Chapter 1: Some Things Never Change
The cliché — some things never change, is as universal as it is because it’s true. Sayings like that stick around because there’s almost a little too much truth to them. It can at times be a good thing, but most of the time said out of annoyance. Some things never change like the way Noah, Olivia’s son, has always hated olives. She’s sure, that’s something that will always be the same. He’s only eight but Olivia is positive, ten years from now, Noah will be picking off any unsuspecting olive that sneaks its way on his pizza.
Her best friend and partner back in New York, Fin, has and always will be the same witty and loyal person he’s always been. He will never change.
But then there’s the town of Aurora, which happens to be the location of the diner Olivia Benson and her son Noah sit in at this very moment. When Olivia attaches the phrase, some things never change to this town – she’s met with a feeling that borders endearing and annoying. It can be both, right? Nothing has changed about this place except maybe a few shops going out of business and new ones taking their place. The roads are a little better too, but then again, Olivia has lived in the city for so long that small-town roads seem like butter compared to the rollercoaster tracks of New York.
The interior of the diner has changed quite a bit. The arcade games that used to sit in the corner next to the bathroom are gone and the floors are no longer checkered, but some fake wood tile stuff that has a slight bounce to it if you step on it the wrong way, as Noah demonstrated when they first came in by using an area of the floor as a makeshift trampoline.
Otherwise, the counter, which stretches from side to side of the diner is still the same. The stools have been replaced from turquoise and silver stems to little black ones. More modern, which seems to be the overall theme of the place. The menu, however, is still exactly the same.
Noah munches on the same burger Olivia did when she was his age. She was tempted to get one herself, but after the drive she’s had, all she wanted to do was have a cup of coffee. Which she has, between both hands, with her elbows rested on the table of the booth they’re sitting at.
Noah reaches for his napkin to wipe the ketchup that’s spread across his cheek off. “This is better than McDonald’s.” He says, mouth full and eyes wide. He’s exaggerating, Olivia thinks because when they go home he’ll be begging for a happy meal and declaring no greater meal in the world than what comes in that little red box.
Olivia grins, giving one single nod before taking another sip of her coffee. She looks out the large picture window that oversees the street, watching as townsfolk walk up and down it. She recognizes no one yet, but she’s sure that will soon end. Across the street from the diner is a place Olivia used to practically live at as a teenager. The Aurora theater. She remembers when the theater finally got a copy of Ghostbusters and how excited she and her two best friends were to see it. It somehow looks the same, though she’s sure it’s been repainted over the years. The building sits attached to other small businesses and the marquee still displays in black letters whatever is playing now. Maybe she’ll take Noah inside sometime within the next few days.
When Olivia looks back over at Noah, she sees that he’s put on his neon pink sunglasses that she bought him at a gas station just outside of town after his consistent begging for them. I need them for summer vacation, Noah insisted. Olivia wasn’t really going to argue with that. This vacation was for Noah. So, if he wanted fun sunglasses, he was going to have them.
She gave it a week until they were either lost or broke, but regardless — party hard.
“Can I have ice cream?” The eight-year-old asks, mouth full of burger. There’s ketchup on his face again.
“How about we save that for tonight? I’ll pick up some after we settle into the house, yeah?” Olivia asks, tilting her head. She sits her coffee mug down. Noah nods.
“Does the boat work?” Noah asks, sitting his burger down and going in on the fries. Olivia reaches forward and steals one off his plate, taking a bite off of the crinkly potato.
“I don’t think there’s a boat there anymore,” Olivia replies.
“I wanna drive it if there is.” Noah states. He’s been thinking about this.
“Um,” Olivia laughs wholeheartedly. “I don’t think so. But the lake is really nice and there’s a dock. I brought your floaties so you can swim.” Olivia suggests, brows raised cleverly. He was eight and could swim well, but there was no way Olivia was letting him into a lake that sits just down the way from their rental, without some kind of floating device.
The lakehouse. Olivia hasn’t actually been inside the lakehouse but — she remembers it being there from when they were younger. The high school football coach used to live there with his wife until she passed away. Then he ended up selling it, moving to Florida, and ever since then, it’s been used as a vacation rental. Doc was his name. His real name? Olivia has no idea. But he went by Doc because when he wasn’t teaching football, he was down by the dock fishing.
“I can do cannonballs.” Noah declares, holding his index finger up. He pokes another fry into his mouth.
“Where’d you learn that?” Olivia asks, finishing off the fry she stole from Noah’s plate.
“ Ahhh.” Olivia chuckles, following up with a nod. She will not be letting him do cannonballs off the dock. Olivia is a bit overprotective, especially when it comes to Noah. She can’t help but keep looking around. Maybe she’ll run into Sally, who was adamant on making mud pies when they were kids. She probably has a bakery by now. Or maybe she got married and just makes cakes from scratch for her children – who knows? Or she could run into Tim, who had a thing for Mrs. Caldwell in high school. But the last she heard, Tim left Aurora years ago. Supposedly, he married Sally’s older sister. Or so she heard.
The thing about Aurora, was that people came and went. It was a place where some found home and for others, a place to get out of. It could either be someone's dream location or some hellish nightmare with invisible chains to escape from. That was the case for Olivia. She never wanted to stay in Aurora. Everyone in town knew about her mother and that was not a legacy she wanted to carry around.
But then there was her career, which she knew if she stayed in Aurora, she couldn’t have. So she escaped as far away as she could. Four and a half hours, to be exact.
Olivia still remembers the day she left vividly. She left in her car, with nothing in the backseat but a suitcase and some other belongings. Going off to college was a huge milestone for Olivia, especially after the death of her mother. Serena had left her just enough money to skip dodge on, and in some sad way, it was retribution for the many occurrences between the two of them throughout her childhood. That money got her out of here.
So why come back?
Noah is adopted.
That may seem like a strange excuse to bring him here, but Noah doesn’t know much of anything about his birth family. What Olivia does know about them, she’s not exactly sure an eight-year-old is ready to know. So, she believes the right thing to do is to show Noah where she came from. Regardless of some of her undesirable memories correlated with the town, it was a fun place to be during the summer.
The lake, the one that their rental overlooks, appears to be on fire this time of the year. The sun casts down on it in such a way that both causes it to sparkle and gives the illusion of flame. Riding bikes down these streets, as a teenager, was a relief from the heat while simultaneously making you feel like you could fly; The breeze and the dust from bicycle wheels were nothing but mere pixie dust compared to the joy Olivia felt. It was the feeling she lived for.
Then there was this place. It had been remodeled, yes. But Olivia still can’t help but look over in the corner at the booth that still resides there. She can still see her, Elliot, and Kathy piled into the booth, drinking milkshakes and talking about the movie they’d just seen at the theater across the street.
A deep breath leaves Olivia just as quickly as she took it in.
“Mom?” Noah asks.
“Can we go now?”
“Yeah, it’s getting late, we should go.” Olivia reaches for her purse to pay the bill.
Trees are everywhere. Short ones, medium, tall – they’re everywhere. Olivia doesn’t remember there being so many goddamn trees but regardless, they surround the two-story lakehouse. The lakehouse itself hasn’t changed except for the color. It was once brown, matching the cabin aesthetic of it all. But whoever owns it now has painted it an emerald green color, with white trim. The house sits on a wooden pedestal structure, with a long winding staircase that leads in three different flights in order to get to the top. Rocks and brush sit below them. Olivia is not looking forward to carrying their luggage up to the house.
Olivia stands outside of her black SUV, slowly taking in her surroundings. Noah is still sitting in the car playing a game on his phone. So, she uses the quiet moment before he gets out to study where she and Noah will be staying for the next few weeks. Straight ahead from the driveway is the first flight of stairs that lead to the house. To her right is a small set of steps that lead down a tiny decline and to the water. A dock waits in the distance, and beside it, is an empty boathouse that has been left alone from the painting renovation. Olivia can’t help but think maybe they should’ve painted the boat house just so everything looked more cohesive but oh well.
Noah opens the passenger door and climbs out, then shuts it. One look around and Noah’s nose turns up. “Is there a lot of bugs here?” Noah asks, swatting at one coming his way.
“At night there’s mosquitoes. Dragonflies and …” Olivia looks behind at Noah, who is still fighting off whatever is trying to get to him. “I have bug spray.” I just don’t know where it is.
“Mosquitos?!” Noah asks in horror. He smacks at the bug that’s just landed on his arm. “Is this a mosquito?” Noah adds, not looking up at Olivia but rather examining the smooshed pest on his forearm. The sun is going down so it’s likely a bug looking for its next meal.
“I’ll find the spray. I think I put it inside the cooler.” Olivia makes her way, keys in hand, to the back of the SUV. She pops the trunk and begins digging inside. She moves suitcases and outdoor activities such as the volleyball net (which she’s sure now she has no room to set up) and folding outdoor chairs. The realization that she’s left the ice chest at home, next to her apartment door, hits her. “ Shit.” She mouths to herself. The empty chest had a variety of things in it. Bug spray, and sunscreen, among others.
“What is it?” Noah asks, coming around to meet Olivia. She climbs out of the trunk, but leaves the door open because this stuff has to go up to the house anyway.
“We’re going to have to go back into town in the morning.” She sighs, running her fingers through her hair. This meant a trip to the drug store.
“I thought we were getting ice cream?” Noah pouts, blue eyes staring up at her.
Noah Benson did not play when it came to two things. Ice cream and his disdain for olives.
So, apparently, they’re going back into town tonight.
Bulb lights, hung in rows, line the streets of Aurora. The sun is on its way down, casting an orange-ish glow on the red cobblestone streets and little stores, also lined and joined together.
Olivia and Noah, ice cream cones in hands, pass Vidler’s – a little 5-10 $ store. Something catches Noah’s eye from the storefront window and he quickly walks back to get a better view of it. Olivia turns around to see him gawking at some fidget toy in the window display.
“Can we go in?” Noah asks, backing up more to look at the door. The white sign that hangs in the center of the glass door reads CLOSED . Noah frowns, which prompts Olivia to come up to him and put her hand on his back.
“We can come back tomorrow maybe.” Olivia says, rubbing soft circles against her son’s back. She looks through the glass window, studying everything inside. The lights are off but she can still see to an extent what’s on the shelves. Board games. Modern toys which she just doesn’t get the appeal of. But what catches her eye in the display case by the cash register incites a soft smile from her. They’re still selling kaleidoscopes.
Olivia can hear Noah talking but she’s not really there. She recalls being no more than ten or twelve years old and coming here all the time with Elliot. They would meet from their respective neighborhoods in the middle of the street, on their bikes, and ride down to Vidler’s.
One day, they rode down together. Olivia needed to get out of the house because her mother was doing what her mother, Serena, did; Drink. Before Olivia left her house, Serena’s words weren’t kind that day and in fact, they rarely were. But Elliot had made up for it that day by buying her one of the kaleidoscopes in the display cases. She’s sure now he must have used every penny of his lawn mowing money to buy it. Kids back then weren’t exactly paid fair wages for their labor.
Elliot waited to give it to her until later that night when they were by the lake. They had just finished swimming when he pulled it out of his backpack and told her to close her eyes.
It was a toy at the end of the day, but what Elliot had told her is what has stuck with her all of these years.
“ When you’re sad, just look into it. You can pretend you’re away from here.”
It was childish, but that’s what made the moment magical. Elliot kissed her that night, both in wet swimming suits and trunks, with soaked hair that stuck to foreheads and cheeks. Olivia, if she thinks back hard enough, remembers the distinct taste of cherry popsicle on Elliot’s lips. She remembers them both wiping their mouths after that, stunned by how unexciting a first kiss could be. It would be that very bank that Olivia and Elliot would come to sit at, year after year, with each other.
Until Elliot developed a real interest in girls and Kathy joined their group.
“ Mooooommmm?” Noah tugs on Olivia’s white t-shirt. She immediately brings herself from her daydream and turns away from Vidler’s storefront.
“Come on, let’s go before it gets too late.” Olivia ushers Noah in the direction of the drug store. Noah digs back into his dripping ice cream cone, catching the melting dessert with his tongue before it makes its way down his small fingers.
As they pass a trash can, Olivia tosses her ice cream into it. The butterflies in her stomach are swarming a mile a minute; Turns out they’re not a fan of pistachio.
That night, long after suitcases have been dragged up stairs and Noah is tucked into bed, Olivia makes her way down to the dock with a glass of wine in her hand. The crickets are out and singing and in the distance, she can hear the hoot of owls and other suspicious creatures. The lake is quiet, but somewhere within the soft sway of water, she hears frogs.
It’s warm tonight and the heat is only supposed to get worse tomorrow, but tonight, the weather has graced Aurora with a gentle gust that’s just nice enough to sit and enjoy without the consequence of sweat.
Olivia kicks off her white deck shoes. She’s already changed into shorts and an oversized t-shirt for the evening. As soon as she sits down on the edge of the dock, she dips her legs into the water, allowing them to be submerged up to the calf. Her eyes close, a soft smile being blown onto her lips by what feels like the breeze. The water is just right. It’s always been just right.
She opens her eyes and brings her wine glass up to her lips. Mid-swallow, she hears him —
“ Hey partner.” Age can change a voice, but she would recognize his anywhere.
Olivia turns around as far as her body will allow her to while remaining seated. She’s choked on her wine, so she puts a fist against her chest to try and clear her throat.
He’s scared the shit out of her.
“ Jesus …” Olivia clears her throat again. She’s surprised – beyond startled, to say the least. But he’s there, standing there in dark wash jeans and a navy Henley that fits just right to his muscular chest. Both sets of fingers are buried into his front pockets and one of the first things she notices about his face is that he still has that same cocky smirk he’s always had. He’s also missing his hair, but that’s beside the point. He’s aged, but he’s familiar and has just as kind of an aura. Lines have formed around his eyes and his cheeks, which she can see because of his smile. He’s different but he’s the same. Olivia takes notice of his blue eyes, which even in the dark are as blue as the lake once was.
“I didn’t mean to scare you.” Elliot states, his expression falling.
Olivia stares up at him in disbelief. She can’t believe he’s standing in front of her. Jumbles of sentences are forming in her head but she can’t articulate them now. One of them, she’s sure is, how did you know I was here?
As if Elliot can read her mind, he answers her question.
“Kurt said you were in town. I asked where you were staying and uh …” Elliot shrugs. “He didn’t know but Addy did,” Elliot says, and she can tell he’s on the verge of overexplaining himself. Kurt was the pharmacist, who coincidently, Elliot and Olivia both went to school with. He was the high school geek that everyone made fun of and Olivia remembered a few instances where Elliot got into a brawl or two with the bullies who poked fun at him. Addy was his younger sister, who also worked in the pharmacy.
“ Oh …” Is all Olivia can seem to get out.
Elliot’s expression dulls out yet again. “If it wasn’t okay to come I can g—”
“No, no. I –” Olivia turns away from him just long enough to take another big drink of wine. She’s gonna need it and prays that it hits her system quick. Her eyes pop all the way open as she downs what’s left in the glass dramatically. She sits her empty glass on the dock and brings her legs off the edge. Standing to her feet, she makes her way over to Elliot, leaving wet footprints on the wood of the dock in pursuit of him. “I’m glad you came – I just, I’m surprised. I thought you left … I mean, I didn’t even know you were still here.” Olivia states, now only standing a mere few inches from him.
Olivia watches as Elliot’s eyes drift up and down her. He’s taking her in. She’s different now too. She’s not twenty anymore. Or sixteen or twelve. She’s aged, just like he has. She’d like to think they’ve both done so gracefully.
“I left for a while. But after Kathy you know I just needed to … clear my head. But this is home so …” Elliot nods. “I don’t think the kids would know what to do if they came to visit anywhere else.”
Olivia purses her lips together. “I am so sorry, I … by the time I found out the funeral was already over and I just, I didn’t know what to say—”
“It’s – no, it’s fine. ” Elliot furrows his brows, waving his hand at her. “That … yeah. I mean, it’s been a long time.”
“It has. But I did mean to reach out I just —”
“Well no, I know you did. I get that –”
They’re absolutely tripping over each other’s words.
But suddenly, they stop. Their eyes meet, and lips curl up. The frogs, the owls, the crickets – fall silent. Or maybe they’re still going and it’s just that Olivia doesn’t hear anything else right now except for the pounding inside her chest. The butterflies have made their way up from her stomach and flutter their wings against symbols and drums. That must be it.
“You look great.” Elliot gestures with both hands to her, letting them fall back down with a slap against his sides.
“So do you.” Olivia’s voice softens.
Silence. Their gaze intensifies.
“So um … where are you staying?” Olivia asks.
“Well, I … when the insurance money came in I decided to buy a RV. You know, since the house was gone and all that I just … didn’t see a point in starting over.” Elliot says.
From what Olivia has heard, the night of the house fire was terrible. By the time Kathy had been brought out, she was barely hanging on from smoke inhalation. She read online that she died at the hospital and that ‘the husband’ was distraught.
It feels like all she can do is nod along to what he’s saying. She feels guilty for not reaching out to him after Kathy died but to be fair, the last she heard from him was right before he and Kathy were married. You’re coming to the wedding right? I need you there. But Olivia never got the invite or the date. She heard about it from Sally, whom she was still speaking with at the time.
It was one of the many things that crushed her during that period in her life.
“Can I?” Elliot asks, opening his arms. He wants a hug. Olivia looks at him as if she’s processing his request, then moves into him.
“Of course.” Olivia sings, opening her arms.
They press against one another, but his arms are strong and firm against her. They’re wrapped around her like they have been so many times before. Like on the banks of the lake, after a chilly swim. Like on nights when she needed a friend after Serena had told her for the hundredth time that she was a mistake.
Like he did the night they had each other for the first time, under the summer stars.
Olivia feels Elliot nuzzle his chin into her neck, which encourages a smile to grow on her lips. He smells the same, somehow. It’s not cologne she smells, but something else. It’s uniquely him. Soap and maybe the smell of his sheets, which she assumes he uses some kind of woodsy fabric softener on. It smells like fabric softener. His shirt is soft. She almost giggles at such a random thought.
He’s the first to pull away, but instead of completely moving away from her, he braces his hands on either side of her biceps. His fingers press delicately into the bare skin there, warming any goosebump that he may have caused. Elliot drops his arms back to his sides and looks around.
“So … I guess the obvious question is what brings you here?” Elliot asks. She knows he doesn’t mean it the way it comes out. But he might as well have just said look what the cat drug in.
“I’m here with my son for the summer,” Olivia replies. There’s something in her that revels at being able to tell him that she has a son. That she has a family. That she has someone.
“A son?” Elliot asks, surprised.
“ Mhm. He’s eight.” Olivia responds.
“Did you … come with his dad or?” Elliot asks, looking over his shoulder and up towards the house. The lights are still on, which casts a yellow glow on the trees that surround it. Olivia finds herself wanting to laugh at his question. He really went straight there with it.
“No dad. Just me and him.” Olivia nods along with her own words.
“So it’s just you and him here?” Elliot asks, sticking his hands back into his pockets.
“Yeah.” Olivia smirks. Awkward. He’s trying to find out if she came with a boyfriend. Elliot wasn’t exactly one to beat around the bush and if he did, it wasn’t for very long until he made some absurd statement.
“ Okay. Well, tomorrow … my mom is making dinner. If you want to come by, we’d like that a lot.” Elliot licks his lips, blue eyes lingering on her.
“I have plans tomorrow.” Olivia’s reply is instant. The truth is, tomorrow is pretty open for her. She promised Noah he could swim but that was it. More of the truth? Sitting and having dinner for the first time with Elliot in forever felt like a bad idea. Things were bound to come up. Things that she wasn’t ready to talk about. “Maybe another time though?” Her suggestion seems just as disingenuous as she meant it, which she hates. What she’s really thinking is I’m never having dinner with you, I plan on avoiding the shit out of you actually —
“Okay.” Elliot purses his lips together and runs his tongue along his bottom lip. Had he picked up on her fib? Or fibs rather.
“How is your mom, by the way?” Olivia asks, her tone shifting.
“She’s doing great. She has a new doctor and … yeah. Better than ever.” Elliot smiles, crossing his arms.
“Good. I’m glad to hear that. Tell her I said hi.” Olivia returns the smile, faintly. She walks past Elliot, brushing her shoulder against his on accident. If she could see his face, she would be able to see his eyes cast down at their contact. She makes her way over to the small set of steps that lead to the level plain.
“I will …” Elliot agrees.
“I’ll uh …” Olivia shrugs. “I’ll see you around, I guess.”
Once again, there’s a shift. It goes quiet and feels stagnant. Elliot doesn’t say anything to her at first. She wonders if this is her get-out-of-jail-free card. She can simply avoid him now that she knows he’s still living in Aurora. He had snuck up on her this time. He had a habit of doing that in every sense of the word.
“What happened?” Elliot asks. It comes out suddenly and without filter. It’s possible he didn’t even think about his question before it fell through his lips. Olivia comes to stand at the head of the steps and turns around to face him; A confused expression on her face.
“Sorry?” Olivia asks.
“To us. What happened?” Elliot asks, eyes narrowing.
Olivia looks at him, flabbergasted by his question. Her mouth opens, but nothing comes out. Where to even begin with that?
She has no clue, so she remains silent, unsure of how to answer him. The crickets, the frogs, the owls, all start up again. If they ever stopped, that is.
“We were so close and then we just … weren’t. ” Elliot’s voice fades off.
“I’m sorry I’m just … I mean, it’s kind of thrown me for a loop, Liv. To have you back here … so I’m just, I don’t know, trying to understand.” Elliot takes a step forward so that he’s looking up at her. “I want to understand.”
It was funny in a way to her how quickly the mood shifted. It could have just begun and ended with a hello how are you? How have you been?
But because some things never change, and Elliot Stabler fitted into that conundrum, she should have expected this right away. It would come no other way . It wouldn’t come after a dinner he invited her to that she would ultimately refuse. That he probably knew she would say no to anyway. It wouldn’t come after a few days, maybe, when they inevitably run into one another again. It would come now, because Elliot was both impatient and consistent with his understanding of her. But even that ploy of his seemed to always come at the wrong time.
So Elliot must understand, when tears spring to her eyes, that they were coming. If he still knows her and understands her, then he’ll know she’s always been emotional about the topic of them. They meant so much to each other at one point, and while things had changed vehemently over the years, he still touched a very raw spot in her soul.
“Life.” Olivia’s voice cracks. “I guess life happened …” A nod follows. She turns around to leave but his voice comes out clearer than hers ever could now. She’s too choked up for that. History could be a rotten thing and because of its bitter taste, could cause speechlessness.
“I saw that you made Captain.” Elliot’s tone is urgent. He wants to keep talking to her. But she can’t imagine standing here a moment longer without bursting into flames; The lake tomorrow, in the heat, would have nothing on her.
Olivia looks over her shoulder at him, wide-eyed.
“I have the newspaper clipping.” Elliot scratches the back of his neck.
Olivia looks away from him as a rush of emotions flood her senses.
“I always knew you could do it. I knew that you would. ” Elliot finishes.
She doesn’t say anything in response. Her head hangs, but only for a second. She looks straight ahead and begins to make her way up the winding staircase. She grips onto the white banister and by the time she’s up flight one, Elliot has already come to stand in the small driveway.
Olivia doesn’t look back once at him. She can’t. She can feel something piling in the back of her throat, ready to come up. Whether that be the coffee from the diner or half-eaten ice cream that ended up in the trash. Or maybe it’s the butterflies, trying to free themselves.
The only thing she can bring herself to think is …
I should have taken Noah to fucking Disneyland.
Chapter 2: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
I'm so glad that you guys are enjoying this so far. :') I appreciate all the kind feedback, as always. You keep me inspired to keep writing about these two adorable idiots. xD I'm very excited to share this story with y'all.
The lakehouse is rather spacious on the inside. To look at it from the outside, up against trees and blue sky, it may appear small and mouselike. Although it’s not exactly fancy per se, it’s perfect for a family vacation. There are three bedrooms; The main bedroom and two other smaller bedrooms, which are upstairs.
Past the little front porch that has white wooden railings to match the ones on the stairs leading up to the house, is an open concept kitchen and living room. To the left of the front door is the kitchen, which is slightly smaller than the living room that sets to the right of the entryway.
The living room is simple but pretty. The walls, like in the kitchen, are very cabin-esque, but have a nice cherry wood appeal to them. The floors are done in a lighter wood, more muted and cohesive with the walls. There’s a fireplace that sits against one of the outer walls – a gray stone structure, with a black leather couch that resides in front of it along with matching lounge chairs on either side. A small round tree stump coffee table with black metal legs lies in the center of all this. Above the fireplace is a television that is a little dated for 2022 but, regardless, it’s nice.
The real star of the living room is the six rows of floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the lake. There’s half-pane detailing on them, which ties into the railings that extend all around the front of the house, white, of course.
As Olivia comes down the log staircase that morning from her bedroom, she takes note of how the sunrise casts through the windows and how beautifully it illuminates the room. The orange-ish glow gleams onto the furniture and wood accents, ethereal in its transience as the sun floats up higher and higher into the sky.
Noah is upstairs asleep still, which surprises Olivia because usually, he’s up at the crack of dawn. But yesterday was a long day so she figures he just must be exhausted.
She makes her way into the kitchen to brew some coffee. On the counter still is a bag with non-perishable groceries she picked up at the store last night while she and Noah were out. She’d been so tired when they got back that she just put away the things like lunch meat and anything else that may spoil. In the bag are things like coffee and pasta, sauce, etcetera. Olivia fishes into the bag and pulls out a container of already ground coffee and begins pulling at it to get it open. She’s a little ravenous this morning, considering she spent the night tossing and turning, so caffeine is a must before she starts getting wild ideas about telling certain people not to come to the lakehouse uninvited again.
She can’t tell Elliot that. Nor would she. Or she doesn’t think she would.
But the longer she thinks about it, the angrier she gets. No. This is supposed to be a fun vacation. How dare he think he can just show up after all this time and act like nothing happened? Well, nothing did happen. Not really. Everything happened. He’s still just as smug and clueless.
Olivia finds herself aggressively scooping the coffee into the small bowl inside the maker. She closes the lid with just as much vigor. She can’t let this get to her. Odds are, she won’t be seeing Elliot that much anyway. He’s probably off doing his own thing. She and Noah will be doing their own. It doesn’t matter. But in reality, if she knew Elliot Stabler was still in town, she wouldn’t have entertained the idea of bringing Noah here for a single second.
Olivia pulls a stool from the small island and plops down on it as she waits for her coffee to finish brewing. She finds herself at the ripe hour of seven-thirty in the morning, rubbing at her chest with her four fingers. It’s a grounding technique she learned long ago when she felt a panic attack coming on, but right now, it’s doing little to help her. She keeps thinking about all of the history between the two of them that now will bubble to the surface if they’re forced to be around each other longer than the ten minutes they had together last night.
There’s a thought, briefly, that if she were to walk over to the rows of windows in the living room and look out, she may see every indescribable feeling she has for that man floating on top of Cayuga Lake. They’d be sitting in tiny donut floats, in form of miniature Elliots, sipping on margaritas or some other summery drink waving at her. Ha-ha, you thought we were gone? They would taunt. Some of them would be flipping her off too, she’s sure.
The smell of fresh coffee fills her nostrils, and so when she pours herself a cup, she heads over to the window.
Nothing floats on the river. Nothing that can taunt or tease her for whatever the hell is reappearing in her chest for a man she hasn’t seen since she was twenty years old. Olivia tries to reconcile her feelings by acknowledging the obvious. Of course, she would still feel the swell of affection when she thinks of him. He was her first everything. Her first love, her first kiss – They had lost their virginity to each other, for Christ’s sake.
It was young, unrequited love at best though. She never told Elliot how she truly felt about him. By the time she got around to gaining enough courage to finally tell Elliot she was in love with him, at the age of seventeen, he had declared to her he was dating Kathy.
She had joined their group when they were fourteen. Of course, Olivia picked up on Elliot’s inclination towards Kathy right away. Kathy moved to Aurora with her dad and was actually excited to be there. It struck Olivia as strange at the time that anyone would be excited to live in Aurora. But Kathy was. She remembers asking Kathy what was so appealing to her about her hometown. She responded with “ It’s the perfect place to raise a family.” to which Olivia couldn’t help but turn her nose up to.
Apparently, Elliot thought so too. They raised a family here together.
Olivia could feel him begin to pull away, day by day, and slip further into his infatuation with Kathy. She was blonde and beautiful, so why wouldn’t he? Why wouldn’t he want her instead? Of course, Elliot told Olivia she was beautiful all the time growing up; But it felt like something friends say to friends to make them feel better about themselves. While Olivia was no slacker in high school, she knew Elliot had a type. And it wasn’t her.
She recalls watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with Sally once. Olivia ended up locking herself in the bathroom for over an hour, with Sally on the other side of the door pleading for her to come out. Poor Sally tried to lure Olivia out of her emotional turmoil by offering to put on another movie. But by the time Olivia felt well enough to come out of the bathroom, Sally was passed out over Olivia’s bed, fast asleep, with long red hair draped over her face and round wired glasses.
Now, Olivia stands on the front porch of the lakehouse – staring straight ahead at the sparkling lake before her. The hot sun beats down on her face, causing her to squint her eyes as she takes everything in. There are trees all around, mimicking the ones that lay in what seem like piles around the house. The greenest of green, with hints of yellow in their foliage. The birds are chirping in choirs, not ceasing once for breath and when they do, another group takes over — singing their saccharine song for the summer.
Olivia moves to take a seat on the small outdoor loveseat, brown wicker with a cream-colored cushion, and draws her legs up underneath her. She brings her coffee up to her lips and blows on it before taking a sip. A monarch butterfly passes by her view of the lake, which adds to the serenity of it all and draws a soft smile to her lips for the first time that morning.
She was determined to make this vacation good and without incident.
The Incident being her old friend Elliot Stabler.
“ Cannonball !” Noah screams, arms up in the air with his red goggles on his face, tight and ready to go. He takes off running down the dock with fury, thin legs carrying him far quicker than they should be.
Noah! Slow dow—”
But before Olivia can stop him, curls are lifted from the little round display they usually sit in, and Noah lands in the lake with a splash that comes up to hit Olivia’s outstretched legs.
“ Down.” Olivia finishes, a deep sigh leaving her. She sits on one of the fold-out lounge chairs she brought from home, in her bathing suit – a mustard yellow bikini, with a white laced coverup. Her sunglasses are perched on her face, large framed and brown tortoise.
Noah emerges to the surface and shakes the water from his hair like a dog. “See, I told you I can do it!” Noah exclaims, referring to the cannonballs he and Olivia had spoken about at the diner yesterday.
“ Yes, you did. ” Olivia brings her fingers to her chest. She loves Noah to death but he’s going to be the death of her. She watches as Noah, who is rather proud of himself, begins floating on his back. The bright red floaties on his arms give her a little relief. Olivia brings her phone from the small table beside her chair and opens her camera to take a picture of her son. Through the black screen of her phone, however, she sees Elliot walking up the dock.
Olivia whips around in her seat, legs flying off the rest.
Noah takes notice of Elliot and swims over to the ladder, only to grab onto the handles so he doesn’t float away. “Who’s that?” He asks, reaching a hand up from the water to wipe at his mouth and nose.
“Hey, bud.” Elliot waves at Noah.
“ Uh …” Olivia stands from the lounge chair and adjusts her coverup. She flings both pieces together so she’s not as revealed and walks towards Elliot. “What are you doing here?” Her voice lowers.
“Joel sent me.” Elliot states.
“ Joel?” Olivia asks, brows furrowed.
“Yes. Joel. He owns the —” Elliot points behind himself to the lakehouse.
Oh. Mr. Beckley.
“Mr. Beckley.” Olivia nods.
“He goes by Joel, usually,” Elliot smirks.
“He asked me to make sure you two settled in okay. If everything was working and all that.” Elliot crosses his arms.
“You could’ve asked me that last night.” Olivia crosses her arms, unconsciously mimicking him. It’s something they’ve done before; Copy without even thinking about it.
“Well, Joel didn’t ask me last night. He asked this morning.” Elliot narrows his eyes at her suspiciously. “I guess I forgot to look into my crystal ball last night before I came over. I’ll remember to do that next time.” Elliot smirks.
Cocky son of a bitch.
“I can see you’re still a smartass.” Olivia mumbles.
“Sorry?” Elliot asks; He heard her.
“I said, I can see you’re still a –”
“ Hi . Who are you?” Noah asks, approaching them both. He’s still dripping wet from the lake. His question didn’t get answered the first time so, Noah being Noah, decided to come and inspect himself.
“Elliot.” Elliot beams, extending his hand out to the child. Noah pulls his goggles up to rest on his forehead, then reaches for Elliot’s hand. Elliot gives him a firm handshake and in an effort to match, Noah shakes his whole arm.
“ Noah .” Noah introduces himself in the same tone, blue eyes formed in tiny slits from the harsh light above them.
“Nice to meet you.” Elliot releases his hand.
Olivia uncrosses her arms and gestures to Elliot. “Noah, Elliot is an old friend of mine. We grew up together.”
“ Oh.” Noah sings, nodding. His interest is gone. “Cool.” Noah pulls his goggles back over his eyes and turns around to head back to the lake.
“Noah, be care—”
Noah jumps back into the lake.
“ – ful.” Olivia licks her lips and then turns to look back at Elliot, who now has his hands on his hips. Olivia reaches for her sunglasses and pulls them to the top of her head, using them as a headband to pull her hair out of her face. But she also just wants a better look at Elliot.
He’s in light wash jeans today. A light blue t-shirt, fitted just as nicely as his Henley was the night before.
“Having a blast, huh?” Elliot asks, nodding towards Noah, who is floating on his back again.
“ Oh yeah.” Olivia looks over her shoulder at Noah, then back to Elliot.
“So you were saying?” Elliot asks.
“You were in the middle of calling me a smartass.” Elliot grins. Still insufferable.
Olivia looks at him, putting her hands on her own hips (Like him, again.), and tilts her head at him. She presses her tongue to her cheek, concocting just the right words to say to him. “Tell Joel that we’re doing just fine. The house is great. Wonderful. While you’re at it, tell him we don’t need any more check-ups.” Olivia states, dropping her hands at her sides and turning around to walk back to her chair.
“Why are you being like this?” Elliot’s expression has fallen. He’s confused by her attitude, she can tell. But she has no interest in explaining why she is being like this because she really doesn’t know. She knows but she doesn’t. Should she just tell him that she’s mad that he thinks they can just talk to each other like he didn’t snub her from his wedding? Or how he never called again after that? Not one apology, which could’ve been as simple as “ I’m sorry, Liv. I meant to send an invite.” But even then, it probably wouldn’t have made a difference.
She didn’t want to go to the wedding anyway. For what? To watch the love of her life marry another woman? No, thank you.
Olivia had speculated the reason Elliot didn’t invite her to the wedding was because of what happened the night before she left Aurora for college. The kiss. Not the first one, or the second, but the one that would cement and define her feelings for him for the next five years before she finally told herself it was time to let him go.
Elliot was with Kathy at the time, but she and Elliot had gone out walking by the banks of the lake that night, trying to spend some time with one another before she left. He told her there, underneath the moonlight, that he was going to miss her. One intense look later and she was up against a tree, with their lips pressed firm and feverishly against one another.
But his phone call, the one where he asked her if she was coming to the wedding, would further confuse her. The phone call made her think that it was nothing more than damage control after she found out from Sally that he married without sending an invitation. That he was pretending to want her there, only to ignore her months later when he would wed. To a wedding she didn’t want to go to , that is.
The truth? The lack of invitation felt like a formal removal from his life. That was the truth that ate her up.
“Liv,” Elliot says, approaching her. She’s sat back down in the chair, legs outstretched and crossed over one another. “If you have a problem with me, I’d like for you to just tell me what it is.”
Where to begin.
Olivia looks up at him over sunglasses, brown eyes peering up. Is it fair to hold a grudge after all of these years? Probably not. But it’s not exactly for Elliot to pretend as if nothing happened either. Either way, Elliot looks down at her with bewilderment. She can feel herself soften the moment he crouches down beside her and brings both arms to rest on the single arm of her lounge chair. She moves her arm away from him. He rests his chin on his forearm, blue eyes staring at her.
How many nights there had been when she felt like she could lose herself forever in them. She finds herself slipping, even now. He must notice the sudden rise and fall of her chest when he reaches out to pull her sunglasses off her face.
Damn him, damn him, damn him.
Their eyes meet, with no boundary of lenses or attitude-induced facades. “What is it?” Elliot asks, giving her the same puppy dog look he would all those years ago when she would get upset about something. Those times would usually end with him making her grin like an absolute idiot because she could not stay mad at him.
Tears spring to her eyes and she reaches to take her glasses back from him. She puts them back on her face with such urgency that she nearly pokes her eye with the tip of the earpiece. Elliot stares intensely at her.
If holes could be burned, both of them would be translucent by now.
“Do I have to paint you a picture?” Olivia asks, voice lower than before; Gravely and cracking.
“I am a visual learner.” Elliot cracks a smirk, hoping that’ll get some kind of pleasant reaction, but it doesn’t.
“I’m not sure I want to see you, Elliot. I want you to leave me alone.”
Chapter 3: Old Friends and Garbage Disposals
Thank you guys so much for all the feedback on this story. <3
“ I’m not sure I want to see you, Elliot. I want you to leave me alone. ”
Olivia’s words had come out much more harshly than she intended. But what was she supposed to do? Grin and bear his presence when it felt like a thousand knives being jabbed into her chest at the very sight of him? No. She may have forced that on herself when she was younger, But now she didn’t have to put herself through that kind of uncomfortableness.
Not that she still loved him or anything , but some memories were just better not brought up. That’s exactly what’s happened within the two instances Elliot had been around her. The past, unsolicited, was making a reappearance. The desirable and the undesirable parts of it, were a play on every emotion Olivia has harbored all these years.
“Well, if you change your mind — I’ll see ‘ya around, I guess.” Elliot told her, before ultimately standing to his feet and walking back to his truck. She had only noticed it then, not the night before. It was a solid white truck with a large bed on the back. Olivia found herself wanting to giggle at the image of him climbing into it because she remembers him distinctively telling her when they were teenagers that he would never drive a truck like that, seeing as it was what all the old men in town drove around.
She and Elliot would often discuss the future together. What they wanted to do. Who they wanted to be. The older they got, the more unfamiliar those things became. They would sit for hours down by the banks of the lake talking. They’d talk about Olivia’s dreams of becoming a detective and working with Special Victims, because of her mother’s history. Elliot wanted to play football professionally for the longest time before he entertained the idea, at the age of thirteen, of moving out of Aurora with Olivia and joining her on her quest of becoming a part of the NYPD.
That started their little exchange of “Hey partner,” whenever they saw one another. Every single day, without fail, they would ride their bikes to meet in the middle of the street before they headed off to their final destination, whether that be the Aurora theater, the diner, or the lake.
“ Hey partner,” Elliot would say, perched on his red bike with white rimmed wheels. Olivia’s smile would grow so large that it almost looked like the blooming pastel purple flower on the front of her oversized denim bucket hat. The hat that she would eventually trade in for bellbottoms and bandanas.
They were supposed to be partners. They were supposed to leave this town together. She’s not sure at what point Elliot decided not to join her, but she could feel his dream slip away a little at a time and even more so when he realized he could make money by helping his dad fix cars. The last job he had before she left for college, was working on motorcycles with his cousin.
But some dreams are grown out of. Olivia, still to this day, wondered if he grew out of her after he decided he would stay here and marry Kathy. After he saw that she wasn’t willing to stay behind and be the third wheel forever.
“ Mom! Are you watching?” Noah pulls her out of her daydream, wanting her to watch him do some kind of trick in the water. Olivia looks away from the sparkle that dances on top of the lake and at her son, who is pretending to be a hurricane by spinning in circles.
Olivia smiles widely at him, nodding. “Look at you.” She claps.
After Noah and Olivia come in from the lake, they head to the kitchen for lunch. Olivia stands at the counter, with bread, peanut butter, and jelly laid out in a perfect display. She spreads the peanut butter and jelly on each slice of bread and closes them. Noah, who sits at the small island, watches her attentively.
“Why did your friend leave?” Noah asks, curiously.
Olivia remains quiet for a moment, both brows raised. “He uh, he’s busy so he had to go do …” She turns around and puts the jelly-covered butterknife into the sink. “He had to go do …. Whatever he does.” Olivia waves her hand, her voice trailing off.
“ Oh.” Noah’s nonchalance about it makes Olivia somewhat envious.
“Do you want an apple or an orange?” Olivia asks, pulling the fruit basket she set up earlier in the morning towards her.
“Orange,” Noah answers straight away, reaching for his juice box. He takes a sip from it, the straw hanging out towards the corner of his mouth as his eyes wander around the room. “How long are we going to be here again? I like it here.” Noah states.
Olivia begins slicing into the orange, cutting it in fours, and then in sixes. “Two and a half weeks.” She replies, taking the peel off of it. Another distaste Noah has for food is the peeling of anything. So once she’s peeled the orange completely and there’s nothing left but soft citrus, Olivia scoops the peels up with both hands and turns to toss them into the garbage disposal.
Olivia turns it on, and the disposal gives one good try before the grinding and rattling become so loud that Noah’s hands fly up to cup over his ears. He scrunches his entire face in disapproval of the broken machine and shakes his head as if to say: Turn it off.
Olivia flips the switch off, mouthing shit under her breath. Her shoulders drop in defeat. She’ll have to call Mr. Beckley because the last thing she wants is the smell of rotting food filling the lakehouse.
“What’s wrong with it?” Noah asks, reaching for his orange slice and sticking it into the back of his mouth.
By the time Olivia gets around to calling Mr. Beckley, it’s mid-day. But he assures her that he’ll send maintenance around to fix it as soon as he can get a hold of them. So that meant Olivia and Noah couldn’t really go anywhere for the majority of the day.
Noah seemed to be okay with that. He sits down by the dock, in the same chair Olivia was in earlier this morning, with his iPad, playing some kind of game. His neon pink sunglasses are perched on his face. The sight alone is enough to draw a grin from Olivia. All that matters to her is if Noah is enjoying their vacation. She could put up with occasional run-ins with Elliot Stabler if it meant Noah was happy.
Noah didn’t have the best school year. Between the bullies and lack of friends, he wasn’t exactly thriving. This vacation was for him, so when the school year started fresh again, he would have a clean slate. But truthfully, work had been just as rough on her.
That was what Olivia was having a little of a hard time letting go of. Work. So, she took the opportunity, while Noah was doing his own thing, to call Fin and see how he was holding down the fort.
“The building isn’t ablaze yet, Cap.” Fin jokes from the other end of the phone, which gets a slight smirk from Olivia.
“I don’t think you’d tell me either way.” Olivia chuckles.
“ You’re right, I wouldn’t. I’d let you finish up your vacay then I’d tell you your Ruth figure melted somewhere in the middle of Rollins and I trying to save the donuts from the break room.” Fin snickers.
“ Ha-ha.” Olivia rolls her eyes. “Save Ruth first. That’s an order.” Her Ruth Bader Ginsburg statue had sat on her desk for years. It was a gift from a survivor.
“You got it. How’s everything going? Noah like it?” Fin asks.
Olivia moves onto the front porch, where she plops down into the little wicker loveseat that overlooks the dock and the lake. She can see Noah perfectly. “It’s going great.” Her tone sounds less than truthful.
“ It is. There’s just been some … unexpected things that have come up.” Olivia draws her legs up underneath her.
“Like?” Fin asks.
“Ran into an old friend ,” Olivia replies.
“An old friend or an old boyfriend?” Fin laughs. He was not about beating around the bush. He had always been a straight-to-the-point kind of guy, which is something Olivia admires about him.
“ No.” Olivia’s answer is immediate. “Just a friend. Kind of.”
“What does that mean?” Fin lets out another boisterous laugh.
“We were …” Olivia thinks for a moment. “ Sweethearts , I guess? But not really? I don’t know how to describe it …”
“Friends with bennies?” Fin interjects.
“ No. It was more like … I was more into him than he was me.” Olivia picks at a loose string on her lace coverup. Like Noah, she hasn’t changed out of her swimwear. The heatwave was picking up, so it was cooler this way. “But I moved away and he got married so …”
“Ah, a tale as old as time ,” Fin says.
Just as Olivia opens her mouth to speak again, she hears the crunching of gravel from below the porch; A car has just pulled up. “Fin, let me call you back. Maintenance is here.” She says, and out of habit, hangs up without a goodbye from the other end. It was a police thing. She stands to her feet and makes her way over to the railing to look down into the driveway.
When she sees the white truck and Elliot climbing out of it – her expression falls completely.
“Really?” Olivia asks.
Elliot hears her voice, so he looks up to see her gazing down at him. A soft grin curls on his lips and he puts his hands on his hips. “ Really. ” Elliot laughs, drops his hands, and makes his way to the bed of his truck. He pools his toolbox from it.
“Of course you’re maintenance,” Olivia mumbles just loud enough so that Elliot can hear, even from the feet of distance between the porch and the driveway.
“I thought you would’ve picked up on that earlier when I said Joel sent me the first time. Also ,” Elliot makes his way up the first flight of stairs to get to Olivia. “Why didn’t you tell me the garbage disposal was broken when I was here earlier?” He asks; A cocky expression very much evident.
“It wasn’t broken earlier, Elliot.” Annoyance grows in her tone. He was making a jab at their earlier conversation when she asked him why he didn’t ask her if everything was working fine the night before.
“Next time you’ll have to look into your crystal ball.” Elliot teases, finally coming up the final flight of stairs and meeting her on the porch.
She turns around to face him and cocks her head to the side. “Can you just fix it?” Olivia asks, her voice fading off. She’s not in the mood for jokes, apparently. Elliot’s expression fades just a little, but he gives a single nod.
“Noah!” Olivia calls out to the eight-year-old, who is still lying in the lounge chair with his iPad.
He whips around and pulls his neon pink shades down over his nose. “Yeah?!” He asks.
“Why don’t you come up to the porch and do that? I have to go inside for a few.” Olivia wiggles her finger at him in a come hither motion. Noah, without question, slides out of the chair and makes his way along the dock and back up to the house. She waits until he’s about halfway up the stairs until she turns to follow Elliot, who has already disappeared, inside.
By the time Olivia is in the kitchen, she hears the garbage disposal being flicked on and off.
“ Yep. ” Elliot states. “It’s definitely clogged at least.”
“ Mhm.” Olivia licks her lips and reaches to brace herself against the kitchen island.
Elliot opens his toolbox, which sits on the kitchen island. He begins fishing out the tools he’ll need. An Allen wrench to start with. He kneels down below the counter and opens the cabinet doors, where he reaches in to unplug the garbage disposal. He inserts the tool into the bottom of the garbage disposal and begins turning it back and forth to rotate the blades.
“Does it need to be replaced?” Olivia asks.
“Too soon to tell.” Elliot gets on both knees and scoots further underneath the sink. Olivia watches him, elbows moving furiously as he keeps turning the wrench in an attempt to unclog the machine. “Ah! Got it .” Elliot grunts. Olivia bends over to look underneath the sink. He’s spinning the wrench in a swift circle on the bottom of the disposal, which means the clog has been cleared.
“Great.” Olivia’s tone is less than enthusiastic. She’s waited around here all day for a job that took five minutes.
Elliot climbs out from underneath the sink and stands to his feet. “So what did you put in there?” He asks, dropping the wrench back into the toolbox. He puts away the screwdriver that he thought he might need but didn’t.
“Orange peels,” Olivia replies blandly, bringing one hand to her waist.
“Seemed like there was more in there than that.” Elliot arches a brow; He’s clearly trying to get a rise out of her.
“ Just orange peels, Elliot.” Olivia brushes past him and turns the garbage disposal on to make sure it doesn’t sound like all hell breaking loose again. She flips it off when she hears a normal sound coming from it.
“Got any paper towels?” Elliot asks, this time sweeping past her . His arm caresses against the side of hers as she draws it away from the sink. He turns on the water and reaches for the dish soap, where he squirts some into his hands.
“Yeah.” Olivia sighs, standing on her tiptoes to reach into the cabinet over the sink. Elliot watches her fumble while washing his hands, trying to get the fresh pack of paper towels out of their designated spot. He rinses, turns the water off, and shakes his hands, but rather than reach up and get them himself, he brings his hand to the small of her back to steady her. She feels his wet hand soak through the white lace of her coverup.
Olivia grabs onto the end of the plastic and jerks the paper towels down into the sink. She wonders if he could hear the way her breathing stopped when he touched her back.
“Now why would you put them all the way up there?” Elliot asks. That’s a fair question. Olivia turns to face him, not realizing just how close they’re standing until she watches his blue eyes flicker over his face.
Olivia shrugs. “Out of the way.”
“And away from you. ” Elliot snickers.
“Don’t be an ass. You could’ve gotten them for me.” Olivia huffs.
“Would you have let me?”
Olivia narrows her eyes into tiny slits. No. She would have told him she didn’t need his help. She would have said, “ I got it. ” … the last thing she wanted was for Elliot Stabler to think that she needed him for anything. Especially after all this time. Even if it was simply fetching a couple of rolls of paper towels from a place that was too high for her to reach without stretching to capacity.
They stare at each other, long and hard before Olivia’s focus falls to his hands. “You gonna dry them off or did I pull a muscle for nothing?” She asks. It comes out different than she intended. She bobbed her head as she said it; A somewhat flirtatiousness accompanying it.
Elliot’s lips twitch upward as he reaches, without breaking eye contact, to tear open the paper towels. He tears one off the roll and sits it down on the counter. As he dries his hands, he turns away from her to face the living room. “Anything else?” He asks, brow cocked.
Olivia, realizing her coverup has come undone in the front, reaches to pull it closed with a quick flipping motion. “ No. ” She spins around on her bare heel and saunters through the living room. “You can go now.” She pulls the screen door open and walks out onto the front porch.
Elliot stands there, wiping at his dry hands with a wet paper towel.
Chapter 4: Bada-Bing
Elliot tosses his toolbox in the bed of his truck and maybe from sheer audacity, he waltzes over to Olivia, who has made her way down to the dock to sit. Noah is in the lake swimming. The moment Olivia notices him coming because she can hear his footsteps, she looks over her shoulder briefly to confirm.
Thankfully, sunglasses shade her rolling brown eyes. They do not, however, hide the smack of annoyance that leaves her mouth when Elliot comes to stand beside her.
Without a word to Olivia, Elliot looks to Noah, who swims in circles with his little red arm floats tucked around his forearms.
“Hey Noah,” Elliot calls out to him, which is enough to get Olivia to whip her sunglasses off of her face. Her expression is nothing short of: What are you up to? Noah comes to a halt in the water, curly hair soaked and slicked back, and squints his crystal blue eyes at Elliot. “You like ice cream? I was thinking us three could go to Rosie’s. Best ice cream in town.”
Getting ice cream with Elliot as a kid was one of the most vivid memories Olivia has. They would put their money together and buy a banana split to share or a couple of scoops of ice cream. When they reached teenhood, Elliot began buying Olivia ice cream. But sometimes, even though they both had the money for their own ice cream – they would still find a reason to share.
Noah nods with vigor – the sun does nothing to shut his excitedly widened eyes. Of course he wants ice cream. What kid doesn’t like ice cream, anyway?
“Actually we ––” Olivia sits up, ready to protest against Elliot’s unsolicited offer. But Noah has already bolted up the ladder to the dock and comes to stand in front of them.
“ Please, mom?! Pleaseeeee? ” Noah begs, hands clasped together – tiny fingers laced and palms firm against one another.
Olivia will have to remember to smack Elliot upside the head later when her son isn’t looking – because like the ass he is, he’s cornered her into no other option but to say yes. Because if she says no right now, Noah will either pout for the remainder of the day or she’ll feel horrible for the remainder of the day for telling him no to such a simple request. Or both. She releases a soft sigh and glares up at Elliot – deathly enough to cause Elliot’s eyes to dart with awkwardness away from her.
She can’t believe that she got suckered into this. Yet, here she was, seated outside Rosie’s Handcrafted Ice Cream parlor, in one of the little red metal chairs for patrons who want to eat outside. The establishment sits on a pedestal, with a little deck, which is where Olivia is. She watches with a close eye as Noah follows Elliot up to the counter from inside to order.
Truthfully? She’s seething. But the moment Noah comes out absolutely beaming with a cone of ice cream (Chocolate, three scoops.), she feels her annoyance lessen. In Noah’s other hand is a cup of ice cream (Flavor, unknown. Three scoops.) Elliot walks behind him with his own three-layered cup of ice cream. Whatever Elliot is having appears to be whatever is in the cup Noah carries.
“Here Mom,” Noah says sweetly, sitting the cup down in front of Olivia. Her eyes flicker up to Elliot, who seems just as ecstatic as Noah. She had politely declined any ice cream when Elliot asked if she wanted some, but apparently, he took it upon himself to get it for her anyway.
“I …” Olivia holds her hand up.
“It’s good. Try it. ” Elliot sits down across from her, but not before pulling a chair over from another table for Noah to sit in between them. Noah plops down in his seat and begins going to town on his cone. “It’s called–”
“Bada- BING! ” Noah finishes. Olivia swears she can already see the effects of the sugar setting in because Noah looks so wired. Or it could be that he had taken quite the liking to Elliot during the car ride to Rosie’s and was excited to be around a new person.
“Bada-bing?” Olivia reaches for the small red spoon sticking out of the side. “I can’t eat all of this,” She says, poking at the mountain of ice cream sitting in the cup.
“You used to,” Elliot states, already munching on his cold dessert.
“I don’t know if that’s a compliment or an insult,” Olivia says through her teeth. She brings a small spoonful of the ice cream to her lips and takes a bite. Noah and Elliot watch her in silence, waiting to see if she’ll like it. Without noticing the boys’ overly-observational eyes, she gives a smack to her lips. “What is it, caramel?” Olivia asks, reaching for another spoonful.
“Caramel, with swirls and toffee, I think. There are bits of pretzels in there too.” Elliot replies, taking another bite of his own.
“I love pretzels,” Olivia says quietly.
Elliot’s statement causes Olivia to look up from the ice cream, and finally, at him. There are no harsh glares or unfriendly scowls. Her expression is relaxed.
“Mom, if you like it, you gotta say BADA- BING! ” Noah says, his mouth an absolute mess from the frozen chocolate treat.
Olivia hasn’t looked away from Elliot one time. Her sunglasses, which she’s used most of their time around one another to hide her eyes from him, remain on top of her head, acting as a headband. He looks back too, a soft smile on his lips.
“Bada-bing.” Her tone is soft; Gentle in his presence.
“What do you say, Noah?” Olivia looks to Noah, who is in the process of climbing out of Elliot’s truck.
“Thank you, Elliot!” Noah sings, his mouth completely clean and free of chocolate. Olivia had caught him before they got into Elliot’s truck with a wet napkin. Noah jumps down from the ledge on the side of the truck and runs around the back of it, up to the stairs of the lakehouse. Olivia waits until he’s about halfway up to turn and face Elliot, who is still sitting in the driver’s side of the truck. She places her hand on the opening of the window, which is rolled down.
“Thank you. For the ice cream. Noah really enjoyed it.” Olivia says.
“Any time.” Elliot nods once, blue eyes lingering on her.
Olivia drops her hand from the car door and turns around to follow Noah up the stairs. He’s already at the top, plopped down on the wicker loveseat and waiting for Olivia to come open the door.
“Liv,” Elliot calls out, which causes Olivia to stop and turn around. She tilts her head, walking back over to him. Her demeanor is much calmer than before. She’s not as brash with him — it’s more comparable to the first night she saw him again, just feet away on the dock.
“Yeah?” Olivia asks, her voice soft.
“Are you ever going to tell me what I did?” Elliot asks, reaching forward and clutching onto the steering wheel. “Whatever it is. I’m sorry. You know I would never hurt you on purpose. We were best friends.”
Olivia’s gaze remains locked on him for what feels like forever until she reaches out to clutch onto the car door again. A sigh, slightly exaggerated, leaves her lips. “El …” She shakes her head, and only then does she look away from him by hanging her head.
“ Tell me. So I can make it right.” Elliot whispers.
It was funny to her in some regard that all of these years had passed, yet the wound was still as fresh as it was. The wound in question? Well …
“It’s complicated.” Olivia’s voice lowers to match his. It was complicated. What else could she say? Hell, she told the man last night that she would have come to his wife’s funeral had she known in time. But now she knows, given the circumstance, that was probably a false statement.
Through the years, Elliot Stabler would, on occasion, slip his way into her thoughts. When she saw young children riding bikes together, and climbing trees. When she saw young couples holding hands as they walked down the street together. That in itself was a bittersweet memory because while she remembers all of the times he held her hand – down the street, while they ate ice cream, in the dark of the Aurora theater; She also remembers the day Elliot stopped reaching for her hand.
The day she felt his hand tense when she reached for it.
They were young then, only about fifteen, but she could feel him slip away. Olivia remembers going home that night and burying her face into her pillow because the boy she loved, who didn’t know he was loved , did not want to hold her hand anymore.
So maybe it wasn’t but one thing that began her grief towards him, for them, but many different sprinkles of events. Like the toppings of ice cream on their mid-July banana splits, all those years ago.
“Make me understand.” Elliot squints his downturned eyes and brings his brows to a slight furrow. The moment he reaches for her hand and squeezes it, Olivia stills. It would be so easy to turn her hand over, against the steel of the car door, and allow him to slip his fingers into hers. But there was resistance there. Resistance of hurt, the resistance of time, of everything that they ever were to each other that she cemented in her heart could never be again.
Olivia doesn’t remove her hand from the car door. She allows his hand, warm and inviting, to lay overlapping hers.
“ I can’t.” If there weren’t any tears in Olivia Benson’s eyes at that moment, then it was because they had trickled down into her voice. They would make themselves known somehow.
“Yes you can,” Elliot argues, leaning into her a bit. “What did I do?”
“ Mommmmm? ” Noah calls from the front porch, hanging over the banister. Olivia turns to look over her shoulder, up at him. “The door is locked and I gotta use the bathroom,” Noah says.
“I’ll be up in a minute, honey,” Olivia replies to Noah. “I have to go.” Olivia faces Elliot once more.
“I can come back later.” Elliot brings his hand from hers.
“I don’t know. I don’t think that’s a good idea, Elliot. I think maybe it’s just best if we —”
“ Bada-Bing. ”
“What?” Olivia asks, sharpened. Elliot reaches forward, with his index finger, and points to a dark caramel spot on Olivia’s white t-shirt, near the neckline.
“You’ve got Bada-Bing on you.” Elliot pokes his finger into the spot.
Olivia looks down at it. “ Oh. ” Her scowl at the stain is enough to make him laugh. She looks back up at him, “What? Don’t laugh at me.” Olivia can’t help but release a soft chuckle.
“You could never go one time without getting ice cream on your shirt.” Elliot grins.
“That’s not true,” Olivia argues.
“Yes, it is.”
“I have to go. I’m not going to stand here and argue about stains with you.” Olivia rolls her eyes and pushes his hand, index finger still resting over the Bada-Bing stain, away. She turns around and heads towards the stairs.
“When does Noah go to sleep?” Elliot asks.
“It doesn’t matter. Don’t come. ” Olivia replies. It’s not mean or anything of that nature; It almost sounds like a challenge.
“Ten then?” Elliot asks, and Olivia just knows, that without looking, there’s a cocky smirk behind that suggestion of his.
“ No. I mean it, Elliot. I won’t let you in.” Olivia saunters up the stairs. Once she’s on flight number two, she stops and looks down at him. He’s grinning like an idiot which tells her that he’s not listening to a damn word she’s saying. “ I mean it. ”
“Okay.” Elliot agrees, a light shrug following.
“You’ll waste a trip. Your gas. ” Olivia warns.
“ Okay. ” He’s just too agreeable.
“ Elliot … ”
“ Olivia … ”
Olivia, without another word, shakes her head and finishes her way up the stairs to the lakehouse.
The thing about Elliot and Olivia is they often underestimated each other in ventures like these. Both were stubborn to the max, with few sways in their final decisions.
Olivia wouldn’t be letting him in.
Elliot, wouldn’t be staying home.
But that’s the magic of summer nights. A man can wait outside all night for a woman to finally tell him where he fucked up.
Chapter 5: I Can See Us Lost in The Memory
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The sunset was beautiful. Dreamy hues of pink, orange, and canary yellow fill the sky off in the distance, just beyond the rows of green trees, thick with foliage. Little glints of light peek through cracked branches and parted leaves, which cast just enough effulges onto the lake and the house to create a serene setting.
After they came home from ice cream, Noah and Olivia went down to the lake to swim for a bit. More like, Noah swam and Olivia sat in her usual spot enjoying the view.
By the time they get in, have dinner, shower, and go about their usual routine, it is just past Ten-thirty. Noah lies in his bed, which is the second to the smallest bedroom in the house. The walls are the same as they are downstairs. There’s a twin bed, covered in blue and white plaid, a simple mahogany dresser, and a small television that sits on top of it. Olivia brought some things from his bedroom to make it homier like his night light, which he claimed he didn’t need but would tear up without, and a couple of his stuffed animals that he also said he didn’t need but … one time Olivia took them off his bed and the fit that was pitched was nothing short of I need them.
So, Noah’s stuffed bear and elephant were placed back on his bed that day. They were also accompanying him on his summer vacation, and so they sit at the foot of his bed against the railing of the footboard.
Olivia leans down, after tucking Noah in, and kisses him on the forehead. “Night, sweetheart. I love you.” She smiles, putting her palm on his cheek.
“Night, Mom. Love you too.” Noah yawns, but quickly, his open mouth turns into a sweet smile. He nuzzles himself down into his blankets. Something else Noah doesn’t like to admit as he gets older? He still likes being tucked in. But they’re away on vacation now and no one at school has to know that after a long day of ice cream and swimming, the perfect send-off is being tucked in by Mom.
Olivia makes her way out of the room and cracks the door behind her. She makes her way into her own bedroom, where she flips the light on. Her room is nice. There’s a large, full-size bed. Two French doors lead out to a small deck area that overlooks the lake in a greater capacity than the porch that sits below it. From her deck, she can see the dock. But, at the moment, the curtains are drawn because she’s found that the sun coming through the French doors first thing in the morning isn’t exactly the most pleasant thing because the light casts off the paneled wall and hits the bed furiously.
Olivia plops down on the foot of her bed, a beige comforter on top, and pushes off her slippers. Maybe she should find a movie to watch. It’s times like these, when Noah is asleep, that the old familiar feeling of loneliness kicks in. She’s had boyfriends, sure. Even a couple of serious ones. But at the end of the day, she could never really allow herself to be in the moment with them. That, being in the moment, meant so many different things to Olivia. It meant intimacy. It meant true love and connection. It meant not being abandoned.
Olivia decides she’ll put on a movie, and so she goes on a hunt for the remote which she can’t remember if she laid on the dresser last night before bed or if she put it in the nightstand drawer. Just as she begins digging through the drawer, she hears it.
At first, to be honest, Olivia thinks she’s losing it. She hasn’t heard this song in years. It’s faint, but she can hear the lyrics just well enough to pinpoint what song it is. It’s their song. Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison. Her heart skips a beat once she realizes it’s coming from outside. Hesitant to get up and see for herself, she sits still – dark eyes cornered at the set of French doors.
In the misty mornin’ fog with, our, our hearts a-thumpin’ and you … my brown-eyed girl. You my, brown-eyed girl.
Before Olivia is ready, she’s carrying herself over to the French doors and pushing open the very end of one of the curtains. Sure enough, down by the dock, is Elliot. As far as she can tell in the dark, a speaker is sitting on top of a little red and white cooler. Olivia pulls the curtain closed abruptly.
She told him to stay home. Did she really think he would listen? Well, no. But … still.
Olivia huffs and reaches for the doorknobs of the doors, flaring them both open without caution to the dramatic squeak that follows when she comes charging onto the second-level deck. Elliot hears the doors, which are in dire need of a good dose of WD-40, and turns quickly in the direction of the house. He holds up two beers, a stupid smile on his face.
His stupid smile , however, disappears when he sees the less than amused expression on Olivia’s face. Turn it down Olivia mouths, to which Elliot scrambles with a newfound zeal (In part because he doesn’t fancy being drowned in the lake.) and also maybe it dawns on him that Noah is asleep inside.
“My son is asleep,” Olivia says, walking forward and bringing both hands to rest on the white banisters of the deck. “Elliot,” She watches as he walks up the deck halfway so he can hear her better. “I told you not to come.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t think it was that loud. You did tell me not to come but you said you wouldn’t let me in. But I figured I could get you to come to me.” Elliot flashes a self-satisfied grin. He holds the beers up yet again, quietly suggesting she come down.
“ No. ” Olivia’s reply is immediate enough for the grin on Elliot’s lips to drop as quick as a hat. “ Elliot, I mean it. Today was fun. I appreciate you being nice to Noah, but really … there’s nothing for you and me to talk about.”
“Then come have a drink with me, we don’t have to talk,” Elliot says, taking one step forward. “You used to love to drink with me.”
“Yeah, what year ?” Olivia asks sarcasm laced thick.
“I won’t embarrass you, I’m a gentleman.” Elliot teases – Olivia’s mouth falls open from his statement.
“ Jackass.” Olivia hisses, turning around to walk back inside.
“Whoa, whoa. Hold on. I’m just kidding. Come on,”
She stops. Damn him, she stops. Olivia purses her lips together and spins on her heel to walk back over to the railing.
“You’re one to make passive-aggressive comments about age, considering I can see a mirage of the fucking moon on top of your head .” Olivia jabs, leaning forward just enough to let him know she does not take it back.
Elliot raises both brows, his eyes widening from her comment. “Well,” He laughs, audaciously, “I did spit shine it before I drove over.”
Olivia stares down at him, a stone solid expression on her face before the corners of her lips begin to twitch up.
“Ahh,” Elliot perks up. “What is that?”
“Nothing.” Olivia turns her head away from him, but her smile finally takes full form. She tries to pucker her lips to keep it away but it does nothing to help.
Elliot looks up at her as if she’s the most magnificent thing he’s ever seen because quite literally it’s the first genuine smile he’s seen from her in years. When she finally tucks away her smile, she looks at him.
“I didn’t mean anything by it,” Elliot says, his tone dipping into sincerity.
“I know,” Olivia replies. A soft sigh follows, “Go home, El.” She whispers. At this point, he’s come to stand just below the deck of the first level, and is peering up at her with blue eyes she can see vividly now because of the little yellow bulbed porch light. She swears if she looks close enough, she can see tiny yellow dots in them, which gives them the appearance that there are minuscule fireflies caught in an ice lake.
Silence falls between them, and only then does Olivia realize she can hear the ending of Brown Eyed Girl’s sha-la-la-la decrescendo. Crickets take up space, with other creatures that lurk around these parts and who are bold enough to make their night sounds. Somehow, the fading of the music makes room for a stronger smell of the lake which has never smelled like a lake should smell. It’s never been scented as rotten eggs or other undesirable smells. It smells like earth and everything summer should be. When it’s night, like now, the scent increases.
As she stands above him on the deck to her bedroom, the scent takes her back to the night they were together for the first time. Not together eating ice cream or riding bikes or going into toystores or theaters, but the night they kissed since popsicle breath had long gone out of style for two teenagers. The night they decided they would give themselves to one another in a way no one else would ever have; Not for a first anyhow. It was the end of August if she remembers correctly. The heat had been awful that day but nothing compared to how it was that night on the bank of the lake.
Olivia feels a soft swell in her chest at the passing thought of it. The thought that even to this day she hardly goes back to relive. Sixteen was young, but to her, being so young and ready to give of yourself like that to someone who was just as inexperienced and willing to learn meant something.
“You here?” Elliot asks, clinking the beer bottles together. Glass hitting glass breaks her from her trance, which she may have fallen hypnotized by while she was looking into firefly-filled iced lakes.
“Go home, El.” Olivia’s voice is so soft that even she thinks he has her. She feels herself about to break, just like that. Something inside her, if it has fingers, is rubbing its fingertips together and ready to snap. “Please just go home …” She adds, shaking her head.
“I’m just gonna keep coming back, you know that right?” There’s a new seriousness to his voice. “I’m just gonna keep coming back here, every night until you tell me what I did.”
“I don’t know where to start.”
“That bad, huh?” Elliot grimaces. It’s genuine, with no hint of playfulness.
“You really don’t know do you?” Olivia asks.
Elliot stares up at her, shaking his head no softly. “Come talk to me, Liv. We used to be able to tell each other anything.”
“You didn’t invite me to your wedding.” Olivia blurts out. “That’s a start.” She says, finally airing out at least one of her grievances.
“What?” Elliot scowls.
“Your wedding. The last time I talked to you, you asked me if I was coming, I said yes, then the next thing I know Sally is telling me you and Kathy got married.” Olivia crosses her arms. Elliot is still looking at her completely baffled. “You shut me out. I thought about calling. But the message was pretty clear.” Olivia’s voice cracks. “And I got it. Crystal.”
Elliot’s mouth opens, but nothing comes out. He stands there, staring up at her with the most clueless expression she’s ever seen on this man.
“It wasn’t like that.” Elliot forces his words out. “It wasn’t like that at all. ”
“Then what was it like, Elliot? We were supposed to be best friends and I mean I-I told you I’d come. I expected a phone call from Kathy at least but … nothing. No, hey Liv, the guest list was full. Half of the town attended but we couldn’t make room for you, we’re real sorry—”
“No, Let’s get together and have dinner soon since you missed it. And then what? You go on to have four kids and I once again have to find out through Sally?”
“ You shut me out, Elliot. And I didn’t deserve it. I was a good friend even when you really didn’t even deserve it—”
“ Olivia.” Elliot’s voice becomes firm.
Olivia goes quiet, eyes locked on him from above.
All of those crickets, those frogs, and other earthly creatures become louder at that moment. But her heart, perhaps the loudest thing with its own thoughts and fears, beats so wildly out of her chest that she brings her palm up over it just to try and still it.
She can see the look of pure and absolute obliviousness on his face. It’s because she thinks she knows him, still, somehow, after all of these years, that she knows he doesn’t have a clue what she’s talking about. Which can only mean one thing: He did send her an invite. Or at least, he thought he did.
A realization dawns on her. “Who sent the invitations?”
Elliot’s eyes flicker back up to her. “Come down so we can talk.”
“ Who sent them?”
She believes his silence to be telling. Kathy sent the invites.
“Un- fucking -believable.” Olivia finds herself laughing, her fingers running through her long hair.
“Kathy wouldn’t do anything like that.” Elliot reasons.
Something about him defending her, still, even now sends a rush of anger up her body. It floods her senses and she’s sure that he may be able to see just how beet-red she becomes at the mere idea that Kathy ironically misplaced her invitation.
“Well, that opens another can of worms doesn’t it?” Olivia shakes her head, “Just … go home, Elliot.”
“Kathy loved you, Liv. She would never—“
“You have no idea what she would do,” Olivia interjects. It’s harsh and cold. Without much room for any other conclusion. She wonders if Elliot really knows what Kathy was capable of. The thing was, Olivia and Kathy had started off pretty strong friends in the beginning. But as tension formed between the group, the tension between Kathy and Olivia escalated in particular.
Elliot, caught off guard by her brashness, remains quiet. Her neck is starting to hurt from looking straight down at him for so long so she figures, since he isn’t talking, she might as well go inside.
“Just go home, Elliot.”
Olivia feels like a broken record. Go home, Elliot. Go home. Go home, Elliot. Go home. But it’s not until she passes through the threshold of the French doors that she hears him —
“I’m sorry, Liv.” His voice is just high enough so it’s audible. But she doesn’t stop, turn around and tell him it’s okay. Because it’s not. She shuts the set of doors behind her and leaves him; Believing that he’ll get in his truck and go home.
But when she wakes up the next morning, just as the sun rises above trees and the lake, she’ll find Elliot asleep in the chair that sits on the dock.
Because that’s the magic of summer. A man can wait outside all night to let a woman know he’s sorry that his late wife fucked up.
Chapter 6: We Used to Be Good Together
This chapter contains references to childhood physical abuse. I've marked the specific part in question with * so if that is triggering to anyone, please skip past sections marking * _____ *
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It would be fatuous to believe that Noah wouldn’t eventually continue his crack-of-dawn wake-up call. School had a lot to do with that regimen, but he was also just an early riser. He’s been that way since he was a baby. Olivia would get up early in the morning, to see him not fussing or crying, but just hanging out in the crib and peeking his head around the corner waiting for her to come and pick him up.
But this morning, Olivia is in a deep sleep because she spent most of the night not sleeping. So when she finally found herself dozing off, that was it. Lights out. So when the gentle, cool breeze of the morning hits her face, it does little to alert her that the set of French doors that lead onto the deck is open.
“ Mom …”
“Hmm.” Olivia, eyes closed, twitches her lip upward and releases a high-pitched sound of annoyance. Jesus Christ himself couldn’t drag her from this bed.
“Elliot is sleeping on our dock.” Noah reaches forward and shakes her. Olivia’s eyes pop wide open and she shoots up to find Noah to her left, knees planted firmly on the mattress, still in his PJs. The French doors are wide open. It doesn’t take Olivia long to piece together that Noah must have come in to wake her up. He must have opened the French doors to let some fresh air in and light as she does at home for him before school in the morning. Only Noah’s bedroom window back home is tiny and barely can be called a window.
“What?” Olivia asks groggily, hair tousled at one side of her head – face scrunched into a less than thrilled expression.
Noah’s small finger points towards the French doors. “Elliot! He’s sleeping on the dock! In your chair !” The little boy exclaims, obviously a little annoyed that he’s had to repeat himself so many times.
“Son of a bitch. Noah don’t say that.” Olivia groans. Noah nods in casual agreeance. He’s heard that line before. She tosses the covers off her body and misses her slippers altogether in pursuit of the deck. Jesus Christ may have not been able to drag Olivia Benson from bed, but apparently, Elliot Stabler sure could.
Olivia brings her hand up to shield the rising sun from her eyes, and it’s through the squint of her dark spheres that she sees him lying out there, in her chair, with his forearm thrown over his face. He’s stretched out as if he’s at home in his own bed.
“Why didn’t he sleep on the couch?” Noah comes to stand beside her, in all of his innocence.
“He wasn’t invited.”
“Why not? I like Elliot.” Noah places both hands on the banister of the deck. A gentle sigh escapes Olivia, which doesn’t match her displeasure with the situation.
“ Um, ” Olivia drops her hand from over her eyes and directs her attention at Noah. “Why don’t you go get dressed and I’ll start breakfast? How’s that sound?”
“Okay. Is Elliot eating breakfast with us?” Noah asks, blue eyes wide and almost too awake for this hour. Or at least they are in Olivia’s mind.
“ No. Elliot will be leaving.”
. . . . . . . .
Elliot lies there, his arm over his eyes, fast asleep. Olivia stares down at him, scowling. She nudges his leg with her bare knee.
“Elliot,” Olivia says, her tone low.
“Yeah?” Elliot asks, clearly just having woken up.
“Why are you on my dock?” Olivia asks, placing her hands on her hips.
“I thought sleeping on the porch might be weird.” Elliot cracks a smile, half of his face still covered. But she can see his cocky little grin curl at a tantalizing speed. It should be illegal to look that good in the morning. To be that sexy. Olivia feels herself stiffen at the thought. No.
“Get up.” Olivia’s voice becomes firmer. “Now.”
“I was sleeping so good,” Elliot grumbles as if her presence is the nuisance.
Olivia huffs. “I’m so sorry to disturb your beauty sleep but,” She reaches forward and grabs onto his hand, yanking his arm down from his face. His eyes immediately squint and his nose scrunches from the sun that’s coming up further over the army of trees in the distance. “ Up. Now.”
“Always so bossy.”
“You are not funny. Get up.”
“It’s true.” Elliot sits up. Olivia moves out of the way for him. He throws his legs over the leg rest of the chair and looks up at her. His face is red from the sudden heat – eyes bluer than the lake that lies calm around them. The buzzards are out, she can hear them in the distance. “Ever since we were kids you’ve always been the bossy one,” Elliot smirks.
She wants to argue with him. It annoys her that she wants to argue with him. And as much as she tries to resist —
“I was not. ”
“Yes, you were.” Elliot stands up, taking one step further to close the gap between them.
“Stop trying to distract me.” Olivia glares up at him, their height difference apparent.
“I’m not trying to distract you.” Elliot lowers his voice.
“You can’t sleep out here again. Noah is questioning it and —” Olivia stops when she notices his eyes fall to her lips. “ Stop that. Elliot, I mean it, you’re being–”
Does he even realize what he’s doing? The vibe he’s giving off?
“I’m being what? ” Elliot asks. Of course, he knows. He’s always been like this with her. Well, until Kathy came into the picture. His eyes keep flickering over her face, back and forth, and for a moment, she becomes quiet. The buzzards silence themselves. Or so she thinks they do. They must be in conjunction with the other birds too because they’re quiet.
“ Mean .”
“Mean?” Elliot scowls, his expression changing. It’s no longer cocky or taunting. He narrows his blue eyes in curiosity at her. “How so?”
“That doesn’t work on me anymore.” Olivia taps his chest with her finger. Her arm doesn’t bend forward very far because they are just that close. Elliot tilts his head, and the cockiness he found himself so emboldened to wake up with melts off of him before her eyes.
“Have breakfast with me? You and Noah.” Elliot suggests, “After I can take the two of you to the other side of the lake. There’s a tire swing, Noah will love it –”
“What?” Elliot sighs, “I’m trying here, Liv. If you’ll just give me a chance–”
“I don’t owe you anything, Elliot. You don’t owe me anything. I’m … still processing last night and …” She hangs her head, only to turn it in the direction of the lakehouse. She suspects Noah will be emerging any moment now, wondering where his breakfast is.
“Of course, you don’t owe me anything. I guess I’m just … trying to make it right.” Elliot confesses, brows knitted together. There’s sincerity on his face – kindness. All of the things she knows he can be when he drops the façade he previously had.
“What’s done is done, Elliot. Nothing can make it right. It’s over and done with and it’s been … forever ago. None of it matters anymore.” Olivia’s voice lowers.
“None of it?” Elliot asks as if he’s surprised that there’s more.
“None of it,” Olivia whispers. Suddenly, the buzzards and the other birds reappear. It could be that they never left but either way, whenever she’s around him, everything else seems to become still and obsolete. Just as it’s always been. Her ears quieten again the moment he reaches for her hand.
“We used to be good together.” Elliot begins swinging their hands in between them in a gentle way. Did he even hear what he was saying? Of course, he did. He would always say things like that to her when they were young. How good they were together, how much he loved her. Her young mind, at the time, didn’t grasp that he didn’t mean we’re good together as a couple or that I’m in love with you. It meant we’re good as friends and I love you as my friend.
“You know what, Elliot?” Olivia pulls her hand away from his, immediately missing the warmth. “Some things really never do change.” She stares up at him, wide-eyed and lips pursed. “You’re just as clueless as you’ve always been.” Olivia turns around, without another word, and walks back up the dock in the direction of the lakehouse. Sure enough, as she’s approaching, Noah comes out of the front door and waves happily at Elliot.
“Hi, Elliot!” Noah smiles, one of his front teeth missing.
Elliot brings his hand up slowly, a sullen expression on his face that he replaces with a faint smile, and waves back at Noah.
Olivia doesn’t look back once.
She’s surprised to find, over the course of the next couple of days, that Elliot leaves her alone. Olivia was expecting nothing but stubbornness, in true Elliot Stabler fashion, but instead, he met her with nothing. Maybe her comment about him still being clueless got underneath his skin – maybe he finally got the picture that in the grand scheme of things, this was about more than a wedding. Sure, the wedding was a big part of it. But that wasn’t all.
Time has a way of allowing thoughts to stew, and Olivia has had a very long time to stew in everything that happened during her teen years. Bitterness was present, and anything sweet she may think at one point she tasted, now felt like she had only held her nose to prevent a bad taste. That the sweetness was a lie. It felt as if she convinced herself that their relationship was better, more profound than it actually was.
Olivia’s thoughts on the situation dwindled over the years, but it would be a lie to say that she didn’t begin to think about Elliot when she was entertaining the idea of returning to Aurora. He was her first love, and with first loves come tremendous memories. But he wasn’t just her first love. He was her best friend. The person she would run to when Serena was on one of her binges, the person that one time, caught Serena’s hand before it met Olivia’s face.
They were only about twelve, and Serena backed Olivia into the corner between the front door and the coat closet. Serena had been drinking all evening so when she spotted Olivia coming down the stairs with Elliot, she began her usual rampage. Names were called, accusations made that Olivia’s mind at the time, which was completely innocent, couldn’t fathom doing. Elliot hung out in her room all the time. It wasn’t like that.
“ You’re not going to hit her,” Elliot said. She had never seen him be so brave. It trumped all the times he climbed the tire swing to catapult himself into the lake at full speed. It stood out from the moments between them in the theater, when they would sneak in to see R-rated movies. He was so brave to let her bury her face into the sleeve of his denim jacket during scary movies. But nothing compared to seeing his hand around Serena’s wrist, firm – and one of the most intense looks on his young face she’d ever seen. “ If you hit her again, I’ll tell my dad.” He said.
Olivia never understood why he made that threat. Because she would later come to find out that Joseph Stabler was cut from the same branch as Serena – meaner perhaps.
Olivia stands in the kitchen, looking out the window. It’s nighttime, and fireflies are dancing around the lake. Her hand, the one he held just the other day, rests at her side. She begins rubbing her fingers against her palm, creating soft friction that mimics the warmth of his hand. The hand that stopped Serena from hitting her. The hand that held her chin the night he kissed her on the bank of the lake. The hand that laid on her waist the night before she left Aurora.
The hand that put a ring on another woman’s finger.
That stung. Even now, as much as she would love to not admit it – the instant she thought of Kathy Stabler, she could feel a pull in her chest. It felt like remembering someone who stole something from you. But could something be stolen if it never really belonged to someone?
Her mind was a confetti of these questions. Constantly, she teetered between letting the past go and hanging onto it with the same grip that Elliot held Serena’s wrist with.
Elliot was still so persistent. So adamant on her, whatever that meant. Whatever that entailed between the two of them. She couldn’t figure out what made him so hellbent on being around her now. Hell, he didn’t know she was in Aurora until a few days ago. Was he afraid of letting her go again?
Olivia shakes her head. No. Thoughts like that were what chipped at her pride. At the wall she had to build to protect herself from him.
Yet, she finds herself picking up her wine glass from the kitchen counter and swirling it before taking a sip. She brings the stemmed glass to her chest, as she eyes the garbage disposal.
The thing about pride is you can never make a weak decision in the company of it. Not without feeling like a complete ass that is. So she would never pick up the phone and call Mr. Beckley to ask for Elliot’s number.
Olivia saunters around the kitchen island and sits her wine glass back down. The thought is written all over her face and if Elliot were here, he could probably read it. Especially as she picks an orange from the basket that sits full on the island behind her.
Olivia begins to peel it.
If you skipped past the TW mentions, all you need to know is that Elliot protected Liv at one point during childhood. <3
Thanks for reading guys!
The garbage disposal is nothing short of fucked.
Olivia watches attentively as Elliot grunts from underneath the sink, trying to loosen the blades with his wrench. She rests her hands behind her, on the edge of the counter, with leering eyes and puckered lips.
“How in the hell …” Grunt. “Did you manage …” Grunt.
“Isn’t that what garbage disposals are for? To put food in, Elliot?” Olivia asks, annoyance in her voice. Had she purposefully wrecked the disposal? Well, yes. But he was still annoying her. The garbage disposal, at the end of the day, should be able to handle three oranges worth of peels.
However, when Elliot emerges from the sink with a handful of semi-shredded peels, and a smirk on his lips, Olivia’s expression remains sullen. “What?” She bites, cocking her head.
“Wow. ‘ Lotta peels. ” Elliot sings, all-knowing.
Olivia ogles him as if she doesn’t know what he’s suggesting. “Guess I’ll just have to put them in the can from now on.” She says, her expression unwavering.
It’s then that she hears the roll of thunder from overhead, signaling the first sign of a storm. Elliot’s blue eyes peer up, and they both quieten as a vibration cleans through the house. The rattling of dishes can be heard, and the shutter of the chandelier, which hangs over the kitchen island.
“That doesn’t sound good.” Elliot’s expression falls.
“I thought it wasn’t coming in until tomorrow?” Olivia asks. Their conversation about orange peels seems no longer important.
“Yeah …” Elliot brings his hands to his hips. “You have candles? Flashlights?”
Olivia stares at him, tongue in cheek. “ Yes.” She answers. Elliot doesn’t believe her, and she can tell because of the way he’s looking at her. His brows are dipped low into the lids of his eyes, his lips are pursed together, and his head is cocked to the side. “Okay, no. I don’t.” She confesses. The fact that he still knows her well enough to know when she’s fibbing drives her insane. So it was pretty much set in stone that he knew her orange peel act was an unoriginal plan to lure him over here.
Lightning strikes in the distance, but it’s loud enough to shake the ground.
And fry the lights.
“ Mom!!!!” Noah yells from upstairs, petrified.
“I’m coming! Don’t move, Noah!” Olivia turns around, feeling her way through the dark by dragging her fingers along the wall. She only realizes she’s left her phone in the living room when she instinctively goes for it in her back pocket so she can use the flashlight. She pats against the wood paneling until she feels a hand around her bicep.
“Wait’a minute,” Elliot says, his voice raspy from speaking so low. Suddenly, she sees the yellow glow of a flashlight flicker on. He must have found it in his toolbox. “Take this.” He hands her the flashlight.
Olivia takes the flashlight and begins making her way up the stairs, with the light pointed at her feet so she doesn’t trip. She stops midway when another crack of lightning draws closer than before and jumps; But when she feels Elliot’s hands come out to grasp her hips, she looks behind herself and points the flashlight in his face. Elliot, seeing the scowl planted on Olivia’s face, removes his hands from her hips and holds them in the air in a surrendering motion.
Olivia rolls her eyes and continues her fight up the stairs.
“ Mom I’m scared!” Noah yells, seemingly a little closer than before.
“I’m coming up now!” Olivia calls out to him. To her knowledge, Noah went up to his room after dinner to work on a summer project for school.
Once Olivia comes to the top of the stairs, she turns down the hall where Noah’s room is. But as she’s coming down the hall, Noah pops out from the bathroom with a little battery-operated toy lantern he brought from home. It illuminates his face, which is fearful.
Olivia comes to a dead stop, and because of that, Elliot ends up plummeting against her from behind. She stiffens herself in place, bracing her hand on the wall, and presses her lips together in annoyance.
“ Sorry,” Elliot whispers. She looks over her shoulder at him, glaring.
“Is the house going to blow away?” Noah asks, blue eyes wide under the light of his small lantern.
“No, honey. It’s just a storm. Come on.” Olivia replies, placing her hand his back to help guide him down the stairs. But before they even take one step forward, Elliot scoops Noah up as if he’s as light as a feather. Noah has no objections, but rather wraps an arm around Elliot’s neck. Another roll of thunder circles the house, and the rain becomes increasingly heavier. Noah clutches onto Elliot’s shirt as Olivia turns to face Elliot, holding the flashlight high above her head as she walks down the stairs, shining the light on their feet with each step they both take.
Olivia, careful off the last step, grabs onto the banister and moves so Elliot can see to step down into the living room fully. He sits Noah down, who immediately goes for Olivia and clutches the fabric of her gray t-shirt.
“When are the lights going to come back on?” Noah asks Olivia, looking up at her.
“I don’t know. It’s getting pretty bad,” Olivia says, leading Noah into the living room. The light from outside, which is pale blue, but mostly greenish in hue, casts through the windows to provide at least enough light to see where they’re stepping. She shuts off the flashlight and sits it on the coffee table. When Olivia turns around to face Elliot, she sees he has the flashlight on his phone on.
“Are you two going to be okay?” Elliot asks. Noah takes a seat on the couch and pulls the crocheted blanket off the back and onto himself.
“You’re not leaving are you?” Noah asks.
“No, he’s not,” Olivia interjects.
“I have to. My mom is by herself and –”
“Elliot, you cannot go out there. Look at it,” Olivia points out the window. The lake, which is usually visible during the day, is barely apparent. “And if I know your mother, she’s more prepared than anyone in Aurora,” Olivia adds; Already feeling terrible enough that she lured Elliot over here, only to get him stranded in a storm. She did not need him getting into a potential wreck on the way home.
Elliot releases an exaggerated breath and nods. “Alright. Well –”
Another loud, perhaps the loudest, roar of thunder rolls across the roof of the house. Once again, the walls vibrate and shake. Noah gasps and pulls the blanket over his head in retreat.
“Noah, it’s okay, sweetheart. I’m right here.” Olivia turns, scooting to sit on the back of the couch, with one leg dangling off.
Elliot makes his way around to the couch and sits down beside Noah. “You know, when your mom and I were kids, we were scared to death of storms like this. We used to make these forts …” Elliot says and Olivia looks over her shoulder at Elliot in surprise.
“Forts?” Noah asks, still underneath the blanket.
“Yeah, but you probably wouldn’t be into it.” Elliot shrugs playfully, acting as if it was a silly suggestion.
“How did you make them?” Noah asks, pulling the blanket down just enough so that curls and blue eyes peek out.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have my fort kit on me.” Elliot sighs, defeated.
“We have blankets!” Noah throws the blanket off of him and stands to his feet on the couch.
“ Ohhh, I don’t know about all that,” Olivia states, glaring at Elliot – who doesn’t turn around to look at her.
“Please! Please!” Noah begs, his entire demeanor changing. “Please, Mom?!” His hands clasp together, clearly desperate. Olivia focuses on the back of Elliot’s head, and when she does, he drops his head onto her lap and gives an upside-down smirk.
Blankets are strung all over the place, dangling off of chairs and the arms of couches. Olivia brought multiple sheets and blankets from the linen closet in the hallway, along with clothespins that Elliot dug out of a basket in the tiny laundry room that adjoins the kitchen. Noah’s lantern lights up the inside of the fort, providing just enough light for the space to be well lit.
Olivia has taken a spot on the couch, lying on one of the cushions so she’s able to peek inside just enough to see Elliot and Noah sitting inside on the floor, both cross-legged. She lies there, listening to Elliot tell him stories that he’s probably told his own children before. Stories about camping with his dad, stories about conquering tree limbs when he was a child, that she remembers encouraging him to climb. Noah listens with enthusiasm, and at one point, asks Olivia if they can go camping. Olivia answers with a simple maybe.
Eventually, Elliot talks Noah to sleep. The eight-year-old lies down on his sleeping back, which he ventured upstairs for, and drifted off to sleep without paying much attention to the ongoing storm outside. Once Elliot knows for sure he’s asleep, he crawls out from underneath the fort and uses the arm of the couch, where Olivia’s head lays near, to push himself up. A soft grunt follows, and a gentle chuckle from Olivia.
“ Don’t laugh,” Elliot whispers, looking down at her.
“Gettin’ old?” She teases, dark eyes cornered up at him. She can barely see his face, but somehow, she can see the soft white of his teeth showing.
“Such is life,” Elliot replies, turning away from her. Olivia positions her hand underneath her face, tilting her head down just enough to follow him around the room. She watches as he walks over to the row of windows and looks out. By instinct, she draws her legs up when he comes to sit down at the foot of her. “It’s not easing up.”
“I’m sorry.” Olivia keeps her voice low so that she won’t wake Noah, who lies asleep in the fort.
“For what?” Elliot asks, shifting in his seat to look at her. Olivia runs her hand over her chin as she thinks about how to put this. How does she tell him exactly that she lured him over here? The thought alone embarrasses her and if there were enough light in the living room, he may have been able to see the light blush that rises to her cheeks.
“I wanted to talk to you,” Olivia confesses; The room falls quiet with only the sound of rain hitting hard against the windows. Elliot cocks his head, staring at her. He doesn’t say a word and she knows he must be thinking. When he lifts his head and gives a single nod, she knows he knows what she’s getting at.
“You could’ve just called, ya know. I would’ve come.” Elliot states. Olivia is quiet now, only exhaling deeply in response. “I’d always come. No matter what.”
Those words cause her to direct her attention to Noah. Anything to not have to look at him, even in the dark. “I wasn’t expecting to see you. It uh,” Olivia raises up, which inevitably draws her further away from him. “It … surprised me, I guess?” She shrugs.
“I was surprised to hear you were back,” Elliot replies. Another long silence fills the room. The rain slows in these moments, changes directions, and becomes a straight downpour. Elliot takes the opportunity to stand up and saunter his way out the front door and onto the porch, where the awning protects him from becoming drenched.
Olivia sits there, watching him through the windows. She watches how he leans forward and braces his hands along the banister of the porch. She wonders briefly if it would be best to just lie down and try to go to sleep, but it’s only a passing thought. She would much rather go talk to him. That’s what she wants to do. She wants to actually talk to him. Not be mad at him. Not seeing what Kathy did every time she looks at him; Although, maybe she’s unjustly pushing some of Elliot’s blame outside its rightful place.
Olivia stands up and peeks in on Noah once more before making her way out the front door to stand at Elliot’s side. He turns his head and gives her a soft smile. It’s dark, but there’s just enough light for them to make out one another’s faces. Olivia smiles back, drawing in a deep breath. It’s a genuine interaction; No hostility or punishment regarding the past.
“Nothing smells like Aurora rain.” Elliot squints his eyes. Olivia shakes her head no in agreement and leans forward so that her forearms are resting against the railing.
The moment Elliot reaches for her hand, Olivia immediately glances at him. Her eyes flicker down at their hands, watching as Elliot traces all four fingers across the inside of her palm and fingers. He moves them gently against her. She finds her fingers twitching into a fist, to close over his, and the very second their hands are interlaced, palm to palm, she feels him glide his thumb over the side of her hand. Olivia returns the gesture, her own thumb moving to caress his.
Some things never change, like the smell of Aurora rain. And like her love for the man standing beside her, along with the forgiveness that by default, came with that.
The storm isn't over ...
How had they fallen asleep like this? Between the rain and the soft sound of each other’s voices, which they just had to scoot a little closer to one another to be able to hear, they ended up side by side, on the wicker love seat that sat on the porch, with Olivia’s head on Elliot’s shoulder and Elliot’s resting against the siding of the house.
They talked about everything and nothing. Nothing that was important to their progression, but everything that they wanted to know about each other over the past few years. Elliot told her about his children – what they’re off doing with their lives. Olivia told Elliot about Noah and how she came across him on the job, in a terrible situation, and decided he was the little boy she wanted to call family. She told him about becoming Sergeant and Captain and what important days those were for her. They talked and talked, just like they did when they were kids; Except about what really mattered.
They didn’t talk about how Elliot pushed her to the side when they were young. They didn’t talk about how it hurt Olivia to give herself to Elliot, only for him to turn around and give himself to Kathy. Those were things that became lost somewhere in their conversations about family and life. But nonetheless, Olivia hasn’t forgotten. They exist somewhere in the back of her mind, ready – threatening to come out at just the right moment. Perhaps after the sweetness of holding hands and talking like old times wears off.
The sun is what wakes them, though it’s still raining. It comes out just enough, like an alarm, to wake them, only to disappear once squinted eyes adjust to it. The rain has lightened quite a bit, but as Olivia comes to, she realizes that it’s probably going to rain for the majority of the day, as the newscast first predicted.
Golden light fades back and forth from over the trees, where a new day's fractals shine through rain sprays and reflect off everything. The glistening, wet edges of the porch that the awning couldn’t protect. Puddles that lie in gravel beneath the stairs, around parked cars, and red floaties that Noah had left lying on the dock a couple of days prior.
Olivia is the first to rise, stretching both arms outward. Elliot, just because he feels her nudge against him, stirs next.
“Elliot,” She reaches, unaware that he’s awake already. She rubs at her eyes with one hand and rubs at his chest with the either, trying to wake him. Elliot turns his attention to her and clears his throat. “We fell asleep,” Olivia adds, standing to her feet. She’s groggy, feels unslept, and smells like the outdoors. She’s pretty sure that the mosquitos have had a feast sometime during the night because the skin on her legs itches.
Elliot, without a word, leans forward and perches his elbows on his knees. “Yeah.” Both palms come to his eyes, where he rubs the sleep out of them. Olivia is already in the process of making her way into the house to check on Noah.
“Noah?” Olivia calls, seeing he’s not in the fort.
“In here,” Noah calls from the kitchen. Olivia saunters into the kitchen to see Noah sitting at the small island, munching on a bowl of cereal.
“Why didn’t you wake me? I would’ve made you something.” Olivia asks, reaching to run her fingers through her son’s curly locks, which are tussled from sleeping. Noah gives a gentle shrug and releases an I don’t know hum.
“You were sleeping and I didn’t wanna wake you up.” Noah pokes at his bowl of fruity pebbles.
Olivia, narrowing her eyes at Noah, remains quiet. Any other time he busts his ass to wake Olivia up, especially during the summer. “And you looked happy,” Noah says, keeping his attention focused on the rainbow pebbles floating around in the bowl before him. He dips his spoon into them, scooping a far-too big bite, and plops it in his mouth.
Olivia realizes fairly quickly what he meant. He must have woken up and gone onto the front porch to see Olivia and Elliot asleep together. She’s not sure how she’ll address this subject because it is a tough one. Noah is an intelligent kid, so it’s not like she can throw out the classic we’re just friends because right now, they’re not really anything. Old friends. They’re old friends?
Before she can make any kind of plausible excuse, she hears the screendoor open, signaling that Elliot has come into the house. She looks over her shoulder and sure enough, Elliot comes prancing through. His face is red, his eyes a little swollen from sleeping, and when he speaks, she suspects it’ll be pure gravel. He was like that, even when they were young.
“Hey,” Elliot spots Noah. A smile spreads across his lips. “Feelin’ better, kid?” He asks, taking a seat beside the eight-year-old, who is still shoveling fruity pebbles in by the spoonful. Noah nods once, mouth too full to speak.
Noah tries anyway — “ Goof.” Good. He means good.
“Coffee?” Olivia asks Elliot.
“Please.” Gravel. Pure gravel.
Olivia turns around, but as soon as she’s faced with the electric coffee maker, she sighs. The electricity still hasn’t come on. Elliot cracks a smirk at her discovery when she turns around to face him again. “You were just going to let me make an ass out of myself weren’t you?” She asks, a soft chuckle following.
“Oh yeah.” Elliot closes his eyes and puckers his lips playfully. “I can go into town and get us some. It’s not that bad right now,” he says, referring to the rain. “Check on Mama too.”
This is the part where she should tell Elliot that she can tough it out without coffee. That he should go be with Bernie anyway, but instead, she smiles and nods in agreeance. “Alright. I’ll take mine —”
“Black,” Elliot interjects. “Two sugars.”
“ Yeah, ” Olivia answers, head tilted sideways at him. He was starting to surprise her and she wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. The simplicity of him still knowing how she took her coffee made everything feel like not a day had passed between them.
He’s been a nervous wreck since the moment he laid eyes on her, on the dock, outside of the lakehouse. Seeing her after all of these years has been nothing short of earth-shaking. When he was told she was back in town, he wasn’t expecting to drive to the lakehouse that night. But the more he sat at home thinking about the fact that she was just a few minutes away, the crazier it drove him.
Once the cut was made, he didn’t think he would ever see her again. But the moment he stepped out of his truck and saw her in the distance, feet in the lake while nursing a glass of wine, she took his breath away. When Olivia actually turned around, after hearing him call to her, she drew any bit of oxygen left out of his lungs.
They had a long history filled with ups and downs. There were times when he thought maybe they might be something more between them than just friendship. But it was sticky territory. They were best friends – in fact, he never had a friend like her before in his entire life. But as he thinks back on milestones between them, he realizes how his young mind didn’t fully grasp what it meant at the time.
The night Elliot and Olivia slept together, he and Kathy were already in a relationship and had been for a couple of months. Their night together had been perfect. Or, at least, Elliot thought so. He recalled asking her if she was okay. If things were moving too fast. If she was comfortable. If he was hurting her. They were vocal with one another, so her standoffishness with him afterward didn’t really make sense to his teen mind.
But now there were many things he was questioning. His decisions, mainly, then and now.
The night before Olivia left Aurora, what happened had put doubts in his mind. He never told Kathy about what happened neither when they were teenagers or that night because he convinced himself that both occasions were a mistake.
Elliot held onto that night for a long time. The night before she left, when they were both adults and more prone to make better choices. He held onto the way her lips tasted; How it didn’t feel like two kids messing around yet it did at the same time. The soft hum that vibrated off each other’s lips as they kissed one another feverishly. He held onto it, still, even after all these years. Even though it didn’t go any further than a kiss. Even though at the time he wanted it to. He wanted her that night. His best friend. He wanted her more than anything.
He’s already found himself wondering what it would be like to experience that again. That want that used to exist inside of him for her.
So why was he trying so hard now? Clean breaks should be clean breaks. That’s what it was supposed to be.
On his way back from the café, he stopped at home to check on Bernie. From there, he grabbed a box of things from the attic; Things that he hasn’t seen in years. It’s taped up and if he remembers right, there are photos in it. Albums. Mementos from their childhood that, if he’s being honest, he doesn’t nearly remember half of.
He wants to take them out and show them to her. He wants to reminisce and talk about the past. Maybe they’ll figure out what happened beyond unsent wedding invitations and first times that were the last of many.
But Elliot hopes, as he drives back in the rain, which is picking up its pace again, that they can remember what it felt like to love each other again as wholly and completely as he knows they once did.
Even if they’ve always had two completely different perceptions of what that love was.
And so in the passenger seat of his truck sits a box. In his lap, were two coffees in a Styrofoam holder. Two black – one with two sugars.
His mind is racing, wondering how he’s going to eventually tell her that he knows for a fact Kathy wasn’t at fault for the misplaced invitation. How is he going to be honest with her now, after all this time, and tell Olivia that he told Kathy not to send an invitation?
Some things never change. They remain the same, even after decades of being lost. But just like some things never change, some things are also unforgivable.
I did say a storm was coming. :D there’s still so much to explain, so before anyone wants to murder Elliot completely just bare with me 💀
Chapter 9: Memories
“Can I go outside?” Noah asks, standing in front of the row of windows in the living room. “It’s not that bad anymore, please?” He asks, glancing over his shoulder at Olivia, who sits on the couch. The electricity had flickered back on once, but besides that, the house was still dark and rather dull inside. Outside, it’s looking about the same, though the rain has let up a little. Occasional rolls of thunder have come through, which are still shaking the house. Noah, thankfully, has become less afraid. The fort he and Elliot made last night is still pitched, so when he’s feeling unsafe, he’s been going inside and playing with a couple of things he brought down from his room. A fidget toy, Olivia believes, and some other kind of modernized trinket that she doesn’t quite get the appeal of.
“No, honey. It’s still lightning, it’s not safe.” Olivia shakes her head, drawing her legs into her stomach. She finds herself checking the watch on her wrist, estimating how long Elliot has been gone.
Noah’s shoulders drop. “Is it going to rain for the rest of the time we’re here?!” He asks, his eight-year-old annoyance obviously present from the fact that he can’t go outside and be by the lake.
“No, it’s just a storm. It’ll blow over.” Olivia checks her watch again. She takes her eyes off Noah one time, only for her focus to shoot back up from the device on her wrist when she hears a gasp leave Noah.
“Elliot is back!” Noah exclaims, running over to the front door to open the screen. The wind takes hold of it, just enough to blow it out of his grasp, but as Elliot comes closer to the door, he reaches with his free hand, the one that isn’t holding their coffees, and grabs it.
Olivia perks up rather quickly, stretching both legs out on the couch. “Hey,” Says Elliot to them both as he walks into the house. Noah shuts the door behind him. Elliot reaches in between the two coffees in the drink carrier and picks up a parchment-wrapped muffin – “For Mr. Noah, who is not yet ready to know the joys of caffeine.” Elliot chuckles, handing the muffin to him.
“Thank you,” Noah beams, unwrapping the muffin, where he begins to pick at it as he makes his way over to the couch to sit at Olivia’s feet. “You’re so welcome,” Elliot smirks, sauntering over to Olivia. He takes her coffee from the carrier and hands it to her, “Careful, it’s hot,” His tone drops; He hands it to her carefully. She still found it endearing, that even after all this time, he was still protective of her. Even if it meant making sure she didn’t get burnt from coffee.
“Just what Noah needs, sugar,” Olivia teases, rolling her dark eyes up at Elliot who stands behind the couch, taking sips from his cup already. She blows on her own, before taking a drink.
“ Mm,” Olivia hums, eyes closed. “I needed this. Thank you,” She reaches for him, placing her hand over his forearm momentarily. She pulls away. Another sip of coffee, and Olivia finds it in her to stand to her feet. “How’s your mom?” She asks, walking around Noah, who is busy getting blueberry crumbs all over his shirt.
“She’s okay. You were right. Got there and she had every lantern in the house brought out and was reading a sewing book. Unphased, as usual.” Elliot places the cup holder down on the back of the couch.
Olivia cracks a smirk, coming to stand beside him. She leans her backside against the back of the couch and tilts her head at him. “Bernie will survive us all in an apocalypse.” She jokes.
“Like a zombie apocalypse?” Noah asks, glancing over his shoulder at them. Crumbs, moist and sticking to his chin and parts of his lips, are prevalent.
“ Uh, it wouldn’t be a challenge for Elliot’s Mom,” Olivia states, a matter of factly.
“Do you remember the time when we were camping in the backyard and we saw a possum?” Elliot chuckles; He takes another drink of his coffee.
Olivia, mouth full of coffee, brings her hand over her lips to keep from spewing it. She nods quickly, swallowing. “When your mom came out with the shovel ...” She says, a soft giggle following.
“She killed a possum?” Noah asks, mortified.
“ No, no .” Elliot shakes his head. “She did take out her rose bush though.” He winks at Noah playfully. Noah, in response, gives a toothy grin. Olivia laughs.
“Dad wasn’t there that weekend,” Elliot brings his cup up to his lips. Olivia remains quiet, studying him. She watches the slight shift in his expression. It fades into a sadness that only she, she’s sure, would recognize. Olivia knew Joe, and well. If Joe had been there that weekend, then he would’ve told Elliot to man up when they both came running through the back door to alert Bernie of the wild creature that was ‘trying to get into their tent’.
“Your mom had it handled.” Olivia gives Elliot a soft wink, to which he smiles at.
“I brought some things from the house.” Elliot clears his throat.
“Oh?” Olivia asks curiously. What did he mean by things from the house?
“Yeah, like uh … I don’t know. It’s a box of old stuff.” Elliot shrugs.
“Careful with using old. ” Olivia sings – Noah already has a silly smile on his face as if he wants to chime in on the joke but knows better.
“Sorry, vintage. ” Elliot corrects himself.
“Yeah, not any better.” Olivia gives him a playful swat on the shoulder.
They don’t go looking through the box at first. It’s brought in from Elliot’s truck, sat by the door, and left there far into the evening. The lights come back on just in time for dinner. Olivia makes them all grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. When bedtime rolls around, Noah decides he’ll sleep in his room rather than the fort, only because Olivia tells him he can watch a couple episodes of a show he likes on his iPad before he goes to sleep.
As she walks from the kitchen after just finishing dishes, into the living room, she watches as Elliot takes the fort apart, piece by piece, until it’s nothing but a stack of folded blankets on the end of the couch.
“He enjoyed that.” Olivia smiles.
“I’m glad I could help.” Elliot corners his blue eyes around at her.
“ You did. ” She nods, rubbing her hands together. Her attention focuses on the box that sits by the front door. On the side of it, in black sharpie, reads memories . That’s it. She wonders how many more boxes like that he has, or if this is the only one. “So …” Olivia claps her hands together. “We gonna look through it or what?” She asks; He hasn’t mentioned looking through it yet, and she’s been waiting all day — it’s going to drive her nuts if she waits any longer. She looks to Elliot, who has a satisfied smirk on his lips. He wanted her to ask.
Elliot, without a word, makes his way over to the box and picks it up. He carries it over to the living room and sits it on the floor, where he eases down onto his knees before it. Olivia follows suit, coming to sit on the opposite side of the box. Her heart is thumping out of her chest. What had he kept? There were probably photos, that was a given. But she figured there had to be more than photos in the box.
“ I can’t believe you kept that!” Olivia hollers, silencing herself with her palm against her mouth. In Elliot’s hand is a polaroid photo of Olivia, age fourteen, sobbing over a Billy Idol poster – freshly received for her fourteenth birthday. At the bottom of the polaroid, in blue ink, is written ‘82.
“ Oh my god,” Elliot pitches his voice high, in an effort to imitate a young Olivia’s voice. “ I just love him soooo much.”
“Yeah, okay. Gonna sit there and act like you didn’t have the hots for Madonna?” Olivia crosses her arms.
“I will neither confirm nor deny that, thanks,” Elliot smirks, tossing the polaroid back in the box. When Elliot reaches in and brings out an entire photo album, somehow, Olivia recognizes it straight away. It’s not the first time they’ve looked through the album together. She remembers this one in specific because it was a photo album that Aurora High gave out at the end of the school year once. Green, with a giant white A on it. Elliot flips the photo album, and sure enough, they’re both met with an array of photos of them together.
On the first page, there’s various photos of Elliot and Olivia at school functions together. They’re small, Elliot is in bibs in a few of them. Olivia in pretty floral dresses. There are bows and yellow raincoats; Them with cupcakes smashed into their young faces in one photo. But as Elliot continues to flip through the album, they become older and older with each turn of the page. Once he comes across a specific photo, they both remain silent.
In the corner of the photo is once again, written in blue ink, 1984.
The photo is of them, at the age of sixteen, on the football field where Elliot played throughout his high school career. His arm is around her waist and her lips are pressed to his cheek. Elliot’s young face is scrunched on one side, as if he isn’t enjoying the affection – but the grin on his lips, reminiscent of the one he’s currently wearing, tells another story.
They looked different. So much time had passed since then. Elliot’s hair, feathered back and long in the photo, was now gone. Olivia’s hair, almost black and down to her waist, was much shorter now; Honey toned and vibrant. They’ve aged. Of course they have. It’s been forever ago.
Olivia finds herself looking at him, here and now, studying his profile. He’s smiling down at the photo, lines creased around his squinted eyes.
“That was about a week before we went down to the lake,” Elliot says, his voice calm.
Her heart sinks. She doesn’t want to talk about that.
Elliot turns his head to look at her. She’s somehow moved closer to him, and it must have happened sometime in between him flipping through the years on long developed film.
“I don’t remember.” Olivia lies, eyes cast down on the photo. She can see him looking at her through her peripheral vision.
“We never talked. Not really. About that night.” Elliot licks his lips.
“It was such a long time ago.” Olivia shakes her head. She still won’t look at him.
* * *
How does Elliot tell her that he remembers that night so vividly at times that he can still smell the lake? Sometimes, he can feel handfuls of grass in his hands. How does he tell her that he can hear her at times, in his ear, panting? It was such a long time ago. But it felt fresh and more obtainable than anything the photo album before them could ever offer. It felt like young love should.
Elliot watches as she reaches behind them and picks up her wine glass off the coffee table. He’s had a little too, but neither of them has really touched the beverage since they began their walk down memory lane. She takes a sip from it, her lips planted firmly on the rim of the stemmed glass. She won’t look at him. He wishes she would.
“I feel like …” Elliot begins. “You kind of … I don’t know … shut me out, after … it wasn’t the same.” He says, blue eyes sincere.
Olivia goes quiet, hanging her head. “Yeah, well,” She sighs. “It’s over with now.”
“Why did you shut me out?” Elliot asks, narrowing his eyes. Perhaps that’s the question he wanted to ask all along. Since they sat down here together, since, whatever happened between them. The truth of what he did, while it still stings, lives alongside other unanswered questions.
* * *
Olivia finally looks at him, brown eyes wet. If she blinks, they may fall. She’ll make him aware of her emotion and that’s the last thing she wants. Things that happened so long ago shouldn’t bother her, yet, they do.
“ Um,” She tucks her lips together. Does he really want to know? One party involved is dead, and she can’t defend herself. Is this even the time to bring it up, or should she lie and just say she became afraid of it ruining their friendship? That’s what she had told him, actually. But that wasn’t exactly the truth.
“Tell me, Liv.” Elliot reaches for her hand. She’s beginning to hate that he’s been reaching for her hand again. Because she knows the day will come, or so she feels, that he’ll stop reaching. Like before.
Her eyes fall away from him again; Away from his gaze.
“ Um, ” Comes again, but this time, Olivia’s voice cracks. “She …” Her lips pucker to the side. “I don’t know how, but Kathy found out about what happened that night. And she approached me. She said …” Olivia pauses. There was no turning back now. No making up some grand lie that he would believe; That would pacify him. “She said that … it was okay because … you and her had been talking about going all the way. But that you were both nervous and … um, yeah. ”
Elliot is quiet. Too quiet.
“It made me feel …” Olivia pauses, tongue to cheek. “ Like practice. ”
Elliot’s expression is nothing short of mortified. His brows are furrowed, his mouth slightly agape. His eyes are intense, blue as ever.
“ God, Liv,” Elliot whispers, shaking his head softly. “Why didn’t you come to me?”
“And tell you what, El?” Olivia tilts her head. Their voices are so soft, so calm with each other. “That your girlfriend said it didn’t count with me?” She asks, brown eyes wide and teary. “I was humiliated enough I was not going to —”
Elliot lets go of her hand and brings his fingers to her chin. His thumb runs along the skin there. It’s enough to both silence her and catch her off guard. She can hear her heart thumping wildly in her eardrums, in sync with a sound only he could ever create. His next words come urgent, but light as a feather.
“I would’ve told her how wrong she was.”
Chapter 10: Sweet
The feeling of his fingertips, warm and inviting, touching her skin felt surreal. It felt like having lost something, only to find it in the least expected of places. She couldn’t help but allow her eyes to wander toward his hand. It was soft and calloused at the same time; If such things can exist.
I would have told her how wrong she was.
His words were soft. But she heard them – they echoed inside her. They reawoke something that she thought had lied asleep for years. Yet she finds herself wrapping her fingers around his wrist and giving his handle a gentle push away. She lays it in his lap and turns her attention to the box.
“What else?” Her voice is low – raspy from either the emotion she just fought back or the heat rising up her neck. It felt as if she had swallowed nettles. She clears her throat, trying to make space for words that don’t sound broken to come out.
Olivia can see him looking at her from the corner of her vision. His back is to the coffee table, shoulders slumped. His expression reads as confused, though manifests in a scowl. She takes it upon herself to reach forward and pull out the first thing she feels that doesn’t mold into another photo album. God, not another picture of the past. She can’t take that. She continues moving her hand around in the box, relying on only touch because she can’t quite see into it from the position she’s reaching across from.
Olivia pulls out something fabric. She examines it. A hat. Oh. It’s denim and there’s a large fading pastel purple flower sewn onto the front of it. The purple color, which she remembers once being a little more vibrant, almost looks white now. She would wear this hat constantly as a kid. The fact that Elliot still has it surprises her. How did he manage to get his hands on it?
“Where did you–”
“You left it at my house. It sat on my dresser and you just … never picked it up.” Elliot shrugs, lips puckered. “So I kept it.”
Olivia looks at him, head tilted, and then back at the hat. “I kept meaning to take it home but …”
“Something always got in the way.” Elliot finishes for her. Their eyes lock. Their little hat analogy immediately caught. “Something always … got in the way,” Elliot repeats, this time more breathless. More intensely.
Olivia brings the hat over the top of her head and slips it on. She’s sure she looks just as silly as she feels, but regardless, she makes a funny face and throws up the peace sign. Elliot chuckles in response. She’d ignored his something always got in the way comment and instead, deflected it with a joke. But no sooner than his soft laughter subsided, did Olivia’s smile fade along with it. She corners her eyes at him and takes her hat off. “Maybe you need it more than me.” Her jab comes sudden; Another joke. “So you don’t get cold …” She tucks her lips together and extends the hat out to him. “This is me passing the torch–”
“That’s the second bald joke you’ve made–”
“I think I’ve earned it.” Olivia giggles. “Here,” She uses both hands to fashion the hat on Elliot’s head. He allows her to, with narrowed eyes. But what he does next catches her off guard. Before she can say another word, Elliot puts both hands around her waist and practically brings her down into his lap. He pulls the hat off of his head because he cannot see himself kissing her while wearing a flowery denim bucket hat. Elliot lets it fall to the ground beside them.
“What are you doing?” Olivia asks, her voice dropping low.
“I don’t know,” Elliot shakes his head.
“ You better know,” Olivia cracks a grin.
He smiles in response, bringing his fingers out to touch her cheek. But the moment Elliot’s smile begins to dwindle so does Olivia’s.
“ Liv, I’m so sorr–”
“Don’t ruin it …” Olivia moves closer to him, wrapping both arms around his neck. She tilts her head and leans in just enough so that the tips of their noses are touching. Both pairs of eyes are still open, gazing longingly. “ Don’t ruin it … ” Comes again, this time in a light whisper against Elliot’s lips.
There could be a thousand ways he could ruin this right now. But she has no idea just how one way could ruin it all. The truth does have a way of ruining things.
“Do I move in or do you?” Elliot whispers.
Olivia snorts. “I was waiting for you …”
“Well I was waiting for you to …” Elliot retorts, grinning.
“You pulled me down here,” Olivia argues.
“ You leaned in. ”
“Well, I did but—”
Elliot presses his mouth to hers, cutting her off mid-sentence. Their first kiss in years. Their first kiss since they were kids. She smiles against his lips and makes the first effort to move against him. A couple of soft pecks from her and suddenly, she’s sinking into his arms. Sinking so far down, in fact, that he ends up cradling her with her back against his lap.
It feels exactly as it should. It’s red popsicle breath. It’s a hot night on the bank of a lake. It’s his hand in hers at the Aurora theater. It’s shared banana splits. It’s bada-bing. It’s I would’ve told her how wrong she was. It’s marrying your childhood best friend. It’s kissing each other, old and gray, on park benches in the middle of the rain; Aurora rain, which smells incomparable to any other place.
Some of those things may have happened, and some may never will.
But he was incomparable, that is certain.
She wants to tell him that, but she doesn’t. Olivia wouldn’t want to boost his ego too much.
Elliot beings running his fingers through her hair as he kisses her. He pecks her once, twice, and three times before raising up just enough for them both to smile. Long enough for brown eyes to meet blue ones and giggle like they were ten again, in forts during thunderstorms.
A roll of thunder rumbles over the roof above them.
There’s so much going on outside. A subsiding thunderstorm. Bugs that lie in watery dirt. A lake, flooding with water it didn’t ask for. None of it matters. Tomorrow, when the thunderstorm has faded completely, out will come the sun again. It’ll heat the ground; It’ll heat just like their kiss, which started as innocent as they did. But all things grow and change, like them, here in these minuscules of seconds.
Elliot’s first to open his mouth and she happily obliges, dipping her tongue out to taste his bottom lip. It’s more evocative, more experienced than they’ve ever been able to give to each other. Heat rises up the back of her neck and because her fingers are on his, she feels the skin become lava underneath her touch. The soft moan that passes from her mouth and into his must have been what incited him, or so she imagines, to move his hand further up her side until it’s sitting just underneath her armpit. His thumb grazes the protruding material of her bra which lies clad underneath her t-shirt.
Their lips break apart and what were once soft exchanges are no more. Wet, hungry kisses are exchanged. Years worth of bitten lips and velvet against velvet. He’s more skillful now. They’re not two fumbling teenagers trying to figure out how to kiss anymore. They know the game. Part of her feels slightly annoyed that they couldn’t learn it together. But those minor annoyances are dull and untimely as ever.
She contemplates it; Seriously contemplates letting him take her clothes off here. To see what else he’s learned since all of those years ago. But for the better, and against her clouded judgment, she realizes her son is asleep upstairs. He could come downstairs at any minute.
Olivia presses her hand against his chest and gently pushes. “Stop.”
Elliot’s breathing is all over the place, ragged and intense. “Did I do something?” He asks, still holding her like she’s a baby. She smiles in response and shakes her head.
“Noah,” Is all Olivia says. She can tell by the expression that washes over his face that he understands. Not now. Maybe not ever. But they have this moment; Which is all either of them is concerned with.
She could be angry at him all she wanted. But she knew as she laid there, looking up at him, that she was gazing up at the love of her life.
And no matter what he did, even if he didn’t deserve the position, she could never seem to push him out of the space he carved out for himself long ago.
Chapter 11: Talks With Mama
“You have to go,” Olivia whispers heatedly against his lips, “For real this time.” She adds, hands pressed against his chest. She gives him a light push, only to have him lean in for another kiss on his way out.
“You told me I had to stay.” Elliot teases, backing away from her.
“ Mhm, when it was storming. It’s not storming anymore there, partner. ” Olivia teases right back. Calling him partner for the first time since they were kids felt strange but organic. She reaches for the screen door and pulls it open, giving Elliot a gentle nudge through the threshold.
“You’re gonna kick me out? Really?” Elliot asks, a crooked grin planted on his lips.
“ I am. ” She sings flirtatiously.
“Five more minutes,” Elliot brings his hand to rest on the door frame. Her lips pucker in an effort to fight back a knowing grin. She knows his game. He’s always played it well; But because she knows him she can play along just as fiercely. Even when they were young, Elliot Stabler had a way of getting his way.
“No,” Olivia moves so that she’s ushering both herself and him onto the front porch. She closes the front door behind her. “Your five minutes will turn into ten, and then fifteen and then …” She trails off, a deep, breathy sigh following.
“And then?” Elliot asks, blue eyes squinted. He already knows the answer. Yet, he moves closer to her again. Oh he’s trying really hard.
“You know what.” Olivia squints her eyes back. “And then we go upstairs and … that’s that. ”
“That’s that?” Elliot smirks, reaching out to play with the gold chain necklace she wears around her neck. Fearless is written on the bar of it. He fumbles with it between his fingers, running his thumbnail along the edge. Olivia’s eyes wander down to his hand, watching as he fidgets with the jewelry.
“ Yeah. That’s that.” She licks her lips. Her skin is red still from their makeout session in the middle of her living room floor. She wonders if he can feel the heat radiating off her neck, which he tried so desperately to kiss on their way to the front door. “ Not yet. ” Olivia clears her throat and hums. Not yet. Maybe not ever. She doesn’t know if she’s ready to give herself like that to him again. But she knows one thing for certain: The passion that they had for each other hadn’t aged a single day, even if they only had one single day of passion. He kissed her like he did the night on the bank of the lake; Feverish and full of intent. The intent of want, of lust, of all the wild things people in want can do to each other.
The difference was, both he and she were older now. He kissed her with a more skilled language than before. So of course, her mind has wandered to other places.
“ Okay. ” Elliot smiles. He brings his hand from her necklace and drops it to his side. “I had a nice time. The fort. Getting to know Noah. Us. ” Says Elliot as he turns to head towards the staircase. Soft pitter patters of rain can be heard against the roof — the lake is in clear view now, void of the waterfalls that hit it earlier in the day.
Us. That is what stuck out to her. She wanted to hear that oh-so-simple word when she was younger. Us. Hearing it now feels odd and if she was being honest, it felt more magical than the idea of it was as a teenager.
Then, it meant him piggy-backing her to their spot, it meant them holding hands, it meant them kissing under stars in the back of Joe’s truck. It meant promises of someday I’ll marry you and promise rings and Elliot passing out when she birthed their first child.
But those were pipe dreams.
When he said it now, she felt not like dreaming but like hoping. Dreaming and hoping were two very different things. To dream felt like passing time; To hope felt like someday.
Was she willing to admit that she still loved him? Now? Even after all of these years? Well, someday.
Olivia comes to stand by the porch railing which overlooks the driveway. Elliot jogs off the last four steps and onto the graveled pavement. He looks up at her, another large grin curling on his lips. “Tomorrow?” He asks.
“Tomorrow.” Olivia smiles at him, hair falling into a forelock. Elliot salutes her, and with a wink, he climbs into his truck. She watches him leave. As headlights dim in the distance, she mumbles under her breath —
“ Someday. ”
Morning comes. The cicadas are up and leaving little silence around the lakehouse. Olivia steps out of the front door, onto the porch, with a cup of coffee in hand to look out at the lake. The sun hits it in such a way that makes it appear iridescent. She’s sure, that if she squints hard enough, she would be able to see the very bottom of the lake.
She’s not concerned with the bottom of the lake though. Or the cicadas, which are still wildly singing. She’s thinking about one thing and one thing only.
Olivia turns to peek in through the window that overlooks the porch, which conveniently held a view of the kitchen. Noah sits at the tiny island, eating the French toast Olivia made him. He shovels a bite into his mouth as looks through some kind of graphic novel he brought from home. He’s not allowed to have his phone out while he’s eating so lately, he’s taken to those when Olivia isn’t sitting with him.
She couldn’t eat right now even if she wanted to. Her stomach is twisted in knots and overflown with butterflies. There is a part of Olivia that wishes she didn’t feel this way. She wishes she could stay mad at him because it felt so much easier than confronting any kind of lingering feelings she may have harbored for him over the years. The simple truth is, she can’t help herself.
She never could.
Olivia turns to go inside, glancing down at the driveway below one more time.
The door of Elliot’s RV swings open. He emerges from his humble abode and uses the small railing attached vertically at the side of the door to step onto the driveway of Bernie’s house. The RV itself is an older model, an off-golden color that was probably lighter at one point but the years weren’t kind to the metal.
Bernie’s house however was lively and cozy looking as ever. A small two-story, white, with rows of flowerbeds in front of the porch area which seemed to extend the entire front length of the house. The awning shielded a porch swing and a card table that set closer to the banisters, with two folding chairs on either side so that when Bernie’s friends came over for cards, they had the option to sit outside.
Elliot makes his way into the house like he does every morning, bypassing the quaint living room, the staircase that leads up to the second level, and Bernie’s bedroom (which only recently has become her bedroom because she can’t make the climb up the stairs anymore), until he finally lands in the kitchen. The strong scent of bacon, maybe on the verge of burning, fills his nostrils.
“Good morning, Mama,” Elliot says, walking up behind Bernie and pecking her on the cheek. She flips the bacon on the other side with her spatula.
“Mornin’.” Bernie says cheerily, walking away from the stove and heading towards the fridge. She pulls out a carton of eggs.
“Need help?” Elliot asks.
“Nope.” Bernie states, carrying the eggs back over to the stove. “You got in late.” She says, changing the subject.
Elliot remains quiet, plopping down on one of the chairs to the old-fashioned dining set. “Not too late.” He says, reaching to steal a fresh biscuit off of Bernie’s fancier serving plates. A small grin curls on his lips. “What were you doing up?”
“You seein’ someone?” Bernie asks, cracking a soft smile.
“ What were you doing up?” Elliot plays right back, taking a bite off the biscuit.
“You’re not answering the question.” Bernie cracks an egg into a separate skillet. “You know my arthritis keeps me up.” She adds, her voice trailing off.
“I might be seeing someone.” Elliot shrugs, mouth full.
“Who?” Bernie whips around, wide-eyed. Now she’s intrigued.
“Well, maybe seeing isn’t the right—”
“Who?!” Bernie was all but waving her hands in the air excitedly.
“Olivia is back in town. For a while.” Elliot corners his blue eyes around at his mother, who is staring at him in disbelief.
“Olivia? Olivia Benson?” Bernie asks. Elliot nods. She reaches for the dish towel and walks over to Elliot, aches, and pains be damned, and whips the towel at his shoulder – earning an OW! From Elliot, who huddles away from her. “When were you going to tell me? I would’ve invited her over for dinner or something. Elliot Joseph Stabler that’s rude—”
“I did! I invited her for dinner a couple days ago. She said no.” Elliot holds his hands up in surrender.
“No?” Bernie gasps. Another whip of the towel.
“What did you do?” Bernie asks, putting her hands on her hips. Only because the towel is in a relaxed position, does Elliot feel safe enough to put his hands down.
“Well … there’s been some …” — Elliot sighs, running his hand over the top of his head — “Miscommuncations about things.”
Bernie narrows her eyes, her gesture speaking for itself: About what?
“ Things. ” Elliot’s voice lowers. “But I’m taking care of it.”
Bernie stares at him, long and hard, before turning on her heel to go back and tend to what’s left of their cooking breakfast. She finishes up the eggs, turns off the burner the skillet of bacon is on. “You know,” – Bernie begins, shuffling about — “I always thought, when you two were little, that you’d get married when you were older.”
Elliot says nothing. He finishes his biscuit and dusts the crumbs off his shirt.
“But you know,” — Bernie shrugs — “When Kathy came along, I thought for sure then …”
“You thought for sure what?” Elliot sits up straight, his curiosity piqued.
“ Oh, well, you know,” Bernie sings. She pauses, bringing the eggs over onto the plate, sunny side up. “It was obvious it hurt Olivia’s feelings, you know? When you started dating Kathy. I could see it.” – Bernie pauses — “Seems like there’s been a whole lot of miscommunicating for a really long time, Elliot.” Her tone is sing-song-y, as if she’s trying to hint at something without coming out and saying it.
“You knew she had feelings for me?” Elliot cocks a brow.
“ Oh, well, don’t sit there and act like you didn’t. The girl scared the hell out of you.” Bernie chuckles. “You were terrified I think.”
“Terrified? I wasn’t terrified.” Elliot shakes his head. He scowls at her remark and sits back in his seat. Bernie glances over her shoulder at Elliot, giving him the side-eye as she prepares his plate.
“You –” She turns around, “ Were scared. What kid wouldn’t be? The older you two got, the stronger you became.” Bernie brings Elliot’s plate over to him. “I loved Kathy, don’t get me wrong. Good kid. Good woman. But you know …” She shrugs. “It was obvious, Elliot.” Bernie goes to grab her plate and returns to sit down across from Elliot. “Liv cared a lot about you. So … maybe it isn’t as much about miscommunication as it is … you just weren’t willing to see it. ” Says Bernie as she begins buttering her toast.
Elliot, quiet, reaches for his fork, only to drop his hand back onto his lap. It was a lot to take in, but he knew, deep down, even though he had no words to speak on it at the moment, that Bernie was right. Maybe he always knew Olivia was in love with him. Maybe, just maybe, he was always in love with her but was too afraid of how real it was. These were questions he would ask himself in the coming days.
“Invite her for dinner again, how long is she staying?” Bernie asks, taking a bite off her toast.
“She’ll be here for another week or so.” Elliot says. “She has a son …”
“A son? Good for her!” Bernie reaches for her cup of coffee. “Invite them both, we’ll have a nice dinner. How old is he?”
“He’s eight,” Elliot replies, finally taking a bite off his plate. A small fork-full of eggs that, he’s now not quite sure his stomach can handle.
“Oh! He’s Kai’s age then!” Bernie exclaims. “This weekend, tell her we’ll have a little outdoor party, dinner thing, I’ll make dinner; it’ll be fun!” — Bernie waves her hand, bringing her mug to her lips with her other. She takes a sip — “What’s her son’s name?” She asks.
“Noah.” Elliot smiles.
“ Noah can meet Kai. I’ll invite Miles and Anthony over.” Bernie states, referring to Kai’s two dads. They had been Bernie’s neighbors for several years, having moved in long before Kai was thought of.
“I’ll ask,” Elliot says, bringing his coffee to his lips and taking a drink.
“ You’ll insist, ” Bernie says, reaching across the table for Elliot’s hand. “ Oh honey, it’s been long enough.” She adds. Elliot knows what Bernie is referring to. Kathy’s death which he still doesn’t care to speak of in detail to this day. “I say, if she’s willing to give you a try, then you should really really try and not mess this up.”
“Thanks?” Elliot asks, not quite grabbing if they were words of encouragement or a passive-aggressive jab.
“It’s time, Elliot.” Bernie draws her hand back. “It’s time to make things right.”
Chapter 12: In Some Sad Way I Already Know
Olivia had said yes instantly this time to Elliot’s invite, unlike last time. There was no deliberation. Especially after the time they spent together last night. Plus, Noah liked him, so what was there to think about? They would go to Bernie’s, have a nice time, and go home.
That would be that.
Noah comes down the stairs, dressed in a short-sleeved button-down dark blue shirt with gray sharks on it. His shorts, black, were accompanied by matching sneakers and white socks.
“What if Kai doesn’t like me?” Noah asks.
“Oh, honey. Don’t say that. He’ll like you.” Olivia says as she opens the fridge door to bring out the fruit salad she made. “Elliot said you two have a lot in common.” She sets the pan down on the kitchen island.
Noah tilts his head. “Doesn’t Elliot have any kids?”
“He does, but they’re much older than you, and … they don’t live here anymore.” Olivia walks around the kitchen island. She’s wearing a white sleeveless dress, ankle-length, with deep brown buttons all the way down the front. Her hair is done in loose curls, tied into a low ponytail, with two soft strains hanging in her face, gently spiraled.
“What if Kai is mean to me? Like the kids back home are?” Noah’s voice drops into sadness.
Olivia sighs, walking over to him and leaning down enough to wrap an arm around him. “Noah, remember what we talked about right? Not everyone is the same. You have to give people a chance. You know, from what Elliot told me, Kai is very sweet. Just like you. He likes video games and swimming, and—”
“I’m nervous about it.” Noah rubs his nose.
“That’s okay to be nervous. It’s completely normal. But you’ll give him a chance, right?” Olivia asks, kneeling beside him.
“Yeah.” Noah nods.
“And at any point, if you don’t feel comfortable, we can leave. ‘Kay?” She puts her hand on his shoulder. Noah gives another soft nod. He smiles, more relaxed.
When Olivia and Noah pull up to Bernie’s house, Elliot is waiting on the front porch with his hands in his pockets. She parks behind Elliot’s RV. A soft grin appears on his lips when Olivia exits the car.
“Look at you …” Elliot says, stepping down onto the small pebblestone pathway that leads to the car. He looks at Noah. “You both clean up nice.”
Noah, almost mimicking him, sticks both of his hands into the pockets of his shorts. Elliot walks closer to Olivia and leans in to immediately peck her on the cheek.
“She’s so excited,” Elliot lowers his voice. “She’s been talking about this nonstop for the past two days.” He takes her hand, running his thumb along her knuckles.
“We’re glad to be here.” Olivia nods. She’s feeling anxious. “There’s fruit in the backseat,” She points.
“I can get it.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean–”
“Yeah, I know, I got it.” Elliot laughs, releasing her hand. He jogs to the SUV and pulls the door open.
Just as Olivia turns towards the house, Bernie comes out with both hands extended welcomingly.
“Olivia!” She giggles, practically running, to the best of her ability, down the three steps that lead to the driveway. Before Olivia can get a single word out, she’s being grabbed by Bernie and pulled into a hug. Olivia’s eyes widen dramatically, a little at a time, with each squeeze Bernie gives her.
Noah watches with wide eyes. I’m next.
“Look at you!” Bernie chuckles, pulling back and grabbing her by the shoulders. “ Still so pretty! Elliot isn’t she still so pretty?” Bernie asks Elliot, who is pulling the large tray of fruit salad from the backseat.
“Beautiful, Mama,” Elliot says, all concentration in an effort not to spill the dish.
“It’s so good to see you, Bernie.” Olivia smiles, sweetly.
“I’m so glad you both decided to come.” Bernie averts her attention to Noah, who is for the most part standing behind Olivia to avoid squeezing of any kind. “Oh look at you, you are so handsome. Just the cutest. Look at those curls!” She reaches for Noah’s cheek, giving it a light pinch. Noah holds still, accepting defeat with a pitiful look at Olivia.
Olivia tucks both lips together, shaking her head ever so lightly as if to say: Be nice.
“And those eyes!” Bernie lets out another sugary giggle. Elliot passes by Bernie, tray in hand, so she takes the opportunity to lean into Elliot. “ He could be yours ‘ya know. ” She whispers low, but not low enough that Olivia doesn’t hear. She pretends not to anyhow.
“ Mama, ” Elliot chastizes.
“Take that inside and put it in the fridge, dear.” Bernie pats Elliot on the back, ignoring his scorn. Olivia, tempted to follow Elliot inside, remains standing in the driveway.
“Miles and Anthony are in the backyard. Kai is around somewhere … I think he–”
Bernie whips around and sure enough, out from the house next to Bernie’s comes running a little boy, Noah’s age. His glasses are what stand out the most, as they’re a bright red color, squared. Behind the flamboyant glasses are dark brown eyes. His hair is so black that it almost has a blueish hue in the sun, which also shines on his deep-toned skin.
Kai comes to stand beside Bernie. “My Dads said it was okay if I went inside to get my switch.” He states, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose with his index finger. He looks at Noah. “Hi.” He says, extending the same hand to Noah.
Noah hesitantly reaches out to take his hand. He gives a single, light shake before they both drop their hands to their sides.
“Kai,” Bernie puts her hand on the back of his neck, “This is Noah, Noah this is Kai,” She gestures back and forth between them.
“Nice to meet you,” Noah says quietly. Olivia, sensing her son’s nervousness, puts her hand on the back of Noah’s neck.
Noah had a tough time at school back home. This was one of the reasons for this entire vacation — to remove Noah from the scene for a while. Between the bullies and the events that surrounded them, he was hesitant to put himself out there in many ways. Noah had become particularly shy over the past year when it came to meeting new people, so of course, warming up to Kai would be no different.
“Do you like Luigi’s Mansion?” Kai asks, holding up his switch, which is decorated in a galaxy theme. Noah doesn’t respond right away so Kai, being as friendly as he is, carries on – “If you want. We can play. Or I can go get another game. I have a bunch of them.” Kai says. He talks with his hands.
“I like Luigi’s Mansion,” Noah says timidly.
“Why don’t we move this to the backyard?” Bernie suggests.
Olivia meets Miles and Anthony, Kai’s Dads, who are just as nice as Elliot said they would be. The adults sit around in lawn chairs, in a circle, talking to each other. Bernie talks the most because she has the most to talk about. She talks about her late husband, about Elliot as a child, even about young Olivia at one point, and how she once was caught sleeping under Elliot’s bed one night. She didn’t elaborate on the reason why, which was that she was hiding out from her mother. But rather told the story of how Olivia tried to be sneaky and crawl out the window while Bernie was trying to get Elliot up for school the following morning.
That didn’t work out very well because her shirt ended up getting hung on the window seal.
Bernie tells countless stories about Olivia and Elliot growing up. No matter how embarrassing. Like how Elliot once crashed on his bike and Olivia cried for over an hour thinking he had broken something, when in fact, he had just scraped his knee badly.
Olivia hides her face in her hands during that one, shielding the smile on her face as Bernie reminisces about how she tried to make him cookies after the event, only to burn them and bring him a box of store-bought snack cakes instead.
Then came a discussion Olivia thought would never come up – yet, Bernie being Bernie, brought it up.
“I’ve never seen a better lookin’ group of kids on prom. They were all dressed up —” Bernie chuckles.
“You took way too many pictures,” Elliot interjects, reaching for his beer and taking a swig.
“I didn’t take enough. I wish I would’ve gotten a couple of you with your crown.” Bernie pokes her fork into the fruit salad Olivia made.
Olivia remains quiet.
Miles cracks a can of coke open, “What were you like prom king or something? That makes complete sense.” Miles says sassily, pursing his plump lips together.
“I was, actually, and I was a damned good one for all of ten minutes before I got so wasted I —” Elliot looks at Bernie, who is eying him suspiciously. “Before I got tired and came home.” Elliot clears his throat.
Anthony giggles, placing his hand over his lips to suppress it.
Olivia is still quiet. She turns her attention to Noah, who is sitting on the back porch swing with Kai, playing a game. She smiles, watching them as they excitedly cheer each other on. It makes her happy to see Noah happy. She tunes into that instead. The sound of laughter. The sound of arcade game noises. Anything but to have to listen to Miles and Anthony question Elliot about prom. Elliot answered truthfully. Hesitantly, even – with occasional glances at Olivia, who pretended not to notice.
The truth was, Elliot and Kathy were crowned Aurora high prom king and queen.
One of the less thrilling nights of a young Olivia’s life. Not that she wanted Kathy’s place or anything like that. It was never in Olivia’s palette to want things of that nature. But she did want Kathy’s boyfriend, and it was nothing short of humiliating to watch them, center of the dance floor, stuck to each other while swaying back and forth to (and it’s been a long time, so she may not be remembering the song correctly), Wonderful Tonight.
Past arcade game noises and Elliot’s awkward answers to Miles and Anthony’s questions, she can still hear the song. She can still see his face nuzzled against hers. Kathy’s blonde hair hung halfway down her back, brushing against Elliot’s hand. It could have been her imagination, but she remembers, whether it is a fever dream or not, his blue eyes glancing up and across the room at her as she sat at a table, sipping on punch.
I said my darling, you were wonderful tonight.
Olivia swears she can hear it, even after all of this time, echoing in this present summer day.
Finally, Olivia looks over to Elliot, who is staring at her.
The conversation has shifted. They’re no longer talking about things Olivia cares not to hear. But she can tell that Elliot knows the topic has tickled her nerves. Maybe more than that.
“You okay?” Elliot mouths.
They had somehow managed to slip away from Bernie, Anthony, and Miles who were gabbing away. Elliot led Olivia to his RV, which was just about the only true privacy they would get to talk for the evening. The sun had just gone down and it was beginning to get late, so that meant soon she needed to take Noah home. They decided they would spend the last few moments of the evening together, whatever that entailed, alone. Even if it was just for a simple conversation.
Olivia follows Elliot inside, stepping up on the little metal platform that leads into his home. She looks around the small space. In the back is a bed, which makes up a good portion of the RV rear. There’s a small kitchen to her left. To her right is a seating area, covered in Elliot’s clothes. Olivia grins at that, knowing damn sure that Bernie hasn’t been here in a while, otherwise she would be chewing Elliot out for leaving clothes lying around.
“It’s not much but,” Elliot waves at everything. “It’s mine.”
“Hey, that’s what matters,” Olivia says, turning around to face him when she comes to stand center of the RV. She peeks over his shoulder, taking notice of the driver’s side and how it’s loaded down with boxes. One of the boxes being their box. The one he brought to her house a few nights prior. “Does it drive?” She asks.
“What? The RV?” Elliot asks.
“No, the spaceship tied to the top,” She points up, giving him a wryly look.
“ Ha-ha. Yeah, it runs. I take it down to the lake sometimes.” Elliot licks his lips, brushing past her to move some of the clothes off the little seating area.
“I can’t stay long, you don’t have to do that.” Olivia states.
“Yeah I know I … probably should’ve cleaned.” Elliot runs his hand over his head. He tosses the ball of clothes back onto the seat and turns to face her. They’re only inches apart. “Kai and Noah seem to really get along.” He says, looking down at her. Her sandals are barely wedged so there’s quite a noticeable height difference.
“They do. I’m glad.” Olivia nods. “He’ll probably wanna come back now.” She chuckles.
“Yeah? Would that be so bad?” Elliot asks, reaching to lean against the wall of the RV. With the both of them standing aisle of it, there isn’t much room between them and the two walls anyway.
“I guess not.” Olivia looks up at him.
Elliot takes a step closer to her. He reaches behind her and grabs onto the clip that holds her ponytail together.
“You gonna fix it when you’re done?” Olivia asks, sassily.
“ Yeah, ” A cocky grin ensues as he loosens her hair from it. He lays the clip on the counter beside him.
“Mhm,” Olivia says, knowing full well that he’s not going to fix shit. Elliot runs his fingers through her hair, casually fixing it so it lays over her shoulders as it usually does. He prefers it that way, she decides.
“You haven’t cut it much,” Elliot says, lowly.
“Oh, it’s been shorter.”
Olivia brings her index finger up to her neck. “And then some.”
“I like it like this,” Elliot says.
“Oh? Noted.” Olivia’s tone drops. They stare at each other, long and hard, before Elliot finally speaks up.
“I’m sorry about earlier. Mama means well but, sometimes she forgets …” Elliot drops his hand to his side.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Olivia laughs it off, narrowing her eyes.
“Yeah, you do,” Elliot’s voice softens.
Olivia looks at him a moment longer before turning away from him, pretending as if she’s studying the interior of the RV further.
“I voted for you, you know.” Elliot blurts out. Olivia stops, looking over her shoulder at him. There’s a long, drawn-out silence between them. The silence lures in other sounds; crickets and other nightly creature ambiance.
“What?” Another laugh comes from Olivia, only it sounds disbelieving.
“Prom. I voted for you.”
Olivia scowls at him, her smile fading completely. “No, you didn’t.”
The more she looks at him, the more she realizes he’s being honest. Her expression fades altogether until her brows are raised and her mouth is slightly open.
“ No you didn’t, ” Olivia laughs again, yet this time, it’s because she genuinely finds what he’s saying funny.
“I don’t see why it’s funny, but yes I did.” Elliot chuckles.
“You …” Olivia points two fingers outward, towards nothing, “You didn’t vote for your girlfriend?” She closes her eyes, fighting back the laughter that’s gathering in the pit of her chest.
Elliot says nothing.
“Elliot, that’s awful, ” She snorts. “That is … that is so bad. ”
“Then why are you laughing?” Elliot asks, smiling just as widely as she is. “It was just a dumb vote, and …”
“She would have killed you if she knew that, Elliot. My God.” Olivia laughs, running her hand over her face.
Elliot shrugs, red in the face.
“You’re still laughing.”
“I am … shocked. I can’t believe, well,” Olivia pauses, “I can believe it actually.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Another light chuckle leaves Elliot.
“Nothin’.” Olivia shakes her head.
Elliot takes another step closer to her until the gap between them is completely closed.
“You were a little … aloof, when it came to … girls.” Olivia shrugs.
“'Cause they weren’t you.” The words tumble from Elliot’s mouth, quickly. They meant Kathy.
Olivia’s expression, once again, fades. She hangs her head, looking down at the ground.
“Don’t say that,” Olivia whispers.
“I was such an idiot, Liv. Really I was. I can’t say that I would take it back, any of it,” Elliot pauses, “I love my kids more than anything. But I see how … wrong I was about so many things.” He says.
Olivia’s eyes lift from the ground, coming to meet his again.
Years ago, she would’ve given anything to hear those words. But now, they felt almost as if they were coming too late. As if Elliot was showing up to a race that was already over, waving the flag to start.
“ Elliot, ” Olivia whispers, shaking her head.
“From the moment I saw you sitting on that dock, even after all this time, you’re all I’ve been able to think about,” Elliot says, inching close enough to her so that their breath bounces off each other’s lips. Olivia inhales sharply and exhales just the same.
“What if it’s too late?” Olivia finds herself asking him, her dark eyes glassy. “Because,” Her voice cracks. “You know, it could be … and we could just be wasting our t—”
Elliot wraps both arms around her waist, drawing her into him. He presses his lips to hers and kisses her with such a fierceness that Olivia feels herself become weak in the knees. She immediately slings her arms around him, pulling him down into the kiss. She stands on her tip-toes, and as if he knows she’s straining for a comfortable position, Elliot picks her up just enough so that her feet lift off the floor.
Mmms and hmms erupt between the two of them. Elliot spins them around and presses her against the wall with a soft thud, inciting a low moan from Olivia.
“ God, I want you,” Elliot manages to say in between kisses. “ So bad. ”
Olivia slides down the wall of the RV, planting both feet on the ground. She’s lost one of her sandals and kicks the other off as she begins pulling Elliot by the flare of his Henley towards the bed. Elliot’s eyes widen in surprise as if he weren’t expecting this.
“We don’t have a lot of time,” Olivia whispers against his lips, and before she falls onto the bed, she begins pulling her dress up into a bunch around her waist, revealing white cotton underwear.
Elliot lands on top of her and she immediately flings one leg around his waist. He pins her arms above her head and their lips meet for a second time that night.
To hell with it, Olivia thinks. She wants him. She’s been good. She should have him. Olivia kisses him with deep, wet kisses. A soft whimper leaves her when she feels him bite her lower lip. However, when Elliot rocks himself gently between her legs, she gasps airily.
Elliot’s lips work on her neck, kissing and sucking on the skin there.
“This is all I thought about last night,” Olivia’s voice is low, just audible enough so he can hear. “Us like this.” She says, her stroke of honesty coming in little passionate phrases. “ You inside me, ”
Elliot grins against her neck, reaching between them, where he begins to unbuckle his belt. At this point, all she’s thinking about is him pushing her underwear aside and sliding inside her. After all these years, she just wants to be close to him like she once was.
“ Kiss me, ” Olivia pants, reaching for his face as if he couldn’t come up to her soon enough. His lips find hers again. She runs her hands over the back of his head, his neck, as Elliot works to remove and unfasten his pants.
* * *
But what she says next causes him to stop, really stop, and think.
“I never stopped loving you.”
Maybe it was something she said in the heat of the moment. Or maybe she meant it with everything in her. Regardless, she said it. But he knows, as every part of his body tenses and halts what’s about to happen, that he cannot sleep with her while having the lie that exists between them.
Olivia, confused, looks up at him. He knows she must think that he didn’t like what she said. But that’s not it. He shakes his head, his brows furrowed in disgust at himself.
“It just came out,” Olivia speaks quickly, shaking her head. He takes her hand immediately into his own, giving it a gentle squeeze.
“It’s not you,” Elliot whispers.
Olivia grips onto his hand, brown eyes searching him from underneath.
“What’s wrong then?” She asks. “What is it, Elliot?” Olivia asks, again, her voice becoming more firm. She releases his hand. Elliot moves to his feet. Olivia pulls her dress down, a sudden sense of awkwardness taking over.
“ What? You’re scaring me …” She sits up.
Elliot turns his back to her. He can’t face her. Not now. “Liv … I …” He releases an exaggerated breath. “I … the invites …” He’s stammering over his words. How does he tell her that he intentionally didn’t invite her to the wedding? How does he tell her that at the very last moment, he decided he couldn’t marry Kathy with the love of his life sitting in the audience, watching it all go down? How does he tell her, Olivia, that he felt his duty of being a good man was more important than his own happiness? And even hers.
When Elliot turns around, however, he can see that he doesn’t have to tell her a damn thing.
Because she knows him like the back of her hand, and with so few words, he’s given himself away.
The disappointment on her face. The tears in her eyes. The way her head tilts at him in disbelief.
“I was afraid … if I …” Elliot’s eyes sting with the truth. Finally. Finally. But the weight of the truth leaves room, once removed, for other feelings to flood in. “I was afraid if I saw you, that I wouldn’t have been able to do it.” He tucks his lips together. He clasps his hands. “And I … I couldn’t not do it, Liv … I couldn’t hurt her, I couldn’t hurt you, I, there was no winning whichever way I went —”
“ You did hurt me, Elliot.” Olivia spits, standing to her feet. Quietness, and then — “That’s all you’ve … ever …” Finally, she breaks into a deep, guttural sob as tears begin to flood down her cheeks. “That’s all you’ve ever done is hurt me.”
Elliot, quiet, stares at her – blue eyes threatening to spill just like hers.
“Move,” Olivia gasps, pushing past him. Elliot moves out of her way immediately. He knows better not to try and touch her right now. Olivia rushes to the RV door, where tries to open it. It’s stuck. She begins jerking at it.
“It’s stuck, you have to lift the —”
Olivia kicks at it. Hard. Barefoot.
“ — latch.”
Olivia kicks the door open so furiously that it bangs hard against the side of the RV. She practically jumps out the door and before he knows it, she’s gone, in pursuit of the house for Noah, he assumes.
Elliot notices her sandals, one by his foot and the other by the bed. She’s left them behind, along with a broken door and a man who could never make up his mind.
Chapter 13: I'd Be Home With You
Shoutout to @alyvia_Benson for the beta work <3
Her feet aren’t carrying her nearly as quickly as she hopes they would. What was she thinking? This was a mistake. All of it. Not just dinner at his house, but all of it. Letting him in. She shouldn’t have let him in. She feels tricked. Betrayed. Hurt.
Olivia wipes at the wet streams trailing down her cheeks as she makes her way back inside the house to get Noah who, the last she saw, was sitting in the middle of the living room floor with Kai, still going strong on their video game.
She can hear Elliot, behind her, catching up with her in the distance. Her name is being called. Olivia. Olivia. Liv. A sequence that she cares never to hear again. She doesn’t want another word from him. Another look. Another meaningless apology; Nothing.
“Liv! Slow down!”
Olivia stops mid-front porch, and whips around furiously. Her hand comes up and she points her finger at him — it’s weaponry causing him to stop at the bottom of the three steps leading up to her.
“ Leave. Me. Alone. ” Her voice quavers. “Don’t talk to me. I’m done talking.” Olivia’s last words, I’m done talking, fade off into tiredness.
“I know,” — Elliot begins breathlessly — “I know what I did was not okay. I was young and stupid and —”
“Spare me, please.” Olivia holds her hand up. “I’m going inside to get my son. Do not follow me.” She spins back around, as fast as a tornado, and takes off perhaps quicker than one.
Elliot stands helplessly. Maybe if all these people weren’t around — if Miles, Anthony, Kai, and his mother weren’t inside, he would get down on his knees and beg for her forgiveness. Maybe he should do so anyways. But he doesn’t move. Not once.
Days pass. Elliot knows Olivia doesn’t have much time left in Aurora before she inevitably has to return home. Five days, if he did the math correctly.
He sits at the breakfast table, Bernie across from him, quiet as he sips on his morning coffee. The sun is out and a heatwave is upon Aurora. It’s so thick in the air that when he took the garbage out this morning, he could see refraction dancing up from the pavement. He imagined, as he watched the heated struggle against the concrete, that Olivia and Noah would probably spend the day by the lake. Running into him in town seemed like something she would absolutely avoid, seeing as she had been ignoring his calls. The only thing he hasn’t done, just to try and respect her boundary, is show up at the lakehouse.
“You’re quiet this morning,” Bernie says, biting into her cream cheese bagel. She dusts her fingers over her plate. “You gonna tell me what happened last weekend?” She asks, peering up at him with a down-tilted head.
“I don’t wanna talk about it.” Says Elliot, who takes another sip of his coffee.
“You’ve hardly talked at all. Not really eating either …”
Elliot glances up at her.
“A mother notices these things.” Bernie picks her bagel up again. “You should call her … whatever you did,” –She pauses, cocking her head to the side — “I’m sure can be fixed with a real, honest apology.”
Elliot becomes quiet, tongue in cheek. He shakes his head. “I don’t think so, Mama. I don’t think this can be fixed.”
“Ye of a little faith! You two have been friends for too long to let whatever this is—”
“I didn’t invite her to the wedding. Intentionally.” Elliot blurts out.
Bernie stares at him, speechless.
“There are other things but … I … I wasn’t exactly honest with her about it.” Elliot mumbles.
“What does that mean? Exactly honest – Elliot, a lie is a lie —”
“I let her believe that Kathy sent the invites. I let her believe that … Kathy, misplaced it …”
Bernie’s entire demeanor changes. She squints her eyes at Elliot, who is beginning to look like a scolded little boy. Elliot is glad, in those moments, that there isn’t a towel nearby or else he may find himself being swatted at with it.
“You did what?” Bernie closes her eyes, as if she cannot believe the tale her son has just told.
“Please, Mama. I feel bad enough.” Elliot holds his hand up.
“I can see why she’s pissed.”
“ Mama. ”
“Elliot, you’re bright. Haven’t you figured it out?” Bernie asks, leaning back in her seat and crossing her arms. Elliot stares straight ahead at her.
He isn’t sure what he knows anymore.
“ Elliot, ” — Bernie sighs — “Not everything is black and white. Did it ever occur to you that maybe the reason she wanted the invite was that it gave her a position in your new life?” Bernie asks, brows jumping.
“I don’t know why she would want to come.”
“ I’m trying to tell ya if you’ll open your,” — Bernie gestures with both index fingers to her ears — “ And listen to me. Women are different than men, Elliot. Men will spare themselves from the slightest discomfort and a woman …” Bernie huffs out a laugh. “ A woman will sit through the pain, the misery, the …” — She waves her hand — “ Life. Just to be sure that someone she loves isn’t giving up on her. Someone she really loves.”
Elliot says nothing.
“Sounds like she was willing to go with you, whether she had you or not. Sounds to me that she feels thrown away. Now, I ain’t no expert on these things. I met your father young, I didn’t have much of a dating life outside of that. But anyone with two eyes could see that the girl loved you.” Bernie sighs. She shakes her head.
Everyone with two eyes except Elliot Stabler.
“Now, I don’t know exactly what went down between the two of you. But fix it. Try to, at least. Go to her and tell her how sorry you are — not for yourself. Not so that she will forgive you. Take yourself out of the equation. Ask her to forgive you because she doesn’t deserve to hurt anymore.” Bernie points her finger aimlessly at their breakfast, their coffee, which is spread out in front of them.
“And if that doesn’t work?” Elliot asks, voice small.
Bernie lets out another exaggerated sigh and stands up from the table. She picks up her plate and mug.
“Hope your knees aren’t aching that day. If so, Advil is in the medicine cabinet.” Bernie states nonchalantly.
Elliot furrows his eyebrow.
Bernie glances over her shoulder at him. “ Beg. ”
Olivia has found herself, especially since everything happened, nursing a glass of wine every night before bed. Long after Noah is asleep upstairs, she’ll go into the kitchen and pour herself a glass. She’s going to need some kind of liquid courage type of intervention to get through the rest of this vacation. Five days left; she can make it, she hopes.
She sits on the dock, with her feet in the cool lake, listening to all of the soothing nighttime sounds around her. The frogs, the crickets, the owls, which in the distance hoot. The Aurora air, along with the glass of wine in her hand, caresses her into a much-needed place of peace.
How could she be so stupid? That is the question that plagues her mind. That, and how could I let my guard down so easily? She knows Elliot. She knows Elliot is a good guy at heart, but she also knows he can be well … Elliot.
No, he hadn’t straight out lied to her. But he let her believe something that wasn’t true and that was just as good as a lie in her book. It was a lie. Everything he’d said to her over the past few days — even their kiss, feels like some kind of gesture for self-preservation. Maybe he thought if he could ease back into her good graces, he could live with himself.
But what makes her the angriest is that she was about to give herself to him.
Olivia swirls the red wine in her glass, watching it briefly before raising it to her lips to take a sip. Her shoulders slouch. She closes her eyes and a deep, low breath leaves her.
Olivia’s eyes open, but she doesn’t turn around. She remains still, staring straight ahead. She would know the sound of his voice anywhere. Just like she knew it all those days ago when he approached her for the first time in years, this very same way.
Olivia can hear him walking closer to her, the sound of his boots hitting the planks of the dock. Thud, thud, thud. Finally, she turns around and when she does, she sees that he’s standing just behind her.
“What are you doing here?” Olivia asks, brown eyes already glassy. She looks away from him. She can’t even bear to look at him right now.
“I thought we could talk. I wanted to —”
“I don’t care what you want.” Olivia spits. She takes another drink of her wine. And another. And another.
“What can I say to get you to talk to me?” Elliot asks, desperation in his voice.
Olivia, without a word, stands to her feet. She leaves a trail of wet footprints as she nudges past him, intentionally hitting his shoulder with her own. Elliot follows.
Olivia keeps walking until she comes midway from the dock.
“ Hey. ” Elliot calls out, this time firmer. She stops. He stops. Olivia turns around, and as soon as she sees they’re only standing a couple of feet away, she reaches with both hands and pushes Elliot with all the force she has.
He doesn’t budge. His jaw tightens and his expression remains solid. If anything, he bobs in place. His brows furrow as he stares down at her, in all of her rage.
“ I hate you. ” Olivia’s voice quavers; her scowl is undeniably poisonous.
Elliot, once again, is quiet. His stare is unwavering.
“ I hate you . ” Olivia enunciates her words.
“I’m sorry,” Elliot says, low and his voice cracking. His blue eyes, intensely set on her, become as glossed as hers.
“ You let me believe … ” Olivia smacks both hands, flattened against his chest. Again and again. Yet, he doesn’t budge. “You just …” — She pauses — “You were the single most important person in my life and you … you just …” — Olivia gestures her hand in a waving motion — “ Threw me away …”
“I thought I was sparing us. I thought—”
“You were sparing yourself,” Olivia interjects. “Why call me, Elliot? Why ask if I was coming?”
“If I could go back …”
“You’d what? Invite me to the fucking wedding?” Olivia asks, brows jumping.
Elliot is quiet.
“This isn’t about the wedding, Elliot. Not really. Don’t you get it?” Olivia asks, cocking her head. “You couldn’t even tell me that you didn’t want to be around me anymore —”
“It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be around you, I just —”
“You were sparing yourself. Right. I forgot.” Olivia’s voice quietens.
“It was so much more complicated than that, Liv.” His voice falls to match hers.
Was it though? Was it just as complicated for him as it had been for her? Olivia, as she stood there, contemplated the belief that she had held for years now. That he didn’t want her. That he didn’t care for her in that way. That she was replaceable and as an extension of that wasn’t needed or valued by the person who she thought at minimum, valued her the most.
“Why’d you come?” Olivia flaps her arms out in a questioning gesture, letting them fall back to her sides. “When you found out I was here, why not just … stay away?”
Again, nothing. His mouth opens and closes, but nothing comes out.
“Yeah … that’s what I thought.” Olivia turns on her heel —
“I thought so much time had passed that maybe I could talk to you, that I could look at you without …” — Elliot pauses — “Without feeling this, sinking, shaking,” — He steps forward, causing Olivia’s eyes to widen — “Feeling in my chest. I never understood it. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to. I was afraid. I knew you had me in every way possible and my fear, my … stupidity, because Liv, it was stupidity …”
Olivia tucks her bottom lip between her teeth, in an effort to stop it from quivering.
“.. that held me back,” Elliot’s voice breaks off into a whisper. “But I’m not just some dumb kid anymore, Liv. I’ve spent my whole life regretting so much. And I understand if you never forgive me for this. Because I know what I did, pushing you out, was wrong. I was a coward and I should’ve told you how I felt. I should’ve been more considerate …” — Elliot runs his hand over his face, wiping at tears as they come — “I wish I could change so much. And there’s so much I’ll never be able to. But you have to know, no matter if you forgive me or not, that I am so sorry and I mean it. I mean it Liv, because I love you, and I’ve never stopped loving you either —”
She wonders, in those moments, in the midst of all his rambling, if he noticed her moving into his space. If he noticed her closing the gap between them. If he noticed the softening of her expression, her dark eyes, her shoulders.
He may have noticed those things, but he couldn’t read her thoughts, which were confetti for him; colorful and vibrant and full of so many things that maybe she’ll never be able to describe with words.
They could, however, be made up of memories. It was her hanging off his red bicycle. It was them kissing after a young Elliot had just eaten a cherry popsicle that, to this day, she can taste if she thinks back hard enough. It was the first night they made love, when there was no one stopping them, but rather shadowy branches and swaying lakes that beckoned them to continue.
It was him stopping one hit from Serena, which would go on to make her feel more protected than any other human on the planet. It was all of these things and more, because at the end of the day, even though they weren’t perfect, the purity of their love for one another was.
It was likely she wouldn’t forgive him tonight. It may take years for her to forgive him for everything. But she realizes, as she watches the rambling man before her, that there is something just as pure, just as genuine as that exists in him for her, as there is her for him.
“ — I’m so sorry. I’ll beg if I have to. Gladly. Just please don’t hate me,” Elliot’s breathing is all over the place.
“ Stop talking, ” Olivia mumbles, before throwing both arms around Elliot’s neck.
Elliot is quiet. He stares down at her, his curiosity piqued. Hesitantly, his arms slide around her waist. Olivia tilts her head at him, lips pursed together as if she’s thinking of what to say to him. “I don’t know if I know who you are anymore, Elliot. I …” – She pauses, shaking her head — “I’m not sure now if I ever have. I want to believe that I did. That I do know you … but everything feels so … distorted now I don’t know how to …” Olivia closes her eyes, a breathy sound escaping her nostrils. She drops her arms from around his neck, but Elliot, not missing a beat, grabs them and slides his hands along her arms to take her hands. His hands lace with hers, bringing them into his chest and holding them there.
“ You do know me. You know me better than anyone.” Elliot’s eyes, blue and intense, stare at her.
Their eyes wander one another, an impending silence between them. Olivia is the first to lean into him; a conjuring of thoughts, of yeses and nos grown from both the heart and mind. A hymnal choir of bugs and creature sounds flurry around them. Fireflies that light up the darkness that they’re not in the presence of, but it in theirs. She can see them, the lightning bugs, from the corners of her eyes, blazing in bright yellow orbs as they spin around the lake in all of their summertime magic.
Olivia’s forehead comes into contact with his. They lean into each other, eyes open.
“You gonna kiss me?” Elliot asks, a soft smile curling on his lips.
“I’m thinkin’ about it.”