A/N: A Post-"Undercover" story written because this episode left me with such a bad feeling, I just had to write it out of my system.
Elliot walked into Precinct 16 with smile on his face and a bounce in his step. Under his arm he carried a manila envelope, the contents of which concerned the newest 8 X 11 photo of his family; all seven members of the Elliot Stabler household in one image to ring memories forever.
The moment he reached his desk, he took out the photo and examined it within the confines of the new faux-antique gold frame that his youngest daughter had picked for him. The smile on his face grew wider as he stared at the picture in a combined state of wonder, awe and simple contentment.
Eli was getting so big. Six months had felt like six seconds and Elliot knew that in just a little while, he would be going over every nook and cranny of the house baby-proofing every inch of space in preparation for Eli's first steps. It would be just like old times.
He instinctively turned around the image to show Olivia in her desk across from him, but stopped and frowned. While her desk lamp was lit and coffee cup still steamed with its dark contents, his partner was nowhere to be found.
"Fin," Elliot said toward the occupant of the desk next to his. "Where's Liv?"
"Dunno," he said. "She said she needed to go to the crib for a minute. I think she had a late night here last night."
Without another word, Elliot sped
for the "crib" that had served as a makeshift bedroom for nearly all
"Liv?" he called as he reached the door to the crib. "Liv, you up here?"
Instead of her voice, Elliot was answered by the sound of a gasp that was unmistakably Olivia's.
"Olivia?" he said stepping into the room. "Liv? Liv, what's wrong?"
"I'm fine, Elliot," she said.
Her face looked oddly puffy from rubbed as she continued to brush tears away from her cheeks and the bruise that ran along her jaw line seemed darker than the previous day.
"You're crying," Elliot said. "What's wrong?"
"It's not what you think it is. Just give me five minutes and I'll be fine."
He could see her hands shaking and she began rubbing her own arms to steady them. There was no way of telling whether she was lying to him or attempting to make the words sound true to herself, but Elliot had known his partner far too long to accept "I'll be fine" without further pressing.
He wanted to allow some words of wisdom to float in the air, but no wise words came to him. The only plausible move he could imagine was to simply get her out of the room; allow her stop burying every emotion with several gasps and a few tears and get some release before the emotions released themselves.
"C'mon," he said. "Let's go."
"No...I don't want to go anywhere and I don't want to talk about it."
"I just want to get some air. C'mon."
"For Chrissake Elliot! He didn't rape me, okay? He came close, but he didn't. Why can't you just let me have my moment and let it be done?"
He stared at her wanting to respond, but knowing it was not the time. "Okay."
Instead of leaving, as was his first intention, Elliot sat on the bench between the lockers and watched her, his eyes flowing with concern so deep he struggled to maintain it. Olivia turned away from and started to shake her head.
"God, Elliot," she sighed. "I can't cry like I need to with you sitting there staring at me."
"Then don't," he said. "If nothing happened, why won't you talk about it?"
"There's nothing to talk about. He came at me with his dick and then Fin came. That was it. I had a nice long rest last night since I knew he was serving at least twenty, I'm not re-living anything that went on down there and my jaw is almost fine. I don't need to talk about it."
"In that case...why this." He motioned to her shaking form. "If it's not him, why do you need this moment?"
They locked eyes for a second and she shrugged and shook her head again.
"I don't know...It's nothing. It's everything. It's...it's the past year of my life."
She looked like she wanted to say more and Elliot moved away on the bench, offering her a place to sit.
"No, she said. "I don't wanna...I just...I don't need to..."
Her voice faded and Elliot stood.
"C'mon," he said. "Let's get some air."
They drove in silence for nearly an hour, Elliot not sure of where he was going and not sure what to do say or do with Olivia in her state. When it appeared that they were reaching the end of what he knew as civilization, Elliot spotted a small church just to the side of the road.
"C'mon," he said. He felt like as if he had been repeating the phrase all day.
Olivia glanced at the building. "Elliot, that's a church."
"I know. C'mon. It looks like the sanctuary's open."
He walked ahead of her with a stride that suggested he had planned every step of their journey and eventually took a seat next to her in one of the wooden pews near the back of the church.
Despite its appearance from the outside, the church sanctuary was quite cavernous and, with a stout man at the keyboard toward the front of the church clearly playing within his own spirit, Elliot and Olivia held the church to themselves.
The pair sat in the pew not speaking to one another for close to twenty minutes. Just as Elliot was beginning to think that the excursion had been a bit rash, the musician paused and glanced at them.
No one moved for a full a minute, but finally the musician turned back toward the keyboard and began playing the hymn "The Lord is My Light."
The LORD is my light and my salvation...
Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the strength of my life…
Of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked,
Even mine enemies and my foes...
Came upon me to eat up my flesh...
They stumbled and fell.
Olivia broke his momentary reverie with a chuckle.
"You know," she began. "I'm surprised I didn't burst into flames the moment I walked through the door. I haven't been inside a church since I was seven."
"It's okay," Elliot said. "God never forgets who you are."
She chuckled again. "Sometimes you surprise me, Elliot."
"Because," she said nudging him slightly. "You can be simultaneously rational and irrational."
"Church is irrational?"
Olivia sighed. "When you've seen what you've seen...when you see all the horrors this world has to offer...you can still wake up every Sunday and pay homage to a god who supposedly created all 'this'?"
"Yes. That's what faith is."
"Really...So, how does this all work anyway? Does the burning bush come down from the ceiling or does Jesus just randomly appear at that altar up there?"
He nudged her, trying, unsuccessfully to keep from smiling at her sarcasm. "In essence, you pray to the Mother of God, who prays to Christ for our sins, who appeals to God to forgive us."
"Sounds like an awfully long game of telephone. How do you know the message doesn't turn from 'God send me a new house' to 'God send me a blue mouse?' "
"That's what faith is," he repeated confidently.
Olivia rubbed a hand over her face as she shook her head to smile and sigh. The smile faded quickly, though, and Elliot could sense her defense mechanism of sarcasm was running thin.
"So," he said. "Your moment. Why did you need it?"
"Like I said...it's...I don't know."
"It's everything," he said.
"Everything like what?"
"Like...like...like I was almost raped a couple days ago. A man who had every intention of tearing into me for a long as he wanted almost did it. "
"I thought you said that wasn't it."
"It's not...but, it's something and something is a still apart of everything."
"Yes," Olivia said. "Everything. Everything like...I'm going to be thirty-nine this year. Thirty...nine and I've got nothing. No children, no family, no soul-mate.
"And, it's not just that either. Last night, I slept well and, by well, I mean I slept for a full four hours before waking up in a cold sweat."
"What's keeping you up?"
"Everything. If it's not...the sound of crunching metal a something collides with Kathy's side of the car then it's that look in Cooper's eyes before she pulls the trigger against her head. Or, if it's not that, I keep remembering the good old days when we used to spend nearly every second of the day together, but now...you're a new dad and that loneliness that just seemed to disappear whenever you were by me just crept back into my life like it never left."
The music still emanated from the keyboard at the front of the sanctuary, but it did not manage overtake the silence that was left when Olivia had stopped talking. Elliot sat with his mouth slightly gaping, not sure how to begin responding or if he even should.
"And then," she continued
after a minute's silence as if she had never paused. "After I wake up, I
just keep thinking and thinking about how I'll never know my father and how I
can't even make time to see the half-brother I've got. Or...or how my heart
stopped beating after Picard hit you and I saw you go down. Or...facing that
Tears were now streaming down her eyes and she squeezed her knees in an attempt to quell the shaking in her hands. Elliot slowly reached toward her and intertwined her fingers with his. The shaking did not stop, but her breathing that had been becoming increasingly agitated started to calm.
The music at the keyboard changed keys and began to press a slow and graceful "Our God is an Awesome God" and Elliot continued to hold Olivia's hand.
He was not sure how long the song had been playing before he could feel one of Olivia's fingers tapping lightly against his with the slow rhythm of the music and the desire to say something, anything, to her overwhelmed.
"Olivia...I don't pretend to know why things happen the way they do. But, as much as you say it's irrational or just a crock, I know, Liv, I know, God works in mysterious ways."
"So, it's God's will that I can't be happy."
"No. I have no idea what God's will is, but I know that when you have faith that a salvation lays waiting for you, it doesn't matter how much you see. Faith in God tells you that peace will come. Probably when you least expect it."
She smiled. "That's the best you've got? Peace and salvation?"
"That's what Jesus promises in the Bible."
"I don't know...somewhere in the back."
They both laughed and she squeezed his hand harder.
"I don't know Jesus like you do, Elliot."
"We had very different upbringings. It's okay. Growing up I used to hear it: If you lean on God, He'll take care of you."
She nodded, but let a minute's silence pass between them before she spoke. "Well...since, I don't know this God of yours, can I just lean on 'you' for a little while? Maybe then some of your faith will rub off on me after a bit..."
He said nothing, but let go of her hand to place his entire arm around her to envelope her completely. She found his free hand with her left and squeezed it tight as the music of the church seemed move in time with Elliot's heartbeat.
Neither knew what the next day would bring, but for that moment, while hand in hand, sitting in the small church, an hour away from where faith-testing work and heartache lay waiting, both knew that the other was at peace.