Disclaimer: I own nothing. I'm just borrowing them for fun. The title belongs to Madonna.

A/N: I haven't given up on For Once in My Life. It's just really slow writing right now. I took a break to write this idea that popped into my head plus I have a lot of homework I needed to work on.

Eli doesn't exist in this story. Elliot and Kathy are already divorced. Everything takes place during season 7 or 8.


September 28, 2007 – 6:35PM

Benson-Stabler apartment

Olivia rinsed out her glass before placing it in the near empty dishwasher. She did the same with the other glasses that were on the counter before moving on to the dirty plates from dinner. She was lost in her own little world. She quietly hummed a song that had been in her head all day and tapped her bare foot on the ground. She couldn't wait to change out of her work clothes. Normally it was the first thing she did when she got home but they had been late getting off of work today and she had wanted to get dinner started before they all starved.

She wanted to pinch herself everyday to remind herself she wasn't dreaming. Her life was damn near perfect for once in her life. Fourteen months ago, Elliot had finally made his move. They had finally taken that step and acknowledged the feelings they had weren't going away anytime soon. They had been out to eat after a case at a diner they both loved. As luck would have it, it was only a few blocks from her apartment so Elliot had walked her home. His divorce had gone through three months before on surprisingly amicable terms. He asked her out on a date a block from her apartment in the middle of the empty New York sidewalk. She had given him a hard time at first, teasing him, before finally giving in. A week later, he had finally worked up the nerve to kiss her goodnight after their second date. Now they were practically living together. She loved their time alone but she always looked forward to their weekends with the kids. There was just something about being around Elliot while he was around his kids. He was a different man – the man she had come to know and love outside of work.

"I thought I told you not to lift a finger," a voice whispered in her ear.

Speak of the devil.

"I decided to go ahead," she explained, tilting her head to the side so he would have access to her neck.

"I told you I'd get it," Elliot reminded, his lips pecking at her neck. He slid his arms around her waist, squeezing her body to his.

"I figured I would go ahead. That way you can play that video game with Dickie for as long as you want," she explained. Somehow, she managed to keep her focus on not dropping the plate in her hand.

"I still could have done this," he said gently, turning her around to face him. She grabbed the towel that was on the counter on her left and wiped her hands before wrapping her arms around his neck.

"Maybe I did it because I want something from you," she teased, a seductive grin on her face.

His grin matched hers. "And what would that be?"

She leaned closer just in case young ears were close. "Well, it involves a very minimal amount of clothing," she suggested, wagging her eyebrows at him. He groaned, his eyes slipping shut as he pictured her in his head.

"Will you be wearing that black thing I love so much?" he wondered, his voice dropping an octave.

She moved her lips closer to his ear. "If you're a good boy," she whispered.

He groaned again. He let his left hand slide down her hip to her thigh, gripping it lightly with his strong fingers. She had on her black pin stripe pants today with a crimson red silky tank top. She had abandoned the black suit jacket during dinner. It was one of his favorite looks on her, one that got him fired up every time he saw her wearing it.

"How about we just put them to bed now?" he suggested, lust clouding his bright blue eyes.

She laughed loudly, her torso moving back a fraction from the force. She punched him on the shoulder. "They're not three, El. They'll know what we're doing."

"So? They've all had sex-ed. It's a part of life."

"I will not be responsible for scarring your children for life, El," she chuckled. She rubbed her hand over his shoulder in a familiar manner, pressing her breasts flush against his hard chest. Lowering her voice, she told him, "Besides, remember what I told you."

He groaned, unfortunately remembering the words she had said to him the first time his kids had spent the night with them.

"It's just too weird, El. I can't have sex knowing that they're just in the next room," Olivia had panicked, pushing Elliot away from her with a hand to his chest.

"Ugh, Liv! You're killing me here!" he had moaned and groaned, rolling off of her.

"Surely we can survive three days without having sex, El," Olivia had softly teased him, rolling onto her side to look at him.

"Liv," he had whined.

"Just until we all get a little more used to this. You're used to having kids in the house; I'm not."

Those were the last words he had heard before he'd gotten up to take a very cold shower. Since then, he had heeded to her wishes but he was desperately waiting for the day she lifted the ban, so to speak.

Maureen stepped into the doorway and opened her mouth to ask what was taking them so long when she stopped dead in her tracks. She had been one of the only out of her siblings that hadn't thought twice about the blossoming relationship between her father and his partner. She understood it; known it was going to happen sooner or later once the divorce papers were signed. She was more supportive of it than her mother was, but that was really no surprise. She had seen the changing relationship of her parents over the years, the ups and downs, the fights, the yelling. She knew her parents weren't happy being together anymore and that divorce was the best option for all involved. If only Kathleen would realize that. She was handling the divorce better now that some time had passed but she was still somewhat hesitant to let Olivia into her world sometimes. It was funny – sometimes Kathleen would act like Olivia was her best friend in the world, telling her everything that was on her mind. Other times, she avoided Olivia like the plague, barely even looking her in the eye when she was spoken to. The twins were handling the divorce with ease, not really knowing what their parents had been like when they were still happy together. Lizzie and Dickie took to Olivia easily, treasuring her attention when they needed help with homework or just needed someone to talk to.

It seemed impossible to actually hate Olivia. She had made it clear that she wasn't trying to replace their mother nor did she want to try. She wasn't strict with them but she did make sure they did all of their homework when they stayed over. And that they followed their father's rules at all times.

They were cute together – always stealing moments when they thought no one was looking. It was always amazing to watch them interact. They made relationships look so effortless. Maureen knew they had to argue and fight but it never showed. Maureen made a mental note to ask Olivia about the secret to relationships sometime when they were alone.

Clearing her throat, she got the attention of the adults still standing peacefully in the kitchen. Elliot looked over at her, his arms still wrapped around Olivia.

"Can we help you with something?" he asked, looking slightly impatient. Maureen saw Olivia pinch his shoulder.

"Just wanted to know what was taking so long," Maureen said sweetly. "Dickie's waiting for you, dad."

Olivia stepped away from him, patting his chest. "You'd better get in there," she warned. "I wouldn't let him play until he finished some of his homework. He must be dying to play by now."

"Wait, he actually listened to that?" The look on Elliot's face was priceless.

"You have to know how to trick him into doing his homework, dad," Maureen reminded. "Plus, he always listens to Olivia."

"Yeah, yeah," he grumbled. He looked straight at Olivia and mumbled low enough so only she could hear. "You got us both wrapped around your finger."

She winked at him. "And don't you forget it."

E

O

"Come on, dad! What was that?" Lizzie yelled at her father with laughter in her voice. Dickie laughed from beside their dad as his car zoomed ahead into first place.

"Don't distract me," Elliot said, turning the controls to get his car out of the tires along the wall.

"I'm not distracting you. You crashed all by yourself."

Olivia chuckled at the noises from the living room, sitting down at the dining room table with Maureen. "I will never understand video games but I'm glad they can bond over them," Olivia commented jovially. She had changed clothes before coming back out to spend some quality time with Elliot's eldest child.

"I think it's a guy thing," Maureen guessed. She played with some of her school papers on the table. "I wish Kathleen hadn't already made plans tonight. I think she's in one of her weird moods where she pretends to hate you."

"Just leave her be," Olivia warned. "I'm not going to make her like me if she doesn't want to."

"Don't her moods ever bother you?"

Olivia nodded. "Of course they do. But I can't force her to move on from the divorce if she's not ready."

It always amazed Maureen at the amount of patience Olivia had for the four of them.

"So, how's your first semester of college going so far?"

"Pretty good. I just have to get used to some of the homework."

"How's dorm life? Getting along with your roommate well enough?"

Maureen nodded. "Yeah, she's pretty cool. We both have our moments where we kind of get sick of looking at each other but we have pretty fun times. The dorm is a little louder than I'm used to but it isn't so bad. What was it like for you?"

Olivia chuckled from remembrance. "It was uh, pretty hectic. I lived in the dorms for the first couple of years but then I joined a sorority. Now that was just plain crazy. My favorite roommate was sophomore year. She joined the sorority with me. I still keep in contact with her but I kind of fell out of touch with the others over the years."

"I thought about joining one of the sororities but I don't know how mom and dad would feel about that," Maureen confessed.

"If you really want to do it, do it," Olivia advised. "Don't worry about your dad. I'll take care of him but I think your mom would want you to have the experience."

"What do you think?" Maureen put her elbow on the table and rested her head in her palm. She was always eager to know what Olivia thought of her decisions. She knew that while her mom had knowledge that only a mother could have, Olivia had the knowledge of the real world. The world that her parents were so eager to keep her protected from. Olivia provided her with a real opinion.

Olivia cleared her throat. She knew Maureen looked to her for guidance and she tried her best to provide the answers the child was looking for. Sometimes she felt like she was encroaching on Kathy's territory, like she shouldn't be answering such questions because the kids should be asking Kathy instead. But she enjoyed the relationship she had created with the four Stabler kids. She wanted them to know she would always be there for them.

"I think a sorority is an incredible source of sisterhood and friendship. There are always going to be those girls that are…uh…"

"Bitches?" Maureen supplied.

"Exactly," she nodded. "But there are going to be those girls where you develop a strong friendship and they become your backbone. It's an incredible experience. Most of the people you meet will be amazing. Some will have never had any type of siblings or close relationship so people like you who grew up with multiple siblings will be a godsend. And the sorority/fraternity parties are pretty fun, too."

Maureen grinned. "I don't suppose you'll tell me about some of those, will you?"

"Not on your life," Olivia laughed, smiling widely at the young adult. "But if you do join or you do go to a frat party, you had better tell me beforehand or you will be in so much trouble."

Knowing she was dead serious, Maureen opted not to laugh. "Don't worry, I will. I have a feeling I'll want all of your advice first."

"It better not be the kind of advice I'm thinking about right now."

The younger woman shook her head. "Don't worry, it's not."

Olivia turned her attention to the school papers that littered the table. "What are you working on?"

"Some homework for English class. I'm supposed to write about relationships that I've witnessed in my life." Butterflies flew wildly in her stomach as Olivia picked up the first page. "I, uh, I…you're in it."

"Me?" Olivia squeaked out, her eyes darting to the blond woman. She immediately put the paper down. Maureen's fair hand darted out to stop Olivia from moving too far.

"No, I want you to read it," she insisted. "The only real relationships I had to base this paper on were mom and dad's relationship and your relationship with dad now. I'm trying to touch on both sides of the spectrum."

Olivia sat there speechless. Was she serious? All this time, Olivia thought she had to tread lightly so that Elliot's kids didn't hate her. She worked hard to please them, to not step on any toes, to make sure they knew she wasn't trying to change any sort of family dynamic. And now, Maureen was telling her she admired her?

"I…Does your mother know about this?" Olivia blurted out, unable to stop herself.

Maureen chuckled softly, tapping her pen on the table's surface. "Yeah, I told her about it before I started working on it. She wasn't entirely pleased but I'm the one getting the grade. I haven't told dad. I wanted to see what you thought first."

With somewhat shaky hands, Olivia picked up the fallen pages. "I still don't understand. Why our relationship?" Her eyes began scanning the neat cursive on the page.

"Because it amazes me," Maureen said with such simplicity. "I know you guys must fight but you never show it. You just always seem so in sync with one another. It was the complete opposite with mom and dad."

"Believe me, we fight all the time," Olivia said dryly. Although, she had noticed that lately, their arguments seemed to grow shorter and shorter. But there was usually that major fight that left them not speaking to one another for quite a few days.

"But it doesn't slow you guys down," Maureen pointed out. Olivia looked up at the excitement in the young woman's voice. Her eyes were lit up and she had such a glow to her face. Maureen shrugged her shoulders and sat back in her chair. "I don't know. I just hope I find a relationship like yours someday."

Olivia reached over and put her hand over Maureen's. They curled their fingers around each other's and Olivia smiled.

"You will, Mo. Even if it takes a little while, I promise you will."

E

O

Olivia flopped down on the couch next to Elliot. Maureen sat on the armrest of the chair Lizzie was sitting in.

"Hey, hey, don't distract me," Elliot warned, his eyes never leaving the television screen. He turned his hands and arms at the same time he turned his car on the screen. Dickie did the same.

"I'm not distracting you. I'm just sitting here," she defended herself. She let her hand run across his back deliberately, testing him and teasing him.

"That is such a lie," he called her out, barely glancing over at her. "You always distract me and you know it."

She grinned from ear to ear. "Well, I don't do it on purpose. Most of the time."

He scoffed but kept his focus in front of him. She often purposely distracted him from the nightly news or a sports program, provided they actually got off work at a decent time. He never exactly put up a fight though. She could usually tell when his focus was deep enough on a program that it wouldn't benefit herself to distract him. Sometimes she just wanted to talk. Other times she had more pressing…physical needs on her mind. There were the few times when they had to talk about a pressing case, but they tried to keep that strictly at work.

No one at work knew about their relationship yet. They were trying to keep it under wraps for as long as possible. They knew they would be split; one of them would go to a different department, maybe even a different precinct. But neither of them was ready to give up their partnership just yet. Why ruin a good thing? Their personal relationship had done nothing but make them stronger. Hopefully, when people found out, they would remember that.

"No, no, no, no, no!" Elliot yelled at the television from her right. She looked over to see his car spinning out of control because of a banana peel in the road. "Damn you, Donkey Kong!"

"Yes!" Dickie shouted, his car driven by Mario taking a substantial lead.

"See, dad, I told you you shouldn't have picked him," Lizzie coached from the side. "He always loses."

"Don't help him," Dickie told his sister. "We've played this enough times, he should've learned by now."

Maureen and Olivia's eyes met across the room. They held each other's gaze for a second before each bursting out into laughter.

"You guys are hilarious," Maureen commented, wiping her eyes. "I don't know why I don't visit more often."

"You really should," Lizzie encouraged. She looked up at her big sister and smiled. "It's fun when you visit. I wish Kathleen would come over more often, too."

"She'll be here tomorrow," Olivia confirmed. With a crocked grin, she added, "Your dad's making her."

"I'm not making her," Elliot piped up, defending himself. "I just suggested that she be here and spend time with her family for a change."

"Please, dad," Maureen interjected. "You know you threatened her."

"I did not threaten her," he huffed, looking over at her as Mario crossed the finish line.

"El," Olivia squeezed her fingers around the back of his neck, "you're not gonna win this one. I was there when you made the phone call."

He set the controller down on the coffee table, only to have it be quickly snatched up by Lizzie. He sat back against the couch cushions, leaning his body towards hers. "Fine, but I didn't threaten her. I just spoke in a firm manner."

She chuckled, letting her fingers find their way up to his hair. She lightly scratched at his scalp, letting his smooth hairs caress her fingers. Her eyes followed her actions but she could feel Elliot's eyes caressing her face. One of his hands found their way to her thigh and he rubbed it up and down in a soothing manner. They sat together quietly, oblivious to the sounds of their surroundings. She loved the little moments like these.

Her eyes met his in the dim room. His bright blue eyes stared back at her, a sparkle twinkling back at her and making her smile.

"I'm going to go read in the bedroom in a few minutes and Maureen is going to take off now," she murmured in a low voice. She motioned over to the twins. "Make sure they don't stay up too late playing nothing but video games."

"I will," he promised, resting his head back against the plush white cushions. "I'll probably send them to bed within the next half hour."

Maureen watched their interactions from her seat. It was always fascinating to watch them interact. They could have conversations by just looking at one another, which was never a good thing when someone was in trouble. They were always sweet and tender with one another. She felt like she was intruding on such a private moment, even though they were only sitting on a couch in the middle of an active living room. She couldn't help but give in to the urge to look away when her dad made a move to kiss Olivia.

She stood to collect her work and place it by the door. She grabbed her shoes and returned to the armrest to tie them.

"You leaving, Mo?" she heard her dad ask. She nodded.

"Yeah, I want to get back before they lock up so I don't have to fish around for my key," she explained. She looked up to see her dad standing right in front of her. He looked comfortable standing there in his sweatpants and USMC shirt. He had abandoned his work attire almost as soon as he got in the door that evening. It had been a long time since she had seen her dad this relaxed and happy. She knew she had Olivia to thank for that. He spent more time with her and her siblings now. He went to dinner with her regularly since she was in college now. She'd heard from Lizzie that most weekends they were with their dad, he almost never got called out. Most of the time it was Olivia leaving, but Olivia always said it was a small price to pay for Elliot to be with his children.

"I'll walk you downstairs when you're ready," her dad was saying. She glanced over to see Olivia standing next to him now.

"If Kathleen is actually here tomorrow, I might stop by," Maureen told them. "It's just depends of my schedule."

Elliot waved her off. "Don't worry about it, college girl. We know you're too busy for us these days."

She knew her dad was just teasing so she let her smile take over her face.

E

O

Olivia turned the page to her book, her eyes immediately taking in the rest of the unfinished sentence she had been reading. She never even noticed that the television in the other room had turned off nor did she notice that the noises of the apartment seemed to cease.

She was comfy and warm in her bed. Her plush pillows were pushed behind her back to provide her padding from the hard wood of her headboard. The comforter was wrapped around her body and doing an excellent job at keeping her nice and toasty. The temperatures outside had already started to drop at night. The days warmed up fairly nicely; most only needed a long sleeve shirt to get by during the day. But at night, she relied on the warmth of Elliot and her comforter to keep her warm and sated.

"Ugh, who knew video games could take so much out of a guy?"

Olivia glanced up at the sound of her lover's voice. She smirked as he stumbled into the room and dramatically collapsed on the bed.

"Too much for you?" she teased.

He shook his head, his back sinking into the soft mattress. "I just can't play for hours on end like they can."

"Aww, poor baby," she continued to tease him. "Is your age finally catching up to you?"

With speed that would have made a cheetah impressed, he rolled over and climbed his way up her body. Her book flattened between their chests, one of the pages becoming crinkled but she didn't care. Not when she was enjoying the feel of his hard, warm body pressed firmly against hers.

"I'd say I'm still pretty good for my age," he whispered, his lips barely touching hers. "What do you think?"

She framed his face with her hands and murmured, "I think you're very good for your age."

His lips gazed across hers lightly as he spoke. "Is that my shirt?" he wondered, nodding towards the long sleeved white T-shirt she wore.

"It's always your shirt."

While she normally wore tank tops to bed, no matter the time of year, since she and Elliot had started dating she noticed she preferred to wear one of his shirts to bed. She loved the fiery look he got in his eyes when he saw her wearing one. Plus, the other added bonus was the roominess his shirts allowed her.

"Any chance you have that black thing I love so much on underneath?" he hoped.

"El," she began dryly. "It's a white shirt. I think you would notice black undergarments."

"Eh, a guy can dream, can't he?" Laughing, she pulled his full weight down on her. "I'm gonna crush you."

"No, you're not," she assured. She put her bookmark in her book and tossed it gently on her bedside table. "Besides, it feels good to have your weight pressed onto me."

Slowly, he settled his weight on top of her. He tried to hold back some but her look changed his mind. He cherished these little moments between them. Pure moments. Moments where all that mattered in the world was them. Moments where they just said whatever was on their minds.

Her arms stretched down the expanse of his back until her fingers met the hem of his USMC shirt. She pulled it up and over his head until bare flesh met her fingers. He always slept shirtless and she was eager to hurry up his nighttime ritual.

"Eager, are we?" he suggested, doing his best to give her a leer.

"Just trying to help you get ready for bed," she said coyly with a grin. She pressed her lips to his, her tongue darting out to meet his. Her arms explored the expanse of his broad shoulders, keeping him pressed closely to her. She sighed as his mouth moved expertly across hers. She loved how every kiss felt like their first one. It was always new and exciting with him.

His hands found their way under the comforter to push the fabric of her shirt upwards. He settled his hands around her waist for the moment, his lips trailing a line down her neck. He couldn't help but grind his hips into hers, his need taking over the logical side of his brain.

"Hmm, El," she moaned close to his ear. That sound was like music to his ears. She raised her hips to meet his before her brain caught up to her. She pushed on his shoulders to get his attention. "No, no, no, not with them here."

He groaned loudly. "Ugh, Liv, you're killing me here," he said loudly. She covered his mouth to keep him from speaking.

"They'll hear you," she warned. He kissed the palm of her hand and her eyes softened. "At least, not while I know they're still awake."

His eyes widen. "I'm gonna hold you to that."

He got off of her and made his way to the bathroom to wash up for the night. She turned the bedside lamp off, casting the room in semi darkness thanks to the lighting of the moon from outside.

"So what'd you and Maureen talk about tonight?" he called from the bathroom. She could hear the sound of the faucet running and couldn't help but smile at the normalcy.

"You," she told him, curling up on her side. "And me. Our relationship."

His head popped into the doorframe, toothbrush hanging out of his mouth. "Huh?"

"She wrote a paper about relationships," Olivia clarified. "She chose ours for part of her paper."

"What all did you talk about?" His words were halted by the toothpaste in his mouth but she could hear the hesitance in his voice. They both knew they were all still adjusting to the relationship. Elliot would never acknowledge his fears that his children secretly hated him for divorcing their mother, but Olivia knew they existed.

"Maureen seems to think we never fight," she said with amusement in her voice. She nestled her cheek into her pillow. Her eyes followed his bare back into the bathroom. She listened as the faucet started up again, the sound of a toothbrush tapping against porcelain quickly following.

"I hope you corrected her," he chuckled, turning the lights off in the bathroom as he exited. "She'd think we broke up every day if she saw how often we fight."

"But we're a lot better than we were a few years ago," she reasoned. Her eyes took in his form as he shed his sweatpants and crawled into bed next to her. She rolled over to curl into him, her body molding to his like a clay sculpture.

"I don't know. You can really hold a grudge sometimes."

"Well, when you're being a jackass, it's not that hard." He pinched her side. "Ow!" she yelped, reaching back to slap him.

They fell into a silence, relaxation seeping into their bones and making them drowsy from their long day. Coffee could only take them so far. And the twins were always quick to drain what little energy they had left.

Olivia giggled as Elliot snuggled into her side, doing his damnedest to pull her as close to him as he could. He brushed a kiss across her forehead, smoothing her hair away from her face and behind her ear.

"What else did Maureen say?"

His voice was so quiet she almost didn't hear what he said. Looking into his eyes, she answered his unvoiced question.

"She doesn't hate you, El. Or me. Or this relationship. She knows you and Kathy were done and she knows we love each other. The twins seem to be adjusting well and they talk to both of us. Everything's fine, El, I promise."

"I know, I know," he said to her for what had to be the millionth time. He always came to her with this worry. "I just worry they secretly resent me."

"They wouldn't talk to you if they hated you," she mused. "They'll probably have their moments here and there as they grow up but maybe not if we provide the right environment for them."

"Which we no doubt will," he answered confidently with a cocky grin.

She chuckled and patted his cheek gently. "Everything will be fine, El."

"Fine enough for me to get you out of these clothes tonight?"

She smiled at his leer and patted his cheek again. "Not that fine, detective."

He growled softly and leaned further into her. "I love it when you call me that in bed," he confessed. He nipped at her lips, glad to feel her return his kisses. "Are you sure there's nothing I can do to convince you to change your mind? Nothing I can say?"

"Mmm, that depends on what you're going to say," she whispered slowly, a smile inching its way across her lips. Her arms wound their way around his shoulders. She pulled his body onto hers. She relished in the warmth he provided her when he touched her. Even the slightest touch sent electricity through her veins.

He settled his body squarely on top of hers, his hips falling into the pocket opened up by her legs falling apart. He was distracted by the feel of her fingers skimming across the flesh of his back. The tips of her nails barely made contact with his skin and it was causing goosebumps to appear.

"Hmm, well I can start with the fact that you're beautiful and have an amazing body," he flattered. Her eyebrows rose, signaling she was curious to see where he was going with his persuasion. "You are the nicest woman I know. Although you can be really bitchy to suspects but that's okay. You are amazing with my kids. You are probably the only person that can actually put up with me. You have a smile that lights up any room you're in. You have amazing legs that go on for days. Your… eyes are like deep chocolate pools that I can't help but get lost in. Your…hair is..so shiny and soft and…"

He was cut off by the sound of Olivia busting out laughing. He froze, his eyes wide, unsure of what to make out of her laughter. He hung his head with defeat when she snorted.

"You are the cheesiest man I know," she laughed loudly. Her laughter tapered off but her eyes were still twinkling. Her fingers curled around his ears when she kissed his lips. "And I love you for it."

"I'm not being cheesy," he argued despite his own laughter. "I meant everything I said."

"I never said you didn't. I just said you were cheesy," she joked. "And you'll do anything to get into my pants."

E

O

2:12AM

An SVU detective's phone could go off at any moment of the day. Whether the sun was out or not didn't matter when crime was involved. An SVU detective was on call on average two weekends out of the month and every other week on the day they had off. Olivia had already been on call for the first two weekends of the month and Elliot for one. So it wasn't surprising when Elliot's phone began ringing in the middle of the silent New York night. Nor was it surprising when Elliot attempted to sleep right through it.

"El?" Olivia called out, keeping her eyes shut. Receiving no answer, she flung her arm out behind her in an attempt to wake her lover. "El?" Still receiving no answer except for soft snores, Olivia sat up and smacked him on his back. "Elliot!"

His head shot up off the pillow and looked over at her in confusion. "What the hell?" he demanded to know.

She stretched over him to reach his cell phone and held it up for him to see. "Your phone is ringing. You're on call tonight."

With a loud groan, Elliot threw his head into his pillow instead of reaching for the phone. Olivia was used to this act by now; she sat there patiently holding his phone out to him. After fifteen seconds – Olivia counted – Elliot grabbed the small phone from her and brought it down to his head. He didn't bother to look at the caller id before answering. Olivia lay back down next to him, curling her body towards his. She closed her eyes but her ears were trained on his words.

"Hello?" he grumbled lowly into the mouth piece. His head perked up when a voice other than Cragen's came over the line. "Kathy? What's wrong? Wait…I can't..You're talking too fast. Slow down. Start from the beginning."

Elliot sat up to listen better. His gaze was one of intent focus as Olivia followed suit, scooting closer to him. She held the sheet close to her naked chest and rested her chin against his shoulder when he began to speak again.

"Wait, someone broke in? Are they in the house now?" Olivia's soft gasp next to him caused him to hold a hand up, telling her to wait. "But they tried to get in? Was the system armed?"

Olivia's heart started beating normally at the sound of that. From the sound of it, someone had tried to break in to Kathy's house and, luckily, failed. People often thought that moving out and away from the city was safer but the truth was, it possessed the same amount of danger. It didn't matter where one lived – crime was always going to occur on some scale.

"Are any of the windows broken or did they just try the door?" Elliot listened as Kathy explained the condition of the house. "Well, that's good. Do you want me to come over and check it out?...No, I…I understand, Kath. Hold on for a second."

He put the phone down and turned to face Olivia. "Do you mind if Kathy stays here tonight? She's too freaked out to stay at the house."

"El, of course I don't mind," she assured him. She wasn't on the best terms with Kathy but she was always civil to the woman. After all, she had given birth to the children she had watched grow up and come to love like they were her own. Besides, if it wasn't for Kathy giving Elliot up, Olivia would have never gotten the chance to tell him how she really felt.

"Okay, she has to pack a bag but she'll be over soon," Elliot told Olivia after hanging up. Throwing the phone back onto his nightstand, he lay back down again. Olivia looked at him expectantly. He grinned and pulled her to lie down beside him. She curled her body into his, wrapping her arm over his chest. "She got home from the hospital around one thirty. By the time she was done taking a shower and getting ready to go to bed, she heard a loud noise coming from downstairs. She said she made it to the top of the staircase when someone broke in through the front door. The alarm started going off and she said she saw the guy run away as soon as the alarm started going off. The local police have already been by and checked the house out but she said she's too paranoid to sleep there tonight. Her mom isn't home and neither is her sister so she called me."

"And does she know you're staying here?"

"Yeah, you didn't hear me tell her that over the phone?" He looked at her quizzical.

She shook her head. "I must have zoned out."

"She sounded really scared over the phone," he said softly. He kissed her forehead. "I didn't want to tell her to go sleep in a hotel for the night."

"El, I really don't care if she stays here or not," she assured him. She tilted her face up to look at him. "It's only for the night, not the rest of our lives."

"Thank god because then I wouldn't have sex ever again," he joked. She pinched his side and jabbed a knee towards his thigh. "Ow!"

"That's what you get, you jerk," Olivia laughed. Despite her words, she cuddled further into him. She let her leg tangle with his and her head rest in the nook of his arm. "Is she all right?"

"Yeah, she's just spooked," he assured. "She'll stay here for the night and tomorrow I'll go check out the house just to be sure. It was probably just some kid who got in over his head."

"Is it safe to leave the house alone for the night after someone just tried to break in?" Olivia pondered aloud.

He shrugged his shoulders. "There's nothing too valuable in the house and the kids are here. If the alarm scared him off the first time, he probably won't come back tonight," he reasoned.

She seemed to think about that for a moment. "Yeah, you're probably right. Are the police going to drive by for the rest of the night?"

"I don't know; she didn't say. I would imagine they will, though."

It was a scary thought, knowing someone they knew could have just potentially died in a robbery. Being cops, they had a sense of security in their badges, guns, and training. Faced with an emergency or danger, they were quick to react with a calm head. Olivia couldn't even begin to imagine what she would do if she had been put in Kathy's shoes. She had no doubt she would be feeling exactly how Kathy felt.

"I'm gonna check on the kids real quick," she heard Elliot say before feeling his kiss on her lips. His weight left the bed, leaving her missing his warm presence. She glanced over at the clock only to see that ten minutes had passed. She looked over her shoulder to see Elliot's back walking into the twin's room. He had slipped his briefs back on and she couldn't help but smirk at the sight. They had set up the guest room as the twin's room for when they stayed over. They had taken out the queen bed and put in two twin sized beds instead. The twins had gotten to pick out their comforter sets and even a paint color they miraculously agreed on. Olivia wanted to do her best to provide a comforting atmosphere for everyone. Elliot's little additions to her apartment weren't noticeable to outsiders but they screamed out loud to her every day.

His shampoo mingled with hers in the shower. His razor was next to hers on the counter. His work shirts hung up next to hers in the closet. His workout clothes tangled with hers in the hamper. His books had found their way onto her bookcase. His shoes were scattered on the floor near hers. All of these things made her smile on a daily basis. Frequently she would catch herself smirking at nothing in particular when she was taking shower. The sight of his things touching hers made her grin like a mad woman. Elliot looked at her like she was crazy sometimes but she didn't care. She finally had her man.

Elliot poked his head inside the twin's room. Dickie was lying on his stomach with his limbs strew all about the bed. His blanket was half off the bed and one of his pillows had already fallen to the floor. Elliot chuckled at the sight. Olivia had informed him on numerous occasions that his son slept almost identical to the way he slept. She complained she woke frequently with his limbs spread over her and the bed.

Lizzie was sleeping peacefully on her side. She had a stuffed dog in her arms, one that she had slept with since she was seven years old. It was a black and white dog with a large black spot on its side. Dickie teased her about it sometimes, which would make Lizzie cry. When Elliot had started dating Olivia, she took Lizzie aside and told her there was nothing wrong with sleeping with a stuffed animal. Olivia had went off on a spiel about a stuffed animal she had slept with all throughout college and that had made his little girl smile again and return to her old self. Of course, he couldn't help but tease Olivia a little bit about that bit of knowledge but overall, he thought it was really cute. She didn't have that stuffed animal anymore but he already had plans to find one that reminded him of her.

He closed the door without a sound and walked softly back to the room he shared with Olivia. The carpet was soft in between his bare toes. The apartment was silent except for the sounds of the city outside. All the windows were shut except for the one in their room. He knew he would wake up if anyone ever tried to break in but he didn't trust himself to hear potential break-ins coming from the living room or the twin's room.

He stopped dead in his place to see Olivia smiling in front of him as she slipped his shirt over her head. He groaned, "Do you really have to put that back on?"

"Well, unless you want Kathy to see me naked…" She didn't bother finishing her sentence. She slipped her shorts on as well.

"I don't know. It might be fun to make her feel a little jealous," he suggested, wagging his eyebrows at her.

"Shut up and put your sweatpants on."

He raised his brow this time, furrowing the flesh between his eyes at her order. She continued to move about the room before she realized he wasn't moving at all. She turned back to look at him.

"What? I don't need her looking at the goods," she wondered innocently, waving her hand at his body. "You are for my eyes only."

"Liv, she's seen it before," he reminded her. Despite his words, he took his sweatpants from the bed where she had placed them and slipped them on over his briefs.

She came up behind him and wrapped her arms around his stomach. She kissed the space in between his shoulder blades. She laid her chin against him and tilted her head upwards to speak into his ear. "But now you're divorced and all mine and still for my eyes only."

He grinned and brought his hands up to cover hers where they were roaming over his chest. She wasn't often possessive over him, not like he was possessive of her. He would snarl his lip and bare his teeth if another man so much as looked at her. His chest would puff out and his fists would clench. She would always notice and she would always get him to calm down by simply placing her hand in the middle of his back. One little touch and he would return to normal. He always told himself he wouldn't do it again but Olivia was an attractive woman and a lot of men stared at her. He always found himself getting worked up the next time a new man came walking around.

No, Olivia was confident of his love for her. When a woman made faces at him or tried to get his attention when they went out, Olivia would simply smirk and tease him about his new admirer. She never got jealous when they were off the job and a woman hit on him. But when they were on the job…The claws came out when female suspects hit on him when they were out on the job. Just to encourage Olivia's behavior, he would let the women blatantly flirt with him until Olivia put a stop to it. It made for some pretty hot sex once they got home at night so he didn't see any need to stop that behavior. Besides, it was fun seeing her get jealous and possessive. She would stand closer to him and touch him more. Not really obvious touches but subtle ones. Her finger would graze across his arm or her jacket would brush up against his. Just little things that told him of her annoyance.

Another thing she hardly ever did was grow jealous of Kathy. Elliot knew there had to be things about Kathy that really ticked Olivia off or made her jealous. Kathy giving him four kids had to be a sore spot with Olivia. But for the most part, Olivia was the spokesperson for cordial behavior.

"Does that mean I'm going to get an encore performance later?" Teeth sunk into his shoulder in response. He shrugged his body away. "Ah, I'll take that as a no."

She only chuckled. Her eyes fell to the flesh she was just resting against. Her fingers ran over the marks created by her just a few hours ago. Normally she tried not to mark him since it was an unspoken rule that he didn't mark her anywhere not covered by clothes. But sometimes that animalistic side of her just had to come out.

"Should I make coffee?" she offered.

He laughed, turning to face her. "Baby, it's almost three in the morning."

"So? She's just been through something traumatic," she rationed. "She probably won't be able to sleep so drinking a cup of coffee won't hurt her."

He stepped up to her, his muscular arms slipping around her waist. "What if I can't sleep? You gonna put me to bed?"

She quirked a brow at him and pushed at his chest. "With your ex-wife in the next room? I don't think so." They both turned when a buzz sounded from the front door. She grinned at him. "And now you can go answer that."

With a sarcastic smirk, he walked away to let his ex-wife in.

They didn't have to wait long for Kathy to make it to their apartment. She must have been paranoid still and practically run up all the stairs. She had a small bag over her left shoulder and a nervous expression on her face. Whether the expression was due to her ordeal or the fact that she was in her ex-husband's partner turned girlfriend's apartment for the night was still a mystery to Olivia.

She stood back as Elliot hugged Kathy. The rules were still unclear about how she and Kathy were supposed to greet one another but in this instance, Olivia figured she could at least hug the woman.

"Are you all right? Do you want to talk about it?" Olivia offered pulling back from their hug. Elliot took Kathy's bag and placed it on the floor next to the couch. Olivia followed Eliot's lead and led her over that way. "Can I get you anything?"

"Um…some water would be nice."

Olivia left the two to fetch Kathy a glass of water. She didn't really want to sit there beside the woman and hold her hand while she recounted the events of the last hour and a half. Let Elliot do that. Both women would feel grateful, of that she was sure.

"Start at the beginning," Elliot was saying when Olivia returned. "What happened?"

Kathy thanked Olivia before taking a sip of the water. She was sitting on Elliot's right so Olivia found a place at Elliot's left. While normally she would have sat closer to him, she chose to keep some distance between them while Kathy was telling her story.

"I got home and straight away I took a shower," Kathy began explaining. "I had just finished working a double shift. Anyway, I had locked all of the doors before even taking a shower so I wouldn't have to worry about it when I was done. I was just getting into bed when I heard a noise downstairs. I knew it wasn't something in the house because it sounded…faint. I got up when I heard it again. It kind of sounded like a thud and scratching."

"Scratching?" Olivia repeated.

"Yeah, like when a dog scratches against a door to be let in or out. But it didn't exactly sound like that. I was freaking out but I kept walking towards the stairs. I grabbed a baseball bat out of Dickie's room first. I figured I at least needed to be prepared in case something happened. The noise was getting louder and that was when I knew someone was trying to break in. I had just gotten to the top of the stairs when the guy broke through the front door. He must have tried to break it down with his shoulder or something because he came crashing into the house. That's when the alarm went off. He started to panic and I was panicking but I was trying so hard not to make any noise. But it turns out I didn't have to because he took off running. I ran back to my room and called the police. And once they left, I called you because I knew there was no way I could have gone back to sleep."

"Well, it was a good thing you grabbed that baseball bat just in case," Olivia consoled.

"I had thought about hiding but I realized I wouldn't be able to identify him later on if I never even saw his face," Kathy explained. She smirked at Elliot. "Being married to a cop all those years taught me a thing or two."

Elliot couldn't help but grin back. "Did you see the guy's face?"

She nodded. "Only for the few seconds he was in the house. He looked young and he was white. He seemed like he was average height but I was at the top of the stairs so I couldn't really tell. And yes, I told all of this to the cops that showed up at my door."

Elliot shut his mouth before he could say anything else. He sometimes forgot that he had been married to her for so long that she had heard him tell numerous stories about identifying criminals.

"Are they going to drive by the house for the rest of the night?" Olivia piped in, peaking her head out from around Elliot's muscular frame.

Kathy met her eyes and nodded. "They said they would. They fixed the door as best they could until morning and I reset the alarm. And I told them I was staying somewhere else for the night."

Olivia nodded and leaned back into the plush cushions of her couch. Unknowingly, one of her hands traveled to Elliot's lower back. It was something she found herself doing when no one was looking or when she couldn't outright touch him. He did the same thing to her but more frequently and usually when they were in public.

"It sounds like everything's been taken care of for the night," she heard Elliot say. His body shifted when he went to rub a hand up and down Kathy's back. "Do you think you can sleep now or do you want to talk some more?"

Kathy smiled at him and patted his leg. "You don't have to stay up just for me. I'm a big girl, Elliot. I think the adrenaline is wearing off now anyway."

"Really, Kath, it's no problem," Elliot insisted. "I'm on call and Liv's off tomorrow. If you need company…"

They both turned their attention to watch Olivia walk down the short hallway to gather a blanket and pillows for Kathy.

"A magazine is good," Kathy refocused her attention. "You guys are probably tired since I did wake you up in the middle of the night."

"Hey, it's no problem. I'm still here to help."

Kathy leaned closer to whisper, "Are you sure Olivia doesn't mind?"

He leaned closer as well, like he was letting her in on a secret she wasn't supposed to know. "She would have offered if I hadn't," he whispered back. Kathy grinned back sheepishly.

Olivia returned with an armful of supplies. She laid them on the coffee table in front of them. Kathy couldn't help but laugh when a few magazines slid off the top of the pile.

"Just in case you want to read them to help you fall asleep," Olivia offered as an explanation. She shoed Elliot off the couch so she could make it for their guest. Kathy tried, unsuccessfully, to stop her. "You're our guest. It's all right."

"Well, I'm going to head to bed then," Elliot told the women. "I have a very demanding breakfast to make in the morning. Are you sure you're all right?"

"I'm fine," Kathy nodded. She stood to accept his hug. "Thank you again."

"It's no problem."

He turned his back to her and brushed past Olivia. Kathy's eyes fell to the long, red scratch marks that resided on his shoulders. Her eyes widened. Those were definitely scratch marks. From fingernails. And they looked fresh.

She could only imagine what she had interrupted.

On second thought, she didn't want to imagine.

She watched as Olivia went to work making up the couch for her to sleep on. Her hands spread a sheet over the couch cushions with ease, like she had done the same action many times before. Edges were tucked under and crinkles were smoothed out.

"Um, I wanted to say thank you for letting me stay here tonight," Kathy expressed, hoping her voice didn't sound too awkward. Then again, it was hard not to sound awkward. How many women could actually say that the woman they had hated and been jealous of for so long was now the girlfriend of their ex-husband and he was most definitely her soul mate?

Probably not too many.

Olivia glanced up. "It's no trouble at all. I'm sorry I couldn't offer you a bed, but the twin's beds are the only other ones in here and well, they're sleeping on them."

Kathy waved it off. "It's fine. From what I can tell so far, your couch is pretty comfortable."

The two chuckled before falling silent. Olivia returned to her duty and Kathy took the chance to look around the room. It was nicely decorated. The paint color was warm and inviting. There were some picture frames strewn about but not cluttered into one general area like she'd seen in most homes. Her eyes fell to the table behind the couch where the majority of the picture frames were. She couldn't see them all but she could see one of Olivia with a woman of equal height who looked older with her graying hair. She could also see one of Olivia with Elliot. She made a mental note to look at those later.

"You look like you've done this a lot," Kathy commented. She saw Olivia smirk.

"Yeah, I have. I used to have to do this a lot for my mom when she would come home too drunk to make it to bed. I wasn't strong enough to carry her a good part of those years so I would just make up the couch for her," she shared. Normally she wouldn't go around telling people about her past but she figured in this instance she could make an exception. "And I've done this for the girls on quite a few occasions."

"Do they stay here a lot when Elliot has the kids?" Kathy fished for information.

"Um, sometimes," Olivia answered nonchalantly. "Usually it's just Maureen that stays over once in a while. Kathleen has…moods and doesn't stay a lot. She has phases where she'll talk to me and then she'll go through phases where she won't even look at me."

Kathy chuckled. "That's Kathleen for you. One minute she hates your guts and the next she's your best friend. You'll get used to it."

Olivia straightened and laughed. "Eventually. Maureen told me earlier not to worry about it."

Kathy nodded. The moment between them was awkward but Kathy could tell they were both trying hard to make civil conversation. It's not that they hated each other. Okay, well, Olivia didn't hate her at least. Kathy's hatred of Olivia was a completely different story. Anyway, they didn't hate each other. But they weren't best friends either. They really didn't have anything in common, though. Except for Elliot. He was the reason they even tried to find random things to talk about.

As Kathy was discovering, they kind of sucked at it.

"Well, I'll let you get settled in," Olivia pronounced slowly. She motioned to her right down the hallway. "The bathroom is down that way. The door should be open so it's impossible to miss. Um, do you need anything else for the night or…?"

Kathy held up a hand to stop her. "I should be fine, but thank you."

Olivia nodded and backed away slowly. "Good night then."

"Night."

Kathy watched as Olivia disappeared down the dark hallway to her bedroom. She listened as the door closed with a soft click and sighed as the events of the night finally sunk into her body. She removed her shoes and left them next to the coffee table. She slowly lay on her bed for the night and pulled the soft blanket up over her body. Her eyes roamed over the room for a moment. Her eyes were so tired but they were glued to the picture frame from earlier. She picked herself up on her elbow and grabbed it for closer inspection. It didn't look like it was that old. Olivia's hair was still about the same length. Elliot had been trying out a beard at the time. Olivia had her arm draped casually over his shoulder and her head was titled in towards his. His mouth was shaped in an 'o', probably saying something to the person taking the picture. The smile on Olivia's face was blinding though.

Kathy set that picture down and picked up the one next to it. They were dressed fancily in this one. It was probably taken at a gala for the precinct. They were both wearing black—him a suit and her a strappy black dress. They had their arms wrapped around one another and this time there was no mistaking their bright and happy smiles. It was nice to see him so happy.

They both looked so happy, like they were made for one another.

E

O

8:06AM

Lizzie blinked with confusion when she walked out into the living room. She turned her torso and looked down the hallway again. Her brow furrowed and she turned to look back around the living room.

Her mom was sleeping on the couch.

In Olivia's apartment.

Her mom was sleeping on the couch in Olivia's apartment.

She slowly trekked back down the hallway towards her dad and Olivia's room.

She rapped on the door softly. She listened for an answer. When she didn't hear a response, she twisted the knob to reveal the two sleeping adults. She didn't even hesitate as she walked straight up to her father's side of the bed. She poked his arm that was lying half off the bed; his other was flailed across Olivia. He grunted but didn't move. She poked him harder and whispered his name.

"What?" he mumbled, his mouth hindered by his pillow.

"Dad, do you that mom's asleep on the couch out there?"

He chuckled and turned his head to look at her. "Yeah, squirt, I know she's out there."

Lizzie's brow remained furrowed. "Oh," she said after a second. "Why's she out there?"

Elliot lifted his body up using his elbows and focused his eyes more on his youngest daughter. It was too bright for eight o'clock in the morning. The curtains in the room only blocked out about a third of all the light coming in. It sucked during the weekends, but it was necessary during the weekdays.

"Someone tried to break in the house last night…"

"WHAT?"

Elliot's hand quickly shot out to cover her mouth. He glanced over at Olivia to see if the loud outburst had woken her up but she only rolled over away from them. He looked back at his daughter, who was looking sheepish.

"We'll talk out there," he told her after removing his hand.

"Sorry, dad," she apologized before making a hasty exit.

He looked over at the alarm clock on Olivia's side of the bed. 8:15. Too damn early.

He was slow to get himself up, being careful not to jostle the bed too much. He didn't want to be the one to wake Olivia. He knew what she was like when she was woken before she wanted to be awake. No, Olivia was a person who loved her sleep and he was more than happy to let her have it. The woman didn't get nearly enough sleep as she should.

Grabbing his USMC shirt, he made his way to the bathroom to wash up quickly before meeting Lizzie in the kitchen. She was sitting at the table, quietly flipping through the pages of yesterday's paper. He chuckled at the sight. Out of all his children, Lizzie was the one that loved to read anything she could get her hands on. Maureen was the academic, excelling in all subjects. Kathleen was the troubled one. Dickie was only interested in sports and girls. And Lizzie was still as innocent as could be.

"What do you want for breakfast, kid?"

"Pancakes! And omelets!"

He raised a brow at her. "That is a lot to make for one breakfast. One or the other, kid."

"What about pancakes and eggs?" Elliot looked at her again. "What? Eggs require less work than omelets."

"Pancakes and eggs it is," he chuckled. He moved around the kitchen to gather the ingredients needed. He and Olivia switched off on who made meals. Elliot usually handled breakfast during their days off while Olivia handled dinner whenever they got off at a decent hour. They were both decent cooks in their own right. They weren't ready to start up their own restaurants but all of their food was edible and pretty damn tasty if he had anything to say about it.

"So someone tried to break in to our house…" Lizzie continued for him.

He nodded. "Someone tried to break in but the alarm scared them off. Your mom was too freaked out to stay there last night. So she called and asked if she could stay with us for the night."

"Oh. Is the house okay? How's mom?"

"The front door is busted but I'm going to go check on that today and get that fixed. Your mom is fine. The guy ran before he even saw her."

He bustled about the kitchen while he was talking, turning the stove on and getting dishes out to make pancakes. He tried to make the least amount of noise as possible but when dishes were involved, it wasn't that easy.

"You wanna help me?" he offered. "You can make the eggs."

"Okay," Lizzie smiled. She loved waking up early and helping her dad make breakfast. It wasn't easy getting in one on one time with her dad when he had a demanding job and three other kids to give attention to.

Father and daughter worked in a comfortable silence. The only sounds that filled the room were the scraping of the spoon against the pancake bowl and the scrambling of eggs in a bowl.

The smell of cooking food must have spread through the apartment in no time because Kathy came stumbling in shortly.

"Good morning," she greeted, the sleep still evident in her voice. Lizzie spun around quickly at the sound of her voice.

"Morning, mom! Are you all right? Dad told me about the break in last night," she rushed out in a hurry. She practically ran over to give the woman a hug.

"I'm fine, Lizzie," Kathy assured. "I was just a little paranoid. Something smells good in here."

"I thought I'd go ahead and get started on breakfast," Elliot said.

Kathy ran her eyes over him. He looked so at home there at the stove cooking for them all. She could more than likely count the number of times he had cooked anything while they were married on one hand.

"Look at you, Mr. Domestic."

He grinned her way. "Hey, I can cook," he defended himself. "I've just always been more skilled at breakfast foods and barbeque."

"You do grill a pretty mean steak," she agreed. He winked at her and returned to his morning task. She looked around and noticed that Lizzie and Elliot were the only ones awake so far. "I know Dickie's still asleep. That kid wouldn't get up even if there were bombs going off outside. Where's Olivia?"

Elliot laughed loudly as he flipped his first pancake of the morning.

"Olivia is just like Dickie," he informed her. "The woman loves her sleep. If she had her way, she wouldn't wake up before noon most days. She, uh, doesn't really get as much sleep as she should so I try to let her sleep in on our days off. So, to answer your question, she's still very much asleep."

Kathy nodded sheepishly. Every time she learned something about Olivia, it was always the oddest thing. She sat at the kitchen table, smiling when Lizzie joined her and gave her a large hug.

"What happened last night?" Lizzie asked, her curious brain going over many scenarios. Kathy tried hard not to roll her eyes for she knew she would be telling this story at least one more time that morning.

She began in on her long tale about her early morning "adventure." Lizzie was simply captivated with the entire thing. Her eyes would widen in all the right places and she would gasp at some of the details. Kathy could see Elliot snicker at their daughter's reactions. She tried hard not to follow suit. She knew the rest of her children would have the exact same reactions when she told them the tale. Well, maybe not Kathleen.

She never even realized how much time had passed until she saw Olivia enter the room. But Olivia appeared not to even see them. Of course, the hand running over her eyes to remove the sleep could have had something to do with that.

Olivia made a bee line for Elliot, as she did most mornings she woke up and he wasn't by her side. The aroma coming from the kitchen was another major draw but she would always keep that little detail to herself.

She stepped up next to him on his right to see what he was cooking. He smirked over at her; he had an uncanny ability to know whenever she was in the room. Although it wasn't too uncanny. She could do the same with him. She ran a hand across the backs of his shoulders before dropping a kiss on the one closest to her. She rested her arm on his shoulder and leaned her body into his. He surprised her when he captured her lips in his, giving her a proper good morning. It was a short kiss, nothing too special, but it still made her blood warm and her fingers tingle.

"I had a very interesting dream about you and me last night," she whispered happily to him as he pulled back. He grinned back at her. "It was hot."

His grin widened. "Yeah? We should act it out sometime soon." He pecked her lips again before flipping another set of pancakes. "In the meantime, you should help me with breakfast."

"I believe breakfast is your area of expertise," she said, trying to get out of it. "And besides, it's not even ten yet and you know I don't function well before ten o'clock without at least one cup of coffee."

He tapped her hip with his and propelled her in the direction of the coffee maker. "Then get your coffee, woman."

She swatted at his arm but moved that way. The laughing smile on her face was quickly erased when she saw Kathy sitting at the kitchen table.

"Kathy." She had forgotten Kathy had stayed with them last night. She blushed on the inside. If she had known Elliot's ex-wife was sitting right there at the kitchen table, she never would have let him kiss her. "How'd you sleep last night? Was the couch okay?"

Kathy nodded and Olivia could see in her expression that she had seen their display at the stove.

"Your couch is very comfortable actually," Kathy assured her hostess. "I slept great."

"I'm glad." Olivia busied herself with pouring a cup of coffee. She motioned it towards Kathy. "Would you like some?"

"Yes, please."

They were becoming pros at this small talk.

After giving Kathy her coffee and Lizzie a glass of juice, Olivia wasted no time in returning to her place at Elliot's side. She set her coffee down on the counter before slapping Elliot's hands away from the spatula he was using for the eggs. He feigned hurt and bumped his hip against hers. She grinned and returned the bump.

Kathy smiled as she looked at her ex-husband. He and Olivia looked so natural together, like they'd been involved for years. Well, in a way, they had. Their actions seemed so effortless and so…passionate. She could imagine they had no trouble keeping things fresh between them. Not like she and Elliot had. Then again, they also had four kids close together in age they had to cater to before they could take care of their own needs. Elliot and Olivia had the kids every other weekend; they had plenty of time to go on spontaneous dates and wild adventures.

There were times Kathy found herself wondering why she and Elliot got divorced; they were cordial enough to one another whenever they had to be at a function together because of the kids. They still had some familiarity from their married days. There was still love their but not the type of love that would rebuild their marriage.

Seeing him now with Olivia made her realize he had never been that happy with her. He would have never been that happy with her if they had given their marriage another shot. Olivia made his eyes sparkle. His smile always spread throughout his face and reached his eyes. His attention was always focused solely on her whenever she was talking or even just in the room. He touched her frequently when they were in the same room together, whether he was aware of it or not. He just looked…happier.

At peace.

Free.

In love.


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