"Are you sure you don't want to come over, Liv?" Elliot asked in between bites of his lunch. "I'm telling you, the kids miss you. Lizzie and Dickie are still fighting over who gets to sit next to you the next time you come over for dinner."
Wiping her mouth, Olivia swallowed the last of her sandwich and replied to her partner, "I'm on duty, remember? Besides, I don't want to impose."
"Liv," he warned.
"I know, I know. It's not a problem at all and the kids and Kathy would love to have me there," Olivia repeated the line from memory. "I just don't want to tire myself, since I've got to drive the next morning."
"So you're going to spend the weekend with Mrs. Cabot then?" Elliot did not dare mention Alex's name.
"Yes I am. It'll be a change of surroundings, you know?" Olivia answered.
Elliot knew all too well what his partner was not saying, and he continued to eat the rest of his lunch in silence. The file had been in the top drawer for three weeks now. But it didn't matter. When he first got the news, it took him minutes to shake off the daze that he was in. Only when the news had finally sunk in did he react. Tears welled up in his baby blue eyes, but he quickly blinked them away. It was pure luck that Olivia was still recuperating at home or else she would have figured it out soon enough.
If I reacted that way... He shuddered when he thought about his partner's reaction. The panic in her eyes when she woke up in the hospital was still fresh in his memory.
As much as he wanted to shield her from the pain, Elliot knew he had to tell Olivia. He could never intentionally hurt her that way. He understood that she needed closure, and perhaps the news would provide just that for her.
"Hey Liv, you need a ride?" Elliot asked his partner as he spotted her putting on her jacket.
"Erm sure. Thanks," Olivia was thrown off by the offer. Something's not right.
"What's going on, El?" Olivia's curiosity got the best of her when she saw the blank expression on her partner's face. "Everything ok at home?"
"What? Yeah. Kathy and the kids are fine," he answered impatiently when he pulled up in front of Olivia's apartment building. "Look, uh..."
"Elliot, just spill. We're partners, right?"
Ok, I can do this, he told himself. Taking a deep breath, he prayed for a miracle that would never come true.
"When you woke up at the hospital after the shooting, you were...disoriented," he started. "The first thing that came out of your mouth, you asked for Cabot."
"I did?" Olivia asked, shock evident in her expression. "I didn't..."
"Liv, there's something you're not telling me." It was a statement.
"I uh...I..." she stammered. Taking her time to formulate her answer, she offered the truth instead. "When I was unconscious, I-I had this dream about Alex coming back."
"It's ok Liv, take your time," he told her when he saw that she was having trouble speaking.
"The dream felt real, El, but when I woke up I knew it was too good to be true."
"Did you talk to anyone about this?" he asked softly.
"I didn't want people to think that I was going mental, you know? It's bad enough I work with Munch on a daily basis, I don't need another reason to go to a shrink," she joked lightly as she unlocked the door to her apartment.
"Liv," his tone warned her not to get too carried away.
"What do you want me to say, Elliot? I can't tell what's real and what's not just because I was dreaming of my secret lover who is now in the Witness Protection Program while I was unconscious?"
"About that..." He took a deep breath. Now or never, Stabler.
"About what?" her frustration was evident in her voice. She didn't think that her partner would play games with her, but she was on the verge of burning out.
"About Cabot," Elliot said softly. "Wait, did you say your secret lover?"
"Yes I said that. Look El, it was nobody's business who I was seeing so let's just drop it, ok?" Olivia said impatiently.
"I'm your partner, it is my business," he said a little too loudly. "I just wish you had told me."
After a long pause, Elliot spoke up again.
"Were you happy with her?"
"I was. She was the best thing that ever happened to me," she answered.
You can do this, Stabler. Just tell her the truth. Taking a deep breath as though it would give him courage, he began. "When you mentioned Cabot, I knew something wasn't right. So after I left the hospital the first day, I made a few phone calls."
"Elliot, what are you trying to tell me?"
"There's no way to do this so I'm just going to lay it all out for you."
"Elliot..." He did not miss the warning in her voice.
"I called Hammond to see if I can find anything out about Cabot or Velez and I did some digging on my own as well."
"She's gone," he said softly.
"No way, she's still in Witness Protection, there's no way that she's..." Olivia blinked away ghost tears.
He brought the file out from under his coat and handed it to her. It was as though she knew what was in that file. Hands slightly shaking, she opened the file. The image would stay in her mind for a long time, and as she ran to the bathroom to empty the contents of her stomach, the image was burned into her memory.
She could not peel her eyes away from the image in front of her. Blonde hair soaked crimson, the body splayed on an unidentified front yard. Olivia didn't need to see the face to know it was Alex, for she knew the other woman's body by heart.
"When?" She asked, her voice almost a whisper when she came out of the bathroom.
"Two months ago. She was getting her newspaper when it happened."
Fighting to hold back her tears, Olivia composed herself and closed the file.
"You gonna be ok?" He wanted to hold her in his arms and never let go, do anything to take away the pain and the tears but she made it clear that he should keep his distance.
"I will be. Eventually," she said before slumping down on the sofa.
Sensing his partner's desire to be alone, Elliot quietly let himself out. He stared at the closed door for a long time, unsure whether he should stay close by in case she needed him. Letting out a heavy sigh, he walked out of the building and climbed into the car. Hang on, Liv.
The file was placed on the coffee table in front of her, together with the badge and her gun. Olivia had been staring at it for the past hour now, but she had yet to make up her mind.
She's gone. She's really gone now, Olivia kept repeating it to herself. She knew she had no choice but to move on, something she had been putting off ever since Alex was ushered away into federal custody. Sleep claimed her tired body, and when she woke up the next morning, she finally made up her mind. Quickly dressing up, she grabbed her keys together with the stuff on her coffee table and headed out of the door.
"Are you sure about this?" Cragen eyed the letter sitting on his desk.
"Yes I am. The past few months' events proved that I am not fit for this job anymore," Olivia answered calmly.
"Olivia," the Captain began. "I'm gonna pretend I didn't see this letter. As of right now I'm placing you on a two week vacation. Go get some rest, unwind. When you come back I want you ready to go."
"Cap, I appreciate it..."
"Don't make me order you, Detective."
Knowing a wall when she hit one, Olivia could only let out a sigh and nod her head. Two weeks. What the hell am I suppose to do?
Thanksgiving came and went quickly, not that it mattered to Olivia. She visited Alex's mom, but for some reason she did not tell the older Cabot about the news that she had received earlier that week. No need to put the woman through the pain again.
She's been thinking of visiting Alex's grave ever since she returned from the Cabot residence, and after spending an hour at the flower shop, Olivia arrived at the cemetery. It didn't take long for her to find Alex's headstone, for she could remember it by heart.
"Hey Alex," she whispered as she placed the bouquet of flowers down. "I'm here again. I know you're no longer with me anymore, but you'll always be in my heart."
"I spent the weekend with your mom, and she has the funniest stories to tell me about you." Willing herself not to cry, Olivia continued. "She misses you, you know. So do I. It's been more than a year, but it still feels like yesterday when you left. I guess now you're really gone, huh?"
"When you left the last time, we didn't have a chance to say goodbye properly and this time we didn't get the chance either. So today, I'm here to say goodbye to you," Olivia silently sobbed as she replayed the shooting in her mind.
"I love you, Alex. I've always loved you, even if I never told you this. You were good for me, and I never thought I'd find someone as perfect as you. Life will never be the same without you."
Taking a moment to collect her thoughts, Olivia concentrated on the happier days with Alex. "I know I have to move on but right now I want to mourn for you. I don't know how to let you go, even though I know I have no choice. Please know that I will never forget you, no matter where you are."
Standing up, Olivia wiped away the tears that had fallen. They would continue to fall, but she knew one day they would stop. Until then, she would use them to nurse her broken soul and mend her broken heart.
- Fin -