A/N: This takes place BEFORE “A Thing or Two about Family”. It’s a few weeks post-UC.
Kathleen Stabler has had enough of her father’s shit.
She runs a brush through her long blonde hair in the bathroom, silently stewing that he’s sleeping in again. A few more mornings like this, and they’re going to have to stage another intervention, and given how well it went the first time she’s really not looking forward to it. But, when her father and her teenage brother are sleeping in the same amount, it’s getting ridiculous. They’ve all had to pick themselves up and go on with life, and he’s going to have to do the same.
“Dad awake yet?” she sighs, coming back into the kitchen.
Bernie glances back from the pan of eggs she’s stirring. “Haven’t seen him, Katie. Or your brother.”
Summoning her patience, Kathleen walks back toward the master bedroom, prepared to not take no for an answer this time.
“Dad?” she says softly, knocking gently, “Grandma’s making breakfast. C’mon, Dad.”
Sighing, she opens the door—and nearly has a heart attack.
Her father is sleeping like the dead, on his side, and tangled up in his arms, equally dead to the world, is Olivia Benson. Her face is buried in his chest, but that’s absolutely Olivia, there’s no one else it could be.
Kathleen freezes for one second, then two, blinking hard, trying to absorb the pile of sheets, and messy, wavy hair, and wrinkled clothes, and—is that her dad’s shirt Liv’s wearing?
Coming back to herself, she shuts the door as quickly and quietly as she can, and starts a little jog back to the kitchen.
“Grams. Grams,” she hisses, barely able to contain herself, “Grams.”
She grabs Bernie and gives her a gentle shake, giggling and forcing her into a little dance.
“Jesus, Katie,” Bernie says, startled, waving her spatula around, “What the hell—“
“—Olivia’s in there,” Kathleen grins, leaning in close, still holding her by the shoulders, “I’m not joking.”
“Olivia’s where?” Bernie asks, shrugging her off, “These are gonna burn.”
Kathleen does a happy sort of jump, and points. “In there. With Dad.”
“Oh,” Bernie sighs, shaking her head, “Well, of course she is. About time, you ask me, took ‘em long enough.”
“Wait,” Kathleen says, hands on her hips, “You knew about this? And you didn’t tell me?”
“Well, I’ll admit I didn’t know it was, you know, in progress,” Bernie admits, glancing toward the bedroom, “But I knew they’d end up there, sure.”
Kathleen’s eyes widen, and she leans against the counter. “Well, how did this happen?”
“All I know, is that when I went to bed last night they were on the back patio with a bottle of wine,” Bernie shrugs, flipping bacon, “Laughing like time stopped, and they were the only two people in the world.”
“So, it was just last night? How long has this been going on? He just got home from being undercover last week, so it can’t have been that long, we’ve been dragging him out of bed for the past four days—“
“Katie, I say this with love, but you’re acting a little crazy.”
“Oh!” Kathleen chuckles, nudging Bernie, “Pot, meet kettle. Seriously, Grams, this is good.”
“Make some toast, would you?” Bernie says nonchalantly, patting her cheek.
Kathleen shakes her head and busies herself at the toaster oven for a while, toasting slices of sourdough, putting a French press together at the same time. By the time she has a pile of toast ready, there’s bacon and eggs sitting on the island, wisps of steam curling slowly into the air.
Unprompted, Bernie picks up the tea kettle and bangs the handle of her metal spatula against it. “Breakfast!”
Kathleen jumps, choking on a sip of coffee, looking at her incredulously. “Seriously?”
“It’s gonna get cold,” she shrugs, handing Kathleen a plate, “They’ve gotta get up sooner or later. Now, sit down and mind your own business.”
“He’s my dad, this is my business,” Kathleen whispers, glancing back toward the bedroom door, “If I’m not allowed to ask, neither are you.”
“What am I gonna ask about? I know what happened in there—“
“—Grams, jesus, that’s not my business—“
They both fall silent as the bedroom door opens, and Elliot emerges cautiously in sweatpants and a t-shirt, shutting the door behind him. He slowly shuffles over into the kitchen, and Kathleen busies herself putting a scoop of eggs on her plate, suddenly extremely interested in the front page of the paper.
“Morning,” Elliot says, clearing his throat.
“Oh, hey, Dad—“
“—morning, honey, take a plate—“
He shifts awkwardly, looking every bit like he has something to tell them.
“So, uh,” he starts, pointing a thumb back toward the bedroom, “There’s, uh—Liv’s here.”
Kathleen and Bernie share a look.
“Oh,” Kathleen says easily, shrugging, “Okay.”
There’s a beat, and Elliot’s brows furrow. “Okay?”
“Is she hungry?” Bernie asks, reaching for another plate.
“I don’t—I’m not sure?” Elliot says, still confused.
Bernie hands him a plate, gesturing to the food. “Well, there’s plenty.”
Elliot eyes them both for a few seconds, watching Kathleen eat an unusually large mouthful of eggs.
“You guys knew, didn’t you?”
“—how would we know?”
“—honey, of course we knew.”
Before anyone can say anything else, the bedroom door opens again, and Liv takes a slow step out into the living room. Kathleen glances back, and then immediately takes a gulp of coffee, because Liv’s definitely wearing her dad’s button-down shirt and sweatpants.
“Honey, come eat,” Bernie says kindly, waving her over, “Coffee? Elliot, coffee?”
“Yeah, Ma, coffee’s good,” Elliot smiles, holding his hand out for Olivia, waiting while she walks over to them, “Here, sit.”
“Good morning,” Liv says, smiling awkwardly, settling onto a stool at the island.
“Morning,” Kathleen manages, through a mouthful of toast, coughing a little.
“Chew, kid,” Elliot says, patting her back, looking concerned.
Kathleen waves him off, shaking her head. “M’good.”
Bernie comes back over with two mugs of coffee. “Here, honey, I wasn’t sure how you take it—“
“I got it, Mama,” Elliot says easily, crossing over to the other side of the island, grabbing half ‘n half out of the fridge on his way over.
They watch in awkward silence as he stirs a little sugar into one of the mugs, and then creamer, tipping it in methodically until he’s satisfied with the color.
“Here,” he says softly, sliding it over to Olivia, who looks happy to have something to do with her hands.
She mumbles her thanks and picks it up, sipping immediately.
Eli chooses that moment to stumble down the hallway, yawning and rubbing his eye. He stops short, brows furrowing as he takes in the scene in the kitchen, clearly trying to figure out what the hell is going on. When no one says anything, he slowly walks forward, finally attracting some attention.
“Ah,” Bernie says, nodding to him, “He lives. You hungry?”
“Umm, sure,” he says, still waking up.
He goes to the refrigerator and pours himself a glass of orange juice, moving to stand at the island where his dad had been. His dad’s now standing sentry behind Olivia, pretending to look out the window while he sips coffee.
“Here, honey,” Bernie says absently, setting a plate in front of him, wiping her hands on her apron, turning to the sink.
“Thanks,” he says, taking a piece of bacon with his fingers.
The silence stretches on, and he watches in confusion as his sister takes another spoonful of eggs, shoving a bite into her mouth. Olivia seems inordinately interested in her coffee, and she’s wearing clothes that look at least two sizes too big, and—oh.
The awkward silence is making more sense now, as he pieces things together, and then it’s just funny that no one’s talking.
“So,” Eli says, gesturing between Olivia and his dad, “Is this a thing, now?”
Elliot opens his mouth to say something, but before he can, Bernie turns around and slings an arm around her grandson.
“Sorry, honey, let’s catch you up,” she says casually, pointing, “She woke up here this morning, that’s new, but not a total surprise, I’m sure you can agree. He came out here acting like a teenager who's been caught, so, we’re not asking about it. Which is why Katie’s keeping her mouth full over there, trying not to ask questions.”
“Kathleen, stop. Stop,” Elliot sighs, sliding the plate away from her, “You’re gonna make yourself sick. Look, you’ve all known Liv a long time—“
“—I haven’t,” Eli says, raising his hand, the one holding the bacon, “I met her like five minutes ago, in case anyone cares—“
“—I care,” Liv says immediately, looking him in the eyes, “We met a long time ago, and you were too little to remember. But, if you want, we can sit down and talk about that sometime. It’s a pretty crazy story.”
Eli watches his dad reach out and squeeze Olivia’s shoulder, as silence falls over the group again.
“Umm, okay,” he says, taking a bite of bacon, “Sure.”
Elliot glances between the two of them for a moment, keeping his hand on her.
“We don’t know if this is the right way for this to happen,” Elliot says carefully, glancing at Liv, “But…it happened. It’s happening. So, if you all are…upset, or—“
“Dad, we never said we were upset,” Kathleen says, shaking her head, wiping her mouth with a napkin, “We love Olivia.”
Olivia clears her throat, blinking rapidly all of a sudden. “You do?”
“Yeah, Liv,” Kathleen smiles, reaching out to squeeze her forearm, “You’ve been part of our family…since I can remember. This is, uhh, different—“
They laugh a little, still wading through the awkward moment.
“—I’ll admit, it’s different,” she continues, shaking the blonde hair over her shoulder, “But I want you to be happy, Dad. And…Liv, this partnership, has always made you happy.”
Elliot swallows, staring at his daughter gratefully. “Means a lot, kid. Thank you.”
Kathleen squeezes Olivia's forearm again, and gets up to pour herself more coffee, playfully cuffing the back of Eli’s head as she walks by, dodging him when he tries to elbow her.
Olivia leans forward and takes a piece of toast, finally feeling up to eating something.
“Jam?” Elliot asks her quietly, squeezing her shoulder reassuringly, “We have strawberry, I think.”
She nods, smiling at him, at the way he still remembers every single one of her breakfast preferences.
“Mama,” Elliot offers, turning to where his mother has finally sat down with her own plate of food, “Anything you want to add?”
“About what?” she shrugs, ripping a piece of bacon in half.
“Grandma,” Eli says gently, rubbing her shoulder, “We were talking about Dad and Olivia, this is Olivia, rememb—“
“—oh, knock it off,” Bernie scoffs, pushing him away, “I know what’s going on, better than you do.”
“She wasn’t surprised,” Kathleen adds, coming back to join them.
Elliot raises his eyebrows, offering the jar of strawberry jam, and a knife, to Liv. “You weren’t?”
“No,” Bernie says, as if it’s obvious, “Why would I be? I knew it when she came to see me, what was it, Olivia? Couple months ago?”
“You’re visiting my mother?” Elliot asks, turning to Liv in amusement.
“Ah, well, held hostage is more accurate, I think—“
“Please,” Bernie interrupts, chuckling, “She came to see me, I fed her chicken soup—“
“—oh, the chicken soup is good,” Elliot agrees, nodding.
“—I fed her chicken soup, we took care of her ankle, and we talked about you, and I knew it would happen. Two months is a bit long, at your age, you ask me, but—“
“—at our age?” Elliot laughs, “Mama, you do realize—“
“—you ever want that soup again, you won’t finish that sentence.”