Rating: K, nothing naughty
Disclaimer: They ain't mine, they're Dick's.
Spoilers: Basics, through to start of s13.
Pairing(s): Elliot/Olivia, Olivia/Nick-ish.
Summary: Olivia's old partner checks up on her new partner.
Nick turned at the sound of his name. "Yeah?"
"Nick Amaro, right?"
The man offering his hand was older than him by at least ten years. He was burly with short cropped hair and an incisive gaze. And he was a cop, one who'd also spent time in the service. Nick could tell that at first glance.
He slid his hand into the offered shake. "And you are?"
The other man just gripped his hand and gave a grin that would look genuine to someone who hadn't spent so much time undercover. "I've heard good things."
"Really?" Nick asked. "From who?"
"Can I buy you a drink?" He pointed to the bottle sitting in front of him, the one Nick had just drained.
"Never say no to that," he replied, assuming he had little choice in the matter.
The other man took the stool next to him and gestured to the bartender. He didn't wait for two fresh beers to be placed in front of them before asking in what was meant to sound like a casual conversation starter:
"So how're things working out for you at SVU?"
Nick bobbed his head a few times. "Still settling in. You know."
"It's a tough gig."
"That's what they tell me."
"Think you'll stick it out?"
"Do my best."
There was short silence in which they each sipped and studied the label on their beers. Then the other man cleared his throat, keeping his tone neutral as he said:
"I hear you're partnered with Olivia Benson."
Nick gave a low chuckle. "Not sure she sees it that way."
"No." He cast the other man a sideways glance before telling him, "Think she's still hoping her old partner will reconsider. Come on back and save her from drowning in rookies."
"Ah…" He nodded, gaze back on his bottle.
"I'm told they were together a long time," Nick added, leaning closer. "They were, you know….close."
"Most partners on the force are."
"I wouldn't know." Nick took a swig of beer then gave a one-shouldered shrug. "I've spent a lot of time working undercover. You get used to watching your own six."
The older cop turned to him, his face and tone taking on an underlying urgency. "It's different, having a partner. You gotta always have one eye on them, you gotta put their welfare above your own. You gotta learn how they work, you know? So that you can anticipate their next move – that's crucial. Their life…is in your hands."
Nick nodded, eyeing him. "I'll keep that in mind."
Seemingly satisfied that the rookie taken this piece of advice, the other man relaxed in his seat. "So, tell me," he asked after a moment, nodding at the TV above the bar, "what's your read on her?"
Nick looked up to see his new partner onscreen. The sound had been muted but a constant scrawl crept across the bottom of the screen while in the center stood Olivia Benson, stoic and impeccable before a bank of microphones, holding up a picture of a small brown-haired boy.
"On Benson?" he said, watching her deliver her silent plea.
The other man didn't respond, eyes glued to her image.
"Not sure…" Nick mused, scratching at his now invisible beard. "She's a tough nut to crack. Seems to be all about the job. And she's good at it, no denyin' that. She…" he broke off, recalling the unwelcoming stare Olivia had leveled at him in the beginning, "well, she may not easy but if you step back and let her strut her stuff, she's something else alright. She's…"
The other man turned to him, gaze narrowed. "What?"
Nick shook his head, lips curling upwards. "Magnificent." He lifted his beer, took a thoughtful sip then lowered it back to the bar with deliberate slowness. "But then I don't need to tell you that. Do I, Detective Stabler?"
When Nick turned to him a moment later, Elliot had a small smile on his face. He seemed almost pleased to be busted, his pretence immediately evaporating and amused warmth taking its place.
"Not Detective anymore." He re-offered his hand. "Elliot."
Nick shook it. "Elliot." Then faced him at the bar. "So what d'you wanna know? Whether I've got her back? Cos I do."
"Good. That's good." Elliot lowered his voice and fixed him with an unflinching stare. "Cos she's all alone in the world. That squad is the closest thing to family she's got."
"Yeah," he muttered, an edge to his voice as he scrutinized his partner's ex-partner. "I kinda got that already."
Elliot retreated in his seat, taken aback by the note of judgement in the younger man's look and tone. He seemed simultaneously indignant and pleased at the new guy expressing a barely masked protective instinct towards his long-time partner. His eyes formed slits but his mouth twitched up at each edge. Ultimately, his indignation seemed to surrender, his own protective instincts content knowing that Olivia was well defended in his absence, even from the impact of his own desertion.
Head bowed, he stared at the wood of the bar for a long moment. Then he swallowed and asked in a low voice, "So, how's she holding up?"
"She…took it hard," Nick answered carefully. Very carefully. "But…she's getting there. I mean— from what I can tell."
"Well…." Elliot paused before downing the last of his drink, abruptly drowning the lump in his throat. "Best of luck, Amaro. Trust me, at Special Victims, you're gonna need it." He gave a grim smile and tipped his chin up in farewell.
Nick returned the gesture then stopped him as was heading for the door. "Detective Stabler?"
Elliot turned back but this time didn't correct him. "Yeah?"
Again, he spoke carefully, aware that he was caught between two people who knew each other better than he knew his own wife. "It's none of my business but…is there anything you…want me to pass onto her?"
The lump seemed to return to his throat and for a moment, Nick could see an entire history pass across the older man's face. He supposed words were insufficient in the end because all Olivia's absentee partner said was: "Just, ah…just tell her…I'm sorry."
Nick nodded, vaguely disappointed.
"Hey…" he shuffled on the spot, a curious look on his face "…how'd you know?"
Nick smiled and admitted, "There's a photo of you two in her apartment."
"It's still there?" he asked, head cocked.
"Still there." He tilted his beer bottle at him and joked: "'Course you had a lot more hair then."
Elliot's smile was more subdued than amused. "I had a lot more everything then," he said, slipping his arms into his coat before lunging forward, hand extended. "Good to meet you."
"And just so we're clear," he put his other hand over Nick's, giving it a friendly but firm pat, "you don't do right by her, you'll have me to answer to."
Nick nodded once. "Yes, sir. Understood."
"And Amaro?" He withdrew his hand, straightened his shoulders. "You've been working with Liv for, what, a month or something?"
"You think she's magnificent now?" He turned up the collar on his coat and smiled a smile of quiet, knowing pride. "Just wait. Just wait…."
Then he left, shoulders hunched against the cold as he slipped past the bar's front window and out of sight.
Twenty minutes later, Nick spotted Olivia Benson coming in the opposite direction, her stride long and swift as she sought to escape the New York chill. Standing in the doorway of the bar, she briefly scanned the place, looking for a face she knew she wouldn't find. She found his instead, hesitating before making her way over to him. When he offered to buy her a drink, her mouth opened first on a refusal. But on second thought, she accepted, sliding up onto the seat her ex-partner had left vacant.