A/N: I guess I was having withdraws from the story. Anyway, this is the fifth story to follow the Redeeming Olivia series. Read those first or this will make about as much since as NBC not renewing MH's contract. Happy Readings. Oh, yeah, Santa never brought me the rights to the story so, alas, I'm somehow required to tell you that I don't own them. Nor am I a cop, lawyer, doctor, attorney or anything else. The story is 98 A/U. Always has been. Happy Reading.
Chapter 1: Letting Go
The sun hadn't yet rose sending its August rays into their bedroom to usher them into the morning. The fact of the matter was that as soon as Elliot's eyes opened in the mornings his bones sent the signal to his brain that he was aching. Even after the time that had passed, even after the intense physical therapy and the two more surgeries performed on his body, the pain was usually relentless… until he rolled over.
As if everything, every ache, every searing pain and sleepless night could be instantly soothed by the woman next to him-it was. Immediately. He laid there, in the cool of their sheets, his smile growing larger in the pale illumination of their room as he took in his wife as she slept. Peaceful. Content. Naked. Next to him.
The fact that Olivia hadn't killed him yet or taken their children and cast him away made him fall helplessly and hopelessly in love with her each and every day of every year that they had been together. He watched her as she continued her slumber, her left hand positioned without care or finesse just over her perfect breast. The ring he'd slipped on her finger so many years ago as she lay asleep in a hospital bed, still very much present and making its self known by dancing with even the tiniest amount of light that could be found in the room.
He loved that ring. Loved that she wore it. Hated that she took it off, if only for awhile to wash her hair while she showered. She'd explained to him that after getting back into shape she'd taken it a step further and completely committed herself to being healthy and not just because they were the owners a gym that in it's first year almost failed miserably, but was somehow, by the grace of God saved and not just saved where they were barely making ends meet, saved so that they were prospering and preparing negotiations for an expansion, but for him, for their family.
She'd stepped up her health alright; her body was more amazing than he'd ever remembered. There was virtually no indication of her having bore him three amazing children, save Isaac's handprints that were tattooed to her flesh, a reminder of a time when he'd been so ruthlessly stolen from them, a time when he and Olivia had separated to save one another. Him from his drinking, her from herself. And then there was the C-section scar that he loved to trace as she slept next to him. Loved to remember the first time he looked at Isaac. The first time he held Hannah when she opted for a stubborn arrival while her brother Solomon decided to make Olivia go through a natural birth in order to see him.
And because she was so brilliantly sexy, not that she wasn't before mind you, but today she is incredible next to him and because she is incredible, because her body is as toned as it ever has been and she's simply smaller… her ring doesn't fit her correctly and so it bothers him when she takes it off to wash her hair.
It bothers him when she takes the ring off.
It bothers him because he remembers a time when she knelt in front of him as he sat in a wheel chair and she was willing to give the ring back. To leave and never look behind her. To ruin him.
If only to save him.
He can remember shattering in that split second and suddenly rebuilding the very instant he slipped the ring back on her finger… and she didn't fight it. They're journey to be where they were today, in that bed together as friends, lovers and parents had been excruciatingly long and to the average observer-impossible.
But the average observer didn't have their faith, didn't have their overwhelming passion and desire to be with one another, didn't have their circle of friends that stood next to them through everything, and while their friends occasionally took sides, they always provided a safe landing for he and his wife. More importantly, the average observer didn't have one key factor.
Samuel Elliot Wilson Stabler.
A little boy who insisted on four names. A little boy who, at the tender age of nine turned into a superhero and saved his brothers and sister from Richard White's attack. A little boy who tried so desperately to help his father, only to feel as if he'd failed.
A little boy who bounced back.
Elliot smiled to himself, pulled the sheet just a little lower over his wife's tanned skin and kissed the scar on her chest that Sam had accidentally given her in a fit of sheer terror as he'd tried to stab himself in their kitchen. Olivia had saved him. And that is what their family has been about. Saving each other. Laughing with one another and enjoying one another.
And yet, as the sun struggles to make it's self known through the trees that surround their county home, and as Olivia snuggles her sleeping body closer to him, humming her satisfaction of his skin against hers, there is still one thing, one asinine thing that, when the house is quiet, when his youngest child passes a stage in her life he'll never witness again, it gnaws at him. It festers and it rots so deep within him he feels it could be cancerous. It spreads through him in waves, never the small gentle ones that make the beach sexy and alluring. It's a tsunami of emotion and pent up rage and comes out of nowhere and culminates into a disaster once it hits.
Because it always hits the same beach.
It's not her fault that he can't get her pregnant again. It's not. He's dealt with that in the countless hours at Vivian's office. It is absolutely not her fault yet you'd never know it the way he attacks her from nowhere and what amazes him most, is that she is not only capable of weathering his unpredictable storm. She is willing. She is willing to let him release his rage and bitterness because she knows it has nothing to do with her per se. She knows that Richard White stole from him the profound ability to make life. To make life with her. Again. And that is where his torment is rooted.
She is quiet. Never barking back, but equally enraged and hurt he is sure, even though she will never admit it to him. She'll never tell him she wants another baby now. She'll never admit that as soon as their youngest babies had begun to draw in crayon on their walls, she wanted and longed to have another baby with him. She'd softened the blow, told him she was happy with their babies that they had and that being owners of a business now, they simply didn't have time.
They had time. No matter how demanding Olivia's job to maintain the finances of a growing company or rear three boys and a little girl that mirrored Olivia in every possible aspect… they'd make time.
If he could get her pregnant.
Which he couldn't.
Which festered and continued to rot within him.
And the only thing that hurts him more than knowing he'll never see her pregnant again, is seeing the longing in her eyes when she hold's Carp and Aimee's two-week old son, Soarin. Or the sound of her heart cracking when Isaac asked her for another little brother and Solomon second the motion while Sam enthusiastically provided his approval.
Those are the things that make his rage build. The fact that his family wants. The fact that he can't give.
The sun has crept it's way higher into the morning sky, highlighting Olivia's face with it's rays and in spite of the rage that still occasionally builds, she has all the power in the world to sooth the ache that is not just in his bones, but in his soul.
And it's in the quietness of the morning, when the anger stalks him that he silently thanks God that He blessed him with her.
He allows his eyes to adjust on the red numbers of the alarm clock, and while he wants nothing more than to gently wrap her leg around his waist and slip into her body just as he'd done when she'd come in the middle of the night after an incredibly long and drawn out mishap at the gym, as much as he wanted to feel the strength of her body against his he also knew that today would tax her system and she needed her rest.
He stretched delicately across her body and turned the alarm clock off, slowly resuming his previous position of looking at her. Analyzing and inspecting, looking for something that could tell him why in the world she chose to stay with him. To love him. To sleep next to him.
To adore him.
With everything she has within her.
"I can hear you thinking," Olivia said through a layer of grogginess as she snuggled even closer to him. "Go back to sleep. You're not allowed to think before six."
He smiled in guilt, knowing he'd been caught staring at her. Again. He caressed her cheek, kissed the corner of her mouth softly, "Get your rest, I'm gonna take care of a few things… I love you, Liv."
It was lazy, but her smile was sexy.
He slipped out of the bed, to which she protested but soon fell back asleep against his pillow as he donned his boxers and began to walk away.
"You forgettin' something?" she muttered into the pillow.
"Believe me," he smiled and bent low to kiss her cheek again, "I want to make love to you again, but my body is being extra difficult this morning."
She smiled softly, "I wore you out?"
"Yeah… your thighs are stronger than mine. I'm sure of it," he smiled and kissed her again.
"Good to know you want me," she muttered sleepily then added, "I was talking about your cane by the way."
He groaned, "Not using it."
"Fine," she curled up tighter to the pillow, "that was just a friendly reminder. Don't fall again, Elliot. You're a sac of bricks to pick up," she smiled again, "I'm going back to sleep."
He smirked, kissed her again and sneakily passed his thumb over her nipple. Her eyes shot open instantly and her mouth fell open in shock just as soon as he withdrew his touch, and smugly took his cane from the wall, twirled it in his hand and walked away, "Sleep taut-I mean tight."
"Messed up," she groaned and huffed as she plumped the pillow and let herself drift away. The sensation of his hand over her skin providing her with a pleasant companion to much needed sleep.
Don't fall again. Elliot scoffed and eyed his cane as he hung it on the counter's edge. He'd fallen. Hard. In fact, it had resulted in a complete shut down of his system. A flashback that sent him careening out of control. As if it were some sick encounter with deja vue, Olivia had been at work, meeting with marketing specialist to promote their business. Isaac and the babies were down for the count. Sam was at the movies with Crystal and her parents.
He had stumbled and fallen down the steps to their porch, his ACL tearing savagely just before his head hit the ground and for a moment; before everything went black he'd wondered if Richard White would be there again to take care of what he'd originally started.
He'd woken up to a frantic Olivia and from the sting on his cheek as she cried over his body he'd determined that she'd slapped him into reality. Sam had been frantic, apparently stumbling upon him as he walked up the pathway from the gate. Crystal's parents had always dropped him off at the gate. He was independent. But when Elliot's eyes focused on Sam, he was frantic and afraid and the weeks that had followed that night were cruel to the family.
Elliot was chastised by his doctor's for not using his cane, which resulted in his further injuring his knee beyond proper repair. Olivia dealt with his wrath. Sam became absolutely paranoid that Richard White was still coming for them. That his father would die.
Irritated with his memories, Elliot snatched his cane from the counter made his way to the coffee maker engaging it before completing his morning routine. He crept as quietly as possible into what was once a nursery, now a simple room that Solomon and Hannah shared and while Elliot didn't mind that his two three-year-olds shared a room.
It made Olivia nervous. Insanely nervous.
Not that she didn't have the confidence that she and Elliot were raising their boys correctly, but… what if? Her justification, her argument had been nature, his had been nurture, but her constant middle of the night checks on that one specific room, her constant questioning and pleading with Elliot to convert the office into another room or move Solomon into the boys' room was always evident and he understood exactly why.
She still didn't trust her genes.
Elliot bent low and kissed his son adoringly on the cheek as he slept. His once light blond hair now turned a faint chestnut color and was currently suffering the aftermath of a tootsie pop having found it's way into the long locks just last night. Elliot ran his hand softly over the mangle hair and smiled. Solomon couldn't sit still to save his life or his hair. Olivia's work, usually so precise was jagged and uneven. He'd exasperated his mother and she simply gave up and said she'd do it tomorrow.
Elliot fingered his son's hand me down pajama's that now covered his youngest son, remembering when Isaac was three and how much he loved and still loves to exasperate everyone who is unlucky enough to come within his path.
Olivia may not trust her genes even today, she may not, as much as she tries to convince herself and Elliot, realize that she is a good woman, but as Elliot crosses the small room and adjusts the battered one-eyed-teddy bear in Hannah's arm, he can see his wife, he sees what she must have looked like at three years old, because Hannah is a spitting image of Olivia right down to that almost inaudible lisp that is occasionally produced in their speech. She is her mother in every since of the word. Her lips, her eyes, her black hair and golden skin. How Solomon and Hannah are twins is beyond his comprehension, but she is certainly Olivia right down to the way Hannah caresses Elliot's cheek in the early Saturday morning hours. Her mischievous, crooked smile and her laugh. It's all Olivia, and while that typically doesn't scare Olivia, while she genuinely adores her children, Elliot has caught her, on more than one occasion starring at Hannah as if she were a mathematical equation. Something to be tested, figured out, analyzed; every square inch, every pore, as if looking for some sort of evilness she is sure she has passed to her. Yet, as Elliot grazes his lips across his daughter's cheek he knows that no one this beautiful, nothing this small and innocent could ever be spotted. And more importantly he knows that Olivia loves their daughter unconditionally, and while she may stare at her in wonderment. They are best friends.
Even her sleepy voice is Olivia's.
"It's very early, morning glory. Go back to bed."
" S'too erwly."
Elliot cupped her face gently and kissed her nose, "It is. I'm sorry I woke you up. Go back to sleep."
"Daddy sad?" she asked as she mimicked his movements and cupped his scruffy cheek in her small hand.
Her intuition is all Olivia.
"No, morning glory, I'm not," he whispered and kissed her open palm, "close your eyes and go back to sleep."
The life in her eyes make his look dull. "Yeah baby?"
"You're the bestest daddy in the whole widest world."
Her ability to make him cry is so much his wife that it's frightening. He gives her a small smile as the tears in his eyes form and his throat constricts, "You're normally not a talker... some one put sugar on your tooth brush last night?"
She grins wide up to her father and the positioning of her teeth, the whiteness, the gum line, the way her tongue moves. It's all Olivia. Had it not been for her occasional temper no one would ever know she was his too.
"My teesies are super kween," she assured him and turned to look out her window, " S'too erwly to be sad."
"Not sad," he whispered through emotion and tucked the blanket over her body, "go to sleep morning glory."
"Love eww," she whispered and nuzzled closer to her bear, "so does Mr. Uno."
Mr. Uno. Sam had teased her and called the bear Uno because he had one eye and she insisted they bought that bear even when Olivia suggested they dig for a bear that hadn't been run over by every basket in the Wal-Mart or stepped on by every boot known to man. Hannah had rested her hand on her barely noticeable hip and insisted they got that bear. And of course, because there were five thousand other bears in perfect condition, they couldn't score a discount.
But she didn't go anywhere without that bear. Mr. Uno was to her like Moses and Zeus were to the boys and God help anyone who misplaced him or decided he needed to be washed or a hole sewn so the stuffing didn't fall out of him. She was protective of that bear even going so far as to stop talking to her mother when she'd discovered that Olivia had Febreezed the bear in order to at least mask the smelly stuffed animal. If Olivia has learned one very important thing in life, Elliot is sure it is to never ever mess with Mr. Uno.
"I love Mr. Uno," Elliot whispered as a tear slid down his bearded cheek, "but you… you're my one and only."
She smiled, raised her finger to her nose and shushed him, "Sshh. I no tellded mommy."
He laughed. Yes she would. Those two were inseparable. She'd tell her and he didn't mind.
"I love you little girl. Now get more sleep, mommy is gonna have a miserable day today."
Hannah's brows scrunched up, "Mommy sad, too?"
Elliot exhaled, "She's gonna be, but only for awhile and then she'll be happy."
"No more fart knocker?" she tilted her head.
"Hannah," Elliot's voice was precariously resting between scolding father and laughing dad, "Isaac is not a fart knocker."
"Be nice. And for the fifteenth time, go back to sleep."
"Love, ewe," she whispered once more and closed her eyes.
Elliot exhaled, bent low and kissed her cheek, "Not nearly as much as I love you, morning glory."
He stood to his feet and moved to walk away, "Daddy-"
"Sowry Daddy, but you forgetted your stick… mommy get fruser….fusser….futerapated when you forgetted your stick, Daddy."
He licked his lips and grinned, "You are such your mother," he laughed and took his cane.
He passed quietly through the house again, his cane more of an irritation than a massive help, although Olivia and Hannah were right, the one time he forgets it will be the one time he falls square on his butt. Again.
Samuel surprised them both. Forcing them into clothing stores almost quarterly. At thirteen he stands nose to nose with his mother. The once small boy that most mistook for six when he was nine appeared to be fifteen instead of thirteen, but he was still Sam. Still an unbelievable boy that kept a listening ear out for each of his younger siblings and while Sam didn't recognize it, Elliot and Olivia stood by helpless and watched him fall in love with Crystal. At thirteen years old Sam carefully crafted their friendship, protected her and valued her and above all else he left her free to be her own person. To return his friendship or seek other friends elsewhere.
They'd stuck to each other like glue.
They'd become almost too close, causing both sets of parents to ask that they'd be separated during the school day in hopes of them having the opportunity to socialize with other students and make new friends that could potentially become close.
Biggest mistake they'd made thus far.
Sam's grades slipped dramatically. His temper flared. Would not talk to Mags. About anything. Crystal drew into herself and absolutely refused to function. The agitation of both kids grew and not even the weekend visits to one another's homes, the games of chess in the park or the lunch recess they spent together were enough to bring them back to normalcy. After careful consideration both sets of parents caved and by the start of summer school they were back together.
Moses looked up from her sliver of mattress, pleading for Elliot to buy a bigger bed so that she could more adequately nuzzle her Labrador body with her master whose feet were currently hanging off the edge of the bed. Zeus seemed to mock her from the other bed. Laughing at her because his master was still small enough that he could curl his Doberman-pincher form right alongside of him on the twin bed.
Elliot turned his head from his middle son's stretched out body and found Sam facing him. Supporting his weight on his elbows as he faced Elliot's presence, "Right here."
Groggily, Sam groaned and ran his hand over his hair, "Mom was restless last night. She okay?"
Elliot grinned, "How do you know your mom was restless?"
Sam smirked, "Same way I know you're sad. That you've been sad and you try to hide it from us. Not cool, Dad."
"You callin' me lame?" Elliot chuckled quietly not wanting to wake up the little tornado currently resting on the other bed and waiting to spin just as soon as the alarm went off.
"I'm callin' you lame 'cause you think that mom doesn't read you. That you think I don't feel you," Sam told him matter of fact. "I hear you roam the house like a lost puppy at night, and it's gotten worse the past few weeks and mom is getting just as restless, is it 'cause of Isaac?" he asked as Elliot carefully set on the bed.
"Come on Dad. You're gonna try and shut me down. Every time you call me Samuel it's the same old thing. Dad. I'm not nine anymore. I'm a man now. You and mom. You've made me that way. I'm not afraid and you shouldn't be either. Neither of you should be."
Fact of the matter was, Samuel was a man at nine. He became a man the moment he'd closed the front door knowing his father was being beaten to death on the other side. "You're an amazing boy, Sam."
Sam groaned, "Dad… will you and Mom at least talk? I can't stand it when you guys are wound up it hurts my heart so much dad."
Hurts my heart. Some things never change. Sam was one of those things. He might have been taller. He might have been more confident and more daring when it came to connection with his parents but he was still that compassionate person that would fight with everything he had to save someone else.
"Dad," Sam reached out and immediately embraced him, unconcerned that both men were only in their boxers, "Dad, she loves you so much. I love you so much, and God loves you more than any of us could ever, but you can't shut down on us now, Dad. You can't. Promise me you won't Dad."
A firm squeeze, "Promise me, Dad."
"I'm not shutting down on you s-"
"You forgot about my swim meet yesterday-"
Another squeeze, "And when we came home. You were just sitting here. You didn't have anything to do Dad, you just forgot about me."
"Oh, son. No-"
"Yes, it's okay," Sam whispered, "it is, but why are you pushing us away? Mom cries, did you know that? She cries at night and I hear her pray… she prays so long now, Dad."
Carefully, Elliot separated their embrace and wrapped his hand around the back of Sam's neck before kissing his forehead, "I never wanted to be a bad father to you."
Quickly, Sam framed Elliot's face and scolded him, "Don't say that! You're my Dad and you're great at it. Carp would say your spectacular and Robert and Paul, they've got nothing on you Dad. You're my dad, and I say you're the best. And us, we're all that matters Dad… do you believe me?"
Elliot exhaled and wrapped his son tightly in his arms, "You and the family are absolutely the best and most important thing. Your old man is just having a rough time right now."
"Will you and mom divorce?" Sam whispered.
"What?" Elliot looked at him in shock. "What? Why would you ask that, Sam?"
Sam exhaled, "We learned in school that over fifty percent of married people get divorced. Will you guys?"
Emphatically, "No! No, Sam. Why did you ask that?"
"Because, I can't figure you guys out," he confessed, "You get so mad that I can feel it inside of me and mom is crying-"
"Why does your mom cry?" Elliot whispered, "What do you hear her pray about?"
"Dad," Sam offered a scolded whisper, "you can't ask me to tell you that."
"I just," Elliot shook his head, "Sam, you need to know that your mom and I are stronger than ever, Son. We really are very happy-"
Pleadingly Sam grabbed his forearms, "Then why is mom crying again? Why are you angry?"
"I'm not angry-"
"Yes," Sam whispered and slipped out of the bed, "you are."
"Dad," Sam shook his head as he felt for his clothes in the closet, "My mother is crying at night. My father is angry and my heart hurts for both of you… is it…" he trailed off and pulled out a dress shirt and slacks.
"Is it what?" Elliot pushed as both Moses and Zeus looked on.
Sam licked his lips and exhaled, "Dad… mom prays at night… that she could… have… a baby… is that why you guys are so stressed right now? Does she want to have another baby and you don't want to?"
"Aren't you happy with us boys and with Hannah? Aren't you happy with mom?"
He's grown up over night and his questions were just as poignant as they've always been. "Sam?"
"I'm ecstatic," he confessed honestly, "I love you guys. I'm very happy with you and the boys and Hannah and mom."
"Then… why don't you want a baby with her?"
"Sam," Elliot shook his head, his neck cramping, his jaw throbbing from clenching it. "I love you son, but this is not your place."
Sam exhaled, "I know, Dad," he confessed softly, "But can I have one more question?"
"Do you… do you not want to have another baby 'cause I was so hard to make into a man?"
Elliot spent years in the Marine Corps, hunting and plotting and stealthy moving against the enemy. He spent even more time behind a NYPD shield, stood toe to toe with rapists and men that would make the average man weep, yet he'd never been broken.
Until he had children.
His tears flowed freely as he stood behind his son and embraced him warmly and action that had taken years for Sam to be comfortable with, "Listen to me, you amazing man," Elliot whispered, "you have always and I mean always been a blessing to your mother and I. There has never been a day that has gone by that we regretted you. And as far as it being difficult to make you into a man… son, you've taught me more about what it is to be a man that I could teach you."
"Then… why don't you want to have a baby with mom?"
"I can't, son," he whispered in shame and slowly pulled away from his boy, "I can't… your mom is praying that we could have another one… we want another baby son, we do… but-"
"This is because of that bastard, isn't it!" Sam spun on his heels.
His anger still hadn't been completely tamed. There were still times he surprised them with vocabulary so unbecoming his personality that it was almost comical. Almost.
"Sam. That's enough," Elliot warned.
"It's when he shot you isn't it?" Sam asked refusing to back away, his nostrils flaring, "He's a bastard for doing it and I hope he's rotting in hell."
"Forget it," Sam muttered and gathered his clothing, "I can feel when you're trying to sugar coat something Dad and I really think you suck for doing it."
"Samuel!" Elliot hissed as Sam ignored him and walked away.
"I need a shower," he muttered and left.
Elliot groaned and sat on the foot of Isaac's bed looking over at Zeus, "What are you lookin' at?" Elliot grumbled at the dog and rested his hand on the curve of Isaac's calf.
Not Isaac's voice.
Elliot turned slowly to see Sam standing in the threshold. Tears streaming his face, "Sam?" Elliot whispered and was surprised when Sam instantly and as quickly as he could went to his voice and fell into his embrace.
"I'm sorry, Dad," Sam sniffled and squeezed his father. "I'm sorry I said those things, Dad."
"I forgive you," Elliot whispered and pulled back, "don't cry, Sam."
"I'm sorry, Dad," Sam whispered frantically, "I am. I heard mom pacing all night long and I got up to talk to her and now I'm grumpy and-and I'm tired Dad and I want you two to be happy and-"
"Shh," Elliot soothed and smiled softly, "you're okay. Nice to see that one of my kids takes after me, even if it is for the temper."
Sam pulled back, smiled sheepishly, "Talk to her dad… she's keeping me up," he chuckled and wiped his face with the back of his hand, "Take her dancing or somethin'."
Elliot grinned, "Go take a shower son… you stink."
"Dad!" Sam feigned shock and walked away.
In the distance he saw Isaac's Tasmanian Devil alarm clock ready to sound. He moved quickly and shut it off opting to have a few more minutes with his son. He sat carefully on the bed and rested his chin in his palm, "You're getting so big," Elliot whispered as his son continued to sleep. "I remember the day your mother told me she was pregnant with you," he chuckled softly, "I don't think I have ever seen your mother so scared in my life."
Oblivious to his father's turmoil, Isaac curled his body tighter and clicked his tongue in his sleep, "I remember the first time your mother fed you… son, you should have seen her face. She looked down at you and for the first time I saw this peace come over her…I'd like to be able to see that again to see-"
Before he could finish his rambling thoughts her scent hit his nostrils and his lips curled into a smile just as her hands embraced him from behind and rested splayed over his naked chest, "See what?" she whispered in his ear and gently nuzzled him with her nose.
"You're awake, you should be sleeping," he whispered and kissed her palms.
"Why is Sam upset? I saw him in the hallway, he's wound up tighter than a cheap watch," she chuckled, "Isaac tackle him this morning again? Sam hates that."
"No," Elliot smiled and motioned to Isaac, "He's recharging."
She smiled against him, "Uh… give him a few more minutes, huh?" she whispered and sucked softly on his neck letting one hand fall mischievously to his waistband, "Sam's in the shower and I checked on Solo and Hannah," she whispered and dipped her hand into his boxers, stroking him lightly with her index finger.
He grinned, "I'm still hurting from the middle of the night…. aren't you tired?"
"I recharged," she chuckled and added another finger to her mischief.
"Liv," he groaned, "Isaac is right here."
She held him firmly in her hand, "Didn't stop you when he was just born and you took me against the wall of his room… did you forget?" she whispered hot against his neck.
He whimpered and dipped his hand into his boxers to cover hers. To stroke him with her. She chuckled against him, "I think you remember… in vivid color?"
"Liv… I can't… you're gonna make me loose it, and… Isaac is right here."
From behind, she kissed his jaw, turned his face to meet hers as she continued to stroke him, his lips meeting hers, her tongue controlling him in a fraction of a second.
Definitely Isaac's voice.
Recharged and raring to go.
As if his groin was acid her hand flew out of his boxers and he nervously adjusted himself.
"Dad!" Isaac grinned and immediately crawled on his bed to his parents, "Mom! It's wake time!" he grinned and stood to his feet as Zeus slithered off the bed and flopped onto his bed on the floor.
"Morning, you good lookin' man," she chuckled and kissed him playfully on the cheek before Elliot took them both to the mattress and playfully hovered over them.
"Are you ready for today?" Elliot laughed and kissed Isaac on his forehead before kissing Olivia on the mouth.
"Grootie!" Isaac mumbled and separated them, "Mom! Mom I'm going to school today? Like Sammy does? Am I?" he asked anxiously.
Both Elliot and Olivia's countenance fell. They'd had a few years to prepare fort this day. To prepare for the day that Olivia would have to trust her son with a complete stranger, surrounded by strangers. For eight hours.
They'd fought about it.
She didn't want to do it. She'd home school him. Elliot had shot back, accusing her of being overly protective; he made it a point to remind her that Sam went to school and did just fine.
But Sam hadn't been stolen from them. While she was on vacation.
Sam hadn't been missing for thirteen months.
She knew her fears were ridiculous. She knew deep down that Isaac would be okay. They had it arranged, Sam would get out of school and he and Crystal would walk the three blocks to Isaac's elementary school and Olivia would pick up all three. Sam would feel like he was being a big brother and Isaac would be in school. Where he belonged. Only, according to Olivia, Isaac belonged in her arms. Where he could see her, where she could see him. Hear him, smell him and know exactly what was happening at any given point.
To never risk the possibility of loosing him again.
"Am I?" Isaac asked again, his blue eyes starring wide into his mother's brown ones.
Elliot saw the tears build in her eyes. Felt his own tears build. Not necessarily because his boy was getting ready for his first day of school. But because that now meant he'd only be able to experience it two more times with Solo and Hannah. Which, technically, counted as one time.
"Dad! Mom's not talkin'!" Isaac chirped, "I wanna go to school like Sammy… please! Pleeeeeaaaseee can I go!"
Olivia chuckled and sniffled as she kissed his cheek and let her lips linger, "Course you can baby. Did you think we'd say no?"
He laughed, plopped down on the mattress before bouncing off and heading to the closet, "I'll be a ladies man."
Elliot laughed, "What in the world are you talking about?"
Isaac scooted a small stepping stool in front of him and stood on it to reach for his clothes, "Sammy went to school and he got Crystal. Aunt Alex teaches school and she got Uncle Robert and Aunt Casey went to school again and she got Uncle Paul," he said pulling a pin striped shirt from a hanger and a pair of slacks, "and then mom gradumatated and she has you," he said matter of factly and held up a green tie to Sam's old pink pin striped shirt. Decided it matched and stepped off of the stool.
Olivia laughed, "What are you getting all dolled up for, huh?"
"You go to school and you fall in love. That's how it goes," he told her, "I got to get ready, now. You have to go away so I can get ready."
She laughed harder as Elliot stood with a grin, "I'm gonna start breakfast," he half laughed and kissed his son on the head, "You need to learn how to tell time before you start wanting a lady."
"How come I need to know time, Dad?"
Elliot smirked, "So when you finally get that lady, you know how to measure eternity."
Olivia smacked him playfully, "Shut up!"
"What!" Elliot laughed, "That was a compliment! I'll happily spend eternity with you, Liv."
"Yeah," she rolled her eyes and searched for a different tie," 'cause that's exactly how you meant it… I want my eggs over easy, please."
He laughed and turned to leave.
"Daddy!" Isaac chirped and moved quickly, gathering his cane and holding it to him, "Forgot somethin'?"
Elliot laughed, looked past his son to his wife, "You've got them all trained, Liv. That is so wrong."
She smiled at him as he walked out and left her alone with her son, "Why are you getting all pretty on me, huh?"
Isaac stared at her, his mouth falling into a perfect 'O', "I'm not purdy. Sammy say's boys are handsome. Not purdy."
She smiled, caressed his face tenderly, "Isaac," she said softly, and out of now where her smile fell giving way to a sadness she's kept from him, "I missed you."
Confused, he looked at her, "When, Mom? I was asleep and now I'm awake… did I sleep more days than I was 'posed to?"
She swallowed the lump in her throat and cleared her voice looking down at the clothes in her hand, "Honey, you don't like to wear this stuff… what's up?"
He smiled at her, "I'm a good lookin' boy, mom. I'll look good, like when Daddy takes you out for mommy and daddy time. I'm cute."
She chuckled out loud and held up the clothes, "You should ask your brother how to match, 'cause this green tie doesn't go with a pink and silver striped shirt, and neither of them goes with these slacks."
Isaac tilted his head, "Match?"
She smiled, "If you want this shirt, you wear this tie," she said handing him Sam's old silver one and these black slacks-"
"And my sneakers, like Sammy!" he finished excitedly. He had a big brother and he wanted to be exactly like him.
She smiled and took him into a sudden hug, "I love you."
He giggled against her and then exhaled, "Mommy? You sad?" he asked and pulled away from her.
"You cryin'," he whispered and swiped his hand over her moist cheek, "I'm sorry I don't know how to match clothes."
"Oh, baby," she whispered and splayed her hand over his small naked chest, "no. That's not what makes me sad…. I just… you-you remember our rule about talking to strangers, right?"
He smiled, "Mom, if I can't talk to people I don't know… how will I meet a girl?"
She laughed and her tears fell faster, "Baby… do you remember?"
He shook his head, "Yep. If someone bigger than me wants to talk to me or take me somewhere I turn around and find someone I know. If they touch me I scream and yell and fight and do the things you show me and Sam."
She nodded softly, "And if someone comes to pick you up from school other than me and daddy what do you do?"
"I see if they have Sam first 'cause Sam will always be picked up first and then I ask them what our secret word is."
"And what is it?"
He smiled, "Can't tell ya. It's a secret."
"Hey!" she tickled him playfully, "Spill it!"
"It's peace! Stop the madness!" he yelled and tickled her back only to have her wrap her arms around him again.
"I missed you."
"Mom," he whined, "I never went no where."
She pulled back, looked at him carefully, grateful he didn't remember anything, "I know you never went anywhere," she lied, "I'm just learning how to say it so when you're a big boy and you go to camp and stuff… I'll know how."
"I'm a big boy. Can I go to camp, now? Sammy went to camp and I got left all alone. Can I go to camp?"
She smiled, "One heart break at a time, son."
"Heart break?" he frowned, "I break your heart? How?"
She shook her head, her tears falling, "No baby, you don't break my heart… I just, didn't sleep really well last night."
"Sammy was mad."
"Mad?" she tilted her head and stood to gather him fresh under clothes.
"He wakeded me up so we could hear you better. He says four ears are better than two. But I think his ears are better than a million 'cause he hears everything. Even when you cry way on the other side of the house."
She shook her head, "I wasn't crying."
"Yeah huh. I heard… why you sad, Mommy?" he asked and leaned his head into her hip, "Sammy gets upset when you cry 'cause he says this time he doesn't know how to fix your hearts… Mom?"
She sniffled, "Yeah baby?"
"If I knew how to fix your heart," he whispered and peered up at her, "I would fix it… 'cause I love you that much."
She knelt in front of him and ran her hand through his long blond hair, "Do you remember when you cut your own hair?"
Absently, he touched his locks and shook his head, "No. I like my hair. Think the girls will like it? Georgia from Sunday school is purdy."
Olivia smirked, pressed her forehead to his, "You don't believe in cooties or what?"
Olivia winked, "You'll learn about them in school… little girls gott'em."
"S'hat what makes them purdy?"
"I give up," she chuckled, "go brush your teeth."
"Is my grill kickin?" he asked and breathed heavily into his hands.
"And we need to limit your time with Uncle Fin," she scolded playfully as he left. In his boxers. It had taken them three years to get him to stay in his boxers…and it's still hit and miss, and as he walks out of the room, and down to his restroom to pick the fight with Sam that typically occurs when they both need to use the restroom, she can only pray that Sam gives him mercy and that God has mercy on her.
That He gives her strength to trust a stranger with her son.
For eight hours a day.
Five days a week.
When he was missing for thirteen months.