Disclaimer: See chap. 1
Gracie was thriving at the center, she was rapidly gaining weight, her injuries were healing, and she was a happy, vibrant little girl. Olivia and Elliot were constant visitors, stopping by the center as much as work would allow, which was pretty much everyday for Liv. Megan was also a frequent visitor of Gracie, her visits lasting a little bit longer each time she came. The days seemed to pass by as Gracie got better and the Spearses' trial began.
In the three weeks since the trial, the atmosphere around the precinct had become a little tense. Everyone was glad that closing arguments had begun two days ago, and Casey was confident that she had won her case. She had done her very best and now all they could do was hope.
Closing arguments had ended and deliberations had begun on a cold Saturday afternoon. Everyone was surprised and worried when the jury came back just three hours after they had left, with a unanimous verdict. "Madam Foreman, have you reached a verdict?" "We have your honor." "What say you?" "In the case of the state of New York vs. The Spearses, on the count of 1st degree child abuse, we the jury find the defendants, Brett and Amanda Spears…Guilty. On the count of 1st degree child neglect, we the jury find the defendants, Brett and Amanda Spears…Guilty. On the count of 1st degree child endangerment, we the jury find the defendants, Brett and Amanda Spears…Guilty."
"And, have you reached a decision regarding sentencing?" "We have your honor." "What say you?" "We the jury, hereby sentence the defendants to the maximum of 5 years for each count, to equal 15 years without the chance for parole."
"Members of the jury, thank you for service, you are dismissed. At this time the case is closed." Casey accepted congratulations from the defense attorney and hurried off to find a quiet spot so that she could make some very important phone calls to her squad.
The Sunshine Center
Two days later Elliot and Olivia went to see Gracie at the center one last time before she went to her new foster parents. After the picked her up and borrowed a stroller from the center, they head off to Central Park; where they spent the afternoon walking and playing. After a short picnic lunch she fed Gracie her lunch and rocked her to sleep. While Gracie napped in between them, she and Elliot curled up and continued their earlier conversation. As day turned to dusk, they gathered their things and began the long trek back to the car. They loaded up the trunk and put a still sleeping Gracie in her car seat, before beginning the journey back to the Sunshine center. Olivia was quiet for most of the drive, only softly whispering to a now wide awake Gracie on occasion, every now and then "sneaking" (unbeknownst to her, he was fully aware of her looks) peaks at her best friend/partner.
When they reached the center Elliot unloaded the stroller and took it back inside, while Olivia removed the car seat (with Gracie strapped inside) and its base from the car, then grabbed the borrowed diaper bag from the roof (where Elliot had set it) and carried it all back inside. After leaving the diaper bag and empty car seat with one of the caregivers, she and Elliot (who was waiting by the door) brought Gracie back to her crib. Elliot took Gracie from Olivia and kissed her forehead before handing her back and heading out to the car to allow Olivia some privacy to say her goodbyes. "I love you baby girl and I want you to be happy with your new family. Be good for your new mommy and daddy, for me ok?" The baby cooed in response to Olivia's voice as she kissed her good bye. She laid Gracie down in her crib for the last time and quickly walked away. As she left, she couldn't do anything to prevent a few tears fro sliding down her cheek.
As they headed back to the station house, Elliot explained about the meeting that was to take place the following morning with the Saundersons. "Megan called while I was waiting for you and she said that the Saundersons had agreed to the meeting because they wanted to assure us that they would take care of Gracie." Olivia's silence was telling and Elliot was a bit concerned about it. "What are you thinking about, baby?" "I'm just worried about Gracie's new foster parents and the meeting tomorrow," Olivia said with a sigh, "You know what happened with the last set and I'm worried about her well being." "Well," said Elliot reaching over to take her hand and giving it a squeeze, "When she called, Megan also told me that they had run extensive background checks on the couple, spoke with friends and family, and had them come in for a second interview. They also sent Gracie over with a care taker just to see how they interacted with her. Megan said they pretty much did everything they could to ensure Gracie's safety, legally and within reason.
As they pulled up the front of the station she turned to him and softly whispered, "I just don't want anything else to happen to her El, she's been through so much already." He walked around the car to where she was standing and wrapped her in gentle hug. "I wish that I could promise you that she'll be ok, but we both know that I can't do that. I will however, promise you that Megan will do everything she can to make sure that that little girl is well taken care of. He let her go and they walked towards the entrance to the station, still holding hands, neither willing to let go until they absolutely had to. As they entered she continued to worry, his assurances only partially calming her.
Munch and Fin had just returned from re-interviewing Olivia's neighbors after having gone back to catch anyone they'd missed during the original questioning. They'd managed to find a guy who'd spent that night at his girlfriend's place and had run into a woman as he was entering his (Liv's) building. The guy told the detectives that he'd seen a hooded figure exit the elevator in hurry and practically run to the door. He noticed that the woman, well; girl really was crying when they bumped into each other as she left. They traded apologies and continued on their separate ways. He was only able to give a basic description of the girl to detectives: shoulder length auburn hair, blue eyes, about 5'8", barely 105 lbs and was wearing blue jeans, gray hoody, and a silver/amethyst cross. He hadn't seen her before and other than what he'd told detectives didn't really get a good look at her. He agreed to talk to a sketch artist later that week and the detectives went on with their search.
Two long weeks later the sketch had failed to produce any leads and the detectives were once again stuck.
Meanwhile with Gracie
Gracie had settled in quite nicely with the Saundersons and her new nanny; Amber-Lynn James. Marianna stay home with her as well so Gracie never wanted for attention. Everything seemed to be going well for the new family until one week in early June, while Chris and Marianna were out at his office's annual company picnic. Amber-Lynn had taken Gracie to the park earlier in the day and they had just turned onto the street that would take them home when Amber-Lynn noticed the flames coming out of a second floor window on the Saundersons' home. By the time that firemen arrived on scene the house and everything inside it was engulfed in flames. They lost everything in the fire, so the Saundersons and Gracie moved into a four bed/two bath apartment in upper Manhattan. They replaced most of their clothing within a few days of the fire and life went on or at least it did until a rainy day at the end of October. That day Chris's office sent out a newsletter stating that they were forced to down-size and up to 300 people would be losing their jobs. Chris found out that he would one of the many who lost their job two days after the letter came out. His severance package was nice but it wasn't nearly enough to cover both the rebuilding and Gracie's care.
So just three and a half months after they'd picked her up from the center, Megan was called and 6 month old Gracie was back at the Sunshine center.
Cold Spring Lodge (cabin 7), Big Indian, NY
They'd been on vacation for almost a week and were due back at the 1-6 in two days. At the moment they were curled up on the couch, in front of the fireplace talking softly and listening to the jazz that was quietly playing in the background. The conversation began to die down as she began to doze off and he took the opportunity to get up and retrieve the ring that had been in his jacket pocket since the day they'd packed up his truck and made the three and a half hour trip to the lodge. After carefully shifting her enough to lay back down behind her, he carefully slid the ring onto her finger and then he too, dozed off.
She woke first, rubbing her eyes and snuggling closer to him in an attempt to get warm. Giving up after few minutes, she reached behind them for the blanket resting on the back of the couch and pulled it over them. As she adjusted the blanket to make sure it covered them both the glint of the fire off of something on her left ring finger had her fully awake in seconds and she couldn't help but squeal. Her squeals woke him up and while at first he was confused, awareness came quickly and he began to smile. He had his answer. "Liv?" She turned to face him and with a teary-eyed grin she nodded. "Oh my God, El, seriously?" He nodded and she kissed him hard "Yes! Yes! Yes!" They spent the rest of the evening celebrating, stopping briefly for dinner. The following afternoon they repacked his truck and headed back to the apartment they shared with the twins which was better known as home.
Gracie was once again under the care of Kristen Hayes and the rest of the care-givers at the center and they were all happy to see that this time she was ok. Megan stopped by a few days later to check on Gracie and to see for herself that she was fine. She had fallen in love with the little girl that had touched so many hearts in her short time in the world.
Squadroom (3 days later)
Olivia's desk phone began to ring, interrupting what was an otherwise quiet morning. "Special Victims Unit, Stabler speaking." "Hi, my name is Kallie Nelms and I'm a nurse over at Bellevue. I was calling because we found a textbook in one of our rooms with your card tucked inside the front cover." "Is there a name on the cover, Ms. Nelms?" "It's Kallie, and yes there is. The book belongs to an Alexandra Willows and I believe she was a patient here for two and a half days about three weeks ago." "Why did it take so long to find the book?" "It was under the bed, pushed up against the wall; we didn't find it until the room was thoroughly cleaned yesterday." "Ok, my partner and I will be by later today to pick it up."
"It'll be at the front desk when you get here." "Thank you very much. We'll see you then Kallie." "Goodbye." Goodbye." They hung and she turned to her partner with a grin. "El that was Bellevue, apparently our vic left her biology textbook in her room." "Oh; really?" "Yeah we got to pick it up later today." "Oh; ok." They went back to work on the stacks of paperwork that seemed to have multiplied while they were gone. A few hours later, the partners headed out for lunch and the hospital.
Bellevue Nurses Station
"Welcome to Bellevue Hospital, how can I help you today," The nurse at the desk said, greeting them with a smile. "We are looking for a nurse by the name of Kallie Nelms," said Olivia. She told me when we spoke on the phone that she had a textbook belonging to one of our victims," added Elliot. "Yes, the book is right here; but I'm afraid Kallie is not here right now," the nurse on duty replied. "Oh that's ok," said Elliot, "She told me she might not be here when we came; when we spoke on the phone." "Well, in that case I guess I can go ahead and give you the book, but first can I see some ID?" "The detectives pulled out their badges with a smile,"No problem, glad you asked," said Olivia as she accepted the book the nurse was holding up. Nodding the nurse replied; "It's a new requirement the hospital is introducing, we're hoping it'll prevent somebody from giving potentially life endangering information to the wrong people.
All in the name of keeping our patients safe and secure while they're here." After trading thank yous and your welcomes, the detectives left the hospital and headed back to their car. As they walked Elliot took the book from Olivia and began to search for the name of the school, which from experience, he knew would be somewhere in the book. "Liv check it out," he said pointing to the inside of the back cover where it read in bold black ink: Manhattan Preparatory Academy. She looked up and grinned; they'd as good as found their missing victim. He returned the grin with one of his own and proceeded to call Cragen to inform him of their lead. After successfully getting Cragen to allow them to follow up the lead in a few days they left the hospital and headed home.
The days following their discovery were filled with wedding preparations and as he now knew about there engagement and relationship; Cragen had graciously allowed them to take days off as needed for fittings and wedding prep.
Olivia and Elliot, heads bent are whispering furiously at their joined desks. They are arguing over how to tell Cragen about everything and who is going to do the telling. Finally, after 20 minutes of arguing and getting odd looks from their co-detectives, they reached an agreement. They both stand up and she reached into her shirt, pulls out the chain where her ring is currently residing. She slips the ring onto its rightful place and looks up to see her fiancé grinning at her. "It's great to finally see my ring on your finger at the 1-6," he says, shit-eating grin firmly in place. She just nods, to nervous about what they are getting ready to do to actually speak. He grabs her hand and squeezes it, and then they head towards Cragen's office. Munch and Fin, who have been watching in silent amazement, follow them as they pass by. "What's going on guys?" asked Fin.
The couple startles slightly at the sound of his voice and stop walking. They both turn and Elliot begins to reply,"It's none of yo—," he's interrupted by Olivia digging her elbow into his side. "We might as well let them come with; they're going to find out anyways," she whispered. He agreed with her and the four of them continued into Cragen's office after knocking on the door. Cragen is immediately suspicious (and rightly so) as his four favorite (although he'll never tell them that) detectives gather in his office. "What's up," he asks looking between his detectives. Elliot and Olivia are looking very nervous he notes, before switching his attention to Munch and Fin, who both looked as confused as he felt. "Well," begins Elliot, "Liv and I need to tell you something Captain." He looks over at his fiancée for strength, takes a deep breath and continues, "Liv and I are engaged; I proposed while we were out of town last week sir."
In the stunned silence that follows the announcement, the couple shifts nervously as they await their friends' responses. Munch is the first to speak,"How long have you been dating and how did we not know." Olivia answered him,"We have been dating for the past 2½ years and you didn't know because we purposely kept it out of work." Cragen, who has up till now listened silently, finally speaks up, "Why didn't you two say anything sooner?" he asks, a little hurt that the detectives he regards as his children, felt that they couldn't trust him with this. Olivia started, "It's not that we don't you, it's just that we felt like telling anybody meant things would change and we weren't ready to face those changes." Elliot continued on, "We decided that we would tell everybody when we were ready to make our relationship permanent, when we were sure it would stay strong no matter what happened.
Liv concluded, "We're sorry about all the secrecy, you're our friends and we never wanted to hurt you guys in any way. As Olivia finished speaking the door to the office opened and Casey came in, her eyes asking questions as she explained that she had stopped by to see if Liv wanted to get lunch. Munch pulled her to the side and quickly explained what was going on and she was stunned to say the least. She almost squealed as she asked to she the ring and the women left the office to go to lunch, their excited chatter lingering long after the left.
All three men turned to Elliot and he could help but gulp. Cragen was first, "That woman is like a daughter to me, and if you ever, ever hurt her in any way, I will kill you." Elliot nodded; the smile he had only moments ago slow fading. Munch was next, "That woman is like a sister to me and if you ever, ever even contemplate hurting her, I will beat the shit out of you." Fin wrapped it up, "You know the deal, I ain't gonna say it again,. Just know that I know people who will do a lot worse than that. Now frowning, Elliot nodded then spoke, "I swear I will never, ever hurt Liv, I love her too much for that to ever happen. If I ever hurt her, you have my permission to what you will with me." With the traditional threatening done, the men congratulated him and the three detectives left for lunch, promising to bring something back to Cragen.
After lunch the detectives only had one case come in, so Liv and Elliot went to pick up his kids from their apartment (Elliot has full custody of his kids because Kathy ran off with her boyfriend) and the group split up to make their fitting appointments (the 3rd of 4).
The three girls met up with Casey and Melinda at the dress shop and spent the afternoon gabbing and trying on their dresses for the first time (they had had to special order the bridesmaid dresses because the shop did not have the right color in the right size). As the girls got ready to leave, they finalized the details for the last fitting and eventual delivery of the dresses. Later in the week, Elliot's older brother Matt flew in for the men's fitting appointment and spent the weekend with his family. The following Monday, Elliot dropped off his brother at JFK and headed into work.
The excitement in the air was palpable, not everyone at the 1-6 knew what it was about, but everyone could feel it. No one could have predicted what was going to happen in the weeks leading up to the wedding. No one.
AN: I'm baacckk! I'm so sorry it to so long to get this chapter posted, but here it is. I know I have some other stories sitting unfinished but I have made the decision to finish this one first before I continue any other story. Anyways, please remember the two r's: Read and Review.
P.S. Go Georgia Gymdogs! Back for more!