Lover's Cross

"Elliot, I'm pregnant."

I think I've been standing here for a full minute with my mouth open catching flies. It's like my hard drive has crashed, and I have to hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete and reboot. But when I finally can speak, my first words are pure genius.

"What?"

"After you spent the night, I missed my period, so I took an EPT test. It was positive."

"You're sure?"

"I know how to pee on a stick, Elliot."

"Yes. Yeah. Of course you do. Um, ok. It's going to take me a while to sell my furniture and sublet my apartment, but I can pack my clothes and come back, say, this weekend?"

"So, you're coming home?" She gives me that smile I fell in love with, and I can't say anything else.

"Yeah, I'm coming home."

I'm not sure if it's what I want anymore, and it's certainly not the way I wanted it to happen; but she knows I would never turn my back on my own child. She learned that over twenty years ago with Maureen.

"You don't seem very happy about it."

I shrug. "I'm forty-five years old, Kath. I should be thinking about drawing my pension, not starting another college fund. I won't deny the timing's a little inconvenient."

"Well, it was certainly convenient the night you came crawling back into my bed," she snipes.

She turns to storm off, but I grab her by the elbow. The pregnancy hormones have always made her bitchy, but I'm tired of having my ass chewed out this week so she's just going to have to get over it. "Our bed," I remind her angrily. "It's our bed. It has been for more than twenty years, and it will always be, whether I am there to share it with you or not. And you asked me to stay."

A look of horror crosses her face and I know I have said the wrong thing. I can't even let her go there or this reconciliation will be a disaster before we ever get started.

"Are you saying I . . ."

I place a finger over her lips and am grateful that she doesn't bite me. "I'm not accusing you of anything, but we have been apart for over two years now. I have slept alone for every one of those nights. If you didn't, I don't need to know. The important thing now is that we have another child to raise, and we need to figure out how to do it together."

She sighs, her anger dissipated. "Well, you don't have to make it sound like such a hardship."

My mouth drops open again. Has she never . . . ?

"Damn it, Kathy, I love you, and I love my kids. I love our family, and there isn't anything I wouldn't do to make us happy again, but yeah, sometimes it has been a hardship."

Guess that it was bound to happen
Was just a matter of time
Now I've come to my decision
And it's one of the painful kind
'Cause now it seems that you wanted a martyr
Just a regular guy wouldn't do
But baby I can't hang upon no lover's cross for you

"Do you remember my Camaro?" I ask.

"What, that awful noisy car with the bucket seats you had when we started dating?"

"Yeah, the one you hated."

"What about it? What does that have to do with anything?"

"I sold it for you, Kath."

She just shrugs. She doesn't get it. "So?"

Suddenly I feel myself choking on my emotions and swallow hard. The years are piling up on me, the thousands of small sacrifices. She needs to know. I need her to know.

"I've always given things up for you, Kathy."

She rolls her eyes and turns to go. "It was just a car, Elliot."

"No," I say and take her by the elbow again. I've been giving her what she wants for over twenty years now, damn it. The least she can do is listen to me. "No, it was not just a car. It was my only chance to escape, my first opportunity to get away from my dad, from my screwed up family, from our depressing little neighborhood in Queens. For the first time in my life, I was one of the cool kids, and I sold it for you, because you wanted a bench seat so you could cuddle up against me when we went cruising. Asking a teenager to give up his Camaro is like . . . it's like asking a father to leave his children, or his home."

The light shifts in her eyes and I can tell she is starting to get it.

"I almost broke down and cried when the guy who bought it drove away. I probably would have if my dad hadn't been there, but I sold it, Kathy. I gave it up for you. And when Maureen was born, I gave up on college. I quit the Marines when you had Kathleen, and when the twins came, I left patrol division and became a detective because you wanted to be a full-time mom. Do you know a detective almost never gets the chance to stop something bad from happening? We get called in after the shit hits the fan. It's our job to clean up the mess."

"Elliot, I . . . I'm sorry. I never realized. I never knew."

"I know. It's all right," I tell her gently. "All I ever wanted was to give you what you wanted, but that usually meant giving up what I wanted. I can't sacrifice anything else for you, Kathy, I don't have anything left."

"I'm sorry," she says. "I'm so sorry."

She reaches out a trembling hand to caress my face and I close my eyes and lean into her healing touch.

Yeah, I really got to hand it to ya
'Cause girl you really tried
But for every time that we spent laughin'
There were two times that I cried
And you were tryin' to make me your martyr
And that's the one thing I just couldn't do
'Cause baby, I can't hang upon no lover's cross for you

I open my eyes after a moment, and see that she is crying. "How did we not know?" she asks. "How did we not know we were hurting each other so much?"

I shake my head sadly and reply, "I think if we could answer that question, we wouldn't be where we are today."

She sniffles, dabs away her tears, and says, "So what do we do now?"

"I won't leave SVU," I tell her. "I love my job, and I'm good at it. The people we deal with, they need someone who's good at this job, not some hotshot, rookie detective who thinks he's gonna set the world on fire."

She nods, conceding to my first demand.

"I'm not going to talk to you about work, either," I continue. "I know you don't like to feel shut out, but I can't bring my job home to my family. I deal with some really bad stuff, and it has to stay at work. I don't want the kids exposed to it."

"Ok," she agrees, "but you have to find some other way of dealing with your anger, Elliot. You've never taken it out on the kids and me, but the way you sit there and sulk, or just don't come home at all, is just as damaging. You need to be with us more often, and you need to really be present when you are home."

"I know," I tell her, "I have been talking to someone, a shrink who is also a former cop. I've been going in off and on ever since I beat up Pete Breslin, and I think it's helping."

I'm careful not to mention that Rebecca Hendrix is a woman or that she is a friend of Olivia's. Kathy has always been rather jealous, and I don't think that she would understand that Rebecca is nothing more to me than a sounding board.

"And Kathy?"

She looks up. I take a deep breath and swallow hard. This could be the deal breaker.

"Olivia is my partner, and my best friend, and that is never going to change. She understands me in ways that you never will. When we work together, we make each other even better. During an interrogation, we can have an entire conversation with just a look. She has saved my life, she has saved my job, and she has saved me from myself more times than I can count, and I have done the same for her. She will be my partner as long as we both wear a badge. I will not ask to be reassigned."

This time, she is the one standing there with her mouth open. I hold my breath and wait for her answer.

'Cause tables are meant for turnin'
And people are bound to change
And bridges are meant for burnin'
When the people and memories they join aren't the same

I come into the squad room and see Olivia sitting there, just vegetating. Munch and Fin are gone, Cragen is out of his office, and the new guy, Lake, is unpacking his shit at a desk that was moved in just for him. Isn't he special? I wouldn't be surprised if IAB placed him with us. I suppose from the outside looking in, we need someone to keep an eye on us, but it still pisses me off. Darius Parker's trial has made us all look like a bunch of fuck-ups. You can't expect the public to understand that with 120 years of police experience among the five of us, what they heard about was nothing, but the brass should understand. Of course, they didn't hear about everything, and I'm not going to be the one to tell them.

I go over and stand beside Liv's desk. "You all right?"

She nods, looks up at me. "What did Kathy want?"

I can't help the grin that spreads across my face. "She's pregnant."

Olivia raises one eyebrow, then the opposite corner of her mouth quirks up. "Congratulations . . . so, uh, where does that leave the two of you?"

My grin fades just a little. I can't help it. "I'm moving home," I tell her. "This weekend."

She blinks rapidly, and her eyes turn red. "That's wonderful, Elliot, but are you sure you're ready for that?"

I shrug. "I don't know, but I guess I have about nine months to figure it out."

She laughs slightly at my poor joke and I sit in the chair beside her desk and rest my arm on the edge of it. I swore I was never going to say this, but for some reason, I feel like I have to. I keep my voice low so Lake can't hear. "I . . . I was almost ready to tell you, you know, and then you left me, Liv."

She places her hand on my forearm. Her touch is warm and gentle, but I can feel her strength. "I know. That's why I left."

My jaw drops again. I've been doing that a lot today. She gently squeezes my forearm.

"We're great partners, Elliot," she whispers, "and we could have been great lovers; but if we had tried to do both at once, it would have been a train wreck. Besides, you're still in love with your wife, and she loves you in ways I never can, and no legal papers in the world would change that. As much as I might have wanted to be with you, I would never let myself be the 'other' woman, and you would never be able to give up your family for me. We needed to put some distance between us before we made the biggest mistake of our lives. You were in a place where you couldn't do that, so I did."

Slowly, I start to grin again. She's incredible. She saved me when I didn't even know I was in trouble.

"Thank you."

She looks over my shoulder at Lake and smiles mischievously. Grabbing my necktie, she pulls me closer, and closer, until our noses are touching, and then she turns her head slightly and for the first time, and probably the last time, she kisses me.

The smart thing to do would be pull away, but I usually count on Liv to do the smart thing when I am acting stupid. There's no way that Lake can not see this, and we'll be in deep shit if he reports to IAB. Then again, maybe not. I'll tell the rest of the squad about the baby on Monday, and she'll be able to say she was just congratulating me. I surrender to the moment, knowing I will never have this chance again.

She tastes of wild cherry lip gloss, which surprises me because I've never noticed her using it, and coffee, which doesn't because I always see her drinking it. Amazingly, it's not a bad combination, dark and rich, mysterious, mellow, and sweet. Her lips are incredibly soft, as I have always imagined they would be, and when I push my tongue into her mouth, hers glides alongside it. She follows me back into my mouth when I withdraw, and we have another dance. Then she pulls away, lets go of my tie, and it is over just like that, a few passionate seconds that will last me a lifetime.

"You're welcome," she says. "And don't worry. This is all for the best. We'll still have each other every day at work, and you'll have your family back, too."

"If they don't split up the squad."

"They won't," she insists. "They might put the screws to us and try to get us to pack it in, but they won't split us up. First of all, most of Darius's accusations can't be substantiated, and the ones that can have already been disciplined. Splitting us up would look like retaliation for the public embarrassment. They'd never risk the law suits."

I nod, accepting her analysis of the situation for now. We could both use a little optimism after the week we've had.

"Ok, and you? What will you have?"

She looks over my shoulder and gestures as if waving someone over to her desk. I turn to see Agent Dean Porter approaching. I still don't know what she sees in him, but at least he didn't get her killed out in Oregon; and I trust her judgment.

"Me?" She gives me a wink and a grin as she stands up and grabs her bag. "I'll have plans."

All I can do now is laugh as I watch her sashay away from me with Porter on her arm.

"Call me if you need help packing this weekend," she says over her shoulder as she leaves the squad room.

"Count on it!"

Still I hope that you can find
Another who can take what I could not
He'll have to be a super guy
Or maybe a super god
'Cause I never was much of a martyr before
And I ain't bout to start nothin' new
And baby, I can't hang upon no lover's cross for you

Fin


Nothing about SVU belongs to me. This story is written for fun and not for profit. "Lover's Cross" lyrics, copyright Jim Croce, 1973. If you aren't old enought to remember the song, you have GOT to find it online and listen. Croce was a genius with words and music who died much too soon. He wrote nearly all of his own stuff, and almost every song is fantastic. I am still working on "Portrait of a Hero" and will post more of that when the story is finished.