The final chapter
Olivia let Simon in that night for supper, with Tracy at his side and the kids on their hips. The moment Simon saw the renewed light in Olivia's face, he felt so much more confident that she was going to be ok. She'd done what she had to do to get justice for herself.
"Wine's in the kitchen." She smiled at both him and his wife as they entered.
Simon put a hand on her shoulder as he walked into the apartment. Little Olivia reached for her aunt almost immediately, and Tracy handed the infant to her sister-in-law happily.
"She's been missing you." Tracy said with a grin.
Olivia carried the child into the living room where Ty had taken a seat on the floor, pulling out the bin of cars. Life had never been so beautiful. It felt like the whole weight she'd been carrying, fearing that Lewis would get off so easily he'd come back in no time. Now she had fifteen years to forget, to move on.
Brian poured Tracy and Simon a glass of wine each.
"Good news today." Tracy nodded at Brian.
He sighed in relief. "Yeah. Finally." He agreed.
The door to the apartment popped open again after a short knock. Amanda led the way, a huge smile on her face, flowers in her hand.
"Hey hey hey." She said as she was followed in by the rest of the squad.
Fin held a couple flowers, Nick holding another, and Cragen entering with a box of chocolates and a red rose that bloomed beautifully. Olivia stood up, setting her niece down with Ty safely.
She hadn't expected them, but she found herself pleasantly surprised. The support they offered her was part of the reason she was still hanging on in her journey. She smiled curiously as she approached them.
"We got the news, followed by a call from Brian. Said he's cookin' tonight." Fin said as he brought Olivia into a one-armed hug.
The lump in her throat prevented her from saying anything as they handed her the flowers, combining to form a beautiful bouquet. Nick gave her the tightest hug he ever had, and only let go because he had to.
"We won." He said quietly.
Olivia nodded at him, showing the happiness in her face. Cragen put an arm around her after she'd greeted them all.
"Thank you" was all she was capable of saying.
Even though the bad still lurked, she'd get back to where she needed to be eventually. With the help she found in every person in her home, Olivia was sure she would be just fine. The bad never outweighed the good.
"He got what he had coming." A voice from the doorway had them all turning back to where Munch stood with Barba.
"Had to stop by and grab this guy before coming." Munch explained as they both entered.
Barba couldn't contain the smile he had been wearing since exiting the courtroom that morning.
"Congratulations, Counsellor." Amanda shrugged her coat off her shoulders.
"Liv pulled through." Barba shifted the focus to the hard work Olivia had done.
"I'm sure she did more work than I did." He added.
Olivia reached out and held his hand for a minute before hugging him in silent thanks. He'd never hugged her before, but he'd never been somewhere he felt so safe. The strength she had left after the months of surviving, trying to get back on her feet was something he hadn't felt for himself. It was incredible.
"We each had our own struggle. But you're the one who got the job done." She replied as she let go.
"I skipped cleaning my office for this, but I know it'll have to be done sometime. Even my apartment looks like a paper war zone." The ADA was light in his comments, only helping everyone in their comfort.
From the kitchen, Brian caught Olivia's appreciative glance. They held each other's eyes for a moment.
"Well, I'm sure there's enough wine for everyone. Chef Brian will have no trouble." She smiled as she took their coats and left the room to place them on the bed in her bedroom.
For a couple moments, Olivia stood in the room, the dim lights comforting to her. Her eyes closed as she sat down on the bed, taking in the sounds of her entire family in her house. Maybe everything had happened for this reason, to bring them closer together. Never before had she felt such a bond between her squad, even when Elliot was around.
Every person in the apartment loved each other deeply, and each one was willing to lay down their lives for any of the others. With the bond they shared, Olivia knew she was safe. They'd prop her up until she could walk on her own.
The conversations ranged from baseball, to the harsh winter weather the city was bracing for. The groups changed constantly. Everyone was so comfortable with everyone else. Olivia found herself talking with every person she so respected. After eating a beautiful meal that Brian had prepared, the group mingled more, gathering around the living room and around the counter of the kitchen.
Olivia, longing to see the simplicity of joy in life, headed to sit with her niece and nephew in the living room.
"So, what did you do to convince the judge?" She asked Barba from where she sat.
Rafael leaned forward to lean on the couch. "I told him that Lewis had a lucky record with the judicial system, that he'd have plans if ever he were to get out. The judge saw right through Lewis' argument. Sentenced him right away to the maximum." He kept a smile off his face, but it was clear he was happy.
"With that sentence, I'm sure he'll be convicted of his other charges too. Hopefully he'll never see the light of day again." Barba finished.
Another wave of peace came over Olivia. Maybe she wouldn't ever have to worry about him getting out. Of course they'd wait and see, but for the time being, fifteen years was enough.
Olivia's small niece handed her a doll to hold, and then she returned to her play. The smiles on the faces of those she loved gave her an incredible free feeling.
"Liv." Barba turned away from the couch and walked toward her bedroom.
She got up, laying her doll down in her spot as she followed him. Once they were beyond everyone else's ears, Barba spoke.
"Lewis will be going away for longer than just fifteen years." He kept his voice low. "He'll get time for murdering the police officer and possibly even for killing Mr. Mayer."
"If the attorney's win the cases against him." Olivia was still hesitant to believe Lewis could be punished yet again. It was pure luck he'd been convicted of doing anything to her.
"They will." Barba nodded. "And for now, he's in for the next fifteen years. You can start to put it behind you." He was careful with his words.
Olivia crossed her arms tightly over her chest to keep the emotions in. It was so much for her to handle all at once, the incredible relief, the lurking pain.
"I'm trying." She replied quickly.
"You will. After enduring everything you've gone through this past year, I'm sure you have the strength to overcome it." He offered a hand on her shoulder, and she stepped into him to hug him.
It lasted a long minute before she said what she needed to. "Thank you."
As he let to of her, he smiled. "You're welcome."
He moved to leave the bedroom but turned around before stepping out. "I'm lucky to know you, Liv. I hope you know that everything I said and did during the trial was to put Lewis away. I never wanted to hurt you."
He let the words fall out in a minute of bravery.
Olivia's small smile was all he needed to see to know it was worth saying. "I know."
He left her alone then, grabbing his coat and addressing everyone in the apartment. "It's been a long day for everyone here. Thanks for the food, Brian, but I'll get out of your hair. I bet you're sick of me by now anyways." He smiled.
Munch stood up from where he sat. "I'll drive you home, Counsellor. Winning's hard, huh?" He joked.
Barba chuckled. "Seems like it."
"Cassidy. You're not a bad chef after all. You've been my best friend for fifteen years and I never knew." Munch shook Brian's hand as he stood up to show them out.
"Guess I can still surprise even you, John." Brian smiled broadly.
Olivia walked out of the bedroom, placing all the coats on the counter and then joining the group again, standing next to Brian as Barba and Munch went to leave.
"Congratulations, Liv." Munch pointed at her with a smile before both men left, closing the door behind them.
"You're not that bad of a cook, I guess." Fin commented with a chuckled as Brian and Olivia turned back to where they all sat.
"And when's the last time you cooked, Fin?" He put an arm around Olivia, both standing behind the couch.
"I cooked -" he stopped.
"That's what I thought." Brian laughed a little.
"Well I thought supper was amazing. Well done, Brian." Cragen chimed in.
"I thought so too." Nick grinned.
He was so pleased to finally have the new start he needed with Brian. Even though it had taken something so awful happening to someone both he and Brian loved deeply, it had brought them closer together.
Simon and Tracy leaned on each another, just content in watching the extended family they'd become a part of.
"Alright, Tracy, what did you think about my cooking?" Brian asked her, hoping to get a good review.
"I thought it was magnificent. Liv's a lucky woman." She replied with a grin.
"Wait, are you saying something about me?" Simon looked down at her.
"I love you whether or not you can cook." Tracy chuckled with everyone in the room.
"But I think Barba and Munch had a point. You guys have had a long day. The decision was worth the wait." Cragen stood up from his spot on the recliner.
"I know you see us way too much anyway. Thanks for supper, Brian. And congratulations, to the both of you." He retrieved his coat, swinging it over his arms.
Amanda, Fin, and Nick stood up and grabbed their jackets as well.
"It's a good day." Amanda smiled.
"It's finally over." Nick squeezed Olivia's arm gently. "You'll get through everything else."
Only Brian and Olivia could hear his quiet words. Brian extended his hand which Nick took, shaking it firmly.
"Thank you." Brian looked straight into Nick's eyes.
Nick gave him a nod. "I'm glad your taking good care of her. People really can change."
Brian had changed, but so had he.
"Yes they can." Brian took a deep breath as he let go of Nick's hand.
Behind them, Simon and Tracy were picking up tired children.
"You won, Liv. Keep your head up." Cragen gave Olivia another short hug before he left.
Fin and Amanda gave her friendly nods before they too left.
"They're good people." Brian didn't even realize he'd spoken aloud.
"I bet those kiddos are exhausted." Brian then smiled at Simon.
"I think so." Tracy glanced at a sleeping Olivia in her arms.
"Thanks for coming." Olivia walked out of Brian's arms to hug her brother.
Simon gently stroked her back, sending comfort to her very soul. "I'm glad you're ok."
He let go of her as she put a hand on Ty's head, kneeling down to kiss him quickly.
"See you next time, buddy." She smiled as Ty hugged her.
Brian shook Simon's hand as Olivia put a soft hand on Tracy's back, kissing tiny Olivia tenderly.
"Thanks for having us over, Olivia." Tracy said. "I'm happy for you."
Simon left with his wife, leaving Brian and Olivia alone again in their apartment.
"What a life." Brian sighed as he put an arm around her again, pulling her into him.
She leaned her head into him. "What a life." She repeated softly.
"You know what?" She looked up at him as he glanced down.
"What?" His smile warmed her heart.
"I wouldn't change it. I finally have my life back." She knew how odd that sounded.
Saying that an attack that had almost taken her life had, in fact, gotten her her life back might have been confusing to anyone else, but Brian understood. Facing her demons was something she'd never done. Now she'd been forced to, and she'd survived. She would continue to survive.
Brian pulled her in tighter. "I'm just glad you're back." He dropped the volume of his voice.
"I was never going anywhere." She whispered as she leaned up toward him.
After her reassuring words, she kissed him softly.
The end of the road was a long ways off, maybe even out of reach altogether. But Olivia was on her way. The best part about it was that she knew she didn't have to travel the survivor's journey on her own, and that's where she was. It wasn't just her being coached by everyone around her. They were each on that road with her, picking her up when she fell, carrying her when she felt her weight was too heavy to carry any farther.
So many people had her back. They weren't going anywhere but forward. And she walked with them, doing what she did best: living, surviving, thriving.
Thank you for sticking with this story. It was definitely a challenge to write, but I finally finished it. Thank you for your feedback! It encouraged me to keep going. Now, depending what happens with SVU, there could very well be a sequel to this. Stay tuned :)