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Those Marks We Leave Behind

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The first time Elliot had really noticed the marks on his skin was when he was about ten years old. They were faint blue lines or patches that would show up on his kneecaps and elbows. His mother had tsked at him and told him that his soulmate must be a real tomboy, what with the way she was constantly bruising and scraping herself. But at ten years old he really hadn’t cared.

She must have grown out of it though because aside from the occasional papercut or faint bruise nothing much showed up during his teen years. He did feel sorry for her when he’d gotten a black eye in the tenth grade - he hoped it wasn’t too embarrassing for her to walk around like that.

It wasn’t until he was in his early twenties that he’d seen the faint outline of what was unmistakably bruises from someone gripping her arms too tight that he’d felt a surge of unspeakable anger at the idea of someone putting their hands on his soulmate. His hands had itched to punch something - but of course he had no idea who she was. And if he didn’t know who she was then he couldn’t know who it was that was hurting her. It had been unbearable to look at that and not be able to do anything about it.

When he met Kathy he’d fallen for her instantly, and he’d fallen hard. It didn’t matter to him when, weeks after they’d met, he had seen her cut her palm on a glass that she’d dropped and his own skin had stayed the same shade. Who cares? he thought, I’m the master of my fate.

But later that night when he noticed the faint blue lines on his right knuckles he couldn’t help but smile - good, she knows how to throw a right hook. Suddenly it didn’t matter if he was there for her or not, not if she could take care of herself.

When he met Olivia he didn’t notice it right away. He didn’t know for years. It wasn’t until he’d seen the silver glint of Gitano’s knife moving its way towards her throat and slicing it open that he’d felt the corresponding pain. He remembered clutching his own throat as he ran to her. Seeing her ok, relief had flooded through him. But there was something else, too; another feeling. It felt a little bit like resentment.

Because it wasn’t fair. How was he supposed to deal with this? How was he supposed to look at the bandage on Olivia’s neck and know that his own neck was marked with the same cut, only his in blue - for everyone in the world to see.

Cragen was supposed to report it to 1PP. That was the rule. You can’t be partners with your soulmate in the NYPD. But Olivia had transferred out of SVU so quickly that Cragen never got around to filing the paperwork and when she returned months later he had been all too willing to pretend like he’d forgotten, or he didn’t know the truth. Elliot was equally relieved and frustrated about it. Now, he was expected to sit across from her day after day and act like he didn’t know what she meant to him. And she did the same. They never spoke about it. They never hinted at it. They just kept the status quo and life continued on.

Elliot had continued on like that for as long as he was able to. And all things considered he’d had a good run. But after having to shoot and kill a child . . . well, that had just been too much. So he’d left. He’d left SVU and he left the NYPD and he left Olivia. And he didn’t look back.

He missed her. He missed her all the time. Occasionally he would get the crazy idea to carve ‘how are you doing?’ into his skin to see if she’d respond. But he never did and the silence between them stretched and stretched until he could feel it snap and break.

Then he did break. Because one night . . . one night he woke up in a cold sweat with a burning pain in his chest. At first he thought he was having a heart attack, but when he stumbled to the bathroom and turned the lights on he saw the mark on his chest, right over his heart. It was unmistakably the shape of a cigarette and he watched in horror as two more appeared right beside it.

While he was fumbling to put on his clothes he’d clutched at his chest again and had run to the nearest mirror only to see the outline of what looked like a house key appear. What the fuck was happening to her?

“Elliot,” Kathy had asked sleepily when the sound of him fumbling in the room woke her up. “What’s going on? What are you doing?”

“I have to find Olivia,” he said, his voice shaky with emotion. “I have to, I have to . . .” he’d trailed off, unable to find the words to explain. It didn’t matter because at that moment he’d gotten what felt like a splitting headache and he knew that there would be a new bruise on his forehead. It must have been hard enough to knock her out.

When Kathy turned on the bedside lamp her eyes had widened when she saw the mark blooming on his forehead. “My god,” she whispered.

“I have to go,” he said when he took out his gun and strapped it to his waist.

His cell phone was already in his hand and he was calling her number from memory and even though he heard it automatically go to voicemail it didn’t stop him from trying it again over and over.

It wasn’t until he was in Manhattan that it occurred to him to call Cragen. It sounded like he’d woken him up but he didn’t care. “Liv’s hurt. She’s hurt bad. You need to send the police to her place.”

Cragen didn’t even question it and Elliot was grateful for that as he sped down the streets of New York City. At the rate he was going it was a small miracle that he wasn’t being chased down by cops of his own.

When he got to her apartment building he didn’t bother parking his car, he just left it there sideways on the street, blocking traffic with the door still open. He’d barreled past her doorman and had taken the stairs, knowing it would be faster than the elevator.

His mind quickly raced through the best way to approach this. He could go barreling in and take the chance that he wouldn’t alert the attacker to his presence, or he could move as quietly as possible and hope that she was even there in the first place. He didn’t even know for sure that she’d be at home, but he prayed to God that she was.

Once he reached Liv’s floor he moved silently down the hallway until he reached her apartment and he pulled out his gun. He listened at her door and when he heard a faint noise that sounded like furniture being moved he tried his luck with the door.

God must have smiled down on him because it was unlocked, with the gentlest movement he opened it and peeked his head around the door. Her place was completely wrecked and he could see faint pools of blood on her carpet. It took everything inside of him not to be sick right there.

Then he heard noise coming from the bedroom and slowly, with catlike steps, he approached. When he turned the corner he saw a figure standing over Liv’s bed and her own silhouette laying on the bed - it looked like he was wrapping her in her bedsheets.

“Don’t move,” he said in his most authoritarian voice, praying to god that there was only one attacker.

Without lowering his weapon he flicked on the bedroom light and came face to face with a man he would never forget. The man slowly raised his hands and his face took on an almost sheepish look. He could see Liv duck taped and unconscious, her head was bleeding and there was the unmistakable smell of burned skin.

“Oops,” said the man, “looks like you caught -” But he never finished his sentence because before he could Elliot shot him twice in the chest. The man’s smile vanished as he fell to the floor and Elliot knew he was dead. He shot him once more in the head just to make sure.

“Liv,” Elliot said frantically, moving over the new corpse. “Liv, wake up,” he ripped the tape off her mouth, wincing at the tearing sound. “Come on, Liv, wake up.” He moved to her hands and legs and once she was free of that he pulled her into his arms. “Come on, Liv, you’re tougher than this.”

With a small gasp she opened her eyes and squinted at him. “Where is he?” she mumbled, her eyes darting around the room. “Where is he?”

“Shhh, shh,” he pressed her close to his heart. “He’s dead, Liv. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry I didn’t get here sooner.”

To his surprise she let out a little laugh. “It’s okay, you got here eventually.”

He would have answered her, but then he heard pounding footsteps and uniformed officers entered the room and pointed their guns at him.

“Whoa, whoa,” he said as he gently lowered Liv back down to the bed and raised his hands to show he was unarmed. “I’m a former cop. I’m the one who called you guys in.”

“He saved me,” Liv said as she struggled to sit up in bed and she wrapped her arms around him. “I can’t believe you saved me,” she whispered against his chest.

“Are you kidding?” he said as he wrapped his arms back around her, “I’m never letting you go again.”