A/N: A songfic of sorts, requested about a year ago, and I thought it fit the current situation.
DISCLAIMER: SVU and characters belong to Dick Wolf. TStabler© owns this story.
She remembers the night, three months ago, so vividly. She could still hear his voice, sorrowful and slurred with drink as she sat on her doorstop, holding the phone to her ear. She remembers every word he said, every confession he gave. She still hears his broken apology as he tells her the words he once promised her he would never say. She could still feel it slipping from her hand, and she could still hear it shatter as it hit the concrete below. She could still feel her heart breaking as she cried for the first time after the call ended.
She grabs a box from underneath her desk and stands, moving forward toward what used to be her partners space. She trails a finger along the edge, trying to see herself without him, trying and failing. She knew he had a choice to make and he did the only thing he could, but it didn't comfort her at all.
She picks up the photograph on his desk and looks at it, a tear falls from her eye as she puts it in the cardboard box she's holding in her shaking, weak arms. She knows he had to do this, she knows he thought she wouldn't understand, but she does. She understands perfectly.
She lifts his worn, written on, torn desk calendar off of the surface and folds it before dropping it into the box. She doesn't believe how much this hurts, how she's crying. She picks up the scattering of pens and lets them fall into the box, not caring that they'll be lost at the bottom forever, knowing he will never go into this box for anything.
She hears the footsteps behind her and she turns, giving a sad smile to the man she sees there. She swallows, trying not to let this break her down. "It's like falling when you try to fly, isn't it?" she asks, her voice whispered.
The man in front of her nods. "It's gonna be hard, but…maybe this is good, right? I mean, he's been gone for months, we kinda knew he'd never come back."
"I thought there was a chance," she says with a shrug.
The man shakes his head. "You both need this. You need to move on with the rest of your life. He was holding you back, you know it." He bites his lip and says, "Moving on starts with goodbye, Baby-Girl, as painful as it is."
She chuckles bitterly at his words and turns back to the almost-cleared desk. "I know," she says, keeping something secret deep within her words. "I know there's something better out there waiting for me. I just…I always thought he'd be with me when I found it." He is it, she thinks to herself. "Sometimes," she mumbles, "Life really is bittersweet. Isn't it, Fin?"
Fin nods again, then crosses his arms. "Have you talked to him?"
She sighs. Then she lies. "No," she says. "He's got a lot going on. Kathy left him, the department won't transfer him until he's cleared by Huang, he's got his own therapist now because he can't handle the guilt. He doesn't need to talk to me. He doesn't need…"
"You are the only thing that man will ever need," Fin interrupts, scoffing. "He'll never tell you that, and you didn't hear it from me. I just don't know what he thinks he's gonna do about it now. Without this job, you'll never see each other."
She smiles again, knowing how wrong he is, then moves toward her own desk. She takes a deep breath and picks up a framed picture of her own. "It's cracked," she mumbles, dropping the picture into the box.
"What are you doing?" Fin asks, now nervous and standing up straight.
"Moving on," she says, matter-of-factly, picking up her own desk blotter and tossing it, not in the box, but in the trash bin. "With the rest of my life. That starts with goodbye, right? You said it yourself."
"I meant him!" Fin yells, walking over to her and trying to rip the stapler out of her hands before she puts it in the box.
"Fin, stop it!" she yells, taking it back, as if somehow the stapler was a symbol of her life at SVU. "I'm going! It's done!" She throws the stapler into the box and says, "I decided long ago that if he ever left, for any reason, I would be right behind him. I can't do this alone!"
Fin balks. "Alone? So without him, you're alone? You don't think I…or what about Munch? Cragen? We don't count, that it? All hail King Elliot and Queen Olivia, and the rest of us are peasants?"
"Damn it, Fin, that is not…" she takes a deep breath and she meets his heavy eyes. "We talked about it," she admits. "Me and Elliot. And he isn't the only one who can't do this anymore."
"What does that mean?" Fin asks, fear dripping from his words.
She blinks and says, "It was supposed to be sex crimes. Rape. Assault. And children, old people who can't defend themselves. I was never supposed to become involved in drug rings, or terrorist attacks. Sonya and Sister Peg died in my arms, Fin! People close to me, that I cared about, got hurt for no reason, and I didn't sign up for that! Do you know how many times I've risked my life for this job, without ever having really lived it?"
"That's the job!" Fin cries, hoping it will be a simple enough answer.
She scoffs and shakes her head. "No, Fin, that is beyond the job," she answers, emptying the contents of her top drawer into the box.
"So, what, you leave and become a teacher?" he scoffs back. "That ain't how it…"
"Queens," she says, meeting his eyes with such severity that it makes him take a step back. "I'm transferring to Queens, SVU. Victims' rights and counseling, I won't be in the field, and I won't have to…"
"Queens?" Fin asks, his voice now filled with recognition. Realization.
She nods once, giving him a silent admission. "Queens," she says. She slams her drawer shut and sighs, dropping the heavy box onto her desk. She grips it tightly and looks at him. "He can't sleep. Every time he closes his eyes he sees himself firing the gun, that child bleeding out in his arms, her life draining from her eyes, and he cries, Fin." Tears drip down her cheeks as she tries to make him understand. "Kathy couldn't take it, she couldn't let the kids see their father like that, and she couldn't convince him to get help, so she left. She called me, hysterical, from her mother's house. She wants me to get him better, because apparently she thinks he listens to me, so I've been there with him…I'm the only one he talks to, did you know that?"
Fin blinks. "He can talk to…"
"He thinks you all hate him," she interrupts. "He thinks you will all look at him like some kind of monster, and he can't risk finding out he's right." She sniffles and says, "Time heals all wounds, somehow, but…"
"You don't have to do this right now!" Fin yells, thinking that maybe scaring her will make her back down.
"Right now," she whispers, grabbing the box and heading toward the door. "I guess it's gonna have to hurt," she says, closing her eyes. She feels the tears falling and she laughs in spite of herself. "I guess I'm gonna have to cry."
Fin blinks again, his own tears now falling down his unabashed cheeks. "You're leaving your…"
"Someone will use it," she says, shaking her head. "I have to leave some things behind, don't I?" she laughs. "How else will you remember I was here?"
"We'll remember," Fin says, shaking slightly. "I'll remember."
She nods and gives him a smile. "Goodbye," she says quietly, and she turns on her heels and marches out the door, refusing to let anyone else see her before she rushes to the elevator.
When the doors slide shut, she cries a bit harder, hating that it has to be this way, hating that her new beginning has to come from such a heart-wrenching ending. She composes herself enough to be presentable just before the doors open again, and she steps out into the lobby of the Sixteenth Precinct.
She walks out fast, carrying the box, and she sees the trunk of a dark blue SUV open on its own. She smiles a bit as the last of her tears drop, and she lets the box in her arms fall into the open trunk. She slams it shut and walks to the side of the car, opens the door, and gets in with a sigh. She looks at the driver and asks, "Are you sure you don't want to go up and…"
"I can't." His answer is firm and his eyes are serious. "I'll just relive it all again and the progress I've made in the last few months will be shot, and you'll have to pull me back up all over again."
She rests a hand on his leg and says, "Okay, El. You can always call them or something."
He nods, and he looks at her for a moment. He leans forward and presses a gentle kiss to the end of her nose, and he lets the back of his hand brush across her cheek lightly. "Yeah," he says, offering her a small smile. "That's it then?" he asks.
"That's it," she says with a sigh. "We get to live the rest of our lives now."
"Together," he says, it's a statement ending with a silent question mark, and he drapes his palm over her hand, on his knee, and he links their fingers together hoping she can't tell that his palms are sweating.
"Always," she tells him, giving him a smile.
He breathes a sigh of relief and chuckles, not sure why he's laughing when he feels more like crying. He looks at her and the look in her eyes is enough to make him believe that it's all worth it, and it's all going to be okay. "Where do we start?" he asks.
She turns to look out the window, taking a long gander at the brick building that has been home for almost twelve years, the building she grew up in, the building she met the man she loves in, the building that took her to hell and back and gave her more strength and courage than she believed possible. She takes another much-needed deep breath and says, "With goodbye."
A/N: "Starts with Goodbye," Carrie Underwood. Review here or on Twitter: TMG212