his lips as she smiles, the only sound in the room is of their breathing, in perfect synch.

Inhale. Exhale.

“Elliot, you can touch me.” She whispers, not quite believing that she’s uttered those five words. He didn’t have to be told twice, because she feels the weight and heat of his hands on her hips through her pajama pants, and his hand travels slightly up until his warm fingertips are grazing her skin from beneath her shirt. She is getting tired of standing, but doesn’t want to seem presumptuous. It’s almost as though he reads her mind though, because the next thing she knows, his hands have pulled her thighs forward and she’s straddling his lap with her knees on the bed.

 

“Elliot, kiss me.” She whispers and in an instant, she’s flipped over onto the bed with him bracing himself on his elbows. Stroking her hair out of her face, he wraps a strand around his finger, smiling down at her. She needs him to kiss her. She needs it like she needs to breathe.

So when his face gets even closer to her own, she pulls him the rest of the way. She’s impatient of waiting. As their lips meet, she lets out a small groan in his mouth, and nips at his bottom lip until they’re French kissing.

Why did they wait so long for this again?

Wrapping her leg around his thigh, she strokes her foot on his calf muscle. Her hands are exploring the muscles on his back and suddenly she doesn’t care about things like propriety or figuring shit out before taking this step, because maybe Gwen was right. Maybe taking a leap is exactly what they need to move forward. Maybe they’re making this out to be far more complicated than necessary.

When he pulls his face back from her own, she lets out a small whine. She can feel him through the fabric dividing the two of them, and she knows without a doubt that she’s been waiting on this for twenty-three years. “You’re beautiful.”

“Just keep kissing me and you can tell me whatever you want, Elliot.” She whispers, her fingertips trailing underneath his shirt. “Don’t stop.” She guides his face down to her own again, but he decides to kiss along her jaw, down her neck, and shit she is so tired of waiting.

She’s terrifying. Elliot knows. He knows he can’t screw this up, because if he did, he’d have two women who would beat the shit out of him.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text


still frames in your mind
story: a very safe place
chapter eight: if you fall, i will catch you, I will be waiting


 

It would be easy, she thought to herself as his tongue slid languidly over her own, the puffs of his hot air hitting her cheek from the way he was breathing through his nose. Her whole body felt tingly, the fuzz had immediately dissipated the moment his mouth began working with her own, to just throw all caution to the wind right now. She was all too aware of the weight of his chest against her own, the pounding of her heartbeat in her ears, the way he was slightly rocking against her. All of her senses were on overload.

The moment his mouth moved from her own as he landed warm, wet kisses along her throat she inhaled sharply, her fingernails trailing underneath his shirt, pulling him closer to her. Dear God, is this what a heart attack feels like? She could feel the overwhelming racing in her chest, the way it felt like her blood had suddenly gotten the ability to rush like a flash flood through her veins as the warmth in the pit of her stomach spread. Her legs dangled over the edge of the bed, and while he looked deep into her dark eyes, he gripped her waist and pulled her up further onto the bed, diagonally situated. She bit her swollen bottom lip as she just watched him, in wonder.

Was this seriously what they’d avoided all this time? What the actual fuck was wrong with the two of them. She wants to say something, anything to the man who is staring into her very soul, but as she goes to speak, all she can seem to do is squeak out an “I” before his mouth is slanted against her own again. He pulls back when she digs her fingernails into his shoulder blade.

He’s staring down at her.

She’s a goddess.

Magnificent, marvelous, beautiful. He’s wondered for two decades what kissing her would be like – and now, well, now that he’s had a taste of her lips, the remnants of the red wine she’d been drinking resting on her tongue. She’s staring up at him and her chest is rising and falling in measured breaths, but she looks breathless.

Her legs are on either side of his and he can feel that she’s pressing herself against him, asking for more friction, and he wants to give it to her, until his eyes trail from her swollen lips to her eyes. The breath in his chest stutters, her eyes are the darkest he’s ever seen them, even in the dim light. The sheer amount of desire, love, and trust he sees is almost overpowering. Her hands come from underneath his shirt, as her elbow hits his arm she places her hands on either side of his face, holding him still.

“Elliot, we don’t have to take this any further if you’re still – “

“No. God, Olivia, I want nothing more, but…you terrify me.”

“I terrify you?” She looks confused and Elliot realizes how stupid this sounds.

“That’s not what I mean…I meant, you are – “

“Everything.” She finishes. “Yeah. I know. Overwhelmed?”

“It’s hard.”

“Well,” she glances down between the two of them at the fraction of space he’s maintaining between their bodies, the same space she’s trying to eliminate. “Obviously.”

It’s her double entendre that breaks the sheer weight of where they are, and what they’ve been doing, making out like teenagers. He has to chuckle a little about the situation and what she’s obviously pointed out. “God, I love you.” He whispers and her eyes widen as she takes a deep breath, bracing herself and rolling them over so that she’s now sitting over him, her hands on his chest, looking down at him, she hasn’t reacted to much else since he’s uttered those words again and he has to look away from her in the moment because he realizes he’s probably royally fucked everything up by saying it.

He feels her fingers on his chin, and opens his eyes. She swallows the saliva that has gathered in the back of her mouth and takes a deep breath, her voice low and warm. “El, it’s okay. I love you too. I wanted to tell you that.” She bites the corner of her lip, taking another deep breath, she slides off of his lap, leaving one leg tossed over his legs, her head resting on his upper arm, eyes turned up to him, hand resting over his heart.

“Liv, I didn’t mean to ruin the moment.”

“You didn’t, Elliot. I just – as much as I’d like to continue what we were moving towards – I just…this moment isn’t it. You know, I don’t want it to be this rushed, heat of the moment thing – I want our first time to be special. I want…so much more than what we were moving toward. Doesn’t mean we can’t occupy our time in other ways that aren’t as equally pleasing.” She adjusts her leg so that her knee brushes against his pelvis. He stifles a moan.

Bringing his hand up, he rests it on her cheek, his thumb tracing circles. “I want to give you everything you deserve, Olivia.”

“I know.”

“I don’t want you to feel like I’m ever just –“

“I won’t.”

“How are you so confident about all this?” He asks, in awe of the woman before him.

“Just am.” She answers, smiling, placing her hand from his chest to his cheek. “Kiss me some more, Elliot. I might change my mind.”

So they moved their faces toward one another in perfect synch, and the proximity of her made his mind and body relax in ways that he’d only ever dreamed of. As their mouths met again, it was slower, and her eyes closed almost sleepily as she ran her tongue along his lower lip. He granted her access, it was all he had ever wanted, to have the privilege of kissing Olivia Benson like he currently was. With their bodies turned toward one another, her leg between his, one hand on his cheek, the other under his shirt, fingertips burning into his skin.

She realized in this moment, as they were kissing in such an intimate way that she never would have enough of his kisses. She’s only ever wanted to experience this. She wants to feel him in the deepest, darkest places of her soul. The spaces where the light doesn’t shine. The places where usually only dark things can be loved. He belongs there, in the darkest recesses of her soul, - because she knows he’s the flame she’s been waiting on to flicker to life and by being in those dark places, he will bring nothing but light.

Everything felt oddly quiet in this moment, even with the sound of their kissing, the slight groan when she pressed her body closer to his, the moment his fingertips dared to slip underneath her pajama top and splayed across her back, pulling her closer. The whole world could have burnt to the ground, and the two of them wouldn’t even notice.

Pulling back from their kisses, Elliot tucks her hair behind her ear and smiles at her. He’s still turned on, but she’s too tired to really consider doing anything about it, - then again, she thinks that maybe if they did continue and did something about it – it wouldn’t be a quick, fast, hard thing. No, this was different, this was emotional, slow, deep, and everything she always hoped it would be – that’s what it would be if she told him she wanted it.

Her lips part as her eyes search his own and she feels as though her heart is going to explode with the emotion she sees in his eyes. She’s never wanted anything quite like this. Not in all her years of living has she ever wanted something more. She wants him closer. She needs him closer.

He understands what she’s thinking. He can feel it deep in his soul. He knows she’s changed her mind. Smiling at her, he tangles his fingers through her hair and pulls her in for yet another deep kiss. He was tired, and her mouth was soft.

She’d never been one to kiss with her eyes closed. But the safety and security his presence provided was something akin to an electric blanket.

She felt his fingertips brush against her stomach, he was unbuttoning her shirt one button at a time. Was this seriously going to happen? He was going to see her faded scars.

She found that for the first time, she wasn’t bothered by them.

Reaching the last button, he pulled back his eyes locking on hers as he held the button between his fingers. Staring at her face, the freckles suddenly prominent across the bridge of her nose reminiscent of little stars, a remnant of the summer months resulted from the sun painting constellations on her skin.

She finds herself lost in the ocean of his eyes, her breathing halts at this moment. This is the moment when everything changes, when everything suddenly becomes…everything. This is the split second between the moment when Benson and Stabler would become – Elliot and Olivia.

“You’re thinkin’ too loud, Liv. I can always button it back down if you – “

She doesn’t speak in this heavy moment, she doesn’t trust herself to speak, so instead she just grabs the back of his head, bringing his lips closer to her own, until they’re sharing the very same air. Their lungs, while in different bodies, inhale and exhale in tandem. and damn if this isn’t what she always wanted. His hand slips underneath the now open material, fingers trailing over her ribcage, over the ghosts of those faded scars. She let out a whimper into his mouth, against his tongue.

Her hands are trailing everywhere underneath his shirt, and he wants to laugh into her kisses, but is afraid of ruining the moment as she begins to move closer to him, seeking friction by squeezing his leg between her own, muscular thighs tightening as she presses herself into him more firmly.

Olivia.” His voice contains within it an edgy warning. Tired of just feeling his fingertips on her ribcage, she moves her hand to push his arms down, until his hand slips underneath the pajama bottoms, fingers sliding over her lacy underwear on her hip and Jesus, she is going to kill him.

“El.” She pulls back far enough to allow him to kiss her neck, her shoulder, running his tongue along the skin where her clavicle is. “I need…

“What do you need? Liv?” He sits up slightly, hand underneath the waistband of her pants, resting on her thigh, the material pulled down and pressing against his wrist. “Tell me.”


Waking up in the morning her hand shot out to the side to find the spot next to her empty. Turning her head in that direction, she groans as she pulls the sheet up around her a little more securely as her eyes adjust to the light and she can make out the numbers on the alarm clock.

4:43 am.

She must’ve been dreaming.

Because there’s no way in hell she and Elliot had - that’s when she hears it, the bathroom sink and running water. Tilting her head back up she glances in the direction of the bathroom and when the door opens, there he is, shirtless, in a pair of sweatpants. Her eyes widen. Flashes begin to come back to her.

Lips. Kisses. His mouth.

Good GOD, his mouth had done absolutely unspeakable things to her body. His fingers, trailing, skimming, touching, pleasing. The ache between her legs begins to register as she glances to the nightstand beside the bed and sees a glass of water and a Tylenol.

She allows a moan to slip out of her lips and then covers her face, turning her back to where he’d just sat down on the bed next to her.

“Liv?” He’s speaking quietly, as though he just knows she’s overthinking. “Hey, whatever you’re thinking – “

“Elliot. Just…don’t.”

“No. You don’t.” He runs his hand over his face, “Don’t do this, Olivia. Don’t hide from me now. You can’t hide from me anymore. I’ll look for you.”

“Just…” She swallows. “Maybe you should get back to your room, I don’t want to cause world war three when one of the kids gets up or Gwen.”

“Liv, we have to talk about this.”

“We will. I promise.” She turns on her side, eyes meeting his in the light from the bathroom, “I swear, I’m not going to take back – “

“Good.” He leans closer to her, his lips brushing her ear. “Because I have a lot more I’d like to do with and to you.” He moves away from the bed, looking for the clothes he didn’t pick up last night when he went to grab his sweatpants. “Liv, I love you.”

As he leans down she watches his muscles, biting her lip in the dim light of the room. The same muscles she knows now how they feel while flexing and moving over her, under her, beside her.

As he grabs another article of clothing off the ground he’s turned sideways and she has to suppress a groan at the way his muscles move on his side. Recalls how they felt underneath her fingertips while he had been – she hides her face behind the pillow, her legs rubbing together underneath the blanket.

Shit. Now she was never going to survive being in his proximity without wanting him.

She hears that sonofabitch laugh, so she throws the pillow across the room without looking, hoping it smacked him. Instead, what she hears is the bedroom door shut. Exhaling heavily, she stares at the ceiling for the next fifteen minutes until she decides to get up and move her sore muscles, to take a shower, dry her hair, get ready to face the day.

Get ready to face him again.

Face him with the memories of last night fresh in her mind. Of all the ways he’d explored her body, made her feel alive again.


Gwen decided to make breakfast – omelets. Somehow, she just knew what everyone wanted in theirs, surprising the hell out of Olivia as she slid the perfectly folded omelet with Swiss cheese, spinach, mushroom, and tomato in front of her, winking as she did. When Elliot walked into the kitchen, he reached for Olivia’s glass of Orange Juice without thinking about it, earning a glare from her.

When Eli and Noah came running down the stairs, they seemed to be having their own early morning conversation about which comic book company was better – Marvel or DC. Olivia could only catch pieces of the conversation, but as Gwen placed the two plates on the dining room table for the boys, Olivia glanced over to see they had a ham and cheddar omelet. When Gwen turned her back once more, Elliot’s hand found itself resting on her knee.

This wasn’t anything new, they’d been sharing a glass of wine nightly for months – they’d shared laughs, small touches, but all of a sudden his hand on her knee reminded her of last night. His eyes sparkled in the early morning light when they caught the expression in her own and she felt it. That rising blush.

He cleared his throat, as though he was reminding her to blink, to not give them away just yet.

Gwen chose that moment to turn around and as she looked at the two of them a small smile spread over her face. Without saying a word, she just cut into her omelet with the side of her fork.


It was around noon when Gwen announced that they’d be going down to Joe’s cabin and stables to go out riding in about twenty minutes, then promptly disappeared out the front door. Olivia took this time to go to the kitchen, grab a water bottle, and then make her way down the hall to her room. As she reached the doorway though, she found herself suddenly pressed against it, Elliot looking down into her eyes, his hand wrapped around the back of her neck.

“El.”

“Olivia, I was thinking.” He leaned his face closer to her ear, “Maybe I’d like to visit this evening, continue where we left off this morning.”

“Jesus. Elliot.” Olivia can’t believe the sheer ego on this man. Then again…she feels the heat between the two of them and her mouth can’t help but drop open slightly as she leans forward, brushing her lips against his ear as he leans his head down. “We’ll see.”

Brazenly, she reaches her hand down, cupping him over his pants, squeezes and then lets go, shoving him back from her as she enters the bedroom, finds the boots she knew someone had packed for her, her gloves, and her thick jacket and hat. As she’s pulling on her shoes, Elliot leans against the doorway.

“Try not to kill my little sister.” He jokes. Olivia flashes him a side-eye and shakes her head.

“I wouldn’t, Elliot. Like I told you, I like her.”

“Yeah, she likes you too…a little too much.” Elliot responds. Trying to decide whether he should warn Olivia about Gwen’s flirtatious attitude, or the fact she’s most likely only doing it to rile him up. Make him jealous.

“El, I only want you.” Olivia stares down at her fingers, her hands folded in her lap. “But if it doesn’t work out between us, your sister doesn’t seem like such a bad choice either.”

“What the hell does that mean, Olivia?”

“I’m playing with you, Elliot.” She shakes her head, “You’re that scared I’m going to run off with your sister?”

“I’m scared you’re gonna run off period. And you wouldn’t be the first girlfriend –“

“Wait. What?”

“It’s a long story – ask her about it.” Elliot suggested, shrugging. “Might give you a laugh.”

“That you had a girlfriend stolen by your little sister?” Olivia wants to burst out laughing, but she can’t seem to find it in herself to do so. “Yeah. It might.”


They’d been riding about twenty-five minutes when Gwen finally finds it within herself to start a long conversation.

“I have to tell you, I’m glad you decided to do this with me, Olivia.” Gwen is perched atop the saddle, hands on the reigns as they ride through the snow on their respective horses. Olivia winces slightly, her muscles still sore from last night’s activities. “Some one-on-one girl time. God knows all I’m around are the guys.”

“I’m sure they don’t mind.” Olivia laughs, “Look at you.”

“I’m sure everyone says the same thing about you too, look at you.” Gwen’s smile spreads across her face even wider. “Are you flirting with me, Benson?”

“You flirting with me, Gwen?” Olivia pauses for a moment, “Don’t tell Elliot.”

“He’d be so pissed.” Gwen shakes her head, “He told you, didn’t he?” She meets Olivia’s brown eyes for a moment and laughs a hearty, merry laugh. “That I stole a girl from him. Charmed the hell out of her. It was during the time he and Kath were separated. I had been in the city on a job, and got the night off. So, I called him up – asked if he had plans, and he explained that he was meeting someone at a bar in two hours – but he could meet up. So, I purposely waited until he’d been there for about twenty minutes with this girl...apparently she was a Court Reporter or something, I don’t really remember.” Gwen is dismissive of the situation, which makes it even funnier.

Olivia’s listening, because she knew about his few dates he’d gone on when he and Kathy had separated. But for some reason, she can’t recall this specific one. What court reporter had he dated? Her brow quirked, wondering if they were still part of the system or if like most court reporters, this specific one had moved on with their life.

“So, what happened?”

“Well, I get there and this really cute girl is like…staring at me. So, I begin to flirt with her, buy her a drink, Elliot is absolutely mortified, but I get a little touchy with her, and she’s receptive…so I asked her if she’d like to come back to the hotel with me – and I left the bar with her, and Elliot sat there nursing a beer and brooding…I heard all about it the next day, when I called him and he asked what the hell was I thinking. She was fun, totally not my type, but he would’ve been bored with her. I personally think I saved him a night of anguish.” Gwen shakes her head, narrowing her eyes as she spots something through the trees that catches her attention.

Her smile slides off of her face as she stops the horse. “Gwen?”

“Let’s tie them up for a minute, yeah. I need to stretch my legs.” Gwen hops down from the horse, tying the bridle around a small tree trunk. Olivia has been in law enforcement long enough to get a read on when a situation doesn’t feel quite right.

“Gwen, what’s going on?” Olivia asks, but before Gwen can respond all hell breaks loose. She hears the shot and then sees Gwen reaching for her firearm, but before she can Gwen lets out a noise and Olivia sees the bark splinter as the bullet tore through Gwen’s shoulder in a similar spot that Elliot had been shot before.

Reaching for Gwen, she moved her down onto the frozen ground, behind some branches and overgrowth. She hears a second shot and some shouting when it registers to her that it was a through-and-through shot that Gwen has sustained, but she’s bleeding.

“Shit.” Olivia is holding Gwen’s firearm in her hands, pointed toward where the shot had come from. “Gwen. You okay?”

“Just a flesh wound, I think.”

“No, it’s through and through.” She lays her back, looking around. “Fuck. Elliot is going to kill me.”

“I took a bullet for you, Benson.” Gwen smiles up at Olivia, who is applying pressure to the wound from the front with her knee. Unzipping the front of Gwen’s jacket, she moves for a second to survey the damage. Looking around, Olivia tries to find something to press to Gwen’s back.

“Gwen, I’m going to press the snow to your back.”

“What? Liv, come on. I need to get to the hospital.”

“I need to make sure you don’t bleed out, Gwen.” Olivia grabs a handful of the whitest and cleanest looking snow she can and presses it against the bleeding wound. “Hopefully this helps it coagulate.”

“Who the fuck says that?” Gwen asks, shivering from the cold and her adrenaline. “I bet your lips are soft.”

“I’m not making out with you, Gwen.” Olivia presses more snow against Gwen’s back, watching as it melts and turns red. “Shit. I need something else to press against your back.” She reaches down, feeling her scarf and untangles it from her neck, wrapping it in such a manner that she can pull it tighter on Gwen’s shoulder. She makes a tightly packed snowball and shoves it inside the scarf on her back. “Hang on, Gwen. I hear someone coming.” She holds the firearm in her hands, pointed to the only entry to the space they’re hiding in.

“Grant a dying girl her wish?” Gwen reaches her hand up, placing it on Olivia’s cheek as Olivia shakes her head, knee pressing in the front of the wound again.

“No. You’re not dying, and I’m not going to make out with you because if I decide to marry your dumbass brother, I don’t want it to be awkward as hell at Christmas.”

“I think I’m in love with you, Olivia.” Gwen laughs, then winces because it hurts like hell.

“Why’s that, Gwen?”

“Because you just called El a dumbass…” she glances at the firearm that’s in Olivia’s hands. “And you look pretty hot holding my gun.” She swallows, trying to press her back more firmly against the snowball that is melting into her skin. “I think I understand why El finds you so attractive.”

“Gwen?” A male’s voice travels their direction; Olivia can tell it’s far enough away that it’ll still be a few minutes until they catch up to the spot where they’re hiding. “Olivia?”

“Unbelievable.” Olivia whispers, “I can see why El said he can’t handle you sometimes.” Olivia glances in the opening and sees the man that Elliot trusts with his life, Joe, driving one of the vehicles that was outfitted to drive along trails and fields, the windows down. As she looks back down at Gwen, she sees the woman’s eyes begin to drift closed. “Hell no. Gwen, eyes open.”

“Tired.”

“What if I decide to flash you, Gwen, if you have your eyes shut, you’re not going to see it.”

“Anyone tell you that you’re a gigantic tease? Why are you lying to me?”

“I got you to open your eyes. Hang on, Gwen, Joseph is coming.”

That’s when she sees Elliot, hopping out of the passenger side of the vehicle, running in their direction, and when he sees the blood she sees the look of horror.

“Liv!” Elliot yells, just as he comes into sigh, Olivia allows the weapon to drop and looks up at him, eyes wide in horror.

“We have to get her to a hospital, El. It’s a through and through.” Olivia is still applying pressure as Gwen’s head tilts up to look at her brother, who is immediately dropping down to help Olivia.

“I took a bullet for your girlfriend, El.” Gwen allows her arm to fall to the side as she is pulled up off the ground. “She promised to flash me.”

Olivia looks over at Elliot who shakes his head, his hand pressed to his sister’s back as they lead her to the SUV. Joseph is standing there, holding his firearm as he looks at the horses.

“Elliot, you take them, I’ll get the horses back.” Joseph nods as he lays the backseats down, so they can lay Gwen flat, Olivia spots the first aid kit in the back. “There’s Chest Seals in there, Benson.” Olivia nods as she uses her basic First Aid training she’s up to date on with the NYPD to make sure Gwen makes it to the hospital.

“Hang on Gwen, we’re gonna make sure you’re alright. If you close those eyes, just remember, you might miss something.” Olivia looks up at Elliot’s eyes in the rearview and keeps pressure on Gwen’s wound as they ride through the snowy woods, eventually exiting, to find an Ambulance waiting at the end of the drive.


The paramedics seemed impressed with the rough patch job Olivia had done, even telling her that the snow had helped stop a majority of the bleeding on the back wound.

Olivia and Elliot rode behind the Ambulance with one of the other Security team members, Antonio, driving.

On the way, Elliot explained that Chad, one of the guys that had just been brought on, was the one that fired the shot, that Joseph had been following them with Elliot to make sure nothing happened, and Chad would be spending the foreseeable future locked away in a prison if either of them had anything to say about it.

Apparently, Chad had been bought by the person who had lodged the threat against the two of them in the first place, had weaseled his way into their crew, had gotten the intel necessary to allow himself to integrate seamlessly.

Olivia pointed out that Elliot shouldn’t feel guilty that Gwen had gotten shot, it was part of the job that came with risks.

What mattered, was that she was going to be okay, Olivia had reassured Elliot, and that she’d been pretty damn heroic for taking the bullet as well as she had.

“Liv, if it had been you – I wouldn’t have been able to…” Elliot looks into her eyes, his hand on her cheek as they pull into the hospital and watch as Gwen is rushed through the ER doors. They sit in the truck for a few minutes, in silence as Antonio pretends to not pay attention.

“Elliot, I’m okay.” She speaks after five minutes. “Gwen is going to be okay. She’s…strong, and from what I could see, she was lucky. I’m lucky she was there.”

“You saved my sister, Liv. I don’t know how to – “

“Hey.” Olivia shakes her head, “I would’ve done the same thing even if she wasn’t your sister. It’s who we are, Elliot. I felt safe with her. Just like I feel safe with you.”

“Joe is with the boys.” Elliot paused, “He sent me a text telling me that he got the horses back to the barn and then drove up to the Cabin to stay with the boys while we’re here with Gwen.”

Olivia nodded quietly as they walked into the Hospital, her hands still bloody. “Excuse me, ma’am.” Olivia looked at the nurse behind the counter whose eyes widened when she saw the blood on Olivia’s hands and knees. “Do you have a bathroom I can use to rinse this off?”

Glancing over at Elliot who had approached the other nurse to inquire about his sister, Olivia gives him a small reassuring smile. They were all going to be okay.

They just had to be.

Chapter Text


still frames in your mind
Story || 
a very safe place
chapter nine ||
i’ve never held my breath for quite this long


 

[ 4:22 pm ]

Olivia walks into the waiting room, a cup of coffee in one hand and a hot tea in the other. She taps Elliot’s shoulder, getting his attention, as he reaches up for the cup. Taking her own cup, wrapping her hands around it, she leans back on the ugly couch, lifting her leg and resting her foot on the table in front of her. Her brown eyes glance up as she catches Antonio’s gaze, from the doorway. He’d been following her around since she’d walked out of the bathroom from washing Gwen’s blood off of her hands. Antonio had a pair of scrubs in his hands and smiled kindly, glancing down at her pants. Understanding the suggestion, she had taken them from his hands and gone back into the bathroom, discarding her stained pants in the garbage.

“Any news?” Olivia asks, bringing the cup to her lips. “Sorry that it’s not that fancy-ass coffee you prefer now.”

“It’s alright. I think I could drink John’s battery acid at this point.” Elliot brought the cup to his lips, wincing as he took a sip. “Antonio commandeer someone’s pants for you?”

“Didn’t ask. Just was grateful to change.” She shrugs, placing her hand over the back of Elliot’s hand. “Heard anything from the crew?”

“Actually, Joe called while you were getting these. He said Chad is singing like a nightingale. Said they were tracing his records and searching for who paid him off, if all goes well, they can get him to give the name. We could be back in the city in a couple of days.” Elliot looked down at his feet, eyes downcast. “Then you can get back to running your Unit, and I can…focus on whatever Organized Crime wants me to focus on.”

“You know, El…” Olivia leaned her head against Elliot’s shoulder. “I kind of like your cabin.”

“Well, it is my cabin.”

“Have they said anything about Gwen? You never answered.” Olivia pointed out, running her thumb over the top of Elliot’s knuckles.

“Well, a nurse came out about five minutes ago, had me sign some paperwork. Said that they were working on her. I asked if she knew anything else, and she said as soon as they hear anything from the OR, they would let us know.”

“Okay. So, now we wait.” Olivia nodded, face still pressed against Elliot’s shoulder as she tilted her head up to look at him.

“Now we wait.” He agreed.


[ 6:49 pm ]

“Family of Gwen McGinley?” The Doctor stood by the doorway, next to Antonio, who was decidedly not staring at Elliot and Olivia, but pretending to read one of the magazines. Olivia was ninety-seven percent positive that Antonio wasn’t actually interested in Good Housekeeping. Unless he was searching for recipes to try, in which case, she’d invite him over to cook…so she didn’t poison anyone.

“That’s us.” Olivia stood, slapping Elliot on the leg. Not that there was anyone else in the waiting room, she looked around at the empty seats, rolling her eyes.

“Well, I have to say that whoever stopped the bleeding did a half-way decent job.” He shrugged. “We’ve got her all patched up, the bullet somehow managed to avoid the major arteries and she’ll have to go through physical therapy for the shoulder, but…other than that, she’s extremely lucky. We’d like to keep her overnight for observation, but she’s come out of anesthesia and is insisting that she’d be alright to go home that there are more than enough people to watch over her there.” Olivia bit her lip, looking down at her shoes, Elliot ran his hand over his face. “Obviously, we’d like you to try to dissuade her from leaving tonight, - “

“Doctor, with all due respect, we are the last people on earth who would ever try to convince someone to stay in a hospital.” Elliot mumbled, glancing over at Olivia, as she squeezed his hand in her own.

“Well. Be that as it may, we’d like to monitor to make sure that no infections occur or additional bleeding.” The Doctor finished, looking at the two individuals in front of him.

“Look, just give her some antibiotics, we’ll strap her to her bed, and she’ll be alright. She’s a tough cookie.” Elliot huffed out. Olivia bit the corner of her lip. “Doctor, is she lucid?”

“Yes. She’s already flirted with three nurses. One of them being my wife.”

“So, what you’re saying is she’s able to go home?” Olivia pipes in, chuckling to herself about the fact that Gwen was relentless when it came to flirting with anyone. She made a mental note to give her grief for that one when they allow them to see her.

The Doctor took a minute to really think about it, and tilted his head from side to side for a minute before shrugging. “Yeah, I guess it would be safe enough for her to go home. But if there are any issues, can I rely upon you to get her back here?”

“Sir,” Antonio spoke up, finally placing his magazine down, “We’re all trained professionals, we will get her back here, she’s important to all of us.”

“I’ll have the nurse come get you in a few minutes to take you to her. I’ll get started on the discharge paperwork. She’ll probably be better off at home than flirting with my staff…and wife.”


[ 7:25 pm ]

“Gwen.” Elliot walked into the room, hand clasped tightly in Olivia’s hand. “I hear you’ve been flirting with all the nurses.”

Gwen looked up from her spot on the bed, squinting at her older brother, her eyes traveling down to his and Olivia’s joined hands. “Well, what am I supposed to do, you’ve taken this total babe off the market…or that’s what it looks like. She’s a tease, by the way.” Gwen shakes her head, turning her face to look at her bandaged shoulder. “This hurts like a bitch. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I told you when I got shot years ago that it hurt like a bitch when you called.” Elliot walked next to the bed, lifting his free hand and placing it on his sister’s forehead, tracing his thumb along her brow, smiling down at her fondly. “I’m glad you’re alright, kid.”

“It may have escaped your notice, bro, but I’m not quite a kid anymore.”

“Those must be some good meds.” He replied, his blue eyes studying his sister, one brow raised.

“I hope you’re not jealous I’ve been flirting with all the nurses, Liv.” Gwen finally glanced at the woman who had thought quicker than she could’ve comprehended.

“Actually, that’s a bone I have to pick with you.” Olivia smiled, placing her hand over the top of Gwen’s on the bed, her head tilted. “I offered to flash you and this is the thanks I get.”

“See, told you she’s a tease. She’ll never follow through. I’m disappointed, I have to keep my options open.” Gwen turned her head back to her brother. “You’re a lucky son-of-a-bitch.”

“I’m gonna tell Mama you called her a bitch.” Elliot whispers, letting his smile widen at his sister.

“So are you two gonna break me out of here, or do I have to offer to sleep with someone to get out of here?”

“No,” Olivia shook her head, “You succeeded in your own mission, Gwen. You flirted with the Doctor’s wife.”

“No shit?” Gwen started laughing. “Wonder which one she was. Hopefully the cute red head.” Elliot took a deep breath, sitting down in the chair against the wall. “So, did they figure out who – “

“Don’t worry about that.” Elliot shook his head, crossing his arms as he leaned back. “Just focus on getting better, yeah?”

“Elliot, I got shot – not fatally wounded.” Gwen rolled her eyes and turned her attention to the brunette standing near her bed. “Olivia, I took the bullet for you, so tell me, what have they found out?”

“Not much.” Olivia answered, taking a seat on the end of the bed. “They’re checking into the financials and cell phone records trying to find out the mastermind behind the threats – obviously, they know they were credible, or else they wouldn’t have whisked us away. You know that.” She gave her a pointed look. Gwen nodded quietly, her blue eyes narrowed as she watched Olivia. “But…they’re trying to get him to just – hand over the name.” Her brown eyes flickered over to Elliot sitting against the wall, “They’re hoping we can get back home by the end of the week or beginning of next week.”

Gwen nodded, eyes narrowing as she looked between the two individuals. As she began to open her mouth to say something, Olivia surprised both Gwen and Elliot by continuing on. “But I don’t know if I’m ready to go back so soon.”

“Liv?” Elliot looked between Gwen and Olivia, his expression trying to read what it was she was saying exactly. Getting no clear answers, he just sat back, rubbing his hand over his face. Thankfully, it was at this moment when the Nurse came back into the room, and Gwen proceeded to flirt relentlessly, resulting in the woman turning beet red.


[ 8:58 pm ]

Arriving back to the cabin, Olivia immediately walked through the front door and was met with Noah crashing into her arms. Picking up her son, (after joking that he was getting bigger than she was), she took a seat on the couch, planting a soft kiss in his curls.

“Mom! Joe made us chili for dinner. It was really good. I asked him if we could wait up until you all got home and he told us that Aunt Gwen – “ Olivia zoned out as she listened to her son talking. Did he really just call Gwen his Aunt? “Was injured and she saved you, is that true?”

Olivia just took a moment, pulling back from her son for a moment before she licked her bottom lip, smiling lightly. “Yes, that’s true. She…she did.” It was at this exact moment that Elliot walked through the door, helping Gwen in and taking off the jacket he’d slung over her shoulders. “It’s bedtime, you can ask her all about it tomorrow, okay?”

“Okay mom. Love you.” He gave her a hug as she smiled watching him run up the stairs. Turning around as she watched Elliot helping Gwen to the stairs she made eye contact with Joe, who was standing in the kitchen, washing the bowls from the kids’ dinner.

“Joe?” Olivia stood up, straightening the scrubs as she walked toward the kitchen island. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“Taking care of the boys.” She shrugged, her fists resting on the surface of the counter. “For following us this afternoon.”

“Listen,” Joe swallowed glancing over to the door to the basement. “Elliot wouldn’t ever forgive me if anything happened to either you or Gwen. And the boys? They’re good kids, it wasn’t a problem. Your kid, he’s smart as a whip.”

“Thanks.” Olivia smiled brightly, the pride evident on her face.

“I left the leftovers in the fridge – there’s also some cheese and diced onions in small containers…and there’s some pasta in the blue bowl on the second shelf. If you guys get hungry later. I’m going to go next door this evening. Just, call over if you all need anything.”

“Thank you, Joe.”

“Thank you.” He replied, leaving Olivia standing by the island, slightly confused.

Shrugging, she walked down the hall to her room. She wanted to get comfortable rather than spend all evening in the borrowed scrubs. She glanced over at the clock, noting that it was now 9:12 pm. Peeling off the layers of clothes, she left a trail to the bathroom, stepping in the shower and turning on the water as warm as she thought she could stand. Resting her hands against the wall she lowered her head as the warm water cascaded over her skin.


[ 9:30 pm ]

Stepping out of the shower, she wrapped the towel around herself and made her way back into the bedroom. Almost backing into the door of the bathroom when she saw Elliot sitting on the bed, his back against the headboard, his legs stretched out in front of him, arms crossed, blue eyes shining mischievously as they examined her from her feet up.

“Jesus Christ, El. Give a woman a heart attack.” She stood, with her hand over her heart, hair in the twisted towel on top of her head. The bastard was smirking at her.

He threw his legs over the side of the bed, she glanced over to the door. It was wide open. Probably a mistake on her behalf, but as she walked toward it and reached for the handle his hand landed on her wrist as she closed it, locking it in the process. His hand felt warm, heavy, and safe against her wrist. Turning around, she backed up against the solid surface, as his body boxed her in, eyes roaming her face, hands reaching out and mussing the towel on the top of her head until he pulled it out and her damp hair fell down over her shoulders, the waves and natural curl evident.

“I like when your hair is wet.” He moved his face next to her own, his lips brushing her ear ever-so-slightly as he whispered. “It reminds me of our first two years as partners. Your hair was so dark, it made you look even more mysterious…sexy.” She felt her breath hitch as she swallowed thickly eyes watching in the peripheral as he pulled back, glancing down at her over the end of his nose.

That’s when she felt his hand cup her jaw as he tilted her head up, their lips meeting in a quiet, calming, and sensual manner. As her mouth opened in a gasp he took this opportunity to slide his tongue into hers and she moved against his mouth, her hand resting against the back of his neck as she pulled him closer in. As he bit down on her bottom lip she pulled back slightly, allowing him to kiss from her mouth down her neck, to the deep V in the robe, planting soft pecks along her skin. Sliding his hand in the neckline of the robe, he pushed one shoulder off.

“El, take me to bed.”

“Yes, Captain.” He answered.

 

Chapter Text


still frames in your mind || Story: a very safe place
chapter ten: yours. mine. ours.



Gwen woke up in agony, grimacing as she turned to glance over at her nightstand, looking for her pain meds the hospital had prescribed her. The throbbing in her shoulder almost overwhelming. Having no luck seeing them anywhere in the room, she decided she'd ask Olivia if she knew where Elliot had put them. Maybe he’d forgotten to put them out for her.

Shaking her head, she threw her legs over the side of the bed, it was a long-shot asking Olivia if she knew where her idiot brother had put the damn pills, but at least if she asked Olivia, chances are that by this point, she’d already seen his ass and…it spared Gwen the sight of something she really didn’t want to have ingrained in her memory.

'He sometimes sleeps in the nude and no sister should EVER see that.'

Making her way up the stairs, she clenches her eyes tightly closed and leaned against the railing for a moment. Knocking lightly on Liv's door, which cracked open and she received a full view of her brother’s ass peeking out of the sheet, the very thing she was trying to avoid. Olivia's chest only slightly covered by Elliot's arm and a bit of the sheet.

Gwen cleared her throat, loudly.

"Okay. One, Elliot's ass crack? Gross, you can cover up.” Gwen leaned against the door frame, her blue eyes darting over to Olivia’s figure, “However, I’d like to thank God for this view. Liv, if it doesn't work out, gimme a call, yeah?" she turned back to look at her brother, “Elliot, if you mess this up, I am going to shoot you in the balls myself.”

"What the hell, Gwen?!" Elliot moves abruptly, practically throwing himself over Olivia's upper half, reaching for the sheet and pulling it up over them. Gwen’s face is one of amusement at this precarious position she’s found them in.

Honestly, she’s relieved that he finally got his head out of his ass – his large ass that is still falling out of the sheet.

"I need my pain meds. They weren't on my nightstand. I was trying to avoid seeing your ass...literally, so I figured knocking on Olivia’s door and asking her was the safer option, but obviously I’ve missed something? Maybe?"

"Gwen, seriously." Elliot warns. "Stop ogling Olivia’s breasts."

"I think that's for her to decide, she did offer to flash me. I mean, if this is as close as I get to it..." She shrugs her good shoulder, "Thank you, truly." Gwen nods at Olivia, smiling, before turning her attention back to Elliot. "My meds? And please, just...lock the door? So maybe I don't wander in here next time to find your bare ass staring me in the face." She adjusted her shoulder brace slightly, wincing as she did so. “I mean, there are children here. And you really should lock the door because I don’t want to walk in on any…activities.”

Elliot groans, his eyes locked onto Gwen’s. “Gwen, you have to get out of the room if you want me to get up and get the meds for you.” Gwen narrows her blue eyes, biting the inside of her cheek. “I mean, unless you’d like to see everything.”

Rolling her eyes, Gwen turns, grabbing the door handle in her good hand, closing the door behind her. Only when the door was shut did she allow a huge grin to spread across her face, quickly replaced by another grimace of pain.

Elliot turns and looks at Olivia who is fighting breaking out in hysterical laughter.

Your sister.” She shakes her head, bringing her bottom lip between her teeth as she falls back against the pillow.

“I love her to pieces, I really do, Liv.”

“I like her too.”

“That scares me,” he pulls on a pair of sweats that was thrown over the chair in the corner of the room. “Though, I’m glad you like her. She likes you.” He pauses, “Probably a little too much.”

“I can tell.” Olivia’s brows rise as she shakes her head, “Don’t worry, El. I’m not going to leave you for your sister. Though, if you don’t hurry up, Detective.” She bites her lip, eyes roaming over his chest, still bare. “I might consider giving her a shot.”

Liv.” He shoots her a warning glance.


Finally making his way back up the staris, he was surprised to find Olivia standing in the kitchen, a package of Oreos in one hand and a glass of milk in the other. Her hair was falling around her shoulders, her face naked, freckles visible in the dim lights above the island.

She was absolutely stunning, standing there in a pair of loose lounge pants and a robe.

“She good?” Olivia asked, sliding onto the stool and placing the Oreos on the counter in front of her Elliot was just staring at her, his mouth slightly agape. “Elliot, I’m asking about your sister? Gwen?”

“Yeah.” He shook his head, still staring at her, registering that she was speaking to him. Asking a question, she doesn’t mind at all, finally being under his gaze in all the ways she always yearned for, deep down. She relishes in this appraisal. It’s all she dreamed of but convinced herself she would never get. That it was never going to happen. “She knocked the pills off of her nightstand and they rolled under her bed.”

He rubbed the back of his neck, reaching over her and grabbing two cookies out of the package in front of her. She playfully smacked his arm, grinning at him as she took a drink of milk.

“Get your own, Stabler.” her brown eyes danced mischievously.

“These are mine, Benson.” He stood between her legs, glancing down at her, smiling as he reached for her milk glass when she placed it back on the countertop. “Everything in front of me is mine.”

Catching his double-meaning, she tilts her head up, eyes mischevious. “Oh?”

“Yeah.” He nods, his eyes falling on the mark at the juncture of her shoulder and neck. “Mine.”

“Hm.” She makes a noise, smile falling, eyes roaming over his figure once more. “You really are a possessive asshole, you know that, right?” She reached forward, running her hand from his shoulder down his chest, smiling as she saw the goosebumps rise on his skin. A small contented hum bubbles up from her chest as her hand trails back up, wrapping around his shoulder, where she pulls him between her legs, her finger hooked in the waistband of his sweats.

She’s looking up at him from her stool, the corner of her lip tucked between her teeth as she applies pressure to his shoulder, moving her hand up behind his head, gripping his neck and pulling him down so her lips brush his ear.

“You know, I’m pretty possessive over what’s mine…just like you. You know that, right?” Her breath is hot against his ear as she yanks him closer to her, their cheeks touching, “And this –“ She slides her hand in his pants. “Is mine.”

He swallows audibly. He started this.

Olivia.” He moves his face so that his nose is buried in her hair, his hand is resting on the side of her seat. “Our sons are right above our heads and my sister is downstairs. I think if you want – “ she squeezed him in her hand, he was becoming even more solid under her touch - “to continue what you’re doing –“ her thumb brushed over the tip of his hard cock, spreading the pre-cum over the head, and sliding her hand down his shaft. He moved his hand to rest over the top of hers, stopping her. “We need to go to the bedroom.” A pause, “NOW.”

“Our sons.” She pulls her head back, away from his to get a good look at his face, “Detective, last time I checked it was my son and your son.”

“Our sons.” He repeated. “Yours, Mine, Ours. Whatever.” His face turns as he captures her earlobe between his teeth, teasing it with his warm tongue, “Bedroom, Captain.” He glanced down at her hand, still inside of his sweatpants. “Before we both make stupid decisions right here in the middle of the kitchen and scar everyone for life.”

“Hm.” Olivia’s eyes suddenly darkened even more, as she released him, trailing her hand around his side, digging her fingernails into the skin of his back. “I give the orders around here.”

“My house. My rules.” He challenged. She glanced down at his position between her legs and squeezed her thighs against his, wrapping her other hand that had been resting on his neck around his back and pulling him even closer, her lips moving forward to kiss his chest.

“Oh. What happened to…mine and ours?” she taunted. “Is that only when things are convenient?”

He stopped for a moment, eyes darting up to the ceiling, before he reached into the collar of her robe, running his hand over her collarbone, fingertips brushing her skin lightly, before turning his hand and gripping her generous cleavage. “Last time I checked, Captain, you refused to hear me out on that question I asked you…”

“You know what?” She placed her hand over his that was stopping her from gripping him anymore in his pants, “I think I’m going to take the Oreos and Milk and go to bed, and you can go enjoy your own bed.”

“My cabin. Does that mean my bed is your bed?”

“I see we’re having problems with boundaries, Elliot.” She whispers, her tone lower and breathier than it had been moments before.

“Kiss me.” He whispered, his breath hot against her cheek.

When their mouths met this time, their tongues slid lazily into one another’s mouths as she snaked her arm around his neck, forgetting about the fact he was still holding her from touching him the way she wanted to inside of his pants.

“Mkay. Bring the cookies and the milk.” She smiled against his lips as they took a small breath.


Morning came before either of them would have liked.

She woke up sore, satisfied, and anxious. Anxious, when she realized that he hadn’t left after their midnight snack and activities. Elliot’s phone was going off on the nightstand and when she slapped his chest to get his attention, he groggily pulled it over and squinted at the name on the screen.

Answering the phone, she could hear the person on the other line.

They had apparently caught the individual responsible for their sequestered life – and they were free to return home. Hearing someone say that they were able to come back to the city felt something like a relief, but as she lay there, listening to the conversation she couldn’t help but wonder…what happens between us now?

Rolling on her side, she tucked her hand under her cheek, eyes studying his profile as he lay there, his fingertips massaging his temple as he listened. Sensing her stare, he turned his head to look at her, and his eyes darted to the phone that he was holding at his ear. “Actually…can we get back to you on when we plan on coming back? We got some snow up here, and I don’t know what the roads are like. It might be a day or two.”

Just. Like. That.

“Yeah, no, everyone is very safe. We’re in a very safe place. It’s secure; barring the incident the other day. No, we’re not going to strangle one another.” His eyes trail down her chest, where the sheet is slipping away again.

It had been years since she’d slept in any state of undress, but with him? She was comfortable. Wanted as much skin-to-skin contact as possible.

“No. We’ll call later. She’s still asleep.” She shook her head, a smile spreading across her sleepy face. “Yeah. Bye.”

He hung up and dropped the phone onto the pile of clothes on his side of the bed, bringing his hand up to her cheek, stroking it softly as he leaned in and kissed her lips, lazily. She welcomed this. She encouraged this behavior from him.

“I – Liv, I don’t wanna go back just yet.” He began, eyes studying her, “I have everything I’ve ever wanted – and it’s all right here in front of me.”

“We have to go back eventually, El.” He kisses her again, softer this time, thumb tracing her cheek.

“I know.”

“What?”

“I just…don’t want you to not be around all the time. I’ve grown kind of…accustomed to this proximity.”

She bites her bottom lip, breathing? She forgot how to do that. Thinking? She can only think of their bodies pressed against each other. How he’s seeped into every last pore in her body. Every last dark corner. He’s part of her. Always has been, but, now more than ever.

“Well…what do you say we make this ours?”

His eyes widen.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” She agrees. “Ours.”


“So, it’s about time you two decided to join the land of the living.” Gwen remarks, sitting on the same stool that Olivia had been sitting on last night. “Joe –“ she motions to the man cooking everyone breakfast. “Says that we can go back to the city?”

“Yeah. That’s what they told me on the phone this morning. I’m assuming they called the Security team?”

“Yes.” Joe answers, pulling out the bacon and putting another tray in with more bacon.

“We’re not ready to go back yet.” Olivia blurts out, eyes traveling over to the table where Eli and Noah sit, quietly playing video games on their hand-held devices. “In fact, we were thinking of staying an extra few days.”

“Really?” Gwen asks, surprised.

“Yeah.” Elliot answers, eyes flickering between Gwen and Joe. “We were actually thinking of putting a name on this thing that Liv and I have.”

“But only if it’s okay with you guys, Eli. Noah.” Olivia’s standing leaning against Elliot, hoping that she doesn’t have to spell it all out.

“Are you asking me if I’m going to be pissed if you marry dad?” Eli asked, “Because my opinion doesn’t matter much, Olivia. Look, We’re cool.”

“Yeah?”

“You make him happy, Liv.” Eli shrugs. “Why should I stop that?”

“Thank you.” She smiles, biting down on her bottom lip.

“Well…” Gwen slaps the counter with her good hand. “That settles that. Welcome to the family, and I’ll do my best not to hit on you.” She leans forward conspiratorially, “But I make no promises, Olivia. You really don’t do things the traditional way, do you, Elliot?” Gwen asks, laughing.

“When it comes to this one? No.”

“Well, mom will be happy.”

“So will I, Gwen.” Elliot looks down at Olivia and smiles, and she returns the smile, unafraid of whatever comes next. All the times Elliot had ever felt homesick, it had been for a person – and he has a feeling that she’s always been home for him.

Eli looks at Noah, and smiles. “You know, Noah…we’re both pretty lucky, kid.”

“I know.” Noah answers, smiling as he looks at his mother, who is happy. Genuinely happy. “It’s good to see her smile.”

“Dad too.” Eli answers. Knowing that Olivia is the best type of person. Knows that she’s always got his back, that she’ll always be there to support him. That she’ll never try to take his mother’s place, but she’s going to be just like a mother to him.

Olivia glances up at Elliot, a grin plastered on her face. One that she doesn’t even think the Morris Commission could wipe off.

Elliot Stabler would always be her safe place.

Olivia knew this. It just took a little while to get there. To accept it. To welcome it.

And she would always, always, show up in places for his family…her family. Their family. And they would always make it a point to vacation in a very safe place – their cabin.