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The Forgotten

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The sky was soft like cloth and birds ran over it in long loose threads. However breathtaking and cloudless and pretty, it made her feel lonely.

Sat in central park, Olivia watched as Noah darted around the concrete playground on his scooter, shouldering a sense of independency that has ostensibly, come from nowhere.  

She’s learning a lot about herself, lately.

She’s learned that memories define a human being almost as hard as the badge which defined hers.

She’s learned that she spent a lot of time away from her son these last two years. She left him with Amanda’s parents on Christmas and Elliot on her own goddamn birthday. She reserved Saturdays for the theatre but didn’t always follow through. She had him shuffled from one after-school activity to another, in lieu of being an inconsistent mother. Lastly, she forgot to attend a parent teacher conference or two and hired a school-tutor to replace a seat at the dining room table. The clues are hidden in Noah’s timetable because apparently, he has a timetable now.

Noah takes her hand as they walk through the park, blissfully unaware of her new journey to self-deprecation, he lacks an ability to shoulder a grudge. Already he was spouting off on subjects she knew no origin of.

“but it was so fun, also Connor’s mom is gonna let us play the game this weekend; its PG and she said she will supervise.”

“Who’s Connor again? And have I met his mom?”

Noah released a dramatic sigh while forced to repeat himself, again. “He’s my best friend, I told you that. And his mom is a cop too, that’s the only reason you let me hang out at his place. ‘s reason you let me hang at anyone’s place.”

Great. She was an absentee as well as a control freak. It was nice to know at least one thing hadn’t changed.

“So, can I go? To Connors place?”

“You don’t wanna hang out with your ol mom?”

Noah looked up at her, eyes squinting just a little at the protruding sunlight in view, and then his face fell, and she wondered if she was becoming Serena Benson.

“Baby I’m joking! Of course, you can go to your friend’s house. I’ll give his mom a call when we get back.”

He squeezed her hand tightly, “And you won’t forget right mom?”

She sighed loudly, “No. I won’t forget.”

***

Her head aches a little on the drive to Connor’s apartment. She hasn’t eaten anything since breakfast and there’s a displeased tune humming in the back of her neck. She’s failed at something as simple as doctor’s orders, eat something, drink plenty of water. In her mind she can see Elliot and his disappointment, laden underneath a pair of thinly detailed eyelashes.

She parks the new rental, Noah dashes outside to Connor’s place, and she slams her eyes shut at the last memory she has of a man in the garden.

I can’t do this anymore.

I need time.

Was any of it real?

The seven stages of grief have warped around her neck a great deal since then. She’s surpassed the stage of disbelief, her whole life was a disbelief, and a house of denial, and now she’s camped out in a state of anger, negotiation, and sorrow. Does she continue this path of destruction? Following a cold and bitter road that leads to nowhere but madness? Should she negotiate the contractual agreement concerning space and time, that of which she herself mapped and forged both of their signatures? Or perhaps her sorrow might be better prioritized with the litany of Lindstrom’s questions followed by the bottle of wine that always follows.

The door swings open to a tall man in a tailored looking suit and before she can get a word in, Noah introduces the two. “Hi Mr Taylor. You remember my mom, Olivia? You’ve met before but she was in a car accident and has no memories from the last two years. So, she doesn’t know who you are or who Connor is, or who she is, sometimes.”

Olivia barks out a laugh and so does Mr Taylor.

“Hi Noah. Connor’s upstairs. Would you like to come in, captain Benson?”

Noah brushes past, she steps through with her hands in her pockets, idly she can hear light footsteps clapping down a nearby staircase.

“Call me Olivia, please.”

“Peter, you said you knew Olivia, right?”

“Yes. We know each other well.” The stranger pulls up just as Olivia pivots toward the familiar voice.

“Stone?” she all but gaped.

“Hey Liv.” He flashed a wide grin.

Now this, she does remember.

***

It turns out that Connor’s father is a decent defence attorney, and his best friend is her former ADA, Peter Stone. When the introductions are made, and brief stories are told, and Olivia can’t stop staring at Peter’s face, which hasn’t changed at all, despite the ticking clock in her head, she feels at once relieved for finally having stumbled into someone familiar. Someone who barely knows what’s happened to her, someone who isn’t remotely fascinated by it.

“Do you wanna get something to eat?” his question slips out later in the dark. They’re standing outside his best friend’s apartment; he has his briefcase in hand and she her car keys. It’s been 2 and a half years since she last saw this man, she’s sure of it.

“You look like you could do with something to eat.” He adds.

I’m here for you. I want to be here for you.

She slams her eyes closed, desperate to override the noise she’s been unable to shake since Elliot’s apartment.

“Okay, sure.” She breathes.

***

The food does very little to quell the aching fix of a migraine looming in her shadows, but the company does.

Peter doesn’t ask about the accident, or before the accident, or what any of it means for her now, but he knows something went down, and he’s gentle about it in a way that doesn’t feel like hovering

“Do you wanna talk about it?” he asks, when she mentions she’s on paid suspension until life improves.

“Not really.”

The waiter arrives with her first and last glass of wine for the night. Peter’s third bottle of beer parks into his hands. Their glasses clink, fingers brush, his gaze locks with hers for a beat too long and the noise in her head dampens, only briefly. It was like this, sometimes. Her emotions were so heightened that she felt everything ten times their intensity. Physical sensations reintroduced themselves to her with a feeling of genuine novelty. Breezes felt new, the sound of birds in Central Park, food tasted good, as did wine, though she wasn’t eating a lot, and alcohol was just another enemy according to the neurologist, so there was that.  

Really, all she wanted to do was run, but whenever she stepped foot on a treadmill her head and her ankle pounded with unrelenting pain, so running on figurative clouds seemed the greater alternative.   

“Tell me, Peter. When was the last time we saw each other?”

He blinks, doesn’t even have to think about it. “The courthouse.”

“Great. I’d hoped so.” She relaxed.

“How do you mean?”

From this corner of the booth, she can see the dim light in the bar complimenting his hazelnut hair. “Ever since I woke up, people around me have been wonderful, truly, but they walk on eggshells. Every time I look into anyone’s eyes, it’s like they know something that I don’t, and they won’t tell me anything.”

“In fear of hurting you.” Peter adds.

“I’m not one to wallow in self-pity, but I know what it means to hurt, I mean really hurt. I’d appreciate it if people consulted with me first, before making any rash decisions upon my own protection.” 

“Yeah.” Peter knows.

She smiles. “That was not a dig at you, by the way.”

“No, but I’ll take it.”

Olivia plucks her chin into the palm of her hand, circling the rim of her glass and sensing his stoic gaze on her face the entire time.

“Will you forgive me?” his voice is teasing, but there’s an earnestness to it which crawls up her spine and eases the ache in her skull.

I’m sorry. Elliot is begging.

Go away, her head screams.  

She grips Peter’s hand, loosens it in fear of causing harm. “You’re forgiven.”

Their hands stay entwined; her lashes flutter to meet his gaze just as his thumb caresses her knuckles. The never-ending noise in her ears only a docile little hum at this point. Peter’s gaze drops to her bottom lip, stays there until she speaks again.

“I’m trying to get past something – somebody.”

“Like a breakup?”

Olivia fights a sigh, greedy for the version of herself that once found it easy to dislike Elliot Stabler. “Maybe. I don’t know. He… he meant a lot to me. Still means a lot to me. But a lot has happened since then, and I can’t remember any of the important pieces. I don’t even know if I want to. I just can’t look at him without thinking about the past, you know?”

“Yeah. I do, a little. I’m in the middle of a split, myself. It’s messy. You just want the best for them, but you know they aren’t doing any good for you, yet you still love em.”

“Yeah.” For once, someone understood and at last, someone wasn’t hiding things from her, or from themselves.

“God, this is the most thrilling conversation I’ve had in weeks. Years, really.”

“Really?”

“Really. Noah’s great to talk to but he has his own life now. My old self made sure of that.”

“You’re a great mom, Liv. Don’t let your mind convince you otherwise. You’re a great mom.” Her hand was still in his, his thumb rattling nervously at the intimacy. She sucked in a quiet breath, savouring the power she still managed to sway over men courageous enough to make a move. Even one as bare as a handhold.

“Can I ask you something?” she downs the rest of her wine.

“Of course.”

“It’s a game I like to play, real or not real. It helps with the memory thing.”

“Alright.”

“You enjoyed working at SVU, real or not real?”

“I-“ he laughed. “Not all that real. Sorry. I enjoyed working with you, though.”

She swallowed. “You had feelings for me. Real or not real?”

“I-“ His cheeks grow a soft pink colour and he grins, doesn’t look away. “Real.”

Her breath hitches in her throat. He had nothing to hide, and it felt as exhilarating as the first time. Like coming up for air after a long drawn-out bath, she felt like somebody she knew to be; an identity who just made more sense.

“I know who I am when I’m around you.” She tells him, “Do you wanna get outta here?”

“My hotel is a couple blocks ahead.”

“Perfect.”

***

The noise in her head gets worse as they stumble into his place, like a bee buzzing in her ear, it won’t fucking go away. Peter pours her coffee; she downs the cup in one go in the hope of duct taping the voices. It doesn’t work. But sex might. Peter moves away, and the buzzing bee gets louder, and she pulls him by the elbow. His sheepish smile makes her stomach do flip-flops; when was the last time a man looked at her like that? Like she was the most whole human-being on planet earth, and nothing, not even a neurologist, could convince him otherwise.

“I’m not looking for anything long term.” Peter whispers. Her shoulders lift with relief just as he stumbles into her mouth.

“Good.” she mumbles, “Cause I don’t do long term.”

His hands find her waist, hers in at the nape of his neck, and his lips taste good, like cotton candy on a fine afternoon but hen her fingers lace through the short follicles of his soft hair, her body jolts at the blow, like it knows something that she doesn’t, and it’s protesting on her behalf. Peter presses her between the kitchen counter. The kiss ignites, and the buzzing sound is still rather ripe in her left ear. His blazer lands on the floor just as she is shifted onto the bench, legs wrapped around his torso, her scarf goes flying across the room, coat sliding down lithe shoulders; she grips his neck harder to quell the pain in hers. They make out straight for 5 minutes, its easy and painless and she relishes in the sensation of being wanted without all her memories. Peter gives zero fucks about her torched car, only sees her alive and wanting.

He grinds his torso against the heat of her crotch, and she moans at the throb it sends between her thighs, his stiff erection, and the callousness of her actions. Even in memory she will find this moment unbearably impulsive, and she’s aware of this now, while it’s happening. His breath finds the skin of her shoulder, pressing a soft kiss there, and she glides her tongue along the vein in his neck, her mouth brushing his white collar. He smells good, foreign but good, and her nostrils flare in protest of that, too. Her arms hug his shoulders, and they’re not as big as her body remembers.

You’ve never done this with him before. A distant voice growls in the back of her mind, shame bubbling upon the surface for confusing him with another man.  

What the fuck are you doing Olivia? The voice grows louder.

“Olivia..” Peter breathes, pulling back his lips are smudged with her lipstick.

Wow, she thinks, this is really happening.  

“Hey,” he whispers, “I feel like you’re not here with me.”

Bzzzzz. Bzzz. Bzz. She slams the palm of her hand to her forehead, a futile attempt to defuse the ache, and the noise, it’s so loud in here.

“Liv?”  

“I’m sorry it’s my head, the migraines. Do you have any Nyquil?” Olivia keeps her eyes closed as he fishes through the kitchen cupboard. A crisp cold water bottle lands into her hand, followed by two pills, and she pops them back.

Peter’s arms rest languidly at her sides. “I don’t want to do this if you don’t.”

In all honesty, she wanted sex but not with him, and none of it makes much sense when she thinks about it, for the heat between her thighs is telling her otherwise, and the Olivia of yesteryear would be calling her a fool. She is hoisted at the crotch between a perfectly capable man, a man who she trusted with her naked body, a man who shared a history never too bold to abandon, if need be, and he had the decency to say goodbye once, Peter. He may not own a garden or have five children or dribble 23 years between them, and Jesus where was he 23 years ago? In law school? Kindergarten? She slammed her eyes shut at the visual.

“I’m sorry.” She murmured. “If you saw the inside of my head right now, you’d run for the hills.”

“I doubt that.”

She unclenched her fists and bowed her head against his chest. She felt his breaths even and their mutual rise glide down a mountain slope of what was sure to be a mistake. Head trauma or not.

“It was good while it lasted.” She hears him say, a shit eating grin on his lips that makes her want to laugh.  She hasn’t wanted to laugh in a while. They stand there for a while, an awkward hug turned into one friend comforting the other, until her phone rings in the pocket of her coat, loud enough to drown out the echoing folly. Peter steps away while she answers. It’s Fin on speaker as she frees her hands to find her heels. There’s a case that demands her touch, a wide fishing net cast between their department and a few other borrows across the city. Thankfully, the squad stand huddled in the safe confines of her second home, so she doesn’t have to go very far to find her badge again.

“I’m sorry.” She apologizes, Peter gives her a dismissive wave, his gaze knowing. She drops her phone next to his, lets him point her to the nearest bathroom. The door closes behind and she looks into a mirror that seems to surface all her secrets. Her hair tossed through shame and her mouth smudged with regret and she looks like a woman who’s just been fucked against the counter, even though she hasn’t. As she fixes herself up, she wonders if this is just the body wanting somebody else.

Her hands scout absentmindedly for her phone and clothes. This doesn’t have to be awkward; Peter explains, he values their friendship even after 3 years of mutual silence and a horny moment in his kitchen. It’s about the strangest encounter they’ve ever had, and he laughs at that. She brushes his hand on her way out and that is all.

With her forehead pressed to the steering wheel, Olivia laughs hysterically and then she sobs.

What a mess.

This is a mess.

She is a mess.

***

The clock droops an hour away from Saturday. Activity in the SVU squad room seems so loud it’s a total blur.

Fin finds her at the foyer, ushering her through a room that falls silent whenever she enters. She hates it there.

The place is drowning in a sea of detectives she doesn’t know and a face which overrides them all. Elliot stands at the centre of the squad room with an army behind him, his rugged arms folded for war, or to protect himself, either way she’d want to protect herself from her own callous hands too, if she had the chance.

“Captain, meet the team from organized crime, sergeant Bell is on leave, so Stabler’s filling in.”

She nods, looking to all of his students except him.

“Sorry to call you in so late,” Elliot treads in her direction, “But Fin insisted. Apparently, you’re pretty important around here.” He jokes.

She bristles an awkward smile.

There are files strewn across the main table and empty coffee cups in odd places. She wants to ask how often Elliot spends his time here when he envelops himself into her direct line of sight. His long athletic legs are complimented by casual jeans and a thin blue Henley shirt that brings out his beautiful eyes. It isn’t the first time she’s noticed, but he looks like a religious piece of art. So unused to seeing him at all, Olivia has to turn her body away just to save herself.

“You okay?” he whispers, a moment later when they catch a break. It’s been two weeks since the night she called it quits, but it feels like yesterday. His face as she exiled him into an early grave, the way she understood, implicitly, why he left her all alone in the shadows years ago. Some goodbyes weren’t meant to be said. Some letters weren’t meant to be written.

“Elliot..” she shakes her head, eyes cast downward.

He takes the hit, steps back. She’s doing this all wrong.

“I just – I’m sorry.” She says.

The space between his eyebrows crumple, “You got nothing to be sorry for. We’re just in a rut right now.”

Is that where they were, in a rut?

She swallows thickly. Unable to shake the memory of Peter Stone as she considered taking both their clothes off just an hour ago. She feels… as Noah would put it, not very nice. And that’s where she is.

“You were right, you know.” He whispers, just the two of them. “It’s been two weeks and I miss you like crazy but-”

“El..”

“No. You were right; we needed the space. We’ve been so wrapped up in each for weeks, I didn’t realize how suffocating it must’ve been for you, for me too.”

She blinked back the vale of tears that threatened to spill. God, she thought, who was this patient man and what had he done with her old partner?  

“You weren’t suffocating me, Elliot. You were breathing for me.”

Its gentle and true and his eyes pillow. For a moment she wants to lie there prolonging the intensity of this moment, for which she is sure that she will always remember, no matter how many more car accidents she gets herself into. She’d never forget the sensory quality of being here in this office, with this man, after a decade of forlorn silence, totally wrapped up in with one another.  

The moment slips delicately, and in slow motion, when Amanda knocks on her office door, interrupting the scene. Another detective much younger with straight black hair and pale-pale skin shuffles awkwardly beside her.

“What do we got?” Liv inspects.

“Jet found an address. I know its late, but I wouldn’t mind taking backup.”

“We got you.” Elliot assures her.

“Great. Hey Liv, I forgot to ask, is your phone off? I was tryna reach you.”

Confusion shrouds her face as her hand reaches for the back pocket of her jeans. Several missed calls from names she doesn’t recognise and a pretty wallpaper of London bridge stare right back at her.

The bee starts buzzing in her ear again.

Another knock at the door hurls, and then Peter Stone – “Sorry to interrupt.”  

Her head whips fast like gunfire.

“Stone?” Amanda’s mouth falls open.

“Rollins, hey.” His face is pink again, like he’s just run up ten flights of stairs and can’t wait to run back down.

“What are you doing here?” Amanda says.

“Dude, I didn’t know you were back!” Fin approaches, patting him on the back.

This is a mess. An absolute fucking mess. The sky is pitch black and Peter has a smidge of her lipstick on his collar and she can feel Elliot’s gaze drilling into the back of her skull.

“Uh.. I’m not back – “

“Where have you been?”

“Europe.” He was looking at her now. “Just came back for personal business.”

The European continent has taken so much from her and everybody in this room knows it, save for Peter himself.

Clearing her throat, Olivia absently rubs the itch at the back of her neck. She’s not a coward, so she steps forward and without a single word, they exchange devices with knowing eyes crawling over the glass just shattered. The silence afterward reminds her of the silence in every room she hates.

“Thanks Peter.” Liv mumbles

“Hm-hm.”

“Didn’t realize you two were still so chummy.” Fin observes, and she gives him a look.

“Chummy? What are you, British?” she’s being evasive, and they all know it.

Peter looks to their audience. “We were just..”

“Catching up -”

“Bumped into one another -”

They answer at the same time, caught dead in a lie.

“Over dinner –“

“Noah – “

She shakes her head, decidedly giving up. “It’s a long story.”

The heat of familiar body towers next to her shoulder.

“Hi there. Elliot Stabler.”

“Peter Stone. Former ADA.”

“Ah.”

They shake hands, tension leaves her and ropes itself around Elliot’s fists. Elliot inspects him closely this time, and Olivia hastily decides she must put an end to it.

“Thanks again.” she repeats, non-discrete. Peter’s gaze falls onto the liminal space between herself and Elliot, he takes the hint.

“No worries. Nice to see you all.” He nods in her direction, “Take care, Liv. No more car accidents, okay?”

“I’ll try my best.” She chuckles, tensely. “Bye.”

They watch him leave.

Her office empties quickly, leaving the two of them alone. Elliot’s face is absent from any of the 7 stages belonging to grief, save for disappointment. It swells through him like a dangerous riptide, and it is worse, somehow. She’d expected him to ripple disbelief, or anger, but instead his arms were folded to block the tide from pulling him out to sea and he was looking at her, this time, like she was the stranger.  

“Wow.” Is all he says.

***

Elliot ambles down the corridor leading to the elevator, he slams the button once, twice, again and again until it opens, two rookies pass by and then it’s just the two of them.

“Nothing happened.” Her voice sounds cold and detached but her heart was thumping in dire panic. It seemed to be that she had dug her own grave and lay down in it and she’d never been more aware of this, until now.

“Don’t.” he growls.

“Where are you going?”

Elliot’s face is motionless as he stares at her, and then his eyes darken and he laughs, really laughs, but it’s filled with blackness. “You think I’m gonna go out and what, hurt him?”

“What – No? I know who you are, Elliot.” And he’s not a fool, or a murderer.  

“And who am I?”

A man who left.

A man who stayed.

She’s unsure as to whether there's a beginning or an end to either.

He rubs his temple when he realizes she has no words, no memories, just a man with a (dead) wife and children and a heart the same exact shape hers, its tender mate thrashing her insides.

Elliot pushes for ground zero, slipping away. Steps into the lift, she aims to slip away with him.

“Space, Olivia.”

“You’re hurt, I can see that but..”

“Don’t.” he warns.

“..nothing happened.”

He’s as still as a sculpture, and his eyes strip her down with ages on the job and 2 years ahead and really, she thinks, she might as well be the sculpture if this interrogation speaks for anything.

Elliot moves toward her, and her back hits the metal doors. She gives him an expression of caution, red stop signs thrashing in her eyes as his thumbs cradle her cheekbones gently, softly; an indication of his vast ecstatic depth to comfort her continuously, without any real gain in it all.

He won’t look her in the eye though, instead he looks to places somewhat irrelevant until now; her forehead, her lips, sensitive skin on her neck, her cleavage, the pristine cut of her denim jeans, it felt like he was undressing her all in the absence of touch.

Even under his total invasion, which would normally entice Olivia into slapping him crisscross and convincing them both to get their fucking shit together, for she wasn’t for anyone to undress, a greater part of herself knew this to be untrue and kept still. Her internal dilemma unable to make up for the good he could bring her, if she let him hold her just this once.

In that moment, Olivia’s headache had vanished completely, the buzzing bee wandered away and she felt whole, really fucking whole for the first time in years... no, weeks really. Did he make her feel this when they were together, or did he drive her crazy like he always had? Was this the reason they supposedly had so much sex? Fucking the tension into oblivion seemed like an easy prophecy for them to fulfil if given the chance. They were never so great with words, anyway.

Elliot’s lips find her forehead in that moment, and she closes her eyes at the intimacy, her body revealing something to which her stubborn head refuses to see. This is the safest place to be, and she loves it, there.

Elliot’s nose combs deep into the ashes of her hair and she thinks, with swelling music playing in the background, that maybe he’s about to kiss –

“I can smell him on you, Olivia.”

The growl in his throat makes her head swim.

He yanks himself away, hands screaming when she sees them.

The elevator swings open, Elliot plucks her to the side like a gentle ornament on timeout.

“We’ll talk another time.” He rumbles, “I jusss can’t look at you right now.”

And then he walks away, again, leaving her alone and speechless.