It was December 23rd and the annual Christmas party at the one-six was in full swing. Cheery holiday music was blaring out of someone's IPOD speakers, competing with all the voices discussing their various holiday plans. Trays of hors d'oeuvres and cookies littered the desks, along with a punch bowl full of eggnog. Someone had even drawn a picture of Santa and his reindeer on the white board they usually used for posting the most recent information about their cases. Everyone was glad for a night off to forget about the horrible things they dealt with day in and day out and to just be able to enjoy the holidays.
Nick and Barba were having a heated discussion over whether the Giants or the Jets were going to go further in the playoffs this year. Amanda, who had already had a little too much of the eggnog, was throwing darts haphazardly at the dart board with Tucker's face on it which someone had hung as a joke. Fin was singing along to the music, belting out the lines he knew particularly loudly while making up the rest of the words as he went, as well as retrieving Amanda's errant darts. A few of the unis had started a game of beer pong in the interrogation room. Cragen had a Santa hat on his head and was circling the room, introducing Eileen to everyone. They had just stopped to have a conversation with Melinda. The only person not enjoying herself was Olivia.
Olivia stood quietly off to the side clutching her untouched cup of eggnog that someone had poured for her. She watched everyone else's happiness with a bittersweet half smile on her face. This should have been the best Christmas ever for her but it was shaping up to be nothing but a huge disappointment. She had married the love of her life, Brian Cassidy, in May. And sure they had spent an amazing Christmas together in the Bahamas 2 years ago, but this year would be their first Christmas as a married couple. And Olivia had had so many plans: a huge brightly decorated tree (a first for her), baking cookies, ice skating at Rockefeller Center, hosting a party at their apartment for all their friends. Most importantly, Olivia had an extra special gift for Brian this year. But Brian was missing it all. Against both of their wishes, IAB had put him deep undercover 2 months ago and aside from a few hurried phone calls Olivia had not had any contact with him since he left.
The only thing getting her through the past month was Tucker's promise that the case would be closed before Christmas and Brian would get to come home. So even if she did have to sacrifice all the fun they would have had preparing for the holidays, she would at least get to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day with Brian. But all that changed yesterday when Olivia got a text from Brian's burner phone. When she closed her eyes she could still remember exactly what it said.
"Liv, Case is taking longer than expected. Won't be home in time for Christmas. Sorry. I'll make it up to you…promise. Love you always! –Bri"
Olivia quickly brushed at the tears she could feel forming in the corners of her eyes, preventing them from spilling out. She would not make a scene here in front of her colleagues. As she brought her arm back down to her side she absentmindedly let her hand rest on her stomach for just a moment. But just as quickly she removed it when she saw Munch heading her direction.
"Olivia Benson, you are not on duty and you have not even touched your eggnog. Don't tell me married life has turned you into a teetotaler."
"No, John. Eggnog's not really my thing. And it's Olivia Cassidy now, remember?" Olivia replied as she turned and set the offending cup on the nearby desk.
"Oh right, my mistake. Speaking of that husband of yours, where is he? Nobody misses these parties. Not even me, and I'm retired. And Jewish," Much joked. He was about to make another crack about his old partner when he saw the look on Olivia's face.
As the first tear started to roll down her face, Olivia turned and ran out of the squad room toward the restroom, leaving Munch with a perplexed look on his face.
"What did I say," the former Sergeant muttered.
Amanda who had noticed Olivia's hurried exit from the party handed off her darts to Fin and chased after her. When she got to the bathroom she saw that Olivia had locked herself in a stall.
"Liv, it's Amanda. Are you ok?" The young blonde detective asked.
"Go away. I just want to be alone. I shouldn't have even come to this stupid party," Olivia answered between sobs.
"Come on Liv. You've been miserable since Brian left. You deserve a night of fun. And he's supposed to be home by tomorrow, right?"
"Not anymore," Liv mumbled as she opened the stall door and came out, her face puffy and blotchy.
The sight of the distraught Olivia was enough to make Amanda want to start crying too. "What do you mean, not anymore?" Amanda questioned her.
"Apparently the case wasn't as easy to close as they thought it would be so Brian's not going to make it home for Christmas. I got a text yesterday. A freakin' text! Not even a phone call because that might compromise the case!" As she spoke her voice was slowly rising until she was yelling at Amanda. "Never mind that this Christmas was supposed to be special; our first one as a married couple. And now I'm all alone and…" she trailed off.
"And what?" Amanda asked.
"Never mind," Liv mumbled. She needed to be more careful. That was the second time tonight she had almost revealed her secret. Taking a few deep breaths to calm herself, Liv continued, "I just wanted this Christmas to be amazing, that's all. And now it's not." She let out a defeated sigh and walked past Amanda to the sinks to splash some cold water on her reddened face.
"Liv, you know you can still celebrate Christmas when Brian does get home even if it's a few day or even weeks late. Christmas isn't about a date, it's about being with loved ones and showing them how much they mean to us," Amanda offered.
Olivia turned and gave Amanda a small half-hearted smile as she dried her hands. "Thanks for trying to make me feel better. It means a lot."
"No problem. That's what friends are for. Now promise me you'll join Fin and Nick and I on Christmas for dinner instead of spending it alone. I know it won't be the same as being with Brian but I promise it will be entertaining," Amanda said with a laugh. "And I won't even expect you to bring anything."
"I'll think about it," Olivia responded. "I was invited to Brian's mom's house too but it might be awkward to go there alone. So we'll see. Now let's get back to the party. I think I might be in the mood to throw some darts at Tucker's face now."
At that remark, a huge grin spread across Amanda's face and the two detectives walked out of the bathroom laughing. As they returned to the squad room, Fin made his way over to them. "She ok?" he said in a voice low enough only Amanda could hear.
"She's fine," Amanda whispered back. She continued in a voice loud enough for them both to hear, "Now give Liv those darts. She has some anger she needs to work out."
The dart playing continued for about a half an hour as the party carried on around them. And for those few brief moments Olivia was able to forget her problems and enjoy a little holiday fun with her friends. She even got one dart square in the middle of Tucker's right eye which elicited cheers and high fives from Fin and Amanda.
After the dart playing Olivia mingled for another hour or so with her friends and before she knew it the party was starting to die down. The beer pong had ended with Officer Jones being declared the ultimate winner and most of the other officers taking cab rides home. The food was almost completely gone. And the music had shifted from loud upbeat numbers like "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "Jingle Bell Rock" to quieter soulful songs like "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "The Christmas Song".
Barba, Munch, Melinda, and Cragen & Eileen had all already left and Olivia was getting ready to say her good-byes as well when the first notes of Bing Crosby's "I'll Be Home For Christmas" started to come through the speakers. Knowing that it wouldn't be long before the tears were streaming down her face again, Olivia shrugged her coat on and quickly grabbed her purse out of her desk drawer. Walking past where Amanda, Fin, and Nick stood in a huddle she briefly stopped and said, "Well I'm heading out. Merry Christmas, guys. Amanda I'll let you know what I decide. See you all in a couple days."
If any of them noticed the waver in her voice, they didn't say anything.
"Already? You're gonna miss Santa," Fin joked.
"I am willing to take that chance. He can't bring me what I really want this year anyway," she said in a defeated tone.
The two male detectives exchanged a puzzled look while Amanda shot them a look with her eyes, indicating that she would explain later.
"Liv, you sure you don't need me to give you a ride home?" Nick offered.
"Nah. I'll be fine," she replied, just trying to get out the door before she broke down again.
"Merry Christmas Liv," Fin called after her.
"I'm calling you tomorrow if I don't hear back from you," Amanda yelled. "I'm not letting you out of this. I definitely need some more estrogen at this dinner."
The three friends watched her retreating form for another moment. Nick briefly considered running after her to insist she accept his ride offer and even started toward the door when he felt Amanda's hand on his forearm.
"Let her go Nick. She'll be fine. She just needs some time alone."
When Olivia reached the elevator, she opted to take the stairs instead, not wanting to have to wait and give her friends time to chase after her. She just needed some time to herself. As she walked down the several flights of stairs the tears started and continued flowing all the way to the front entrance of the precinct. When she reached the door she realized that it has begun to snow.
Seeing the snowflakes fall softly to the ground brought a small smile to her face. She and Brian both loved the snow. He had even proposed to her in the middle of a snowstorm; just remembering it gave her tingles. And she knew if he was with her tonight they would have left her car at the precinct and walked home just so they could enjoy the snow together. She briefly contemplated walking anyway, but decided it wouldn't be as much fun without Brian by her side, and headed across the street to the lot where her car was parked.
It only took the entire ride home for Olivia's sobs to slow to an occasional sniffle. She didn't care what Amanda said, this is not how she wanted to be spending her first Christmas as a married woman. Not when she had waited 40 some years for this moment and certainly not when she had the most amazing surprise ever to share with Brian.
Once back at their apartment Olivia immediately removed her heels, letting her sore feet sink into the plush carpet, and headed back to the bedroom to remove the rest of her clothing. Taking off her black knee-length skirt, nylons, and slightly baggy green silk shirt, she replaced them w/ a tight cami, leggings, and one of Brian's zip-up NYPD hoodies. She sat down on the edge of their bed to pull on a pair of fuzzy socks. When she had finished she sat there for a few moments with her hands resting on her tiny baby bump. Here, alone in the privacy of her own apartment, was the only place she didn't need to hide her pregnancy.
She had found out she was pregnant a week after Brian went undercover. She couldn't say she was totally surprised; they had been trying. Although given her age she had thought it would take a little longer. But when she saw that tiny plus sign her heart had nearly burst with excitement over the prospect of telling Brian about the baby. Then she remembered that she had no way to contact Brian and she shed the first of many tears. She cried again a week later when she went to her first OB/GYN appointment alone and the doctor confirmed that she was indeed pregnant, about 8 weeks, and yet again last week at her appointment when Brian missed out on hearing his baby's heartbeat.
No one other than her doctor knew about the pregnancy yet. She wanted Brian to be the first to know. But a 2 minute phone conversation just didn't seem like the way to reveal such important news. However if Brian didn't come home soon that might be her only option. She could only hide her ever growing bump for so long. Finding clothes to conceal it was getting harder and harder. And honestly, she worked with detectives. She was surprised none of them had picked up on it yet. Between the morning sickness, the no coffee and alcohol, and the loose fitting clothing, she thought it was a dead give-away.
Although it was only 11:00, Olivia decided she might as well go to bed. She was exhausted from having been on her feet most of the day and it wasn't like she had anything better to do. At least when she was asleep she didn't think about Brian. She dreamed about him, but they were mostly happy dreams. Maybe she'd just sleep through the next 2 days and wake up when Christmas was over. That would certainly be easier than spending the entire next 2 days fighting off all the tears and emotions, she thought.
She folded back the covers on their bed and was just about to go brush her teeth before she climbed in bed for the night when she heard a knock at the door.
"Who could that be at this hour?" she wondered out loud. "I hope Nick didn't follow me home to check up on me."
As she made her way to the front door the knocking continued.
"I'm coming, I'm coming," she grumbled. She stopped briefly to zip her hoodie up over her belly before looking out the peekhole to see who was disturbing her.
What she saw through the hole was not Nick Amaro, as she had suspected, but a man in a Santa Claus suit holding a bag of what Olivia could only assume were presents. Puzzled by the appearance of this jolly elf at her door, Olivia cautiously opened the door. "Um Santa I'm pretty sure you have the wrong apartment."
The man in the Santa Claus suit took in the sight of the beautiful woman in front of him and just shook his head.
"No, really," she tried again. "There are no children here to deliver presents to. And besides, aren't you a night early?"
Santa Claus remained silent and just pointed at Olivia.
"Are you saying you have a gift for me? Did my squad send you? I am going to kill them. I'm sorry to be rude but I really just want to be left alone."
The man continued to stand outside her door, making no indication that he was going to leave.
She tried again. "Listen, the only thing I really want for Christmas isn't the kind of thing that can be delivered in a giant bag," Olivia said as she hung her head. "I'm really sorry they wasted your time."
As she went to close the door the man stuck his foot out in attempt to stop her.
Wow, this guy really is persistent, she thought. It was only when she looked back up, about to give him a piece of her mind, that she saw him start to pull the beard down and she realized she recognized that face. Those eyes, that smile, the small scar on the right side of his chin.
"Bri…" Olivia let go of the doorknob and took a step back as a million thoughts started swirling through her mind.
This had to be a dream. She had read that text message over a hundred times. Brian wasn't coming home for Christmas. Yet here he stood not 2 feet away from her with that adorable smirk on his face that could make her heart flutter every time she saw it. Her breathing became quicker and she felt her knees starting to buckle beneath her. The room began to spin and everything slowly turned to black.
Just as she was about to hit the floor, Brian dropped the bag, pushed his way through the door, and grabbed her in his arms. He gently lowered her to the floor. Her eyelids fluttering she stared up at her husband kneeling next to her in the ridiculous red suit.
"It's ok Liv, I've got you," he said as he rubbed her back.
She blinked a few more times as she slowly propped herself up with one arm.
"Easy there." Brian offered his other arm and helped her to a sitting position.
"Am I dreaming? Because if I am, please don't wake me," she told him.
"This is no dream Liv," he replied as he pulled the beard completely off and leaned in to plant a kiss on her lips. The kiss began to deepen as Brian's hands slowly roamed over Olivia's body and up into her shoulder-length dark hair. Caught up in the moment, Olivia allowed herself to get reacquainted with her husband's body, feeling the contours of his arms and back. It was only as his hands started to make their way back down toward her chest and abdomen that she suddenly pulled back. She had waited so long to share this special news with him. She didn't want him to find out while they were sitting on the floor, in the doorway to their apartment.
"Liv, what's wrong?"
"Nothing. I just think we should continue this somewhere else a little more private. Perhaps the bedroom?" she said with a coy smile.
"I like the way you think, Mrs. Cassidy," Brian said with a slight chuckle.
Brian stood up from his place in the floor and reached out his hands to help Olivia up as well. Once he was sure she wasn't going to pass out again, Brian released her hands and turned to bring the bag of gifts inside the apartment and lock the front door. As he turned back around Olivia immediately grabbed his hand again. She had waited 2 months to feel Brian's touch against her skin and she had no intention of letting him go any time soon. They walked back to their bedroom, Brian's right hand holding onto Olivia's right hand, while his left hand was wrapped protectively around her waist. As they walked he planted gentle kisses on the side of her head.
Brian noticed as they passed through the living room the obvious lack of Christmas decorations. He saw she hadn't even bothered to put up a tree. Brian remembered how excited she had been about the prospect of decorating their apartment together and he felt a small twinge of guilt. He momentarily pushed it aside, promising himself they would accomplish everything on Olivia's Christmas bucket list tomorrow even if it meant they had to stay awake for 24 hours straight to get it all done.
Once in the bedroom, Brian pulled Olivia around to face him. With his arms wrapped tightly around her he resumed kissing her as they slowly backed toward their bed.
"Oh Bri…," Olivia gasped. "I missed you so much." A lone tear started to make its way down her face.
"I missed you too Liv," Brian said as he cupped her face in his hands, wiping the tear away with his thumb. "It killed me to not see your gorgeous face every day. To not feel your body pressed up against mine when I woke up in the morning. To not hear your beautiful voice or your infectious laugh. And to not be able to tell you how much I love you."
As their kisses grew in intensity and urgency Olivia worked frantically at removing the pieces of Brian's Santa suit. The jacket dropped to the floor first. She briefly stopped and traced her smooth fingers over the scars on his chest. They would always serve as reminders to her of how close she had come to losing him and how thankful she was that after 13 years apart their paths had crossed again. If she was honest with herself, the only true regret Olivia had in her life was that they hadn't been able to make it work the first time; that one mistake had cost her so many amazing years with Brian.
Next she loosened the belt and his pants joined the jacket in a pile on the floor. Pressed up against her in only his boxers Olivia could feel that Brian was becoming aroused.
"I think we need to hurry and catch you up," Brian growled in her ear as he reached to unzip her hoodie. Once again Olivia broke the kiss and stepped back.
"Wait. This isn't how I want to do this."
At Brian's confused expression she continued, "I bought something special to wear for your homecoming. Give me a minute to quick get changed."
"Liv,I just want you out of your clothes, now." He gestured toward his growing erection. "It doesn't matter what you're wearing," Brian whined as her reached toward her hoodie again in an attempt to remove it.
"I promise I'll only be a minute," she said with a laugh. She grabbed lingerie out of her door and sauntered toward their bathroom shaking her hips as she walked.
"You know you are literally killing me right now," he called after her. Brian flopped down on the edge of the bed and removed his boots and socks while he waited.
Three minutes later Olivia emerged from the bathroom wearing a long flowing black silk robe over a lacy red and black camisole and panty set. "Ok I'm ready," she said with a cheeky grin as she slowly made her way back over to the bed.
She grabbed his hand as she climbed onto the bed and pulled him to the center of the bed with her where they knelt facing one another. She leaned in and planted a soft kiss on his lips. He immediately pulled her closer and deepened the kiss, their tongues dancing together in a release of passion that had been building for the past two months. The kissing continued for a few minutes before Brian started to slide the robe off of Olivia's shoulders. Once her bare skin was exposed he switched his attention to her neck and shoulders. Slowly he peppered kisses down her body towards her breasts. He noticed they were looking particularly perky tonight. He was about to cup one in his hand and take it in his mouth when he glanced downward and noticed the slight swell of her abdomen.
All at once his world came to a screeching halt as he took in the unbelievable site in front of him. He released his hold on her and slowly raised his head. Looking deep into Olivia's brown eyes he saw more joy and happiness there than he had ever seen in her before. And the grin on her face was brighter than the tree at Rockefeller Center. It was enough to make his heart melt.
She gently reached out and grabbed his hand, placing it on top of her little bump. "Merry Christmas, daddy!" Olivia said with a chuckle.
"We're having a…. How long have you…. When it is…. Why didn't you…," Brian tried without success to put together a coherent thought as he gently ran his hands over her swollen belly. He carefully lifted up the bottom of her camisole exposing the tight tanned skin of her midsection and just sat silently for a few minutes taking it all in. Then he leaned forward and placed a tiny kiss just above her belly button.
"I love you baby Cassidy," Brian whispered, finally managing to put together an entire sentence, as he sat back up and again gazed at his beautiful wife.
Olivia just laughed at him as she planted another kiss on the tip of his nose. She then pulled a mesmerized Brian toward the top of the bed, both of them leaning back against the headboard. Brian removed one hand from his baby and wrapped it possessively around Olivia while the other hand remained rubbing small circles over the bump.
"Yes, Brian we're having a baby," Olivia started, finally answering all of his jumbled questions. "I found out the week after you left. He or she is due at the end of May. I didn't tell you because it didn't seem like the kind of news you should hear over the phone. And I have another appointment in 3 weeks. We should be able to find out the sex then, if we want. And you'll get to hear the baby's heart beat. Oh Brian, it's the most amazing sound you'll ever hear."
As Olivia spoke she got more and more excited and Brian couldn't help but chuckle at her enthusiasm.
"Liv, I'm so sorry I wasn't here for all of this. I can't believe I missed so much of your pregnancy. The pregnancy test, the first doctor appointment, the morning sickness. Man, I missed the whole first trimester," Brian said, his voice cracking as he spoke.
Olivia placed her hand on top of Brian's. "But you're here now," she said with a wistful smile. "And believe me, consider yourself lucky you missed the morning sickness. It was no picnic."
"Yeah but I should have been here to hold your hair back and rub your back; to help you back to bed and get you ginger ale and crackers." A few tears started to form at the corners of Brian's eyes as he spoke. "I'm sorry I'm letting you down already, little one," Brian continued, directing his words at Olivia's stomach now. "Some father I'm shaping up to be."
"Hey, don't you dare talk like that Brian Cassidy," Olivia scolded as she climbed onto this lap, straddling his legs. "You are going to be an amazing father and our baby and I are both incredibly lucky to have you. So I don't ever want to hear you question yourself or your parenting abilities again. It wasn't your fault you were away from us and we both know that." She leaned forward and gently kissed away each of his tears.
"Thank you Liv. For saying that. And for giving me the most wonderful Christmas present. I wish I had something as amazing to give you."
"Are you kidding me? I think you played a pretty big part in the creation of your Christmas present," Olivia said with a laugh. "And you being here tonight is the answer to all my prayers. I'm still not even sure how this is real."
"I'll explain later. I promise. But right now I'd really just like to make love to my beautiful wife. We have been apart for far too long and we have some pretty amazing news to celebrate," Brian said with a low growl.
His lips once again joined up with hers as he pulled her body flush against his. All their pent up desires and emotions were released like a rushing flood as they made love for the first time in months.
Several hours later, Olivia lay happily wrapped in Brian's warm embrace, sweat glistening from both their bodies, their sheets a tangled mess. Brian's free hand had once again found it way to Olivia's baby bump. He loved the feel of his wife and his baby resting in his arms. After all he had missed in the past few months, even letting go of them for a few seconds felt like too long.
They had made love three times so far. The first time was urgent and frantic; raw animal sex powered by their longing for each other. No amount of closeness was close enough for them. Olivia left a trail of red raised scratch marks on Brian's back while she had a few small bruises forming along her neck as a reminder of the bites he had bestowed on her. She would need a scarf tomorrow for sure. And their passion filled screams surely woke the neighbors but neither one of them cared.
The second time was a little slower as they took the time to pleasure every part of each other's bodies; each one striving to meet the other's needs completely. Brian paid particular attention to the spot on Olivia's inner thigh that drove her absolutely wild, lavishing it with kisses. Olivia, in turn, sent Brian over the edge when she sucked on his earlobe as she manually pleasured his manhood. By the time he plunged inside her they could barely contain themselves.
And the third time was gentle and sensual. By this time they were both exhausted but Olivia still needed to feel Brian inside of her a little longer, which he was more than happy to oblige. When he finally pulled out, Olivia had let out a contented sigh and rolled off of him, settling into her current position.
They lay in silence for a few minutes when Olivia finally worked up the nerve to ask the question she has been tossing around in her head since he first appeared in her doorway. Her words were so quiet Brian could barely make them out. "Are you home for good Bri or do you have to go back tonight?" she asked, as she traced small circles on his chest with her finger.
The sadness in her voice broke Brian's heart. He hated what she has been through because of his job. He removed his hand from her belly momentarily, placing it under Liv's chin instead. He lifted her face so she was looking directly into his eyes when he answered her.
"I promise you, I am home for good Liv."
The hesitant look that had been on Olivia's face was immediately replaced with a huge grin. And her heart that moments before had been beating out of her chest, slowly returned to a regular rate and rhythm.
"When I texted you we thought the case was going to end up going longer but some things changed and we were able to wrap everything up today after all. So as of 8:00 tonight I was officially no longer under cover. I thought about calling you right away but I decided I wanted it to be a surprise. I stopped long enough to pick up the Santa suit and a few Christmas presents for you and then raced right here. I was hoping you'd be home from the squad Christmas party when I got here. I'm not sure I could have waited any longer to see you," he finished with a chuckle.
"What would you have done if I hadn't been here?" she asked him.
"I guess I would have let myself in with my key and waited," he replied.
"So I would have walked in at 10:30 at night to a creepy Santa Claus just lounging on our couch," Olivia replied with her classic eyebrow raise. "You know I carry a gun, right?"
"Nah, I probably would have ditched the Santa suit and just been lying naked in our bed," Brian teased, causing Olivia to smile.
"Oh I love you so much Bri," she said as she buried her head in his neck.
"I love you too Olivia," he replied, placing a quick kiss on the top of her head. "Now you'd better get some sleep. I think I may have worn you out tonight and we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow."
"Can't we just stay in bed all day? Have a little repeat of tonight," she pleaded.
"Oh no. We have a month's worth of Christmas fun to cram into 48 hours," he told her. "I am going to give you the Christmas you've always dreamed of Liv."
"You don't have to do that Bri. Having you here is enough."
"Yeah, I do. It's the least I can do for the mother of my child after all I put you through these past months. Now no more protesting; get some sleep. Good night Liv." Brian kissed the palm of his hand and placed it on Olivia's rounded stomach. "Good night baby."
"Good night Bri. We love you," Olivia replied as sleep slowly started to overtake her. Within minutes her breathing had slowed and Brian could tell she was asleep. He pulled her a little closer to himself and within minutes he too had drifted off to sleep, both of them resting better than they had in months.