A/N: Sharing hidden parts of yourself is what a real relationship is, no? Where does he take her? Thank you for reading this story, I hope it works for ya.
DISCLAIMER: SVU and related characters/ideas belong to Dick Wolf. Original plot and dialogue belong to TStabler©
"Where are we going?" Olivia asked, smirking. She hated surprises, but Elliot was full of them, so she knew she had to get used to it.
He grinned at her. "Just sit tight, we've got about an hour left. I promise, it's worth it." He sighed and raised both eyebrows, then he said, "At least I hope it'll be worth it."
She took a breath and looked out the window. "It's so much different, ya know? No accidents, no crowded streets, no…"
"No New York," he laughed. "I know. That's one of the reasons I wanted to drive."
"One?" she asked. "Why else?"
He turned down a dirt road, and he shrugged. "I thought there were still a few things we didn't know about each other. I thought this would be a chance to talk, really talk, about anything and everything. And in the car, if we got tired or…if we wanted to get a little closer," he paused to wag his eyebrows at her, "All we have to do is pull over and its fine. I just…I wanted to spend as much time alone with you as possible."
"Who knew you had this incredibly romantic side?" she asked, smiling.
"You did," he told her. "I've always been a big teddy bear around you, and part of me hated you for it for years, for making such a mush," he said with a laugh. "It wasn't until I gave in, gave up, and admitted it was because I love you that I accepted it."
She reached for his hand on the gear shift, and she sighed. "I happen to love teddy bears," she said, winking. "What did Kathy say?"
"Oh, why did you have to bring that up?" he groaned. "We were having such a nice conversation."
She laughed. "Seriously. I said goodnight to the kids, you did, then Kathy got on the phone and your whole attitude changed."
"She apologized," he said, rolling his eyes. "She said that she knew I would never have just decided to have a baby with someone I'd only known for a few months. She knew it must have been something important, and she figured out that…that it never happened. Well, until now."
Olivia laughed a bit, then shook her head. "I still can't believe you went that far, I mean, what if I didn't want it to be so…clinical?"
He looked at her, one eyebrow shot up, and he smirked. "I was ready and willing to give you what you wanted, any way you wanted it."
"Damn," she said with a harsh sigh. "All this time we could have been…"
"Do you know how many kids we would have had by now?" he laughed, making a sharp turn to the right. "Kathy would hate both of us, she'd have lawyers on my ass…"
"You really would have left her?" she asked, her eyes screwed together.
He sighed. "It sucks to say this, to really hear myself say this, but yes," he said with a nod. He pulled into a long driveway, with a guard in a booth at the end of it. "If something started between us then, I would have. That's...that's why I'm bringing you here."
She hummed in amusement and looked out the windshield. "El, where are we."
He grinned and rolled his window down, flashing his badge to the guard. "Detective Elliot Stabler," he said. "My partner, Olivia Benson. Routine check."
The guard nodded and pushed a button, lifting the long plank and letting the car go through. Olivia looked at Elliot again. "What the hell was that? Routine check for what?"
He chuckled. "Will you please just trust me?" he asked, pulling the car into a visitor's spot. He got out and stretched, feeling good about not sitting down anymore.
Olivia got out of her side, stretched as well, and looked around. "We're on a Marine base, aren't we?"
Elliot nodded, walked to her, took her hand, and pulled her along the path. "Mine," he said. "Fort Still. I spent twenty-eight weeks out in California, then they sent me here, to head up an installation unit. At the time, here, there were riots and on-base battles. A guy blew up his own barrack, just because he would rather die than go to war. Most of us, we were fighting for a cause, ya know? We believed in what we were doing, but others…others wanted it to end, and all hell broke loose. It's year and a half of my life no one knows about."
Olivia raised an eyebrow. "You didn't tell…"
"Kathy thought I was still in California," he said, shaking his head. "I didn't want her to worry about me. Ya know, she had the baby, and her mother was giving her problems, I just thought if I told her I was on an active base, she'd crack."
"And you're telling me, now, because…" she trailed off, expectant.
"Because," he said, "I want you to know everything." He sent her a look and pulled her toward a white building. "That door, right there, was the gate to hell for most of my time here. The gym, complete with high-tech training facilities and the world's most obnoxious drill sergeant. I broke my arm on my third day with him, and he made me do fifty push-ups because it was my fault."
"Jesus," she said, stunned.
"One-armed, of course," he added, tilting his head. "They splinted it, but it didn't matter. Injured or not, I was expected to fight. To be part of the collective machine."
She gave his hand a squeeze and he pulled her along. This time, he gestured to a brick building. "Hospital." He sighed and closed his eyes. "I can't tell you how many of my friends, how many of my brothers, went into that building and never came out. It was here, ya know, the first time I killed a man. That happened here. It was an accident, I was aiming for his shoulder and..." He shook his head, not wanting to talk about it anymore.
"Oh, El," Olivia said softly, her heart breaking for him. "It must have been awful."
"It was," he said. "It was Hell. But I brought you here to show you…" He came to a stop in front of a small iron gate. "This," he said, pointing.
Behind the gate, a beautiful garden with wildly growing flowers and wrought iron benches stared back at them. "Flowers, El?" she questioned, looking at him.
He opened the gate, led her inside, and said, "The men in my unit, because we were a bunch of bleeding-heart insomniacs, planted most of this in about a year. Every time a Marine died, we'd plant a flower patch for him. By the time I was discharged, there were ninety-seven different kinds of flowers here."
"My God," she said, shaking her head.
He bent down, pulling her with him, and said, "This, though. This group of white roses…not these exact ones, obviously, but the first ones…I planted them one night, and it wasn't because someone had died. It was because I'd lived." He reached into the bush and tore a bloom off of the plant.
He looked at her and he said, "I remember coming out here, and as I was digging, I was praying. Praying that I would make it home to my wife and kid, and praying that God would send me someone…anyone…to help me believe I was really alive, and that I had a good reason to stay that way."
He twirled the rose around in his fingers. "The night before they sent me home, I came out here, and I took a few of the seeds that hadn't rooted yet, and when I got home, I planted them in front of the house." He chuckled, remembering. "Planting things in Queens is a lot harder than planting them in Oklahoma. They sucked, Liv. I mean, they grew in crooked, and some of them weren't white so much as dark grey."
She laughed and listened, loving the story, and the meaning behind it.
He lifted the rose to his nose, breathed in, and then held it out to her. He watched her smell the flower and he smiled. "I tried to keep them alive, keep them pruned, but…after I got into the unit, full time, I didn't have the time or the energy. Kathy didn't want them, so she let them go." He shook his head and shrugged. "I guess she didn't want the reminder of the risks I'd taken by being here."
"So, they died?" she asked. "Flowers die, El. It happens."
He shook his head. "That's the odd part," he said. "The important part. They started to wither, and wilt, with each passing season. But one rose, one beautiful, white flower just wouldn't give up. That thing held on, dropping petal after petal, but never really dying, for a few more years." He turned to her, and he brushed the rose down the side of her face. "It was the only one that kept growing back, but, uh, it finally died. I watched the last petal of its last bloom fall, on June Twenty-third, two years ago."
She squinted and thought for a moment. "That was…"
"Yeah, it was," he said. "The day you walked into my life. The day I knew that I had a reason…that I survived for a reason. At first, I thought it was just to protect you, save you, but then…you became my reason for everything. For living." He kissed her and handed her the rose.
"Wow," she whispered. "El, I…"
"Don't say anything," he said. "I know it's probably the silliest thing you've ever heard."
She shook her head and took his hand, still holding the rose in her other. "That was probably the most romantic thing anyone has ever said to me." She wiped away the tear that had fallen, hoping he didn't see it.
"Yeah?" he asked, smiling at her. He brushed his thumbs under her eyes, and he sighed contentedly.
She nodded and kissed him softly. "Yeah," she said.
He shrugged. "I just thought…you should, know, ya know?"
She chuckled and said, "You know, roses are my…"
"I know. You don't even wanna know what went through my mind when I found out you had a thing for white roses," he laughed. "I just couldn't believe it. I took it as a sign, and that's the moment I realized that…whatever you wanted, or needed, ever…it was my job to give it to you."
She leaned in, kissed him again, and whispered, "You have. You have, El."
He kissed her again, and got to his feet, pulling her up. "Another day, and we'll be there."
She sighed and looked around. "Nothing beats this, El. Nothing possibly could."
"Liv," he whispered, "You know now, don't you? That you've always been…since the moment we met…I'm trying to tell you that this…this isn't something new."
She pulled him back toward the path they'd walked on, heading toward their car, and she said, "It is. Every day with you is something new."
"For the rest of our lives," he said, a promise. He kissed her as he gripped her hand tighter, heading back to the car, leaving behind the only real secret he had ever kept, and feeling like a new man for it.
A/N: Over and out. (This one does have a sequel, and it's already well into the third chapter. I may post it, yes?) Review here or on Twitter: TMG212