Sorry for the long wait, but this chapter was super long so m beta needed a couple extra days with it. So here it is.

Some people had some concerns over the characterization of the characters. So I will say this one thing and leave it at that.

I apologize for not putting a warning on the story in the opening remarks that it was OOC and AU. I apologize for nothing else.

Chapter 14-Whole

Olivia stares out the window as they pass by what were once familiar surroundings. So much has changed since she's last seen these houses, trees, and flowers. The sun is bright on this hot summer day and she wishes she could enjoy it, wishes she can ignore the anxiety growing in her heart as they near their final destination. She wishes she could avoid this day altogether, but she has to face it. It's the final step to being able to move on. To becoming whole. Elliot shattered everything she once believed in and held sacred what seems like forever ago, she's never been the same since.

She's brought back to reality by Sydney's firm hand on her thigh. "You ready?" he asks.

"Yea," she smiles.

They both exit their black Expedition on their respective sides then proceed to remove the children from the back. Sydney unbuckles Kaleb and then Kalea while she slings the diaper bag over her shoulder and then removes their six week old son, Sydney Josiah Harrison III. He stares at her with his grandfather's green eyes and she smiles down at him as her heart fills with warmth and love at this new little miracle that has entered into their life.

After only six weeks of being a newfound couple she had found herself pregnant, and she had been scared shitless to admit it to him. How could she not be? Sydney, self proclaimed and certified bachelor, a man that did not do relationships, had just recently agreed to enter into a relationship with her and her two one-year-old children. Then, after agreeing to take things as slow as you can take them with a woman with two children she had wound up pregnant with his baby. When she told him he had been silent. For a long time he said nothing, and she was afraid that he would leave her, and she would be alone. Again. He had surprised her when nearly an hour later he had held his hand out to her and told her he would be there for her.

And be there he was.

He had waited on her hand and foot throughout the duration of her pregnancy and even after Josiah was born. He had wrangled the two terrors that had jumped the gun on entering the terrible twos. While she had sat up in bed with swollen ankles, eating potato chips and ice cream, he had wrestled with them through dinner, bath time, and then bed time night after night. He had never said a word, never uttered a complaint. He had been there for her and took care of her in a way she always wished someone, not just a man, would. She finally understood the meaning of being treated like a queen, and even though he never outright voiced it to her, she knew she was his.

Sydney carries a sleepy Kaley while Kaleb walks beside him with his little hand held firmly in Sydney's. They walk up the path way to the backyard of the Stabler's home and it is Kaleb who spots him first. He pulls his hand from Sydney's and races forward to meet his father. Kalea spots him as well and leans to be let down. Sydney places her down, and holds on until she has firmly gotten her balance before letting go. She races over to Elliot as well. Elliot lifts them both in each arm and kisses them hello.

"Happy Fourth! I was beginning to think you guys weren't going to make it," Elliot says to the couple.

"You try getting a set of two-year-olds and an infant ready and out the house in a timely manner."

"Don't remind me." He walks over to her and kisses her cheek, careful not jostle the sleeping baby that rests in his mother's arms with either of the toddlers he holds in his. "You look good," he compliments as he admires her in her summertime attire. Never once has in seen her in something so casual and freeing. She wears a white, loose-fitting, off the shoulder top with a pair of dark washed blue jean shorts and some gold flip flops.

She raises her sunglasses off her head so he can see her better. "Thank you," she smiles, and he knows he's never seen her so happy.

"The guys are in the back there. Want me to show you?"

"No. We can find them."

For the first time since they have arrived Elliot acknowledges Sydney's presence. He stands about a foot away from her in dark sunglasses, a short-sleeved white button-down shirt, some blue, white, and black plaid shorts and solid white sneakers. His shirt pulls tight across his broad chest and he leaves the first few buttons open, exposing the upper part of his bare chest. "Hey, I'd come over and greet you better, but my hands are kind of full right now."

"No problem," Sydney nods.

"We're going to go say hi to the guys," Olivia tells Elliot. "You going to be ok with them?"

"Yea. I'm sure once their sisters get wind of the fact that they're here I wont see them again for the rest of the party."

"Ok. Let me know if you need anything." She turns her attention to Sydney, "Let's go. There's some people I want you to meet," she takes Sydney's hand and pulls him along with her to meet the detectives from her old unit.

Casey is the first to see them. "Baby!" she exclaims as she heads over to them. She hugs Olivia, and is careful not to disturb Josiah from his slumber. "C'mon, let me hold my godson?"

"Who told you you were godmother?" Sydney teases. "I'm sorry, but you are gonna have ta' apply like everyone else. I'm going to need a full resume, Social security, and you're going to have ta' pass a CORI inspection and a background check."

"And you're going to have to kiss my ass," Casey smiles sweetly.

"C'mere Casey, I've missed you. Olivia's not as fun to fight with." They share a quick hug, before Olivia carefully transfers the baby into Casey's arms. Casey swoons over the newborn, and Olivia knows that, just like her, at first sight she is completely in love with the tiny babe that she holds in her arms.

"Casey!" Fin calls. "Stop hogging the baby and bring him over here so the rest of us can see him!"

They all head over to the rest of the group and Olivia leans into Sydney and watches on with pride as they all admire her son.

"Where are the other two rugrats?" Fin asks.

"With their father somewhere around here."

"Come here baby girl, long time no see." She hugs him along with everyone else.

"Guys, I want you all to meet my boyfriend, Sydney."

"Are you sure the correct term isn't baby-Daddy?" John teases.

"You must be Munch." Sydney grins and shakes hands with the older man. He greets the rest of the crew as well. It's some kind of miracle they're all there.

"Liv, you never told me you were into brothas! I could have hooked you up a long time ago," Fin exclaims.

"I know, I could have hooked you up with one of my in-laws," Melinda chimes in.

"Well, none of you ever asked." She laughs.

They take turns holding the baby, while everyone catches up and Olivia finally gets a chance to really talk with Cragen. He had been there for her when she needed him the most. She will never forget his kindness.

"Baby, I see a hoop and a ball…" Sydney says to her.

Olivia shakes her head at his love of basketball. "Go."

"You sure?"

"Yea."

"You going to be ok? Want me to get you something to eat or drink before I go?"

"No, I'm ok. Go. Have fun."

"Ok." He kisses her chastely on the lips before heading towards the makeshift court.

"Hey, wait up, I'll join you," Fin calls. "Show you how we do it in New York."

"Please, you can't handle this!" Sydney teases back.

"I think I'll join them." John says.

"John I don't think that's a good idea," Cragen warns.

"Yea John, your scrawny ass might break something." Fin teases.

"We're surrounded by nothing but cops, fire fighters, paramedics, and doctors. I'll be ok. Right Mel? You'll take care of me."

"It's my day off John. You're on your own."

"What happened to the Hippocratic Oath?"

"It took a day off too. Besides, I only treat the dead."

"And on that note," John turns and jogs to catch up with the other men.

XIV

Olivia watches as Sydney checks the ball with one of the kids on the basketball court, it's his ball and once he gets the ball back he quickly crosses the kid in front of him and drives it to the hoop.

"Syd!" a tiny voice calls and Sydney immediately changes direction and heads toward Kaleb, who calls from the sidelines. Sydney hands him the ball then quickly lifts him and brings him over to the hoop. He holds him up high and Kaleb deposits the ball into the basket. He grabs onto the rim and Sydney lets him go so he can swing for a few moments. When Kaleb refuses to let go, Sydney tickles him and the little boy lets go as he squirms and laughs in delight.

"Nice shot Lil Man! High five" Sydney says and holds up his hand. Kaleb gives him a high five before Sydney sets him down and he runs over to Kathleen, who scoops him up and settles him easily on her hip before she heads off in search of her other sister.

"Syd!" Olivia calls. She watches in amusement as Sydney steals the ball from one kid, fakes out another, and drives the ball into the hoop for a slam dunk. The kids that surround him groan. Somehow the game that started out between the three guys, eventually included all of the guys from the 1-6, including a late coming Haung, has now turned into a one on fifteen. Sydney against some of the kids that have shown up.

"Give me five guys," Sydney tells them. "I need a break."

"C'mon. I was just about to school you," Dickie calls to his retreating back.

"We'll see what else you got in five," Sydney calls back.

Olivia admires the way his sculpted body glistens in the hot New York sun.

"Hey," he pants.

"Thought you could use some sustenance," she says as she hands him a chilled water bottle.

"Thanks." He takes the water bottle from her and takes several large gulps. She offers a cheese burger on a plate, but he merely picks up just the burger and takes a large bite.

"Where's the baby?" he asks, his mouth still full of food.

"Last I saw Melinda was threatening Fin to hold him. I think she has him now. At least if he knows what's good for him she does."

"And Thing One? Thing Two was just here."

"I saw. Kalea's with Kathy. I just checked and made sure they had eaten something."

He nods and takes another large bite. "How are you doing?"

"I'm ok."

"You sure?"

"Yea."

"You sure?" he asks more insistently.

"Yes," she replies with a genuine smile and lifts her shades up so he can the sincerity in her eyes.

"Ok. But whenever you feel that you're ready to go just let me know. We'll be out of here in five. You don't have to do this."

She glances across the yard at her children playing with their sisters and knows she has to do this. For them. This is their family and as awkward as it may be for her to be there surrounded by Elliot and Kathy's friends and family. Friends and family that she does not share with them yet, she knows that she must do this, because they are friends and family her children now share with the rest of the Stabler clan and being with them makes her children happy, and her children's happiness and well being will always come first. She wants them to grow up living a life where their parents can stand to be in the same room with each other. She doesn't want them to ever have to choose between spending the Holidays with her or with Elliot. She wants it to be whose house are they going to this year. She does not want them to ever sense the tension that now exists between them all. She does not want them to feel that their being born was ever a bad thing. She does not want them to ever know of the drama and harsh felt emotions that exist between them now. She only wants them to feel wanted, welcomed, and loved. She wants them all to be family. They will never be family in the traditional sense. Too much has happened and not happened for that to ever be, but they are still family nonetheless.

But she never says any of this to Sydney. She simply replies, "Yes, I do."

Sydney sees everything she's been thinking with a simple look in her eyes. "Aww. You're so cute. Give Daddy a hug."

"Ew no! You're all sweaty and gross. And would it kill you to put your clothes back on? This is supposed to be a family event."

"But it's hot, baby!"

"Whatever. You're worse than the twins. That's why I packed an extra set of clothes for you and them. Make sure you get changed and cleaned up, and make sure Thing 1&2 do too."

"Sure thing Mama. Ima play a little bit more first."

"Ok, and go easier on the kids,"

"Babe, I was. Next thing I know they're up by like ten. Had to even the score somehow."

"I'll see you around."

She kisses him quickly, then turns around to find someone to talk to. As she walks across the yard, Melinda meets her with a fussy baby in her arms. "Hey, Liv, I think he's hungry."

"Yea, it's about that time," she says as she takes him and the burping cloth from Melinda and he immediately begins to root around for food.

"Bring him back when you're done. I had just gotten Fin to give him up when he started to fuss."

Olivia laughs. "Sure thing Mel. I'm just going to head inside the house and try to find a spot to nurse him."

"Alright, I'll be out here."

Olivia nods and heads into the house in search of a quiet spot to feed her son. She wanders from room to room and they are all packed and filled with people she doesn't know. A few she does. The ones she does know send her friendly smiles while the others simply stare at her. Some do nothing to hide their hostilely towards her while others whisper amongst each other, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist for her to figure out that they are talking about her. She knows they are judging her. She knows exactly what they are thinking. They think she is a whore. They think she helped Elliot cheat on his wife, or that she couldn't wait to get her hands on him once he announced his separation and then, when he decided to go back to his true and rightful spouse, she got pregnant as a way to come between them. Like she got herself pregnant. They probably think that Kaleb and Kaley aren't even his. They probably think that she's just trying to pass them off as his so that she can keep Elliot in her life. And now she's walking around with the child of some other poor schmuck who has no idea what he's gotten himself into. If only they knew how wrong they were on so many different levels.

She does hate the fact that she did help Elliot cheat on his wife at one point, but she cannot change the past. She cannot change the fact that Elliot is the father of her children and she can't change the way things worked out between them. She's not sure she would want to, either. Even though there was a point in her life when she wish she could, but as she holds her son close to her heart she is glad that things did work out the way they did. Otherwise she wouldn't have a man that loves her, and she wouldn't have this little blessing that she holds now in her arms.

Sydney loves her.

It still makes her smile to herself from time to time. She still can't believe it sometimes. He had told her the night their son was born. He had placed Josiah in her arms and kissed her forehead, and as she had sat there, mesmerized by the new miracle in her life, he had told her that he loved her. She had torn her eyes away from the sleeping baby in her arms and saw in his how true that statement was and replied back that she felt the same. They shared a kiss and that was that. They were in love.

"You've got some nerve."

Olivia is startled from her thoughts and finds herself face to face with Maura Holt.

Kathy's Mother.

Shit.

"How many times did you come to my daughter's home and sit at her table while you were screwing her husband?"

"Mrs. Holt, I never-"

"You're a liar. My daughter did nothing but show you kindness. I warned her about you, and she didn't believe me, but I knew. I knew better. And now you come here with that-that horrible man and those kids trying to pretend like you did nothing wrong, but I know better. I know! Now look at you with that little bastard-"

"If I were you, I'd be careful with what I say," Olivia seethes, officially pushed too far. Family be damned, she's not about stand there and let this woman say anything bad about her children. The woman sees the fire shine in Olivia's eyes and is obviously shaken by it. "My children have nothing to do with you so keep their names, and mine for that matter, out your mouth. We don't concern you. Kaleb and Kaley are Elliot's children. He knows that and that's all that matters. Now if you would excuse me," Olivia brushes past her and continues on her search.

Maura calls after her. "And how many of those do you plan on having? Didn't your mother ever teach you not to spread your legs for every man you meet?"

"Mother!" Kathy exclaims. "That's enough!" She walks over to Olivia and stands by her side. "You know nothing about our situation and those are my husbands children, their mother, and brother you are talking about right now. For God's sake they're your grandchildren's siblings. They're outside, playing with them right now! What you're doing is not ok."

"You're going to take her side over your own mother? Especially when I'm trying to defend you."

"I am when all you're doing is embarrassing me, and yourself, for that matter by attacking Olivia over something you know nothing about."

"I taught you better, Katherine. You're supposed to stand by and protect your family. Family first. Blood is thicker than water, remember?"

"I know, Mom. You always told me to protect my family and that's what I'm doing."

Maura attempts to stare her daughter down, but Kathy never falters. Maura leaves in huff and Kathy turns her attention to Olivia. "I'm so sorry about that."

Olivia shakes her head. "Not a problem. Is there a place where I can feed him in private?"

"Sure. Follow me," Olivia walks behind Kathy as she explains. "Elliot had me sectioned off the den, or the 'Man cave' as he and Dickie like to call it. It's where the TV, DVD player, and the kids' video games and stuff are, so I locked it up before people started to arrive."

They arrive at a closed sliding door and Kathy pulls a key from a pocket in her summer dress and opens it for her. "Take your time. I'm going to go deal with my mother."

Olivia nods. "Thanks."

Kathy leaves and Olivia takes her time getting situated on one of the couches. In no time her son is nursing and she takes a moment to watch him. In the constant chaos that is her life she has come to appreciate these moments. She loves having this time where it is just her and her son. She loves all of her children dearly, and she thoroughly enjoys spending quality time with each of them; moments like this are her quality time with him. He's so new to the world and her and everyone around him that she constantly feels the need to soak him up. To cherish him. To build the same bond she has with her other kids with him. What she loves about him and Kalea and Kaleb is that they challenge her cynical notion of the world. After all the pain she herself has seen and experienced, it's nice to know that there exists some good in the world. That if something so good and so pure can exist here, it can't all be bad. She touches his soft cheek with a gentle finger and smiles when he reaches up and grabs it in his tiny fist.

"They're great at that age."

Olivia looks up and sees Kathy leaning in the doorway. She steps inside the room and closes the sliding door behind her, and Olivia uses the burping cloth to hide her son and protect her modesty. "Too young to cause much trouble. Too young to talk back. All they do is eat, sleep, and poop. Children don't seem to get much simpler than that no matter how old they are.

"I know. The twins are so into everything now and so fast you can't take your eyes off them for a second."

Kathy nods, knowing exactly what she's talking about. "I just want to apologize for my mother. She was way out of line."

"I know Kathy. It's ok. She was just doing what she thought was right, and was trying to protect her daughter."

Kathy nods. "Some of it…" she pauses for a moment. "Some of it I can't really blame her for. Some of it came from me. Things I've vented to her about. Words that I wished I had said to you a long time ago."

"Kathy…" Olivia says when she sees the other woman's eyes shine with tears.

"No, let me finish. My husband is in love with you Olivia," her voice cracks and her tears spill over her eyelids. "He may be married to me, but I know," she gasps for breath. "I know his heart is with you."

"That's not true."

"It is!" Kathy insists.

"Kathy…Kathy I can't help the way Elliot feels about me. I can assure you that I no longer have those feelings for him. I'm in love with Sydney and we're happy together."

"But you had to have known…once those kids were born even I knew. I knew he would never be mine. I knew things would never be the same. I can wear his ring on my finger and attach his name to the end of mine, but I knew it would never matter. Things would never be the same as they were before you. He belongs to you now."

"No, Kathy, he's married to you. He chose you. He's yours-"

"But he's in love with you!"

Olivia knows she cannot lie to this woman's face. Not when they both know that what she is saying is true. Not when it's so evident that it's tearing her apart. "I'm sorry, Kathy. I never wanted any of this to happen. I never wanted it to be this way."

"Don't lie to me, Olivia. We both know how you've felt about him for years."

"I was in love with him, yes Kathy. I would have never made love to him otherwise, but after, he chose you. He wanted you. Not me."

"Yea, until he found out that you were pregnant."

"And I couldn't help that, Kathy. I tried to hide it, but I was pregnant with twins. I could only hide it for so long. My plan was to move before he figured anything out, but then he did and I went into pre-term labor, and my doctor advised against the move until they were born. As soon as they were old enough I moved. He followed me. He fought me for custody. He fought to be in the kids' lives. My life. No matter how much I tried to keep him out, he pushed his way back in. I can't help that Kathy. Elliot's actions and Elliot's feelings are that of his own. You can't blame me for his feelings for me. I pushed him out and he fought his way back in. I moved on, and he fell in love with me anyway. That's not my fault. It's not something that I asked for, it's just something that happened."

"That's a cop out and you know it! You could have left him a long time ago! When you first fell in love with him you-"

"You say that like I planned all this! Yes I could have transferred out a long time ago, but he was my partner. He was the only family I had at the time and I didn't…I couldn't leave that. I needed that connection, but do you think it was easy? Do you know what it's like to be in love with someone, knowing that you will never have him, and then when it happens. When you finally have everything you wanted, he changes his mind. Tells you that he loves you, but he's still in love with his wife. Do you know what that feels like? How much it hurts? For months it felt like he had ripped my heart out. It was hard to get out of bed. Hard to eat. Hard to even breathe! I know you're hurting now, but don't think I came out unscathed. It took me a very long time to get to where I am now. This isn't the ideal situation that I've always had in mind." Kathy looks at her with eyes so full of pain, that Olivia feels like she is looking at a reflection of herself from years ago. "At your wedding…Do you remember what you said to me?"

"No. What?"

"You built his home. Had his kids. Made him who he is today. It's only fair that you get to be the one that loves him. That's what you said to me. So love him. Don't sit there and blame me for why your marriage isn't what you hoped it would be. Fix it! I can't be the only one to take the blame, and I can't fix your marriage for you. Especially when it isn't mine to fix. I've done my part. I moved away and set up my own life without him. A life that didn't include him. I've moved on. Had a baby. I'm happy right now with Sydney and while I feel sorry for you, I won't sit here and feel guilty about whatever your relationship with Elliot is right now. I won't regret having my children or sit here wishing that I had done things differently. I can't change the past, but you can change your future and it's up to you to do so."

Kathy nods, knowing that she's right. She has to be the one to fix her marriage, and if she can't, then she will have to let him go. She attempts to swipe away the rest of her tears. "Umm. I-I gotta go back out and check on our guests. Make sure everything's going ok."

"Sounds good." She watches as the other woman attempts to put herself back together, and calls to her before she can step out the door. "Kathy, don't give up on him. He does love you, and you guys can make this work."

Kathy nods and leaves the room, closing the door behind her. Olivia lets out a sigh of relief once the woman has disappeared and turns her attention back to her son. She feels her pain, she does, because she was in her position not that long ago, but she's done her part to make Elliot and Kathy's marriage work. Sure, sleeping with him a year ago probably didn't help things, but she cannot be the only one to hold all the blame for things that have happened in the past. Josiah has finished eating and Olivia rests him across her lap as she attempts to resituate herself.

There is a knock on the door. "Need some help?" Elliot asks from the doorway.

"Please. Can you just hold him for a minute so I can fix myself back up?"

"Sure." Elliot walks over and carefully lifts the baby from her lap. He holds him like the expert father of six he is, supporting his head in one hand and his lower body in the other while he takes a moment to really look at him. He's glimpsed him once or twice since he's been born, but has never had a chance to really look at him. He remembers hoping that maybe there was a chance that this child was his, but the bronze skin tone and green eyes had immediately crushed those hopes. Now when he looks at him, he can easily see Sydney and knows that he is his son.

"He needs to be burped," Olivia mumbles as she continues to fumble with her new nursing bra under the cover of the cloth.

Elliot maneuvers the baby so he is resting against his chest and begins to lightly pat his back. "I heard you ran into Maura."

"Yea, you never told me how nice she was," Olivia's words drip with sarcasm.

"Yea, well, welcome to my world…you ok?"

Olivia looks up at him and smiles genuinely after finally haven gotten her clothes back in place. "Nothing I haven't handled before." Elliot nods and begins to rock gently. He stares at her and she eyes him back skeptically. "What? Is there something on my face or something?"

"No. It's just that…You look good, Liv."

She shakes her head. "Please. I still have another ten pounds I need to lose."

"No really, you look beautiful."

"Thank you," she smiles.

"I don't know what it is, but it seems like there's something different about you."

"Really?"

"Yea, you seem…happy. Happier than I've ever seen you before."

"I am happy, El."

"He…He uh, he really makes you that happy?"

"Yea, El. He really makes me that happy. He has his faults, but I love him."

"What does that mean? He has his faults?"

She curses herself at the small slip of the tongue. This is Elliot. He knows her. He knows the meaning behind everything she doesn't say and everything she does. She has to be more careful when talking to him. "It means that he's human. Just like you," she answers carefully and it seems to do the trick for now. Elliot nods his agreement, but she knows him. She knows he will sit and dissect every word until he figures out the truth. He will confront her, and she will lie to him until he accepts the fact she will never tell him the truth, and it will simply remain as a secret they both share. She decides to change the subject. "Elliot…Kathy…She said some things."

Elliot frowns. "Things like what?"

"She's not happy."

"She told you that?" he asks surprised.

"Not in those exact words, but yea. She told me that you're still in love with me." Elliot merely looks at her. "I told her that she was crazy. That you can't possibly be in love with me, because you're hopelessly in love with her."

"Olivia, that's not…that's not exactly true." Olivia stares at him and he can see the fear in her eyes. "No, don't get me wrong. I love my wife, I do. But I-"

Olivia holds a hand up and cuts him off. "Don't finish that sentence."

"But-"

"No. No, Elliot. You had your chance. You chose your wife. You made your bed now you have to lay in it. I've moved on and I'm happy now. Sydney makes me happy. He's great with the kids and he loves me, and hell, I love him too. You need to let this go. Whatever we had, you need to let it go. Because we're done and that's in the past."

"I don't see why-"

"Because you're married! And I won't do that to her, Sydney, or our children for that matter. Sydney's been too good to me." She shakes her head because he hasn't always. "Elliot, don't do that to her. Don't put her through what you put me through. Right now she's hurting and upset and she…she deserves better than that. So just…just be good to her."

Elliot nods, knowing she's right. Kathy does deserve better from him. She's been amazing through all of this and incredibly understanding. She does deserver better of him, maybe even better than him. "I will, but that's not going to change how I feel about you." The room fills with silence as Olivia tries to avoid eye contact with him. She simply stares at her son. He pulls him away from his chest and glances down and green eyes stare at him. "Cute kid you got here," he says as a way to break the tension and change the subject. He pulls him back to his chest and rubs his back.

She smiles grateful for the reprieve and takes advantage of it. "What else did you expect?"

"For him to look like me."

"Not funny," she chastises.

Josiah hiccups and loud burp emerges from his tiny frame. Along with some spit up. "Whoa. Liv, some help here."

She chuckles and stands to help with the clean up. "Sorry about your shirt," Olivia says as she uses the burping cloth to clean him up.

"Don't worry about it, I've got more," he says as he watches her. He takes in her beauty and admires the look of concentration on her face. He loves the smell of her hair and the way it seems to flow perfectly. He loves the fact that she now smells like baby, and he misses the scent of her that he used to know.

He misses her.

He wishes he would have taken advantage of the time he had with her.

He wishes he didn't take advantage of her love, because he realizes now that he loves her.

He's in love with her.

He wishes it was enough to fix everything between them, but he knows too much damage has been done. Too much time has gone by, and too many things have been left unsaid. Too many things were said that should have never been said. Too many too many's.

But none of this keeps him from loving her.

"You're probably going to have to change, otherwise you're going to smell like baby puke for the rest of the day," she says without looking at him. When he doesn't reply back she looks up and catches the way he is staring at her. She holds his gaze and sees him glance at her lips.

There's a knock on the door and a certain voice that seems to break the trance. "I'm not interrupting something, am I?" Sydney asks as he steps inside the den.

"No, Josey spit up on Elliot," Olivia says as she finishes cleaning him off, and checks her baby to make sure he's clean.

"Josey? What kind of nickname is that?" Elliot asks.

"I said the same thing," Sydney agrees as he takes his son from Elliot.

"First Lebby and now Josey? Liv, you suck at picking out nicknames," Elliot chastises.

"Shut up you two. You guys bicker over everything and this is what you decide to agree on?"

"Gotta start somewhere," Elliot mumbles.

"You should be glad we agreed on anything," Sydney chastises. "I actually came to see if you were ok. Everyone's talking about your fight in the yard."

Olivia rolls her eyes. "It wasn't a fight it was…a heated discussion, but I'm fine," she says and cleans off some of the residual on her son's mouth.

Sydney brushes away her bangs and looks her deep in the eye. "You sure?"

"Yea, I'm sure," she says and leans up and brushes her lips softly over his.

"Well, I'm going to go change my shirt and leave you two love birds alone," Elliot says, having watched the exchange and needing time to handle it on his own.

Once he is gone Sydney turns his attention back to her. "So, did I walk in on something, or do you two always stare at each other like that?"

"It was nothing, Syd. I've made it clear that I'm happy with you. I'm happy."

"Because if-"

"No. No if's. I'm happy with you. I want to be with you. Elliot's just going to have to learn how to accept that."

"Alright. I trust you."

"Thank you."

"Hey why don't we duck out of here and go on a walk. I got his stroller in the back of the Expedition."

"How about we leave him with Melinda and take that walk with just the two of us. She's been wanting to hold him, and I promised her I'd bring him back out once I finished feeding him. Besides, it's been awhile since we've had some alone time."

"Ok. You trust her to take care of him while we're out?"

"We won't be gone that long, and besides she's a mother and a doctor. I don't think there's anyone out there more qualified for the job than her."

"Really? More qualified than the city coroner?

Olivia laughs. "It's not like she kills them, Syd. They come to her that way. Besides, I've seen her in action. She knows her stuff."

"Alright."

"And I see you've changed your clothes. Did you get the twins set up?"

"Yea, Maureen said she'll get them changed and cleaned up."

"Ok. Just let me change his diaper and we'll go."

"Can't wait," he says and winks at her.

XIV

The couple returns from their walk hand in hand and full of smiles.

"You two look like you had a good time," Elliot says as he watches them approach with Kaley secure in his arms.

"Yea, it was nice to have a break from all the kids. Even if it was just for fifteen minutes," Olivia replies.

"Yea, we remember those days, especially after the twins were born. I don't think I've ever felt the need to get away more than at that point."

Kaleb is settled on Kathy's hip, and Olivia fights down the wave of panic. Tells herself that she's being irrational, but she's sure she will never be ok with Kathy being in her children's lives, and she's sure Elliot feels the same about Sydney, but such is their life.

"We actually have to go."

"What? But I feel like you guys just got here. We haven't even started sharing the dessert yet."

"Yea, I know, but we promised some friends we'd meet them for fireworks."

"Friends? What friends?" Elliot questions.

"A couple of the neighbors the kids sometimes play with, a few guys from the squad, and some of Sydney's friends. I know it's hard to believe El, but we do have a life in Boston."

It is hard to believe, because it seems like for the first time in a long time Olivia has a life that doesn't include him. A life he wants so desperately to be a part of, but knows he never will. "I know you have a life," he answers instead. "Just never known you to be the neighborly type. You never mentioned any neighbors the last time I was there."

"Well, it's been awhile since you've come to visit us."

It's true. He hasn't been since Josiah was born. He had picked up the twins the day after he arrived, and took them back to New York with him for a week for his last visit and then Elliot had caught an "all-hands-on-deck" case and was not able to make it out for his next visit. Since then they have finally gotten settled in their new Medford home, that is only a few blocks from her old apartment. It comes complete with a backyard and a park nearby that includes a tennis court, basketball court, toddler playground, along with a normal sized one, picnic tables, swing set, and open field. She loves it. Their home is a two floor with a basement and a TV/Game room for Sydney. She wasn't quite ready to separate them, so the twins still share a room and Josiah has his own. The other bedroom is Elliot's. She wants him to feel at home when he comes to visit and the attic has been transformed into a guest room for when Elliot brings his kids along. It's her home. It's what she's always wanted and she loves every square foot of it.

"But anyway, Sydney's been bugging me about seeing the fireworks in Boston forever. So we made a plan to go."

"We got the best fireworks in the area," Sydney chimes in.

"Not better than New York," Elliot counters.

"Way better than New York. I have an aunt who lives in the city so I've seen plenty of New

York's fireworks They don't even compare," Sydney says as he heads back to the Expedition.

"Oh God. Liv, if our kids end up Sox fans, we're going to have some problems."

"Well, I don't know El. They already love the Pats, but I guess they're still young. Never know."

"True."

"I'm going to go get little man," Sydney says as he passes by her with Josiah's car seat.

"Ok, don't forget his bag."

"Got it."

"Liv, I was wondering if it was possible to get the twins next weekend. It's my mom's birthday and we're all heading to the shore to celebrate with her. You know, light the grill, spend the day on the beach."

She's been more lenient with the twins spending time with him in New York now that they're older and she's a bit more secure with her position in their lives as their mother. She knows they know that she is Mommy, and Kathy is Kathy. Elliot has also been taking more and more advantage of that leniency, but she has yet to grant him more than a weekend since Josiah was born. "Umm. Ok. When are you going to come get them?"

"Maureen offered to pick them up on Thursday so she'll probably drive down with Kathleen or take the train or whatever. She hasn't decided what she's going to do, but she said she'll get them on Thursday since we're all driving over on Friday."

"Sure. Just call me and let me know the details when you know them."

"My mom also asked if you'd come as well. Said she wanted to get to know you better since you guys couldn't talk for too long last time."

Talk for too long? They had talked for a solid two hours after the twins' second birthday party while everyone pitched in with clean up and took some time to relax. Don't get her wrong, she had enjoyed talking to the older woman, especially because up until the day she showed up at her doorstep she had believed the woman to be dead. But she loves Elliot's mother. She is so animated and full of life, but during that conversation it was easy to see why Elliot had kept her a secret for so long.

Olivia glances at Kathy and sees the slightly mortified look on her face and knows what the answer to Elliot's request needs to be. This was meant to be a family weekend. Just Kathy, Elliot, and the kids, including hers, but not including her. "I'll have to talk to Sydney, but I think the answer is going to be no. I think Sydney had something planned for that weekend, but give her my number and tell her she can call me anytime."

"Ok. I'll do that."

Sydney returns with Josiah secured in his car seat and the diaper bag slung over his shoulder.

"Ready?" he asks.

"Yea," she reaches for her son, and Kaleb goes willingly into his mother's arms. "Say bye bye."

"Bye bye!" he waves then rests his head on his mother's shoulder. Olivia kisses his head and hugs him close to her

"Bye bye!" Kalea tells Elliot and then reaches for Sydney, surprising her father at her willingness to leave him so easily.

Sydney takes her and kisses her head. "You like her pigtails? Did 'em myself didn't I Lee-lee?"

"Yea," Kalea answers and smiles at him, and the gesture tugs at her father's heart strings. He knew sharing his baby girl would be hard, but no one said it would be this hard. He's seen the exchange between them, and knows that he has as close a bond with her as he does with his son. They're excited to see Sydney whenever he comes home. They even sometimes openly prefer him over their own father. It bothers him, but something about his baby girl loving this man like her father bothers him more than he would like.

"He didn't," Elliot says.

"Oh, but he did. He does her hair all the time. And she lets him! I can't get near her with a brush, but he can do whatever and she won't make a peep."

"It's because I got skills you don't."

"Whatever. Get in the car, Mr. Skills."

He laughs and sticks out his tongue out at her, Kalea mimics the gesture and Olivia does the same back to them. She chuckles and watches as they head back to the car.

"K. Well thanks for having us. We had a good time. Tell everyone we said bye. I'd go over there, but we really need to hit the road if we're going to make it in time."

"Alright. See you," Elliot says and gives her a hug goodbye. He gives Kaleb a kiss goodbye and the sleepy boy lazily waves goodbye.

"Bye," Olivia waves at them both and heads over to the car.

Once all the kids are secured in their car seats they pull off and Sydney links fingers with her. She stares out the window and squeezes his hand in hers. It's been a rough couple of years, and she finds herself in a place that she never thought they would be. She never thought Sydney would be the relationship man, father and stepfather that he is today but she is glad and even more thankful that he is. There was a point when she didn't think they would make it. Around the sixth month of her pregnancy he had admitted that he had thoughts of being unfaithful. That he had gone on a date with another woman, and while he hadn't slept with her, He had wanted to.

"How could you? I'm sitting here pregnant with your child and you do this?" she had screamed at him.

"It's just been too much. I need…I need to feel like myself again. I need to be free!" he had exclaimed to her.

So she set him free.

It had all gotten to him. Being a stepfather to two. His own on the way. Being in a relationship. Living with a girlfriend. It had all been too much for the long time bachelor turned family man, seemingly over night. He had reverted back to his old ways and hurt her in the process. She had thrown him out that night, and set him free to do as he pleased. She wasn't going to trap a man and force him into being with her when he didn't want to be. She just wished that he had realized all this before she had gotten pregnant with his child. She had ignored him for the next three days, until late one night his mother had knocked on her door and dragged him in behind her after Olivia had allowed her in.

His mother.

Joya Harrison, a woman Olivia admires and loves as if she were her own mother. Towards the end of her pregnancy, when she was too big to do very much for herself, let alone chase after and take care of two two-year-olds, she had been there without Olivia having to ask. Cooking and cleaning for her and telling her stories of her animated childhood in her native Jamaica and of Sydney and his siblings. Turned out he was the youngest of three. After his sister LaToya and his brother Eric. She's met Eric and she likes him. He's a bank teller and a clown that never ceases to make her laugh. His sister she has yet to meet in person. She's been touring the world, volunteering for various charitable organizations. She's due to return by the holidays to start working towards her PH.D in social work. Olivia can't wait to meet her. They've Skyped a couple of times and they seem to get along well. All in all this family has accepted both her and her children into their warmth and love and she couldn't have asked for anything more. The love she feels from them is the love she's always dreamed of having, and has wanted her entire life.

Joya has become something of a mother to her. Teaching her various skills that she hopes to one-day pass on to her own children. They've grown particularly close since Josiah was born. She wasn't sure how she was going to handle two toddlers and an infant, but on Sydney's first day back at work she had shown up on her door step bright and early that morning, just as she had been doing for nearly a month before, and started making them breakfast. What Olivia loves about her most is that she is there when she needs her, and not when she doesn't. She isn't overly intrusive and she seems to ooze love without even trying. Olivia loves how Joya has taken to being a surrogate grandmother to her own children. She does activities with them like making cookies or painting. She takes them with her to church on Saturdays and Olivia has promised that she will join them once Josiah is a little older. She also promised to drag Sydney along with her. At night, after she has tucked the twins in she tells them silly stories about Sydney's childhood, and Olivia enjoys them as much as her children do, even more so at times.

But on that night that she wishes was forever ago but now as she thinks about it was only few months ago Joya Harrison was not a mother figure to her, she was barely her friend. At that point in their relationship she had only met her a couple times, and while she thought she was a very nice woman, she had no intentions of listening to her make excuses for her son or her begging her to forgive him and take him back.

She had done neither.

What she had done was surprised her.

She had asked to hear both sides of what happened, which had turned into a screaming match between her and Sydney. It had only ended when their voices had woken Kaleb and Sydney had gone to put him back down. In that time Joya had said something to her that she will never forget.

"I did the best I could do with my son. There are some things a boy must learn from a father, and Sydney never had that chance to learn them. I did my best to make up for that absence, but sometimes a mother's love and training just isn't enough. Don't think I'm taking his side in this. I would have whooped his ass if he hadn't been punished by you first. There's something special about you, Olivia. He loves you, and I can honestly say you are the first woman he's ever loved. He talks about you all the time. He brought you home to meet me, and he's never brought a girl home before… at least not to meet me. He's been a great big ball of depression since this has happened, and again I'm not trying to make excuses for him. I'm not even asking you to forgive him, and I wouldn't blame you if you didn't. But in all my years on this earth I've found it's human nature to want to do the wrong thing first, and the right thing second. At least most of the time it is. I taught him this but he still seems to struggle with temptation, and often goes with his first instinct rather than his second. I'm asking you to work with him. Fix this. Not your relationship, but your friendship. For that baby. So you two can still be good parents."

They had left shortly after that and her words about human nature seemed to linger with her even to this day. For years she had felt some of her thoughts and actions had been the results of the evil that flowed through her veins, she never thought them to be human nature. Needless to say a week later she had let him back into her home and a month later she had given into her hormones and allowed him back into her bed.

Another month later that they had moved into their new home and both had agreed to start over anew and put the past behind them.

XIV

They arrive at their home shortly after 11 that night. Olivia carries Josiah upstairs to his nursery while Sydney carries the twins up to their room and tucks them into their cribs turned toddler beds. She takes her time changing Josiah's diaper and then putting him in some pajamas. She tucks him into his crib and is admiring him sleeping when Sydney comes up behind her and pulls her into his warm embrace.

"The twins go down ok?" she asks.

"Yea. I just took off their clothes and left them in their onesie things since they were still clean. That ok?"

"Yea," she says as she thinks back on their night. The twins had loved the fire works. Sydney had held Kaleb on his shoulders while she pointed out the pretty colors and patterns out to Kalea who was nestled on her hip. They had clapped and squealed their delight and it had made Olivia happy to see them happy and enjoying some of life's simple pleasures.

Today had been a good day.

She feels Sydney draw kisses down her neck and she moans softly in the back of her throat. "Come," she says taking his hand and pulling him out the room, "not in front of the baby."

Out in the hallway he attacks her with fervor, pushing her back against the wall, and she gives just as good as she gets.

"I've missed you," he says and she knows exactly what he means, because she's missed him too. Her body has craved his kiss and his touch and she longs to have him buried between her legs.

They haven't made love since the night Josiah was born because approximately six hours after she had come, Josiah had made his way into the world. He maneuvers them into their bedroom and her shirt is off once they have crossed the threshold of their bedroom, and his shirt follows. Her bra touches the floor at the same time the door closes and once she is on the bed she kicks off her flip flops and he his shoes while his fingers find their way to her wet heat. She moans into his mouth when he touches her. He pulls back away and smiles at her.

"One min," he says then begins to search through the drawer in the bedside table on his side of the bed.

"Babe, I had the IUD put in last week. We're good."

"I know, I just…" he searches some more and returns to her after he's found his buried treasure. He bends down on one knee and opens the box to reveal a shining asscher cut diamond ring. "Marry me," he says and she simply stares at him.

She takes the box from him and stares at the diamond set in yellow gold and surrounded by smaller diamonds. He joins her on the bed and waits in anticipation for her answer. It's a beautiful, ring, and while she would love to slip it on her finger and give him the answer to his question that he is looking for, she thinks better of it. She closes the box and answers "No," before holding it out to him.

"No?" he questions and frowns at her. "Olivia, wha-how-why?"

"Because in a couple of months when all this gets "real" again," she air quotes, "I don't want you running off to some other woman. Everything is working out right now. We should just keep

things the way they are."

He sighs. "Olivia, I thought you said you were going to let that go and put it behind us."

"I have let it go. I forgave you for it a long time ago, but I haven't forgotten. Look, you're happy, I'm happy, the kids are happy. We're all happy with what we have now. I just don't see why we should change that by taking a step that you're not ready for. Just because we have Josiah doesn't mean you have to marry me. I like where we are now, and I just think we should keep it this way."

He sighs. "Olivia, I know I fucked up before, and I understand your hesitancy, but I'm not happy," her face looks stricken and tears immediately fill her eyes.

"But I thought…" She can't keep her lower lip from quivering and tears fall before she can catch them.

"I love you Olivia. I told you a long time ago that I didn't want to share you, so I figured I should put a ring on it, but…I wasn't sure if you were over him. I wanted to make sure you were done with that part of your life so that we could make our own. Today…I saw that. I saw you find closure, and I know that you're ready. I'm ready too. I'm not saying we have to get married tomorrow or a year from now, but I want the world to know you're taken and that you belong to me and vice versa. I'm not happy with you just being my girlfriend. I want you to be my wife."

"Does that mean you're going to wear a ring too? To show that you're mine."

"If you want me to I don't see why not."

"You know Elliot's always going to be here in our lives. He's Kaleb and Kalea's father. They need him in their lives."

He smiles at that. "Couple of years ago you would have sworn the opposite," he says, and she smiles too. It's funny how things change, because what seems like forever ago she swore to a life without him and now she can't imagine their lives without him. "I know Elliot's going to be here, as annoying as he may be sometimes. I know Thing 1&2 need him, and I wouldn't want to get in the way of that, because I would hate if that were to happen to me and Josey,"she grins at the name choice. "I don't care who's a part of our lives as long as we're together."

"Then let's just be together. You don't have to marry me for that. I know how much commitment scares you, and I really don't see the need for it."

"Olivia, I'm not him."

She looks up at him shocked, because he has hit the nail on the head and they both know it.

"I'm not going to just up and leave you like he did."

"You already did."

"I thought about it. But I couldn't go through with it. I couldn't hurt you like that, and just my thinking about it almost cost me you, Josiah, Kaleb, and Kalea."

She shakes her head and tries to blink away her tears.

"Yes, commitment scares the shit out of me, but if we didn't face our fears we wouldn't have Josiah. I know you're just as afraid as I am, and rightfully so, but look at Josiah. He's a product of both of us being brave and giving this relationship a chance."

Olivia laughs. "He's the product of us being reckless and foregoing the protection."

He smirks. "Worth every minute." She shoves his chest playfully. "He's worth it, Olivia. And you're worth me facing that fear. Because I want you to be mine and I want us to keep facing our fears together. That's why I got you this ring. To show you that I'm ready to take that step and face that fear, because we wouldn't have what we have now if we didn't."

She thinks about Josiah and how much she loves him. How she wakes up every morning to Kaleb and Kalea poking their fingers in her nose and mouth or trying to climb over her to get into her bed and how soon Josiah will join them. How she can see the excitement in his green eyes when she comes to pick him up each morning. How happy each of her children make her, though they can run her ragged in less than a day. How excited the twins are when Sydney comes home. How they love it when he tosses them in the air and catches them with laughter. How Sydney is the only one that can get Kalea to take her medicine or eat her peas. How she'll let him play in her hair for hours, but will scream bloody murder if she even dares to go near her with anything that can remotely be construed as hair paraphernalia. How Kaleb loves to follow Sydney from room to room and he never seems to mind. Even waiting for the baby to catch up to his long strides or simply lifting him and carrying him along. How he puts up with Elliot when he comes to visit, though she knows it takes all his strength some days not to completely lose it when he's around. How cooperative he was when it came to finding the right house that also included a room for Elliot to stay in when he came to visit. How Sydney spends time each morning just holding and rocking Josiah. He tells him stories, and she wakes up every morning to hear them over the baby monitor. She loves how attentive to her needs Sydney is. How he aims to please her in every way. He does his best to give her whatever wants or needs, and never seems to utter a complaint. She loves how he's not afraid to fight her for what he wants or argue with her, though he'll concede defeat if he knows it will make her happy. How he listened to her complain for months about having to ride a desk after returning to work from being shot and then having her ass duty extended once she found out she was pregnant. How he transferred to missing persons so that she could stay where she was most comfortable. How he later supported her decision to finally leave SVU after coming way to close to leaving her children's lives way too early. And while she's not sure what unit she'll go into she knows he will support whatever decision she makes. She loves how he can make her laugh for days, and how happy and carefree he makes her. She loves who she is with him. She loves him, and she wants to see where life with him takes her.

"Ok," she says.

"So will you marry me?"

"Do you really have to ask?" she ask with laughter.

"Yes, woman! I need a real answer."

"Then the answer is yes, I will marry you, Sydney." she smiles as he removes the ring from the box and slides it on her finger.

He kisses her and mumbles against her mouth, "Let's seal this deal with a little more than a kiss."

"Let's," she moans into his mouth.

So they do.

XIV

Later that night she hears her phone ring, and she knows exactly who it is. A part of her wants to silence the ringing and turn the phone off all together, but she knows him better than that. He'll worry, then he'll call the house phone and Sydney's cell phone. And when they don't answer he'll panic and be here banging on her door by seven.

"It's three in the morning," she answers.

"I know, but you never called or anything. I just wanted to make sure you guys got home safely."

"We did," she sighs sleepily and untangles some of the sheets to pull them up around her.

"Ok," he says and he is silent. She knows what he wants to say. She doesn't want to hear it. Sydney pulls her closer against his naked body and she settles into him. She wants to enjoy this time with him before Josiah wakes up for his 4 AM feeding.

"El-"

"You're going to marry him aren't you," he says and she knows it's not a question, because they both know the answer and it's one that one of them doesn't like. But at this point it's a fact, a reality that he is going to have to accept.

She stares at the ring on her finger as it shines in the moonlight. "Yea," she says softly and hates herself deep inside. She doesn't want to hurt him, and she knows that she is hurting him.

"Olivia d-"

"Elliot, I have to go," she says quietly. Sydney is awake and hard behind her, and there's nothing more in the world that she wants to do right now other than make love to him.

She hears him sigh into the phone. "You really love him don't you?"

"Yes," she says, and when he doesn't say anything more she ends their late night conversation. "Goodnight Elliot," she says then hangs up the phone and places it back on the table. She turns to Sydney and his kiss is already there and waiting for her. He shifts her to her back and before her sleep fogged mind has time to process anything he's inside her, filling her, making her feel good, loving her, making love to her and in this very moment she finds that her life has come full circle. She is no longer the broken woman Elliot left behind, she's picked up the pieces and put herself, her life back together. It may have taken her a few years, but here with Sydney, the man she loves, deep inside her she finds that she is finally complete.

She is whole.

Fin

I want to say thank you all for reading this story. I was very hesitant to post a non EO story on this sight, especially after all the drama with The First Year. I never expected to get over a hundred reviews on a non EO story, but I did, and I thank ou all for each and every one of them. (At least the good ones. =))You guys have been unbelievably open and understanding and you have no idea how much that means to me. You have given me the strength and the courage to explore and write more, and for that I could not be more grateful to you.

I will be writing a sequel to The First Year. A few of you have asked me about this and I said the story line wasn't ready, and it wasn't, but I also I wasn't ready. I felt like you all really liked The First Year, and was afraid the sequel would be a let down, but I figured maybe the next (and final) installment shouldn't be as intense as The First Year. (Unless you want it to be. Let me know!) So I'm going to start writing it, and hopefully it will be up by the end of the year (or before 12/12/12). So look out for a story by me entitled Parenthood.

I'm also working on another story. It's very dark, and kind of like this one and not. At first I wasn't going to post it, but I think those of you that read this and handled it with the grace and maturity any writer could ask for deserve it and can really handle/appreciate it. It's still untitled at this point in time. =/