Olivia was sitting at a bar table by herself, checking her phone constantly, putting it down and taking a swig of her beer, putting the bottle down to check her phone again. It was a routine for her at this point. Even at work. Stopping at random places to check her phone, sitting in the silence of the sedan to check. Any sign, any notification from her partner.
At least that’s what she hopes he still was. Her partner.
She set down her phone once more, reaching for her beer when the vibrations of her phone spread throughout the entire table which her elbows rest upon. Olivia flipped her phone over quickly, the screen reading ‘El’ and she felt her heart sink. She answered, desperate to hear his voice, to know why he’s been avoiding her calls, avoiding her. “Hey.” She says in a sigh of relief and nervousness.
“Hey.” His voice was rough, he sounded tired. “It’s...it’s good to hear your voice.” He admits, a thought meant for himself spoken out loud. Olivia chuckles.
“You too. Thought you forgot about me for a sec.” She hears his sniffle and him clearing his throat. Something was wrong, but there was no way of telling over the phone. “Are you okay?”
“Liv, I need to talk to you.” Both lines were spoken at the same time, Olivia not even wanting to repeat herself, but wanting to hear what he was saying. “Sorry, I..I need to talk to you.” His tone sounded serious, but his voice was shaken. Whatever it was he needed to talk about was not good. “Are you free?” She wasn’t, but she wasn’t about to miss out on possibly the only chance to talk to him again.
“Yeah, are you at home?” She stood up, forgetting her beer and gathering her things while leaving a tip on the table.
“No, I’m outside yours.” Random. “I needed the quiet.”
“Oh, uh, okay.” She didn’t mean to sound so awkward or make her shock evident, but her mind was racing. Wondering and thinking about what could be so serious that he had to be somewhere quiet. “I’m a few blocks away, mind waiting?”
“You have the sedan with you?”
“No, Fin does.” She heard the start of an engine on his line.
“I’ll pick you up, text me where you are.” He hung up the phone and Olivia raised her eyebrows. Talking emotions with him she knew was tough, but he had never been this barricaded...it was odd, to say the least. She texted him the address and waited nervously for his arrival. As she did, her mind ran through every possibility of what conversation would be happening once Elliot showed up, but she never once dared to let herself think of the one she felt in her gut. He was leaving. He wanted to leave, and he needed to tell her. To let her down...after all these years. Tears brimmed her eyes that she quickly blinked away. She knew that’s what he wanted to talk about and she wasn’t sure if she could take it.
Twelve years they’ve been at each other’s side, fighting, laughing, looking out for one another. Having to live the reality that he doesn’t want to be a part of SVU anymore just scares her and she hates that it does. Elliot was Olivia’s partner, more than that…he was her best friend. She couldn’t even picture herself making it through this job without him, without his comfort even when they’re both falling apart.
It wasn’t that much longer before Elliot drove up to where Olivia was standing, catching her attention and bringing her out of her thoughts. She smiled at him and he responded with a stiff nod. He looked terrible. The slight stubble growing in and the bags under his eyes...he was more than just tired — he was drained. “Hey.” Olivia says as she gets in the car.
“Hey.” He says, waiting for a moment before he turns on the car. Debating if they should just stay here or go back to her place and talk. That way if she were to get upset and push him away, at least she’d be safe.
“El,” Elliot looks at her, holding eye contact and all he can do is let his emotions run through him like a race car. “Are you okay to drive?”
“Yeah, yeah I’m good.” She pushed their boundaries and placed a hand on his own, letting her thumb gently brush over his rough knuckles. He grabbed her hand, squeezing it softly as his fingertips lingered over the back of her hand. Elliot never realized how soft her hands were, or how small. Tears filled his eyes as he looked at their hands, realizing what he was going to be leaving behind. SVU was always more than just a job to him. It was the victims he’d save, the monsters he’d take out of the street and put them in jail. It was Olivia. The job was Olivia — seeing her, being at her side, protecting her from any danger that came her way. Only this time...it was taken too far and now he had to protect her from himself. Elliot suddenly let go of her hand and started the car. She noticed his watery eyes, his regret and guilt oozing through his body. He was a person she had never seen before.
Just as they arrived at her place, they both looked at each other. Reading each other like a page in a book, knowing all to well where all of this was leading up to...their end. At least that’s what Olivia kept thinking. Elliot had different plans.
They walked up to her apartment in silence, tension insanely thick. He just wished he knew what to do, wished everything happened differently, wished he didn’t feel like this. Elliot cares about her. He cares about her so deep it’s unexplainable to others, and he knows in his heart that this will hurt her. Having that knowledge, he feels guilt. Last thing he ever wanted to do was be the cause of Olivia hurting. “Do you, uh, want some water?” She says out of the blue as they walk into her apartment.
“Yeah, please.” Olivia opened her fridge and grabbed a water bottle. As she turned around, Elliot blurted out some words that hit her like a train. “I’m leaving SVU.” Her knees felt weak, she could’ve sworn her heart stopped beating for a second, and the air in her lungs felt tight.
“What?” Was all she could manage to say. He knew she heard him, but he also knew that the news wasn’t easy to take in.
“I need to leave, Liv.” Olivia placed the water bottle on the counter, leaning over the sink as if she were going to throw up. She wasn’t, obviously, but she felt like she needed to.
“Does…did you tell Cragen?”
“No…no I wanted,” Elliot took a breath, blinking his tears back and recollecting his composure. “I wanted you to be the first to know.” Olivia nodded and inhaled a shaky breath.
“Was it Tucker?” There had to be a reason. There was always a reason. He wouldn't just leave her, right?
“It had to be Tucker, right? He’s putting you through the ringer again isn't he?”
“Olivia.” Elliot stepped closer to her every word she spoke. She wasn’t leaning on the counter anymore, now she was pacing in the small corner of her kitchen.
“We can talk to Tucker, I’m your witness Elliot. It was a good shoot.”
“You had no choice. The entire squad room can vouch for you. Cragen can pull some strings, Elliot we can-”
“Stop.” Elliot gently grabbed her hands, enveloping them in his own. His eyes catching hers. “This was my choice.” Olivia stared at him, searching his eyes to see if he was lying but his guilt was so heavy. His eyes were pooling with emotion and she knew that this was now a reality where she had to work without him.
“Why?” She whispers, too scared to trust her own voice.
“I’m not…I’m tired, Olivia. I can't do it anymore.” Olivia pulled her hands out from his, stepping back until she hit the counter top. She was upset, and rightfully so. However, she didn’t dare to say another word, she stood in silence and Elliot silently begged her to say something. Whether that meant yelling at him or telling him to leave.
“What about me?” Elliot let go of her hands to squeeze her shoulders in a comforting manner. It was deja vu for him — that question. Choosing her over the job, time and time again.
“I need to separate you and the job.” Elliot whispers. “So much time I’ve spent making work about protecting everyone and you, I can’t afford to lose both.” Again, deja vu. “Liv, you’re more than just my partner. You’re my best friend. I…I can’t lose that.” Olivia couldn’t say anything, she was paralyzed with shock and the intensity of her emotions in that moment were keeping her still. He was right. Their relationship was always much more than work, and at some point she couldn’t separate Elliot from her work either.
“What does that mean?” A small break in her voice sent him in a spiral. Elliot wasn’t the type to spill his feelings out, let alone talk about anything pertaining to them, but he needed to this time. To have everything make sense. To let Olivia know the truth. “You’re just going to leave?”
“Only the job. Not you.” He looks at her, his eyes staring right into hers. Holding contact. “I wouldn't do that.” Olivia doesn’t really know what to say, her mind being put on overdrive trying to deal with which emotion she should feel.
“Just like that? You’re giving up?” She was getting angry now. Olivia has seen this man go through hell and back, and every chance he had to give up he didn’t. She didn’t really understand what made this time so different.
Elliot shook his head and stepped back to give them some space. “No.”
“Then what are you doing?”
“Olivia I’m exhausted.” He says, a chuckle at the end of his words. “And…I’m afraid.” Olivia didn’t say a word to let him know what she was going to ask. Elliot clenched his jaw, closing his eyes as he tried his hardest to keep his tears under control. “I’m afraid of who I could become. If I stay, if I keep pretending I’m not what everyone says I am, Olivia I don’t want to be that person.”
“Elliot, you're not. I know…” Olivia started to realize what she was doing mid sentence. She was trying to find a reason for him to stay, and she knew he needed a break. Everyone has a breaking point after all.
“I want to protect you. From me.”
“You’re not a monster, El.” Elliot smiles at her defense, stepping closer to her again as his eyes start to water.
“I need to do this.” Liv nodded and smiled sadly. Maybe this would be good for them — a chance to know each other outside of what they were so used to. A chance to be real friends rather than partners. “Are we okay?”
“We will be.” She whispers.
Elliot sighed, keeping his eyes glued on his soon-to-be former partner. He needed to explain further even if she didn’t want to hear it. “The countless times Tucker’s tried to nail my ass because of things like this, I just feel exhausted. Jenna was…she was a kid, Liv.” Olivia put a hand on his arm to comfort, not really knowing any other ways to comfort her friend.
“You’re fine, El.” She gave him a small squeeze, letting him know that she understood. Elliot looked at her and saw her puffy red eyes, rosey cheeks and red tipped nose. Olivia did understand, but he knew better than to take away from her hurt. After all, they did spend half of their life together. “It’s just, uh, it’s going to be hard. You know, adjusting.”
“But you’ll do great.” It was his turn to place a hand on her. Grabbing her hand that was already touching him, giving it a small squeeze. The whole physical touch thing they had going on right now was so odd, but it felt so normal. Like they had done it so many times before. “Liv, you’ve always been the heart of SVU. Ever since you walked in there as a rookie, you have made this job your entire life.” She smiled at him, it was a sad but grateful smile. “The cases, the victims we bring justice too, it’s all because of you. Your dedication and your heart. No matter how tired and frustrated you were…you always put out your best work.” Liv moved her jaw to the side in an attempt to hide the next wave of tears that started to fill her eyes.
“I couldn't have had the courage without my partner.” Olivia whispers. “I can’t-”
“Yes you can. I know you can.” Elliot turned his body towards her, holding eye contact with her. “You’re one of a kind, Olivia Benson.” She chuckles and nods, sniffling and wiping her tears away.
“What, uh…what are you going to do?”
“I have no idea.” He laughed it off, but he was genuinely confused. He never put himself in this situation. The change was going to be hard on him too. “First things first, I have to tell Cragen.”
“Yeah,” Olivia sighed. “Everyone’s going to miss you.” She said with a tight smile. Elliot looked at her, returned her expression and stepped back a bit. He really didn’t know how to respond, he wasn’t really sure if he wanted to. Of course he’d miss everyone too, but it was so much more than that. It always has been so much more than that.
“I should go, gotta be home in time for dinner.” Elliot took a deep breath. “Do you need a lift back to work?”
“No, I’ll, um, I’ll call Fin.” Olivia stood as well, smiling at Elliot briefly before walking him to her door. “Thanks for stopping — for talking to me.”
“I’m not leaving you, Liv.” Elliot said. He felt like he needed to say it. To remind her and himself that the job and her were two different things.
“I know.” Or she was trying to know. “I’ll call you.” He stood there for a moment, back turned to her, hand on the doorknob. Should I hug her? Should I just leave? Elliot’s thought process was clustered and clouded his judgement. Yet, he followed his heart, his gut. He whipped around and pulled her to him, hugging her tight. Olivia didn’t say a word, she didn’t pull back. She welcomed his embrace just as tight. “I’ll call you.” She said again in a whisper. Olivia gently pushed him back, breaking the hug.
All of this, what she felt…it was overwhelming and she needed time to process it all. Process the fact that her partner isn’t her partner anymore, process the reality of her looking up from her desk and he won’t be there looking right back at her. That he won’t be there to watch her back and have random talks during stakeouts. That he won’t be the one to greet her every morning with a coffee or breakfast. Elliot Stabler won’t be an SVU detective anymore.
He mumbled an ‘okay’, looking over his shoulder to see her again before he turned around to open the door. He lingered at her door for a moment, second guessing his every move. Elliot opened his mouth to speak but no words came out, he was just finding excuses not to leave her alone.
Eventually, he smiled at her and left. Olivia closed the door and stood there before she broke down in tears. Sliding down her door, covering her face as her sobs spilled out uncontrollably. Her knees were at her chest, her breathing was ragged and she felt her eyes starting to get puffy. She’d have to go back to work at some point, but maybe she’s willing to take some personal time after this.
Elliot was walking to his car, fidgeting with his keys in his hands. He walks around to the driver’s side and gets in, but he takes a moment. Sitting in silence, closing the car door. He watches as people walk by on the sidewalk, cars and bikes going by on the street. Inhaling slowly before he, too, let’s his tears run like a waterfall down his face.
This isn’t our end. He had to keep repeating to himself. SVU and Olivia Benson are two separate things, and he could survive without one.
For better or worse.