A wave of doctors kept asking her questions in voices that were too loud, too aggressive, as if she was asleep, even though she was looking straight through them. Did she remember anything of the car accident? Did she remember the ambulance? Did she know what day of the week it was? Did she know who she was? Ridiculous. Of course she fucking did.
“April twenty-twenty. Shouldn’t you be wearing a mask or something?”
A frazzled looking doctor who seemed to be fresh out of kindergarten peered down at her through glasses, and he looked at her as if she were the child. For the first time in a very long time, Olivia felt lost and small. “Are you sure about that?” he had asked.
“The date or the mask?”
The doctor seemed royally dismayed at this point, and it shut her up for good. He had to ask her again just to get an answer.
“It’s April twenty-twenty. My name is Olivia Margaret Benson. I was born 7th of February 1968. New York is currently in a state of emergency, and unless I went to sleep and woke up in a better universe than the last, Trump is president here. Did I miss anything?”
The doctor shook his head, looked up at his superior who took over from there.
The rest of it became a blur, between the fireball of questions, the influx of physicians, a brain surgeon, and the boy who lurked in the shadows, all were there to poke and prod like she was a rare, delicate little organism in a lab. The last thing she remembered was falling back asleep, sensing the quiet lull of the ocean behind.
When she wakes again, she feels like she’s stepped into a completely different world. The room is dimly lit and warm from the remnants of a soft sunset. Nobody was waiting at her bedside this time, but she could hear the voices outside the hospital room, and they weren’t very nice.
“What do you mean she can’t remember anything?”
“It’s just temporary right? How bad is it?”
“Two years.” The doctor announced, convinced. “Her last memory was driving to pick her son up from school.”
“Yeah. And what?”
“In April, two years ago”
No, she thought, no no no.
The other man, with a voice too familiar for the good of her ears, stayed eerily quiet.
“When is she gonna get out of it? Please doc, this doesn’t make any fucking sense. I need her back. All of her.”
“I’m sorry. I’m afraid I just don’t have any definitive answers for you, detective Stabler.”
Her eyes shot up to the sky, and without thought, she jumped up from the hospital bed in search of something real, a cellphone, a call button, a bottle of wine, anything that might make this noise less traumatic. Instead, a plastic jug of water went tumbling to the ground, making a whole lotta racket that warranted her unfit for that, too.
The voices outside the room stopped moving at once, and then a tall hulking shadow appeared at the doorway, and she felt her breath catch in her throat.
If she had any ounce of fear left in her bones, she might’ve jumped for real this time, she might’ve screamed for help, or yelped for the nurse, someone less surreal, but she had experienced all there was to name in the dark. She felt brave just staring at him, Elliot, because he was here, in her doorway, with a honey look of love in his aged eyes as they met hers, for the first time in eternity.
She just sat there frozen in time, fearless and bold, absorbing every crevice and cavity in his carved-out body, his ferric shoulders, chest made of hot iron gold, and a face like none other, it was shocking to see him, breathe him, hate him and love him even, after spending too long a time in exile. Yet it wasn’t terrifying, like how she expected it to be, needed it to be. Instead, every cell in her living body relaxed at his mere presence, and for the life of her, she couldn’t figure out why.
“Liv.” He said, inching closer.
She blinked once and tensed as he stopped at her bedside, looking down at her like she held the moon and all the stars. Jesus, she thought, where were they?
“Baby how are you feeling?”
Her eyes widened at the pet-name. His plummeted.
“Liv… answer me.”
She thought of nothing else but –
“What are you doing here Elliot?”
“You know my name.” he expelled, relieved.
“Am I not supposed to?”
He reached his hand out to her, and she just stared at it. What was she to do with it? Hold him?
“What year is it Liv?”
“What year is it?” he demanded, voice hoarse and face pale, he looked like he was about to pass out.
“2020.” She repeated, agitated, so tired of this game.
“Jesus.” He collapsed on the chair.
She studied him closely. With eight years between them and nothing in common but two matching heartbeats, she felt a natural right to examine the changes, and admittedly, she sort of liked what she saw.
A long eerie minute passed between them when he looked up from his hands, hunched over his knees and ready to puke – “You remember nothing, do you?”
“The past few months. The life we have together.”
The life they – “What?”
He reached out to stroke her hand, and she flinched, like his touch physically repulsed her, disgusted her. Elliot shuddered and let go. He looked like he wanted to scream.
“You must feel so overwhelmed right now. I’m so sorry.”
“Elliot,” she breathed, mouth narrowing into a thin line. “Why are you here?”
He shook his head, numb. She wasn’t the only one, then.
“Answer me.” She demanded. “Where have you been? What is going on?”
“I’ll explain it all in a minute, okay? I just need to make a few phone-calls. I need you to trust me.”
She felt her nails crawl into the bedsheets. “Trust you? Why the fuck would I trust you?” None of this was making any sense. “I need to see my son. Where’s Fin, Amanda?”
Where were her people when she needed them? She thought.
“Noah’s safe. He’s with Maureen.” He was watching her closely, petrified to death.
This was all a sick fucking joke.
“Maureen? What is he doing with Maureen?” She had nothing against his kids, but she hadn’t heard from any of them in a solid decade, and she would remember if she ever came across the girl – woman – who’s hair she used to plat. She’d remember if she ever let Elliot Stabler’s firstborn meet her own. Yes, she thought, that would be a day to bookmark.
“Liv please.” Elliot begged. “Just relax. I’ll go get the doctor. He’ll explain everything.”
“I don’t need the doctor. I need my son. I need Fin, somebody..” Anybody but him.
“Okay okay.” He held his hands up like she had him at gunpoint, and eventually pulled his phone out when she freed him.
“Look here. I’m calling Fin now, Amanda too, alright? They’ll explain everything. I promise. It’s gonna be okay Liv.”
She looked at him incredulously.
Nothing about this was okay. Nothing at all.
Elliot pressed his phone against his ear, his other raised to wipe the agony off his forehead. She felt like she had hurt him, somehow, by not being the woman he wanted her to be, but he was forgetting, she thought, he was forgetting everything.
Including that little flame burning in the corner of the room; he was the one to hurt her first.
Fin has less hair than the last time she saw him, which in Olivia’s world, was only two days ago, but according to the doctors and according to Fin himself; it’s been two years.
This is her life now. Memories and feelings captured lost in filaments of eight forgotten seasons. She feels paralyzed. Missing.
Fin helps her stand and move to sit in a different corner of the room. Her ankle feels stiff, but that’s the least of her concerns. Elliot hovers, desperate to touch her, to sooth her, but knowing his limits.
“How are you feeling, Liv?” Elliot asks. She just wants him to shut up.
“Well,” Fin clears his throat, her silence too unbearable. “You look good, Liv. Moving fast. Talking, all that jaz. I’m glad.” Fin releases her hand and lets her stand alone at the window. The freedom he gives eases her anxiety, just a little. The image of Elliot standing mere feet away from her is still blanketed by utter confusion and paralleling disbelief.
“I’m fine.” She waves her hand, but her head is pounding.
“Remember anything now?”
“It’s only been a few minutes, Fin. Nothing’s changed.”
He offers a weak smile, Elliot in the corner, simply sinks.
“Can I get you anything? Water? Something to eat?” Fin asked.
She studied him, her most loyal guard; longest living friend.
“A new brain?”
“Nothin wrong with the brain you have. It’s just missing a few pieces s’all.” Elliot said softly, he sounded so sure of himself.
“Yea. You’ll find em.” Fin agreed.
That was her life now. Missing pieces.
“And what if I don’t?”
The men in the room were quiet again.
“It’s been a rough year Liv.” Fin shared, eventually. “You’ll get through it. You always do.”
What the fuck was that supposed to mean?
She closed her eyes and tried to recollect the last fractured pieces she did remember. Covid. Simon. Ed, not in that order. It was all terribly foggy, but still there, nonetheless. Shit, she thought, was any of it real? Or was it all a rotten dream?
“Fin..” Olivia whispered cautiously. El was in the room, but El had been a ghost up until tonight, so it didn’t matter.
“Simon. Did he really… or was that a nightmare?”
“It was real Liv. I’m sorry.”
She blinked back her tears and scrunched her fists. “And Ed? Is he..” she couldn’t even say it.
Fin shifted on his feet. The room suddenly fell cold and dreary, like she had initiated a tidal wave and failed to warn Elliot, the only other man who really mattered, like Tucker did, like Tucker didn’t.
Everything was a great blur except for Fin who held her fate now, her opportunity for second chances. Ed was her second chance at love again. If Elliot had Kathy, and Elliot had his kids, and he was somehow in her life again, this meant she not only let him inside, but she’d supposedly welcomed his family back into her arms too. This meant she had to watch him live out a life with a woman who wasn’t herself. And fuck that, she thought. Fuck that.
But Fin let her heart down, gradually. “That was real. I’m sorry.”
She gulped loudly and ignored the way Elliot dropped his head to the ground, like her reaction pained him. She didn’t want to think about what that meant, or what led him here in the first place, back in the territory of quiet jealousy, different from the arrogant son of a bitch she used to love. There, nonetheless.
He was here, and she wasn’t, and what a change that was, she thought.
Shifting to face the windowsill, she felt a tear scroll down her cheek as she imagined all the different ways to turn away, to run from this room, this forgotten key they called hers. It was easier to ignore destruction rather than live in it. She felt that now.
“What happened to me?” she heard herself say.
Nothing, she thought, because she couldn’t remember a damn thing.
“It’s gunna be okay, Liv.” Elliot told her softly, so that she couldn’t lose him.
She wanted to believe him, she did, she just didn’t know how.
The nurse with pink scrubs offers to help her shower, and she politely declines. Olivia might’ve had a head concussion, but she wasn’t completely useless. Elliot protested of course, but he needn’t any say. When she closed the door, she heard the muffled sound of his rough voice mingling with the nurse just outside, and then a knock came, and the nurse announced that she’d be right there, just in case Olivia needed anything.
It was sweet and kind and had Elliot’s fingerprints all over it.
The jeans she slips into are comfy, too comfy. She’s supposedly lost weight, of course she has. Nobody has eaten anything save for their own damn nails, and she can’t even remember the taste of food anymore. That’s new.
There are cuts on her elbows from the crash, some of which helped shield her face when her body dove straight through the glass windshield. It’s a lot to process, but she’s so used to bandages these days.
Her hair is longer, softer, this is new too. Tiny lines of wisdom have made a home in a few different dips on her face. Though, she looks remarkably the same, beautiful, people would tell her, but she doesn’t care. All she sees is a soul who has to face the loss of a few seasons.
When she steps back inside, Elliot stops pacing the floor, and the nurse visibly calms. “Let’s get you back into bed, love.”
The woman is maternal and lovely and reminds her of all that is good in this world. Olivia smiles gratefully, thinking of her own kid. Her own world. She crosses her legs on the bed like a child, leaning against the folded bedframe.
“I really needa see Noah.” She doesn’t know how Elliot knows her kid, but she hasn’t the luxury of mind anymore.
From across the room Elliot nods, “They’re already on their way.”
He moves again, inching closer to the bed, stopping when he isn’t sure.
“I’m not going to bite Elliot. It’s fine. You can sit.”
She can’t explain it, barely understands it in the least, but her entire body soothes like lavender when he chooses to sit on the bed. His palms stay on his knees, but she can tell from the itch in her own traitorous fingers, that he longs to touch her. And she aches to feel him.
“Before they get here, there’s a few things we need to discuss. About me. Things that have happened to me – to us.”
“Do you think you’re ready for that?” he’s prods, gently.
Their eyes meet, more intimately than ever before. Too much time had passed since he last looked at her, it took her absolute breath away.
“Are you real?” Olivia said.
Without conscience, she raised her hand to touch his rough stubble, defined jaw, hard skin. He was scorchingly hot and she intricately cold. His warmth harnessed itself around her fingers and travelled all the way through her veins, melting her cold spine. She’d never felt more safe than now, back in his hold, in the arms of a paramnesia she oddly craved.
“What?” he whispered, but he heard her, and he closed his eyes, leaning further into the palm of her hand like his very life depended on it.
She’s never noticed his eyelashes this way before, she never had a chance to, but they were so thick, so light, like the color of the sun, and so pretty, she thought, they tangled a bit with their neighbors.
“You are real.”
She felt amazed. Maybe it was the drugs, maybe it was Olivia the second, but the urge to spit honesty felt frightfully normal here.
“Yea Liv.” He expelled a breath. “And you’re real too, and I know the rest of you is still in there, somewhere, fighting to come back to me.”
She smiled tenderly, fragility whispering the tenderness away. It sounded so romantic and full of false hope.
“You keep saying that as if I am yours, Elliot. But I’m not. I’ve never been yours and I never will be.”
He curses quietly, closing his eyes. He shifts to hold his face in his hands like she’s burned his eyes, and she focuses on the movement of his long rugged back hunching over in pain. She hates herself for hurting him, she really fucking does, but it’s all so true.
“Olivia..” he started.
At the doorway stood her precious little boy who wasn’t so little anymore. Her heart felt like it was genuinely going to explode just looking at him, just seeing him again. A pretty blonde woman and a dark-haired teen stood blurrily behind him, but all she could see was Noah's face. The need to hold him, to latch onto him felt overpowering. Like she might just scream if he lingers too long away from her.
“My love.” she opened her arms.
He didn’t move.
She realized then that he was holding the hand of the blonde woman she didn’t know, and he looked up at the stranger for comfort, and she squeezed his shoulder lovingly, the same shoulder Olivia herself had raised, gently nudging him forward. It was a new feeling, but Olivia felt possessively jealous, and overwhelmingly concerned.
“It’s okay.” The woman told her son, in a voice that felt hauntingly familiar.
“Maureen?” Liv gaped.
The woman stepped forward timidly, her eyes meeting her fathers for a long, knowing second.
Olivia blinked; this was all so disorienting. Why was her son joined to the hip of a woman he didn’t even know? Why was he with them at all?
Suddenly with one knee to the ground, it took all her attention as Elliot began to speak in a voice so soft, so gentle, like he and Noah were the best of friends, the only two in the room.
“Hey buddy. You okay?”
Noah nodded, blue eyes darting over his shoulder.
“Did she forget me too?” his lip quivered.
Olivia felt her chest sink.
“No way.” Elliot brushed his curls, fixing him. “She’ll never forget you. Go and give her a hug. She really missed you, you know.”
“What if I hurt her?”
“You won’t. Just be gentle, like how we talked about. Remember?”
Noah nodded, bravely stepping around Elliot to face his mother. Speechless, Olivia just stared. The way he talked to her son, loved him even, threw her off balance. If it weren’t for damaged fences, she would’ve been convinced that Elliot had been here, in her life, all along.
“Baby come here.” She heard herself begging.
He didn’t have to be told twice. Noah sprinted toward her, scrambling onto the bed and took her straight into his arms. Elliot laughed, and she felt the perish of a dozen different anxieties tumble away. She breathed Noah in like renewed oxygen, filling her fingers with his curls and her lungs with his sheer existence. He smelled like homemade baking and shampoo that she's never used before. More importantly he smelled like love, like he was loved, and it wasn’t her perfume.
“I missed you momma.”
He was heavier than she last remembered, and he’d grown two new feet, but he still called her momma, which was something.
God, what else had she missed?
“Let me look at you.” She blinked away her tears, cradling his kind face. The loss of chubby cheeks to squish knocked the rest of her power away.
“When did you get so big huh? You look like the incredible hulk.”
“I do not.” He giggled.
“That’s true. You’re much better looking.”
“Come on guys.” Elliot said, the other two stood awkwardly in the corner. “Let’s give em a little privacy.”
“Wait,” Olivia interrupted, eyes landing on the blurry teen in the back and his sister. She’d only enough gas in the tank to acknowledge the more familiar one.
“Maureen sweetie, how are you? It’s been so long.”
With Noah cradled against her chest, she felt her spirits climb as his fingers tangled with the ends of her hair. For once, she felt like Olivia again.
“Sit.” She patted the edge of the bed. Maureen shuffled closer.
“Better now. You had us all a little worried.”
“Oh.” She didn’t realize how important her life was to them.
“I don’t know what’s going on yet but thank you for bringing Noah by. I appreciate it. He seems to really like you.”
Maureen was silent for a moment, then smiled gently down at him. “He’s a real good kid. Makes mine look like little devils.” She teased.
Liv’s mouth widened. “You have kids?”
Elliot cleared his throat, Maureen just stared. “Hm-hmm. Twin boys.”
She didn’t seem so enthused, Olivia thought, and one could only guess why.
“I’ve met them already, haven’t I?”
“Yea you have.” Maureen giggled. “They really like you.” She seemed so sad, Olivia thought, and so different from the young girl she remembered.
“You’re so beautiful. You look exactly like your mother.”
Maureen’s smile slowly faded.
Before Olivia could foresee a taped reckoning, she asked aloud - “How is she?”
Noah shifted in her arms, glancing up at Olivia with eyes sent down by Serena Benson herself.
“Mom. That’s not very nice.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Liv..” she heard Elliot caution, but she couldn’t escape the look on her son’s face.
“Their mommy went to heaven, remember?”
No, she thought.
She did not remember that.