Chapter 2: Safe

A/N: I know it's been a long time but I figured that since I'd written this, I might as well update it. I hope you guys enjoy it.

Three days later, Olivia was released from the hospital. Elliot took her back to his apartment since hers was still a sealed crime scene. Cragen had pulled a few strings and managed to make Munch and Fin available to help out on the case. Only the night before Elliot brought Olivia home with him did Cragen explain why he was so reluctant to hand this over to another SVU squad. Olivia was family and Cragen as well as everyone else who knew her, wanted blood.

As soon as Elliot opened the door to his tiny one room apartment, he regretted the decision to bring Olivia there. He only had the one bed. He didn't mind sleeping on the floor but he knew she would fight him on it. He set the bag of clothing that Olivia had been allowed to retrieve from her place on the floor beside one of his two arm chairs and motioned for Olivia to sit down.

"Thanks," she smiled weakly as she lowered herself gently into the chair. The slashes on her buttocks and back made sitting uncomfortable but no more uncomfortable than the act of lying on her back or stomach; her attacker had barely left an inch of unmarred skin on her body.

"No problem," he smiled at her sadly as he sank down into the other arm chair. There had been no leads in the case, at least, no solid ones. The car had been rented to a Tom Jones, an obvious alias, and the perp had apparently worn gloves whenever he was in the car.

Elliot had walked the crime scene in Olivia's apartment only once but once had been enough. The place was a blood bath and it had taken everything he had in him not to run out of there the second he set foot in the door. When the CSU techs had finished explaining what they had found and Elliot hadn't found anything else to help the case, he had driven straight back to the hospital to see her. He had gingerly wrapped his arms around her and cried

"Nice place you've got here," Olivia remarked as she looked around at the sparse furnishings. The two armchairs sat at the foot of the bed and faced the TV. There was a small table between them and a dresser against the wall beside the front door. A larger table sat on the other side of Elliot's bed and seemed to serve as nightstand, desk and eating place. The kitchen area was differentiated from the rest of the place by the patch of tile floor that ran in front of the refrigerator, sink, dishwasher and stove.

"Uh… yeah," Elliot remarked following her gaze around his small and messy living space "Thanks," he mumbled, wondering if it was too late to get a hotel room for Olivia for the next week. But he couldn't do that to her. No, he couldn't turn her out at a time like this, no matter how inadequate his apartment seemed.

"I like it," she said in a soft voice "It feels… safe," she knew it was more the company that made her feel safe than the atmosphere and she was glad for it. She couldn't help feeling that what had happened to her was just the beginning, though she tried to tell herself that like most rape victims, she had just become more fearful.

Elliot leaned forward and reached out, taking her hand "I promise that I won't let anything happen to you," he said reassuringly.

"I know," she whispered "Thank you." She found her gaze locked with his for what would have once been considered too long by the standards of partners. But those standards seemed to have been suspended for the time being; it was obvious that she was in need of a friend, someone to protect her and he was more than willing to be that person. She hated being vulnerable in front of anyone but if she had to be vulnerable, and right now she felt very much so, she would rather it be Elliot who saw her like that.

"Can I get you anything?" Elliot asked. He was worried about her. He hadn't stopped being worried about her since he'd seen her in the hospital. He was going to do whatever he could to help her.

"I'm fine," she said quickly. She didn't want him to treat her like a porcelain doll. She remembered having a porcelain doll once when she was a little girl… things hadn't ended well for the doll. She wasn't fragile; she could take care of herself; it wasn't like the guy had broken her legs or anything. Her injuries, though painful… very painful, were superficial. She wasn't going to let him coddle her like some helpless infant.

"Liv," he began in a gentle but stern tone "You just got out of the hospital," he reminded her.

"No, really," she retorted incredulously "I wasn't aware. Was that where I've been for the past three days?" She stood up as if to make her point that she was fine "You don't need to baby me…" the room began to spin and she fell forward, right into Elliot's waiting arms.

"You're supposed to be taking it easy," he reminded her, his tone now more stern than gentle "You lost a lot of blood remember? The doctor said that you shouldn't over exert yourself-"

"Because I could experience dizziness and lightheadedness if I did," Olivia finished for him "Yes," she murmured as she sat in Elliot's lap, still feeling a little dizzy "I remember."

"Maybe you should lie down," Elliot said, standing up with Olivia still held securely in his arms. He walked over to the bed and tossed back the covers before laying her down and pulling the blankets over her.

"No," Olivia protested "Elliot, I'm fine, really," but as she spoke, a feeling of utter weakness overcame her and she fell back against the pillows "Maybe just a quick nap," she finally conceded.

Elliot chuckled "You want a glass of water?" he asked with a small smile as he smoothed a piece of hair behind her ear.

She nodded "A little bit," she said quietly and rolled onto her side to watch Elliot as he moved around the apartment. As he stood at the sink with his back to her she took the moment to speak "Sorry about that?"

"Hmm…?" he asked, turning around and coming back to sit on the edge of the bed. He handed her the glass of water and watched her take a cautious sip before she handed it back to him. He set it on the table that served so many purposes and turned back to her "What do you have to be sorry about?" he asked.

"Just now," she clarified "I didn't mean to snap… it's just… I just never thought… I didn't expect that… I thought that maybe if… it… ever happened to me that…" she fell silent, both feeling like she couldn't put her feelings into words and knowing that they wouldn't be well received if she did by some miracle manage to get them out.

Elliot laid a hand on her shoulder "You've been through a lot," he reminded her "Don't worry if you feel like you need to snap at me once in a while," he smiled gently down at her "It's not like I'm not used to it by now." They shared a small laugh.

"Thanks for letting me stay here," Olivia murmured drowsily "I don't think I could deal with being alone," she stifled a yawn "I'm glad you're here. I missed you," and just like that, she was asleep.

"I missed you too," he whispered as he stood up, moving to one of the armchairs and sitting down. He enjoyed her company. He only wished the circumstances that brought her to be sleeping in his bed could have been different.

An hour later, Elliot was quietly reading the paper, trying not to watch Olivia sleep; impure thoughts about his partner kept entering his mind when he least expected it and given what she had just gone through, he hated himself for even thinking about her like that.

Suddenly, he dropped the paper. Olivia shot up from the bed, breathing hard. Her skin glistened with a cold sweat and her eyes darted around the room wildly. Elliot was at her side in an instant "It's okay," he whispered, laying a hand on her shoulder "You're safe," he wrapped his arms around her and she nuzzled into his embrace "You're safe."

She tried not to lose it, though she was afraid she already had. She attempted to regain control over her emotions but a small sob passed through her lips against her will "I thought he was one of my neighbors," she whispered "I… I didn't think twice."

"It's okay," Elliot reassured as he stroked her hair.

"It's not," she told him as tears slid down her face and soaked the collar of his shirt "I should have known that something was going to happen. I should have been able to fight him off."

"You couldn't have known," Elliot told her softly, brushing his lips across the top of her head in a gentle kiss "No one could have known," he had been on the phone with her only minutes before. He wished he had said something, wished he had known what he knew now so he could have prevented this from ever happening to her but it had and they would both have to live with it. As he held her, his own tears began to fall, though he tried furiously to stop them.

They sat like that for some time. Eventually they both stopped crying and simply sat, enjoying the closeness of the other. Their peace was shattered by the shrill ringing of Elliot's cell phone, making both of them jump. Elliot reached out and grabbed the phone off the table. He took one glance at the caller ID and replaced beside the bed, deciding to ignore it.

"Work?" Olivia asked. Elliot's only reply was a slow nod. She separated from him and leaned against the pillows "Answer it," she commanded softly.

He looked down at her. He didn't want to be called away now. What if she needed him? She'd never admit it if she did but she might. What if she had another nightmare? He was so worried about her. He looked into her face and knew that there would be no arguing with her. He reached for the phone again "Stabler," he said reluctantly as he flipped it open.

"There's someone here who says he has information about the person who attacked Olivia," Cragen told him "I need you down here now."

"Okay," Elliot replied "I'll be right there," he hung up and turned to Olivia. Though he didn't want to leave her alone, he wanted so badly to find the guy who had done this to her. If the information that this person provided was even the slightest bit helpful in catching the guy, he figured he could separate himself from Olivia's side for an hour or so.

She was very much aware of his gaze and it was starting to make her feel uneasy "What is it?" she finally asked, propping herself up on one of her elbows; one of the few parts of her body not overcome with the numbing, stinging pain that dwelled in and around each knife wound.

"They think they found someone who knows something about the guy who attacked you," he told her as he reluctantly slid away from her and to the edge of the bed. Before he stood up he turned back to look at her "We're going to get him," he said resolutely "I promise."

Olivia smiled warmly at him "I know you will," she replied with all certainty. There was just something about Elliot that made her feel like things really would be all right.

"I'll be back as soon as I can," he told her as he put his jacket on "If you need anything, anything at all, call me," he opened the bag that lay on the floor beside the armchair and handed her cell phone to her. He sensed her reluctance in taking it from his outstretched hand "Please," he said quietly "Promise me that you won't be stubborn. If you need something, call me."

"Elliot," she stared him down "I'm fine. I'll be fine. Go."

He chuckled in spite of himself at her predictability. "I'll be back as soon as I can," he told her. He left the apartment and Olivia settled herself into the pillows once more, grabbing the TV remote from the table beside the bed and flipping through channels. It didn't take long though for her to feel the effect that Elliot's absence had on her. She wondered if it was really him she was missing or the prospect of being alone seemed to unsettling, either way, she continued to flip through TV channels and tried to ignore the feeling that was building in the pit of her stomach.