Disclaimer: I do not own Law and Order: SVU. It belongs to a genius named Dick Wolf. No profit is being made from this story.
The courtroom began to fill up. Olivia glanced up briefly as people began passing their row on the way to a seat. She quickly returned her attention to her partner, who was anxiously jiggling his foot. There were so many things that she wanted to say to ease his nervousness, but at the moment nothing was popping into her head. She just sat next to him and held his hand tightly in hers.
The previous night had been bad. Elliot hadn't been able to sleep because he was so afraid that the man was going to somehow find a way to go after him during the trial. Olivia had tried all night to relax him, and therefore hadn't gotten any sleep either. To say they were on edge was an understatement.
The captain, Munch, and Fin entered the courtroom and slid into the bench next to them. Olivia acknowledged them with a small smile, but Elliot didn't even glance their way. He was staring ahead with a distant look in his eyes. A slight shake of her head told them not to say anything.
It was three minutes until the trial would begin. The jury filed in and took their seats, and the bailiff headed for the back to shut the doors. Elliot felt panic surging in his chest, making him short of breath.
The banging of the judge's gavel made him jump. The captain, sitting on one side of him, felt it and draped a comforting arm around him, squeezing his shoulder.
Fin sat up a little straighter. Show time, he thought grimly.
Munch was on the end of the row, and was gripping the edge of the bench in a white-knuckled fist. He could feel the nervousness coming off of Elliot in waves, and prayed for a quick and painless deliberation to put an end to this nightmare.
The sound of a door opening brought their attention to the side of the room, along with everyone else's. All chatter immediately died as the distinct sound of chains echoed from the distance. Elliot felt his heart start to thump wildly, and had to swallow hard. Don't look at him...don't look at him…
Two court officers escorted the man towards the defense attorney's table. He wore handcuffs and ankle shackles. Olivia squeezed Elliot's hand firmly, feeling it start to tremble. He bit his lip and stared at the man, unable to look away.
When they came past where the five of them were sitting, the man turned and looked directly at him. Olivia felt him slide closer to her. She was gripping his hand tightly, and brought her other one down to clasp it in assurance. His other hand shot out and grabbed the captain's. Don was startled, but instantly clutched it firmly in his own.
The man's eyes took in the group in the bench. The two male detectives were looking at him with challenge clear in their postures. Olivia was glaring daggers at him, and the older bald man looked like he was busy murdering him over and over again in his mind.
His face twisted into an amused grin. They were trying so hard to make him squirm….if only they knew how much of the opposite effect their efforts were having on him! Then he squared his gaze, and his eyes glazed. There was Elliot, between Olivia and the older man. He was so beautiful…his eyes sparkled like crystal diamonds in the light of the courtroom. The man smiled endearingly at him as the officers pushed him on.
Elliot started to breathe loud, panicked breaths through his nose. Olivia tore her gaze away from the man in handcuffs. "Relax, Elliot," she instructed quietly, turning to face him. She tore one of her hands from his death grip and used it to stroke the back of his neck. "Just relax. He can't hurt you."
The bailiff came in front of the judge's stand and began reading from the court docket. "Docket number 135: People vs. David James Spilner. One count stalking, one count kidnapping, one count attempted murder."
David James Spilner. Elliot found it hard to hear that the monster actually had an average name. He wouldn't have guessed.
The judge addressed the defense attorney. "How does your client plead?"
"Not guilty, your honor," the well-dressed man said.
Cragen saw Elliot's jaw drop. "What?" he hissed incredulously. He looked at the captain in disbelief and panic. "How could they-?"
"Don't worry about it," Olivia said softly. She patted his knee. "He's going to jail. Don't worry about it."
It was difficult for Elliot to watch each of his friends get up on the stand and tell about their side of the ordeal. They described in detail the endless hours of searching and the types of methods used in looking for him. Olivia was grilled on her decision to shoot the man, but defended herself readily. They continued on to tell the jury of the condition of the prison Elliot had been in when he was found, and his physical trauma afterward.
The district attorney introduced each piece of evidence that Munch had gotten, right down to the smallest newspaper clipping. Elliot squirmed when he saw the pictures, and none of his friends missed it.
When the last piece of evidence had been reviewed, Elliot felt his throat tighten. He knew what was coming next. He bit his lip and forced himself to relax. Do it, Elliot, he thought to himself. Don't let this guy win.
"The defense calls Elliot Stabler to the stand," Spilner's attorney said.
They waited a minute, but no one came forward. The attorney repeated the statement, louder this time. Still no one came.
The three men looked over at Elliot. He was clutching Olivia's hand so tightly that his knuckles were white. He looked at them with a terrified expression.
"I can't do this," he whispered in a panic. He started to shake. "I can't."
"Elliot…" Cragen began, leaning toward him.
"Will the witness please come forward?" the judge boomed.
Olivia cringed. He sounded pissed. She turned toward her partner. "Elliot," she said. "You can do it. Come on, baby…we talked about this. You'll be fine."
He saw the judge glaring at him. He swallowed hard and turned toward Olivia, looking like he was going to throw up. "I can't," he repeated frantically. "Please…tell them I changed my mind…please Olivia, tell them I changed my mind!"
The judge stood up then, looking absolutely outraged. "Young man," he said threateningly. "If you are not out of your seat in the next ten seconds, I will have the bailiff come and get you."
Olivia ripped his hand away from hers and cupped his face firmly. "Go, Elliot," she said urgently, fighting tears. "We're only a few feet away, sweetheart."
Spilner suddenly whipped around and leaned over the wooden panel separating the crowd from him. He had a sick smile on his face. "Come on over here, Elliot," he rasped with glee. "I'll be good."
The judge slammed the gavel down in a second. "Silence your client, counselor," he barked. "Or I'll do it for you."
The man laughed and turned back around, clamping his jaw shut.
Elliot shook his head, tears streaming down his face. Leaning over, he gripped her middle and pressed his body into hers, burying his face in her jacket. She felt him shaking with sobs. Biting her lip, she looked at the judge.
The old man's expression had suddenly changed to one of compassion as he looked at them.
"Your honor," the defense attorney said shortly. "My client has the right to a smooth trial…without the hassle of an uncooperative witness."
"Go to hell," Fin spat out suddenly, glaring at the attorney. "He's afraid of him, you asshole."
"That's enough," the judge snapped at both of them. He looked icily at the attorney. "Let me remind you that this man is not a witness, counselor. He is a victim, who your client has clearly done a good job of intimidating."
The attorney went silent, and the judge looked at him as if daring him to say anything else. Then the judge looked out at Elliot again. Olivia had coaxed him out from hiding his face, but he hadn't let go of her.
"Son," he called, his voice kind.
Elliot looked at him with fear on his face. The old man smiled reassuringly at him. "You have nothing to be afraid of. There are a number of armed officers in this room…." He shifted his gaze to the protective group around him and said lightly, "As I am sure you already know. I give you my word that the defendant will not speak or even look at you."
He felt himself be pulled to his feet and shepherded toward the front of the courtroom before he could even react. The judge was looking at him sympathetically. He felt bad for the clearly distressed man beside him.
"Would you like a drink of water?" he asked kindly. Elliot shook his head quickly.
"No…no thank you," he said shakily. The judge nodded and gestured to the bailiff.
"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?" the bailiff asked robotically.
"Yes…yes." Elliot stammered.
"Please be seated."
He lowered himself into the witness stand, his eyes darting to where his friends were sitting. Olivia met his gaze and gave him a warm smile, gesturing with her fingers for him to keep his focus on her. She saw him relax slightly as the defense attorney stood.
Elliot leaned forward and shortly cut him off. "Detective."
The man faltered. "Excuse me?"
"It's Detective Stabler," he said.
Cragen, Munch, Fin, and Olivia all looked at each other with the same expression of triumph on their faces. For a brief moment, Elliot had become his old, confident self.
"Excuse me, Detective Stabler." The attorney tried not to appear miffed. He stepped around the table and began to ask a question. Spilner suddenly grabbed his arm and pulled him down, whispering something.
A ripple passed through the courtroom. Munch and Fin exchanged a look with Olivia, but Cragen's eyes were zeroed in on the man sitting at the table. He didn't like the way he was suddenly smiling.
"Is there an issue, Counselor?" the judge asked in an irritated tone.
The attorney whispered something to the man and straightened. "Yes, your honor," he replied. "My client wishes to exercise his constitutional right to act in his own defense and would like to question the witness himself."
"NO!" Elliot screamed, before the judge could say anything. He leaped up quickly.
The four of them were on their feet in two seconds and making their way out of the bench. People began chattering excitedly and the noise level increased.
"Silence in my courtroom!" the judge bellowed, effectively shutting everyone up. He glared out at the occupants in the room. Olivia halted with her hand on the wooden panel separating the crowd from the attorneys, her stance defensive.
"It is in the subtext of the Articles of Confederation, your honor," the defense attorney said quickly. "My client has the right at any time to waive professional counsel and represent his own interests."
"Your honor, this is outrageous!" the prosecution attorney cried. "What questions could the defendant possibly have to ask the man he kidnapped?"
"Please," Elliot pleaded, looking at the judge. He was shaking violently, pressed up against the wall. Tears were blurring his vision. "You can't let him near me." The tears spilled out and his voice became shrill. "He wants to kill me…don't let him near me!"
The judge's face softened as he looked at Elliot, and he turned back to face the defense attorney. "Request denied," he said, his voice hard. His voice softened and he looked back to Elliot. "You may step down, Detective."
"Your honor-!" the defense attorney protested.
"Quiet, Counselor," the judge said stonily. The man stopped talking. "I am appalled that you would even think that I would consider such a preposterous idea as a kidnapper questioning his own victim." He looked at the attorney as if burning holes into him.
This man," he continued, gesturing to Elliot, "was an innocent victim in a sick game of brutality and horror carried out by the defendant over the course of the last three decades. Your client has already done a fantastic job of traumatizing him. I will not let you use my courtroom as an excuse to further the damage."
He looked out at the crowd. "The witness is excused from the courtroom," he said.
The defense attorney looked about to argue until the judge glared at him. He turned to the jury. "The jury will disregard any previous statements and will make a decision based on the testimonies of the eyewitnesses and the tangible evidence presented."
"What about my client's rights, your honor?" the attorney persisted. "He deserves the chance to tell his side of the account."
The man at the table laughed. "You want my side?" he said gleefully. He whipped around to face Elliot. "Tell him, Elliot. Tell him about the fun we had!"
Cragen and Munch moved in front of Elliot as he shrank away from him, glaring at the man hatefully.
"I will not ask again to silence your client," the judge said. "If-"
"He's the perfect one!" the man continued, his voice rising in excitement. He stood up. "Look at him! Look at him! He's perfect!"
The judge slammed the gavel down. "Court officers, remove the defendant," he ordered. "The jury is excused to deliberate."
The man continued ranting excitedly even as he was dragged away. Elliot broke away from his friends and took off out of the courtroom. Olivia followed quickly.
"Elliot!" she called, seeing him ahead of her.
He skidded to a stop in front of the nearest trash can and started to heave into it. She was at his side in an instant, but said nothing.
When he finished, he groaned and looked at Olivia. "I want to go home," he croaked. "Please, Liv….let's just go. Please."
She started to respond, but was interrupted by an unfamiliar voice. "Mr. Stabler."
They both turned around to come face to face with the judge. "I want to offer my sincerest apologies to you, son," he said, gripping his shoulder lightly. "And also to let you know that I am in awe of your strength. You are, in my book, one of the bravest men that I've ever had the honor to meet."
Elliot looked at him in shock, unable to believe the man's words. Is he serious? He had never felt so embarrassed in his life….and yet this man was complimenting him and calling him brave.
"Thank you, sir," he said finally, his voice revealing his shock. "That means a lot to me."
By now, the others had joined them. The judge smiled sadly at the group as he went on, "My daughter was kidnapped when she was 17…and she didn't survive. That man in there is going to be found guilty, even if I have to step down from my position to do it."
They were shocked into silence at his words. The judge didn't give them a chance to speak. He clapped Elliot on the back and was gone before they could react.
Cragen and Fin decided to go back in and hear the verdict. Olivia, John, and Elliot ambled around outside the courthouse, enjoying the warm sunshine.
"Hey…you guys?" Elliot asked.
The other two looked at him. They had been in mid-conversation, but stopped in surprise.
"Would you…what would happen if I…." He had to take a breath, not believing his own words. "What happens if I decided not to go back to work?"
Olivia lost her breath. She had feared this all along, but had been selfishly pushing it out of her mind. Now she felt herself starting to tear up. If Elliot left, she would be done. There was no way she could bring herself to work with another partner.
But before she could speak, John did. He leaned forward and surprised Elliot by gripping him lightly on the shoulders and staring directly into his eyes. "Nothing," he said. "Leaving the job will not change who you are. You are Elliot Stabler….the best person I have ever known. No thing or person can ever take that away."
Elliot was speechless at his friend's words, as was Olivia. Her phone rang as she was trying to find her voice, and she picked it up.
"Thank you," Elliot said finally. Munch smiled warmly, meaning every word.
Olivia suddenly turned toward them, hanging up. She stared at them, her expression stunned.
"What's the matter?" John asked.
She shook her head for a minute and looked at Elliot. He looked at her in concern.
After a minute of silence, she took a breath and said, "Guilty on all charges." Her eyes brimmed with tears as she smiled. "Fifty years without parole."
Elliot had returned to Dr. Bernard the following week. Another month passed, and he finally moved back into his own apartment. It was going to be a hard adjustment…but he had no choice. He had to start living his own life again. Olivia came to see him every day.
The two detectives that Munch and Fin had been working with had moved to take Olivia and Elliot's desk, who had not returned to work. They weren't happy about not having them there….but they knew that Olivia wouldn't do the job without Elliot.
But, strangely, the five of them were closer than ever. Cragen called both Elliot and Olivia every day, and they got together at least twice a week. Olivia was considering a job with Social Services, but hadn't made a decision yet. Elliot wasn't ready to think about another job yet…but he was doing everything he could to get himself ready.
It hurt. Their lives had all been forced to change in ways that none of them would have ever dreamed about six months ago. Elliot had been changed….not for the worse, but he still could never go back to the way he was before. It wasn't fair…but he had learned to deal with it.
Towards the beginning of spring, Munch came into the squad room first and made a pot of coffee. His partner and the other two detectives were not there yet. He heard the good-natured groans of the other detectives in the room throwing jibes about his bad coffee, and rolled his eyes.
The door to Cragen's office opened, and Fin came out.
"Aw, dude…come on, let me at least get a cup of the old stuff before you ruin it," he said.
"Shut up," he grumbled in amusement. "What were you doing?"
He was surprised to see his partner looking rather contrite. "Mullens and Erickson got transferred," he said, referring to the two they had been working with.
"What?" Munch asked. He looked at Don, who had come out of the office. "We're going solo again? What's with that?"
"No, don't worry," Don said. "I found some replacements for you." He looked at the coffeepot in hesitation. "Hey…you want to let someone else do that?"
Munch rolled his eyes. "Geez, get over the coffee!" he said, looking at him fiercely. "Who's going to work with us now?"
"Come on, Munch….at least give us a warning before you contaminate our coffee!"
John slammed the coffeepot down at the voice behind him. "Alright, you know what?" he asked in anger. He turned around, prepared to give whoever it was a tongue-lashing.
Don had a twinkle in his eyes, and Fin was biting his lip to contain his laughter at the look on his partner's face.
Elliot was grinning like a banshee as he stood in the doorway. Olivia was behind him. They both had badges and guns on.
"I mean, geez…" Elliot continued. "If you didn't want us to come back, you could've at least said something instead of trying to poison us!"
Several excited shouts were heard from the other detectives in the squad room as they saw who was there.
"Holy shit!" John cried finally. He smiled so wide that he thought his face would break. "You're back?"
"Yeah, well…" Olivia interjected, going to her old desk. "We couldn't very well let our good names get tarnished by some rookies, could we?"
Cragen looked at them with delight in his eyes. "Alright," he said. He tried to firm up his voice. "Enough chit-chat….get your asses to work!"
Elliot and Olivia laughed at John, who was still looking shocked. Finally, Munch turned away from the coffee station.
"Hell!" he cried. "Who wants Starbucks?"
Wow…look at me….drained again! I hope this story and its processor have been enjoyable to read. You can't get rid of me that easily though…a new story is in the works as we speak! Hope you will all come back again to see me!