Olivia wakes to an overly bright light shining down on her, the rustle of a busy building with constant and continuous movement, and the whispering of familiar, resigned voices.
It takes a moment to remember where she is, and why she is there. When she does, she wishes she hadn't.
Nick is the first to notice she’s awake, and, flashing her a soft, sympathetic smile, which only serves to irritate her, asks: “How you doing, Liv?”
She shrugs, and then curses the action when it prompts a ragged, pained gasp to leave her mouth.
She tries again, this time staying still and ignoring the alarmed look Rollins had sends her way. “I'm okay,” she says, her voice firm even in its weakened state.
“Yeah,” Nick replies sarcastically. “You really look it.”
She glares at him, hoping the look held the same power it did when her face wasn't covered in cuts and bruises. “How long have I been out?”
“Most of the day,” her partner replies, and she has to catch herself before nodding, not wanting to hurt her neck.
“Want some water?” Amanda asks, and Olivia hums an affirmative reply.
“Liv,” Nick starts, and Olivia can tell he’s slightly uncomfortable, can see it in the way his knees bounce and his palm rubs at his neck. “You know it's okay to not be okay, right? We won't judge, you know that, right?”
She sighs again, the small exhale of air causing pain. Cracked ribs, she guesses. Probably worse. “I know,” she replies, “but I'm fine.”
Amanda hands her an annoyingly small plastic cup of cold water and sits back down, “If you say so.”
Downing the water in seconds, Olivia falls flat against the hard hospital mattress, exhausted, and allows sleep to overpower her body once more.
When she wakes, only a few hours later, it’s to angry voices shout-whispering on the other side of her hospital room. Eyes cracked open a little bit, Olivia notices the additional figures of Fin and Cragen standing in front of her. Annoyed, she surveys the faces of her colleagues, surprised at the outrage she finds.
Despite her better judgement, threads of anxiety spread through her body like wildfire, and she can’t stop herself from asking what’s wrong.
Four heads turn immediately to her direction, and the looks held within their eyes increases the sense of panic. Looking at the other detectives first, Fin decides to speak up. Voice hesitant, he says “Lewis is alive, babygirl.”
She has never liked breaking down in front of people. Throughout her childhood and long into her adulthood, she's avoided it whenever possible. Even with the complicated, burden heavy job as a SVU detective, she has managed to keep her breakdowns personal.
Elliot had witnessed a few. Despite her best efforts, she'd been unable to shake of his concern. The stubborn, persistent bastard that he was.
It went both ways, though. She'd witnessed him fall apart, time and again, over his kids, his divorce, over a victim, a case gone bad. She had always seen it as something she needed to do, but it had never felt like a burden. She'd always been happy to help him, and the feeling had seemed to be shared.
It surprised her that she liked his protectiveness, because the same overbearing nature annoyed her when it was anyone else. She supposed it was just one of the things they had, one of many, many traits unique to their long lasting partnership.
He'd always been there when she needed him, even if she didn't know she did.
Falling against his body, face pressed against the crook of his neck, the familiar smell of him washing over her body in waves, his fingers running through her hair gently, her hands clinging to his coat, his shirt, anything, had always made her feel safe.
Cooped up in a hospital bed, knowledge of her attacker's medical state at the forefront of her mind, she longs for the now foreign feeling.
She was ordered to stay in the hospital, and Olivia hadn't bothered arguing. She would have preferred to be at her apartment, in her home, but she knows that CSU would be all over it, not to mention the ireful voice in the back of her head, questioning her ability to handle being there alone.
So, after a broken, pitiful sleep, she wakes a third time to the blinding brightness of hospital lights, and the murmuring of someone at her side. Her eyes open, and she notices the familiar, calloused hand clutching hers.
Her first instinct is to pull away from it, but she doesn't.
Brian is sitting next to her, murmuring to himself as he types with one hand on his phone. She supposes she's meant to be relieved, but the sight doesn't comfort her any more than waking up and seeing Nick there had. She'd probably feel more comfortable with Nick there, actually.
He sends the text he'd been typing, and finally notices the wakened state of his girlfriend. He's on to her immediately, leaning forward with questions of concern and words of encouragement spilling from his mouth at such a pace that she does pull her hand away, her body moving backwards to create more space between them.
“Brian,” she says, face contorted in discomfort at his closeness. “I'm fine.”
He doesn't believe her, of course he wouldn't, no one does, and the questions keep coming. The whats, hows, whens, whys, and the feeling of panic returns.
“Brian,” she says again, voice obviously irritated. “Stop, please.”
She doesn't want to deal with this, deal with him, right now. He's acting like an overprotective father, similar to how Elliot used to act, only more frustrating. There's a patronising quality to his protectiveness, one that Elliot's hadn't obtained, that exasperates her to no end.
“Liv,” he mumbles, slowly. “I just wanna make sure you're okay.”
“I'm fine,” she repeats for what feels like the thousandth time. “Please stop asking.”
He nods and leans back in his chair, giving her more space to breathe, and she's grateful. She props herself up in the hospital bed and asks about the latest, and he fills her in.
She listens, trying to ignore the urge to tell him to go away and leave her alone.
Her room is a circus, again, with what looks like half the bloody SVU department in there angrily muttering about potential trials and sick, sick, sick perpetrators.
Brian still hasn't left, and he's only served to further bother her in the time they've been together. She just wants some quiet, a few hours, despite the crippling fear she knows will likely present itself.
She gets up, groaning quietly, and moves towards the room's bathroom. She glares at Fin when he moves towards her and pulls her arm out of Brian's grasp when he grabs hold. She should be able to go to the bathroom by herself, for fuck sakes. She isn't a five year old. She isn't co-dependent on anyone.
She makes it to the room and shuts the door, admittedly harsher than she needed to, but goddammit she wants them to treat her like a normal person. Like the highly respected detective that she is.
She's sick of being treated like a fragile victim, even if it's what she is at the moment.
She moves towards the mirror and stares, eyes once again roaming over the bruises and cuts Lewis left behind. The image of the house, of looking into the old mirror while Lewis remained on the ground flashes before her eyes, and while it's quick, only for a split second, it's enough to have her fall back and sit on the closed lid of the toilet seat.
Ragged breaths make their way in and out of her mouth, and she wants Elliot. Wants him like she had in that moment. Wants the bluntness, the harshness, the familiarity and trust their partnership had held.
She's almost glad her phone is broken, otherwise she would have called.
When she returns to the main room, she's grateful to find it a little emptier. Rollins and Nick sit next to Brian, and she guesses it's their time for guard duty.
“Who got everyone to leave,” she questions, sitting back on the hospital bed.
“Me,” Nick replies, and she smiles in thanks. “Thought you'd want to be left alone.”
She raises an eyebrow at him, “Because this is considered alone.”
He shrugs, lips turned upwards. “Best I could do, Liv. Cragen's protective of you, and adamant with his orders.”
“Right,” she says, lying down with a sigh.
“Are you okay?” Brian asks quickly, and Olivia sees Amanda and Nick exchange a glance.
Voice overly sarcastic, she replies, “Peachy.”
“I went to the bathroom, Brian,” she cuts him off, harshly. “What do you think would've happened?”
Before her boyfriend can reply, Amanda cuts in. “Stop being overbearing, Cassidy. She'll let you know if she needs your help.”
Although Olivia wouldn't consider them the best of friends, she smiles thankfully. “Exactly.”
“I'm just worried,” Brian defends himself, turning towards Amanda. “My girlfriend was kidnapped, and you expect me to act as if nothing happened?”
“No,” Amanda says. “I expect you to respect her decisions and not to pressure her.”
“I'm not!” Brian proclaims. “I only want to know what happened.”
“Yeah, and if she wanted to tell you,” Nick says, “then she would have. So quit asking.”
“I'm only concerned.”
“Just listen to them, Bri,” Olivia sighed.
He stares at her for a moment, and she is so, so annoyed. “Sorry for caring then,” he says, and stands up to leave.
No one had noticed the opening of the door until a faint Brooklyn accent was heard. “What a surprise, Cassidy's being a dickhead,” the voice pauses. “Again.”
All four heads turn towards the figure in the hallway, two confused, one angry, and the other in disbelief.
“Who are you?” Amanda asks, just as the man in question moves quickly towards Olivia.
Olivia practically jumps out of the bed, pain going unnoticed as she nearly throws herself in the arms of her old partner. She stops herself, though, right in front of him, unaware of the rules between them.
“Liv,” Elliot breaths, voice barely audible. His eyes sweep her form, and she sees the anger in his eyes increase as he notices every bruise, every cut, every marking Lewis had left behind. “My Liv.”
He moves forwards, and his arms around her feel right. Her body shakes with repressed emotion as his grip tightens, and her face falls against his shoulder, her bad arm resting between their chests as her uninjured hands claws at his back to grab hold of something. “Elliot,” she chokes, voice muffled against his coat.
Her name is spilling from his mouth, over and over and over, barely above a whisper. His grip is tight, uncomfortable so, but Olivia isn’t going to say anything. One of his hands cups the back of her head, fingers gently stroking through the locks Lewis had dragged her around with. Elliot's eyes shut as he holds his old partner, he lips moving against the broken skin of her forehead.
Neither notices the looks Amanda and Nick were giving them, nor did they notice the departure of Brian. They didn’t care.
Olivia feels her throat contract as Elliot's comforting smell falls over her. He hasn't changed his cologne since they'd last spoken, and she’s grateful. She wants the familiarity. “I'm so happy to see you,” she says, and it comes out louder than she intended as she represses a sob, eyes shut tight, too tight.
Amanda exchanges a look with Nick, completely shocked to see someone who was usually so put together practically falling apart in the arms of a man they didn't know.
“I'm so sorry, baby,” Elliot murmurs, his warm breath ghosting over her face. “So sorry.”
“Not your fault,” she whispers, voice controlled.
“I should never have left,” he replies, and she nods against his shoulder because she can't bring herself to talk about that, not right now, and he gets it. It’s a conversation for later. Right now, she just wants him to hold her.
He runs his hands gently up and down her back, and the embrace makes her feel safer than she has in a long, long time.
“Wanted you,” she breaths, and while he doesn't reply, she feels his arms tighten again.
They let go of each other eventually, but Olivia still clings to him. The fingers of her good hand twist in the thick fabric of his coat sleeve, and she makes him sit on her bed, one arm draped over her shoulders as she faces her colleagues. The position is ridiculous, they can’t both fit on the bed, but Elliot doesn’t complain, just sits awkwardly and holds her.
Olivia knows Nick and Amanda have questions, about who Elliot is, they're probably curious about her behaviour. She's never let herself go completely around them, not like she has with Elliot.
“You gonna talk, Liv?” Elliot asks, and she shakes her head, afraid her voice might break. He nods, like he was expecting it, and she realises he probably was. He clears his throat and gives her shoulder a small squeeze, careful of any injuries. “I'm Elliot Stabler,” he says, and recognition colours both Nick and Amanda's faces. “Olivia's former partner.”
Nick looks at Olivia's face first, eyebrows raised, but he sticks his hand out towards the other man, “Nick Amaro, Liv's current partner.”
Elliot would shake the man's hand, but Olivia has her hand tangled with the arm needed, so he shoots the man an apologetic glance and looks towards the blonde.
“Amanda Rollins,” she responds. “You're the jackass, then?”
“You're partnered with Fin, then?” he replies, and the woman laughs.
“How'd you know?”
“Lucky guess,” he replies, and then sighs as the hand resting on Olivia's shoulder moves its way to her hair. “Cassidy, though, really?”
The corners of her mouth tilt upwards, and it's so ridiculous but it's the first time she's felt like laughing in days. “Yep.”
“You weren't here to scare him off, so yes.”
Elliot laughs, and his lips press against the top of her head once more. “Seems I did a pretty good job already,” he says, head tilting towards the empty chair.
“Another one of your charming qualities, El,” she replies, smiling.
“Yeah, well, from what I heard, he shouldn't bother coming back.”
“You just want me for yourself.”
“Maybe,” Elliot replies easily. “I never liked sharing.”
“'Course you didn't.”
The group of four stay in a only slightly awkward silence, and Olivia marvels at how easy it is to fall back into the relationship she had with Elliot. Like it's a second nature.
“How much do you know,” she asks eventually, voice quiet.
“Not everything,” he replies, grip tightening. “Just that the sick fuck took you from your apartment. I'm guessing what he did to you from his past crimes.”
Her breath quickens, and she drops his sleeve for his hand, where she intertwines their fingers. The motion is alien, but it feels right. The absence of a wedding ring makes her feel more comfortable with being close to him. “He didn't rape me,” she mumbles, and the other three in the room can barely make it out, but they do, and they're all relieved. Mostly.
“He still tortured you,” Elliot spits. “Still made you watch. Still hurt you. Still thought he could touch you, Liv.”
Olivia knows the anger is boiling, and that the only reason he's keeping calm is for her sake. “Elliot,” she warns, but he doesn't listen.
“Please tell me you killed the bastard, Liv,” he says, voice strained with controlled anger.
She feels panic run through her again, and hates herself for it. “I thought I did,” she replies.
Elliot's eyes snap towards hers, and she knows. Knows that she needs to stop him from doing something stupid. She knows he would go and kill Lewis that very second if he knew where to find him. “Olivia,” he says, and her full name sounds foreign on his lips. Almost like she's in trouble.
“You can't do anything, El.”
“The fuck I can't.”
“You're not a cop, not anymore. It would be seen as a civilian killing another civilian. There's no argument of self-defence, nothing,” she says, almost pleading with him to not move. “He deserves it, yes, but you can't do anything.”
“But nothing,” she says, and she's upset that he can't. She wants him dead, wants him to suffer before he dies. It's why she hadn't used the gun.
She can see the pure rage in his eyes when she looks up at them, can feel the slight tremor of his body as he tries to suppress his emotions.
She knows that Elliot would do anything for her, even now, after years of broken communication. She knows that he'd kill someone if she asked. That he'd track the person down, beat them, until they were bloody and broken and dying. His mind would forgo any rational thought, instead he'd focus on her, and how the person had hurt her. Any consequence of his actions would be forgotten, and he wouldn't stop until her request was fulfilled, and she was safe at his side.
All she needed to do was say the words, and he would do it. Whatever it was, without hesitation.
It was exactly why she wouldn’t. She couldn’t handle losing him, not again.
“I understand how you get your rep,” Nick mentions, looking at the man curled at Liv’s side.
Elliot doesn't answer, instead he stares down at Olivia, thinking intently. Eventually, he speaks: “This whole thing wouldn't have happened if I had stayed.”
Olivia sighs, “Don't be an idiot, El. It's no one’s fault but his.”
“No, seriously,” he says. “Think about it.”
“I don't know what you mean.”
“C'mon, Liv, you remember how we were as partners,” he says, hand squeezing hers. “I used to take you home and check your apartment. Whenever we had a bad case, whenever the perp got off, whenever you got threatened—”
“Hit on,” Olivia corrects.
“Same thing with these sickos,” he replies. “Whenever I thought something bad might happen, I'd drive you home and walk you into your apartment. I'd go in first, and we'd check that it was clear before I left.”
“El,” she whispers, voice saddened because it's true, and she knows that Elliot will blame himself for it, despite what she says.
“I would have done it, with this guy. I would have found him first, Liv. I could have stopped him,” Elliot's breath is coming quicker and quicker, and Olivia sits up properly and turns so she's facing him. “I would have killed him and you'd be safe and you wouldn't be here and you'd be okay and—”
“Elliot, stop,” she says. “Please, El. This isn't your fault.”
“But I could have stopped it,” he says, eyes glazed over, and Olivia can hear the strain in his voice, can tell he's about to break.
She turns towards Nick and Amanda and gives them a look, and they get up and leave dutifully. She waits for the door to shut before she looks back at Elliot. Her good hand curls around his right cheekbone, her thumb gently rubbing comforting lines. “This is not your fault, Elliot. I do not blame you.”
“Elliot, please,” she whispers. “You left because it was best for you. I understand that, and it's still a discussion that we need to have, but please. This isn't your fault, nor is it mine. You're here now, you're making me feel better now, that's all I care about.”
He breaths noisily for a few moments, a bitter chuckle leaving his mouth. “Of course you're comforting me in this situation.”
“Would we expect anything else, El?” Her voice is still gentle, still quiet, but there's a hint of playfulness there.
He pulls her to him again, face hiding in the crook of her neck. Olivia can feel him breath in her scent, can feel the warm puffs of air against her skin, can feel the movements of his lips as he mumbles: “Cassidy's still a prick.”
If Fin and Cragen are surprised to see Elliot with her, they don't say anything.
She's being released today, deemed healthy enough to return home, where she's supposed to lie in bed and do nothing.
It sounds like hell.
Cragen's talking, and she's trying to listen, but she really just wants to leave. Wants to sleep in a proper bed.
“You're not to be back at work until I say so,” is the statement that catches her attention, and she immediately grumbles.
“Come on, cap. You know I do better on the job.”
“Liv,” Nick says. “It's only been a few days. I'm not working with you when you're still recovering. It’s what’s best for you.”
“I'm perfectly fine,” she responds.
“That's great,” Cragen says. “Be perfectly fine wherever you stay.”
She sighs, “I suppose it'll be good to be at home.” The other detectives share a glance, and she glares at them. “What?”
“Well, Liv,” Cragen says. “Your apartment is still a crime scene at the moment, so you'll need to stay somewhere else.”
She wants to punch something, she really does. Not only did Lewis put her through hell, but now he was taking away her job, her apartment, her home. “Where am I supposed to stay?”
“Cassidy will be willing to take you in, wouldn't he?” Fin asks, and Elliot snorts.
“You can stay with me, Liv,” he says, casually. Everyone turns to look at him and he shrugs, eyes locked with Olivia's. “It's a one bedroom, but there's a couch I can sleep on if you want.”
“El, you don't have to.”
“I want to,” he says. “C'mon, I'll pretend not to notice when you use all the hot water, and I'll drink that godawful tea you like if it makes you feel better. I'll even do the laundry and I won't give you any of your favourite foods, because I know you don't want them right now.”
“Don't you know the way to my heart,” she says, sarcastically, but secretly her heart warms at the statement.
He grins at her, and she's reminded once again of how much she missed this, missed him. “It'll be good, promise.”
“You're only doing this to intimidate Brian.”
“Nah,” he says. “But it's a bonus.”
She smiles, “Okay.”
She nods, a small, nervous chuckle escaping her lips. “God knows what I'm getting myself into.”
Elliot's new apartment was nice. Everything she saw screamed the man, his personality, and she liked that. She felt safe here.
She hadn't been allowed to take anything from her apartment, so after her shower, where she had predictably used all the hot water in a futile attempt to feel clean, she'd been forced to dressed in oversized closed belonging to her new roommate.
She quite likes it.
The first thing she’d noticed when she got into his bed was the overwhelming sense of Elliot that the whole apartment had. His scent surrounded her, covered every single thing she was sleeping on and in.
Still, it is the first time sleeping away from the hospital since she had got away, and she can't shake the anxiety, not entirely. She tries though, and manoeuvres herself so she's lying in a comfortable position before letting her eyes fall shut. Sleep comes easily enough, she’s still exhausted, she just hopes it lasts.
It doesn't take long for the nightmares to hit, the memories, and soon she's thrashing, with small murmurs turning into screams. She’s fighting an invisible attacker, pleading for him to stop, she’s trying to get away, fighting as hard as she can, but futile.
She’s not waking up. The terror will eat her alive.
Elliot is at her side in a moment’s time, gentle and reassuring, and when he coaxes her awake, she clings to his body. After asking for permission, he gets into the bed with her and holds her against his chest, rocking softly. Her cheek presses against the bare skin of his breastbone, and the air of her shaky breaths tickle his skin.
“It'll be okay, Liv,” he murmurs, lips pressed against the top of her hair. “It's okay. I'm here. I'm not going anywhere.”
She chokes on a sob, and his heart breaks. “Don't leave again,” she whispers. “Don't leave me.”
He places a chaste kiss to her hair, her cheek, and continues to rock her. “Never again, sweetheart.”
He nods, and then vocalises his agreement when he realises she probably can't see him, “I promise, Liv.”
He rocks her until she falls asleep, and Olivia feels a sense of calmness with the solid body of Elliot behind her. She doesn’t leave his arms he entire night, and she sleeps peacefully, for the first time in a long time.