"Hey guys, what do you wanna drink tonight?" Josh the waiter smiled broadly, glad to see Ed who always tipped well and was never bothered by the pub's sometimes slow kitchen.
"I'll have a Harp," Ed answered and then tried to get Noah's attention. His face was pressed against the probably very germy window pane staring at the falling snow. Manhattan had certainly had its share of winter weather and both Ed and Olivia were looking forward to their delayed honeymoon and to New York spring.
Josh leaned his own head against the window. "Nasty weather out there, right Noah?"
"Nasty," Noah repeated.
"Do you want ginger ale?" Noah nodded vigorously, and Josh eyed Ed who silently okayed the beverage. Soda was a surreptitious Daddy-Noah treat and Josh knew to bring it in a small take-out coffee cup with a lid. Noah's delight was two-fold. He got to drink from a grown-up cup and also enjoy the otherwise forbidden drink.
Ed and Noah were seated at a very small booth nestled between the entryway and the wall of the wood-paneled pub. Theirs was the only booth of this type and it was coveted because of the window which overlooked West 55th Street.
It was common for the three of them to eat dinner there at least once a week. Even though it was a bar, the ambiance was laid back, it wasn't dingy, and they offered an extensive children's menu. Noah's favorite was the grilled cheese which Ed ordered along with his burger when Josh returned with the drinks.
"Hey, bud, come and sit down. Tell me about school."
Before sitting on the booster seat which Ed sometimes forgot to request, Noah picked up his cup, grinned, and said, "Cheers, Daddy!"
"Cheers, No!" Ed took a sip. "So, what did you do at school today?" Since he turned three, Noah's day care now sent him to their preschool in the mornings. The teachers reported that he'd initially cried and fussed at the change, but now he came home bursting with excitement.
"We did colors then letters then numbers."
He knows all that.
"Benjamin got in trouble."
Ed smiled. This was his favorite part. Noah was very well-behaved and most of his school stories detailed the circumstances around other kids getting in trouble. "Really?"
"Yes. I was on green. Benjamin was on red." The students were evaluated daily on a stop light color coded scale.
"You stay on green."
"Ok, Daddy." Noah was only partially paying attention to Ed. Josh brought crayons and a blank placemat and he was coloring away.
Ed felt bad for Noah and for himself. Olivia and the squad had been working almost nonstop on the subway assault cases. They had detained people, but made no significant arrests and city residents were quickly becoming uneasy and outwardly critical of the police department. Politicians and the media incessantly hounded SVU as the incidents escalated both in violence and in frequency. Olivia knew it was only a matter of time before the perp made a mistake and was caught, but she was under immense pressure to make an arrest and solve the case. Consequently, she spent only a few hours a night at home, most of it while Noah was sleeping and she was so exhausted that Ed was lucky to get a kiss out of her before she conked out each night.
"You know where Mommy is, right?"
Noah continued to draw. "Police."
"Yep. Police. She's good at being police."
"Daddy not at police."
"Nope, you're right."
Ed reached over and tipped Noah's chin up with his index finger so he could look him in the eye. "Mommy gets bad guys who work at night sometimes."
"Daddy get bad guys, too."
"Yep, but I can get them during the day."
Noah went back to work. "I draw Mommy's badge now."
"Ok, bud, good idea. You draw her badge. Then we'll eat and we'll take her some food. And you can give her your picture." At the thought of seeing his mother, Noah dropped the crayon and took another long swig of his soda.
"Yeah," Ed muttered with his familiar smirk, "we need to finish that before we go anywhere."
Olivia shuttled back and forth between interview rooms. Carisi and Fin were sweating one perp pretty hard and in the other room his accomplice sat by himself looking forlorn. He refused to speak.
"Maybe it's not him?" Rollins suggested.
The nature of the case had baffled everyone, including Olivia. She gave Rollins a helpless look, "I don't know. These cases…no DNA, they have hoodies on, the only description we have is skinny, Hispanic or white, and they somehow manage to avoid direct camera angles. But," she gestured towards one room, "We do have one Hispanic guy and one white guy."
"Could be a coincidence. We need to look at MTA employees. Drivers. Maintenance." Rollins ticked off possibilities.
Olivia sighed, "You're right, but without a more specific description, we're talking about thousands of people. She nodded towards the one-way window, "Maybe Carisi and Fin will get something out of him."
"How'd they get picked up?"
"Serial purse snatchers, pocket pickers, and general tourist predators…at Union Square, Grand Central, and Times Square," Olivia replied, "They must know something."
"What'd they pick him up on?"
"Loitering. But he apparently has a pesky heroin habit, so we're holding him on possession at the moment. The other guy ran, so he got to come along."
Rollins looked at Olivia admiringly. "Little fish for the big fish, right?"
"We'll see. If we get a call about another one, having them here won't do any good."
"You want me to take a run—"
Noah sprinted from the elevator and into Olivia's office. Tucker trailed him, Styrofoam container in hand.
Olivia hugged and kissed Noah and bounced him around, "Hi my sweet boy! I miss you so much. I'm so sorry mommy's had to be away lately."
Noah played with her necklace. "We bringed you dinner." They would have brought the picture, too, but it didn't survive the greasy fries and ketchup.
Just then, Carisi stormed out of the interview room, "Lieu, I-." He wasn't expecting Noah and Tucker, "Oh, sorry, uh…"
"What is it?" Olivia asked.
Carisi looked hesitant.
"What?" Olivia asked again.
"He's not the guy. He's playing us. Wants to skate on the drugs."
"Then send him to booking." Olivia's gaze at Noah in no way reflected the gravity of the situation, "and he can spend the night in the tombs. And we move on unless he changes his mind." Olivia continued to talk to Noah, "You brought me dinner? That is so nice!"
"Cheeseburger and French fries, mommy."
Ed put the container on her desk, "Actually, it's the French dip you like. Hey Rollins."
Carisi returned and immediately moved to shake Ed's hand, "Captain Tucker, how are ya?"
"Great." Ed peered in as a uniformed officer cuffed the man and led him out. "Do I even want to ask how you are?"
Carisi blew out a frustrated burst of air, "I'll be better when we catch this guy. Maybe," He rustled Noah's hair, "Maybe we need your help, Noah."
"I have a badge. I police, too."
Fin joined them. "Liv, you want me to take a run at the other guy?" He glanced at Tucker, "Hey, Captain."
Ed greeted him silently.
Olivia kissed Noah again and put him down. "Go ahead. And make sure he knows his buddy is a guest of the city tonight."
Fin left and Rollins trailed him to listen in.
"Well, Lieutenant," Carisi said, "I'll get back to work and let you eat." He shook Ed's hand again, "See you later Captain. Bye, Noah. Next time, bring your badge so you can help us out."
Noah, who busied himself by rolling a toy NYPD police cruiser along the couch cushions, replied with a distracted "ok" and Sonny left.
Ed spun around, assessing exactly how alone they were. He had that mischievous look in his eyes and Olivia, reading his mind, redirected him. "Thank you for the food. Hopefully we'll call it a night soon."
Ed was slightly pouty. "Yeah, well, we should go so you can get back to work."
"I'll keep you posted."
Ed glanced behind him. Carisi was at his desk intently focusing on his laptop. Ed stepped towards Olivia, backing her up against the desk, and grabbed her hand. "Try not to be too late."
Olivia gazed at him sympathetically, "I miss you, too."
She leaned to the side, and, seeing that the others were sufficiently distracted or out of sight, she pulled him to her and then had to playfully push him away. "Captain."
Ed's eyes were still closed and his lips were pursed as if he expected her to continue kissing him. "Hmmm?"
"We'll have to revisit this later."
He played with her rings, "I want my wife."
"And she wants you…so…you go, I'll work, and I'll get home as soon as possible."
He smiled at her. "Love you."
"Love you, too."
Olivia lowered her voice as she entered the apartment. It was well past midnight, but the new deputy commissioner required hourly updates. The protracted second interrogation caused her to miss the past two hours' worth of briefings, so this particular call lasted her entire commute home and then some. Ed had been attempting to sleep, but upon hearing her voice he turned on a lamp and sat up expectantly.
"We have increased uni and UC presence at his peak times. We've charted the attacks, his favorite stations. It's been quiet tonight. The second guy could be him, but he said very little. He's in holding for the rest of the night and we're working with TARU to enhance all footage we have from confirmed attacks. We'll get him."
Tucker heard the muffled reply as Olivia walked into the bedroom, her purse and briefcase still hanging from her shoulder and her coat still on. She screwed up her face to express disgust at the phone and then gently bent down and kissed Ed. While the deputy commissioner continued his lecture, she let her bags drop to the floor, slid out of her coat, and tossed it on the chair. It lingered on the armrest for a second before it, too, fell to the floor. Olivia didn't bother picking it up. She collapsed on the bed.
"We're on that. No…no…I don't think a press conference is a good idea at this point. We don't have anything to report. If you're worried about image, let's hold off until we have something, well, better than a heroin addict and a mute. If we're lucky, we got him…if the assaults stop—"
The deputy commissioner must have interrupted her. The annoyed look returned to her face.
While she listened, Ed slowly undressed her. He removed her boots, peeled off the stockings, then unbuttoned and unzipped her pants and tossed them in the pile with everything else. He ran the back of his hand over her panties and grinned as he noticed her biting her lip.
Her blouse had to go over her head, so he lifted her into a seating position and slid each arm through the sleeve.
"If you insist on a presser, what exactly would you like me to say?"
Ed could hear the frustration in her voice and he laid her back down and began planting kisses just below her bra, checking her eyes after each one to make sure her frustration was not with him.
When the call ended, Olivia threw her arms back over her head and released the phone.
"Finally," Ed whispered.
"Sorry it took so long. For that and for me to get home."
Ed was still methodically kissing her lower body, inspecting every inch of her, trying to memorize it, "I understand."
"And I don't want to talk about it."
"Good. Me neither."
"Except I hate the new deputy commissioner about as much as I hated the old one."
"If you hate him I hate him."
Olivia laughed. I got it. Enough talking. "Come here," she commanded.
Ed kissed his way back up her body until he got to her face and said softly, "You're home."
Olivia was still in her sweats when Ed kissed her and Noah goodbye. She caressed his face and tried to figure out how exactly he managed to look so fresh and alert on so little sleep.
"Yeah, at ten."
"Get 'em today."
Olivia shot him a good-natured eye-roll since his pep talk was one part supportive and one part selfish, but she, too, was growing weary of the dogged pursuit of this low-tier criminal who operated in the shadows. "Let's hope so."
Just as Ed was about to open the door and leave, Olivia remembered the call she'd fielded last night before the one from the deputy commissioner. "Oh, Ed, hang on."
"Remember Casey Novak?"
"Yeah, sure, the ADA. Why didn't she come to the wedding?"
"She was out of the country but now she's in town and wants to have lunch today, so, if I can sneak away, I'm going to do that."
"Ok. See you later."
For some reason Olivia expected him to object or frown or otherwise show some disapproval, but the news that his wife was meeting someone from the time in her life when Ed was the enemy did not seem to faze him. He gave her his little smirk and disappeared behind the door.
The squad thought they had their man. The subway assaults had been happening almost nightly, and the late night and early morning passed with no complaints.
"Could be a coincidence, though," Benson remarked, "We're keeping the extra patrol on."
"Ten-four, Lieu. You're right. One night means nothing."
Fin agreed with Carisi, but Rollins objected. "I think we got him. I had that feeling when we questioned him yesterday."
Fin shot her a sideways glance, "He barely spoke three words. How'd you get a feeling?"
Carisi nudged her and said under his breath, "Soon to be sergeant's intuition?"
Fin heard the question and raised his eyebrows. "You takin' the exam, Amanda?"
Rollins looked at Olivia, silently seeking approval to confirm to the rest of the squad that she was, indeed, registered for the exam. "I am," she said hesitantly, "Next week. I've been studying my ass off. Luckily Carisi's been keeping up with Jesse."
Fin smiled and wished her a sincere good luck.
"Let's just hope One PP keeps her here," Olivia said.
"You've got pull," Carisi said brightly.
"Right." Olivia checked the time. "Hey, guys, I'm going to lunch. Keep me in the loop. I'll be back in an hour."
Casey shoved a large silver and white box into Olivia's arms, so it was impossible for the two of them to embrace right away. Benson juggled the box and tried to hold it with just one arm, but its width required a two-handed grip. Casey giggled, told her to be careful, that it was breakable, and then pulled out a third chair.
"Here, put it down," she instructed, giggling.
"Thanks, Casey." Olivia hugged her and they took their seats, "You look great!"
Casey smiled. Her hair had grown out and it fell in soft waves past her shoulders. A rosy glow flooded her cheeks and she wore smart-looking tortoise shell glasses. "Thank you. The post-DA life is good." After her stint in New York, Novak decided she needed a break from the courtroom and moved to Boston to teach law at her alma mater. She and Olivia promised to stay in touch, but as often happens, the distance between them obstructed regular communication.
"I'm glad. We do miss you though."
"I never met Barba, but I've heard good things about him."
Olivia smiled when she thought about her no-nonsense friend and colleague, "He sure worked out well. He got off to a rough start and we've hit some bumps along the way, but all is good now."
"It's not always easy working with you guys," Casey teased then quickly shifted subjects, "So, Tucker?"
Olivia played with her rings. Casey certainly wasn't the first person to say Ed's name in that disbelieving, almost accusatory tone. No matter which person from Olivia's past was speaking, the Tucker was always paired with a furrowed brow and squinty eyes.
Olivia let out a sigh tinged with a hint of annoyance, "Yes. Tucker."
Casey leaned forward on her forearms, "Details, please. When I got that invitation I almost passed out from shock."
"Things…changed," Olivia replied.
Not satisfied with such a vague response, Casey probed for more information, "Obviously things changed. When I left you were single like the rest of us with a neglected apartment and leftover takeout in the fridge and now you're married with a kid!"
"The kid came first."
Casey knew all about Noah. During the adoption process Novak was Olivia's go-to confidante, especially when she grew frustrated with the tedious mountains of paperwork and the dilatory nature of the family court system. "I need to see Noah at some point while I'm here. But…Tucker? When exactly did that happen?"
Olivia let down her guard and walked Casey through the initial stages of their relationship beginning with IAB trying to give her a more plausible way out of the Lewis investigation. "I was in a very dark, scary place," Olivia recalled with downcast eyes, "And I got into the habit of stopping for drinks before going home…avoiding the empty apartment. One time I was sitting at the bar and looked over, and there he was. By himself. After that we occasionally accidentally bumped into each other a few more times. But then Noah came along and I got it together, stopped going out so much. I was glad he was softening up, he was easier to work with, but I didn't think anything was happening until about a year ago."
Casey was now fully tuned to gossip girl mode. "Get to the good stuff, Liv."
"Amaro, my partner before the promotion, his father got him into a mess last January. Tucker sent me a text, told me where he'd be after work if I wanted to talk about the case, me being Nick's CO and all." Olivia fondly recalled how Tucker quickly pivoted from business that night and offered to buy her a drink. Then she told Casey how he'd nervously kissed her on the sidewalk before they parted ways. "And, so, here we are," She concluded, holding up her left hand.
"Did you sleep with him?"
"Eventually," Olivia bantered.
Casey frowned at the sass, "Were you, like, freaking out?"
"At first, yes."
"And he just stepped in and became…a Dad?"
"He already was a Dad. Noah loved him immediately."
"He has kids?"
"Two daughters. In their twenties."
Incredulity still lingered on Casey's face. "I don't think many married couples can say one spouse arrested the other."
"We did have to have some, uh, tough conversations about…all that."
"What'd he say?"
Olivia breezily told Casey how she and Ed hashed out a few specific IAB-SVU clashes which all boiled down to one conclusion—Tucker was relentlessly doing his job, and his job was intensely reviled. He wore the mantle of ruthless villain well and most people assumed the role defined his entire personality.
"I really need to see this."
"See what?" Olivia asked even though she knew what Casey meant.
Casey opened her arms wide and drew a huge circle in the air. "Your whole family thing you have going on."
Olivia finished her coffee, "I'll tell you what. Why don't you come over tomorrow afternoon for a drink? It's Saturday. Ed will be home and you can see Noah. And the wedding pictures."
"It's a date."
Olivia checked her watch. "I hate to run out of here, but I have to get back to the precinct. If we don't catch this subway guy, the city's going to break into open rebellion."
Casey smiled knowingly, "I don't envy you. Good luck."
Benson left the squad in Rollins' care for the weekend, instructing her to call if something urgent developed. The subway assailant had either taken a hiatus or was actually one of the men they captured earlier in the week because no further incidents matching his MO had been reported. Olivia, Ed, and Noah ate breakfast at their usual neighborhood diner and lazed around for the rest of the morning before Olivia tidied up and Ed left to buy booze in preparation for Casey's visit. When the former District Attorney arrived later that afternoon, the apartment was spotless and Casey's favorite white wine was chilled.
Olivia sensed a familiar awkwardness as Casey and Ed shook hands.
"Good to see you again, Captain Tucker," Casey said, sounding reserved, almost like she was expecting Tucker and Benson to burst into laughter and say "Gotcha!"
"Counselor, how are ya?"
She blinked. This was not Tucker's IAB voice. It was still deep and gravelly but without the edginess and austerity to which Casey was accustomed. "Doing well. I'm enjoying being back in Boston."
"You went to school there, right?"
"Yes. Undergrad and law school."
Seeing that Ed and Casey were easing into small talk her apprehension dissipated, and Olivia went to check on Noah who had been napping but was now slowly coming out of his slumber.
"Hey sweet boy," she cooed, "There's someone here who wants to meet you."
"No, silly, you know Brookey. It's Casey."
"She's my friend." Olivia ran her fingers through Noah's hair. After making a stop in the bathroom she walked him into the living room. Casey had a huge smile on her face.
Noah ran over to Ed, climbed into his lap, and shyly buried his head into his daddy's chest.
"Can you say hi to Casey, bud?"
Noah spoke into Ed's shirt, "Hi Casey."
"She can't hear you like that."
Noah turned ever so slightly and repeated the greeting.
"He'll warm up," Olivia assured Casey as she handed her some wine.
"Of course he will," Casey replied warmly, "When do I get to see the wedding pictures?"
Ed reached for the large binder and passed it across the coffee table to Casey, squishing Noah a bit as he leaned forward. "Here ya go."
Casey gushed over the photos.
Liv you're gorgeous.
The dress is perfect.
Oh, Noah, you look so handsome. You and Daddy are twins!
Oh, wow, Elliot was there. He hasn't aged at all!
When she flipped through the pictures of Ed and Olivia right after Judge Linden said "you may kiss the bride," she stared in astonishment. The photographer zoomed his lens and caught the moment when Ed held her face in his hands, the kiss, and the second he began pulling away. The adoration in Ed's eyes was just as foreign to Casey as his milder non-IAB tone of voice had been, but she finally understood. There was no question. Tucker was madly in love with Olivia.
The more Casey commented, the more interested Noah became. He slid off the couch and stood next to Casey, straining to see each photo. "You want to come up here with me?" She asked and lifted him into her lap. When she came to the one with the entire family, Casey pointed to people and asked Noah to name them.
When she got to Sarah and Brooke, Noah said their names and added, "Sawrah and Brwookey are my sisters."
Casey, touched, gave Noah a squeeze.
Olivia grinned at them. "You love Sarah and Brookey, don't you Noah?"
"Oh, yes!" He roared back.
Olivia told Casey all about Sarah and Brooke, emphasizing how lucky they were that Brooke lived nearby and was always willing to help out with Noah.
Noah added enthusiastically, "Brwookey buys me pizza! Sawrah buyed me Thomas trains."
"Yeah," Ed grumbled good-naturedly, "They are not averse to spoiling the heck out of him."
Casey bounced Noah up and down on her knees, "Well that's a good thing, right?"
Noah looked at her seriously, "You wanna see police badge?"
He ran to his bedroom and reappeared quickly with the birthday badge. Casey held it and raved about how closely it resembled an authentic shield. "And it even has your name on it!"
"Ed had it made for him," Olivia said proudly.
"Wow. That's so neat!"
They passed the rest of the afternoon in similar fashion, updating one another on their lives and their future plans which, for Olivia and Ed, included apartment hunting and their delayed honeymoon. As Casey engaged in the conversation, happiness for Olivia swelled inside her as she watched the newly married couple interact both verbally and nonverbally. They sat close together and never missed a chance to touch one another. When Olivia told a story and referred to him, she grasped his forearm. Ed's subtle jokes were accompanied with playful shoulder grabs or gentle slaps. She noticed the sparkle—the one from the wedding photo—never vanished from his eyes when they were focused on her.
Olivia asked Casey to stay and have dinner with them, but she had a prior engagement.
Disappointed, Olivia asked, "When are you heading back home?"
"So we won't see you again before you leave."
To the surprise of both women, Ed gave Casey a quick hug, said goodbye, and went to check on Noah who had been in his room and suspiciously quiet for too long.
Casey hugged Olivia tightly. "Take care, Liv. And…I'm sorry if I came off a little, um, too shocked about you and Ed. I couldn't be happier for you…you two are perfect together and Noah's adorable. I'm glad you all found each other."
Olivia replied sincerely. "Thanks, Casey. Me too."
After Casey hugged Noah, she bundled up to face the frigid evening air and headed to meet her dinner date. Ed and Olivia discussed their own plans.
"I'll cook," Ed offered. "Pasta?"
"Do we have any sauce?"
Ed searched the cabinets and the refrigerator. "No…but there's olive oil, lemon, garlic…I can make something up."
Olivia wrapped her arms around his waist. "Whatever you create is fine with me."
He kissed her on the forehead. "Oh yeah?"
"You'll tell me if it's bad?"
"No, I'll lie."
"You're too kind."
Olivia moved her hands to his chest and rubbed his pecs suggestively, "And then…maybe we can put a Noah movie on and…have some husband-wife time?"
Ed tried his best to look bashful, "Do you need me to answer that?"
"I think I know the answer."
Olivia was cocky and it only turned him on even more.
He planted a quick but passionate kiss on her lips, leaned back, and raised his eyebrows, requesting feedback.
"Mmmm. That'll do for now."
"There's more where that came from."
"Oh, I know."
"I'll get to work on dinner."
"Do you want help?"
"No, go relax. You've been working too hard…let me wait on you."
Almost dizzy with affection, Olivia pressed her head to his chest, breathed deeply, and murmured, "You're too good to me."
"There is no such thing as 'too good.' And you deserve it."
He held her for a few minutes longer and then started making what he was sure would be the world's best-tasting lemon-garlic angel hair pasta.