A companion piece to "Six Feet Below"
Original Publish Date: July 28, 2005
Disclaimer: I do not own SVU or any of the characters from SVU. They belong exclusively to Dick Wolf and NBC. I do however hold the rights to any original characters that may be present.
Author's Notes: I highly, highly, highly recommend you read "Six Feet Below" before reading this. Although this is not a direct sequel it does rely on the events in "Six Feet Below". Please don't email me and ask what's going on and who Jake is, because I will direct you to the previous story. I would, however, love any comments on my writing style, particularly the first person view from Olivia.
This takes place from Olivia's POV, except a short excerpt that is in third person.
I flinched as the door slammed shut. Booming steps echoed through the house as Jake came thumping up the stairs.
"Mom! I'm home," he yelled, as if I was oblivious to the monstrous sound he created every time he stepped inside the door. I heard the brief sound f his backpack being thrown into the far corner of his room and the door to his bedroom slam shut. "Mom! Mom? Are you home?"
I gripped the remote in my hand tighter and flipped through the channels, trying to ignore the terror that was beginning to consume me. Jake was a good kid, he'll understand, I repeated to myself, as if my repetition would actually calm me. Right. After sixteen years, and the looming reality of college next year, I came to the conclusion that Jake deserved to know, needed to know, who his father was. It sounds cliché, I know, but life is one big cliché, every day, every second we talk, we walk, we responded in nothing but clichés. It is only the greatest of us- Plato, Beethoven, Jesus- who managed to overcome these clichés and do something great. That is why they are remembered. They triumph over the clichés that plague every day life and do something great and original.
"Mom?" Jake peaked in and registered that something was wrong in seconds. The kid's smart, not only academically- he's graduating high school a full year early and was accepted to Brown University on Rhode Island- but he always seems to know when something's bothering me. He's had this knack since he was still a rather young child. He was probably four, maybe five at the latest, when I first began noticing it. He's always known what to do. During the first year that Elliot was gone, I would spend hours crying, but little Jake would crawl into bed with me and hold me. It probably would have been an odd picture, this little five year old kid holding this grown woman, who made her living off of intimating the most heinous of criminals. Jake never said anything. Tears came to my eyes just at the thought of Elliot and I raise a weathered and scarred hand to brush them away. I was getting older, I could feel it and my body was beginning to feel it.
Worry flooded Jake's eyes as he stepped in, wary, and brushed his hand through his meticulously perfect hair. It fell back over his eyes and the compulsion to take a pair of scissors and cut it came over me. I wanted to at least see his eyes when I talked to him. When he was a baby he had his father's eyes, but in the past couple of years they've darkened to the mud brown color of my own. It makes me really sad just knowing that one of the only traits he shares with his father had disappeared. His eyes, however, have never lost the intense and protective looks that his father used to look at me with. It's a meager comfort, but it works.
It seems weird, but when I looked at Jake I don't see me, I don't see my mother, I don't see Elliot—I see my father. My mother rarely talked about him or the rape, but she did describe him once, in the brief images that she could remember. I remember having nightmares, when I was still pregnant, about my son being a carbon copy of the rapist and in the greatest irony of life Jacob inherited just enough physical traits of mine that I don't see the rapist every time I look at him. If he was aggressive, perhaps I would make that connection more often, but there was never a more caring person.
When he was younger Jake used to bring home injured and dying animals to try and save them. There was one cat, I remember him bringing home when he was ten, which had been run over. We weren't actually at home, but rather on vacation at an horse ranch upstate. We just went for a couple of days, after a particularly hard case for me, at the insistence of Jake who loved horses and was ecstatic to learn how to ride. The first morning we're there he runs up to me at five in the morning cradling this dying animal. It was clear that the cat had not long to live. Even with my untrained eyes I could tell that his hips had been shattered by the wheels of the vehicle.
"Mommy! Mommy! We need to do something!" Jake cried, hugging the animal to his chest.
"Jake, what would you like me to do?" I asked, mumbling into my pillow. I turned over and tried to convince myself that Jake wouldn't drag a dead, oh wait dying, animal into the bed and breakfast we were staying in.
"Mommy!" Jake yelled and dumped the cat onto my bed. He reached over and shook me awake.
"Jake, please," I said, rolling over, coming face to face with the animal. "Arg, ick. Jake get this thing off my bed. Now."
His brown eyes filled with tears and he gingerly reached forward and took the animal into his arms. With one last, painful look he turned and took off. The door slammed behind him and his footsteps pounded down the hallways.
"Damn," I whispered and threw on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. With a quick glance out the window I could tell it was early, the sun was just barely peaking over the hills. I dug my shoes out of a pile of clothes and shoved my feet in them. I could see Jake running across the grass toward the main hub of the ranch. There was always a vet on duty; my intelligent little Jake was looking for him.
Without bothering to lock the door, and leaving my badge and gun on the side table, I broke into a sprint, hoping I could catch him before he gave that poor animal to anyone. It was already dead; there was really no point in trying to save it. It had been run over by a car. Small animals did not live after being run over by a machine a 10 thousand times their weight. I hated to tell him that, but I really didn't want him to grow attach to another animal. This year alone we had had five squirrels, three rabbits and one rat gracing our apartment. All of them were either hurt or ill. The rat was quickly placed outside—in a shoebox. Six out of the eight animals, excluding the rat, did survive and with great pomp and circumstance we released them back into central park. I doubt any of the animals actually lived through their releasing night, but it gave Jake great pleasure.
The ground shifted under my feet as I sped toward my son. The cat hung limply in his arms, its tail swaying as Jake ran. With one last burst of speed I caught up to him. He yelled when I reached out to grab him.
"Don't touch me! We have to save him!"
"Jake." I reached out and grabbed his shoulders, stopping him. He fought me, but I wrapped my arms around him. The cat dropped to the ground with a heavy thump. A whine of breath escaped out of him, and his caramel colored paw reached out and pawed the ground.
"Oh my god," I breathed.
"See. Look. Mommy, he's not dead!" Jake fell to his knees beside the long haired cat. I was about to grab him and tell him to leave it alone, but the cat's yellow eyes peered up at me. It seems weird, I know, but they seemed to convey the need for love. It was lonely. The cat was lonely.
"Come on, Jake, let's go," I said, pulling Jake off the ground.
"No!" He yanked himself out of my grasp and dived for the cat. He gathered it in his arms and clenched it tight to his chest. "Please mommy, please. Don't let Elliot die."
My heart jumped at his name. An overwhelming sense of incompleteness hit me and I longed for his touch, even the wisp of his hand brushing my arm as we passed. "Elliot?" I asked weakly.
"Yes, mommy. That's his name. Elliot." Jake's eyes looked up at me with the stubborn determination that I have myself. I knew that he rather die than let the stupid animal go.
"You named him Elliot?"
"Well, you're always talking about him, so I figured this way you could remember him better."
I hadn't realized that I always talked about my old partner, much less that my son had picked up on it. I kneeled down next to him in the dirt. "That's very sweet of you baby."
"I'm not leaving Elliot." His eyes narrowed. He was not leaving this cat without a fight. I was not in the mood for a fight and this cat suddenly meant more to me than just being a wounded animal my son wanted to save. He was the namesake of my partner.
"Alright. Since you've already named him, let's get Elliot to the vet."
Jake's eyes lit up and his jaw dropped in surprise. "Really? I mean, can we keep him?"
I ran my hand through his hair. "Let's just see if we can keep him alive."
Jake nodded and picked up the cat and delicately held him in his arms. I placed my hand on his back and lead him to the small outcrop of barns and buildings. Elliot, much to my dismay, survived that day. As soon as we got him to the vet, they rushed the cat into surgery. By a miracle, and frantic prayers from Jake, the cat regained the ability to walk. They stuck metal pins in his legs and the cat was in a half body splint for months. Jake begged me to allow him to stay at our apartment. "Just until we find a good home," he told me. I never should have believed a word of it. Elliot, the cat, is still with us. I've never like cats, but he grew on me. Today he's as fat as ever, moseying around like he owns the place, his fur and fat swaying with every step.
"Mom?" I jerked toward Jake, who still stood in the door way. The ten year old kid I had been imagining was gone, replaced by a much old, much taller man. Although he was only sixteen, Jake was already six-feet tall and lanky as a stick. I'm hoping someday he'll fill out his frame. He runs cross country and long distance track, while competitively swimming in the winter, but maybe after college he'll going into the marines—that'd put some muscle on him.
"Hey," I smiled weakly and stood up to hug him. Jake tolerated it only because he knew it gave me such pleasure simply to hug him. "I was just thinking about you and Elliot."
"That stupid cat. I can't believe you still think about that." Jake rolled his eyes and plopped himself down in the chair next to my bed.
"Of course I still think about that. It's one of my favorite stories." I smiled and sat crossed legged on my bed. Elliot strutted out of the closet and jumped up onto my bed. He let out a deep purr and strolled onto my lap. I subconsciously rubbed his fat belly with one hand and stroked his head with my other. He rolled onto his back and his head hung to the side, eyes closed in contentment. A purr rumbled from him.
"You hated him at first, you know." I looked up at Jake, who was smugly grinning.
"I know," I answered. I used my hands to massage the joint area under Elliot's front legs. "But this cat could grow on anyone."
"Right." Jake slurred out the word as he peered at me. "You were really pensive, earlier. What's up?"
"Pensive? That's not a word I would typically associate with myself." I tried to shift, but Elliot stuck his claws in my thighs, clearly telling me he did not want to move.
"Yes, pensive." He eyed me carefully, "What were you thinking about?"
"Your father," I responded bluntly.
Jake's head jerked up, his brown eyes wide. "My father?" he whispered, "But you never talk about him."
My lips tightened together. He was right; I never talked about Elliot, the detective, my partner, my best friend, the father of my child. After Elliot was gunned down, I closed up, stopped talking about him. It scared Munch and Fin, and Cragen almost forced me into therapy, but Jake saved me. It's hard to give up when you have a five year old looking up at you, silently begging for love and support.
I sighed and turned my head away. Maybe this was the wrong time to bring Elliot up. I mean Jake was leaving for school in the fall, I hadn't even thought about retiring from the force yet, there was just too much to lose.
"Mom. Mom, please. Tell me about my dad." Jake had moved from his chair and was leaning against my bed. "Mom, please."
I could barely look up at him. I knew that the shadow of loss he always carried with him would be clearly evident. I don't know if I could handle that.
"Mom, please," Jake whispered. "I need to know."
At his pled, I did look at him and it just about killed me. His brown eyes were filled with the need to know. He wanted to know, he needed to know.
I closed my eyes. "Before you know anything, you have to understand this. What I'm about to tell you could cost me and Casey our jobs if you tell anyone."
"Mom, what is this?" Jake pushed himself off the bed and stormed toward the door. He stopped and turned back toward me. I could see the rare glimmer of tears in his eyes. "What is this? Some type of national scandal? Come on, Mom. God. What difference does it make who my father is? Honestly."
He turned away and had his hand on the door, before I called out. "Jake, wait."
Jake turned, but he was furious. He was so angry. "Why can't you just tell me?" He whispered.
"Jake. Your father was Elliot."
"What? The cat? HaHa, very funny Mom." Jake shook his head. "I can't believe you would joke about this. I just want to know who my Dad is. That's the only thing I've ever really wanted."
"Jake, not Elliot the cat. Elliot Stabler."
It took a moment for him to absorb the information, "Wait, wait. The detective? Your old partner? That Elliot Stabler?"
I nodded and pushed the cat off of my lap. I wanted more than anything to stand up and take Jake in my arms, like I did when he was younger. Jake swayed and reached out to steady himself against the door frame. I could see him trying to speak, but he was unable to. Shaking his head slowly, he stumbled to the chair where he collapsed. "How? Why? Why didn't you tell me?" He whispered, barely able to talk.
I tried to keep the hurt out of my voice. I could see Jake blaming me for not knowing his father. "I couldn't tell you, Jake. I slept with my partner, our jobs were at stake."
"Your job. Your job!" Jake whipped his head up. "I had a chance to know my father, but instead you were too preoccupied with regulations and restrictions."
"Jake, don't you dare," I snapped. "You did know your father. He loved you like a son and you know it. At that point in time you were too young to care or notice that you didn't have a Dad who would be home at nights. Elliot was with us most nights anyways."
"Don't you understand, Mom? It wasn't how much I knew him, but how I knew him. God, it is so much different having him as a father than having him as your mother's friend and partner." Jake stood up. "I have to go pack. I leave for Brown in a month." With one last, pained look, Jake walked out of the room, his movements rigid.
"Damn!" I swore. This was not how this conversation was supposed to be. What was supposed to happen was I tell Jake and he accept without a problem and we spend the rest of the day telling stories and sharing memories. The stupid caramel colored cat rolled over and looked at me. I could just hear him saying, in Elliot's voice of course, I told you so.
"You did not," I whispered back. Jacob's door slammed shut and he ran down the stairs. The front door slammed shut. His car started up and back out of the driveway. I didn't get up, although I wanted to look out the window. If he turned left, he was going swimming at the local pool. If he turned right he was going down a few blocks to where Munch lived. Every Thursday night they would get together and play chess or checkers and Munch would share the latest conspiracy story.
I didn't go look, I couldn't. My son had turned me away, telling me that I had lied throughout his entire life. I understood the repercussions that Elliot's and I affair could have had. We both would have lost our jobs or moved to different units. Time without pay. Lost vacation time. All of it. There would have been nothing Cragen could have done. Even his connections or protection could not have stopped the fury of the board. Every single case Elliot and I ever screwed up on would have been reopened to see if somehow our "relationship" had affected our ability to function. We knew it hadn't, but the board was made up of skeptical old cops with nothing better to do with their time.
I stayed there, lying on my bed, until late that night. I forgot to eat dinner, or neglected to. I ignored the phone when it rang, only bothering to look at the Caller ID after the third time it went off. It was Casey. I reached over and unplugged the power cord. I'd talk to her on Monday. I did mange to flip the TV on and watch Leno, but he wasn't funny. I was too concerned to try to laugh at his pathetic attempts at political jokes. I just didn't care. My baby was out there, struggling to deal with the fact his parents had an affair.
I sighed. He was too good of a kid to have that dumped on him. Too good.
For the first time since Jake left I stood and pushed aside the window drapes. His red Honda was no where in sight. I fought against the string of obscenities that I so desperately wanted to scream. Sighing, I turned back to my bed and slide between the covers. I pulled the heavy comforter over my eyes. I just wanted to sleep.
Jake quietly slid his key inside the lock and as gently as possible turned it. After the lock clicked open, he peeked his head in and looked around. All the lights were off. Yellow eyes peered at him from the top of the stairs as Elliot, the cat, stared at him. Jake tried to wave him off, but the cat wouldn't move.
Damn cat, Jake thought as he carefully walked up the stairs. He winced as his foot hit the "squeaky step", as it had so been named by him when he was three and screamed as the step "squeaked" when he stepped on it. Jake tilted his head to better listen for any indication that his mom had heard him. When he didn't hear any sounds or see anything move, except for the cat, Jake continued cautiously up the stairs.
He meant to just go to his room, crawl into bed and sleep, but mom's door was open. It was just a hair width, barely thick enough for Jake to see through, but he could see his mom's bed and it was enough to make him regret everything. Her once neatly made bed was in shambles. Fleece blankets had been kicked to the end of the bed, her feather down comforter was awry and wrapped tightly around her lithe frame. Her arms were held tight to her chest and her hair was lying knots on her pillow. Jake could tell- she had been crying in her sleep.
Jake glanced in, concerned. Mom very rarely cried during the day. In fact, Jake had only seen her cry three times: once when he had been held hostage and she thought he had died; when Captain Cragen was diagnosed with liver cancer two years ago; and at Elliot's funeral. Jake realized at a young age that his mom didn't cry during the day, she cried at night. He could often tell when she had had a rough night, either because of nightmares or crying, because she would drink coffee—lots of coffee. Not just her usual two or three cups before work, but pots of it. For many years, Jake would wake up and find his mom drinking her second pot of coffee multiple times a week. For her that was and still is her anti-depressant and it was safer than many others she could have come up with.
He knew what this was about. She wanted him to simply accept that she had an affair with her partner and then kept that secret from his for sixteen years. For Jake that was worse than the act itself. He, as silently as possible, closed her door. In the morning he'd ignore her coffee intake and pretend everything was normal.
Jake crept back to his own room and gently placed his keys on the pile of books near his door. Without bothering to change, Jake threw his jacket on the floor and fell into bed. With a hiss and a swipe of his paw, Elliot leaped away and landed on the floor. Jake reached down and grabbed the cat by the scuff of his neck and hoisted him onto the bed, pulling him under the covers.
As he had done since they first adopted Elliot, Jake pulled the cat close. He felt sick. Honest to God, Jake had not meant to hurt her. He only needed time alone. But it was only after he walked out and slammed the door that he realized his mistake. At first he thought about going and talking to Munch, but he probably was either asleep or on the job and for some reason Jake didn't need a lesson on conspires of the government tonight. While he drove he thought about all the people he could have visited. Friends, Maureen, Kathleen, heck he even thought of going and talking to the Captain, but with his cancer quickly progressing, Jake would have felt awful adding his own problems. Besides, if he told Cragen, wouldn't he be obligated to report the indiscretion? Then the whole day would have gone to Hell in a hand basket, to quote Casey.
As luck would have, Jake drove to the cemetery. The cemetery. Not the one where his grandmother was buried. Oh no, not that one. The one. Unknowingly he found himself standing before the very man who he, at that moment, wanted nothing to do with. Elliot Stabler. He yelled, he screamed, he threatened, he begged, he cried but when he calmed, Jake prayed. For the past couple of years, he'd only been attending church because he had his entire life and because his mom wanted him to, but tonight he prayed. Instead of taking his wrath out on the grave of his long dead father, Jake turned on God and unleashed all the emotion and frustration that he rarely showed. It wasn't long before he was kneeling on the ground, head in his hands, asking for the light to show him the way.
Eventually, Jake managed to lift himself off the ground and trudged his way back to his car and drive home.
Eventually he would be able to forgive and accept this change in fortune. Eventually.
When I woke up the next morning, I felt as thought I had the biggest hangover. One from the college days, where you drank like a fish at night, then drank in the morning and the slept until afternoon classes. It was one of those types of hangovers.
I pulled myself out of bed, pulled on a sweatshirt, put on my glasses, and washed my face before looking at a clock. 4: 47 in the morning. Biting my tongue, I glanced at my bed. As inviting as it looked, I knew that even if I took my prescribed insomnia pills I wouldn't be able to sleep. I needed coffee.
Like a machine, I measured the ground beans, poured in the water, grabbed a filter, and pushed the orange little button that said 'ON'. I watched as the coffee dripped and when there was just enough for a full cup, I poured the brew and replaced the pot, only losing a few drops as it continued to brew. I had been doing this a long time.
Cradling the black ceramic cup in my hands, I breathed in heavily, savoring the smell. At five in the morning there was nothing better than coffee. Black. No sugar, no milk. Just the straight caffeine. Casey jokes that someday she's going to buy me an IV so I can inject the liquid straight into my blood stream. On my nasty days, I'll tell her I'll go cold and stop drinking completely if she doesn't shut up. I'm dependant and we both know it. On those days, she leaves me alone.
At six thirty Jake came tumbling down the stairs; barely one foot touching the ground before the other was on the next stair. He looked as though he hadn't slept more than an hour or two, if that. He was still wearing yesterday's clothes, although now they were wrinkled and dirty and smelled like yesterday's clothes.
Without a word I had him a mug and pour some of my coffee, finishing off the second pot of the day. He glanced at me, with a slightly concerned look, as I grinded more beans. I didn't have to go into work until 9 today. There was at least time for one more pot.
In complete silence, Jake took his customary seat across the counter on one of the bar stools, nursing his mug. I used to think it was the cutest thing, watching him eat breakfast up there, when he was little. He could barely climb up onto the stool, but every morning he was determined to sit there. His little legs would swing back and forth to the rhythm of his humming, which he managed to do as he ate. I outlawed the outright singing as he was prone to doing. Hearing "Jesus Love Me" for an hour was just too much. Jake still will hum, but only if he thinks no one is there.
Jake and I sat, well I stood, in complete silence. For twenty minutes we drank the new coffee and read. I read the case file I was working on and he was well into some scifi book called "Ender's Game". I've read it, it's a great book, but I don't understand where his undying love for that series comes from. He's must of read it twenty times, maybe twenty five. After he read three paper back versions to death—he has a box somewhere with all the pages and covers—I bought him the entire hardback set for his birthday. Unfortunately, I think this book might not last either.
After a few pages, Jake threw the book aside and looked up at me. I dropped my bagel in surprise.
"Are you okay?" I asked.
Jake dropped his head back down and mumbled something.
I sighed. It was his worst habit, this mumbling he does. I don't know where he gets it and sometimes I wish he would give it back. I was about to rebuke him, when he beat me to it.
"Mom," he said, slightly hesitant. "I want you to tell me about Dad."
I think my jaw must have dropped in surprise. "What do you want to know about him?"
Jake smiled slightly. "Everything."
I think, that moment, I almost cried, but instead I managed a grinned. "Everything? Wow. I think I might have to call in sick for work, especially if you want to know everything."
Jake looked a little concerned. "Maybe not everything. Save some things for tomorrow."
I reached over and filled up his coffee cup. "We're going to need more coffee."
Jake just rolled his eyes.
The book "Ender's Game" is written by Orson Scott Card, one of the best writers of the Science Fiction genre. I don't own the rights to the book, but it is excellent and I highly recommend it.