A/N: At long last, a final night.
DISCLAIMER: Dick Wolf owns SVU and the characters; TStabler© owns the story you're about to read.
Olivia waited, holding her breath, as she watched Cragen think about the question she had just asked. Or, tried to ask. "Well?" she prodded.
"No," Cragen sighed. "But not a day goes by that I don't wish you were." He ran a hand down his face. "I tried like hell to keep my relationship with Sarah from getting in the way of her work, and mine, but…you…" He gestured to her and pressed his lips together. "You were special."
"Why?" she interrupted. "I mean, if I'm not...why would you do that for some stranger's kid?" She looked back at Donnelly. "Why would either of you?"
Donnelly looked around, then ushered Olivia into Cragen's office. "Back then," she began, closing the door behind her, "Things were different. CPS wouldn't take you away from her because she had a stable job and was in a program." She looked at Cragen. "Don and I...we tried like hell, but no judge would listen. We knew that if it were left to chance, she'd kill you, or if she found out your insurance wasn't covering every trip to..."
"It wasn't!" Olivia yelled. "You were!"
"True," Donnelly said, continuing. "But she thought it was. If she knew it wasn't the insurance, she would have stopped taking you, and any injury left untreated could have...well, that was a chance we weren't going to take."
Cragen cleared his throat. "Olivia, look," he said. "It's in the past, and we didn't think you'd ever find out. Hell, I never even thought you'd still be living in New York when you graduated college. I thought you'd get as far away from her as possible."
Olivia smiled. "So did I," she said. "But, uh, there was this guy...at school. He...he changed everything, and then he left. I couldn't leave the city. Not until...not until I found him."
Cragen tilted his head. "You stayed for some guy?" He couldn't smile. He wanted to, but he couldn't.
"I stayed for my husband, Cap," she replied, one hand running over her belly. "He's not just some guy. He...he never was."
"I knew you were going to say that," he said, rolling his eyes. "If there's nothing else...I'm not sorry, and I never will be. You were a special little girl, and you grew up to be a special woman. I just...I made sure you would get to grow up. That's all."
Olivia gave him a softer smile, and she blinked once, then tilted her head. She squinted a bit. "Where's Andy?"
Cragen chuckled and shook his head. "Repaying an old debt," he said. "Go," he told her. "Elliot's probably ripping his hair out wondering what's going on in here."
She got out of her seat and nodded at both Cragen and Donnelly, then left the office. She was relieved, and also slightly upset, that Cragen wasn't her father. It meant her life wasn't a lie, but it also meant she was still missing half of her story, half of what she was giving to her child.
Elliot sighed, seeing her walk toward him. "What was that all about?"
"Nothing, really," she said, shaking her head. "Just a few questions I finally have answers to," she explained. She saw the look on his face. "Not that one."
He chuckled and kissed her gently. "I talked to Trevor," he said, biting his lip. "Liv, I don't think…" he paused and took both of her hands in his. "Do you really wanna go through all of that again?"
She took a deep breath. "If it keeps her away from us, away from our kids, then yes." She turned to Trevor. "What do we have to do?"
"Well, like I told Elliot," Trevor began, "You'll have to get a new lawyer, give new statements, you'll need to recount everything unless she..."
"If Kathy makes a full confession," Elliot interrupted, "Then they can give her a deal. With what she did, and what she tried to do, she'll still be in prison until we're grandparents. This doesn't have to go to trial."
"You don't wanna go through it all again, do you?" she asked, nudging his nose with hers.
He pressed his forehead against hers and said, "There are a thousand and one nights, one in particular, that I would relive with you in a heartbeat. The night you almost died is not one of them."
She took a shaky breath, she nodded, and she kissed him. "All right," she whispered. "But what if she doesn't…"
"Detective Eckerson," Trevor butted in. "He and Fin went to talk to her. They'll get a full, written confession out of her."
Olivia smiled, knowing Andy was only doing what Cragen had asked. "I'll see you later, Trevor. Thanks."
Elliot hesitantly shook Trevor's hand, then nodded at Cragen as he waved to them from his office doorway. He wrapped an arm around Olivia and led her down the hallway, toward the elevator. He pushed the button, then looked at her for a long moment before saying, "It wasn't even cold."
She narrowed her eyes. "What wasn't?" she asked him as they stepped into the lift together.
"That night," he whispered. "When we went for that walk around the campus. It wasn't that cold, but we were both shivering, and when we got back inside…it was hot as hell in that lobby, and I didn't wanna let you go."
The doors in front of her slid shut, and she turned to face him. "What even made you think of…"
"Just now, back there," he cut in. "I started shaking. Just thinking about Kathy, and what she tried to do to you…I started shaking, and I knew it was for the same reason I shook back then. I was...we were scared, Liv."
Her brow furrowed. "Scared?"
He smiled at her and nodded. "You were terrified of your feelings, you know you were. You didn't know what love like that was like, and feeling so strongly so fast..."
"Scared me out of my mind," she finished. "Yeah."
He nodded with a hum. "And being with you scared the shit out of me because you were everything that I wanted, and couldn't have. Well, wasn't supposed to have." He shook his head and laughed, remembering. "I was married, with a kid on the way, and I was on my way to a Marine base. I didn't know if I was gonna live or die, if I'd ever meet my child. None of that scared me the way you did. You wanna know why?"
She bit her lip. "You're gonna tell me, even if I say no, right?"
He grinned as the elevator doors opened and he pulled her out of the box by the hand. "You scared me, because you made me feel things I never felt before. With you in my arms the way you were, I was terrified that once I left you, I would never feel like that again. The thought of losing you petrified me then, and it does now."
She yelped when he pulled her closer and their noses touched. "You're not gonna lose me," she whispered. "Ever."
He kissed her once and guided her out of the building, and he walked with her to their car. "On my honor," he said, "I will defend and protect…you. Our kids. Our family." He spun her around and pulled her close, leaning up against the trunk of his car. "Until the end of time."
She laughed and kissed the end of his nose. "That was a clever spin on the Marine pledge, huh?"
"It's a vow, Liv," he whispered. "Like the one I made you our first night together, in your bed, when I gave you my cross. Like the ones I made to you on our wedding day. There's not a single thing I wouldn't do for you, for our kids, to keep you safe and happy."
She narrowed her eyes. "What did you do?"
"Nothing," he mumbled, his eyes searching hers for a sign she believed him. When none was found, he closed his eyes. "Nothing yet, I mean."
"What are you planning on doing?" she asked, her hands skimming down his chest.
He took a breath. "We have four kids, with another one on the way," he told her. "Five kids, in this city, on the shit salary we both pull in? Liv, that's…insane. We'd never have the kind of life we deserve."
"What are you saying?" she asked, blinking.
"Let's go back," he pleaded, his eyes wide and his smile warm. "I already looked at a few places online, these big, beautiful, affordable houses. And it's really not that long of a commute, we would just have to have set hours, no more pulling the graveyard shift or taking calls in the middle of the night."
"Slow down, Tonto!" she chuckled. "You're so excited about this, but I don't know what you're…"
"Loudonville," he said, a twinkle in his eyes.
She almost choked. "You want to move upstate?" she questioned. "That's almost a three hour…"
"One and a half, if we take the bullet train," he told her firmly. "I put a lot of thought into this, baby. I researched schools, and the kids would be able to run around in a real yard! Ya know, we could get that dog they want so badly. Baby, we can raise our kids in a real house with a white picket fence and go to sleep to the sound of crickets instead of sirens."
She pressed a finger over his mouth to shut him up, and she shivered against him when he kissed the pad of her slim digit. "El," she whispered, her eyes closing. Her head dropped to his. "How long have you wanted to do this?"
He sighed. "A long time, baby," he told her. "Why do you think I keep bringing you back there? That place…it gave me you. It gave me my whole life in one night, and what kind of man would I be if I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in the only place my wife and I were ever perfectly happy?"
Her head tilted as she smiled. "One night," she whispered. "Una noche, El. That's all it took to make me yours. In that one night, I promised that I would follow you to the ends of the earth if I ever had to, I'd go anywhere, do anything to be with you. To stay with you." She kissed him and said, "When do we leave?"
His smile grew, his eyes popped open, and he laughed heartily as he kissed her and spun her around again. He pressed her into the car, kissing her deeply, and moaned just a bit. He pulled away from her, and his eyes traveled down her reddened lips, her long neck, and landed on the gold chain. He slipped a finger beneath it and trailed its length, and though it had been replaced a few times, the cross remained at the heart of it, dangling against her perfect chest.
"It's amazing," she whispered to him, feeling his left hand course over her body and land on her bump. She linked her fingers with his there. "Isn't it?"
"What?" he asked, pulling her against him tightly.
She kissed him softly, then looked deeply into the eyes she fell in love with, what seemed like a lifetime ago. She smiled at him and whispered, "One night can last forever."
A/N: A sweet end, to a story that went too long forgotten. Thank you all for not giving up on it. For not giving up on me. Much love.