(Chapter One: The Gift)
It had been a long week with very little sleep and Olivia was more than relieved to be heading home a little early tonight. A hot bath and a glass of red wine later she was passed out on the sofa in front of the television.
It was near three o'clock in the morning when her cell phone rang. Olivia opened her eyes and raised up to look around the dimly lit room.
"What the hell," she mumbled squinting to look at her watch. "Benson," she whispered as she cleared her throat.
"Liv, I know it's late, but I need your help."
"Elliot, what in the world is going on? Did Cragen call you about the case?"
"No. It's something else. Look it's important, kind of an emergency and I don't know what to do."
"What is it?"
"I really can't talk about this over the phone, can you just come over here? Please?"
"El, I….we have to be at work in three hours."
"Alright, I'm on my way."
She groaned as she hung up the phone and yawned.
"Well, it was good while it lasted," she said aloud as she sat up and went in search of her car keys.
Twenty minutes later Olivia climbed off the elevator on Elliot's floor. She walked to his door and reached to ring the bell as the door flew open.
"Thank God you're here," Elliot said as he pulled her inside and closed the door behind her. "I don't know what to do."
"Elliot, what is going on?" she asked looking around the seemingly empty apartment. "Where is your big emergency?"
"There," he said pointing to a basket on the end of the couch.
"There?" she asked confused as she stepped forward to inspect it.
Olivia walked to the basket and pulled back the blanket inside. There bundled in white receiving blanket was a tiny infant.
"It's a baby!" she said looking back at him in disbelief.
"What, were you expecting a dog?"
"Where did it come from, Elliot?"
"You know the old baby left in a basket on the doorstep story? It was kind of like that."
"Munch and I went out for drinks after work. When I got home that basket was sitting in front of my door."
"Do you have any idea who put it there?"
"I called down to the front desk and they don't remember seeing anyone come in. And the security cameras have been down all week. All I can think is someone who knows I work SVU, thought I would know what to do with the kid."
"Is there a note in the basket?"
"I didn't look. It was sleeping and I didn't want to wake it. All I did was pull back the blanket, once I saw what was inside I tucked the blanket back around it and left it alone."
"Elliot, it is a child. A baby, a he or a she. Not an it. You didn't even bother to look to see the sex?"
"Why on earth would I?"
Olivia moved the top blanket again as the baby began to stir. The child opened it's little eyes and looked up at them as a soft pout formed on it's face. She tipped her head to stare at the baby as a whimper began to emerge from the tiny bundle.
"What does it want?" Elliot asked.
"To be picked up," she replied looking back at him.
"You pick it up," he said pointing to the baby.
"It's isn't a bomb, Elliot. It isn't like it will explode if you touch it."
She slipped her hands under the soft white blanket and picked up the baby as it grunted and stared at her.
"There now, that wasn't so bad," she cooed to the baby. "What's under the blanket?" she asked with a nod as Elliot pulled out the blanket that had been placed under the baby.
"A couple of diapers, part of a can of formula, a bottle and an envelope."
"Maybe that says who's baby this is," Olivia suggested as the baby began to cry.
"And why they dumped it on me," Elliot said folding back the little metal tab on the manila envelope.
"Elliot, the baby is crying. We should take care of that first."
"How do we make it stop?"
"I don't know. Maybe we should change the diaper."
"How do we do that?"
"Umm…." Olivia held the now screaming infant out away from her body as frantically searched the room. "We'll use the coffee table. Get a towel."
"Unless you would rather whatever is inside this diaper leak out all over your table."
"Getting a towel," he said moving down the hall to the bathroom.
"Grab a warm wet wash cloth too," she called to him. "It's alright, its alright. Shhh, it's okay. You don't have to cry," she said softly bouncing the baby as it continued to cry.
Elliot returned and laid out the bath towel on the coffee table as Olivia laid the baby down.
"What's the washcloth for?"
"Incase there is poop."
"Oh, this is bad," Elliot replied as his partner unsnapped the white sleeper to free the baby's legs.
"Get the new diaper ready. If it is a boy, they pee everywhere when you take the diaper off."
Elliot looked confused as he studied the diaper.
"El, I have a screaming child here in case you haven't noticed."
"Both sides look the same."
"Which way is up? Both sides look the same," he said showing her the diaper.
"I would think that the side with the little bears would be the front."
"There are bears on the other side, too."
"We will just have to pay attention to how we take this one off so we know how to put the new one on." She moved her fingertips up and pulled back the little pieces of tape on the sides of the diaper. "The part with the tape is in the back," she said watching as he laid out the diaper.
"Okay, on my count raise up the baby and I'll pull that one out and put the dry on in. We will just have to pray nothing gross comes out."
"Maybe you should check first to see if there is anything to fall out."
"Look for poop, you mean?"
"That is exactly what I mean. Just peek in the side."
"No way! You peek in the side!"
Olivia laughed as the baby cried so hard it's little face turned red.
"Alright, I'll look," she agreed.
"One….two….three," he counted with a mischievous grin.
He watched his partner's face as she leaned forward to look into the diaper.
"No poop! And…." she said pausing for a moment.
"It's a girl," she announced with a smile.
"Maybe I should leave you two alone."
"You are not getting out of this that easily, Stabler! This kid was left on your doorstep, not mine!"
"Olivia, I can't clean a girl baby. It's inappropriate!"
"You don't think there are hundreds of men in this country that have changed the diaper of a girl baby?"
"What do you want me to do?"
"I'll life up the baby and pull the wet diaper out. All you have to do is slip the dry one back in."
"Sounds easy enough."
Olivia nodded to him then raised up the baby, pulling away the wet diaper. She wiped the baby over with the wet wash cloth and fastened the sticky tape on the sides of the fresh diaper.
"There," she cooed as she snapped the sleeper back up and held the little girl against her collar bone to try and soothe her. "You should fix her a bottle. The poor little thing is probably starving."
"Right," Elliot said moving to the kitchen with the empty bottle and can of formula.
Olivia paced the floor with the baby as Elliot studied the instructions on the back of the can.
"I think I've got this," he said warming some water in the microwave.
Olivia watched as he mixed a couple of scoops of the powder with the water and put the nipple back on the bottle.
"Can you do this part?" he asked offering her the bottle. "Babies make me nervous."
"I'm a little nervous too," she replied taking the bottle from him.
Olivia exhaled and sat down on the couch. She cradled the little girl in her arms and offered her the bottle. The baby fussed for a few moments, then accepter the nipple into her mouth. She whimpered softly as she drank the formula so quickly Olivia thought she might choke.
"Slow down, sweetheart. It is all yours. No one is gonna take it from you. Take your time, it isn't ladylike to eat so fast."
Elliot smiled watching her with the infant. He sat in the chair across the room and picked up the manila envelope. He exhaled as he opened it and slid out a stack of papers.
"There's a letter," he said as Olivia looked up at him.
"What does it say?"
"The baby's mother was killed in a car accident last week."
"Poor little thing," Olivia said looking down at the baby in her arms.
"She was left with some friends of the mother, but they are unable to care for her. So they are leaving her with me."
"Why you?" Olivia asked looking back up at him.
Elliot was quiet for a moment, then he looked up at his partner.
"Because….I am her father," he said as Olivia's jaw dropped.