A Little Wisdom

"Hello, Captain." Elizabeth Donnelly stood in the doorway, a heavy file box balanced on her hip. "Care to help out an old friend?"

"Well, that depends." Cragen leaned back in his chair. "What's the problem?"

Liz dropped the box unceremoniously onto the ground and slid into the chair opposite his desk. "They found asbestos in the fifth floor of the courthouse. My office is off-limits until further notice."

"And you want to commandeer my office?"

"Commandeer is such a strong word." She smirked. "But, yes, I would."

"Doesn't the fifth amendment prohibit the government from repossessing private property?"

"Yes, but I found a loophole-"

He chuckled. "Of course you did."

"This office is public property, therefore it already belongs to the city. And since I'm a higher ranking civil servant, I get dibs."

"Dibs?" he repeated. "Is that a legal term?"

"It's a Liz Donnelly term."

Cragen started to reply, but stopped when the sound of screaming reached them. "What the hell?" He stood up and peered out the window of his office; Detective Stabler and Detective Benson were standing in the middle of the bull pen, toe to toe, screaming at each other.

Liz walked up beside Cragen. "Is this a regular show around here?"

"Unfortunately, yes." He winced as Olivia's voice rose another octave. "If they don't resolve their issues soon, I'm going to be forced to separate them."

Liz watched the fight with some morbid fascination. "God, they sound like me and my ex-husband."

"Right before the divorce?"

"No." She smirked. "Right before the sex."

Cragen choked on a laugh. "And here I was wondering why you can't make a relationship work, Donnelly."

"I know, right?" Liz watched as Detective Stabler stormed out of the bullpen and into an interrogation room. The slam of the door shook the precinct. "Those two desperately need to get laid."

Cragen looked down at his watch to hide his smile. His eyes widened. "Damn it." He walked back to his desk and collected a stack of folders. "I'm late for a commissioners meeting."

Liz helped herself to his chair. "I'll hold down the fort." With a hurried half-wave, Cragen disappeared down the hallway and onto the elevator.

Not two minutes passed before Olivia Benson appeared in the doorway of the office. Her brow was creased with tension. "Hey, where's the captain?" She looked around the office, clearly surprised to find Liz sitting at her boss' desk. "Did he leave for the commissioners meeting?"

"I'm afraid so." Liz stood and circled the young detective. With a knowing smile, she reached past her and shut the office door. "Have a seat, Detective."

Olivia did as she was told. "What's on your mind, Judge?"

"Call me Liz."

"Okay." Olivia shifted, looking uneasy. "Liz."

"I couldn't help but overhear your fight with Detective Stabler." She perched on the corner of the desk and crossed her arms. "The partnership seems very tense."

"We've had some trouble lately," Olivia admitted. "But it's nothing we can't work out."

"That's not what I heard."

Olivia immediately took the bait. "What are you talking about?"

"You didn't hear this from me," Liz confided, taking control of the conversation. "But there's talk about separating you two."

Her expression betrayed her. "What?"

Liz conjured up her most sympathetic smile. "It's such a shame, too. Your issues could've been so easily resolved."

"Oh, really?" Olivia was becoming suspicious of Liz's innocent little pep talk. "What could you possibly do to resolve our issues?"

Liz smirked. "I'm glad you asked, detective." She pulled up the blinds that hid the two-way mirror. They could see directly into the larger interrogation room; Elliot was pacing the small space, back and forth, still red in the face from their argument. Liz pressed the intercom button which fed her voice into the interrogation room, "Hello, Detective Stabler."

Elliot instantly stopped pacing and looked directly at the two-way mirror. He frowned, unable to see anything but his reflection in the glass. "Judge Donnelly?"

"No," Liz quipped. "It's the great and powerful Oz."

A tight smile played across Elliot's face. "Very funny. What are you doing in the Captain's office?"

"Playing hooky from my judicial duty," she fibbed. "Cragen had an important meeting so I hijacked his office for a little me time."

He sat down at the table. "How's that working out?"

"It was great until I overheard your blowout with Benson-" Olivia jumped up to intervene, but Liz silence her with a sharp look. "It sounds like the honeymoon is truly over."

"We're having some problems lately," he admitted, a range of emotions playing across his face. "To tell you the truth, it's been pretty terrible."

"Cragen told me how she disappeared undercover without telling you," Liz fished innocently enough. "That had to hurt."

"Yeah." Elliot nodded, leaning back in his chair. He was completely unaware that this was the most devious of cross-examinations. "It damaged our partnership pretty badly."

Olivia waited for Liz to take her hand off the button to object. "This is wrong. You're tricking him. He has no idea I'm in here."

Liz smirked. "Come on," she goaded. "Don't you want to know what he says about you when you're not around?"

"It's wrong," Olivia repeated.

She shrugged off the detective's scruples and pressed the button again, "Damaged your partnership how?"

"It's hard to explain." Elliot crossed his arms pensively. "I don't feel like I can trust her anymore. She just disappeared. I was really worried about her-" He stopped suddenly, as if he realized he'd said too much. "It was a shitty move is all I'm saying." He tried to appear indifferent, but Liz wasn't buying it.

She pressed him, "Do you think the relationship can be salvaged?"

"I hope so," Elliot said, and the raw honestly in his voice was heartbreaking. "She's my best friend."

"Is that all?" Liz fished. "Just a best friend?"

Olivia wanted to chastise the judge but found herself holding her breath. She hated how much the answer meant to her. "God, I don't know anymore," Elliot admitted, rubbing his hands over his face. "I thought maybe, at one point, there could've been something more there."

"Before she disappeared on you?"

He nodded. "I'd put her on this pedestal and God knows, no one is perfect. I guess it was just a matter of time before she disappointed me."

Tears were welling up in Olivia's eyes, so Liz decided to change her approach. "How long have you been partners?"

Elliot smiled. "Almost nine years."

"Wow," Liz interjected some levity into her voice. "That's longer than both my marriages combined."

"Yeah," he laughed. "It's been a hell of a ride."

"What do you think made it last so long?"

"I'm not sure." He was still smiling, oblivious to the fact he was being so badly played by the devious judge. "I guess we just complement each other. Every quality I lack, she has in abundance and vice versa."

"What did you think of her when you first met?"

Elliot's grin reached across his face, becoming animated as he talked, "I just remember being so surprised that someone so beautiful could be such a great detective. She's so compassionate and kind. The rapport she has with the victims is incredible. It's really impossible not to lo-" He caught himself. "Care for her. A great deal. Probably more than I should."

"You're in love with her," Liz stated matter-of-factly.

Elliot didn't deny it. "We're partners. It's complicated."

"Can I give you a little advice?" Liz spoke into the microphone, but was also turned to face Olivia. This advice was clearly meant for both detectives. "I think it's a cop-out to blame the job. If you're lucky enough to find someone that puts up with your crap, doesn't annoy you, and loves you unconditionally, then you're a moron to let it pass you by."

The advice clearly hit a sore spot, but Elliot covered it with a joke, "With two divorces under your belt, do you think you're really the best person to give relationship advice?"

"I'm imparting wisdom it took two failed marriages to learn," Liz quipped. "Don't discount its value. Learn from my mistakes." She looked directly at Olivia, then spoke into the microphone, "Tell Benson how you feel." At this point, tears were running down Olivia's face. "I have a hunch she feels the same way."

"I do," Olivia whispered. She stood up suddenly, feeling emboldened by Elliot's confession. Throwing open the office door, she walked with purpose. Liz watched through the two-way mirror as Olivia burst into the interrogation room. Concern flooded Elliot's face when he saw that she had been crying. Liz turned down the sound so she couldn't overhear their conversation. After all, they deserved a little privacy.

She watched Olivia point to the mirror, obviously explaining the charade. Elliot looked mortified, but his embarrassment was short-lived when Olivia stepped forward and pressed their lips together in a passionate kiss.

Liz raised her eyebrows, surprised by their enthusiasm. Captain Cragen chose that exact moment to walk back into his office. "Sorry, I forgot my-" He stopped mid-sentence, noticing his two detectives wrapped up in a very intimate embrace. Cragen turned to Liz. "Christ, Donnelly, I was only gone ten minutes. What did you do?"

"Nothing," she replied innocently, lowering the window blinds. "I just imparted a little wisdom."

A/N: Reviews make me happy as a clam.