Two months later

She was asleep beside him, breathing softly. The streetlight was out, but the stars cast their light through the window, bathing her in an almost eerie golden glow.

Elliot had known Olivia to be a fitful sleeper. Sometimes on stakeout, she'd doze and jolt awake at the sound of every plane or laugh that passed by. He once estimated she spent a hundred dollars a month on coffee and wasn't too far off mark. But things were different them.

Now here she was, sprawled face-down, arms spread. Olivia had unconsciously kneed him in the balls twice that night, and here it was only three am. A siren had passed by the window and startled Elliot out of his own sound sleep. He was wearing the same pair of sweats that came from Virginia, but they'd faded by now.

More and more, Elliot had been thinking about that little white farmhouse by the pond. There were times when his heart ached to see it, when he'd leave the house with his keys in hand and actually think about driving down there. Much as he loved her, Elliot could never make Olivia understand this need.

She shifted on the pillow and mumbled something. Mothman. Elliot chuckled, wondering what she was dreaming about. The night before, in her sleep, she said something about her grandmother from Texas.

He remembered his own grandfather, from Missouri. The old town doctor, the old Colonel who began fighting in the teens and didn't let up until Americans were watching "Howdy Doody" and grilling out on their flagstone patios. Grandpa Sherman died in 1974 and left Elliot his pistol and a head full of memories. Sometimes at his mother's, Elliot would open the trunks and take out Sherm's military uniform and the pictures of all his war buddies.

Olivia would have liked him.

So far, everything had gone well on the job. Only Munch and Casey knew what was going on, though Cragen probably had an inkling the mutual attraction had bubbled into something more. Fin seemed distracted lately and while Elliot wanted to tell him about the relationship, it seemed his buddy had bigger fish to fry.

Elliot mentioned the whole thing to his kids in an off-handed way, and thought they were okay with it. Maureen was especially glad her father wasn't so damn angry anymore. The weekends Elliot had them, Olivia would make herself scarce. He was staying at her apartment most of the time, anyways. The house had too many memories, and neither of them would ever feel right about sleeping in the bed Elliot had shared with Kathy.

Sometimes it all seemed like a dream. It wasn't all about sex, although she seemed to enjoy it. Often they'd be too tired and drained for anything. Some nights, though, the passion was there and it manifested in almost violent way. The world filled with bursting colors and sounds and lights. Then he'd wonder if she was thinking and seeing the same thing as her nails pierced the skin of his back and her teeth clamped onto his collarbone.

But often he was just content to sleep beside Olivia and just wonder...

Mothman.

She said it again and Elliot burst out laughing. Olivia slowly rose, rubbing her eyes. "What are you laughing at?" she asked in a dreamy slur.

"You keep saying Mothman."

"Uh huh," she groaned, rolling over.

He watched her sleep for a bit longer, thinking of all the things he loved in his life that he'd lost. Then, just as slumber was about to set in, he thought of those sunny summer days in Missouri...

"Granma! Play 'How You Gonna Keep Them Down On the Farm' for me and Grandpa Sherman!"

"If you help me polish the saddle, you can ride Chestnut out to the shed and back."

"Your grandpa was a good man, Elliot. Never forget that. He kept the whole unit together...he was like a father to me..."

"I hate to sell the place, but ever since Mom died..."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Everyone on the ground!"

The agent kicked the door in. Yeah, they finally tracked down the kidnappers to some dump in Queens. The biggest problem was some government agency wanted in on the action, and sent two agents that looked like they were fresh out of the Academy. Their combined age was almost Elliot's and he was less than cordial to them that morning.

"You do your job, Stabler and we'll do ours. But if we tell you to move, you move and make it fast. Same goes for all of you," the male agent said.

"I love having to listen to the government," Munch sighed, shrugging on his bulletproof vest. The female agent cut her eyes at him. Elliot thought Munch couldn't mind much, because the girl was cute. Munch was a sucker for pretty girls, as evidenced by his marriages.

The slum reeked, instantly reminding Elliot of his encounter three months before. It was the dead of summer. The wood floor moaned and groaned under their feet. Music came from a stereo across the street. Beside their heartbeats, this was the only sound in the air.

She's come undone

She didn't know what she was headed for

It was too late...

Olivia was beside him, trying to follow the agents with her eyes. Fin crouched beside her with a steely look in his eyes. Room to room, they swept their flashlights, only to find shreds of wallpaper and human waste in the corners. A thump in a closed-off room sent the agents and the detectives flying in. A shot was fired and five guns immediately answered back.

And it was too late...

She's gone too far, she's lost the sun...

"That them?" the male agent asked. The same man and women Elliot and Olivia had encountered months before were lying on the floor in spreading pools of blood.

"Yeah," was all Olivia could muster. They started the sweep again. Someone cried out. It was a yelp that made Elliot's blood run cold. He ran towards it, hearing others scampering behind him. Munch was standing in a doorway, almost unable to speak.

Too many mountains, and not enough stairs to climb...

Too many churches, and not enough truth...

"Munch, what is..."

Too many people, and not enough eyes to see..

Too many lives to lead, and not enough time...

Elliot ran in the room and wished he could go back in time and slip in the shower or fall down the stairs, just so he couldn't have to see this. In the darkness, flashlight beams hit the children, who stared back through sightless eyes. They were all lined up in a row, and had been in there awhile. The agents were pokerfaced at the sight. Olivia was breathing shallowly. Elliot put a hand on her back and she didn't shrug it off. Fin was already in the room; he had discovered it. His eyes moved from the children to the speechless searchers. He walked up to Munch, handed him a service revolver and walked right out the door.

For a minute, Elliot thought someone was groaning, but then he was aware it was coming from the structure. It sounded like it was about to buckle under the weight of its tremendous secret.

"Go! Go! Run!" the agents screamed, just as the floor began to buckle. They all began to slide slightly to the middle of the room. Elliot grabbed Olivia's collar and she grabbed Munch and they all took off. The group made it to the sidewalk as the slum sighed and collapsed. Coughing in the dust, Olivia slowly released her grip on Munch. Elliot looked her over slowly. They were okay.

"She's come undone," Munch said slowly, strangely. The air of finality in his voice startled Olivia; he could see her flinch. Fin was sitting in the cruiser, head in hands. The sound of sirens grew closer and progressively louder. Waves of heat poured from the asphalt and Elliot decided he'd better sit down or lay down. Olivia was shouting something at him, but it all just faded into the clean, sweet air above the clouds.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

He woke up in the hospital. Not a surprise. The room was cool and filled with Olivia's familiar scent. His eyes scanned around until they rested on her, dozing in a chair.

"Liv."

She startled a little, then smiled. There was a lot of pain behind it, though.

"How'd I get here?"

"You passed out on the sidewalk. The doctor says you were dehydrated," she said, moving closer to the bed. "We've only been here an hour."

Elliot ran his hand over his face. An IV was attached to his arm, and the wheels squeaked slightly on the floor. "What about Munch and Fin? Where'd they go?" he pressed, stroking Olivia's bruised arm.

"Munch is back at the precinct."

She turned away so he couldn't see her eyes. "Fin couldn't handle it, El...he's in with Huang to talk about what happened."

Elliot sighed. He pulled Olivia closer to him and she turned back around. Her eyes brimmed with tears, matching his. Elliot pulled her into his arms and stroked her back.

"I have something to tell you Elliot. Oh, God," she moaned, crying harder. For a moment, a white hot surge of panic shot through him. Was she sick? It was almost unimaginable because they'd been so careful...but was Olivia pregnant?

"I've never told another person this and really meant it."

She picked her head up and looked him in the eye. Her cheeks were wet with tears.

"I love you," she said in a controlled whisper. "Does it matter now?"

Elliot went slackjawed. He pulled her into a kiss, a shaky, out-of-control affair that left him feeling weak again.

"Liv, no matter what...I want you to know that from the moment I met you...I thought you had a real nice ass."

Olivia looked momentarily confused, then angry. He smiled up at her and the clouds lifted from her face. She slapped his arm.

"You'll always be a bastard," Olivia smiled. He pulled her down for another kiss, and whispered words he never thought he'd say again and actually mean.

"Love you, too."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

That evening they sat on the couch trying to concentrate on "Waiting For Guffman". Although Olivia seemed to have it memorized, watching this seemed to pacify her a little. Nothing felt different between them. Elliot knew deep down that it was because they had always loved each other. It was just out in the open now.

While they were laughing at the Chinese restaurant scene, someone knocked on the door. Elliot was shirtless, thinking it just might be a confused delivery boy or something. But it was Fin, looking tired and pale.

"Come in, man," Elliot said. He was happy to see his friend, but worried about how the events of the day had touched him.

Olivia clicked off the TV and stood up. They all just kind of stared at each other, not knowing what to say.

"So it's true. I didn't believe Munch when he told me about you guys," Fin finally said. Olivia looked at the floor and smiled.

"Are you okay? You didn't look good today and Munch didn't say much about what happened," Elliot said, his brow creasing in concern.

Fin sat down, and Olivia and Elliot took it as their cue to do the same.

"I quit."

Elliot couldn't ask him why. "So, what are you going to do?" was all he could muster.

"Start a business. See my family. Probably move to Jersey and get a place by the beach, like I've always wanted."

"And was Munch..."

"He requested that I have a guest room at my place by the beach. Look, if I stay on the force, it's going to be the same thing again. Every personal relationship I had went to hell. Every night and every day, I lived for the job and other people. I just want to go somewhere quiet where I don't have to see dead kids or beaten women every day and not worry about dying all the time," Fin said. "I knew this was all coming on, so I started saving my money."

"So you're going to be okay," Olivia said.

"Oh, hell yeah. Things are going to be all right."

They talked for about an hour. Fin wasn't a close friend, but he was a trusted colleague and the first one on the scene if something went wrong or if someone needed a hand. It hurt to think about him leaving, but in the long run, it was better for him. Elliot couldn't really remember the events of the day very clearly. They all just lumped together in a big blur.

Fin pulled Elliot out the door after saying goodbye to Olivia.

"Be good to that girl. That's my girl, there. Be good to her," Fin said sadly.

"I promise you, we'll take care of each other in the best way we know how," Elliot said deliberately. Fin smiled in a knowing way, maybe content that his friends were going to be okay, too, in the very end.

When Elliot walked back into the apartment, Olivia was looking at her TV.

"You know, we never did give Mildred that TV," she said, rubbing her fingertips on her bottom lip.

"No, we didn't."

"Maybe we could deliver one to her this weekend. I've got a full tank of gas and I think I need to do some thinking, like long road-trip kind of thinking," she said.

Elliot shook his head and smiled. He thought about Sgt. Brown's offer. He thought about the grass rippling like water all around them. The farmhouse, with its screen door banging in the sunshine. His kids looking tanned and healthy, running through the tall grass, laughing.

As Olivia drove, he stared at the stars through the moonroof. They were just as bright as they'd been that night on the river. He reached out for her hand.

It was such a big sky, and they were so small under it.

The End

A/N: I hope you enjoyed it! It's funny, you grow attached to these characters in fanfictions, then you watch the show and they're so distant, so it's kind of strange, like something's missing. Maybe "Fault" will change all that. If not, I'm going to kick Dick Wolf in the shins.

Thanks to everyone who chose this as a favorite and left such nice reviews. They really do mean a lot to me and I appreciate every one of them.