Noah Benson looked at his mom with a disappointed expression on his face as she hung up her cell.
"You have to work again, don't you."
Olivia sighed. "I'm afraid so, kiddo."
"You always have to work. We were supposed to go to Elliot's for Christmas Eve. Eli was gonna show me his video games," the young boy complained. Olivia wanted to cry. How many other special occasions had she missed with her beloved son? How many more would she have to miss before it became too much?
Aloud she said, "Lucy's out of town, So I'll call Aunt Amanda to see if you can stay with The girls and Uncle Sonny. I think they were going to a service at his church tonight. Then I need to text Elliot and tell him we can't make it. I'm so sorry, Sweetheart. I promise we'll go over there so you can play with Eli another time."
"It's not fair!" was Noah's response.
"I know,Sweet Boy, but there's nothing we can do about it. Let's just make the best of things and as soon as this case is over we'll have Christmas."
Noah huffed. They were always having to 'make the best of things'. He was getting tired of it. Olivia called Amanda who told her it was fine to bring Noah over. When Olivia texted Elliot however, he quickly suggested that she send Noah with him, Bernie and Eli. All the other Stabler kids would be coming over along with the grandkids.
'There's no point in Noah missing out on all the fun,' he texted.
Olivia hesitated. She almost texted back to say it was ok. She had it covered. Then she realized that Elliot was right. Noah had already missed out on so much because of the job. It would be nice for him to play with guys his own age. To just be a little boy without having to feel shuffled around or having to deal with constant changing of plans due to the job.
'Ok. I'll bring Noah over on the way to the precinct.'
The response was immediate. 'No need. We haven't left yet. Meet you outside in five.'
Noah was super excited when his mom told him the plans. It wasn't that he didn't love his little cousins and his Uncle Sonny. He just really didn't want to miss out on the celebration.
Five minutes later Elliot joined Olivia and Noah on the sidewalk in front of the church.
"Thankyou for doing this,El. I don't know how long this case will last. If it gets too late, just call Carisi and he'll come get Noah and take him for the night," Olivia told her former partner.
"If it's ok with you, Liv, I'd love for Noah to spend the night. Eli is looking forward to hanging out with Noah and my grandsons are staying over,too," Elliot invited.
Again, Olivia hesitated. On the one hand, She was beginning to trust Elliot again and she knew without a doubt that Noah would be safe with him. Still, Noah didn't know Elliot and his family very well yet. Would he get scared? Could she do her job, or would she be distracted by worrying about her son?
She was so lost in thought that she was startled when her son's voice broke into her reverie.
"Oh, I'm sorry,Noah. What did you say?"
"I want to stay with Elliot and Eli and the twins. Please? Elliot's a cop like you. I'll be ok."
"Oh, Honey, I know you would be. I just don't want you to be uncomfortable with people you don't know too well yet," explained Olivia.
"Mom, I'm nine years old. I'm not a baby. I want to go," insisted Noah.
"Ok. I'm ok with it if you're sure your family won't mind,El," Olivia finally consented.
"Positive. We're glad to have him. Just come over whenever you wrap things up with the case," Elliot assured the SVU captain.
Olivia knelt before her son. "Here's the extra key, Bud. Elliot will take you to pick up your overnight stuff and I'll come get you as soon as I can. Noah, I'm so,so sorry."
Noah hugged his mom. "It's not your fault,Mom. I know you'd stay if you could."
Olivia returned the hug tightly. "You are way too understanding. You know I love you more than anything,right? You are the single most important thing in the world to me."
Noah pulled back and smiled. "I know,Mom. I love you, too."
Olivia kissed her son, bid everyone a Merry Christmas, and headed off into the night, texting Amanda on the way.
The case was a hate crime case that lasted through the early hours of Christmas day and ended with Olivia having to make the kill shot. Afterwards, there was a mountain of paperwork awaiting them back at the precinct. Olivia told her team to head on back. The interviews with IAB would be coming up as well, and she wanted everyone to be able to leave as soon as possible. In truth, she felt extremely shaken by what she had been forced to do, and she needed a few moments to compose herself. Both Fin and Amanda looked at her in concern before Fin slowly approached her.
"Liv, I don't care how much you try to pretend you're fine, we both know that's not true."
"You know me far too well, my friend," was the closest Olivia would come to admitting that her sergeant was right. Fin put a hand on her shoulder. "You don't have to be strong all the time ,Liv. You're our captain, but you're also human. It's ok to not be ok. To admit you're struggling with this."
"I do, Fin. For now, I have to be ok. Otherwise, I'll never get through this day. I'll talk to someone after this is over, but for now, I just want to get through this paperwork and get back to my son."
Fin sighed. "At least let me drive you back to the station."
"Ok," Olivia agreed.
The paperwork took several hours. Olivia made a quick call to Noah to say Merry Christmas before getting to work. Later on in the Day, Carisi came in with the girls and brought in food for everyone. After he left, the detectives grabbed plates of food and ate while they worked. Finally in the late afternoon, the paperwork was finally finished. Amanda knocked on Olivia's door.
"Paperwork's done. I'm headed out if that's ok."
"That's fine. Enjoy being with your girls," Olivia replied.
Amanda hesitated. "Are you sure you're ok Liv? If you need to talk, I can.."
"I appreciate that, Rollins, but I promise, I'll be fine. I'm almost finished here. Go home," Olivia insisted.
"Are ya sure? I've got time to go for coffee somewhere.
"Thanks, Amanda, but I really just need to get this finished up and get back to Noah. After the past several hours we've had, I just want to hug my son."
"I get that. Well if you change your mind and want to talk, I'm just a phone call away," Amanda reminded her friend.
Olivia smiled and replied, "I know. Thanks, Amanda. That means alot to me." Then she stood and held out her arms to her detective.
Amanda moved forward and embraced her captain. The two of them clung to each other for a few moments before Amanda pulled back and murmured, "Merry Christmas, Liv."
"Merry Christmas, Amanda."
Amanda left then, and so did Velasco, leaving Olivia and Fin alone in the precinct. Olivia finished up the paperwork and headed out, locking her office door behind her. She was a bit surprised to see Fin at his desk, even though she knew he wouldn't have left without a goodbye.
"Fin? What are you still doing here?"
"Waiting for you. You know I'd never leave you here alone."
Olivia rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Fin, I told you, I'm fine. You should be heading home to Phoebe. Your grandson probably would love to see you for Christmas,too. I'm going to spend the rest of the day with my son."
"Phoebe is fine and I am going to visit Ken and his family after this but you're family too. So, when you're here, I'm here. No arguments."
"I do outrank you, ya know," Olivia weakly attempted to protest.
Fin snorted. "But you won't pull rank on me. We've known each other too long. It won't work. Now let's get outta here."
Giving her friend a small smile, she pulled him into a rare hug. "Merry Christmas, Fin. Thank you. For everything."
"Back atcha,Liv," came the affectionate reply. Then the two of them walked out together and headed their separate ways.
Despite what Olivia had told her SVU family, she was far from fine. She had always been the squad's rock. Always being strong for them. As the captain, she felt that it was in her job description. Because of that, she had built a wall around herself. She was an Island. She related to the old Simon and Garfunkel song. 'A rock feels no pain,and an island never cries.' But what did that song even mean? It was basically a lie. Rocks eventually crumble over time,and islands can sink into the sea.
Olivia realized she was close to her breaking point. She didn't actually realize how close until she reached Elliot's apartment. When he opened the door, he noticed right away that something was wrong.
"Liv?" he asked.
That was all it took. When she heard her name spoken with such concern and love, her walls finally crumbled. Elliot saw what was about to happen and quickly maneuvered the two of them to the balcony for some privacy. Outside, he gathered Olivia into his arms as she finally let go.
"It's ok,Liv. It's ok. I'm here. You're safe with me."
Olivia sobbed into her former partner's chest for several minutes before finally pulling back and taking the Kleenex he offered her.
"Sorry about that. It's just been a long hard case."
"Don't apologize. You needed to let go. You're a great leader and a fantastic cop, but you're also a human being. Even you have your limits. You wanna talk about it?"
Olivia hesitated for only a moment before she found herself telling him the whole story. About her guilt caused by being away from Noah, about her fears of leaving him an orphan again, even about the kill shot that she'd had to take.
"After all this time,why does it still bother me? Why am I still shaken up?" she asked in frustration.
Elliot brushed her hair out of her face and looked into her eyes.
"Because you're a good person. You're caring, compassionate, and full of integrity. I'd be worried if it didn't affect you."
Olivia looked down as more tears came.
"I don't know how much longer I can do this job."
"I understand that, and Liv, I'll support whatever decision you make, and I know your squad and Noah will too. But,Liv, you need to make that decision with a clear head. You can't rush into it. It needs to be made based on what's right for you and Noah, not based on fear," Elliot encouraged her.
Olivia nodded. He was right. She knew that. She would think about it later. Right now, She just wanted to see her son.
"Where's Noah?" she wondered aloud.
"He and the other kids are in Eli's room playing video games."
Olivia removed all evidence of her tears before hugging Elliot one more time.
"I'm always here for you,Liv. I know I screwed up by abandoning you for so many years, but I'm not going to let that happen again. I'm back and I'm not going anywhere," Elliot promised.
"I want to believe that,El. It's going to take time before I can fully trust that, but I'm going to give you that time. It's not just me I have to worry about,now. You hurt me once. If you hurt my son, there won't be another chance," Olivia warned.
Elliot nodded. "Message received. You have my word. You mean too much to me not to do the work."
"Good. You mean so much to me,too. I don't think I can take losing you again," Olivia told him.
Elliot looked into Olivia's eyes. "You won't have to. Never again."
Noah came out then and saw his mother. Olivia grinned as she entered the apartment
"Mom! You're here!" squealed the nine year old
Olivia held out her arms for her son.
"Merry Christmas,Sweet Boy! Did you have a good time?" she asked as she hugged him close.
Noah looked up and grinned. "Uh-huh. You have to check out the cool stocking Grandma Bernie made for me!" It has My name on it. And Grogu."
"Grandma Bernie?" questioned Olivia.
"She said I could call her that," Noah informed his mom. Then he began to worry that he'd done something wrong.
"Is that ok?"
"Of course,Honey. If she wants you to call her that, it's just fine," Olivia assured the boy. She was only slightly reticent. But she wanted her son to have all the family he could get and she had promised to give Elliot a chance.
After supper with Elliot's family, Olivia and Noah went home to spend the rest of Christmas together, just the two of them. Noah gave his mom a leather keychain with her name on it which he had made himself. He opened his stocking from Santa, which had been waiting for him in Olivia's closet. From his mom, Noah received a cool new pair of high tops he had been wanting, new rollerblades and safety gear, and new dance gear. As she snuggled on the sofa later, watching a Christmas movie with her son, Olivia realized how blessed she was with so many people around her who loved and cared for her. Maybe she didn't have to be an island. Carrying around all that stress and pain alone was extremely exhausting. Deep down, she knew that her friends,especially Fin, Amanda,Carisi, and Elliot, would still respect her if she crumbled. They wouldn't think any less of her, and they would be there to put the pieces back together. They would support her and share their strength until she could find her own again. Having people who supported her didn't mean she was weak. It actually made her even stronger. Olivia felt very blessed to finally realize that she never had to be alone.