She had long since mourned him, as though he had died rather than left her to face the world alone. In that time, she had faced her worst challenges… and when he wasn’t there, she found strength within her to save herself. In those dark moments she realized that he wasn’t coming back for her… she stopped calling him.
But now, as she lay in a cold sweat on her couch, alone, and experiencing the first stages of a labor that was several weeks too early, she scrambled for her phone. She didn’t expect him to answer, but in spite of offers from Cragen… Munch… Fin… Rafa… Rollins… Nick… and even Brian she hadn’t been able to reach out to them. She knew, in her heart, that if anyone could be there for her now, it was him.
The phone rang once… twice… by the third ring she was ready to hang up. A knot in her throat from the feeling of hurt stupidity that washed over her like the pain of another, different type of contraction. Of course, he wouldn’t answer, why would he? Her heart hammered and, as she lowered the phone from her head, she heard it, “Liv?”
She looked down at the phone, surprised to find it counting the first seconds of a phone call she had longed to have for nearly four years. She couldn’t speak, her tongue was frozen by the panic in her mind… how could she tell him what was happening? Would he even care?
“Olivia?” this time his voice was more urgent, his own sense of panic evident in the tremor with which he said her name. It reminded her of the time he’d shouted her name in a tremulous tone when Gitano had slashed her across the neck in a crowded bus station, but this time his voice was quieter. The fear was different… then he had feared losing her, now he feared finding her on the other end of the phone. He likely feared what she would say…
“I—” she tried to speak, but her voice cracked harshly and she found herself wordless. What could she say? She had this conversation a million times in her mind, but now the words simply wouldn’t come out. “I need help,” she finally admitted aloud, her voice hoarse from the knot that was firmly planted in her throat, “please.” Another contraction hit her like a rogue wave and she groaned loudly into the receiver, curling around her own swollen belly, and clenching her teeth.
“Are you okay?” Elliot replied, his voice still saturated in years’ worth of concern, “talk to me Liv… are you at your apartment?”
A flash of bronze across her mind paralyzed her and she couldn’t formulate an answer. She clenched her eyes shut, but as she did cold eyes paired with a vicious smirk stared at her from the darkness of her eyelids and she gasped, breathing shallow, short breaths.
“N-no,” she stammered. It wasn’t meant to answer Elliot’s question, but it did… because he didn’t know she was having a panic attack, how could he? He didn’t know why any of this was happening, did he?
“Where are you? I’m in Queens, I can come get you,” he spoke, his tone more urgent now, Elliot Stabler was in action. His keys jingled in the background of the call and she knew he really was coming to get her. She felt the tears stinging at her eyes, shaky hands causing her to drop her phone. “Liv, come on… tell me where you are, just an address. I can be to you faster if you tell me,” he urged, his tone more warm and encouraging than it had been. Her only reply was short, urgent breaths.
“Hey, Liv, I’m here… breathe,” he said, his voice strong enough for her to hear despite the phone now laying discarded on the floor, “In… and out… In… and out…” Olivia forced herself to focus only on his voice, which – even after all this time – was still soothing to her. She breathed in, holding the breath in her chest until he said the word out. She did this for several minutes, until the next contraction came and she groaned once again… Elliot spoke, concern etched into his voice once again, “Liv… are you… in labor?” he inquired cautiously.
“Y-yes,” Olivia spoke, her voice somewhat weakened by the sharp pain of the contraction, “I need your help… I’m at my new apartment…”
“Share your location with me,” Elliot spoke, his voice back in action mode. A newfound determination etched into every syllable. Olivia stretched her arm out, fumbling along the carpet until her fingers found her phone. She grasped it and as quickly as she could she sent him a pin with her location. “I got it, I’m on my way. Stay on the phone with me… stay with me, Liv,” he replied and she could hear the engine of his car rev in the background of the call.
In the time between his last encouraging statement and the knock at her door, she had three painful contractions and found herself drenched in cold sweat. The world spun from the sharp pain and she found herself struggling to push herself up and off the couch. “Come let me in,” Elliot encouraged from the other end of the phone, but to her surprise she could hear him through the door. He was real… and he was there. “If you can…” he added, so quietly that she could only hear it through the phone. She was sitting up now, finding her strength in the downswing of the current contraction. She pushed herself to her feet and walked laboriously to the door, unlocking it and pulling it towards her. Her phone, which had been in her hand, crashed to the floor. There he stood, as if no time had passed at all.
“Elliot…” she breathed. Her brown eyes wide and brimming with tears.
Her knees wobbled dangerously and, before Olivia could reach out to the wall to steady herself, his arms were around her. For the first time in nearly four years she found the stability that her life had been lacking. She shook with a silent sob, emotions overwhelming her and she allowed him to hold her, simply melting into his chest and burying her face there. “Shhh…it’s okay,” he whispered into her hair, trying to reassure her that all was well.
And it was then that her water broke. The warm amniotic fluid drenched her legs and she felt her face flush, though this time it was from embarrassment. She shuddered, hiding her face in his shirt as she mumbled, “I think…my water just broke…”
Elliot didn’t relinquish his grip on her, but he did lean away slightly to check if that was the case. She felt him take a deep, calming breath before he spoke, “It did… which means we really need to get you to the hospital. Can you tell me how far along you are?”
She trembled, but replied in a hoarse whisper, “almost 8 months.”
She could feel him tense, but never did he let it show in his tone. “Where’s your jacket? It’s cold outside,” he replied and she gestured to a coat rack in the corner, tucked out of the way. The apartment was fairly empty now, since Brian had moved out only a few months into her pregnancy, upon her request. She was just used to handling things herself… and despite his best efforts, he had never been the sort to support her when she did need it. Elliot didn’t relinquish his gentle but firm grasp on her shoulders, instead he helped her closer to the coat rack and grabbed the heavy coat that she had pointed at. One arm at a time, he helped her into the jacket and pulled it around her.
“Let’s not worry about whatever else you need, I can come back for it later… let’s just focus on you and the baby,” he whispered, his blue eyes full of warmth that she had only seen there a few times before… almost always when he was looking at his own children. Olivia nodded, still struggling to find her words.
There was so much to say, but now was not the time. All that mattered now was that she needed his help and he had come at a moments’ notice. For what felt like the first time, he put her first – and it couldn’t have happened at a better moment.
The ride to the hospital was quiet. Between contractions, Elliot helped Olivia focus on her breathing. His voice calm and soothing, his right hand laced into her left. Somehow, despite the years apart, this felt completely natural to her. She was almost mad at herself for falling so easily back into his life when he deserved to be yelled at and ridiculed for leaving the way he did… but she just didn’t have the fortitude to push him away right now. At the hospital, Elliot parked and told her to wait there, that he would return with a wheelchair for her.
“N-no—” she began to protest, her grip on his hand tightening instinctively. As though she worried that he would slip away into nothingness again… as though he would just disappear.
“Liv,” he spoke with determination in his tone, his eyes set on hers, “I am not going anywhere, but you’re in no condition to walk.”
Olivia frowned, but he lifted her hand to his lips and pressed a small kiss there.
Such a small, intimate gesture that stirred something so deep within her that she wondered for a moment if it was the baby moving.
“Trust me,” he whispered, still holding her hand. Telling her with his eyes that he would let her decide if he left her side… that she didn’t have to worry.
She nodded and, reluctantly, relinquished her grasp on his hand.
As soon as his hand was free, he took off at a brisk jog to the automatic doors of the hospital at the other end of the parking garage. As soon as he vanished from view her vision became blurred by thick streams of tears falling from her eyes.
She fought the voice in her head that told her he wouldn’t come back. The voice that told her she would have to fight this battle unaided as well. She clenched her eyes so tightly that she saw spots, but it was better than seeing him staring back at her.
Time seemed to freeze as she sat there, drenched in cold sweat and amniotic fluid that had grown cold as the cloth of her maternity dress clung to her skin. How awful that this was Elliot’s first glimpse of her… sweaty and experiencing the pain of new motherhood.
When the car door opened, she jumped and her eyes snapped open, her heart racing dangerously. There she found Elliot watching her with sympathetic eyes as he extended his arms to her. She placed her hands on his, slowly climbing out of the passenger seat of his car. Her eyes were locked on his, using him as her anchor. When he turned her around to sit in the wheelchair, she caught sight of his passenger seat and felt heat rush into her face once again. “Elliot, your car… I’m sorry…” she uttered, visibly upset by the stain she could clearly see on the leather seats.
He shook his head, “No need for that, Liv. Just a car. I can get it detailed. Focus on me, okay?” he replied, his voice more patient than she had ever heard it. In that moment she realized why she had known that it needed to be him with her… why she needed his steady voice and warm gaze to get through this.
One of the things she had always admired about him was that being a father was his greatest pride and joy… something that, even when things got difficult, he fought to be good at. She needed that energy at her side in this moment. Words he had once said to her danced around her mind, You're good with kids. You should start thinking about having them. Whatever you do, I'll support you.
He had promised he would support her all those years ago… and here he was, fulfilling that promise, despite his absence for the past few years.
“You okay, Liv?” he inquired, crouching beside her, and looking up into her eyes. She nodded but didn’t speak. The corners of his lips tugged upwards in a small smile and he moved behind her to push the wheelchair towards the hospital entrance at a brisk pace. The check in process was a blur of Elliot asking her for information about her mother and shouting at the nurses for asking for information about her father.
Olivia found her mind whirling. The room around her seemed to spin.
“Liv… do you need me to call someone?” Elliot was asking her, his voice still gentle, “the…baby’s father perhaps?”
Olivia stiffened and she shook her head, “N-no. No one.”
Elliot frowned, moving to the side of the bed she was now laying in. He didn’t say anything, but she could see the judgement in his eyes… she could hear what he wanted to say, if I was the father, I would want to be here…
She shook her head and shut her eyes, feeling hot tears sting at her eyes. “There’s no one to call…” she whispered, picking at the skin around her thumb nail, “…because I don’t know who the father is… and I can’t ever know.”
Elliot’s hand found hers, their fingers intertwining easily, “I-I’m sorry,” he whispered. He let his free hand stroke her shoulder-length hair back from her face, “I didn’t mean to…”
She shook her head and Elliot fell silent. Though, unlike the thousands of hours of silence they had shared in the squad room or on stake outs, this silence was tense and uncomfortable. Begging to be broken.
Another contraction distracted her from the discomfort of the silence, breaking it with a groan. Elliot was there, telling her to breath in and out… in and out…
She stared into his deep blue eyes, desperate to erase any fear she had about the paternity of her unborn child. Desperately clinging to the hope that the child would have kind, warm eyes like their mother… that somehow, despite the fear of who the father might be, she would never struggle to love them – that, unlike her own mother, she would never make them wish they’d never been born.
“Elliot?” she whispered, her voice wavering.
“Yes?” he whispered back, his eyes locked on hers.
“Thank you for being here… for helping me through this,” she said, her voice laced with a deep gratitude, “I’m really glad you’re back.”
He smiled sadly at her, leaning to place a gentle kiss on her hairline, “I should’ve come back sooner.”