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The Forgotten

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She wakes up under the soft lull of a quiet afternoon nap, and for the first time, in a very long time, her thoughts aren't filled with worries of the mind, of destroying somebody in her wake, of writing letters addressed to the fire and walking off into the ocean.

Her first thought rests for Elliot, for their growing home, the future they will weave together.

Olivia can feel the need in her building, can feel a longing that yearned to be anchored by him for life. More than anything, she just needed to feel him close again.

And so, she wakes to the sound of his deep gravelly voice dancing with Noah’s lithe tone in the near distance, and that was even better than being anchored, she thought, they were the entire sea to her.

“Elliot?” Noah whispers. Olivia’s eyes are closed so she cannot see them, but she can sense their warm vibration huddled on the sofa together, like an energy that could never be tainted. Noah had his ear pressed into Elliot’s chest, and even for the afternoon he sounded tired, overwhelmed, like he hadn’t slept all night.

“Yeah bud?”

“I love you.” Noah just yawns, and they’ve said it to each other before, she realizes.

Of course they have.

“Love you too buddy.” Elliot murmurs, voice roiled with bits of emotion. His heart beats outside of his body and it isn’t Olivia who holds it, anymore. Noah is his everything, Olivia can see it more clearly now, could physically feel it in a way that made her own heart swell.

“I’m sorry I made you miss mom waking up.” Noah whispered.

“Don’t be.” Elliot soothed, “Maureen said you had a bad dream, you wanted to see your mom.”

“Yea.” He sniffed.

“You come first for me, remember?” Elliot reminded him, Noah nodded.

“Are you gonna marry my mom?”

“What makes you ask that?”

“She was talking in her sleep, before.”

She heard Elliot release a little laugh and slowly opened her eyes again.  

The hospital room flooded with silks of honeyed light from closest window, and the smell of Elliot’s faint cologne filled her nostrils, bringing her back home. He was everywhere. His scent was on her clothes, on the oversized hoodie she wore that would now solely belong to her. His scent was masculine, strong, demanding. All around her face she could still taste the words he peppered into her skin mere hours ago, could feel his tentative lips brushing her forehead in between syllables, could carry the strong arms that caged around her like a shield.

He was all around her and yet he stood at a distance, in the corner of the room he waited, let Noah bolt onto the bed, let Noah have all of her for all the moments that mattered most. He knew exactly how to love her.

Minutes later she reached her hand out for him and adored the way the morning light spilled into the room as he gravitated to her side, his big hand combing its way through her scalp, drawing her up and closer into his chest, into his lips.

She let him kiss her, wanted him just as much, if not more, somehow forgetting that lip locking wasn’t a common thing around the kid.

“That’s enough now.” Noah scolded; arms folded over his little chest.

“Sorry.” Laughed Elliot, wiping his lips.

“Y’know when I marry Elliot, you’re ganna have to get used to that.”

Noah rested his weight against her, his fingers drawing lazy patterns on her arm. “So you’re gonna get married for real?”

“Would that be okay?”

“I’m not the boss of you, mom.”

“Well thank you for that, Einstein.”

Noah chuckled, and shifted his gaze below, closer to where her hand lay tangled inside Elliot’s steady one.

“Will I get your name?” Noah said, peering up at him through his long eyelashes.

“Is that what you want?”

“Yea, I… I guess I would like that.”

Elliot softly fisted some of the boy’s curls as he leaned over to kiss him on the forehead.

“Good kid, cuz you and I got big plans, just you and I and… the seven others of us.”

“Seven.” Noah’s eyes widened just a fraction. He was counting all of his new siblings, and Bernie, and his mother – and the sheer gravity of what this would mean for him going forward. He held so much excitement, Olivia noticed, and so little fear.

What had she been afraid of for so long, when her son had never feared anything at all?

“What about mommy’s name?”

“I haven’t decided yet..” Olivia started.

“Yes, she will.” Elliot finished, grinning wildly. “She will have my name.”

Slapping him onto the shoulder, Olivia just rolled her eyes.

They don’t talk about the fact that she just said yes, or that Noah said yes for her. But it’s still there, lingering in between the air that fuses them tightly, between the stolen glances that win, and the time they never seem to lose, not anymore.

The adult kids lay claim to her bedroom with their things strewn all over the place and Bernie brings her some flowers and Eli finishes the jigsaw puzzle in the corner of the room.

She signs the discharge papers two days later.

Olivia and Elliot don’t talk about marriage, because as far as anything goes, there is nothing much to talk about. They’re getting married and that’s just that.

****

The accident months ago left a stinging elephant in the rooms belonging to his family, now her family, because she’d essentially forgotten everything. She forgot their aging faces, expanded voices. The way their father loved her fiercely even in their presence. More than anything, she forgot that their mother was dead, and they’d all served her some decency, for some reason, by not bringing it up, because bringing it up would only cause a riot inside of Elliot’s already raging chest, and bringing it up would hurt her and… they loved her. They never wanted to hurt her.

They were her family now.

“Whata you thinking about?” Elliot urged.

They were standing in the middle of his empty apartment. The boys were in bed and everybody else had gone home. Elliot stood leaning against the countertop, a bottle of beer nestled in his granite hand. This is the first night of their life together, the first night without any more elephants in the room.

It is purely muscle memory that pulls her forward, that helps her up and urges her arms to encircle his middle until he is jammed between her and the counter.

Elliot takes a sip of his beer and licks his lips, studying her coolly underneath the dim light. His face softens and fills at the same time and it’s because they’ve been deprived of one another all day that this feels like coming home. She’s seen herself from an outsider’s perspective before, and maybe she believes his eyes when they tell her she is beautiful each and every time.

“Whata you thinking baby?” he repeats, his bottom lip shiny with beverage.

She doesn’t even blink pass the petname anymore.

“You’re mine, real or not real?”

“Was never anything less, Olivia.”

She believes it now, but she would never forget the version of herself who needed to deny this for too long. It was easier to love Elliot in the dark then in the light, at least that’s what she used tell herself. Leaning into the light meant risking herself to be flayed, meant knowing that at any moment he could just walk off with her skin.

Except, he never did. He gave her back parts of herself that she didn’t even know existed and forced the world to stop screaming so she could sleep. So here they were.

He presses soft possessive kisses against her jawline, and she can smell the malty caramel notes of his beer rubbing a light trail across her skin. His kisses stop at the pulse of her neck, they feel warmer than the sun.

It isn’t until seconds later when he drops the beer bottle onto the nearby stool that she realizes they’re having a moment. He takes her into his arms so completely that her toes dangle above the floor beneath her, and her curls are in his face, and her arms hang around his shoulders like a ragdoll.

It all comes back to her in pieces now.

How truly terrified he was to almost lose her, to lose this, lose any opportunity of making things right again and again and –

“I’m so fucking glad you’re here baby.”

She closes her eyes, steadies her breathing so that his will do the same. Fingers pressed at the back of his neck, she pulls his forehead against her own and floats.

“Me too. So much.”

“Live with me.”

His grip tightens on her and it takes everything out of Olivia not to break out into a smile. She reaches for his beer bottle and tilts her neck back a little higher as a generous sip escapes her mouth, exposing her bare throat, eyes never leaving his own. Its seductive in a forgotten sort of way, it’s Olivia being Olivia again.

He’s missed this person, he missed her, her who moved without headaches and took possession of all things Elliot. His children, they’re hers now, his mother, hers. She can tell by the way he smiles softly, admirably, and folds his arms around his chest that he knows he has more to give her.

“Live with me, fuck my life up, I don’t care, just be mine.”.

“You sure know how to win a woman over.”  Noting the lines that filled his forehead, she half groaned, half laughed.

Fine. But only if you build me more closet space.”

The lines softened.

“I didn’t realize our relationship was dependent on an army of coats that consume half my life already.”

“Leave my coats out of this.” She wiggled her finger in his direction, “They did nothing to you.”

He shook his head, smiling.

“Noah needs a bedroom too. He can’t just bunk out with Eli, you know.”

“About Noah..”

His voice had lowered significantly just in that moment alone, and she knew that voice, loved that voice. “Elliot. I know.”

“I just wanna start talking about it one day.”

“Adoption is a big decision.”

“I’m ready Liv. I was ready before I even met him.”

 “I know..” her voice lowered too, and her heart swelled for the way he was, the way he would always be. “We’ll talk about it.” she promised.

He nodded absentmindedly thumbing her jaw softly. He held it like she was something to break, but he would never break her again, and she knew this now, just like she knew that all things in Elliot Stabler’s hands somehow appeared breakable. But he’d proven to be a man who only wanted to fix, to heal, he’d known longer than herself the nature of it, of promising to shield others, to protect, be honorable.

“I want you to take me back to the beach every year, for the summer.” She swung another sip of beer and laughed at the way the dim light illuminated his dimples.

“Is that a yes?” she asked.

“Yea,” He said, then shook his head carefully, still smiling. “I ask you for the absolute world and yet all you ask in return is that I build two rooms and take you to the beach.”

“What can I say? I’m an easy woman.”

“Now there’s a lie I don’t hear often.” He took a swig beer, smirking. “My turn?

“Go on.” She nodded.

“You hyphenate your name.”

She rolled her eyes, “Dear lord.”

“Nah Liv. This can’t even be up for debate. I want you as my wife, I want my name inside of you.”

She smirked. “It’s not enough that you’re inside of me every night?”

“Olivia com’on.”

“Chill out. You just want the whole fucking world to know I’m yours, Elliot.”

“Damn right I do. What’s wrong with that?”

He folded his arms tightly around his chest and his biceps bulged out involuntarily in front of her. Damn him, she thought, even in playful banter it was distracting.

She looked back up into his eyes. The irony was that he’d never asked her for anything until now, never expected her to lose her name in favor of his pride. Only wanted her to carve his initials around her own.

Olivia closed the distance between them and untangled the heavy ropes of his arms so that they corralled her in his embrace. He was like home, just the thought coming back to him was warm.

“Fine.” She murmured, “I’ll hyphenate your name to my office door so that everybody knows who I sleep with at night.”

He sighs a little smile, like she has cracked him open, exposed his bare broken truth just by uttering those few simple truths. He’s been waiting for any other soul to murmur those words aloud. This was the parallel universe he could only imagine on a broken balcony in Rome, and now it was real.

“Thanks.”

He masked the moment off with a quick peck to her lips, but the orbs inside of his eyes were still a little heavy, vulnerable.

“You got it.” she answered, distracted only by the way his hands filled her ass, pulling her closer.

“Second thing, you gotta tell me when shit is happenin for you.”

“Oh?”

“Yea. Like keeping that stuff from me even after we sought counselling, you can’t do that anymore Liv. You gotta talk to me.”

“I’m trying.”

“I know baby.”

She swallowed. “Anything else?”

“Yeah.” He licked his lips, fighting back a growing grin. “Sex at least once a week. No negotiation.”

Her eyebrows lifted.

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Stabler.”

“Have I let you down before?”

She thought about it for a second, thought about them in bed, or in the shower, on the sofa, or even on the floor in her bedroom, Olivia’s cheeks flushed a little.

“I guess not.”

He hummed in agreement, softly breathing over her lips. “You really do remember everything.”

“Yea I do.” She placed the palms of her hands on his biceps and rubbed them up and down, aching for more.  

She could feel his hands filling under the bulge of her ass more firmly now, his fingertips digging into the fabric of her jeans like a possession. They haven’t really touched at all since the beach house, which was only two days ago, which was an eternity ago, for them.

He breathed into her cheek, and she could almost hear his heartbeat underneath the silence, thrashing like a drum inside of her hand. “I didn’t expect the amnesia to bring out any good, but it did. It gave me you again..”

She sighed breathily. Gently moving the crown of her head just underneath his chin, she kissed the warm stone that guarded his heart, the one that wasn’t her own.

“All of you.” He muttered, “Even the parts you wished I couldn’t know.”

“You saved me more than once, you know.” She told him, “I wouldn’t be here without you.”

“Thas not true.”

“But it is. You make me eternally happy. You’re eternal to me.”

It isn’t the easiest thing for her to admit, not out loud, not with so much hope and unknown decorating parts of the sky that still belonged to the night. There’s so much to lose now, but so much more to gain, she remembers.

And she feels so at peace here. Her fears were his fears, and he wouldn’t let anything hurt her, she has to remind herself of this sometimes, he will kill before anything touches you. Kill.  She’s still so used to walking on the sidewalk alone that when he takes her hand, some days, it’s a shock to the system, but she’s rewiring her brain enough to be present with him, to have him.

“God, I love you.” He rasped, fingers coursing through her hair so that he frames the back of her skull, her forehead drifts into his lips. She is constantly floating.

He smells like home.

* * * 

6 months later

On their way to the beach house, she glances at his profile illuminated by the artificial glow of highway lights and passing cars. Light and shadows travel across his face like fleeting thoughts. They’re on the crest of spring and her body longs for a night alone with her husband.

They got married today, at the courthouse. They got married.

He catches her gaze from across the console and together they find strength in not having to utter a single word. They read each other’s thoughts, they always have, but it’s solidified since the days he built an extra closet and carved a loving home and made sure her son had everything a boy could ever want.

There’s solace in the silence these days; their life together radiates a sense of peace that they never managed to find at work. Nothing’s buzzing, or dizzy, or blaring out in the backload of an existence neither seem fond of. It’s all smooth and warm at home, rocking a quiet kind of clarity that neither were ever used to until now.

Elliot raises her hand to meet his lips.

The diamond ring on her finger flashes briefly under the indulging light. Its big and bold and says loud things about her when studied by others in passing. Fin laughs every time the evening sun pools into her office at sunset, leading the ring to dot perfect rainbow colors across her pretty face.

“Stabler’s shrine.” Fin called it once.

She calls it foolish, yet loves the way it narrates for a man who is never quiet about anything these days, much less to do with her.

“Okay?” he murmurs, interrupting her train of thought, his eyes lace between Olivia’s and the long road ahead. Her hand looks so small in his own, so equal, so safe. This is the beginning.

“Okay.” Liv nods, leaning over the console, she places a soft kiss to the corner of his lips.   The small sigh that escapes his mouth makes her ache everywhere, makes her think of ways to hear it again. Their sex life is… intense, its constant, and maddening, and deeply deeply passionate. Everything is slower now with age, and it takes longer to warm up, to come, to feel, but his body is a bottled furnace next to her own, she comes alive underneath him, and he likes that, he likes taking his time with her, likes watching her writhe below and above and against him. He doesn’t need to know half the things she does, doesn’t need to know that she’s never been more thrilled in bed than in this point in time, never felt more seen, and satisfied, whole, full.

“I can’t believe your somebody’s wife.” Elliot says, reaching a slight gap in the evening traffic. Even as he drives, he has the most satisfied grin on his lips, “You’re my wife.”

“Nobody else’s wife that’s for sure.”

“You’re my wife.”

“You said that.”

“All mine.”

“Would you quit it?”

Elliot laughs

And she grins, her heart opening and then softening at the sight of him. When you stumble into the love of your life, when you remember that you even have one, they don’t tell you that it’s the little things that fill your lungs with so much joy you almost forget who you are. Sometimes it’s when he drives, when they’re alone together in a car and the only home he must return to is hers.  

Despite the quiet clarity of this moment, there’s about a million little things she could say to him, still, where his voice would never bore her and their conversations would fill the gaps upon every road in this damn city.

Let’s get married again. Let’s get dinner. Let’s go to the beach. Let’s make love. Let’s never, ever forget, she thinks.

Instead, she settles for - “You’d do this with me a thousand more times, real or not real?”

Her hand slides further in just as he squeezes tightly, Elliot barely batters an eyelid.

“Real, very real.”

 

The End

* * *