Part Fifty-Nine
After

Olivia woke up early on Tuesday morning, long before Elliot. She stretched happily, testing her muscles which were still deliciously sore from the athletic activities the evening before. Thinking of how many calories they'd burned off, she decided to get up and make breakfast. She gave Elliot a quick nuzzle and then slid out of bed, allowing Moose to take her spot rather than how he usually waited for Elliot's in the morning. Moose didn't seem to care a bit, flopping over next to Elliot and immediately going to sleep.

She quietly padded down to the kitchen, staring into the refrigerator and trying to decide what to have. Elliot had treated her to that wonderful dinner and dancing and loving, so she decided she'd treat him back. She pulled out eggs, cheese, milk, ham, and bread, deciding that Elliot would love to wake up to an omelet and toast.

Of course, she'd expected that she could handle something as simple as an omelet. Although she was making admirable strides in learning how to prepare respectable meals, it still took her three tries before she wound up with an edible breakfast concoction.

With a proud smile, she slid it onto the plate just as Elliot was coming down the stairs with Moose.

He grinned, crossing the room to kiss her. "I get breakfast today?"

"I got dinner last night. Seemed fair."

"Guess I can skip my run today." He let Moose out the back door and then returned to the table and dug into his omelet.

Olivia wasn't so hungry anymore, not after having sampled her failed, less-than-appetizing attempts, and so leaned on the counter with her coffee, watching Elliot.

As soon as the first bite went in his mouth, he made a terrible face, glancing at her and then working to swallow it. "Um," he asked as he picked the omelet apart to investigate the ingredients, "is there ham in this?"

Trying not to be annoyed at him, she nodded. "Yeah, ham and cheese."

"I don't like ham."

She scoffed, knowing she'd eaten a frightening enough number of meals with him that she would have known if he'd ever expressed a dislike of ham. "Since when?"

"It's kind of burnt too." He frowned without acknowledging her question and pushed the plate away. "I think I'm just going to have cereal."

His words, and his behavior, hurt her far more than she would have expected. Determined not to cry over the insult, she funneled the pain into anger. Maybe she wasn't going to win any cooking contests any time soon, but he could have eaten it. She'd tried it. It wasn't that bad; it wasn't inedible. She snatched the plate off the table and sat it in the sink. She didn't put it in the garbage disposal, though, thinking maybe Moose would appreciate her better.

Still, she tried to keep the disappointed scowl off her face and to hide her feelings, both the hurt and the rage, as she looked at him. "Suit yourself." She turned away and put some bread in the toaster, staring at the coils inside as they turned a fiery orange, much like her mood was.

Elliot stepped behind her, reaching up to grab a bowl out of the cabinet and playfully elbowing her in the side. "Maybe you need to dig out that cookbook and try again, huh?"

And then she didn't bother to hide the anger. She turned squarely to face him, her arms folding over her chest. "You know, I made you a whole fucking chicken dinner that you didn't eat because you decided to get drunk with your boyfriends and I was here doing half the work with the damn lasagna too. I got up and thought 'maybe Elliot would like breakfast' and I tried to make you something. Sorry if it's not fucking perfect, but at least I'm trying. You could have given up a little effort and eaten two whole bites before you decided I need cooking lessons."

His eyes widened and he stepped back, raising his hands. "Sorry, I didn't know it would hurt your feelings. I just thought you might want to practice cooking something while you're here alone all day with nothing to do besides read kids' books."

Her eyes widened in disbelief. He wasn't sorry. He may have said the word, but he hadn't meant it. "I have plenty to do all day, like reading those books and preparing lesson plans for my job because, if I remember correctly, we can't buy food unless I work."

"Well, whatever you're busy doing all day, it sure as hell isn't laundry. I'm running out of socks." He was grinning; he seemed to think he was funny.

"Oh my god, are you fucking kidding me?" She wanted to throw her mug at him, but managed to resist, and that was because she'd undoubtedly be the one cleaning it up. She was the little wife, after all.

He shrugged. "What? You've been to work one day and it wasn't even a whole day! You've got time to throw in a load of laundry."

"Right, you're so busy working. What is it that you Marines do all day again? Push-ups? Sit-ups? Jog a few laps?" She moved closer, narrowing her eyes at him, fixing him with a glare that usually stopped criminals in their tracks and speaking in a low, controlled voice. "Don't you forget for one second who you're talking to, Elliot Stabler." Oh, if only she had a gun in the house she'd be happy to remind him.

He drew in a breath, then swallowed hard, his face sheepish when he dared meet her eyes again. "Fuck, Liv, I'm sorry. Really." He shook his head, reaching out to put his hands on her waist. "I don't know what the hell I was thinking."

Not ready to drop it, not after she'd tried so hard, she continued to glare. "You were thinking, and saying, I might add, what a horrible fucking wife I am."

He shook his head. "No, no, baby, you're not." He moved his hands to her back, pulling her into a hug. "You're the best wife in the world. I'm just an idiot and I shouldn't speak before I've had my coffee and know better than to say stupid, shitty things to you." He leaned back a little, smiling at her. "How about I make it up to you tonight?" He kept going, trying to calm her anger. "Maybe we can work on having a baby." He winked then, assuming everything was fine. "We had such a good time practicing last night."

It was the last straw. She wanted to have a baby. He knew that. He fucking knew. And he didn't have a problem teasing her, probably because he'd already gotten to have a bunch of kids. "So the only wifely duty I'm any good at is fucking, huh? No, I don't think a baby is a good idea. The last thing I need is someone else you'll expect me to clean up after."

He kept his arms around her, waiting for her glare to soften. "Liv, stop, this is getting out of hand. I'm sorry."

She shoved him away, throwing the remaining breakfast ingredients back in the fridge and dropping the pan in the sink. Moose was scratching at the back door and it served to remind her of how their lives together had once seemed so damn good. Had it really only been a few days?

She stormed to the back door, pulling it open to allow Moose entrance. "I guess I'm supposed to let the damn dog in too? I'm supposed to be barefoot, pregnant, and responsible for pet care." She turned to glare at Elliot. "Do I look like Kathy to you?"

Elliot's attempt to make up was over as soon as she'd pressed the hot button, evidenced by his raised voice. "You sure as hell don't look like Kathy, so why the fuck are you acting like her?" He continued before she even had the chance to yell. "And the only reason we got the damn dog was because you were too scared to stay by yourself."

If Moose didn't understand the words, at least he picked up on the tension. Rather than siding with either one, he plopped down in the middle of the floor halfway between them.

Olivia's eyes fell on the frying pan in the sink and wished she could brain Elliot with it. He could only benefit from having some sense knocked into him. Her hands clenched into fists and she tried to tamp down the rage. She didn't know how things had gone downhill so fast. She loved him and he said he loved her. Why the hell was he acting so awful? She knew he'd never treated Kathy like this; Kathy wouldn't have stayed married to him. Elliot was used to having a wife, obviously she was a complete disappointment in that arena. Apparently she was a good cop, but a terrible wife. Her face ducked down. She couldn't stand the idea of letting him down. But she couldn't stand the idea of being his housekeeping wife either.

He must have seen the change in her thoughts. He stepped over Moose and reached for her arm. "Wait, Liv-"

She shook her head, pushing his hand away. "Don't."

He didn't give up, caging her against the counter. "Look at me."

"No." Seeing his face would just make her even more upset.

"I'm sorry. I really am. I don't even know why we're fighting. I said the wrong thing. I didn't mean to. I thought you wanted to have kids."

She squeezed her eyes closed, willing herself not to cry. She didn't want him to comfort her, not when he was the one calling her out on her failures. Grabbing a hand towel, she started wiping the counter and pretended like hell that she wasn't hurting. "I'm not discussing this with you."

"Then who the fuck are you going to discuss it with? I'm your husband."

She couldn't believe he'd just said that. He was throwing their situation in her face as though it had been up to her. That was one decision she knew had been all his. Hell, she hadn't even been conscious when he'd made it. She turned around, fixing him with a cold stare. "You're not my husband. None of this is real, Elliot." And then she walked away.

Because she didn't want him to see her crying.

She hid out in the office while Elliot showered and dressed. She didn't want to see him. She didn't want to hear him. He was probably right about her being a crappy wife. She had no experience with it and honestly, she wasn't sure she wanted any. The marriages she'd seen in her life seemed doomed and miserable. She'd thought perhaps she and Elliot would be ok, at least with their pretend marriage. But she'd been wrong. Even fake marriages were doomed.

She tried to distract herself all day with working on her plans for her classes, mentally trying to match up the kids she remembered with the names on her class list. She took Moose for a long walk and then put the dishes in the dishwasher, reasoning that she'd dirtied the dishes and therefore was responsible for cleaning them.

By the time Elliot came in from work, she had a plan. They weren't off playing house for fun. They were together for safety and she knew it was for the best. For now, at least. Even that was subject to change.

Rather than curled up with a book or diligently working her way through a crossword puzzle like she normally was, Olivia was sitting up and staring nervously when Elliot walked through the door.

He turned to look at her, the smile dying on his lips. Why he had been smiling, she couldn't say; not only was the fight one of the biggest they'd had in years, but it was also the first time that he hadn't called her during the day.

"We need to talk."

The color drained out of his face as he sat down beside her. "Guess I should have brought flowers today, huh?"

"It wouldn't have helped."

"It helped last night."

She glared at him, unwilling to forget the cruel things he'd said that morning, no matter how perfect he'd seemed the night before. "There aren't enough flowers in the world to fix this morning."

She was distracted from her carefully planned speech, her thoughts turning to the wonderful time they'd had the evening before. She thought of how they'd talked and flirted and danced. She remembered the elderly couple and how she'd wanted her and Elliot to be like them one day. But she could imagine that white-haired gentleman needlessly hurting his wife's feelings any more than she could imagine the stout man refusing a meal the woman made for him. She was sure that when that couple had started out together there were plenty of missteps and confusion and bad cooking and unfinished chores. They'd managed to make it through because they loved each other. And while she was sure she loved Elliot enough to keep trying to make things work, she knew there was no way to make it work if he wasn't really in it for the long haul. She couldn't try enough for both of them.

"Before you get started," he shifted sideways to look at her, his hand moving toward her leg.

She pulled her leg away, not about to let him schmooze his way out of the conversation she'd been dreading all day. "Just listen, I've already thought this through." She swallowed hard and took a deep breath. As much as she'd been thinking about it all day, her fears paled in comparison to the pain of actually saying it. "We had a good time, Elliot, it was fun. But we have to be serious. This isn't going to work, unless we limit our relationship to being roommates. This is about keeping ourselves alive, not about having fun."

His mouth dropped open, obviously not having expected where their fight would lead. "Olivia, no, come on."

"I've thought this through, Elliot. It's what's best. We've managed to get along and function quite well together for a long time. Since we started sleeping together, fuck, Elliot, we haven't managed to stop fighting long enough to do anything besides sleep together."

One side of his mouth curled up in a sexy smile that Olivia had to remind herself to ignore. "There are worse things, Liv."

She shook her head and looked away, telling herself that kissing that damn smirk off his face would only hurt them both in the long run. "No, Elliot, the worst thing that can happen is that we lose the friendship we've had for fourteen years. Nothing is worth that to me."

He reached out again, grabbing hold of her hand carefully. "We're not going to lose our friendship. So there are some kinks. We'll work them out."

She shook her head, pulling her hand away, reminding herself that he was doing exactly what she'd just mentioned – trying to fuck her so she'd forget about the fight. She could hardly blame him; she hadn't exactly stopped him any other time. "No, Elliot, not anymore. I'm not interested in being your fuck buddy."

His eyes narrowed. "What?" He waited, staring at her as though he honestly expected her to unsay what she'd just said. "Olivia, that is not what's going on here. This isn't about sex. We're not about sex. You know that."

Again, she shook her head. He was wrong. All they were doing was screwing around until they got tired, had a fight, and then started the cycle over again. "I'm not doing this anymore. We have to think of the big picture, of the future, of," she stopped for a moment, unsure what it was she was saying as she stared back into Elliot's eyes, eyes which she nearly believed were crushed. She looked away to get back on track, telling herself that he was just trying to wear her down. She had to be strong or she'd lose the best friend she'd ever had. "It's done, Elliot."

Elliot took a deep breath and sat back, his arms folding across his chest as he set his jaw. He didn't agree, but he seemed to decide it wasn't worth starting another fight which would only prove her point. "Doesn't sound like you really want to 'talk.' Sounds to me like you want to dictate."

She ignored the jab and moved on to the next item of business, as though breaking up with the love of her life was only a small matter to be address. "Listen, I've thought this through, and you're absolutely right that I have more time at home than you do. Therefore, I'm willing to do more of the housework." She held up her hand to stop him from cutting her off. "But you also need to remember that you're working a hell of a lot less than you did when you lived with Kathy and so you can certainly do more than you're used to doing."

He grimaced, turning away. "I don't expect you to do my laundry. I was an ass this morning and I'm sorry." He looked back at her, stretching his arm toward her again. "If I promise to not stick my foot in my mouth anymore, can we postpone this discussion?" Leaning in, his hand rested on the far side of her legs, caging her in front of him. "We're good together, Olivia. We're just having a little trouble adjusting to all the changes. We can do this." He moved still closer, trying to kiss her.

With a shove to his chest, Olivia bought herself enough space to get up and cross the room. "I'm not having sex with you. Period. Now that we've got settled, do you think we can have an adult conversation?"

His eyes narrowed and he stood up, not daring to approach her. "No, there's no point in having a conversation. Just leave a chore chart on the refrigerator and if I do all my work before the weekend, I'll get my allowance."

"Oh, grow up, Elliot. You're an adult. You can handle cleaning the damn bathroom you use every day."

"Fuck you, Olivia." He stormed out of the room, stomping his feet as he headed up the stairs.

She raised her voice, insistent on getting in the last word. "There's no chance of that happening!"

She sat back down on the sofa and willed herself not to cry. She'd trusted him. She'd loved him. She'd let him in the walls she'd built up all her life. And he'd hurt her. As soon as he realized he wasn't getting lucky, he couldn't even stay in the same room as her anymore. If he was that much of a jerk, he wasn't worth crying over.

She tried to remind herself of that as she wrapped her arms around Moose and let her tears drip into his fur.