A/N: So, I know I said the last one would be the final chapter, but I lied. Not that I meant to, of course. Some expressed interest in having more to the story, and I agree. I at first thought I would leave the story with an indefinite ending, but now -- after some thought -- I have changed my mind. A better ending hit me a couple days ago, so here I am writing it. So, if you liked the hanging ending, feel free to stop there. If not, please continue with this chapter and then review!

It's for real this time: This is the final chapter.


Chapter 8: Time Heals All Wounds?

A rumbling murmur of voices filled the gallery. The verdict hung heavy in the air.

Guilty.

ADA Jack McCoy immediately twisted his upper body around in his chair. He locked eyes with the familiar fixture seated several rows behind him and raised an eyebrow in silent, anxious question.

Olivia forced a stiff smile and dipped her head in gratitude. It was not until after McCoy gave her a sharp nod, turned, and directed his attention back to the judge that she realized she had been holding her breath for quite some time. She inhaled deeply and let out a quick sigh of relief.

The judge had begun speaking, but Olivia heard not a word. She was too busy trying to shut out all the images of the past weeks. All of that pain and anger had come to this -- to a guilty verdict. She didn't know if she would laugh or cry, and to prevent herself from doing either, she scanned the other faces in the court room.

Across the aisle, a few rows ahead of her sat the defendant's brother with a temporary guardian appointed by Children's Services. Olivia wasn't quite sure, but she could almost see tension ease from his shoulders. He still wouldn't meet her eye, but she didn't blame him. She knew what it felt like to have her trust betrayed.

A brief gasp from the defense table gave her the courage to glance in that direction. The attorney stood rigid, the pink of anger splashed across his face. Shock and fear paled the countenance of the woman standing next to him. Her expression of disbelief startled Olivia as she realized this was the first true emotion the woman had ever showed in her presence. Everything else had been an act -- a lie.

The courtroom fell silent as the judge stopped speaking and waved his direction to the court officers. As they walked towards Jill, she took a hesitant step backwards. Her attorney placed a reassuring hand on her back, and the officers each gently grabbed one of her arms. She went with them willingly at first, but new emotion crossed her face as the reality of the situation hit her.

Olivia recognized hatred in her eyes and jumped to her feet as the woman began to struggle. At the prosecutor's table, McCoy did the same. Both appeared ready to leap into action if need be, but the officers kept the prisoner under control.

True tears burst from Jill's eyes as they pulled her out the door.

Olivia shuddered visibly as the woman screeched. "NO! YOU CAN'T DO THIS TO ME! NO!"

The cry died away as the door slammed shut behind her and echoed down the hall.

McCoy turned back around to judge the detective's reaction, but managed only to watch the courtroom door swing shut behind her.

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Olivia switched on her cell phone as soon as she walked outside the court complex. She leaned against a pillar and hit a button on speed dial.

Kathy picked up on the first ring.

"They got her," Olivia said simply. She could hear Kathy let out a heavy breath on the other end.

"That's good."

Liv nodded to herself and began to descend the stairs. "How's he doin'?"

Olivia hadn't seen much of Elliot since the trial began. She had been there everyday -- the other SVU detectives had taken turns sitting with her -- but Elliot had only come when he had to testify. He had seemed shaky -- something he rarely ever was -- and wasn't quite sure of himself. Olivia could tell he hadn't come to terms with his handicap yet.

"He's great," Kathy replied, happiness in her voice. "But come see for yourself. Elliot wants to have a do-over on the twins' birthday. They never did get their cake."

Liv allowed herself another tight smile. "Yeah, I guess not."

"So...what do you say? Tomorrow night at seven. Elizabeth's dying to see you."

The worry eased from her face as Olivia freely grinned. "I'll be there."

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Above her on the steps, Jack McCoy kept track of Detective Benson over the heads of the media horde. He was worried that she was angry with him for giving the boyfriend a plea bargain. McCoy had shaken his head on that day after realizing he had done something he had never done before -- he asked her consent before pleading him out. She had given it readily, knowing it was more ammunition against Jill, but still he had his doubts on whether or not it was her honest feelings. And now he saw the same false smile on her lips that she had given him after the verdict was read.

His anxiety passed quickly, though, when her face broke into a true grin. She's going to be okay.

With that knowledge, he addressed the questions being thrown at him.

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Olivia awoke that night in a cold sweat. Horrible visions -- Elliot's blood, the glassy look of his eyes, the tears on his children's faces, the haunted expression of Bobby's -- had plagued her sleep since the shooting. She thought the outcome of the trial would relieve her of the nightmares, but instead they returned -- with Jill's chilling screams as a background.

Liv rubbed the grogginess from her eyes and read the harsh green light of her bedside clock. Three-sixteen.

She rolled out of bed, and padded into the bathroom. She switched on the faucet and shivered slightly as she viewed her appearance in the mirror. Her hair stood up at odd angles, dark circles had appeared under her eyes, and her skin looked terrible. She almost expected gray hairs to magically appear. Olivia smirked at the thought and splashed her face with cold water.

Feeling slightly more awake, she headed into the kitchen where she set a coffee pot on to brew. Olivia reached up and opened the cupboard, extracting an oversized mug and placing it gingerly on the counter.

She shook her head at the garbage overflowing the bin and withdrew a plastic bag from its hiding hole under the sink. As she emptied the trash into the bag, her eyes caught sight of a bundle on one of the kitchen chairs. It was the clothes she wore that day, still caked with frosting and blood. Liv had tried several times to remove them from her apartment, but for some reason lacked the power to actually do so.

She made her way towards the chair and grabbed her ruined shirt. She nearly had it in the bag, but then hesitated and dropped it on top of the pair of jeans once again. Olivia backed away slowly, twisting the end of the bag into a knot, and stepped outside her apartment to drop the bag down the chute.

Liv returned to her kitchen. The presents for the twins still sat on the end of the counter, waiting to be opened. Olivia leaned on the countertop and unconsciously began to readjust one of the bows, waiting for the coffee to finish.

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"Dad, dad! Olivia's here!" Elizabeth screeched in excitement as she raced towards the door. She ripped open the door, flew down the ramp, and threw her arms around an extremely surprised Olivia, who barely managed to hang on to the gifts.

Munch laughed at the sight as he shut the car door, and Fin smirked as he came around the end of the car. The two followed their colleague as she was pulled into the house.

Olivia could see Kathy slowly ambling around the kitchen, her belly an enormous size. Her eldest daughters were placing dishes on the neatly decorated table, while Dickie added more gifts to the pile.

Elliot rolled effortlessly into the living room, his face ablaze with happiness.

"Nice wheels," Munch remarked, a smirk crossing his lips. "That thing do any tricks?"

Olivia watched as a devilish grin spread on Elliot's face, and he threw his weight against the back of the chair, balancing himself on his back wheels.

"Hey, hey, hey -- how many times must I tell you to stop doing that?!" Kathy grinned as she waddled into the room. She looked towards Liv. "I swear -- he's worse than the children."

Olivia nodded. "I'll buy that."

Elliot rolled his eyes as he brought the chair back on all fours. He noticed the pail of ice cream in Munch's hand. "Please tell me that's not the same one you bought last time."

An innocent look flashed across Munch's face. "Why? It's not like there was anything wrong with it. It refroze perfectly well when I stuck it back in the freezer."

Elliot grimaced and shook his head. Somewhere in the background, Dickie made a gagging noise.

"It's perfectly fine, you know. Why waste perfectly good ice cream just because it got a little melted?"

A look of disgust appeared on Fin's face. He pushed past his partner and produced a brown, paper bag in his left hand.

"Don't worry. I got us covered." He handed the ice cream over to Elizabeth, who scampered into the kitchen with it. Fin then turned to his partner. "Ya cheap son-of-a-bitch."

Munch sighed. "With five ex-wives and alimony, it's better cheap than broke. Or better cheap than dead, I suppose."

Fin rose an eyebrow. "I thought you were only married four times."

Munch nodded. "Ah, yes. I lose count."

Elliot snickered as he went to let Cragen in. "Man, I hate to say it, but I missed you guys."

"Ha! He said it. Pay up." Munch held out his hand, smiling widely as Fin begrudgingly handed over a ten-dollar bill.

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Olivia smiled to herself as she shut her apartment door behind her that night. Elliot was fine, as was his family. The disability had only brought them closer together.

Cragen had mentioned a clerical position that was open in the unit, and Elliot had actually seemed excited about it. Liv couldn't wait to have her friend back at the precinct, even though they wouldn't still be partners.

Liv flipped the light switch and her apartment became bright. However, there seemed to be a certain coldness to the room.

Olivia narrowed her eyebrows as she realized its source. She walked over to the counter beneath the sink and pulled out another plastic bag. With one quick intake of air, she stepped to the chair, picked up the shirt once again, and dropped it in the bag. She did the same with the jeans.

Bag in hand, she stepped out the door, and once again made the short trip down the hallway to the garbage chute. She pried open the gate, and held the bag over the hole. Olivia paused for a moment to stare at the bag, and to take several deep breaths. Then she released her grip on the bag, and shut the door to the chute. She stood for a minute in the hall, listening for the thump of the bag hitting the dumpster in the alley below. Instant relief flowed through her as the sound reached her ears.

Olivia folded her arms across her chest and ambled back to her apartment. She smiled once again as she realized she would sleep peacefully that night.


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