Elliot was sitting at the restaurant table enjoying his steak and he was enjoying even more his time with his daughter, Kathleen. It wasn't often that he got to see her one on one and he relished the time he got with her.
He looked around the restaurant curiously while she was in the middle of an anecdote about her boyfriend's grandmother when he saw him. He and Kathleen weren't seated next to the bar, there were large clusters of people trying to order drinks and he was facing away from him, but he knew it was Ed Tucker, head of the rat squad.
"Dad? Are you listening?" Kathleen asked, more amused than irritated at his poor concentration.
"Sorry," he shook his head and looked back at her, "I just spotted the biggest asshole in all of NYPD." He nodded his head in Tucker's direction. "In the gray suit, at the bar."
Kathleen turned her head sideways to look at him and then looked back at her father, quirking her eyebrow. "Want to go say hi?" She grinned at him. "Sounds like you were close."
He shook his head, a sneer on his face. "Not in this lifetime. I can't stand that bastard." He turned back to his steak and refocused on his daughter. "Sorry, what were you talking about?"
But Kathleen was still studying the people at the bar. "Dad, I think that's Liv."
His head quickly swung back to look, his eyes scanning the crowd. He shook his head, "I don't see her," he said after a moment of looking, his eyebrows furrowed together. His heartbeat stopped and then started again, painfully pounding in his chest as he searched for her. "I don't see her."
"She's with the asshole."
Finally a break in the crowd allowed him to get a better view - and there she was, Olivia Benson, his former partner - and his - his everything, and so much more.
She was older than when he had last seen her, but then so was he. Still disarmingly beautiful - always so unconsciously beautiful. His eyes raked over her hungrily, taking in everything - her mouth parted in a smile, her hand brushing hair to the side, the creamy skin of her cleavage.
The last time he'd seen her was over a decade before - she had been naked in her bed watching him get dressed silently. The memory of that night flooded over him and even after so long he still couldn't decide if he should have stayed or if he was right to leave and not look back. Looking at her, in her black dress with her hair falling in soft waves around her face, he thought that maybe he should have stayed.
As he watched quietly his eyes widened in disbelief when he saw her standing next to Tucker, her hand was resting on his shoulder as she bent her head to kiss him before she sat on the stool by his side.
"Sorry, I'm late," Olivia said giving her husband a kiss hello.
"You're not," Ed replied as she sat, "I just got here myself, I barely ordered our drinks."
On cue the bar tender set two tumbler glasses in front of them. "Is that a ginger ale?" Olivia asked pointing at the drink in front of her, when he nodded his head she pointed to his drink, "Is that a ginger ale?"
"If you can't drink, I shouldn't drink." He shrugged his shoulders. "We're still teetotalers for the next three months."
Olivia felt a flush of affection course through her. Ed could be sweet in the most surprising ways and even after five years he still found a hundred little ways to be thoughtful and considerate of her. Just this morning he had packed her a lunch for work that, honest to god, had a post it note in it telling her to have a great day.
She grinned and patted her protruding stomach fondly. "Three more months of lugging this guy around," she smiled joyfully the way she always did when talking about their soon to be baby boy, "I think I can handle some ginger ale." She picked up her glass, clinked it against her husband's in a silent toast and took a sip.
"They must be undercover," Elliot stated petulantly, warring between looking away in disgust or staring in curious horror. "The only person who hates Tucker more than me is Liv." He couldn't control the scowl on his face though. Even if they were on the job Tucker was a little too close for comfort.
"You look ready to spit bullets, dad," Kathleen said, her head tilted as she stared at him thoughtfully.
Elliot realized he'd been gripping his steak knife so hard his hand was cramping. He let the knife clatter to his plate and exhaled loudly, purposefully forcing his eyes to remain on Kathleen and not wander back to Olivia.
Kathleen's gaze returned to the couple at the bar and after a moment she shook her head and said nonchalantly, "I don't think they're undercover. They're definitely screwing each other."
Elliot choked on the water he'd been drinking. "What the hell, Kathleen." He brushed water droplets off his tie and looked at her incredulously.
"Look at his hand," she said nodding her head towards them, "It's resting on her thigh - high on her thigh," Kathleen laughed.
"What's your point?" Elliot asked giving in and looking back at them. Tucker did in fact have his hand resting high on her leg and Liv was sitting there fiddling with the straw in her drink like she didn't have a care in the world.
"Trust me, dad, no woman lets a man put his hands on her like that unless they're having sex - or about to anyways."
Elliot could only sit there numbly, so many arguments stewing in his brain, but he was unable to voice his thoughts. "Fat chance, she's way out of his league," was all he could say.
"I think I'm going to go say hello," Kathleen said standing up.
Ed was signing their tab while Olivia put her coat on, fluffing her hair out of the collar. "How much time do we have to get there?" she asked.
He looked at his watch and stood up. "We still have half an hour before curtain call."
Olivia nodded her head, laced her fingers through his and led him out of the crowded restaurant bar. The air was freezing outside and she huddled into her coat for warmth as she pulled her gloves on.
Ed produced the valet stub for the attendant and then moved back to stand in front of Liv, his hands dug deep in his pockets. She was standing on a step just behind him, it put her at the perfect height to wrap her arms loosely about his neck from behind.
"I'm freezing my balls off out here, Tucker," she joked, burrowing into him before she placed a soft kiss on the back of his neck. The exposed skin was warm against her lips and he shivered lightly at the feel of her mouth.
"If you keep that up, Benson, you're going to get me hard," he said lowly while reaching a hand up to rest on her hands that were clasped around him.
She smirked before nuzzling him again, then she leaned forward to whisper in his ear, "Is that all it takes?"
He half turned and one of her hands fell off him, the other stayed wrapped around his shoulder and he reached inside her coat to wrap his arm around her waist.
"You think I'm joking, but I'm not." His smile was teasing and she grinned back at him, suddenly not feeling so cold anymore.
"Well, I -" she began to say before she was interrupted by someone calling her name.
She turned, her arm dropping away from her husband as she searched the busy street for the voice calling her.
"Liv," said the breathless voice of Kathleen Stabler as she stepped in front of her, shivering in her sweater.
"Kathleen?" Olivia was stunned for a moment before a delighted smile overcame her and she moved in to share a hug with her. "Kathleen, it's so good to see you. What are you doing here?"
Kathleen was grinning herself, stamping her feet to get some warmth in her bones. "Same as you, I guess. Dinner with a friend."
Liv reached out and clasped her arm for a moment. "It's so good to see you," she repeated, laughing with delight.
Kathleen's eyes moved between Olivia and Ed and Liv said, "Kathleen, meet my husband, Ed." She turned to her husband. "Ed, this is Kathleen Stabler, one of Elliot's kids."
"Nice to meet you," he nodded at her.
"Liv, I didn't know you got married."
Olivia clasped her hands in front of her belly and said, "Almost 5 years now."
But Kathleen didn't hear her, her eyes went wide when she saw Liv's protruding stomach. "Olivia, you're pregnant?"
Liv smiled even wider giving her baby bump a little pat. "Almost six months."
Kathleen looked flabbergasted for a moment, then blurted out, "Aren't you too old to have a baby?"
Olivia's jaw fell open, her eyes wide in shock for a moment before she started laughing uncontrollably.
"Oh god," Kathleen began stammering, "No, I -" She looked from Ed to Liv, rising horror on her face. "I didn't mean it like that." Her face flushed and she was striken. "I'm so sorry!" Her face was the picture of embarrassment.
But Olivia threw her head back in mirth, she shared a look with Ed who had a hand covering his mouth trying to hide his own smile.
"Jesus, Kathleen, I missed you," Liv said fondly.
Kathleen smiled wanly. "I'm so sorry."
When Liv finally got control of her laughter she placed her hand on Kathleen's. "Really, it's ok. Don't worry, I'm not offended," she smiled at her, "You're not wrong, I'm fifty-two." She squeezed her hand gently. "He was a huge surprise for us, trust me."
Still embarrassed, Kathleen asked, "So you're having a boy?"
Olivia nodded her head, then Ed chimed in, "We're naming him Oliver."
She side eyed her husband before shaking her head and looking at Kathleen, "We are not naming him Oliver."
Kathleen replied, "Liv, I'm really happy for you. You're gonna be a mom!"
"Oh," Olivia blinked and said, "he's actually number three. We have another son and a daughter. Here, I'll show you a picture," she reached in her pocket for her phone but Ed beat her to the punch.
"Here's one." Ed held out his phone to her. "That was taken just a few weeks ago."
Kathleen looked and saw a picture of Olivia and Ed, in a park, standing behind a little boy about six or seven and a young girl who looked to be in her early teens. She handed the phone back, saying,"You have a beautiful family, Liv. Your son looks just like you."
Olivia nodded her head in agreement. "I get that a lot, but Noah and his sister are actually adopted. But how about you?" she asked, "How have you been? It's been so long."
"No kids for me, but I'm working in finance for the City Parks Department."
Liv was on the verge of asking about the rest of the Stablers but decided against it and instead said, "That's great, Kathleen," just as the valet drove up with the car. "I'm sorry, but we have to go, we have matinee tickets," she said regretfully.
Kathleen pulled Olivia in for another hug. "It's so good to see you, Liv. It's good to see you so happy."
Liv smiled fondly at her, "I'm glad you came to say hello. I've missed you."
"Yeah, we all miss you, too," she said, before quickly adding, "Take care of yourself and congratulations on," she waved her hand at her pregnant stomach and Ed, "everything." She stepped away quickly and hurried back into the warmth of the restaurant.
Once she was out of earshot Liv said,"I have known that girl since she was ten years old and she hasn't changed one bit," she paused then added, "she always was my favorite."
Olivia turned to Ed and as soon as they made eye contact they burst into laughter. "For the record, you are not too old to have a baby." He shook his head and smiled, "She's is a ham though," he said as he walked her to the car, pulling the door open for her.
"Keep laughing, Tucker, you're still older than me."
"Well, they were not undercover and I also just embarrassed myself," Kathleen said to her father, as she sat heavily in her chair.
Elliot looked at her, eyes narrowed suspiciously. "What did you say?" He pushed his plate away from him, he'd lost his appetite.
She just waved a hand in front of her. "Never mind, I just put my foot in my mouth." She looked at her father who was now looking out the window at Liv getting into her car.
"How is she?" he asked quietly.
"Married, pregnant, couple of kids," Kathleen shrugged, "They had to leave, I didn't have a chance to ask about work."
"So, let me get this straight, Olivia married Ed Tucker?"
"She said five years ago."
Elliot was still staring out the window and she looked outside just in time to see Olivia catch sight of him and pause before giving him a small wave before she turned her head away and the car drove off.
"She seemed happy, dad."
Elliot looked at his daughter and nodding his head he finally said, "Good, she deserves to be."
"I just saw Elliot right now," Liv said turning to her husband in the driver's seat as he entered into the traffic.
"In the restaurant?" he asked. "Do you want to go back and say hi? We can be late, it's not a big deal."
She shook her head no. "I think he knew I was outside," she shrugged, "He has my number if he ever wants to talk."
Ed reached out for her hand and she held it loosely turning to him with a smile. "It is what it is."
Elliot didn't want to take the steps to see her again and she could live with that, she didn't have any other choice.
Olivia stared at her husband and thought about her children at home, she thought about the baby coming and about the life she had made for herself - she had all she wanted, Elliot could stay in the past if that's where he wanted to be.