Because

She was sitting at his desk, looking at the family portrait he still kept there, a reminder of happier times. Suddenly, he wondered if they were only happier for him. How long had she been miserable before he noticed?

She was still so beautiful she took his breath away, even though that horrible dark blue dress didn't do her any favors. He led her into a conference room where they could have some privacy. The door hadn't yet closed and they were arguing about Kathleen's asshole boyfriend.

He told her he did what he had to do and turned his back on her.

"Well, that's refreshing."

Her snide tone told him he was fighting the wrong battle. Kathleen was just a cover. Kathy was here about something else entirely.

"Ok, wh-, what is this? If you've got something to say, just say it."

At first she couldn't look at him.

"Why haven't you signed the divorce papers? It's been months, Elliot."

When she met his gaze, he found he couldn't look at her. When he heard the hurt in her voice, saw it in her eyes, he felt ashamed. He'd never meant to cause her more pain. This was hard enough for both of them.

"You won't talk to me. You won't talk to my lawyer."

He felt like a kid being lectured for not doing his homework.

"The kids are asking if we're getting back together. I've run out of things to say."

He'd sooner cut off his right arm than hurt his children, but it was much more complicated than that. He looked into her eyes for a moment, but the pain that he saw there wounded him so deeply he had to look away. He stared at the floor, glanced back up to her, back at the floor. Eye contact was impossible as he searched for words.

Words, or the lack of them, had always been his problem. He either didn't have the words to express what he felt, or he didn't have the courage to say them aloud.

"What do you want?"

"An answer."

Because I'm not ready to admit defeat. I'm not ready to give up.

Because I remember our wedding day. You were so beautiful in your white satin gown with the beads and embroidery and your long, white, lacy veil. You looked like an angel. We may have got one over on your parents and the priest, but not on God. We both felt so guilty about getting pregnant before getting married that we confessed before taking communion the very next Sunday. Then we felt so guilty about breaking our pact to keep it forever a secret that we confessed our confessions to each other. Man did we feel stupid!

Because I still have all the letters you ever sent me. Messages about how bored we were in algebra and history and whether we were going out for pizza after the football game on Friday. Adolescent missives passed through friends between classes when we were still in high school. One hundred and sixty-three letters to PFC Elliot M. Stabler, USMC, 7th Regiment, APO NY, detailing the first four years of our marriage, years I had to spend away from you. Scraps of paper slipped into my lunch bag when you packed me bologna sandwiches, crackers and peanut butter, and raw carrots five days a week because on a rookie's salary with two kids and a mortgage I couldn't afford to buy a hotdog from street vendor. Birthday, anniversary, and Christmas cards. Valentines. Love letters and grocery lists and goofy little notes you would hide in my coat pockets just to give me an unexpected smile. Not long before you left, I was thinking that I'd have to get a bigger box to keep them in.

Because when I retire, I want to refinish those two old rocking chairs I bought at the flea market and build a roof over the porch so we can sit outside on warm summer evenings and watch our grandchildren play with the neighborhood kids when they come to spend the night.

Because I got this tattoo on my arm to remind me that I will gladly sacrifice anything for you, just tell me what you want, Goddamnit! Blood? Fine! I'll open a vein right here. My warm, still beating heart in your hands? You'll need a bigger knife, but you can have it. My head? My balls? Take them! You can chop me up in little pieces, burn them, and grind them to dust. I couldn't care less. Every atom of my being belongs to you, always has, always will, and you can't give it back.

Because it still hurts every time I see you, hear your name, smell your perfume, think of you. And I think of you all the time.

Because I am dying by inches without you. I am a walking shell, a breathing corpse, a phantom, a ghost, a hole in the world, a void. Without you, I have no reason to exist. The wind could blow me away. I could disappear in a puff of smoke. I could fade to black or turn into glass and shatter.

Because our family is the only thing I ever got right in my life and I still don't know how I screwed it up so bad.

Because when you went away, hell came in and filled up all the empty spaces you left in my life.

He glanced over to the door and thought about running away.

He looked her in the eye, shrugged, and said, "I don't know."

For a moment he thought she might cry, then her face hardened.

"Well, I guess that's an answer."

She gathered her things.

"Call your daughter."

And she walked out on him again.

He felt like such a coward.


Disclaimer:
None of the characters in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit belong to me. They just inspire me. This story has been written for entertainment purposes, not for profit. PLEASE REVIEW.