"El..."she whispered. He held tight to her blood-covered hand as they loaded her onto the ambulance. "I love you." And the door was closed. They wouldn't allow him to come along. She was so cold. Her hands were icy, and her lips were blue. Elliot would never forget howshe looked the last time he saw her. It was that last time he felt alive. He was told she'd died on the way to the hospital. Don had been the one to give Stabler the news. Fin and John just sat there, stunned. Elliot ended up breaking his hand when he punched the wall. Don had never seen a man so heart-broken.
Elliot went home to his ex-wife and children to deliver the news. His daughters, who'd come to like Olivia in the last 7 years, cried. Dickie comforted his twin as best he could. He wanted to be a man, like his father, and was a little frightened when he saw his father crying. The boy, along with his mother and sister, put their arms around him as he fell apart and sobbed openly.
SIX MONTHS LATER
Elliot opened his eyes and forced himself to read the head stone.
May 6, 1969 - November 2, 2006
Elliot forced his eyes away from reading the rest. He knew it by heart, and didn't want to relive it. He'd been the one to word the goddamn thing.
'I will risk everything, I will Fight, I will bleed.
I will lay down my life if that's what you need.
Every second I live, that's the promise I make.
That's what I'd Give, if that's what it takes.'
It was from her favorite song. She lived her life in those four lines. She lived for work, fighting the evil of New York. It was almost bittersweet that she'd died doing what she lived for. Elliot admired the love of his life. Just two weeks before she died, she'd told him she was in-love with him. She'd put in for a transfer when they had finally crossed the line between friends and lovers. Her last thoughts had been him. She needed him to know that she loved him, and had lived the best two weeks of her life in his arms.
There was no body. It had been her wishes, apparently, to be cremated and sent to her aunt in California. Elliot didn't know she had and aunt in California. What was below the head stone was a box filled with pictures, pins, memories of the woman so many people loved. Cragen and Elliot had taken it the hardest. Don thought of Liv as a daughter. He loved her as such. The man, as much as Elliot, was broken.
"Olivia," he said to the empty grave marker. "Liv, I miss you. I miss you so much. Why didn't you tell me that you were going to move a witness? It wasn't your job! You'd be alive if you'd only have told me, baby." Elliot wiped the tears from his cheeks. "I, um, I took up guitar under orders from Cragen. He threatened to fire me if I didn't have a hobby outside of work. It was too quiet at my apartment. Kathy keeps sending the kids over to the precinct to pick me up when she knows I have off, just to keep me company. She's been pretty good the last year." He took a deep breath before he put the fresh flowers down. "Olivia, I wish I could hold you just one more time. But I can't, so I'll settle for telling you I love you. I love you Liv." Elliot walked away from the marker. Don Cragen wasn't far away. He was watching Elliot very carefully.
"Come on. I'll buy you a cup of coffee." Elliot got into the older man's car in silence. Don waited a moment to clear his head. "Today's her birthday."
"She'd be 38. Jesus I didn't know she was so damn young."
"We feel old at 38, until someone we love dies at 37." Elliot nodded.
"She was just about a year younger than me. Next month." Don nodded and pulled out of the lot and headed towards Olivia's favorite coffee shop. "The guys meeting there?"
"Munch won't be coming. Fin will, Casey's coming. Kathy called to let me know she's bringing Maureen. Huang is in court."
"He's grieving privately." Elliot nodded. "I take it you want to go home as well." Elliot wiped the tears forming.
"This is her birthday. We're keeping the tradition. We've been going here for her birthday for 8 years. Just because she's gone doesn't mean we forget her!" He yelled. "You got that?" Don sighed. "I'm sorry," Elliot sighed, calming down. "I'm sorry, Cap. I didn't mean to yell."
"You're allowed to yell, Elliot. You're allowed to be pissed off. You loved her more than your own damn life." There was a long silence while Don contemplated his next thought. "Take a vacation. Since it happened, you've taken up roots at your desk. You sleep in the cribs every night. You haven't been home in 4 months! You even keep your guitar up there."
"Don, I can't go home. I tried. Its too quiet. Her clothes are still in my closet, a note left telling me she had a case she needed to work on alone, her perfume..." he said choking up. "My pillow. It smells like her shampoo. I tried, Don, I tried."
"Go be with your children. They need their father."
Olivia opened her eyes. She badded into the bathroom and looked in the mirror.
"Jesus, Liv, you look like crap. Nice hair, Birthday Girl," she said out loud. 'No, not Olivia. Kathryn Kingston. Kathryn Eliza Kingston. Oh, wait, that was last time. I'm Julia McCoy, and its not my birthday. I live in...I'm in Louisiana, and I teach preschool...no...daycare in a toddler class room,' she thought to herself.
"Hi," she said into the mirror. "I'm Julia McCoy. I'm supposed to start here today?" She made a face and stepped into the shower. The hot water ran over her, calming her nerves. The baby she was carrying gave her a swift kick to the ribs. "Relax, sweet heart. I'll eat after I shower. I hope to be out of this before you're born." The baby kicked again, eliciting a laugh from the woman carrying her.
Olivia toweled off, dressed and took a look around her new apartment. Hopefully she would remember everything this time, and not have to move again. Her first place, she introduced herself as Olivia Benson, and was gone the next day. The second placement; she witnessed a pursh snatcher, chased him down, and kicked ass, like a good cop. Good cop, bad Witness Protection Program participant. The last place, she'd been spotted by an old friend in Florida.
They decided that Baton Rouge, running over with people from New Orleans, was a good place to hide her. She lived two blocks from the new daycare she'd be working at. It was cute, and Liv was excited to be working with children, who weren't victims of some kind.
"Julia Kaitlyn McCoy. And I keep my past private," she told herself, gathering her purse, keys, and a lunch. The last thing she took was a picture of her and Elliot taken a few months before she was shot. "I hope you meet your daddy," she told her belly as she walked out.
Elliot was living in the cribs. The other officers had mostly abandoned the room as he slept there every night, and had gone as far as to bring his guitar, lap top, alarm clock, and other little nick nacks in. To the unit, it was Elliot's apartment. Today of all days, they steered clear of Stabler. Today had been her birthday. After coffee, the groups had gone in separate directions; they had cases to work on.
It was spring time, and warm out. Elliot remembered that she loved this time of year. She loved her birthday now. She'd hated it as a child, but he and the unit had gotten together to change that for her. It started small several years ago. He sent her flowers and they got coffee with Kathy and Maureen. The next year, Munch and Fin each sent her flowers, Elliot got her chocolate, and the four had coffee. By year three, it was marked on everyone's calenders. She'd come in to 10 bouquets of flowers, mounds of chocolate, and she'd have coffee at her favorite spot with Elliot, Fin, Munch, Alex, Cragen, Huang, and one time, even Kathy came to have coffee.
This year was not joyous like the previous years. They sat in near silence. The waiter smiled and made her way over, and asked when the birthday girl would be joining them. Only one person was able to speak.
"Livvie died six months ago," Fin said. He coudln't hold it together, and left then. "I don't feel like a coffee. See you guys at the precinct."
Elliot shook the memory from his head and picked up his guitar and played her song. No one could stand to hear it, but he needed it. It was his drug. It was how he remained close to her even now. As he played, someone could be heard thumping up the stairs.
"Stabler," Cragen said forcefully into the cribs. "Knock it off. I can't listen to that today." Elliot made no notice that Cragen was there except changing songs. The old man dropped onto the cot next to Elliot. "Some how, that isn't all that much better."
"Cap, I...something smells wrong with Liv's case. I just... I feel it."
"I know," Cragen said. "We've been looking into it, but everything just seems solid. The guy who did this hasn't made a move since the funeral." Elliot sighed and continued to play. "What's that?"
"Another one she liked. Its called 'Least Complicated.' My daughters liked this one, too. I remember, Liv stayed with them while I went to get dinner one night a few years back," Elliot said, smiling. "Kathy had to do some conference or something and I had all the kids. I had nothing in the fridge, so I went to get some take out. When I got home, the lady next door was just coming out to yell at them to turn it down. I went in there, and the four of them were dancing, singing all loud and off key. Funniest thing I've ever seen. Dickie was in his room, hiding his head in a pillow." Elliot laughed. "She loved the kids, you know?"
"Yeah, Stabler, I know." Cragen sighed. That was the first time Elliot had even cracked a smile in 6 months.
"She wanted kids."
"She was beautiful," Cragen said softly. "Like a daughter to me."
"How are you handling this, Don?" Elliot asked, finally seeing that Don wasn't nearly as together as he let on. "Anyone asked you that? How are you doing?"
"No," he admitted. "I've been better. I have good days and bad. Today wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, though."
"I thought by the end of the day, one of my detectives would have put a gun in his mouth. didn't know if it would have been you, John, or even me. I honestly didn't think I'd be sitting here, listening to you play her favorite music on your guitar, and laughing about a memory."
"I didn't think I'd ever be able to laugh about a memory of Olivia."
"Life must go on, Elliot."
"I know. Doesn't make it any easier, though."
"No...no it doesn't."
"Hey Marie," Liv said, flopping onto the couch in the staff room.
"You did good work today, Julia."
"I forgot how tiring a group of kids could be." The other woman laughed. "So, where's a good place to eat?"
"Across the parking lot. Nice little Chinese place." Olivia smiled. She and Elliot had eaten more Chinese food together than she cared to think about. "So," Marie asked. "When are you due?"
"Begining of August. Nora McKenna McCoy."
"Don't do that to that poor baby!" Liv laughed. She picked the name Nora McKenna because it worked well with Stabler. "Why that name?" Marie asked when Olivia looked down and smiled sadly.
"I like how it would go with her father's name," she said honestly. "But let's not get into that."
"That works. Must have food. Let's go, girl." The two walked out of the day care and towards the resuraunt. "What's his name?"
"I really think its a bad idea to talk about."
"Julia, you are a woman of mystery," Marie teased.
"You have no idea," Liv muttered under her breath. They were seated and ordered quickly. "So, what brought you into child care?"
"My daughter, Elizabeth, is in the after-school class room. We needed to make a little more money, and I wanted to still be around. Best logical choice. How about you?"
"I recently found myself staring in the mirror, alone, not sure of myself and who I was, and decided that I wanted to work at a place that I could bring my daughter in every day. I will see her whenever she needs me." Olivia was satisfied with her answer. It wasn't a lie.
"Its a good think. You are really good with your babies in that class room."
"I was a little bit scared of starting with a group of 1-year-old children. I'm used to being around much older kids. Her father has four kids who, when we met, were 5, 5, 12, and 15."
"How long ago was that?"
"8 years. They're all grown up now. Oldest two are in college. I miss them...I miss them so much, Marie."
"Men are scum."
"Not this guy."
"Why are you here alone then?" Liv failed to meet her eyes.
"Life just gets in the way sometimes."
"Hey, I have a vacation planned this fall. We're taking Elizabeth to visit my friends in New York. You should come with." Olivia wanted to go, but knew that there was no way she could. She wouldn't be able to hide in Witness Protection if she was visiting her old home; she'd probably be killed.
"I can't. But thanks for the invite."
Elliot looked around the apartment. Someone had cleaned it of food and garbage and covered thefurnature, but everything else was untouched. A layer of dust lay on everything almost an inch thick. He opened the curtains and there was now light. Liv's note was still on the counter. Her pictures were still in the halls. Elliot opened the window to let fresh air in.
"Dad? Where do you want the guitar?" Maureen asked, pulling the heavy accoustic into the apartment.
"Dickie, put the stand here, and Maur, it goes on the stand." He pulled the sheets off the couch. Lizzie and Kathleen started dusting. They avoided the note, remembering that their mother told them never to touch it. It was the last thing she'd given him, and he would move it when he was ready. "Its not too bad." He saw the bedroom door. Quickly, he closed it; not ready to look in there.
"I'll make the couch out for you, Elliot," Kathy said, sensing his sudden tension.
"No. I need to go back in there tonight, or I never will." She nodded and continued to help him resettle into his home. "Kathy," he said. "Thank you for...everything."
"You really loved her, didn't you?" she asked gently. He nodded. "I'm only going to ask once, and you don't have to answer, El. Were you...were you ever unfaithful with her when we were married?"
"Never," he said. For the first time, she believed him. "We'd only been together for a couple of weeks when..." Kathy only nodded.
Life was moving on for him. He fought it tooth and nail; he was home, and he was getting along with Kathy. Elliot wanted nothing more than to hold Liv, but now he was at least able to come home. Casey had talked him into moving back into his apartment. Don thought it was a good idea, and Huang promised to back off of him if he'd just go home for one night.
"El, I'm going to take the kids home," Kathy said after he'd been staring into space for a full ten minutes. He nodded and they were gone. He wasn't sure how long he'd sat on the couch, staring at a picture of himself with Olivia on the opposite wall. Or perhaps staring through it; he wasn't sure of that either. Suddenly, it was as if Cragen had just told him she'd died. For the first time in over 6 months, he felt something again that wasn't just numb.
"Oh, Liv," he whispered, looking up. "If you could have just told me. I'd rather have died with you than live without you."
"Wow, that is a great picture, Julia," Marie said, looking over. "She looks just like you."
"Those are her daddy's eyes. So, you leave for New York tomorrow?" Marie nodded. "I need you to give this to my father, Don Cragen, NYPD."
"Girl, your daddy lives out there, and you won't visit?" Liv turned her eyes away and filled the baby's new cubby in the infant room of the day care.
"Julia, you know, you scare me. Something terrible happened to you, it would help to talk about it."
"No, it wouldn't." For the first time, Olivia was able to meet her eyes. "It would only hurt me, my daughter, and my family."
"I'll give him the picture."
"Tell him that his daughter, Julia, thought he should have a picture of his Granddaughter. Don't speak to anyone except Elliot Stabler and Don Cragen." Olivia wrote the names on a slip of paper. "He's a detective in Manhatten SVU."
Several months had passed since he'd moved home. Elliot slowly made his way farther into his home; eventually sleeping in the bed. Kathy had bought new pillows and bedding; the old ones had smelled horrible, even after washing. It was a slow, difficult process for Elliot, but with his children, he was able to have something that resembled a life.
At work, he was slowly becoming himself again. He was playing safe. At first, he'd gone on virtual suicide missions. Now he was at the fragile state of playing it too safe. His current partner was more than annoyed, but kept it down. He'd only had the nerve to cross Elliot Stabler one time, and his nose, thankfully, healed. As did his jaw, left eye, and left wrist. The unlucky bastard had seen a picture of Liv in Casey's office. He started to say, "I'd love to bang that hottie right there." He'd gotten as far as the word 'bang,' when Elliot snapped. It had taken Cragen, Munch and Fin to pull Elliot off of his partner.
Cragen had almost sent Elliot on vacation. He decided that work would be better for Elliot.
Elliot went in to the office one day, and noticed how quiet the bull pen was as he enteres. He looked at his calnder. He knew today was November 2nd, but he'd prayed no one would talk to him about it. It was a day he would never forget. All he wanted to do was grab a file and leave. If there hadn't been a case, he'd have just gone to the cemetary. However, work had yet again invaded his life.
"I'm looking for Decetive Elliot Stabler," a woman said as she walked through the Bull pen. She had a southern accent, and was quite good looking. Munch gave Elliot a serious death glare as if Elliot was cheating on Olivia.
"New Girlfriend, Stabler," he said, angrily.
"Never seen her before in my life. Cool your jets, Munch."
"Are you Elliot?"
"Yes. Can I help you?"
"A friend of mine back home sent me to find you and Don Cragen. Can we talk? She said you would understand." Fin looked at Munch. Something was up.
"Hey, Cap. Can we talk in your office?" Don nodded and they followed him in.
"Are you Don Cragen?"
"Yes. Who are you?"
"My name is Marie. I'm on vacation with my husband and daughter. A friend of mine from work asked me to give you this." She handed him a picture. "Her name is Nora. I was told that I can talk only to you and Elliot Stabler. She said to tell Don Cragen that his daughter, Julia thought he should have a picture of his granddaughter, Nore." Don fell back into the seat. "She said to give you this picture, tell you and Elliot Stabler that this is your grand daughter, and nothing else."
"I need to know," Elliot said. "Is this Julia?" he asked, holding up a picture of the group from a few years ago. He pointed out Alex Cabot.
"No. That's not Julia. This is," she finished pointing to a picture of Liv. Elliot went ghostly white. "Her hair is a bit longer, but that's Julia right there. Nora looks just like her." Elliot took the picture from Don. There was a baby, probably only 2 or 3 months old, and she looked like Olivia, but with big blue eyes. Elliot's eyes. He studied the picture carfully, memorizing every feature. Then he saw Maureen's dimples, and Olivia's big smile. Nora had his eyes, and a head full of dark hair.
"Its Olivia. Its really her, Don," Elliot whispered. "She's alive."
"Breath Stabler. Just breath."
"Where do you work?"
"Don't answer that!" Don ordered.
"A daycare in Baton Rouge. Why?" The woman was getting scared. She'd had a bad feeling when she agreed to deliver the picture to Don. "Look, Julia said to give you the picture, and say nothing else. I probably already said too much."
"You have no idea the can of worms you just opened up. She was shot, and killed a year ago. We had a funeral, put up a head stone, and I was just starting to move on with my life." Elliot refused to take his eyes off the baby. "You just gave me back my life, Marie." Don ushered Marie out.
"I'm sorry, but I need to have a meeting with Detective Stabler. Thank you, Marie. You've helped us more than you can ever know."
"No problem," she said. Worry hit her hard as she left.
"I...she's alive, Don. They've gone too far. Witness protection!" he yelled. "THEY PUT HER IN WITNESS-"
"SHUT THE HELL UP, STABLER!" Marie was still close enough to hear. Julia wasn't who she said. She was in witness protection, and that explained so much about who she was, and why she never told anyone anything about her past.
"She wanted me to know I have a daughter, Don. I have to find her. It might cost me my life-"
"And endangered theirs. Don't think about going there, Elliot."
"I'll go undercover, or as myself. Either way, I'm going."
The plane landed in New Orleans, and Elliot was ready to be off. He'd reserved a hotel in Baton Rouge, rented a car, and gotten a list of every day care, preschool, and child care center in Baton Rouge. He would visit every one of them until he found her. The file he carried was about 3 inches thick. It had maps of the city, adresses, phone numbers, directions, and a new I.D. for himself. He was now John O'Brian. Cragen had issued him a new badge; he was still Detective, but he was Detective John O'Brian.
He stepped off the plane and looked around. As he followed the signs to baggage claim, he felt eyes watching him. A man was following him. Elliot froze up and waited to see if the man would pass.
"Sir," he said.
"Can I help you."
"I'm Officer Rick Miller. I need to check your coat." Elliot allowed a pat down. The man took Elliot's side-arm.
"My name is Detective John O'Brian. I'm here with a lead on a case. I'm just reaching for my badge." He moved his hand slowly. "NYPD."
"Sorry. Its my first week, and I saw the holster when you bent down." Elliot clapped him down on the shoulder. The young officer handed back the gun, witch was put back safely in its holster. People stopped only to stare for a moment.
"Sharp eye." He shook hands and went back on his mission; Find Liv.
The hotel was cool, and small. Elliot could see himself here for a week or two. He'd reserved it for three, in case he had to literally check every daycare in Baton Rouge; there were more than 500 listed. He set up his folder with its book marks. Region one would be covered today. It was on the outskirts, and very close to where he was staying. Not too many schools. He could cover them in about 5 hours. Seeing as it was 7:00 am, and he'd flown all night, there was no better time to get started.
He drove for a few minutes before coming to the first scool. He'd flashed his badge, showed a picture, but no Liv. The second one, he was a little more cautious. He asked for Julia, said he was an old friend, showed the badge. Seeing as he had no last name to go with, he'd decided to flash the badge, ask for Julia, and if needed, show the picture
After Day 6 of his search, he'd almost given up for the day, when he saw a little daycare that wasn't on his list. It was a block away from a police station, near a hospital, and close to his hotel. Instinct told him to try.
"Excuse me, I'm Detective John O'Brian, NYPD. I'm looking for a woman, about 38, named Julia." He flased his badge and took her picture out.
"Can you wait here please?" The woman asked.
"I'd rather stay with you. Its a matter of national security," he lied. The woman laughed lightly. She seemed like she could take a joke.
"You must know Julia well. She's making jokes like that all the time. Won't tell us anything about her past, even who her ex is." Elliot stared through the window into the class room. She had her back to the window. It was Her. It was really, honest to god, Olivia Benson, reading a book to a group of kids. "Julia, you have a visitor," she said, opening the door to the class room. Elliot took a breath and looked in. She turned, big smile on her face. Liv gasped when she saw him. She stood and nearly ran to him.
"El," she whispered.
"Its you," he said hugging her tightly. "Oh God, they told me...they...funeral...oh God Olivia." He was crying again. The director of the center was confused. "You're alive, my Liv."
"I've missed you so much, Elliot. I wanted to call you so badly. I take it Marie came through?" He just nodded.
"Olivia?" Liv turned sharply at the woman. "Julia, do need the afternoon off?"
"That'd be good. I need to speak with you in your office."
"And you can not tell anyone that you know my name. Its very important. Please." The woman nodded, now thinking that the national security wasn't a joke any more.
"Lanna will be in to take over your class room in a few minutes." Moments after she left, another teacher came in to take the class room over. Olivia handed her a clip board, gave her a few details on the kids and lead Elliot out of the room, not letting go of his hand. "Close the door."
"We may not be able to come back after I tell you this."
"Then don't tell me."
"I have to."
"Then tell me."
"My name is Olivia Benson. I'm a Detective with the NYPD Special Victims unit. One year and two weeks ago, I was shot moving a witness, and was put into witness protection program. He," she said pointing to Elliot. "Was my partner. I'd just put in for a transfer to another unit because he and I became romanitcally involved. This is Elliot Stabler, my partner, best friend, boyfriend, and Nora's father."
"He flashed a badge that said John O'Brian."
"They told everyone back in my unit that I was dead. I managed to get a message out through Marie to them, with a picture of Nora. I needed Elliot to know I was safe, and he had a daughter."
"Four daughters, actually," he filled in. Liv laughed. Elliot felt mist in his eyes. He'd missed her laugh so much. He could imagine it all night, but to hear it was pure joy in his heart.
"Julia...sorry...Olivia, you look like the two of you have a love that goes to the ends of the Earth. If you need to leave, and go hide someplace different, then go. When you are done hiding, come back and visit." She stood and hugged the woman. "Go meet your daughter," she told Elliot. "She's wonderful."
Liv buckled the carseat into the rental car and climbed into the driver's side. Elliot slid in next to the baby. He smiled at her, tickled her feet, cooed at her. Liv just listened, happy he was there. She was quiet and let the two bond. As soon as the baby fell asleep, he stared at her.
"Liv," he whispered. "This last year has been hell."
"What did they tell you?"
"You were dead. We had a funeral. We buried a lot of memories; Pictures, trinkets. Maureen put a CD in there with a letter to you. Kathy really helped me through this last year. I almost joined you." Liv frowned, and wiped her eyes. He stroked her hand that had reached back to take his. He closed his eyes tightly, trying to block a memory.
"Hold on, Livvie. Don't die on me. I just got you." He tried to sooth her and talk her in to living.
"Stay with me, El."
"I'm here, babe. I'm not letting go now. I love you." Her hands were so cold.
"I'm so sorry El. I did what I had to do, and I didn't want to bring you down with me."
"Don't be sorry. You had no choice, Liv." He stared at her for a long time while she drove. "You look really nice. I love the long hair," he said, running his fingers through it. He smelled her shampoo and perfume. He closed his eyes. The last time he'd smelled it so strong was the day after her funeral.
The apartment was cold and lonely. He turned on every light in an attempt to fill it with something. Olivia was everywhere The note, her running shoes, her coat. It was like she lived there. He laid on the couch, and the pictured over the years haunted him. He went to his kids' rooms. They, too, reminded him of her; she helped the kids with homework, talked to the girls when they needed a woman to talk to, she went as far as to tell Dickie how women liked to be treated. The guest room had her treadmill in it, and some of her things that she hadn't yet moved into his room.
He gave up and laid on his bed. This was the worst. She'd made love to him after her morning shower before she left that day. It smelled like her perfume and shampoo. There was a hint of her shower gel, hair spray. It was Liv's home now, and he couldn't stay there. He grabbed his duffle and hauled his clothes from the drawer into the bag.
He didn't bother to lock the place. He didn't care anymore. He didn't care to live any more.
"Elliot?" she asked, voice full of concern. "Are you okay?"
"Fine. I was just thinking back to the last time I smelled that...that mix of perfume and shower gel."
"When I tackled you one last time before work?" she asked slyly.
"No, Liv. The day after your funeral." She frowned. "Don't worry about it, Liv. I'm just so happy to see you, Babe."
"This is where I live," she said, pulling into a neighborhood. There was an old apaprtment complex. It looked like there were 6 apartments per building, and they were spread out. It was beautiful. "I'm on the bottom floor." Elliot pulled the car seat out and followed her in. The apartment didn't look like anything she'd pick out. The colors were wrong, there were pictured of strangers who had the same hair color as Liv, and that's about it. "I like it," she confirmed when she saw his face.
"Its...wrong. I'd have gone with sage greens and a few little hints of lavender here or there. The whole place is fem. You aren't...fem. You're strong, and this apartment doesn't scream, I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR!" Olivia laughed and snuggled into his chest. "God I missed you." He held her tightly until his cell phone rang. "Stabler," he said into the phone. "Hey Cap. How is everything?" Liv broke into a big smile. "Did you take care of the infestation?" There was quiet. "Good." He thrust the phone into Olivia's hand.
"Hi Dad, Its Julia."
"Oh, God, O...Julia. How are you?" He was crying. He didn't think Elliot would find her so quickly.
"Great. Can't wait to come visit," she said softly. "Can you tell the boys I say hello?"
"You know I can't. I'm sorry. Give the baby a kiss for me." He hung up the phone, and Liv smiled through tears.
"I want this to be over, Elliot."
"We're close. Munch finally got a lead three weeks ago. Don said he'd call me-shit!" He fumbled with his cell phone. "Cap, did you catch them?"
"No. Munch's lead hit a dead end, and may have stirred up some trouble. I was calling to tell you to come home. They're going to move Liv again."
"I'm going with her, Don. Tell Kathy the truth for me?"
"I'll tell her you are alive, and that you are safe. No more."
"Sounds great, and I see people at the door." There was a knock. Elliot hung up the phone and listened. There was a code in the knock. He could tell, even as subtle as it was.
"Julia, its Maya. Can I come in?"
"Maya whata nice day it is." Live unlocked the dead bolt, and the woman entered. "Who the hell is he?"
"Elliot Stabler, NYPD." Maya went white. Olivia hadn't considered Maya to be an easily rattled person, but this most certainly rattled the young woamn who was trying to protect Liv.
"Olivia," she hissed. "I'm under orders to move you and Nora. Not Elliot. He's supposed to be in New York-" Elliot sighed as they argued. "Mitchell's found you. Your work was shot up. The director was shot in the knee. She swore she had no idea who you were. You need to pack. And he needs to go back to New York and pretend that you are dead, Olivia. I can not BELIEVE you did this!" The last line was aimed at Elliot. "If you hadn't found her, we wouldn't need to move her, again."
"I contacted him."
"You what? Do you have a death wish?"
"I wasn't going to let him stand alone and cry over my grave any longer." Liv turned to pack a fresh diaper bag for her daughter. Elliot followed and helped. Maya stood in the middle of the living room, waiting, watching. Elliot had found her. Who else could have found her? The others were watching the street. No one was coming in on this one. Maya had her gun drawn the instant there was a knock on the door. Someone had been allowed through. No one was suppposed to be allowed in.
"Pizza is here," a voice said. Liv looked into the hall, frightened. She shook her head. They hadn't ordered any pizza. Maya knew the frightened look on Liv's face. She'd seen it every move they made.
"I didn't order pizza," Maya responded.
"Too bad," he said forcefully, kicking the door in. Elliot shoved Liv back into the bedroom and grabbed Nora's car seat. He handed the baby over and drew his gun. Maya was in the middle of shots being fired. Elliot saw she wasn't hit, and managed to duck. He caught off one lucky shot in the man's chest before following Liv out the window. A marshel was waiting off to the side, and put the small family into his car.
"We're fine! Drive!"
"We'll have new identities for you in one hour."
"Do you have to change the baby's name?"
"I'm afraid so." Olivia hung her head. "I've heard of people in the program using a nickname so not to confuse the little tyke. You know, Princess, Monkey, something like that."
"I can't call her Princess; That was Kathleen's nick name."
"I'm sorry you have to sacrifice one family for another, El." He kissed her forehead.
"I want to be with you. Kathy and the kids will understand when this is over with, Liv. Kathy's engaged now, Maureen and Kathleen are both busy with college. Lizzie and Dickie are happy with Kathy and Michael. She's got someone; you got me."
Cragen rubbed the bridge of his nose. He hate, hated making stops like this. Kathy would be serving dinner to his children, and he was under orders not to tell them Elliot's location. He could see her through the window; she looked happy with her fiance. He sighed heavily and knocked on the door.
"Don, come on in!" He smiled warmly. "What's going on?"
"We need to talk in private." The kids went up the stairs and Don lead Kathy into the office. At one time, it had been Elliot's home station; there had been files, cases he was working on. Now, this had become Dickie's computer room. Kathy shook nervously. Ever since Elliot became a cop, she waited for this visit. The visit where she found out her husband was dead.
"What's going on? Is Elliot all right." Don paused, thinking of the best way to tell Kathy that she may never see Elliot again.
"Olivia and Elliot have a message for you," he said softly. Kathy froze. Olivia was dead, and now she assumed her ex-husband, the father of her children was as well. "He's fine. Liv is alive and in WPP. We just found out last week that she's alive, and Elliot told me he needed a vaction to process this information. I didn't know," he said. Don took a deep breath. "I didn't think he'd find her. I let him go undercover to look for her. I didn't think he'd actually find her."
"Elliot found Liv." Kasthy just stared. "He went and found her. How much does this complicate things?" Don showed her a picture of Nora. "Oh my God," she whispered. "Did Elliot know when Liv died...left...you know. Did he know she was pregnant?"
"No one did. Listen, Elliot finding her changed a lot. All I've been told is they are safe, and they are alive. You can not share this information with anyone. As far as the world is concerned, Liv Benson died a year ago, and Elliot took off because he couldn't handle the loss of his partner." Kathy nodded in shock. Elliot was gone. She wanted to cry and scream, but nothing came out of her mouth. "Tell the kids he's he's soul searching for a while. He was in-love with her, Kathy. Its believable."
"Katie?" the man called. "Where is Ella's pacifier?"
"Diaper bag," came a response from the group of people. The back porch was full of new friends, most with children. The men were hanging around the grill, laughing, joking. Elliot and a few other fathers, gathered around inside with the small infants. Nora was very content to sit with her father. Olivia handed him the diaper bag.
"Thanks, babe," he said. "Oh, Kate?"
"Love you," he said.
"You, too, Michael." She planted a kiss on her boyfriend's head. They were now Micheal and Kathleen Randson, and they had a baby girl named Ella. Elliot couldn't bring himself to call her Kathleen. It was almost a cruel joke they'd played on him; punishment for finding Olivia. They named her after one of his kids, the sick sons of bitches. He shook the thought from his head and dug for the pacifier.
"Here you go, Squishy."
"I never hear you call her by her name."
"I like pet names. Its special between us. I prefer everyone call her by a pet name. I call her Squishy. Kate calls her Love. You guys called her Monkey." The men laughed. "How's it going, there?" he asked the baby. "Is that what you wanted, honey? I thought so."
"You seem to have taken to fatherhood well."
"I have 4-"
"Neices and nephews," Olivia jumped in. Elliot almost said kids. "They're in college now, but he was there from the begining. Babies are far from new to him." Liv rested a hand on his shoulder. "We need to get home soon, Mike, She's going to need a nap." Elliot nodded and carefully positioned the baby into her car seat and set it onto the stroller.
"See you later guys."
"Poker night is tomorrow. Are you sure you don't want to join?" Elliot shook his head.
"Nah. We just moved in yesterday, and before that, I hadn't had much time with my family." Olivia smiled at him and they left. She pushed the stroller down the path to the sidewalk.
"You could play poker. We'll be fine home alone," she told him, leaning into his chest as they walked. An arm slinked around her waist.
"I've spent a full year missing you, needing to hold you, and trying to make the pain stop, just like you have," he told her gently. "I'm not ready to let go yet."
"I'm too old to do this, Don," Munch said. His voice was full of defeat. He felt older than he looked, and looked older than he was. "I've lost partners, friends, wives...I can't do it anymore. Olivia's death has affected my work. Elliot just took off. I can't deal with this anymore."
"I understand, John. I just want you to think about what Olivia would want you to do."
"She'd want me to avenge her death." Don nodded, knowing that they were close to an answer. "I'll stay as long as there is a reason. As soon as her case is closed, I'm gone." John turned and left. He'd become a robot since Elliot left, even more so than when Olivia 'died.' He hated keeping them in the dark, but telling them could endanger them farther.
"John, wait," he said. Don planned on telling him. He needed to help John, and take a bit of the pain away that invaded his life. "If you need to talk, my door is always open." He couldn't do it.
"I have a lead I need to check in to. I'm getting closer, Don. Mitchells was working for a man named Sebastian. All I can guess-" An idea struck John Munch. "I know who it is."
"Jonathan Carrington. Jesus, he hardly shed a tear at his own daughter's funeral when she and Olivia were shot. JESUS Why didn't I see it?" John ran to his desk to grab the files. He made his way into an empty room, and rearranged the evidence, moved pictures about, and started writing on the chalk board. "Don't you see it?"
"How the hell could we have missed it?"
"Olivia would have gotten it," John said very simply.
"I'll make the calls, get Casey to issue a warrent, and get S.W.A.T. over there." Cragen let a sigh out.
It was 11:00 at night when they were woken up, the second night as Annika and Joe. It had been almost 4 months since the shooting, and they'd been moved several times; each time it was because of a lead and fear that one lead may go into a leak in the system. Elliot sighed and went to the door. He listened and there was the signal.
"Do you re-"
"Mitchells is dead, thanks to you. And as he died, he told us who was behind it all. That witness Olivia was moving? It was Carrington's daughter. Olivia had put Carrington away for rape, but he was cut free on a technicality. Thanks to your little stunt, you flushed them out of hiding, and its over." She smiled at him. "John Munch was able to find little holes here and there in the case, fill them in with what Mitchells said before he died. They went to arrest Carrington, there was gun fire, and Carrington is dead. I know its been a few months and a few moves, but its over this time. Its actually really over."
"You and Olivia can go back home now. You can take the next flight out if you like." Elliot nodded and let the officer out and jogged up the stairs of their Idaho home.
"Olivia!" He called, excitedly. "Oh, Miss Benson, question for you?" Liv jumped as he yelled through the house. "My question is, Olivia, would you like to go home?"
"You'll wake Claire-" He jumped onto the bed, landing right next to her, and planted a long sensual kiss on her jaw.
"Nora." He loved his daughter Nora. Claire was not his baby's name, and it didn't fit her personality. She was Nora McKenna Stabler. "Nora Stabler."
"Its over, Olivia! We're going home. When they were bringing Mitchells after the shooting, he cracked.. He told them who he was working for. Munch was able to find a few leads, and it lead up to Carrington. Carrington who is dead after a shoot out. You're safe, babe." He lifted her into his arms and kissed her. "Let's go. Right now."
"What about our stuff-."
"Leave it. Just get dressed, get Nora, and let's go home, Liv." He threw on a pair of jeans, clean socks, and his jean jacket over his white T Shirt. "I'll get the diaper bag, the drooling Princess, and we'll go home." Liv took him in her arms again and kissed him deeply. "Its over. You get to go back to being the love of my life, not an empty grave I visit every day," he said, eyes filling with tears. "We'll get our lives back, Olivia. I get my kids. Maureen, Kathleen, Lizzie and Dickie get to meet their little sister, Nora." He was happy to just say his children's names out loud at this point.
"Its been a long 4 months for you, hasn't it."
"Oh Jesus, Liv, yes, but I would do it again in a heart beat. I'd rather spend four months with you and my baby girl than beating up criminals for answers. My kids will understand." He hoped they would. Either way, he had Liv back, and that was the important thing now.
Olivia walked through the squad room at 11:30 the next morning, Nora sleeping in her stroller. Nothing had changed. Everyone looked older, a bit more worn than before, and no one noticed her. She just stood back and watched her friends file papers, reading, and listened to them talk sadly about Elliot. John looked up from his desk finally.
"Hey, John," she said, smiling. The room was still. Elliot placed a hand on the small of her back and lead her through the room slowly. John and Fin could only stare. John stood finally, and his arms were wrapped tightly around her. "I am so sorry that you had to go through this, John," she said, hugging him.
"I...You're alive." John choked back the tears that threatened to spill over. "Its Alex all over again." He gathered himself anf looked into the stroller at the sleeping baby. "And who is this?"
"This is Nora McKenna Stabler. My 7-month-old daughter." Fin smiled and nodded. He pulled Liv into a tight hug.
"Welcome back, Girl. Missed the hell out of you. Go see Cap." She smiled and headed into Cragen's office.
"Can I come in, Captain?" Don's head shot up.
"Yeah." Cragen gave her a hug, a kiss on the cheek and then proceeded to tear her a new one.
"Olivia Benson, don't you ever move a witness without back up. Do you know what you did to us? Do you have any idea how much we hurt because you were dead to us?" He turned his head away. "You're like a daughter to me. They told me you were dead, Liv. I...I couldn'tthink straight. Elliot almost died. Munch is damn near there with grief. We loved you so much. We all died with you that day." He sighed and hugged her close again. "Don't leave us again, Liv. We love you."
Elliot drove in silence with Olivia next to him, grinning. He would finally see his children. It had been so long, and he had no idea if they were even told he and Liv were alive. Kathy hadn't ever liked Olivia, but had come to tolerate her before everything happened. Kathy had come to an understanding with her ex-husband, and knew that he'd been faithful. She was wrong, and regretted the horrible things she's thought about the two of them over the years.
"Go see your kids. I'll get Nora."
"Hey, Dickie, toss it here," Elliot called climbing out of the car. Dickie stopped in his tracks and dropped the football.
"Mom! Mom, get out here!" Maureen yelled into the house before running down to Elliot. Kathleen and Lizzie were first to have arms around thir father.
"Dad," Dickie called. Elliot smiled and gathered his children in his arms. "You're back," the boy whispered. He'd gotten a full inch taller in the last four months. "Where the hell were you?"
"Oh, here and there. Guys, I want you to meet someone. Olivia," he said, calling his fiance over. "This is your baby sister, Nora.
"You're alive?" Maureen asked. "Olivia! I can't believe it, you're alive," she said, hugging the woman tightly. Kathy finally made it to the front yard. She stood back and watched her children greet their father, and meet their baby sister.
"Olivia," she called finally. Liv looked up. Kathy smiled down kindly. "Its good to have you back. Why don't you three join us for dinner?"
"That sounds great," Elliot said, seeing Liv smile in agreement.
"Welcome home, El," she said before heading in.
It was weird, looking at one's own head stone. Elliot did a nice job. It was beautiful, and had my favorite song. He said he chose that because it was how I lived my life, and how I died. Kathy and the kids joined us today; one year, and 6 months after I 'died' to have it taken down. Fittingly, its my birthday. I get my life back, and take away the grave marker on my birthday. This whole oreal is over with. My husband says it was the worst year of his life, but if he had it to do over, knowing the end results; married to me, a beautiful daughter, and a baby on the way, he'd go through it all again. It was in my death he discovered what life was about.
Don said it very well when he told Elliot that 38 is old, until someone you love dies at 37. Elliot and I left SVU and went on to safer venues. He works in Computer crimes, and I teach at Nora's daycare. Life is a lot more relaxed now. Elliot occasionally gets a call to go in at 2:00, but its not nearly as much as when we were SVU.
"Are you ready to knock it down?" Elliot asked me.
"Yeah. I want the world to know that I live."