Chapter One


“I still can’t believe you won it.”

“Believe it.”

“Nobody really wins it.”

“Apparently somebody does.”

“It’s not fair. I used to put in for it every year and just stopped this year for the first time.”

“Too bad…so sad…I still won.”

Olivia could hear Elliot’s locker door close softly and sensed that he was smiling at her as she sat straddling the bench that ran parallel to the lockers. Her gaze, however, remained fixed on the congratulatory paperwork in her hands to keep from giving him the satisfaction of knowing how flustered she became when he changed shirts in front of her.

The in-house courier, Laura, had delivered an envelope to the floor that evening and had said it was urgent for Elliot, but she could not find him. Olivia, knowing that Elliot was coming to the end of his evening workout in the gym, went straight to the lockers closest to the SVU crib hoping to catch him before he left for the night.

As she had expected, he was still glistening from the weight room when she stepped into the small room. He had had a small towel draped across his shoulders, but had used the neck of his muscle shirt to wipe a bead of sweat from the tip of nose instead.

“Did we get Byroms’ confession to Grayleck yet?” he had asked.

She had nodded and they continued to chat about Ian Byroms who had been a menacing presence for young women on the Hudson University campus for the previous two months, but had finally confessed to his crimes earlier that same afternoon in their interrogation room.

Their conversation had turned into a light banter when Olivia began to suggestively recount how quickly Byroms confession came after she had stepped out of the interrogation room to take an urgent phone call from a victim who had only said it was urgent because she just wanted to get Olivia on the phone and talk to “the only person who really understood” for a few minutes.

Elliot had winked at her following the suggestion that he might have had a hand in Byroms rapid confession in her absence. “All in a day’s work.” It was only then that he inquired about the brown inter-office envelope in her hand; the urgent letter had been forgotten the moment Elliot’s toned body had come into view.

He had asked her to read the letter to him while he changed his shirt and, determined not to stare at him, Olivia put a false indignation at Elliot’s prize as she focused on the letter.

 “A trip for two…seven days and six nights in Hawaii,” she said, shaking her head at the letter in her hand. “You know, I’ve entered that contest every year since the day I joined the FOP.”

“And to think I entered on the only Lodge 2-10 meeting I’ve ever gone to.”

“You’re one lucky bastard, Elliot. I’ll say that.”

He laughed as he took the envelope from her, now fully dressed. “Not that lucky. Kathy and I probably won’t be able to go.”

“Why not? You have time coming up and the trip isn’t for a few weeks.”

“Yeah,” he sighed. He looked at the paperwork in his hand and nodded for her to follow him back into the squad room. “I’m not worried about the time. It’s the same problem that always comes up whenever Kath and I try to plan a vacation for just the two of us.”

Olivia stopped in her tracks as her eyebrows came together. “When was the last time you and Kathy took a vacation with just the two of you?”

“My point exactly. They’ve always been good kids, but anytime we even breathed the word ‘babysitter,’ they argue about it to the point where Kathy and I have stopped trying to take any time for just us.”

“Well, the twins are older now. I’m sure they could take care of themselves for a little while.”

His lips pulled into a smirk as he continued down the corridor, shaking his head.

“Seriously, Elliot,” Olivia said when she caught up to him. “You’re going to let a free vacation go to waste just like that?”

“It’s not just like that. There’s no way we’re gonna leave them to…to throw a house party every night of the week or worse while we’re gone.”

Olivia watched him fall into the chair at his desk in a huff. “You don’t honestly think Dickie and Lizzie would start throwing parties at the house. I mean, they may be kids, but I’m sure they know they’d get caught before the music even had a chance to get too loud.”

“I wouldn’t expect Dickie and Lizzie to do that, but Dick and Elizabeth, both fifteen going on thirty…Who knows? Besides, they’ve already seen how to get it done from Kathleen and Maureen’s shining examples.”

“I wouldn’t call a few kids hanging out in your backyard when Kathy had to work late a party, Elliot.”

“It wasn’t the kids. It was the empty bottles littering my lawn. You out of here, John?”

Munch appeared in the squad room wearing his trench coat and a sarcastic expression that betrayed the apparent anger in his stride.

“Did I hear right?” he asked. “You won the Hawaii trip this year?”

Elliot sighed. “I just found out about it a couple minutes ago.”

“You don’t even go to the FOP meetings.”

“I went to the one before last and figured ‘What the hell?’ How’d you find out about it so fast?”

“I have my sources.” Munch shook his head. “Well, you’re one lucky bastard, Stabler.”

Olivia grinned from her side of the desk pair. “See? Told ya.”

Elliot laughed. “It doesn’t matter. I still have to run it by the wife and figure out what to do with the kids for a week before it’s even a possibility.”

“Well, if you can’t go…” Munch took a forward step. “There’s no point in letting free trip go to waste.”

“I’m sure I could find a way to make the tickets pay off some favors I owe a couple people. Besides, what were you planning to do if you’d won?”

“Just take some time to lie out on the beach and let my skin burn for a little while before taking some nice relaxing swims in the ocean while I dodge the sharks and the sting rays. You know. Normal vacation things.”

“And, who were you going to take?” Elliot asked.

Munch stared at Elliot for a moment and then glanced at Olivia. Liv?”

“A free trip to paradise for a week?” Olivia said, shrugging. “I’d go with Satan himself.”

“Close enough,” Elliot snickered.

Munch kicked the leg of Elliot’s chair. “I only joined the lodge so I could enter that and you win it…unbelievable.”

“It was all a conspiracy, John,” Elliot said. “I’ve got an in with the people who do the drawing and I’ve been slipping them all twenty bucks a year to make sure they never draw your name.”

“Yeah, well, I hope you get second-degree burns from the sun and a tidal wave knocks out everything the second your plane lands.”

“Aw, now you’re just being spiteful,” Olivia said.

“Spiteful? Me? No, spiteful would be wishing for third-degree burns and for the tidal wave to hit while the plane was still in the air.”

Elliot flung the brown envelope at Munch who dodged it easily and waved goodnight to them.

The quiet in the squad room suddenly seemed very loud and Olivia cleared her throat as she caught herself staring at Elliot.

“So, seriously,” she said. “What’s the game plan for you and Kathy because I know you’re not going to give up that trip on whim?”

He leaned in his chair and balanced the small stack of paper across his chest. “The problem’s not really the twins. I mean I trust my neighbors enough to keep an eye on the house for a week while we’d be gone. I just don’t trust the twins with Eli.”

“Well, don’t they take care of the baby every now and then anyways?”

“Yeah, two hours there. Three hours there. Never a seven full days by themselves.”

“I suppose even a hip babysitter is out of the question.”

“It would take a bribe to make the twins even hear us out. A big one. Not to mention just finding someone who could take all three for a week.

“All-day daycare and two teenagers? Good luck with that.”

“Nah. Eli’s at daycare for most of the day. But, there’s no way I’m comfortable with leaving him with the twins. They’re just not ready.”

“I thought Maureen was your default babysitter for Eli though.”

“Not so much lately. She’s been putting in heavy hours at the law library and only picks him up from daycare as a favor to me and Kath once in a while.” Leaning the chair back to its original position, Elliot tossed the paperwork on his desk and sighed. “Always one more thing to stress about.”

Olivia went silent and continued to stare at the pencil holder on Elliot’s desk, though her eyes were barely focused. Her thoughts whirled like a cloudy haze over her eyes to the point that she nearly jumped out of her chair when Elliot spoke again.

Liv?” he said. “What’s on your mind?”

“Well, just…no, it’s nothing.”

“No, seriously. What’s up? You look like something’s bothering you.”

Olivia pursed her lips and glanced at him once, but let her line of sight fall onto the mess of paperwork across her own desk.

“Well,” she began. “I could…I mean…No, never mind.”


“Well…I doubt I’d be able to handle all three, but I could probably look after Eli for a week…if you couldn’t find anyone else.”

“You’d watch Eli for a week while Kathy and I went to Hawaii?”

“Yeah…yes. I could watch him. I mean, obviously he’d still have to be at his daycare during the day, but I could leave here early…around seven or so and then get him afterward.”

Elliot sighed. “I couldn’t ask you to do that, Liv.”

“You’re not asking. I’m offering.”

“I don’t want to disrupt your life like that.”

“Ooh. Disrupt my great, big social life.”

“I’m serious, Liv. Eli can be a handful.”

“I can take care of him for week, Elliot. And, I can even drop by the house and make sure Dickie…Dick and Elizabeth aren’t burning down the house. That way, they get to believe they’re slightly independent and the baby still gets watched at night.”

He sighed again. “I’ll run it by Kathy, but I don’t want to inconvenience you.”

“You wouldn’t be doing that and I’d really like to just have him for a little while. The only times I get to see him are for random drive-bys if I drop you off at night. It would be nice.”

“Can your place even be remotely baby-proofed?”

“Sure,” Olivia said, leaning in her own chair. "Well…all except for that twenty-inch sword I’ve got lying across the floor in case of emergency…and then all those keys I’ve got stashed near all my electrical outlets for safe keeping and the nails and thumbtacks I just leave scattered across the floor and the edges of my end tables I’ve filed down to nice points so sharp they slice my shins when I walk by them and the-”

“All right, all right. I got it.”

“Honestly, Elliot,” she said, smiling. “I’d love to watch him for a week.”

Elliot stared at her for a long time before a grin pulled across his face. “I’ll talk to Kathy about it and we’ll get back to you, but at this point you’d be our last resort if we couldn’t think of anything else and were out of options.”

“As long as Aunt Liv knows her place…”