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The Forgotten

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It was mid-afternoon the next day when it was time again, time to return to the hospital.

Maureen had come to the beach house to collect Eli and Noah, just like she had done once before, and Olivia had squeezed the life out of her son, praying, silently, that it wouldn’t be their last.

Elliot packed their bags into the car and found her standing alone on the balcony of their bedroom. The sky was beginning to soften into a lighter shade of blue and the highlights of her hair danced underneath the rays of the sun.

She looked resilient and prepared. He felt petrified and shaken.

Still, it was important to him that she needn’t feel his anxiety, that she not carry that burden too. He hadn’t slept much, not after the letters, not after the press of her body against his, and certainly not after as she rode him with abandon. He’d carried her to the bedroom after they each sought release, and it felt stupid, but he watched her sleep for too long a time, watched her breathe, watched her move in the night, so petrified and afraid that it could be their last.

It could be their last.

But they still had today, he reminded himself, and he had her letters, and no matter what happened she was going to find her way back to him.

She was.

***

Olivia felt Elliot step up from behind her, sinking his arms around her waist as she held onto the railing. He was her anchor amongst the wreckage, bound by unbreakable chains. He was always something solid for Olivia to hold onto whenever she longed to slip, the one to keep her here. Her heart was leaping against her ribs like a frantic bird, and shaking like a leaf at what was to come. But when he leaned into her skin, her heart began to calm down again, perhaps it knew something she didn't, perhaps it was determined to fulfil a lifetime of beats with him, before the end. 

His stubble brushed against the pocket in her shoulder, breath warm against her ear. “It’s time to go now, my love.”

Olivia inhaled deeply and scuffed the knotted veins in hands until they made sense in her own.

“Are you scared?” 

She was. But being with him always managed to silence the voices in her head. “Maybe not as much as I should be.”

He pulled her closer against his chest so that the back of her head tumbled into the crook of his shoulder, and he was tall enough to lean down and plant a possessive kiss to the corner of her lips. She felt his hands roam her hips, and sighed underneath his touch. They swayed just a little on the spot, but the move wasn’t sexual, or driven with motive. It was just them.

“I’m so proud of you.” Elliot rumbled aloud, his heavy arms now holding her firmly around the neck, her back pressed against his chest. His hold would never be a prison, only ever a safe home. 

She pressed a gentle kiss to the skin on his arm. “I’m really glad you came back.”

He sighed, “It should’ve been sooner.”

“You’re here now.”

“And not going anywhere, Liv.”

She nodded absentmindedly, and felt a little foggy, like she was floating and he was holding her up for air. The surgery was a few hours away, but it felt like she was already there.

Olivia looked over the shining sea in that moment and felt closer to it all, closer than ever before, closer to the heart of it all.

***

The general anesthetic feels like a thin sheet blanketing her entire body as it rests, and the last person she sees is Elliot standing above her. The surgeon allowed him inside for just this part of the night, because Olivia demanded so, and because Elliot’s fists would’ve stumbled into a drywall had he been anywhere else.

“I’m right here.”

He’s close, face covered in a surgical mask that fails to conceal the silent fear in his eyes.

“I got you Liv.”

I love you. She thought, looking up at him through flickering eyelashes.

I love you so much.

She closed her eyes, allowing the winds to take her back again.

***

She’s floating at sea when she wakes again, the sun is bright in the corner of her eye, the sky filled with a soft laminated blue.

Olivia doesn’t know why she is here. Everything is blurry until everything isn’t anymore, until the rolling rug beneath her has suddenly disappeared and she’s plunged into a forest of ruin.

She’s come to collect her things.

The sky is unbelievably dark and the night is cold, there are two Olivia’s in this universe. She can see herself walking towards the flutelike ashes of a broken crime scene, but only from a distance. She’s invisible to the moving Olivia, the other Olivia, and there’s a part of her that knows innately -- this isn’t real.

This is the past.

She watches from a silent distance as the other half of her soul calls out for her. Its the first time in ten long years she recognizes the sound of her own voice again.

He says too much and too little in that moment. Olivia doesn’t say enough.

When the damage is done and Kathy is wheeled away, Olivia turns to speak to a uni. Elliot cannot take his eyes off her.

She’s mad as fuck at him for the rest of the week, those brown eyes she barely recognises speak not of lost longing but of hurt, she is hurting, but his? They seem trapped in a warped world view where Olivia is at the center of everything, and neither of them seem to know it. Olivia is justice, freedom, belonging.

Olivia is the reason he chooses to see another day.

But Olivia is proud with the boldness of a thousand lions, she knows this, and Elliot is a grieving widow out of touch with reality, and even in the snow she still chooses to keep her son, her entire world, hidden from him.

It’s another week or two when she begins to hear the words, begins to feel them smeared across the cracks of her windscreen.

Awkwardness gradually climbs as Elliot and Olivia sit across from one another, inside an unmoving vehicle different from their history. Daylight is forming outside, light rain falls.

Liv, you mean the world to me. Elliot croaks. 

It isn’t supposed to feel as meaningful as it does, but all she knows is that it is. It is very meaningful. 

Despite this, he seems to be slipping out of his own fingers and she can do nothing but observe, in either side of the scene. She doesn’t quite know who he is anymore, does she?

The scene dissolves into a hotel room that smells of ground coffee and grieving children. Kathleen is shaking and Elliot has so many fresh scars on his face, it tears her heart apart.

Elliot, tell us what you need. The other Liv says.

I love you.

The room changes again; spins and spins in the cobweb of her brain until Olivia is alone with him on new ground.

He takes light sips from the smallest glass of water she has ever seen, and he looks like a baby, a stranded shell of the man she’d once known. He has a scratchy looking beard and no wedding ring.

His eyes stare without seeing.

I didn’t write the letter. The other Olivia drops into the chair, knees giving out.

In a parallel universe it will always be you and I

The seven stages of grief consume more fully once Elliot jumps back into the underworld. 

The scene dissolved for a third time. Suddenly she was dropping out from underneath the sky and landing straight into her shiny black office chair. Nick Amaro has a beard and when he smiles over the desk, it reminds Olivia of an easier era. She smiles so brightly, like he has taken her there. Taken her home. It is easily the happiest she has been in weeks.

But then Burton Lowe walks through their door, and the room spins again. Nick Amaro is walking out of their city and Amanda offers to burn the cassette tape. The pain of it ends when she lands at the edge of a jittering old precipice, listening to the cicadas sing and the river move. Her mother was a good woman, after all. 

Present Olivia sheds a tear for herself, feeling deeply proud, somehow. 

The scene changes again, reforming around her so that she dived and landed straight into a pit of sunlight, feet touching warm ground. I wanna know, Elliot is saying.

In his great blue eyes she can see the two of them standing in a different setting, a different song. It is dark and sombre over there in his gaze, You have not asked me one question about what has happened to me since you left.

Yet, over here trapped in a thing of natural light, Elliot makes his true self known. But how many? He wishes to know. How many? How many, Liv?

Present Olivia smiles at the two of them, so adolescent and yet timeless in their love for one another.

Elliot’s apartment is the most crowded she has ever seen, light snow falling on the windows and Christmas carols playing in the background. Eli offers other Olivia a cup of hot milk, their special milk, observant Olivia remembers, and then he plops himself onto the sofa next to her, his knee bouncing nervously.

“You okay?”

“Yea.” He smiles, sheepishly, still not looking at her. “Thanks for… y’know, being there the other day. It really meant a lot. Dad said you didn’t think I… I killed that girl.”

“Of course, I didn’t.”

The other Olivia’s hand twitches, fighting a natural urge to reach out and pull Eli into her arms. Instead, she swallows hard and watches him maternally. “Things will get better, may not seem like it right now, but they will.”

“Yea. I know.” He clears his throat. “Thanks though, y’know, for everything. Kathleen said you saved us, that you saved me, the day I was born.”

“You saved yourself. I was only… there to help bring you into the world. I’m just sorry the world is so hurtful.”

Elliot studies the two from across the room. Other Olivia’s sandy highlights shimmer nicely under all those Christmas decorations, and she wonders if he finds this just as mesmerizing. She is quite pretty, isn’t she? Olivia thinks, but she's not a vain person, she remembers.

Eli shifts his entire body to face Liv on the sofa, listening intently for the first time in…. well, months.

“He likes her.” Bernie says.

Elliot sighs, a hint of a smile. “Everybody likes her.”

***

By some grace of God, things are steady between the two of them until it isn’t. They’re friends for now and then Elliot beats someone up in an elevator. His knuckles are the colour of plums when she sees them.

Elliot’s expression seems painfully crushed as he reaches out for her when she fights to leave, to abandon them. Olivia has tried and tried to help, but Elliot seems awfully keen on digging out old graves and laying down in one and oh. She won’t stand here any longer.

“I can’t do this anymore. I can’t watch you destroy yourself over this. He’s not worth it.”

“Don’t give up, Liv. I need you to believe…”

“You’re giving up on yourself.”

“Tell me what to do.”

“You wouldn’t listen, anyway. No!” she shakes his hand off her skin, burned, completely burned.

“I can’t help you anymore, it’s killing me inside... Just let me go.” Together, the new and the old watch their own shadow disappear along the road.

The scene dissolves and the air catches in her lungs as she watches her frantic old self run amongst a sea of dark uniforms. She flashes her badge and screams his name but he is nowhere to be found. The sky is fleecy like dark black cloth. Remnants of ash from a burning power plant scurry in the air as she spins on her feet, looking for him..

She panics internally, really panics, to the point where she can’t quite breathe properly, and it has nothing to do with the smoke. She’s filled with a fear of possibly having to acknowledge her love to a dead man.

But suddenly a thunderous noise rings from across the carpark, and her name is on his lips. As Olivia spins, her heart bursts open and splatters on the ground that he treads on so carefully.

Elliot stops a few steps ahead, together they halt with the night, taking in each other’s wounds. Hers are invisible but he wears his like medallions.

“I thought you were…”

“We got him.” Elliot says, breathless. It occurs to the separate, observing Olivia that he is totally in awe of her, in this moment. “We got Wheatley. We got him Liv. God, we got…”

His voice breaks and oh, oh it is a gut-wrenching sound – rendered small by the way Olivia throws her arms around him and buries her tears into the back of his neck.

He stumbles slightly on his feet, but then she is in his arms and suddenly they are rolling around in bed together.

Their clothes lay piled on the floor, and the silver apple of the moon kisses their bodies as they make love for the first time. Sweaty skin glistening like diamonds under the half-light.

From this vantage point, observing Olivia can see her small hands come to rest on the back of his wide shoulders as he moves inside of her, Olivia’s name on his lips.

She does everything in her power not to avert her gaze. It shouldn’t feel weird watching herself make love like this, like she was standing in the middle of her very own film. It felt like she was intruding on something infinitely private, but she was trapped here for the moment, and seeing them in this way felt so so intimate it made her want to cry. It wasn’t just two bodies moving as one, it was like they dissolved into one another, like they had become one whole soul, bound to each other till the end of time.

She doesn’t have to look anymore to remember, the images were inscribed in her mind so vividly that they might as well be photographs of his he had forgotten to share. She remembered every single moment then and every moment later, how he held himself just above and moved his chest so slow against her belly, so slow across her breasts, quaking above as if he feared he might break her too.

Elliot kissed her brow and then each of her eyelids, he kissed her nose and all four corners of her mouth, and then he kissed her ears. From over his shoulder, observant Olivia watched as the other Olivia smiled into his skin.

“You’re so beautiful.” He murmured.

The scene dissolved.

As the days flash forward and the movie unfolds, Olivia learns of something that makes her stomach churn. Makes her love him increasingly if that were ever possible.

Elliot lied to her.

He lied when he said that they were volatile, together.

Because he was never actually volatile to begin with. It was her who deserved to be angry and her who needed him to feel at least half of what she did in exile. It was her who fulfilled this role.

And he lied because he didn’t want her to carry the weight of this on her own.

Watching the fights stretch across her apartment for days on end, she threw cold water into his face at every moment he got too close. And not once did he yell at her, like she did. Not once did he lose his temper or cry back in an act of defiance. He would always recruit to silence; allowing her the win no matter what was said. Elliot was always there to pick up the shattered pieces of their reckoning. Sometimes, she would let him.

The scene dissolved.

They’re in the park with the two boys when Noah is almost run over by a speeding bike. Noah screams as he goes flying off his scooter, skidding across the concrete. Olivia gasps at the scene but Elliot… Elliot’s coffee crashes to the ground and the world tips upside down as he fights the crowd to reach her son. When she lands on the scene, Elliot is trying his best to reign in a flaring temper.

“Did you not.. did you not see him?” he yelled at the passerby.

He’s fighting the urge to strangle the man on the bike, and Eli is looking to her like the world might just end if she doesn’t do something. Before Liv can interfere, Noah is in Elliot’s arms bridal style, and he’s walking away from the scene.

“Let’s get you to the hospital buddy.” He says.

Noah doesn’t actually need the hospital, other Olivia tells him, the fallout was minimal with only a few minor cuts. But Elliot is persistent, and Noah loves the attention. It occurs to observant Olivia then that Elliot hasn’t stopped shaking, while Olivia never started.

Later on, when Noah is high off pain meds and tucked away in bed, Olivia straddles Elliot by the hips and kisses him, softly, lovingly, her hair curtaining his face as she inches backwards, peering down at him.

“Thank you.” She whispers.

“I love you.” He tells her.

She doesn’t say it back.

Instead, they make love on the sofa.

***

It’s April 2022 and Eli Stabler is sliding into the passenger seat of her car.

“Hey!” he sings.

“Hi.” She smiles softly. “Ready?”

He nods. “Ready.”

Moments later they pull up to a red light, and Eli’s window is halfway down when a yellow bee travels into the car, flying straight past him. Too focused on the road ahead, she barely notices.

“Liv”

“Yea?”

“Hold on, don’t move, there’s a bee on your seatbelt.”

She panics.

She realizes later on that it was out of character, for her to panic, but she couldn’t help it. The bee was buzzing painfully close to her ear. She undid her seatbelt, quickly let the window down and let it fly away.

“That was close.”

“I didn’t know you were scared of bees?”

“Don’t be silly. I’m not scared of anything.” She lied, a teasing grin on her face.

The light had been green for some time when she looked ahead again, and quickly pressed the accelerator. She didn’t check the rearview mirror, she didn’t know there was a speeding vehicle approaching from behind.

“Liv your seatbelt.”

“Just one second sweetie.”

In the same moment she pulled for the strap, she looked into the mirror, and it was too late.

The drunk driver was behind her. She felt the crash almost before it even happened, and she didn’t have her seatbelt strapped in on time, and the last thought she had before she dove headfirst was of Eli.

The world goes black afterward.

Even in her hyper-frenzied, dreamlike state that is somehow real and not real, she’s back in the hospital room, except this time she’s watching herself on the bed, in a comatose state.

Elliot walks in, he’s a ghost of man he once was. Olivia watches him from the corner of the room as he kneels at the foot of her bed, and takes her hand in his own, and prays.

He prays to a god he hasn’t spoken to in months.

All of this just feels like a film reel to the story of her life, which is somehow now their life.

“Don’t leave me.” He tells her. “Don’t fucking leave me. Please, I won’t survive.”

She doesn’t leave him. But she does.

The room twists and time webs around her like a cobweb without a home, and suddenly they have nothing but thoughts and memories trapped between them.

The missing Olivia wants to think of it as a fresh start. A clean slate. Little does she know that man, over there, watching her back as it walks away from him, he's hopelessly in love with her. 

The scene dissolves into a different night and Olivia remembers, she remembers.

They’re standing alone in her office and Elliot has fallen deep. He doesn’t know that mere hours before she considered sleeping with another man.

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

Everything fast forwards and she remembers, distinctly, the rest of the puzzle.

She remembers it all.

***

Olivia wakes up as herself again.

The pain has gone. She doesn’t realize until now how painful it was until she fell freed from it all, and she feels liberated too, whole.

But she wakes up alone, to a room empty of life, Elliot’s name beating inside of her heart again.

There’s no sense of gravity pulling her away from the world because Olivia has found her anchor again, the love of her life, the man who came back for her, who stayed even when she couldn’t stay for herself.  

She grasps for the memory of Elliot taking her hand in the sand, wanting her name inked onto his chest like he doesn’t fucking love her with all of it anyway. God, just thinking about it now, she would marry him in a heartbeat knowing that hers still lived on.

The relief of memory is muffled only slightly by the knowledge that he isn’t here. Where are you? She thinks, where are you? 


Elliot hesitated in the doorway as the agony threatened to overwhelm him, but he shoved it aside, knowing damn well that his premonition of fear deserved no company here, only her.

She was sitting on the bed, looking down at a sheet of papers as if she was back in the office. He started to panic internally, how long had she fucking been awake before he got here? How long was she on her own?

Olivia’s discharge papers held all of her attention, she looked so deep into the pages they might as well have pulled her inside, and his fingers trembled a little on the door, his heavy body weighing him down into the ground, he wonders what it is that makes her think she’s going anywhere.

Her hair curtained her face, and she wore one of those warm sweaters that always felt nice to touch, and she looked so much like his woman, and so un-like his woman, that he didn’t know which version of herself she was again, only that she was fucking beautiful, and she was Olivia, and just the sheer reality of her being alive meant too much to him.

But he’s an impatient bastard, and he’s not gonna wait around for her to give him the green light, so he calmly stalks his way toward her, steps slow and deliberate, and watches as the fringe of her hair falls back to reveal her face as she looks up to meet him.

She swallows him in the way she stares, not at him, but through him, which such a blank face that it almost cracked his ribs open.

This time, its him that has no idea who she is.

“Liv?” he whispered.

Her brown eyes came unafraid to his, and in an instant he knew that both of them had cheated death too many times, because nobody alive was ever meant to feel so much for another human being, not like this, not in the way his heart beat fiercely for an almost stranger.

The connection was intense that it threatened to drain his sense of self. He felt that he had always known her, that she had always been a part of him, her needs were his needs. I am here to help you, he said in his mind. He meant it more than any thought he’d ever had before. 

With confident steps he moved closer, sitting on the edge of her bed like it belonged to nobody but him.

He wants to grab her, he wants to take her neck in his hands and drag her lips onto his, he just wants to fucking hold her, but he loves her so much he cannot think of forcing her to be something she might not be.

“My love,” he breathed out softly, sweeping her hair across her face with his thumb. “Please just put me out of my misery.”

Olivia’s lips curled into a half-smile.

She lifted her hand to stroke his face and tilted her head to the side. His chest filled with an ache he couldn’t describe as he tried to look past the clouds in her eyes, tried to find the stars again, watched them spill down her cheeks. He fought off a common urge to sooth her.

“I remember now.” she told him, voice threaded. “I remember all of it.”

Elliot dropped his head down, relief flooding him. She cradled his neck and whispered in his ear.

“You were breathing for me baby.”