Lovers from Friends

The shrill ring of her phone startled her out of a sound sleep. Bolting upright on her couch, she answered breathlessly without checking the caller ID. "Benson."

"Olivia… I'm sorry did I wake you? I shouldn't have called…" Her voice was small and shaky.

"Kathleen? Honey, is everything ok?" Olivia glanced at the clock and immediately went to slip on her shoes. It was 2am on a Wednesday and she knew Kathleen Stabler would not be calling at that hour unless there was an emergency.

"I don't know…I just really need someone to talk to and I just can't deal with my parents right now…I- I'm sorry Liv, I should go…" Her voice cracked and she released a small sob.

"No! Kathleen, where are you? I'm going to come get you…just tell me where you are, sweetie." She ran a hand nervously through her hair and grabbed her grey hoodie, making her way out of the apartment.

She knew that Kathleen had been doing well lately since starting medications to treat her bipolar disorder. She was excelling at school, holding a part time job, and even getting along with her family. Ever since Olivia helped her the night she and Elliot found her wrapped in a shower curtain in the park, high on life and God knows what else, Kathleen had been coming to her with her problems and anything she didn't feel comfortable talking to her parents about. The two had become close over the past couple of years, but Olivia had barely heard from her in the past month. She hadn't been too concerned though, because she knew Kathleen had been dating someone new and Elliot had told her that they had been in their own little world. He would roll his eyes while talking about his daughter's new boyfriend, but Olivia knew that he was secretly happy for her because she was finally in a healthy relationship and in a good place in her life. But now with this 2am phone call from a clearly distraught Kathleen, Olivia surmised everything wasn't as wonderful as her father made it seem.

"I'm sitting in my car outside the dorms…I don't know where to go! I can't go in there, Liv. I can't look at him…I can't take the chance that he'll be there!" Kathleen began to cry uncontrollably at this point. "…and I can't go home because dad will just blow everything out of proportion and it won't fix anything!" She hiccupped, her voice quivering. "How could he do this to me, Liv?"

Olivia's heart broke for her. Obviously the new boyfriend wasn't prince charming after all. "Kathleen, stay there. I'm on my way. Why would Jake be in your dorm? What happened?"

As Olivia navigated through the city streets on the way to Hudson University, Kathleen told the story of how she found him sneaking out of the room of a girl that lived down the hall in her dorm a few nights ago. Everyone on her floor, in addition to Jake and some of the other girls' dates had been at a party on campus, but Kathleen had left early to meet up with some girlfriends for coffee, telling Jake she would catch up with him later that night since he seemed to be hitting it off with her roommate's boyfriend. By the time she headed back towards her room two hours later, she caught him in the hallway just as he was quietly slipping out of the girl's room, zipping up the fly of his jeans. He had been mortified and immediately began apologizing, blaming one too many beers for his actions. He swore it wasn't as bad as it looked and that he stopped things before they got too far. Jake had been calling her and coming over to try to make things up to her every day since. She couldn't handle it anymore.

Olivia pulled into the campus fifteen minutes later and located Kathleen's car. She was slumped over the steering wheel, her shoulders shaking violently.

Olivia gently tapped on the car window and opened the door, pulling out the distraught woman and leading her to the passenger seat of her Mustang.

"I really thought he could be the one," she stammered. "I had been so happy lately that I even stopped taking my meds a couple weeks ago. I don't need them anymore…everything was going great! I don't know what happened…how did it all go so wrong so fast? I just want to die!" She looked at Olivia with watery eyes, pleading for answers.

Shit.

She stopped taking her meds. Something clicked in Olivia's mind as she looked over her partner's hysterical daughter. Her hair was a mess, clothes unkempt, and her extreme reaction to losing a boyfriend of less than one month all began to make some sense.

"Sweetie, come here." She threw her arms around the young woman who had become like a daughter to her over the years. Kathleen clung to Olivia like a lifeline, thanking her for coming to get her. "I'm so sorry about what happened, but you are a strong person and you'll get through this, okay?" Kathleen nodded faintly against her shoulder as Olivia stroked her tangled hair. She asked cautiously, not wanting her to get defensive, "When did you stop taking your medication?"

"Um, 2 or 3 weeks ago, I guess. Please don't tell my dad about all this, Liv…please! He has been so proud of me recently and now I'm a mess again. I've even been blowing off work and class for the past week. What's wrong with me?" Fresh tears began to fall and Olivia felt like she was caught between a rock and a hard place. She didn't want to betray Kathleen's trust in her, but how could she not tell Elliot? If she were a parent, she sure as hell would want to know if her sick daughter was falling into a depression and not taking her medications!

What the hell had she gotten herself in the middle of?

Olivia dropped a heavy hand on her blaring alarm at 6am, groaning as she pulled her pillow over her head. It had only been 2 hours since Kathleen finally cried herself to sleep and passed out in her bed. Olivia stretched her aching back and neck from sleeping on the couch, and headed into the bathroom for a hot shower. She inhaled deeply, breathing in the scent of her vanilla shower gel as the warm spray and steam soothed her sore muscles. She needed to figure out how to tell Elliot what was going on with his daughter in a way that wouldn't lead him to needlessly freak out. Last night she told Kathleen that she could stay at her place for as long as she needed to as long as she promised to start taking her medication again. Kathleen hadn't committed to anything, but told her she would consider it as she was drifting off to sleep. Elliot was fiercely protective of his children and keeping a secret like this from him would surely cause a rift in their friendship once he found out. She knew she would have to tell him eventually, but decided to wait until tomorrow. After work she would talk to Kathleen again when she was hopefully in a less emotional state of mind. Hopefully she could convince her to talk to her father about how she had been feeling on her own.

Olivia sighed and finished getting ready for work.

An hour later, she was settled in at her desk, checking her e-mail and sipping a steaming cup of coffee when Elliot walked into the station.

"Morning, Liv," he said with a smile.

"Hey," she mumbled shortly, staring at her computer screen, unable to make eye contact.

Elliot looked at her; brow furrowed, then shrugged it off, heading to the coffee machine.

Smooth, Olivia, she thought sarcastically. He's not going to suspect anything is amiss now! She rolled her eyes at herself and vowed to act as normal as possible around him until she figured out how to tell him about Kathleen.

Normal around him.

Whatever that meant.

Their relationship was nothing if not complicated and more often than not, it was just plain awkward. She glanced over at him as he poured himself a mug of coffee and let her mind drift. Things had been much more comfortable with him lately though. Much less arguing and tension, but also less passion and fire. She felt like they had become akin to an old married couple, at ease and in synch with each other, but also not as close as they used to be on some levels. She misses it. She misses him…the old him. The Elliot from years ago that had an uncanny ability to affect her mood with one piercing look or one simple word. The Elliot who, admittedly after much prodding, confided in her when he wouldn't communicate with anyone else; not even his wife. The Elliot who made an effort to make sure she was okay and safe at all times, no matter what he had to do, even when she resisted or resented his actions.

She had been in love with him for years. Deep, passionate, all-encompassing love. Now it's just been tamped down because she realizes she had no choice but to do so. He was back to being happily married (at least this week) and she had long accepted the fact that they will never be together romantically. She was almost positive he had never thought of her in that way anyhow. She learned to be content with the way things were between them now. Long time partners and good friends… and that wasn't so bad…

"Olivia, are you in there?" a voice asked incredulously. She was shaken from her thoughts as an irritable Cragen called out to her. She and Elliot had caught a case and needed to head out to the scene ASAP.

"Uh, sorry, Cap…didn't get much sleep last night," she mumbled, pushing her chair out from under her desk.

Elliot observed her curiously as he grabbed their coats off the rack. "Ready?" he asked passing the coat to her.

"Yeah, let's go." It was going to be a long day.

It was about 7pm when Olivia finished the last of her paperwork and was about to call it a day. Elliot leaned back in his chair, stretching his arms above him, then lacing his fingers behind his head while eying his partner. "Hey Liv, let's get outta here and grab a drink." He knew something had been on her mind all day, as evidenced by her distracted behavior, but figured she would talk about it if she wanted to. They were passed the point of trying to force conversation out of each other like in the old days. She knew he was there for her and vice versa. No words were needed.

Olivia hesitated at his request, feeling a bit uneasy. Kathleen had promised her that they would talk tonight about how she had been feeling depressed lately so that they could discuss how to get her back on track; but what could a quick drink with her partner first hurt? She smiled at him, always up for an opportunity to spend time with him outside of work. "OK…but I just have time for one tonight."

"Hot date later?" he asked with a mischievous wink.

"Yes, please," she muttered under her breath, as she moved to grab her purse and coat.

"What was that, Liv?"

"Nothing… let's go Stabler! You're buying!"

Elliot chuckled lightly, rolling his eyes. "Of course."

Olivia sent a brief text to Kathleen, saying she would be home shortly as they silently made their way to the local pub down the street from the station. They entered the dim, empty bar and hopped on some barstools, ordering two beers.

Elliot took a long pull from the bottle, glancing sideways at his partner. "So, we haven't done this in a while, huh? Just you and me grabbing a drink after a rough day…"

"Yeah, well, you've been going straight home like a good little boy every night after work these days," she teased, ignoring the slight twinge of jealousy she felt thinking of her partner's renewed efforts to play the happy couple with Kathy.

He snorted, "Daddy duty." He took another long drink of his beer. "Eli has been quite the handful lately let me tell you! I don't know how Kathy does it all day by herself. Between Eli getting into everything and the twins in that fun 'know it all' teenager phase, I don't know how she keeps her sanity." He chuckled, shaking his head.

Smirking, Olivia bumped his shoulder with her own, "Well, that's what happens when you decide to repopulate all of Queens."

He laughed and said, "At least they are good kids. I couldn't be more proud. Especially of Kathleen, after all she'd been through…"

As if on cue, Olivia's cell rang, Kathleen's name flashing on the screen. "Gotta take this, El. I'll be right back," she said as she made her way outside of the bar.

Elliot nodded and watched her hurriedly walk out the door. He was hoping she would open up and talk to him about what had been on her mind all day, but here he was going on about his family and talking her ear off.

Yeah, he could really be a selfish prick sometimes.

He sighed as he began to pick at the label on his beer. Glancing outside, he could see from her body language that Olivia was distressed. She was pacing back and forth and running her hand nervously through her hair, her phone pressed into her right ear.

"Kathleen, you need to speak up, I can't understand you, honey." Olivia pushed her index finger into her left ear, trying to block out the sounds of the city on the busy street.

"Where are you 'livia?" she slurred into the phone. "Needed to talk, but…soooo tired. Hmmm…tell dad I'm sorry."

Olivia's heart stopped.

"Kathleen? Kathleen? Wake up, I'm coming home now! What is going on?" She yelled into the phone. She knew she shouldn't have stopped for a drink after work, leaving Kathleen alone and dejected any longer than she had to. She silently cursed herself as she tried to get her attention. "Kathleen! Please answer me! What have you done?"

"I'm sorry, but I just can't 'nymore," she mumbled. Olivia's eyes widened as she pleaded with her to stay awake. After getting no response other than the sound of Kathleen's labored breathing, she hung up the phone and immediately called for a bus to her apartment.

She ran back into the bar and threw down a twenty, grabbing a confused Elliot harshly by the arm. "We have to go right now!"

"The fuck, Liv?" Elliot clambered off the barstool and ran after her.

"I'll explain on the way to my place. I…I think Kathleen tried to hurt herself."