September 21, 2011
Autumn leaves falling down. Like pieces into place.
I didn’t expect to hear from him that night, or that weekend. I didn’t call. The fallout from the shooting in the squad room had been traumatic for everyone, no one more so than Elliot. I don't think I’ll ever forget the look on his face cradling that girl in his arms as she bled out and he's looking at me, looking to me for…something. But what could I do? I think we both stayed like that. Frozen in place. He was holding Jenna. I was holding Sister Peg. Then the ME came. And CSU. I don’t remember what happened after that…
And I can picture it. After all these days.
I knew we would both take the weekend. I was running late that Monday, expecting to see him at his desk, the one opposing mine. He had been cleared. I knew that much. But before I had a chance to seek out my partner, Cragen grabbed me as I was stepping off the elevator.
“Liv, sorry about your weekend.”
“...Meet the vic at Bellevue.”
I nodded, morning paper still tucked under my arm, two coffees in hand, one for myself and the other for-
“Color inside the lines,” he says. Then something about “Italy’s next prime minister”
And I might be okay. But I’m not fine at all.
I met the vic at the hospital. A hotel maid named Miriam Deng. Claims she had been assaulted by Roberto Distasio. She was making the bed, she said, he came in from outside. I squint at my notepad. The words are starting to blur together. I don’t know if it’s my eyes or my handwriting. It looks more like his than mine. It’s barely legible. I'm the only one who can read it…
She describes how he locked the door. Pushed her onto the bed. Held her hands behind her back. She got away. I nod as she tells me in broken english how she scratched him. Then he held her down raped her orally. Made her swallow. I nod again. Something about the difference between like and love.
“I spit it out.”
It’s automatic. I remember why I’m there. What questions should I be asking? I know now.
“Miriam. Where did you spit it out?”
And you were tossing me the car keys.
Saying fuck the patriarchy.
Keychain on the ground.
I drove to the scene. Fuck. Where was it?
Park Milano. Right.
No. red light.
You almost ran the red cause you were lookin over at me.
I want my partner.
When I find Park St. I tell them where they can find the evidence.
After the kit is finished, I walk Miriam into the squadroom. There are a dozen or more eyes on us, unis, women in maid’s uniforms, people I’ve never seen, and if I have, I don’t remember them.
“Everyone is staring.”
She pulls her shirt tight against her chest.
“Yeah. I know. We’re just gonna wait here for a minute…”
Miriam is a slight woman. Fragile. I take her shoulders and shield her as best I can, leading her to sit at the only open table I can find, leaving her only to find out what the fuck is going on.
I turn at the mention of my name to find a younger woman in a white blouse, blue eyes, blonde hair pulled half up in a messy bun, holding her hand out to me. She’s a charmer. Turn Elliot’s head for sure. I almost smirk.
“Amanda Rollins.” lilts.
“Ah.” I take her hand, trying hard to remember “Transfer from…Dallas?”
“Well, Atlanta.” her southern drawl is subtle “You like Distasio for this?”
“Uh. He was there.”
I turn to go. What was I supposed to be doing?
Atlanta is still talking.
She’s really happy to be here.
She’s studied a lot of my cases.
“...I gotta brief the Captain. Uh. Thanks.”
In Cragen’s office there are three people seated. Cragen sits behind his desk. In one chair is Michael Cutter. In the other, Alex Cabot.
Did I know Alex was back from the Congo?
I must have.
I wonder if Elliot knows.
As they talk amongst themselves, I find myself staring through the blinds of the office window at Elliot’s vacant desk.
I recovered quickly.
“Hard working single mother. No arrests. Immigrated three years ago from Sudan. Political asylum”
Cutter tells me to go through her past and take it as my cue to leave, giving Alex a cursory nod. I should be happy to see her, but I’ve already seen her. Elliot would be thrilled to see her.
I haul ass to get to the station early today, my head pounding, coffee left untouched. No response to my earlier texts and two calls straight to voicemail. He doesn’t want to talk.
You call me up again just to break me like a promise.
I know he doesn’t want to talk. But he can talk to me. He always talks to me.
So casually cruel in the name of being honest.
I’d taken care to put myself together this morning. As with many mornings. He always noticed. He used to act like he didn’t. This past year, we’ve dropped the pretense. He looks. And I like it.
Then I see the suits. Rat squad? No Tucker. It’s too early and I’m in no mood. I toss my leather jacket over the back of my chair and walk into Cragen’s office asking:
“What does IAB want?” without preamble
He doesn’t answer. He knows I'll fight for my partner.
“That was a good shooting, Captain.” defensive “Elliot was cleared.”
“On that one.”
Right. It wasn’t his first good shooting. I know.
Internal Affairs wants to go over his entire jacket.
“Let them! There’s nothing to find.”
It’s his sixth fatal shooting.
And probably the worst. For him.
“So what?” I know I’m raising my voice “You’re just gonna give him up?”
I know him better than that, he says, Elliot’s like a son to me. I'm pushing as hard as I can.
“I just don't know how it’s gonna shake out.”
“What does that mean?”
It means if Elliot wants to keep his job, he’ll have to submit to a psych eval. Go to anger management. Like he owes them something? After 15 goddamn years. Fuck this.
“He’ll tell them to go to hell.”
September 24, 2011
I don’t know what I’m doing there. I do, actually. I’m drinking. I’m not drunk but I’m drinking.
Nursing a cold beer at our spot. By myself. I hit his number again. The first one in my contacts. My emergency contact. My partner’s number. Straight to voicemail. Again.
“Hey, I don't want to stalk you. But…if you want-need-to talk, I’m here.”
Maybe we got lost in translation.
Fin and Much walk in, along with the Georgia peach. Rollins? From Atlanta. Fin takes a seat at the high top across from her. Elliot’s seat. I take a long sip.
“So what’s her story?” I sound salty. “She must have some hooks.”
Fin’s cool with almost everybody until he has a reason not to be. He’d had his beef with El.
“You talk to Elliot?”
It comes out automatically.
“Good news.” Alex comes up from behind her.
“DNA came back. It was a match to Distasio and the victim.”
Munch says something about reasonable doubt, claiming consent. Rollins joins in with the sex is power and Alex joins them both at the bar. Fin leans in, keeps his voice low.
“El’s probably afraid to talk to you, Liv.”
“Thinks you might try to talk him out of it.”
“Out of what? He’s not quitting.”
I already knew by now that he was. I couldn’t fault him for it either.
“He shot a teenage girl. May not ever wanna put on his gun again.”
I was there.
Running scared. I was there. I remember it all too well.
He really was running, wasn't he?
Case was fucked. I must've been more buzzed than I’d realized. Driving home, I rolled the windows down. The cool evening air of late September was starting to feel like a real chill.
Maybe I asked for too much.
Maybe I hadn’t asked for enough. I knew, if I had asked, he would have left her. I couldn’t.
No. I just wouldn’t.
September 25, 2011
The jury had found Distasio guilty on only one charge: unlawful imprisonment. It was a mess to begin with. He’d do a year on a lesser charge. I felt awful. Not just because he’d got off on the rape charge, but because I had doubted Miriam, whose story had been consistent from the beginning. I don't do that. I’m there to validate and empower survivors, even if they appear less than credible. Especially then. I don’t know what's wrong with me.
Time won’t fly. It’s like I’m paralyzed by it.
I’d like to be my old self again. But I’m still trying to find it.
No sooner had I sat down at my desk when-
“I don’t think she was lying about being raped.” I offer
“Will you shut the door, please?”
“Elliot put his papers in.”
I shouldn’t have been surprised. But hearing those words, I felt the air leave my lungs. I steadied myself. Blinked. Swallowed. Nodded.
“There was nothing I could do.”
“He’s earned it.” I hear myself say
“And then some.”
The way the Captain is looking at me…Somehow makes it worse. As if I could feel worse.
The last thing I need right now is pity. And I know he doesn’t mean it that way. But, he feels sorry for me. And I’m determined not to feel sorry for myself.
“You want to talk?”
I shake my head ‘no’ and when I find my voice I say it.
“You want to take a day?”
“Liv.” I can’t take that look of… “I’m sorry.”
I walk back out into the squad room. The one I’ve known for twelve years. It’s changed entirely.
Munch had caught a case. He sends Rollins with Fin.
“No, I'll go.” my words sound hollow “Give me five and we’ll roll.”
Knowing I can’t hold myself up any longer, I open the door to the first empty interrogation room, pressing my palms flat into the wall before falling apart. The unshed tears of the past five days flow freely and I sob, shoulders heaving, crying until I’m sure I can’t cry any more. Elliot leaving the job, I should have seen it coming. But, Elliot leaving me? Nothing could have prepared me for that.
Cause there we are again. When I loved you so.
Back before you lost the one real thing you’ve ever known.
I tell myself I’m done now. I’ll move forward. I know I’m lying.
September 27th 2011
“We’re hiring another new detective?”
The weekend had been anything but restful. Sleepless nights. Tearstained pillow. Drinking.
Over caffeinated and still exhausted, I felt I had every right to demand this of my superior.
“We’re short staffed. He’s a good guy. He starts tomorrow.”
My disdain is evident.
“You have a problem with that?”
“It’s hard enough showing one rookie the ropes. Now we have two. I mean, what is this a daycare center?”
I turn to go.
“Elliot’s not coming back, Liv.”
He’s so cavalier, it’s like a slap across the face.
I'm a soldier who’s returning half her weight.
“It takes me twice as long to explain the job to someone else as-”
“It’s not your call.” he cuts me off “You want to be here, you’re gonna have to get used to working with other detectives. Let him go.”
Let him go? So much for ‘He’s like a son to me’
Elliot’s been gone a week.
“You can start by packing up his desk. It’s not a shrine.”
Slapped again. I understand tough love, but, fuck this. I’m not so sure I want to be here either.
Armed with a cardboard box, I start with case files, feeling a pang every time I put away something sentimental. His Marine Corps medallion. The framed photo on his desk of him holding baby Eli. I can't do this…
Fin hands me some info on a perp brought in on disorderly conduct god knows why and I find the guy jonesing in the cell. What a great fucking start to another week in hell.
September 28th 2011
I walk into the precinct early the next morning, one coffee in hand, a new phone in the other. The day hasn’t even begun and already I want to go home. To do what? I don’t know. Cry. Lie awake all night. No. I do what I’ve been doing every day. I shower, take extra time with my hair and makeup, blow drying and curling my hair, then using the eyeshadows and lipsticks that have littered a bottom drawer in my bathroom for over a year collecting dust.
Just because I’m breaking doesn’t mean I have to look like it. I’m determined not to.
“Hospital just called. Last night’s discon is stable.” I tell Fin
“See if I can get a statement.” he replies
As I’m setting my things down, Cragen walks in with a shorter man. He’s a tall, dark and handsome type and he looks like he knows it. He has thick wavy dark hair and dark eyes and stubble covers half of what I’m sure is a handsome face. Latino, maybe, I think.
The other rookie, I assume.
“Folks. This is detective second grade Nick Amaro. He just transferred in.” he says
“A second grader already?” blondie bounces out of her seat to greet the other transfer “You must’ve caught some big fish.”
“Nah. Just kissed a lot of ass.” he smirks
I try to hide my disdain as I sit down. Looks like lust at first sight. Great.
“Detective Amaro is being modest.” Cragen says
He goes on to tell us all about Nick Amaro and his successes as a detective. Two years under in Narcotics. Warrants. He took down the MS-13 gang. Rollins is mesmerized and even Fin looks impressed. Cragen’s got a hard on for him too. Didn’t take him long to get over his old favorite.
What was his name again?
“This is a whole different world, Serpico. Not everybody has the stomach for it.” I snark
He looks at me, smiles, keeps looking. He can’t be…No. I’ve never had another partner. I don’t want one or need one. I take a call as Cragen says something about rotating partners. So I’ll either end up with romeo or peaches.
The day wears on. We’re working the case. Stevie Harris, our discon, claimed to have been molested by his basketball coach, Ray Masters. Fin finds the time to get Amaro fixed up, clean shave, fresh cut. He is undeniably handsome and I am, decidedly, unimpressed.
And I know it’s long gone and there's nothing else that I could do.
I forget about you long enough to forget why I needed to.
The coach, heralded by all as a hero to boys in need, is a perp. The word of a junkie is credible, and it makes more sense that he is one, having been abused. We’ve seen it many times before.
I’m saying ‘we’ again. Like it’s me and Elliot. It’s just me, I have to keep reminding myself. I take a cab to and from work. I pick up my own coffee from the corner bodega. I don't have him sitting across from me as we work through a case perfectly in sync, his blue eyes reading my face.
Cragen drops a file on my desk. I look through the file as Cragen goes on and on about how much he hates abuse of power cases but…of course there’s a but. No corroborating evidence. I pull the first sheet from his file and point out that Stevie had just turned twenty-four and the statute of limitations had run out. Rollins pulls up some info on a prior complaint from Trenton, New Jersey. She’s some kind of computer genius, I guess.
September 30th 2011
Rollins and I got a hit in Jersey. As I’m pouring myself a second cup of coffee, I see that Amaro is in a suit and tie now, unpacking his box of personal items on my partner’s desk. His desk now. He sets down a framed photo of a little girl, presumably, his daughter. Between the suit and the rogue handsome dad type, it seems Cragen’s really found me a replacement Stabler. How thoughtful of him. Nick Amaro and I don’t speak, but he keeps looking at me. Wondering. What happened to her? Where did her partner go? Wish I knew.
They say all’s well that ends well, but I'm in a new hell every time…
You double-cross my mind.
“I’m used to bein the earliest bird.” Rollins chirps as she arrives with a coffee and a pastry box.
“Heard you two got a hit in Jersey.”
“Coach is a bad guy.” Rollins confirms, opening the box “Been at this a long time.”
I’m aware of my attitude towards them.
“Cop who doesn’t like donuts.” I remark “How can I trust you?”
Silence. I make them uncomfortable. I don’t care. Cragen says something about fresh blood, sends them off somewhere, then takes a seat next to me.
“How ya doin?” he asks for the first time since he told me
Before I can reply, he cuts me off with:
“Good. Maybe you can help the new guys out, huh?”
On it. Captain.
I stare in the mirror, study my perfectly made up face, the veneer. Maybe it’s excessive.
The idea of me, who was she? A never-needy, ever-loving jewel. Whose shine reflects on you.
They think I’m not aware of the whispers. Alex is asking about him, about me. Melinda too.
“Liv.” Alex pulls me aside at the courthouse “I’m sorry about Elliot.”
“What about this Amaro?”
I brush the question aside.
Later I hear another ‘I’m sorry about Elliot’ like he died. He might as well have. They’re acting like I’ve been widowed and I feel like I have been. I guess it’s better than being abandoned.
Not cryin in a bathroom askin me what happened? You.
That’s what happened. You.
October 12th 2011
In the two weeks that followed, I got less sympathy, for which I was thankful. We had been working a case…had the guy dead to rights but something wasn’t adding up, even though the DNA was there. At the ME’s office, Amaro and I talk to Warner. When he leaves, Melinda asks if Nick is my new partner.
“I’m…just showing him the ropes.”
I guess I’m not ready to say it yet. Partner. For me, my partner is Elliot. These weeks I’ve hardened myself against everything I’ve been feeling. Right now, I hate him. If he walked back into the squadroom I’d punch him in the face. I’ve been feeling that kind of animosity toward everyone lately but it’s more about him. I’d rather be angry than hurt. I guess that’s like him too.
At the end of the day, I’m on a call when I see another face, this one familiar. The last time I’d seen her was earlier that year, working with us on a case. An ADA for the prosecution. I had always liked Sherri.
“Sherri West.” I stand and greet her with a warm hug “For the defense.”
“She used to be on our team.” I tell him
“We’ve met.” he joins us, Rollins behind him “How’s the private sector?”
“They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
A desk clerk slips an envelope into my hand and I excuse myself, sitting at my desk. After the three of them have walked off, I turn it over in my hand. I see my name and the precinct address in a familiar scrawl and my pulse quickens. There’s no one else around. I make sure of it before opening the envelope. I can’t imagine what it could contain. A goodbye of some sort?
Now you mail back my things and I walk home alone.
I take a breath and slide it open. It’s a simple thing. A note, along with two small personal items. His mini-badge, with his badge number 6313 and the Marine Corps medallion I’d packed up to send him two weeks ago. The note, in his familiar scrawl, in all caps, it simply says:
SEMPER FI, EL
That’s it. The tears pricked at my eyes and threatened to spill so I took another breath and put them back in the envelope, tucking them into my bag to open again at another time.
And I was thinkin on the drive down, any time now, he’s gonna say it’s love.
You never called it what it was.
Til we were dead and gone and buried.
Check the pulse and come back swearin it’s the same,
What was it? I wondered as I lay awake that night. It wasn’t something we had ever defined. It defied explanation, really. I know it was something irreplaceable. I know I loved him and he loved me. No, we never crossed a line. There were so many times we could have, wanted to, but didn’t. That’s not who he was. And I didn’t want him to be. Since Eli’s birth, we’d become closer again. Every time we got close, one or both of us would back away. This time, neither of us did. This past year and a half…we were on our game. We acted like a married couple and for the first time, didn’t care what it looked like to anyone else. And we were at our best. Together.
He had always told Kathy he had never cheated. He hadn’t. I wouldn’t let him. Not physically.
Did the twin flame bruise pain you blue?
Just between us, did the love affair maim you too?
It was an affair of sorts. I don’t know what else to call it. I had never believed in soul mates. I still don’t. A twin flame, I’d once heard, was not a soul mate but your counterpart, your other half. Even when you’re apart, you carry that person with you. I wonder if he’s holding onto me too.
The following Monday, I dress in something a little more low cut, dab perfume on my pulse points and rim my waterline with kohl before applying my mascara. It’s my war paint. I’m doing this, I decided. I’m moving forward. Before leaving, I reach into my jewelry box and find a simple, delicate gold chain. I slide El’s medallion onto it and clasp it around my neck. It dips into my cleavage. He would’ve liked that, I suppose.
You kept me like a secret but
I kept you like an oath.
Semper Fi. Always Faithful. It doesn’t mean I won’t forge my own path in life. It means that I’ll take what I have left of Elliot Stabler with me.
I run my fingers through my curls, taking one last look in the mirror before grabbing my coat and bag, and holstering my piece. I have his mini badge clipped to my gun and run my thumb over the numbers almost unconsciously.
Down the stairs, I was there.
Wind in my hair, I was there.
Sacred prayer, I was there.
It was rare, you were there.
You remember it.
All too well.