A/N: One shot. For Cori.
DISCLAIMER: SVU and characters belong to Dick Wolf. Story belongs to TStabler
She's walking to work, as if it's a normal day. She's wondering if it would be nice to take the shortcut through the park, and before she can decide her feet carry her through the gate. As she's walking, she's thinking about the day ahead of her. What case will she be stuck with? What messages will be waiting for her? What sort of trouble will the sorry excuse for a cop sitting at her partner's old desk get into today?
She's in the middle of mentally cursing the rookie, when something to her left catches her attention. She turns, and she sighs. She doesn't know if she wants to smile or cry. Watching a man play with his dog, watching a woman pushing her baby carriage, seeing two school children in uniforms running to catch their bus before it leaves the stop without them.
It's all reminding her that her life will never be that simple. Her life will never be a stroll through the park.
She sighs and follows the two kids with their bouncing backpacks with her eyes, and she recognizes the uniforms as Trinity Prep. "Elliot," she whispers, one hand moving down her body almost delicately. The name tastes bitter and sweet on her tongue, she realizes that she will be heading into work without him and it stings.
But this is not a new development. They've been apart for months. Six months. Almost seven, and she was counting every single day of them, hoping against hope that the next day would be the one that brings him back.
That day never comes, though, and as she shakes her head and takes a sad step away from the lives of the happy and free people in the park, she mumbles mutely to herself. She hates working without him. She hates having to manipulate reasons to drop into his precinct to see him, and she hates that it makes her look needy and desperate despite her deliberate attempts to appear professional.
More than that, she hates that in his absence, she has lost the ability to do her job. She hates that Cragen retired two months after his departure and she hates that she jumped at the chance to take his place solely so she wouldn't have to deal with a partner that wasn't him.
She hates that there's a short, stocky, blonde, twenty-eight year old in the desk that belongs to him. She hates that the rookie calls her "Ma'am" and she hates that he looks at his partner the same way Elliot used to look at her.
She hates that she can see in them what everyone saw in her and her partner, and she hates that she knows they deny it out of fear, just like she used to do.
She runs a hand over her slightly rounder belly as she exits the park, and she smiles in the saddest possible way. There's no denying it now.
She takes a step off of the curb and heaves yet another sigh, wondering how the next few months will play out. How will she tell him? How will she tell his kids? How will she tell the people serving under her at the unit?
They will know, even before she tells them, and if she even tries to lie, they'll see right through her. She's wanted this for far too long, and now that she's getting it, it's killing her. She blinks hard and hopes the tears will stay away, at least until she's home from work.
With each stride, the memory floods back. He's sitting in Cragen's office in tears, she's beside him stone-faced and refusing to cry. He's leaving without so much as a handshake, and she's walking back into the squad room as if to prove to herself she doesn't care. The day is moving slowly without him, and she's finding it hard to breathe. Suddenly, she's walking out of the doors and into the elevator and before she realizes it, she's running after him. She's grabbing him in the parking lot and pulling him away from his car and she's looking at him as if she has to tell him the biggest secret in the world but can't find the words.
He's looking back at her with red, puffy eyes and he's breathing hard and fast, and she doesn't see his hands move to cup her face. He's kissing her with every bit of strength he has, and he's making her feel things she's never felt before, because he is feeling things he didn't think that he knew how to feel.
She's pulling away now and staring at him as if he's just killed her best friend. Essentially, he has. There is no way after a kiss like that they could go back to being just friends. She's asking him about Kathy. He's telling her he'll figure it out later, but he needs her right now, just her.
She's getting into the car with him and they're driving back to her place, because she doesn't have a wife and kids waiting. Once the door to her apartment is closed behind them, they make the biggest decision of their lives, and they change things, and they don't regret it for a second.
Snapping out of it, shaking the memory off, she realizes she's standing in front of the precinct. She blinks, wondering how she even got here.
"Morning, Cap," an annoying voice behind her calls.
She grunts and nods. She can't smile after remembering her first time with her former partner and knowing he won't be with her today. Not for several hours. Possibly not at all.
She climbs the steps and heads to the elevator, and she can hear the footsteps behind her. The rookie who has replaced her beloved, hot-headed, arrogant partner is following her, and she wants nothing more than to turn around and punch him, let him know that he's ripping her heart out a little more each day.
She sighs and she doesn't punch him, and she steps into the elevator. This is what it's like when they're apart. She's cold and she's mean, and she's counting down the minutes until she can be with him, hoping it's one of the nights when she will, in fact, be with him.
"How was your night?" the pale-faced kid asks as the lift rises.
She turns to him and she opens her mouth, planning to tell him to shove it up his ass, but something in his eyes today tells her he would probably cry if she did that. "Fine," she says, lying.
Her night was beyond fine. She was with him, she was in his arms, in his bed, loving him, fucking him, and she was held impossibly close to him as he whispered three small words that held the weight of the world in them.
"Good," the rookie says, offering a smile.
She smiles back, the first sigh of humanity she has given the man since he started in the unit. The doors open and she steps off, and she walks into the squad room expecting nothing spectacular from her day.
But she stops at the sight of him, she blinks, she almost cries. She handles herself professionally, and she keeps her cold and stoic demeanor. "What are you doing here?"
He chuckles and shakes her head. "Just came to say hi to Fin and Munch," he says, holding out a hand to the two detectives to his right.
She nods once, and she takes a few steps toward her office.
His voice stops her before she can turn the handle. Her fingers grip the brass of the knob as she takes a breath and closes her eyes. She moves slowly, her lids opening again as she does, and she faces him with a look of pure concentration in her eyes. "Me?"
"You," he says firmly.
She narrows her eyes as he advances, coming toward her predatorily. She's silently warning him not to say anything. Not to do anything that might alert the other people in the room to their newly established relationship.
She puts her hands on her hips and nods once, hoping he will notice her hand, and hoping he will see that she doesn't wear her ring to work. "Why me?"
"I missed you," he shrugs. He knows no one else knows they've been seeing each other, he's keeping up the appearance of someone who hasn't seen her in ages. "I missed this place."
"So come back," Fin says, as if it's so easy.
He chuckles and shakes his head and says, "No." It's flat and it's final. He turns back to her and he looks at her and he says, "You left this on the table."
She swallows hard, she's staring at the ring in his hand, between his fingers. She hears the audible gasp from the pretty redhead sitting in what used to be her chair at what used to be her desk. She closes her eyes and she mentally yells at him. "I know," she whispers.
"It doesn't belong on the table," he tells her, taking her wrist, lifting her hand, and slipping the ring onto her finger. "It belongs there."
"I'm missing something," Munch declares. "What gives, Stabler?"
"Stabler?" the young man who had followed Olivia into the room asks. "Elliot Stabler?"
He turns toward his replacement, and he nods. "That's me. Yeah."
The rookie is over to him in seconds, shaking his hand hard. "It is an honor."
He pulls his hand away and laughs. "Well, thanks," he says, then turns toward Munch. "And you're missing the obvious, pal."
Fin tilts his head. "The late nights. The early mornings. The chipper moods. She was with you?"
"Is," he clarifies. "She is with me. Forever, I hope." He turns back to her and he rests his hands over her swelling belly, and he says, "My girl, my baby. Being apart wasn't an option." He blinks once. "After the shooting…I felt empty. So fucking empty. I knew I had to leave, I couldn't work here anymore, but I needed her. I have her. I love her."
She sniffles, refusing to let the tears fall, and she shakes her head. "You shouldn't be here," she whispers. "You don't have to…"
"Liv," he says, holding her gaze, "You know damn well I can't stand when we're apart." He kisses her cheek and whispers, "And I wanted to ask you…how long have you known?" He rubs her belly a bit for emphasis.
"Three days," she whispers. "I was gonna tell you when we were alone, but you had the kids this week, and I couldn't…"
His lips quiet her. "I love you," he whispered.
She looks at him and she takes a deep breath and she smiles. She'll say it, she will, but she can't do it with an audience. She kisses him again and she says, "You've gotta go to work."
"I know," he says, kissing her again. He gives her one last peck on the cheek, and he nods to the others, and he leaves.
She watches him go, and once he's gone, she turns around. "All right, so now you know. Get back to work." She turns on her heels and heads into her office, she glances at the clock.
Twelve hours and eighteen minutes.
That's how long they'll be apart.
And as she sits behind her large, oak desk, she closes her eyes and she thanks her lucky stars that it's no longer than that, because she wouldn't survive. She hears a noise outside, through her opened window, and she turns to look.
The woman from the park, pushing her baby carriage, has stopped to buy coffee from the cart outside. It's a sign, she thinks, and she smiles.
Maybe her life would turn out okay after all, with him and their child. She looks down at her hand and sees the ring that he drove all the way across town to give her, to make sure she wouldn't be without it.
To make sure they wouldn't be apart.
A/N: Sorry about that. Hope it wasn't as bad as I think it was.