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Where to Put My Love

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“So how is vacation going?” Lindstrom asks. He sits perched back in his seat, his calm demeanor almost off putting as he rubs his fingertips together. It’s a very therapist thing to do, she realizes. They either click their pens, rub at their fingertips, or tap at the arms of their chairs. 


“Fine. It’s going fine.” Olivia nods with a half smile. She doesn’t sound convincing and she knows she doesn’t, because Lindstrom goes uneasily quiet. He has a way of looking at her when he calls her bluff that’s wordless in its judgment, but impeccable in its loudness. “I’m feeling … more alone than usual.” She adds, tilting her head at him. Is he satisfied now? Sometimes she thinks he isn’t satisfied until she draws her replies straight from the depths of her fucking soul. He’s a good therapist though, but it’s hard to lie to him. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing, she’s come to know. 


“And spending time with Noah, does that … aid the feeling or make or–” 


“It’s a different kind of …” Olivia doesn’t finish. She shakes her head and purses her lips together, bringing her hands to clasp over her lap. 


“Loneliness?” Lindstrom asks. 


“Yeah.” She answers. 


“You can say that, Liv. It’s okay to say you’re lonely.” Lindstrom offers a faint smile. Olivia says nothing, but gives a gentle nod in response and casts her eyes down to her lap, where she twiddles her thumbs. She knows it may give the appearance of boredom but maybe if he thinks she’s bored with his line of questioning, he’ll move on. “Do you think now that you’re, what, almost a week into vacation that … you’ve perhaps used work to fill that empty space?” He asks, scooting forward in his seat a little. 


He doesn’t give a shit about her pretend boredom. Pity. 


“Um … maybe.” Olivia sings, looking up at him. “Work keeps me busy. My mind busy. We’ve talked about that before.” She adds. 


“Well, yes. But we’ve also talked about how work tires you.” Lindstrom replies. 


“Sometimes I like to be tired.” Olivia says. 


“Because if you’re tired then it’s much easier to just … turn it off?” Lindstrom asks. 




Olivia reaches to scratch the back of her neck and gives a shrug in response. “Turn it off?” She asks. “What? My thoughts?” She adds, drawing her leg up underneath the other. She might as well get comfortable. 


“Your thoughts. Your feelings.” Lindstrom suggests, motioning upwards with his hands. 

“I just … like to be busy.” Olivia answers, which really isn’t an answer at all. 


“Am I being too invasive?” Lindstrom asks, and Olivia narrows her eyes at those particular word choices. She’s heard them before, but not from her therapist. 


“Yes.” She answers straight away. “I mean, no. I … because of recent … things in my life I’m uncomfortable talking about the things we discussed before.” Olivia clears her throat and shifts in her seat. 


“Okay. That’s fair. Are you comfortable with talking about Elliot Stabler again? I was wondering if you had put any thought into what we talked about before. When we talked about maybe exploring –” 


“I haven’t. That’s … really the furthest thing from my mind right now.” Olivia interjects. The room falls silent, and Olivia turns her attention to the clock on the wall. She’s usually not in a hurry to get out of her sessions but today she’s anxious. That could be because she doesn’t have work to retreat to or it could be that she’s had time to sit with the subject matter brought up in their last session. And now, she feels more than ever, that she must be so easily readable for people to know that she’s in love with —


“Liv?” Lindstrom asks. 


She must have zoned out. 


“Hm?” She looks up. 


“You mentioned at the end of our session last week that Noah had a dance recital that weekend. How did it go?” He asks, seeming genuinely intrigued. 


Olivia’s smile broadens, partly because she’s once again successfully dodged the topic of Elliot Stabler. She scoots forward in her seat and drops her other leg onto the ground, then reaches for her phone. “He did so well. He’s getting really good.” She beams, scrolling through her phone to find the exact photo she would like to show Lindstrom. She pulls it up and stands to her feet, leaning forward a bit with an outreached arm to let him have a better look. 


“Ah! Fantastic!” Lindstrom clasps his hands together. “Becoming a fine young man.” 


Olivia brings her phone back into her space and glances down at the photo of Noah, who is in the middle of a pirouette. “Yes he is.” She smiles, tilting her head. The curls on the corners of her lips begin to fade down and Lindstrom, from watching her expression, does the same. 


“Liv?” He asks. 


“We ran into him on, uh … on Mother’s Day.” Olivia corners her eyes down at Lindstrom. He, as if taking that as a start to a new conversation, gestures his hand towards the couch for her to sit down. Which she does. 


“Elliot, right?” 




“Okay. How did that go?” Lindstrom asks. “Was Noah excited to meet him?” 


“I think he was. I think … Elliot and I were just so stunned that it was hard to really … appreciate the moment, you know?” Olivia sighs. “We didn’t talk very long. He and his children went to his wife’s grave after that …” Olivia twirls a piece of her ponytail around her index finger, staring off into nothing as she speaks. 


“Oh? How did that make you feel?” Lindstrom asks. 


“He should’ve gone to her grave, of course. It didn’t upset me.” Olivia replies. She feels she’s being judged, for some nonexistent reason. 


Lindstrom stares at her blankly. 


“No, I mean, how did it make you feel that the first time he met your son was cut so short? Were you hoping for a more official meeting? Maybe dinner or …” Lindstrom waits for her to fill in the gap. 


Olivia feels a soft blush rise to her cheeks, only because she misunderstood his question and answered with that. “He asked Noah and I to lunch before. I said no.” She replies.


“Why?” Lindstrom asks. 


“Why?” Olivia repeats. 


“Yes. Why?” He releases a soft laugh. 


“I don’t want Noah getting attached to someone that may not stick around.” It comes out too quick to catch. Tumbles from her. She’s said it before, to herself. She’s even told Elliot that Noah gets attached too easily. But to say something like this, to her very own walking bullshit detector – well, that wasn’t a swell move. 


“Elliot has been back for a year now. What makes you think he won’t stick around?” Lindstrom sits back in his seat, and she can tell he’s satisfied with the breakthrough he’s just gotten. 


“I guess there’s no way to know that.” Olivia answers truthfully. 


“Then why deprive yourself of that connection?” He asks. 


“I’ll protect my son. Always. If I let Noah get close to him … and he just … disappears again … then I don’t think Noah could take that. It happened once. And it really hurt him.” Olivia’s voice drops, and an ache grows there in place of any bass that was once present. She watches Lindstrom’s eyes shift from her to the tissue box that sits in the middle of the small coffee table between them. He thinks she’s about to cry. Olivia swallows down any emotion that may be on its way up, and shakes her head. Silence falls heavily on the room. 


“Are you, maybe afraid, that you are the one that will get too attached to Elliot … only for him to leave you again?” Lindstrom questions. 




Wow.” Olivia breathes out a shaky laugh. Tears spring to her eyes anyway, despite her resistance. “I … was talking about Peter Stone.” She clears her throat. 


Lindstrom gives one single nod. He doesn’t believe her. Olivia looks away from him yet again. 


“Okay …” She shrugs. “Maybe … I don’t want to let myself go there again. Is it so wrong to protect myself?” Olivia asks. “It was … hard for me.” She pauses. “To come back after … that …” Olivia’s voice, which at one point grew in strength, diminishes again into a soft crack. She’s becoming emotional. Damn him, he’s reeling it out of her. 


“After he left you?” Lindstrom finishes for her, and suddenly, he’s reaching for the tissue box. 


Silence. Lindstrom stands up and hands the tissue box across to her, and only for a moment does Olivia stare at it before taking it from him and pulling a couple of white tissues from the box. The room is once again quiet, and Lindstrom adjusts his suit jacket before sitting back down. He looks away as she dabs at the corners of her eyes, almost as if he’s relieving her of some embarrassment. Giving her privacy for invading and poking at a raw spot. He’s good at what he does, and even better at knowing exactly when to back off. 


“It broke me.” She whispers, eyes cast down. She won’t look up at him. She can’t. 


Lindstrom remains quiet.


Olivia looks up at him when she feels like she can again. 


“Unlike anything else.” 


There’s something about the empty apartment she floats around in tonight of all nights. Noah left last night for a sleepover and won’t be returning until tomorrow afternoon. So she’s been here, for the most part, doing nothing but watching television. At some point she must have zoned out, because her thumb just keeps pressing against the channel up button, over and over again. The news. Shopping networks. Old tv shows. Gone With The Wind is what catches her and brings her back to reality. Olivia, who sits with her elbow propped on the arm of the couch, lifts her head up from its lying position against her knuckles and stares straight ahead at the scene playing before her. 


She hasn’t seen this movie in forever. Probably since she was a young girl, and in fact, thinking back on it, she’s sure the last time she watched it was with an old boyfriend. Todd. He was into these kind of movies. A cinephile, he called himself. Olivia pushes her black rimmed glasses up on her nose and watches as Rhett pulls Scarlett down from the carriage, and she leans against him as they walk side by side, devastated by his declaration that he’s going away. 


“Oh Rhett, please don’t go! You can’t leave me, please?! I’ll never forgive you!” Scarlett cries. 


“I’m not asking you to forgive me.” Rhett removes his hat, and pulls Scarlett closer to him. “I’ll never understand or forgive myself.” He states, staring down at her. 


Olivia turns the tv off, and tosses the remote to her side. The quiet apartment rings in her ears. The clock on the wall. The dryer kicking off. Maybe it’s not so quiet after all. But she doesn’t notice, because the tears in her eyes are stinging too badly for her to notice any of those things. But she hears it anyway. The deafening nothing. 


The deafening nothing. 


She reaches back for the remote, and turns the television on again. Anything is better than that. The nothing. Just as the TV comes on again, Rhett is kissing Scarlett’s forehead. That’s what sends the first stream of tears down her cheeks, and after that, as Scarlett begs for Rhett to let her be, Rhett pleads for her to kiss him. Finally he pulls her into him, and their lips meet. 


Olivia watches the scene play out before her, silent tears flowing heavily down her cheeks. The reflection of the scene is prominent in the lenses of her glasses. She reaches and pulls them off her face, wiping at her cheeks with the back of her hand. This shouldn’t be getting to her so bad. But it is. The movie, as silly as it sounds, has poked at the ache already present in her chest. Bruised it. Peeled the scab. Why is she torturing herself? She should just turn it off. Yes. That’s what she should do. Turn it off. 


Olivia pushes the off button on the remote for a second time and stands from the couch in the same beat. She tosses her glasses down on the coffee table, and her remote back onto the couch. 


Wine is brought from the cupboard. Poured once. The glass is emptied. Poured twice, and when she’s about halfway through her second round, it’s only then that she realizes her phone rests on the kitchen bar. Facedown. As she stands there, with one hand on her hip, and the other swirling the stemless glass in her hand, the thought crosses her mind. Maybe she should call. Check in. See how he’s doing. But if she doesn’t answer, she’s going to feel like a fool. 


Olivia eyes the phone as she takes sip after sip of wine. She presses her lips together, deep in crevices of her mind that she usually prefers not to ever go to. The idealism. The deafening something that dulls out the deafening nothing in the real world around her. She could pick up the phone, press call on his number and they would talk for hours. Tell each other about their days and about how they can’t wait to see each other. He would tell her how he wants to kiss her, amongst other things. She would agree and promise him all the ways she’s going to make up her busy schedule to him. But they’re not there. Holding hands for them is as palpable as it gets, and once that final thought – the thought of how holding hands is just about as good as it gets for her, for them, sinks in … she finds herself drifting back to Lindstrom’s choice of word from therapy. 




This is stupid. She should just call Elliot. 


She should just tell him that she’s thought about it, and has decided to take him up on his offer. 


Lunch sounds amazing.” She’ll say. 


I’m glad you changed your mind.” He’ll tell her, his eyes beaming and sparkling at her like they do. 


But those are thoughts and nothing but thoughts. Thought without action, is just something that takes up space. Olivia has allowed Elliot to take up space for a long time. But the older she gets, the more she finds the place he resides in is becoming bigger. Prone to echo and notice of lackluster. The idea, the daydream of him, however, is the one she holds onto and has for the past twenty-three years. The love she has for him, has so deeply rooted itself in her, that although she lacks the way to verbalize it, she can never dig it out. And so it’s become a thing like vines, which clutch at and weaken moving on for her. 


She figured a long time ago that she would love him until the day she died. Even if he never came back. But he is back now, and has been for a while. So the cosmic joke of it all, now that his wife is gone, is that she’s less sure of how he feels about her now than she was during their twelve years together. 


Before she can overthink herself out of putting her phone down, she’s hitting the phone icon beside his number. Olivia presses the phone to her ear and waits, listening to it ring and ring … and ring, before — 


“Hello?” Elliot’s voice comes through clearly. 


“Hi. It’s me.” Olivia replies, after a moment of pause. 


“It’s you.” She can practically hear him smirking with his teasing little reply. 


“It’s me.” Olivia says with a chuckle. “I haven’t heard from you. So I just thought … I would call and check in. I heard about Donnelley … I just, Elliot I —” 


“Ah, I don’t wanna talk about that. Let’s talk about you.” Elliot interjects. 


Okay. What do you want to talk about?” Olivia asks. 


You.” Elliot repeats, laughing. 


“There’s really nothing new going on with me. I mean, I’m on a vacation for a couple of weeks but I’m sure you already knew that.” Olivia says. 


“I heard. I swear cops are worse than old women when it comes to gossip.” Elliot replies. 


“Me being on vacation is gossip?” Olivia laughs. 


“It is when you never take any time for yourself. Old habits die hard though.” Elliot says. 


Mmm … I forgot there’s no hiding my ways from you.” Olivia teases. 


“Never. Where’s the kid?” Elliot asks, quickly changing the subject. 


“The kid?” Olivia lets out another laugh, this time, a little more boisterous. “ Noah is at a sleepover for the weekend. He’ll be back tomorrow.” She adds. 


“He’s great, Liv. You’ve done a nice job. Really.” Elliot’s tone changes. Shifts into something that resembles a bit more than a compliment. 




“You there?” Elliot asks. 


“Mhm.” Olivia tucks her bottom lip into her mouth. 

“What are you doing in the morning?” Elliot asks. 


“Sleeping. That’s the plan but … you know how that goes. My internal clock is … beyond repair.” Olivia reaches for her wine glass to finish off what’s lying in a red puddle at the bottom. 


“Is that why you’re up at two in the morning?” Elliot asks. 




“It’s 2:00 am.” 


“No it’s not.” 


“I promise it is. Look at your —” She hears, but pulls the phone away from her ear to see that it is in fact, five past two in the morning. Her mouth gaps slightly and she presses the phone back to her ear. “I guess you’re right. Did I wake you? Were you going to bed?” She asks. 


“No. You know me. I’m a restless sleeper. Besides, what kind of ending to the night is it if I don’t chit-chat with my old partner first?” Elliot chuckles. 


“Your old partner?” Olivia teases. 


“Sorry, my favorite old partner.” Elliot corrects. 


“Mmh, that made it a little better. Still not quite. You still know how to talk your way out of things, I’ll give you that.” Olivia grins. 


“There’s no hiding my ways from you.” Elliot repeats her words.




Courage? It comes swiftly. 


“Old habits die hard.” Olivia’s voice drops almost into a whisper. 


“Come to breakfast in the morning with me.” Elliot says. It doesn’t come out as much of a request as it does a statement. She can tell he’s emboldened himself in the moment, in the midst of whatever little banter they had going on, to ask her yet again to go out with him. As what though? Friends? 


Olivia is sure of one thing and one thing only. She would rather not spend another twelve years staring across food, and aching for a man that doesn’t want her back. 


“I-I can’t.” Olivia sighs. 


“Why’s that?” Elliot asks. “Busy not sleeping?” He jokes. 




“Come to breakfast with me. It’ll be like old times.” Elliot suggests. 


Oh, he knows how to get her. Both ends fall quiet, and neither say a word.


“What does … old times mean to you, Elliot?” Olivia asks, hanging her head. She’s made her way back over to the couch at that point, quite honestly because the wine is hitting her a little harder tonight than it usually would. 


“Um … it means … breakfast with my friend.” Elliot explains. She can hear the pride in his voice. The sound of feeling like he said the right thing, when in reality, that’s not really what she wanted to hear. But who is she to blame him? She’s the one that told him she wanted friendship. She created this new dynamic between them. 


Is that all? She wants to ask. 


But she doesn’t. 


“I just wanted to call and make sure you were well.” Olivia, as she does, tries to change the subject. 


“I’d be better if you came to breakfast with me tomorrow morning.” Elliot persists. 


Olivia laughs, tossing her head back. 

“I am going to be busy not sleeping.” Olivia teases. 


“I can bring breakfast to you.” Elliot suggests. “If that’s more comfortable.” 


“It’s not.” Olivia replies straight away. His end goes quiet. 




“There’s no hiding your ways from me, Olivia Benson.” His words come out sure. Firm. They grab at her and whilst her mouth opens to respond, nothing comes out. What she thinks must be the beginning of some intimate declaration, is nothing of the sort because Elliot follows up with — “You just don’t want to watch me put ketchup on my eggs.” He adds. “I know it’s always grossed you out.” Elliot says. 


“I’ve gotten over that. Noah puts ketchup on his eggs.” Olivia replies, eyes cast down. 


Quiet. They both know there’s much that has slipped between the cracks when it comes to their knowledge of each other over the years. 


“It’s late, I should go. I’m getting tired.” Olivia rubs at her face with her fingers. 


“Okay. I’ll call you.” Elliot says. 


“Liar.” She teases. 


“I will, I promise. I want us to talk more.” Elliot adds. 


“Okay.” Olivia says. That’s all she can say. 


“Night, partner.” Elliot says; She can hear him smiling. 


“Night, El.” Olivia replies. 


She hangs up, and lets her cell glide through her hand onto the couch cushion. She buries her face in her palm, with her elbow resting on the back of the couch. A deep sigh leaves her. Confusion and exhaustion mingle, because how in the hell is she supposed to get anywhere with him when she keeps rejecting his advances? 


They are advances, right? 




He just wants to share a meal with her. That’s all. They’ve done that countless times before. There shouldn’t be any added connotation to that. Except, she knows herself. Olivia knows that if she allows herself to slip back into the place where it became comfortable and enough for her to be with him in that way, that when he breaks her again, she may not recover this time around. 


Olivia feels her phone vibrate next to her leg, signaling she’s received a text message. She picks it up and sees — 


It was good to hear your voice.