Title: Hello, Goodbye
Fandom: Law & Order: SVU
Disclaimer: I don't own them. Law and Order SVU and its characters belong to Dick Wolf. The characters of Jack (and his family) have been created and developed for the sake of this AU series.
Summary: A shadow from Olivia's past shows up on her doorstep and offers the opportunity for her to take a very different direction in her life. This story exists outside of the universe that my other stories are happening in.
Author's Notes: This AU series is for SVU fans and readers who want Olivia to have something that resembles a more normal life outside of work and a family of her own - hopefully somewhat realistically within the canon of SVU. Most of the chapters will ultimately take place outside of the work environment, so there aren't going to be too many references to cases from the show. But this story would generally be starting in about Season 13/14 of the show. Please let me know what you think and if you distribute elsewhere.
She gave Jack a thin smile as she came back out into the main area of the room and he glanced over his shoulder at her. He'd apparently decided to help himself to a second serving of dessert while she got Benji down. It sort of looked like his eyes might've been bigger than his stomach (he'd eaten like he hadn't eaten all week at dinner too) and he was just sort of picking at what was sitting a pretty heaping helping in the bowl now.
"You want me to package that up for you to take home?" she offered as she walked by him.
He sort of glanced at her again like he wasn't sure if that was something he was going to agree to but he eventually handed her the bowl of apple crisp.
"My Nan used to make that," he admitted a little sheepishly. "I haven't had it in a long time. Yours is pretty good."
She allowed him another small smile and tapped his spoon against the side of the dish to get the surplus off it and back into the bowl.
"I actually think it might be your Nan's recipe," she said – and Jack gazed at her questioningly. "You Dad had me over for Thanksgiving one year. Your Nan made it. Your Dad raved about it. I ended up with the recipe to take back to school and pretend I did things like cook."
She pulled the recipe card out from the tiny box she had. She didn't even know why she had it. She figured it was a gift from someone at some point, though she couldn't remember who. She hadn't re-gifted it, though, or just gotten rid of it. But it was mostly empty – the cards that came with it all blank accept for a handful that had some simple baking and entrees on them. She'd had it sitting on the little shelf above her kitchen counter as a decoration for about as long as she could remember. She actually pulled it down to take a look at since Benji had been there. She'd even written a couple recipes onto the cards – for the first-time ever. The cookies from the other day, a batch of stroganoff she'd done up in an effort to have something ready in the fridge so she wasn't fumbling around trying to prepare meals for Benji at whatever hour she managed to get him home the coming work-week.
She took the card back over to Jack and held it out to him. She knew he didn't much care what the ingredients were on the list – but she thought he might want to see the handwriting on it. He cautiously took it and gazed at it for a while wordlessly but then handed it back out to her.
"It looks like her writing," he said quietly.
She gave a little nod. "Ah, I think maybe the recipe box I have – that your Nan might've sent it as a gift. I honestly don't remember exactly how I ended up with it. But there's several cards in it with recipes – and it's all the same writing. You can take a look through it, if you want," she offered. "If there's other recipes in there you like – maybe we can try them."
But he just shrugged at that and he just left it. His Nan being sick but her still being alive – but already taken away from him … it was clear it was something Jack really struggled with. She was clearly the only woman who'd treat him like a mother might and he'd even started losing bits of her before he was ready. From things that had been said, Olivia got the impression there had been signs of the Alzheimer's for some time but that the woman had really rapidly regressed after her husband's heart attack and death. Jay's death had only made it worse, she suspected. She couldn't imagine what Isabele's would've done – or if she was still in a mental state to really understand and know what was going on at that point.
She wasn't going to push Jack that night, though. The day had gone too well. She wanted it to end on a good note. There'd been some tense moments. Moments where she really wanted to raise her voice at Jack and put him in his place. Moments where she thought Benji might fall over the edge into a fit of tears and fears. But they'd all managed to hold it together.
Jack seemed to be conscious of how he was acting and how he was interacting with his nephew. She'd seen him pull back a couple times when the situation ramped up – and it alleviated the problem before it became much of a problem. She'd also seen him look to her for guidance a couple times and he'd actually listened when she'd told him how to deal with it. He'd let her take the lead with Benji at certain points without giving her tone or attitude or telling her to put him down, or keep away, or that she wasn't his mom. She could see he was trying – sometimes reluctantly and definitely cautiously – but he was trying and that was a big improvement and she hoped a good sign.
So circle time had evolved into her taking the boys for some lunch and that had continued into letting Benji run around at the playground for a while. Jack still hadn't looked like he was ready to leave yet – so he'd been invited back to the apartment. He'd played quietly with Benji and watched the movie that had been put on. He hadn't protested when she put the little boy down for a nap or injected his opinions about a four-year-old napping. And, when he'd been invited to stay for dinner, he accepted. After that, he read Benji his first story, said good night and good bye – thankfully with no Benji reaction – and he'd stayed quietly in the living room as she finished up getting the little boy tucked in and to shut his eyes. Though, Benji was aware Jack was still in the apartment and she had had to provide a few reassurances that his uncle wouldn't be waking him and taking him away. Benji, though, had seemed fairly comfortable with how the day went. Though, she knew he wasn't asleep yet – he had rolled over onto his side and while she stroked his head and cheek, he had eventually closed his eyes before she pulled the door shut to just a crack and returned back to the living room.
She looked at Jack again from the kitchen. She was starting to wonder when he was going to leave. It was creeping towards 8:30 at that point – dinner was done, Benji was in bed – but he was still gazing at the television.
"What are you watching?" she asked, trying to gauge if he was actually absorbed in something or if trouble might be stirring. She really had no intention of getting into much of a conversation about anything with him that day. She thought that getting through him and Benji interacting again for the first time was likely going to be enough for all of them. And, even though, it had been fairly uneventful, she thought it had been emotionally draining in its own sort of way for all of them.
He darted his eyes at her and then back to the television. "Amazing Race," he said flatly. She allowed a small nod. She didn't think reality television was why Jack was still sitting on her couch. But maybe he read her thoughts a bit. "The Walking Dead is on a nine," he said. "It's the last of the fall part of the season. I kind of hoped maybe it'd be OK if I stayed and watched it." She looked at him some more and weighed that statement. "It's a show," he clarified – like she might've missed that. "A zombie show."
She snorted and shook her head. "I know what The Walking Dead is Jack," she told him, really having to resist rolling her eyes. She couldn't decide if he thought she was old or stupid. Or maybe he just thought she lived in some sort of hole – to be so clueless about anything and everything from pop culture to the latest news to how to cook to dealing with a child. He clearly thought she just didn't know shit-all.
He shrugged and scraped his one chewed-down fingernail along the arm of her couch. "You said you didn't watch much TV," he offered quietly, almost like he thought the previous comment might've now lost him his chance to get to watch the show on her TV.
She shook her head and went back to transporting his dessert into a Gladware container. "No, I don't get the chance to watch much television," she agreed.
"So have you watched The Walking Dead then?" he asked.
She glanced up at him from what she was doing. "I've seen a few episodes – or parts of them, I guess. I wouldn't have pegged you as the zombie-type."
"It's not just about zombies," he said a little dejectedly. He was quiet for a moment and she hadn't responded. She wasn't sure she wanted a series breakdown about what the show was actually about, from his perspective, if she did respond. "So is it OK if I stay and watch it?" he pressed.
She looked up at him again and allowed a small nod. She was accepting that part of dealing with Jack was going to mean creating some sore of rapport with Jack. Apparently that might mean having to sit through some sort of gratuitously violent zombie apocalypse show.
"Are you going to want any of the spaghetti to take home?" she asked instead. "There's not many meatballs left – but I can put a couple in there for you, and some pasta and sauce."
He looked up at her again. She could tell he wanted to say yes but he was measuring his ego against the want to take home some food to have in his fridge – something to eat. So she didn't wait for an answer and just put another container on the counter and started spooning some of the pasta into it. There were only three meatballs left – but she gave him two, keeping one to put in with her or Benji's lunch.
She could feel him watching her and looked up at him again. "What?" she asked.
He looked a little sheepish again and went back to drawing lines with his finger on the arm of her couch. She just shook her head at him and popped the lid onto the container. She should've thought to make a bit more than she did on the expectation that Jack had a teenaged boy's appetite and would eat through what she had thought would be the meal leftovers in his three heaping helpings – and that he'd want to take something home. Note-to-self for next time, she thought.
"You want some of the salad too?" she offered. He allowed a small nod. "You have dressing at home?" He shook his head – so she allowed a small nod back. "OK. I'll put some of what was on the table in a water bottle for you. It's just oil and vinegar. Shake it before you put it on – or it won't taste like what you ate tonight. You don't need a lot."
He gave her another small nod and seemed to watch her again. She was just waiting for some other shoe to drop with how he was examining her – like he'd be waiting all day to say something. But then he said, "Is that leftover mashed potatoes in the fridge?"
She looked up at him and snorted. "Ah, yeah," she said, as she finished getting the salad transferred to a take-home container for him. "Benji and I had something that resembled meatloaf and mashed potatoes last night. You want some of that too?"
He nodded. He was cleaning out her fridge – and depleting her plans of having leftovers to warm-up and avoid cooking during the week. But she wanted him to be eating too. She really suspected he wasn't. Not only was that not healthy – she knew it really wasn't going to be helping with him concentrating to finish up his term and to be studying for his exams.
She opened the fridge and put the left-over container on the counter to split up.
"I've got a chicken veggie stir fry and beef mushroom stroganoff here too. Rice and egg noodles. You want me to package up some of that?" she asked over her shoulder and then looked when he hadn't responded. He looked a little embarrassed, so she just nodded. "I'll do up a couple meals for you," she conceded. He wasn't going to admit he wanted – or needed – the food.
She worked at getting some meals package up for him to take home. He'd at least be going home with enough that she'd know he was having one full-meal a day. It wasn't as much as he needed and he'd likely still be hungry if that was all he ate – but at least he'd be getting something into him.
"Just remember to bring these containers back the next time you're over, Jack," she called at him. "I can't be buying new containers after every one of your visits."
He just glanced at her and offered no response – but she hoped he actually heard her and listened. He hadn't brought back the ones she'd sent food home for him and Benji in and she sort of doubted she'd see these ones again. She really didn't want to be buying more – even the disposable, reusable containers weren't cheap. And, she did use them herself too to have them disappearing all the time, if this was going to become habit.
She placed the meal containers in a bag and put them in the fridge on the top shelf for him to retrieve when he was ready to go.
"Do you want something to drink?" she asked, as she started to prepare herself to join him on the couch. She'd deal with the rest of the clean-up in the kitchen after she got rid of him. She needed a bit of downtime at that point too.
His eyes darted from the screen up to her again. "Coke," he said.
She shook her head. "You know I don't drink soda. We've already had this discussion. Choices are water, orange juice or milk. Or I can put on the kettle for you."
He shook his head so she just poured herself a glass of water and moved over to the opposite end of the couch from him.
"Why don't you drink pop?" he asked as she settled and started looking at the show.
She shrugged. "Because it's awful for you. I stopped drinking it years ago."
"Were you fat or something?" he asked.
She rolled his eyes at him and looked at him. His attitude was starting to show – and she hoped this wasn't the start of something when the day had gone OK, when she'd just packaged up about half her week's meal plan for him, and when she'd agree to let him to continue to take up space on her couch. "Jack, that's a really obnoxious thing to say to someone. It's rude."
He shrugged. "No it's not. If you were, you aren't anymore."
She shook her head at him. "I wasn't fat. I just stopped drinking soda."
"Why?" he asked again.
"Because it's full of sugar and chemicals and artificial colouring. I don't need to be putting any of that into my body. Neither do you – but that's your choice."
He eyed her. "But now you've made that choice for 'Jamin too?"
She kept the eye contact. "While he's living in my home, yes, I guess I have."
He let out a breath but didn't say anything and shifted his gaze back to the show. So she did too, watching for a few minutes.
"You bought him new clothes," Jack mumbled quietly, "and pajamas."
She looked back at him and nodded. "I did. It didn't seem like he had many winter clothes. He's been cold and he needed clothes for nursery school."
Jack observed his finger as he moved it along the arm of the couch again and didn't say anymore for quite a while.
"Why's he keep calling you Mommy Fox?" he asked.
She sighed. She didn't want to tell Benji he couldn't or shouldn't – but when it had come out of his mouth a couple times during the day (though mostly in him being annoyed or frustrated with her or something else around him), she knew that Jack would notice and not likely like it.
"It's just something out of a story book he likes right now," she said. "I haven't told him to be calling me Mommy, if that's what you're asking."
She also hadn't told him to stop calling her Mommy Fox, though. She knew it would only be a matter of time until 'fox' fell off the end of it. It'd been clear that that was what Benji was shooting for. And even though she'd been measuring in her head the dangers of letting the little boy get that phrase into his vocabulary – she couldn't bring herself to tell him not to call her that. She liked the sounds of it too much. She was anticipating what it would evolve into too much – and getting to hear just 'Mommy', directed at her, come out of his mouth for the first time.
"But you want him to?" Jack asked. There was a bit of an accusation to his tone.
She caught his eyes and let her thoughts settle for a moment while he glared at her. She let out another breath and glanced at the ground almost a little embarrassed. "Right now, Jack, I just want him to call me whatever he's most comfortable with. If and when it's appropriate for him to call me Mommy – and if that's what he wants to call me – then, yes, I'd like that very much. I'm never going to tell him that's something he has to call me or even should be calling me. I'm fine just being Olivia to both of you." She was – but she wasn't. She so wanted to be Mommy – for someone, finally.
Jack eyed her some more. She couldn't get a full read on him. But she was starting to understand him more – to get better at judging his looks and his body language, to be able to gauge what was coming never. He wasn't in a rage that day – he was just hurting, struggling. He needed a really gentle hand from her – and she needed to keep applying it – or she was going to lose him. Losing him just increased her chances of losing Benji.
"He really likes you," Jack admitted quietly after a long silence. "You can tell."
She allowed a small smile at that. "Well, I really like him too, Jack. A lot."
He nodded and took up examining the floor.
"Have you thought anymore about what we've talked about?" she tried.
She really hadn't been planning on broaching it that day. She was going to just get through the day and she was going to push harder with Jack after she got through the next meeting with Mark – after she had a clearer idea of what the next several weeks or months were going to look like, what more needed to get done. But Jack just shrugged at her anyways. She knew he would've been thinking about it. He just didn't want to talk about what his thoughts were on any of it yet.
She nodded, though, and rubbed at her eyebrow. "OK. Well, I went and looked at an apartment yesterday," she told him and he glanced at her a little more wide-eyed. "It's just upstairs," she clarified. "It's a two bedroom. I need to get into a bigger place, if I want this to work for us. I just wanted to let you know that I filled out the form – put in an offer. I'll find out tomorrow likely if I get it. But the one bedroom – Benji's bedroom – it's really kind of long and narrow. It has more closets than any little boy could likely ever need. So I'm going to get a futon or daybed or something to put in there too – for you. Give you one of the closets as your own. So you'll be able to visit and have somewhere to sleep – to store some clothes and things."
He eyed her again. "Why?" he finally asked.
"Because we're adding me to this family, Jack, not you. I want you to continue to be a part of Benji's life and I want you to feel welcome here – if we're all able to continue to have days like this and not … days like before. And, I want you to have somewhere safe and warm to sleep when you need it."
He made another sound and looked at the ground some more.
"Did you give your landlord notice?" she asked. He did allow a small nod at that and she almost wanted to let out a sigh of relief. It was a good sign. It at least meant he likely wasn't going to decide to cut the parental designation short.
"I'm glad, Jack," she said. "That's a positive first step."
He shrugged. "I still owe him some money."
She nodded. "You come and talk to me first, if that's a problem. We'll work something out. If you need help moving your things over to residence too – let me know. We'll figure it out. Rent a car for the day or something."
"I can't afford that," he mumbled.
"I can, Jack," she said.
He glanced at her and let out a breath. She thought he was going to spit his 'I don't do charity' line at her again but he didn't.
"What about school? Are you wrapping up the semester OK?" she asked.
He shrugged again. "I guess."
"Is Gecko giving you enough time off to keep up? Get caught up? Study for exams?"
"Work's fine," he spat a little – clearly a bit annoyed at her. "Gecko's cool."
She allowed a small nod. She wasn't going to fight with him about it. Work. School. It was his business – even though she really felt those things being in order would work in her favour. If he could get some stability in other areas of his life – relieve some of that stress, he was more likely to co-operate with her – to not want to add more stress back to his life, more turmoil.
She rubbed her eyebrow. "What are your plans for the break between semesters?" she asked. "For Christmas?"
He looked back to her at that and examined her. "I don't know," he said.
She nodded. "I just meant – you're planning on staying in the city, right? You weren't planning to go upstate?"
He shrugged. "I guess."
She nodded again. "OK. Then I guess the other thing I wanted to let you know is that I am going Christmas with him. Santa will be coming for him this year – he'll get a present and a stocking. And, I'm likely going to have a few things under a tree for him to open too."
He eyed her but said nothing.
"I get the impression that Christmas hasn't been too special at your house the last few years," she allowed. "He deserves a Christmas – while he's little and it can still be fun and magically."
He still said nothing. She rubbed at her eyebrow.
"You're welcome here too," she said. "Just give me a bit of a heads up. You don't have to tell me now."
He was examining her. She could see him processing and thinking. She could see shadows of sadness tracing across his complexion. But he still said nothing.
He flared his nostrils at that and looked to the television again. She sighed. She felt like she'd fucked it up with him again. She was so struggling to find the right balance and direction to navigate the Jack maze.
But maybe she'd done OK?
"I'm not saying I'm co-operating," he finally said quietly after glaring at the television for several, long, silent minutes. "But I'd kind of like to have your lawyer explain to me what the hell you're trying to do."
She eyed him at that as it set in. Progress. Fucking progress. Even when he was pissed at her – something. He was giving her something. She'd take it. She'd really fucking take it – for all it was worth.
"OK, Jack," she agreed. "I'll call him and see about setting that up."