A/N: Save: to rescue from danger or possible harm, injury, or loss; to keep safe, intact, or unhurt; safeguard; preserve; to keep from being lost
DISCLAIMER: Dick Wolf owns SVU and its characters. TStabler© owns the narrative, dialogue and plot of this story.
Watching Cragen from behind the glass, Elliot shakes his head. He turns and sighs, looking at Ed Tucker. "This isn't...he's obviously lying."
"What?" Tucker questions, squinting.
Elliot waves his hands in front of him, gesturing at the distraught and disgraced captain. "I can see him trying to get rid of me, I understand him getting that gun to Jenna and what he did to me...but he...he's not a killer. Not when...not like that."
"So what are you saying?" Tucker asks, raising an eyebrow. "You think..."
"I think Fin was right!" Elliot interrupts, turning sharply and folding his arms. "Cragen, despite his anger at what I've become and his need to get me out of his hair, thinks of the people in that unit as his kids. I was his son, once upon a time, and he stuck his ass in lot of hot water for me. He'd take a bullet for any one of them." He shakes his head and sighs again. "He's covering for someone." He raises an eyebrow. "I doubt it's Amaro," he says.
Tucker scratches at his head and tilts it toward the glass. "You think he's taking the fall for Tutuola, then? Why would he do that?"
"I don't know," Elliot says, biting his lip. "All I know is...the unit...used to be a family. Now..." he pauses and he looks at Tucker for a long moment. "You know she's leaving, don't you?"
"So you said," Tucker replies, a sigh of his own escaping. "Once this blows over, Elliot, things will..."
"Things in that room will never be the same," Elliot snaps, his brow furrowing. "The lies...the deceit...the fact that someone in that room killed a woman in cold blood, raped her and watched her die. All this after the man in charge paid a lawyer, a friend, to get a gun to a victim and..." he licks his lips and throws a hand against the wall. "Damn it, Eddie! Cragen set me up! My wife's best friend helped him do it! Fin raped and killed a good cop! Shit, a woman who was gonna have a baby! Munch fucking lied about it all, and all roads lead back to Chief Bradshaw, who's supposed to be the one that keeps this shit from happening!"
"Calm down!" Tucker calls, hoping to settle him.
"Don't you dare!" Elliot shouts, turning. "Calm down? Really? After everything that's happened you want me to calm down?" He laughs and runs a hand down his face. "The only people I've ever trusted let me down. All but one! The same people...the only family my wife has ever really known...betrayed her, too. She's leaving because..." he grimaces as he thinks of the words that were once thrown at him. "When you can't trust your partner, it's time to get a new one. We can't trust anyone in this place anymore."
Tucker is quiet for a full minute, then he breathes, and then he takes a step toward Elliot. "So, what, you don't trust me, either?"
"Did you have any idea about any of this?" Elliot asks, his voice quiet, his eyes burning into the glass as he stares at Cragen. "Eddie, did you know..."
"I would have done something," Tucker interrupts. "I swear to you, Elliot, I would have told you. Shit, I would have stopped it if I could."
Elliot shakes his head and moves toward the door. "You put me and Liv through hell for years," he says, not turning around. "Funny how, once I'm gone, that suddenly doesn't matter and the friendship we once had comes back full swing." He looks over his shoulder. "You sure you wouldn't have kept your mouth shut if it meant getting me back in your corner?"
"You're paranoid," Tucker hisses. "Of course not. Whatever shit I put you through had nothing to do with...it wasn't personal, it was all because of the job! Shit, you know that. Once a Marine, always a Marine, Elliot. Brothers first."
Elliot nods once at him as he turns the knob. "Right," he says, closing his eyes. "She's still..."
"I'm sure she is," Tucker interjects. "You get everything you can out of him, Elliot. No matter what he says, or who he pins this on, I'm with you."
Elliot offers him a small smile, then pushes open the metal door, praying that whatever Cragen says to him will be the truth. He's ready to close this case and put it, and the entire Sixteenth Precinct, behind him.
Cragen lifts his head as he hears the door open, his dry, blank eyes stare into Elliot's and he shrugs. "What more do you want me to say?"
"Just one thing," Elliot says, sliding a shiny, gold badge over to Cragen. "His name." He sits and says, "I have no problem charging you with conspiracy, blackmail, tampering with evidence, obstructing a federal investigation, and accessory to murder, but...I'm not charging you with rape and murder if you didn't commit the crimes." He tilts his head. "See, I'm not exactly like you."
Cragen exhales slowly, then says, "You got me, you got Alex, and you got Bradshaw."
"I want the man who killed Amanda Rollins," Elliot says, his jaw clenched. "Who are you protecting?"
Cragen flicks the badge and it slides over to Elliot. "You already know, don't you?"
Elliot bites his lip and leans forward, glaring at Cragen. "I need you to say it. Don't go down for this, it's not worth it."
"I'm responsible!" Cragen yells. "I should have stopped it! I should have done something as soon as Bradshaw told me why Rollins needed to be in this unit!"
"But you didn't!" Elliot shouts back. "You didn't, and now Amanda and her child are dead! You owe it to them to put the man who did it away! No matter who it is!" He narrows his eyes and lowers his voice. "You always said we don't get to pick the vic. We don't get to pick the perp, either. Just tell me, so Liv doesn't have to go through this again."
"What does this have to do with Olivia?" Cragen asks, his eyes suddenly shifting.
Elliot grins, knowing he's pushed a button. "Her father...her biological father was a rapist," he says. He points at Cragen and he says, "Please, don't let her walk away from this thinking the man who really was a father to her is one, too."
Cragen closed his eyes and dropped his head into his hands. "Elliot, please. Don't make me say it. If I say it, then it becomes real, and I can't...I can't deal with that."
Elliot takes a pen out of his pocket and opens the cover of a notebook that had been lying on the table. "Write it down, then," he says, handing the pen to Cragen. "Everything. Start with when you decided to give Alex that gun, work your way up to Monday morning, when Munch told you he found Amanda."
Cragen clicks the pen and he clears his throat. "I never meant for..."
"I don't care," Elliot interrupts. "Just write." He leans back and folds his arms, and as he looks at Cragen writing, he realizes the man he'd known is not the man in front of him now. It kills him, but he hides the emotions as he waits for the finished confession, taking comfort in the fact that Cragen's heart still bled for Olivia and there is still some humanity left in the former captain.
Cragen remains unaware that while he signs the papers that will end his career, someone just beyond the interrogation room walls is doing the same exact thing.
She looks down at the last page of the packet in her hands, and she reads each word. Somewhere in the back of her mind she hears the funeral march playing, somewhere else she hears a bugle blowing TAPS, and yet somewhere else a tiny voice begs her not to sign on the angry-looking line.
She bites her lip as she puts pen to paper, and she closes her eyes as, for the first time on anything work-related, she writes out her full legal name. She drops the pen and the hand that betrayed her runs through her hair as she clears her throat. A shaky breath passes between her lips and she stands, turning toward the wall of small lockers on the far wall.
It feels as though she's walking in slow motion, but she's running. She raises her hand to the latch, and she opens the metal door, smiling. She remembers the first moment she opened it, the first time she tossed her gun into it in a fit of anger. She remembers conversations with Elliot, the intimate positions they'd find themselves in as they'd tried to keep their words private. She recalls the grey sweatshirt, the one that at this moment is in a laundry basket at the foot of her bad, that bounced from her locker to his.
She shakes her head as she pulls the knick-knacks and papers out of the small cubby, and she slams it closed for the last time. She tilts her head as she pulls the construction paper folder with her name on it off the door, and she drops it into the trash bin to her left. She's aware Fin and Munch are staring as she moves back to her desk, but she can't bring herself to care.
She continues to chew her lip as she looks at the slick surface, her head tilts and jerks as she ponders the importance of the stuff that's scattered over the top. She nods as she lifts up and stacks the picture frames, and then she drops them into a cardboard box on the empty desk across from hers.
A few pens fly into it next, and a solved Rubik's Cube lands somewhere inside as she tosses it. She takes a deep breath as she pulls open the top drawer, and that's when the tears well up in her eyes. Her fingers curl around the pendant lying in the drawer, and when she lifts it up, the chain dangles, making everyone aware of what she's now holding.
"Semper Fi," she whispers, her thumb brushing over the embossed medal Elliot had sent her months ago. Her other hand trails down to her stomach and she smiles, the meaning behind the necklace is deeper than anyone could have known. She sniffles as she slides her fingers toward the clasp and loops the necklace over her head. She shuffles around in the drawer again, looking for any other personal treasures, things she would hate to leave behind.
"It's funny," she says, shutting her drawer, "That for thirteen years this place has been...my entire life." She looks up, then, finally daring to meet Munch's concerned eyes. "And all I have to show for it is in that box," she says, gesturing to the half-filled cardboard container.
Munch blinks, then he stands. "You have us," he says. "Why are you...I mean, I thought once Elliot got a confession you...that you would..."
"Change my mind?" she chuckles, wiping her eyes. "No, Munch. It was an easy decision to make. There's nothing for me here anymore." She looks over her shoulder to a man a few desks way. "Briscoe!" she shouts.
"Yeah?" the younger detective questions.
She smiles at him, remembering his first day on the squad when he was afraid to even look at her. "Can you make sure the files in this desk get to where they need to go?"
"Yeah," Briscoe says, walking over to her. "You leaving early?"
"No," she says with a smile. "I'm actually leaving a little too late." She looks back at Munch and says, "Don't make the new guy drink your coffee, okay?"
Munch laughs, but then throws his arms around her. "I didn't mean for any of this to happen, Olivia," he whispers, the cry in his voice clear.
Olivia takes a hard breath as she lets herself hug him back. "I know," she says to him. "But I became a cop to put the assholes away. I didn't think I'd ever have to work with them."
"You can't leave," Fin says, acknowledging her for the first time in a few hours.
She looks at him, her eyes narrow, and she pulls herself away from Munch. "Sure I can," she says, wiping at her eyes. "Sign a few papers, pack a box, out the door I go. It's..."
"No," Fin says, getting to his feet. "You can't. I didn't...things happened because you...you can't leave now, not after...do you have any idea..."
"Fin," Olivia says, cutting him off, taking a step toward him. "What are you talking about?"
Elliot, at that moment, steps out into the squad room. "I think you already know, Liv," he says, carefully heading toward Fin. "For the record, she wasn't going anywhere until this morning. That's when she decided. So you really didn't stop anything," he says, nodding once at Fin. "You caused it."
Fin shakes his head and laughs bitterly. "Fuck," he spits. "He told you."
"Your badge," Elliot says, holding out a pair of cuffs, "The one you gave back to Bradshaw? It had her blood on it," he says, jiggling the cuffs around in his hands. "I don't...I don't wanna drag you out of here like this, man."
Fin looks up, looks around, and looks at Olivia. "All of this, and you're still gone," he says. He turns his head and looks at Dean. "I'll talk to you," he says. He moves, holding his hands out to Porter. "Go ahead."
Dean eyes Elliot as he takes his own cuffs out of his pocket.
The tears that were threatening to fall from Olivia's eyes finally do as she watches Dean wrap the silver bracelets around Fin's wrists. "Oh, my God," she breathes, instinctively gripping Elliot's hand.
He squeezes back, moving closer to her, and he, too, is speechless as his friend is pulled from the room by his partner. He licks his lips, and he looks from Olivia to Munch and back again. "Cragen didn't rape her, or kill her," he says, brushing Olivia's hand with his thumb. "He was..."
"Protecting Fin," she finishes, nodding. "He would." She clears her throat again and pulls her hand out of Elliot's. She grabs the box off of what was once his desk, and she blinks once. Her head turns, her eyes take in the sight of the squad room, and she smiles. The nights she spent in the cribs, the days she spent glued to the coffee pot, the arguments she had with Elliot in the middle of the room and the times they made up when no one was watching, every moment of the twelve years she spent with him in this room comes flooding back to her.
She shakes her head and laughs, knowing that they're all just moments she'll never get back, but they mean everything to her. She sighs, then she looks at Elliot, still right next to her. She narrows her eyes as she remembers the moments he saved her. She remembers White, and Rook, and Gitano, and she remembers Oregon, and Germany, and the Jersey shore and she shuts her eyes as she recalls the feeling of always finding her way back to him.
She remembers the times she saved him, too. She remembers Bushido, Stuckey, and Picard. She remembers Elliot's mother, Eli, Kathleen, the baby she has yet to name.
Trust kept them both alive, together, through it all. When it comes down to it it's trust...and love...and the unwillingness to let it go because someone tried to force their hand and drive a wedge between them.
That's when she remembers Cragen and Alex. Jenna. Sister Peg. Amanda Rollins. "Let's go," she says, opening her eyes and swallowing hard. Her hands grip the box tightly as she moves toward the door, and she licks her lips as she watches Elliot, and she smiles when she realizes this is him saving her again. It;s her partner leading her away from the people who have hurt her, and taking her someplace safe. "El?"
He picks up the stapled papers off of her desk and he walks over to her. He smiles at her as he kisses her cheek, then walks into the interrogation room again, striding up to Ed Tucker. Silently, he hands the papers to Tucker and shakes his head.
"Take care of her," Tucker says, nodding once.
"Always have," Elliot returns, backing out of the room, "Always will." He walks away, then moves toward Olivia. He takes the box out of her hands and notices, as he looks at her, the medallion around his neck. He smiles but says nothing, as he sends one last look around the room.
"Guys?" Munch questions, part of him hoping this is all just a dream.
Elliot shakes his head and sighs. "See you in court, Detective."
Munch nods. "Guess so, Agent Stabler," he returns. And he watches, with a broken heart and a broken spirit, as Elliot and Olivia walk out of the squad room together, neither turning back.
Tucker, emotionally conflicted himself, finally walks out of the pit, followed by a few uniformed men and Cragen in cuffs. He looks at Munch, then looks at Cragen's office, and the message is clear. "If you need me..."
"I know where to find you," Munch says, heading for the office. As he opens the door, though, he turns around. He doesn't know anyone's name, he doesn't recognize anyone in the squad room anymore. He sighs and he shakes his head, wondering where it all went wrong, and hating the fact that nothing could be done to fix any of it.
He walks forward and sits in the leather chair behind the desk, and when the phone rings, he answers it. He closes his eyes as he listens to the voice on the other end, and he only hopes that things will get back to normal, at least a version of normal he can handle. He slams the phone down and searches through the files on his desk to figure out who to put on the case, wondering if he would ever be able to move on.
He would, soon, he hopes. After all, in cases like this, it's only a matter of trust.