The Woman behind the Screen
Author's Note: This is the companion piece to The Man behind the Screen. This story is from Elliot's point of view, and that story is from Olivia's point of view. Personally, I would recommend reading The Man behind the Screen first, but both stories will make sense read separately.
"Daddy, why can't you stay with me and Mommy?"
Elliot witnessed the hopefulness in his four-year-old son's big blue eyes. It was hard to believe that Elliot had once questioned Eli's paternity. Now, as his son grew, there was no doubt in Elliot's mind that Eli was his. His eyes were a dead-set give-a-way that he was Elliot Stabler's son.
"Eli, you know I can't do that," he told his son. This conversation was never an easy one to have with his son. When Kathy and he had separated in the past, the older kids had been old enough to understand what was happening. Eli was so young and didn't understand why his Daddy and Mommy no longer lived together.
Now, of course, his older brothers and sisters had all moved out of the house and were living on their own. Maureen was engaged, Kathleen was a senior in college, Richard had joined the army, and Lizzie was a sophomore at Julliard majoring in Drama. They all had their own lives, and that left Eli to suffer the pain of his parents' divorce.
He and Kathy were still on speaking terms. Their divorce had been a mutual agreement this time, both knowing it was for the best. A year and a half ago Elliot retired from SVU. Six months after he retired, his divorce was finalized. It had only taken a month and a half for him to realize that he couldn't stay with Kathy anymore. It wasn't that he didn't care about her. During the years he'd worked at SVU, they'd drifted so far apart. It had taken him being home twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to realize how distant they had become.
It didn't help that he'd become an emotional wreck. He'd murdered a young woman. She wasn't much younger than Lizzie. Yes, she had a weapon and had killed Sister Peg. However, he could have injured her. He had made the choice to shoot to kill.
"Daddy, why not? Don't you love Mommy anymore?"
His heart ached for the little boy.
"I love Mommy very much, son. Sometimes, though, when grown-ups are together for so many years, there comes a time they need to be apart. That's what happened to Mommy and me."
"So you're going to get back together, right?"
"I don't know, Eli, but you know that your mommy and daddy love you with all our hearts, right?"
"You tell me that all the time, Daddy. But Lizzie told me that you guys broke up before and got back together, so you're going to come back soon, right?"
He really wished Elizabeth hadn't told her little brother that. She was a bright girl, but sometimes she wasn't careful with what she said around her youngest brother. Perhaps it was because she, too, was secretly hoping that her parents would get back together. Elizabeth and Richard were around twelve when he and Kathy had separated the first time. Nonetheless, the circumstances then were completely different than today.
"Like I said, I don't know," Elliot said. "Now, I bet your mommy is inside waiting for you to come home." He looked across the street at the house he'd once lived. Part of the divorce agreement had been that Kathy could keep the house, and he would move out and find his own place. It worked, as he didn't need much room. He found a decent two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. The apartment was cozy, and just enough for him and Eli. That was, when it was his week with his son.
"Okay," the little boy pouted. "I miss you during the week, Daddy."
"I miss you, too, Eli." Elliot kissed the little boy on the forehead and then opened the car door. He walked over the to the passenger seat and opened the door for his son, scooping the child into his arms. "Let's go see Mommy."
He walked across the street and opened the door. He'd lived with Kathy for almost twenty-seven years, twenty-five if you counted the two they were separated. Knocking was not custom to him. Besides, he still had a key to the house. He opened the door to find Kathy standing in the living room. He couldn't help to notice that the blinds had been budged. She'd been watching them.
"I was wondering when you were going to come in."
"Mommy!" Eli cried and ran toward Kathy, wrapping his arms around her waist. "I missed you."
"I missed you, too, baby! The house is so empty without you. Did you have fun with Daddy this week?"
Kathy smiled, "Good." Her eyes moved from her son to Elliot.
"Well, I guess I should get going. Have a good week. I'll see you next Sunday evening." They'd decided that Sunday evenings was the best time to trade off, that way they'd each have him for a full week.
"Have a good week, Elliot."
"Yeah, you too," he said abruptly and peered down at Eli, waving, "Bye, Eli!"
"Bye, Daddy." Eli ran over and gave Elliot one last hug.
Elliot disappeared through the doorway.
It was almost ten o'clock by the time he'd returned home. He took a shower and later found himself sitting in front of his laptop. He shamefully found himself on his online dating account. It wasn't one of his prouder accounts, but he'd created it about a month ago. It'd been so long since he'd taken a hand at the dating game, and dating wasn't the same as it had been when he was in high school. For twenty-seven years, Elliot Stabler hadn't needed to date. He'd contemplated even trying it again. Perhaps he was better off single.
He wasn't surprised by the fact that no one had messaged him on the site. For one, he didn't have a photo uploaded. He was terrified of what Kathy would say if she uncovered him on an online dating site. Then again, she would have to be on the site herself to find him. Still, he didn't want to take any chances. Also, there was the chance that one of her friends was on the site and would find him, then say something to her. He would rather be safe than sorry.
He also hadn't messaged any women himself since joining the site. He'd surfed through hundreds of profiles, but none of the women his age seemed interesting.
Besides, he found himself comparing all the women on the site to one standard.
His desire to call her lingered, but he knew that he'd missed his chance. He knew that he should have called her right away and talked to her, but it was too painful. Goodbyes were never his thing, and his life was a crisis as is at the time. He didn't want to bring her into it. She would have wanted to help, but Elliot didn't want her pity.
Now, too much time had passed, and Elliot didn't want to dig up old webs. She'd called him hundreds of times, and then he'd been an ass and changed his phone number without forwarding her the new number. She'd never forgive him for that, if he knew her well enough.
Elliot was clicking simultaneously as his thoughts ran back to Liv. He'd put women 40-50 in his targeted age group, but none of the women seemed to be appealing to him. None of them looked as good as she did for her age.
Then his heart stopped.
No, it can't be, he thought as he gazed at the next photo. He would never forget the woman's cocoa brown eyes. Her beauty lit up his computer screen, and his heart began racing.
What are the odds? He thought.
What were the chances that they would join the same dating site? Online dating seemed a little out-of-character for Olivia Benson. But he knew how much she longed for a long-term relationship. He knew how she direly desired to have a family of her own. Desperate time called for desperate measures. The internet had opened up a whole new world of dating.
This is no coincidence, Elliot thought. He'd always been a big believer in fate. If this wasn't fate, then he didn't know what was. He knew that he had to take advantage of this situation.
He clicked the "Message" button and contemplated what to type. One thing was for certain, in order for his goal to work, he couldn't give away his identity. Olivia was a smart woman, and if he said the wrong thing, she'd put two and two together. He sent a generic message, hoping that she'd reply.
Hey, there. I don't suppose a beautiful woman like yourself would be interested in me, but I thought I'd take a shot at messaging you. I'd love to chat more. Feel free to look over my profile and if you want to give me a chance, feel free to message me back!
Elliot reviewed the text he had typed. Did he sound too desperate? After all, his username was "LostandHopeless." He had felt very lonely when he'd created the account. He'd just dropped Eli off at Kathy's and had come home to an empty apartment. That's what brought him to the internet.
He pressed send, only hoping she would read his message and reply.