Hey guys...sorry I haven't updated in awhile. I've been busy with work and some family drama that I had to deal with...so I haven't had time to write. But here is the next chapter and I hope that you like it.

By day five, Olivia wanted nothing more than to talk to Elliot but she had no idea where he was. When she woke up, she read the note for today to see what Elliot had planned for her today.

Good morning. How did you sleep? Hopefully well. Today, I want you to go to work. Your assignment is for later tonight. After work go to the grocery store and buy ingredients for a dish you have always wanted to make but have never tried to make before. I don't care what it is as long as you take the time to actually attempt to make it, if you burn it or ruin it…who cares. At least you tried.

Olivia got out of bed, showered and had her coffee before going to work. She walked into the precinct wishing that she could see Elliot's face at his desk but of course it was empty. She sighed and sat down at her desk, dreading the rest of the day and trying to think about what she was going to make tonight.

"Morning Olivia." Cragen said walking over to her desk.

Olivia smiled. "Morning Captain."

"How are you?" He asked. "Casey says you've been very busy lately."

Olivia laughed. "Don't act like you don't know what's going on..."

Cragen shrugged. " Okay fine…you're right. I know exactly what's going on. How's it going so far?"

Olivia was quiet for a moment. "I'm still a little confused as to why he's having me do this…but with each thing he asks me to do I learn a little more about myself I guess."

"Well that's the point isn't it?" Cragen asked. "He wants you to really get to know yourself while he's away."

Olivia stared at Cragen for a moment. "Can I ask you something?"

Cragen sat down on the edge of her desk and nodded. "Shoot."

Olivia took a deep breath. "When you look at me…what do you see?"

Cragen smiled and looked down. "Hm…well…I see one of the best detectives I've ever had. I see a woman who is stronger and braver then most of the men in here…"

Olivia shook her head. "But you see something else too…"

Cragen nodded. "I see a woman who is hiding a lot of pain because she feels that to show her emotions would make her look weak. I see woman who doesn't realize just how amazing she actually is…and I see a woman who needs to cut herself some slack before she completely falls apart."

Olivia smiled. "So I'm not as good of an actress as I think huh?"

Cragen laughed. "No…you're good. For people who don't know you that well…I'm sure they think you have it all together. But for people like me…people like Elliot, Fin, Munch and Casey…we see you for who you really are. And we want you to be happy Olivia…we want you to let go of your fears and just live your life."

Olivia leaned back in her chair. "This is all just…weird."

Cragen smiled. "You never do like to do things out of your comfort zone."

"No…I guess not." Olivia said. "You have no idea when Elliot will be back do you?"

Cragen shook his head. "No. I don't."

"Do you even know where he is?" Olivia asked hopefully.

"I have an idea…but I can't tell you what I know. You know that…" Cragen said sympathetically.

Olivia smiled. "Yeah…I thought I'd give it a shot."

Cragen just shook his head and smiled. "I know. You know if you want to take more time off…"

Olivia shook her head. "No. No…I need a distraction. Work is good for me."

Cragen nodded. "Alright. Well if you change your mind…"

Olivia smiled. "I'll keep that in mind."

"Good. But for now…Fin's in the interrogation room, mind helping him?" Cragen asked.

Olivia nodded. "Sure thing."

Olivia walked towards the interrogation room where Casey was listening into the conversation between Fin and the perp. "Hey you." Casey said.

Olivia smiled. "Morning."

"No assignment from Elliot today?" Casey asked.

"After work." Olivia said smiling. "He wants me to attempt to make a dish I've never tried to make but wanted to make before."

Casey raised her eyebrow. "I've never thought of you as much of a cook…"

Olivia smirked. "Gee thanks…"

Casey laughed. "Sorry…what are you going to make?"

Olivia sighed. "I don't really know…I mean I've always wanted to make apple pie…"

"Going the desert route eh? I hear that's harder than regular food…" Casey said.

Olivia shrugged. "Whatever. We'll see how it goes…"

Casey laughed. "Oh I wanna see this…"

Olivia rolled her eyes. "Fine. I'm going to go help Fin…I'll help talk to you about it later."

Casey nodded. "Sounds good."

After work, Olivia and Casey went to the store to get all the ingredients needed to make an apple pie. She was even going to attempt to make the crust from scratch while Casey watched. When they got back to her apartment, they looked up exactly how to make it and Olivia set to work. After throwing out a couple of the dough's for the crust, she finally made one she seemed to like. She lined the pie plate with it and then went to work on the apples.

"So still no word from Elliot huh?" Casey asked sipping her glass of wine.

Olivia sighed. "No…he said he would try to call. But you know how it is…"

Casey nodded. "Yeah. How are you feeling about all of this today?"

Olivia smiled. "I don't know…it's still strange but it's nice to have something to occupy my time."

Casey smirked. "Yes we all know Elliot was the one thing that occupied your time before he left…"

Olivia rolled her eyes. "Oh shush."

"Just calling it like I see it." Casey said taking another sip of her wine. "So what do you think you're supposed to learn from this cooking lesson?"

Olivia continued to chop the apples and shrugged. "I don't really know…"

"I've always thought that you had to have patience to be able to cook…so maybe that's what you're supposed to learn?" Casey asked.

Olivia added the rest of the ingredients to the apples and began mixing them together. "Maybe…"

"Well it smells good so far." Casey said. "Who knows…maybe you'll find a new career in this."

Olivia laughed. "Oh yes…I'll go from a sex crimes detective to a baker."

"You never know." Casey said smiling.

"Okay…" Olivia poured the apple filling into the bottom crust and smiled. "Now I just have to put the top crust on."

"Go for it." Casey said.

Olivia lifted the pie crust she had rolled out up and placed it over the top of the pie, she cut the excess off and pinched it onto the sides like it said to do in the instructions. She slit holes in the top to let out the heat and then sprinkled sugar on top of it and smiled at Casey.

"Look at me…I'm like Betty Crocker!" Olivia said.

Casey laughed. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves here friend…"

Olivia put the pie in the preheated oven and set the timer before getting her glass of wine and sat down beside Casey. "You know it's been really hard to not read ahead in Elliot's letter…"

"You just want to see if there is anything you will refuse to do." Casey said rolling her eyes.

Olivia laughed. "Yeah you're probably right…"

"If Elliot does call while he's away…what are you going to say to him?" Casey asked.

Olivia took a sip of her wine and thought about it for a moment. "I don't really know…I mean do I talk to him about the kiss? Or do I pretend like it never happened…"

"I guess you could just let him bring it up." Casey said. "Might be easier that way."

"Yeah you're probably right." Olivia said.

They two friends talked for awhile until they heard the timer go off on the oven. Olivia got up and got out her oven mitt before reaching in to get the pie. Olivia smiled as she placed it on the counter and looked over at Casey.

"Well it looks good…" Olivia said. "That's a good sign right?"

"Yep. But the taste test is the most important…" Casey said.

Olivia cut two pieces of pie and plated them, handing one to Casey and keeping one for herself. They let them cool for a few minutes before they each put a fork in to take a bit.

Olivia put the piece in her mouth and immediately spit it out. "What the hell?"

Casey grimaced. "Um…did you use sugar or salt?"

Olivia looked down at the pie. "Oh shit…"

Casey started laughing hysterically, Olivia looked sad for a minute before she just shook her head and started to laugh too. She was hoping the pie would be good but clearly she had messed up. But it was the first time that she had ever attempted to make a pie, or really cook at all. So who cares? At least she had tried…

Casey was right that cooking taught you patience, but it also was a way to show you that it was okay that not everything has to be perfect. Because the truth of the matter is life isn't perfect…but as long as you try then that's all that matters.

As the two friends laughed and shared their wine Olivia continued to look forward to the rest of Elliot's lessons. And she hoped that he would call her soon…

The next morning Olivia woke up earlier than usual, she figured she was excited to see what Elliot had to say today. When she looked at the note, she smiled just because she had seen his hand writing.

How did the cooking go? You'll have to try again when I get home. Today go to work again and then tonight…take a glass of wine up to the roof and star gaze for at least an hour. Bring some music if you want, but go alone and just enjoy the view. Have fun, wish I could enjoy it with you.

Olivia felt her heart skip a beat at the last part and wished that he could be there too. She got ready for work and then went to Starbucks to get everyone coffee.

"I come bearing gifts." Olivia said as she set the coffee down on her desk.

"You are the best." Munch said picking up the cup labeled with his name on it. "Casey told us about your cooking adventures last night."

Olivia smiled. "Yeah…lets just say I won't be opening a bakery anytime soon."

"All my ex-wife's used to say I was quite the cook." Munch said.

Fin picked up his coffee. "You sure about that? I mean you've been divorced a few times now partner…if you were such a good cook why would they leave?"

"Why'd your wife leave?" Munch asked raising an eyebrow.

"It's called the hazards of the job. Same reason Kathy left Elliot…" Fin said.

"Do you think it's possible to have a career and good relationship?" Olivia asked.

Munch nodded. "It's possible…but you have to work hard at it."

"If you're worried about you and Elliot…I wouldn't. I mean you guys know each other so well and you're both detectives. You know how this lifestyle is…how this career works. I think you'll be fine." Fin said.

Olivia laughed. "Okay…well Elliot and I aren't even really together yet so lets not jump into talking about our relationship."

"Oh please…you guys are totally going to be together as soon as he gets back." Fin said rolling his eyes.

Olivia shook her head and walked away. "We'll see…"

That night when the sun went down and the moon was high in the sky Olivia took her wine and her iPod to the roof. She sat down on one of the chairs up there and relaxed after a long day at work. She poured herself a glass of wine and turned on her iPod and looked up at the sky.

She had done this a lot…sitting on the roof but she was trying to think about things differently tonight. She took a sip of her wine and stared up at the huge sky in front of her, she started to feel really small. She never thought about how big the universe was compared to the city of New York. Sometimes she felt like this was the only place where people lived…but there was so much more out there.

Just as she was really beginning to think about the sky and herself, her cell phone rang. She sighed thinking it was Cragen calling her to come back into work but she didn't recognize the number. She thought about not answering but curiosity got the best of her.

"Hello?" She said.

"I was afraid you wouldn't answer an unknown number." The voice said on the other end.

Olivia sat up in her chair and smiled when she heard the voice. "Elliot?"

"Expecting a call from someone else?" He asked, she could practically see the smirk that was obviously on his face.

She felt her heart begin to beat faster. "It's so good to hear your voice."

"It's good to hear your voice too." Elliot said. "How are you? Did you get my letter?"

Olivia smiled. "I did…"

"And are you actually following through with the instructions or are you ignoring it?" He asked. "I know how you can be very stubborn…"

Olivia laughed. "No…I'm actually doing everything you asked."

"Well good." He said softly before pausing. "So…I'm really sorry that I had to run off without talking to you. I wanted to say goodbye…but I couldn't. There wasn't time."

Olivia took a sip of her wine again. "I know…I was really shocked when Cragen said you were gone. For a second I thought you ran off because of…" She paused for a moment. "Elliot we kissed…"

Elliot laughed. "Yeah…I was there."

"I don't really know…what I'm supposed to say." Olivia said. "I honestly never really expected to kiss you…it kind of just happened."

Elliot waited a moment. "Do you regret it?"

"Well no…" Olivia said. "I wanted to kiss you. But I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable…or obligated to kiss me back. I know what you said in the letter…but it's okay if you don't want to be with me…like that."

"See this is exactly why I wanted you to do the whole list thing…" Elliot said. "You always freak out and start too push people away. You read the letter…so you know that I love you? I don't feel obligated to do anything Liv…I want to be with you."

"But you don't think I'm ready to be in a relationship…" Olivia said softly.

"Do you think you're ready to be in a relationship?" Elliot asked.

Olivia sighed. "I want to be ready…but I guess I'm not."

"If we're together…I want us to really be together Olivia. I'm not looking for just a quick hook up…especially not with you. I'm not getting any younger and neither are you…I have five kids. I'm looking for someone to spend the rest of my life with. I would love for you to be my wife someday but for that to happen…I think you have a lot of soul searching to do." Elliot said. "I don't know if I could handle you pushing me away always…"

Olivia took a sip of her wine. "I know you're not meaning too…but you're making me feel like a total failure." Olivia said. "I feel like I'm so incompetent for anything…"

"Again…this is what I'm talking about. You're always putting yourself down…do you not realize how amazing you really are?" Elliot asked.

"If' I'm so amazing why are you sending me off on this 'soul searching' adventure as you so call it?" Olivia asked.

"Because I want you to see what I see." Elliot said.

"Which is what exactly?" Olivia asked curiously.

"I see a woman who is more beautiful than words can say. I see a woman who is incredibly intelligent, funny, passionate, caring and brave. Honestly when I see you with the victims…it amazes me. The way you take care of them and help them is so inspiring. I just wish you would let someone care about you that way and help you." Elliot said. "I guess with this whole list and letter…I was hoping it would be a way for me to help you."

Olivia swallowed hard. "Well in some ways…it has helped me."

"Oh yeah?" Elliot asked. " So you're getting the assignments and what they actually mean?"

"I think so. I mean you may have had other reasons for me to do these things…" She asked.

"So tell me what you think you've learned?"Elliot asked.

"Well for example…with the tree planting it made me really look at life for what it is. Beautiful yet complex…always changing and evolving. With the cooking…I had to learn patience but also that it's okay to not be perfect all the time. When I walked around the city for the day…I met a really wonderful old woman. She told me her story…and it made me realize it's okay to open up to other people…it's not okay to hold everything in." She said.

"Well what do you know…you actually are learning." Elliot teased.

"Elliot when are you coming home?" Olivia asked, wanting him beside her in that moment.

Elliot laughed. "I thought you said with cooking you learned patience…"

"Yeah well…it's a slow process." She said leaning further into her chair.

Elliot sighed. "Well the truth is…I don't now when I'll be home. I wish I could come home tomorrow…but I have no idea."

"It's weird…you've been on vacation before. And I was away on an undercover assignment too…but this time feels different." Olivia said. "You've only been gone for a few days now and it already feels like forever. I miss you."

"You have no idea how much I miss you Olivia." Elliot said.

"Do you remember what we were talking about in the cribs?" Olivia asked.

Elliot cleared his throat. "You were saying that you weren't sure you could handle staying with the job anymore. Do you still feel that way?"

Olivia was quiet for a moment. "Not really no…I know I want to stay. But…it's still hard sometimes."

"I know it is." Elliot said. "What we see everyday really wears a person down…there are many days that I feel like that. When I get into bed at night I think…I can't get up and do that again tomorrow. The pain you see on all those victims faces…especially when the cases involve kids. It's overwhelming…"

"Do you ever just stare at your kids when you get home?" Olivia asked. "I mean I know they are for the most part older now…except for Eli. But I can't imagine what it would be like if I had kids…having to see them after seeing a dead child. I think I would never be able to take my eyes off of them." Olivia said.

"Kathy used to have to drag me from their rooms." Elliot said laughing. "I felt like if I even blinked I would miss something important…or something bad would happen. It's not easy…but feeling like I'm protecting them makes it all worth it."

"I thought I'd be married by now…I thought I'd be a Mom." Olivia said softly.

"It's not to late Olivia…" He said honestly.

"Maybe not…" Olivia whispered.

"You know my kids love you." Elliot said. "They ask about you constantly…"

"And I love your kids too." Olivia said. "But…it's not the same."

"I have loved you for a long time now Olivia. Maybe I should have said something sooner…we could be together now. But I can't change the past. But someday…I would love to marry you and have children with you." Elliot said.

Olivia let his words sink in for a moment. "You have five kids already…"

"So?" Elliot asked. "I love my children more than anything in the world…it can be stressful at times. But I would love to have more kids…especially with you."

His words meant more to her than she could say…yet at the same time it scared her to death. They had only kissed once and he was thousands of miles away and now they were talking about babies and marriage.

"Are you still there?" Elliot asked.

Olivia took a deep breath. "I'm here."

"Did I freak you out there?" Elliot asked chuckling.

She licked her lips. "A little…"

"Too much too fast?" Elliot asked.

"I think so." Olivia whispered. "This wasn't really how I pictured my life to go…"

"And how did you picture your life to go?" He asked curiously.

Olivia was quiet for a moment. "Well when I was younger…I thought I would get married and be a mother at a young age. But as the years went on…I kind of just gave up on everything and figured I'd be alone the rest of my life."

"You aren't alone." Elliot said. "You've never been alone…not since we've known each other. I hope you know that…"

"I know I have you." Olivia said. "And that means more to me than anything in the world…you're my best friend Elliot. You've seen me through a lot…and I appreciate that. But…there are still things you don't really know about me."

"I know that." Elliot said. "I've always known you've had things hidden away in that heart of yours…but with this process I hope you can finally open up to me…all the way."

"Maybe…" Olivia whispered. "But I have a feeling I have a few more lessons to learn from you before I can do that."

Elliot chuckled. "At least you can admit that."

"This would be so much easier if you were here with me." Olivia said. "I mean Casey has been great…she's helped me through everything. But…I still wish you were here."

"I may not have an exact date. But I'm sure I'll be home before you know it…" Elliot whispered. "But I actually have to go…my time is up with the phone."

Olivia sighed. "Okay…will you be able to call again?"

"I'm not sure." Elliot said.

"Just…do me a favor and be safe." Olivia said. "I know you can't tell me about the case…but I do worry about you. You have to come home in one piece if we want to be together."

"There is nothing I want more." Elliot said. "I promise I'll be safe."

"Bye El…" She whispered.

"Goodbye Olivia." Elliot said before hanging up.

Olivia sighed and put her phone down, she leaned her head back on the chair and stared up at the dark sky above her. It had been so good to hear Elliot's voice…but after he had said goodbye she was beginning to miss him even more if that was possible. She knew that in a way this was good for them…they needed to grow before they could actually be together.

And yet it would have been so much easier if he was with her. But that's always the way she wanted things…easy. But life wasn't easy and she just had to accept that finally and push forward with her life if she wanted to be happy. She took a deep breath and stared up at the stars above her.

Seeing how enormous the sky was and how many stars there were she was beginning to feel so small. Sometimes she felt like she was the only person in the world that had hard times. But right now tin this moment she realized how small she really was…she felt like she made a difference everyday with her job. But she also knew there were many people like her out there doing the same thing…and more.

Suddenly she understood this lesson, it was to realize not only how big the world was but also how much possibility actually lay at her feet. She could do anything she wanted if she really put her mind too it.

Even with her relationship with Elliot…they could make it work if she really wanted it too. And she did want it to work. She wanted nothing more than to be with Elliot Stabler…the thought terrified her yet excited her. Even though she didn't know when he was coming home she knew that she had a lot to work through before he came back. And she made a conscious decision in that moment to do her best to learn everything he wanted her to learn so that they could be together. This was finally her time to be happy…and she wasn't going to let this slip through her fingers. She'd waited long enough…

So what did you think? I hope you liked it...let me know and review! I will try and update as soon as possible both this story and "Before It's Too Late" Much Love :)