A/N: I don't own SVU or any of its characters: NBC does. I also don't own the song; Christina Aguilera or her label does. If you like this story, be sure and review; right now it's a oneshot but if enough people review I might continue the tale.
"I want a new partner."
Cragen couldn't believe his ears. What does she mean, she wants a new partner? Fin had opened book two months after Kathy left Elliott on how long it would take Benson and Stabler to realize they had feelings for each other. The tension had been building through the past few months, to the point where the entire unit was sure it would boil over soon. So what the hell had…..oh no. Oh no. It was that damn monster they'd just taken down. Son of a…
"Olivia, sit down. Let's talk about this."
"Captain, there's nothing to talk about. I want a new partner. It's a pretty simple request."
"Listen, Olivia, what happened out there….anyone would have done the same. You and Elliott…it's something anyone would have done. You don't have to switch partners because of this."
"Maybe not. But Captain….I can't keep doing this. Elliott and I…we can't work together."
Cragen hesitated, fearing he already knew the answer to his next question. "Why not?"
"Because…because our personal feelings are compromising our professional judgment."
There it was. The politically correct version of "I'm in love with my partner." Cragen shook his head. Damn Elliott. Damn him to hell. Can't he see what he's got here? With the new department regulations, it's not like partners couldn't…well, be partners in every sense of the word, unless it really did compromise professional judgment. And Cragen would be damned if he saw his two best detectives split because they thought they couldn't do the job.
To be sure, if Cragen thought their professional judgment really would be compromised, he'd split them himself. But with Elliott and Olivia….their feelings, their closeness, enhanced their working relationship. No cop would ever, ever leave his or her partner injured. It was the most cardinal law of being partners—you always, always have your partner's back. Elliott acted exactly as he should have with Olivia in the terminal, first checking on her then going after the perp. And from what he understood of the incident in the warehouse, Olivia did the same, trying to talk down the perp rather than escalate a situation which could have gotten Elliott killed.
Cragen shook his head. It was time to take drastic measures.
"Listen, Olivia, why don't you take some time to think about this. It's been a tough case. Go home, take tomorrow off, and if you still want a new partner when you come back we'll discuss it."
"Captain, I really don't think that's necessary…"
"I'm sorry Detective; did I give the impression that was a suggestion?"
Olivia turned around, defeated, and walked out of the office. Good—one problem down. Now to go kick the other one in the ass…
Cragen stormed out of his office, only half-faking his anger. He saw Olivia grab her coat and walk out of the precinct, without a glance towards Elliott. Elliott, at his desk, watched her leave, then turned back to his report.
"Stabler, my office, NOW!"
Elliott looked up, grimacing. Great—the last thing he needed right now was to be chewed out by Cragen. He was still beating himself up over his words in the hospital. "I'm taken." How could he have been so stupid? Taken by what? The job that he and Liv shared? An insane desire to see the most depraved acts known to man perpetrated upon innocent kids?
He still remembered the fear he'd felt when Liv was slashed in the bus terminal. A paralyzing, shattering hole in his chest had opened as he saw what happened…Liv, shouting at the perp….the man slashing his knife across her neck…her blood spilling out on the floor…and right at that point, Elliott had frozen as the hole opened up. No…no…he couldn't lose her….no….and that second had been all the perp needed to grab both kids and run up the escalator. The next time he saw the little boy, his lifeblood was flowing out across the cement of the loading area.
He knew now it wasn't Olivia's fault. She'd done everything she could to keep the kids and the civilians safe. It was him. He'd frozen. He'd let his feelings for his partner get in the way of his job…and a little boy was dead. It could never happen again.
Sighing, Elliott stood up and strode towards Cragen's office. The sooner this was done, the sooner he could finish his report and go home…or possibly to Liv's, to talk. They needed to figure out what they were going to do about this situation.
Cragen sat down behind his desk as Stabler walked in and shut the door. "You wanted to see me, Captain?"
Cragen assessed Elliott, noting the more-intense-than-usual stare, the barely contained emotion. Well, this should shock him into some expression…
"Olivia just came to see me. She requested a new partner."
Stabler stumbled, his mouth opening slightly as shock registered on his face. "She what?"
"She requested a new partner. She said both of your personal feelings were interfering with your professional judgment."
Now impassive again, Elliott scowled. "Maybe she's right."
Cragen sighed. "Damn it Stabler, what the hell is wrong with you?"
Now THAT had an effect. "Sir?"
"I said, what the hell is wrong with you? Aren't you tired of this dance you and Olivia have been doing over the past few years?"
Clearly confused, Elliott said, "Yes sir, that's why we can't work together--"
"Shut up, Stabler. Now, you're going to listen to me and you're going to listen well. First and foremost, neither you nor Olivia did anything any cop wouldn't do for his partner."
"Captain, that's not true. We--"
"SHUT UP, STABLER!"
Elliott closed his mouth, waiting for Cragen to continue.
"Second, your…closeness with Detective Benson has made you both more effective as cops, not less. Third…are you blind! You have a beautiful, strong, intelligent woman in front of you every day, who clearly cares for you, and you've been pushing her away. Your kids know and love her, your friends know and love her, and your co-workers most definitely know and love her. She makes you a better cop, and maybe even more importantly, she makes you a better man. Have you never realized that before!"
"Yes," whispered Elliott.
"Then what the hell have you been doing all this time? No, don't answer that, I don't want to know. But here's what I do want you to do. I've given Olivia the rest of today and tomorrow off to think about her request for a new partner. For all that is holy, for the good of this precinct, and for all the future good you can do for the victims of sexual crime in this city, go to her. Talk to her, try to convince her that all your jacking off the past few years was to cover some kind of emotional insecurity and…here's the tough part….tell her how you feel! If you're lucky, she might just listen, and I won't have to split up the best two detectives in SVU."
Elliott said nothing, but just looked at Cragen. Then, almost before Cragen knew he'd done it, he turned around, grabbed his coat, and was out the door.
Cragen looked upwards. There was the second problem down; now, with any luck, all would work out the way he knew it should.