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She stood there staring at the back of the SUV until the tail lights faded off in the distance. She felt Elliot put a hand on her shoulder and guide her back to their car, the reality of the last few minutes sinking in and becoming completely overwhelming. She knew there were tears streaming down her face, faster than she could catch. There was no point in wiping them away as more would just come. Her occasional sobs surprised even herself. She was the strong one, the solid one, the one who could look the chaos and insanity of the world in the face and never break. But now was different. Now she was broken, and she didn't quite understand why, but she knew she'd never be able to get all those pieces back together again.
Elliot opened the passenger side door, and as she started to slide in, she noticed it. A white envelope resting on her seat. Plain and simple, with nothing but 'Liv' scrawled across the front. She picked it up and sat there with it in her hands, staring at those three small letters in a print she knew well. She couldn't open it. She truly didn't know what it would say, but all the emotions flowing through every ounce of her body stopped her from doing anything but staring, turning it over and over in her hands in wonder.
As Elliot got in to the driver's side, he saw Olivia's gaze intensely focused on the envelope and knew his partner needed encouragement to break the seal. He'd never seen her like this before. He prayed that he'd never see her like this again, that whatever was in that envelope could ease her pain in a way he knew he never could.
"You gotta open it Liv. She must have fought hell and high water for them to let her see you. You have to know that she..." could he say it? Not yet. "Look, just read it."
Olivia looked at him then, picking up on the lack of an 'us' in his statement. She'd fought to see her. Not them, but her.
She ran her finger under the lip of the envelope and pulled out the letter. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes. She knew everything she wanted it to say, but she also knew that Alex had just left, so every one of those words would be the sweetest, saddest things she'd ever read. She heard the car start and Elliot began to drive in silence. She slowly opened her eyes, unfolded the pages and began to read:
Where do I even begin? I can't let them take me away without one more chance to see you. I don't know why, but I know right now it is the most important thing for me to do. I also know that if I convince them, they might give us a whole 30 seconds together before it's deemed "too dangerous" so I wanted to put everything down in writing. And if I don't see you before, I'll get you this letter. Someday, somehow, you'll be reading this, and I know if it's tomorrow or if it's in 3 years, I'll be wishing I was there with you.
You saved my life Liv. In a thousand different ways on a thousand different occasions, starting with the day that I met you. But most importantly, you have to know that the night I was shot, you saved me then too. I heard your voice the whole time, on the sidewalk, in the ambulance. I heard your sweet, stubborn voice cursing at the doctors as they pulled you away from me in the hospital. God I didn't want you to go. I can't imagine what you've been going through. I know how your mind works and I know you're drowning in the guilt and responsibility you're carrying for everything that happened. But please Liv, let it go. There was nothing you could have done that night except for exactly what you did. You were there for me, and you let me see you. The real you. The love, the hurt, the fear that you keep inside. I couldn't respond, but I saw it all, in those beautifully deep brown eyes of yours, and I knew.
So... How did we manage to be so oblivious? So stubborn perhaps? Life is a funny thing sometimes, and love... well that's even more of a mystery. Our jobs, the things we see every day, how do you let someone else into that world. Maybe that's why we didn't see it. We were so intimately involved in each others worlds, that our first reaction was that our closeness, our intensity, was just because of the nature of our relationship. But God Liv, it is so much more than that.
I didn't realize it until this morning when I woke up in a safe house, flanked by US Marshall who were re-planning my life. My life is being torn away from me, everything I've always thought was such a huge part of me being redone and reorganized. But it wasn't my job, or the squad that I thought about. It was you. I can't bear the idea of not seeing you Liv. You have this amazing ability to look into my eyes and see my soul. Every thought, every feeling, they're all there for you. I can't hide them from you, and the scary thing for me is that I never even wanted to. I've never let anyone into my heart like that before, and I don't know how or why it started with you, but all I know is that it is the most right, most comforting and most loving part of my life. Sometimes I think you know me better than I know myself. And I don't know how I'm going to survive without that contact... without the looks, and the small gestures, and the silent communication that truly makes my life complete.
How do you fall in love with someone you've never even dated? Never kissed? There are so many things about you that I don't know, but now that I have to leave, I realize that's the only regret I really have. That I might not get the chance to learn everything about you. Your hopes, your fears, your dreams. The chance to hold you, and be held by you. I know you don't open yourself up to many people, but I know you, and I know that every new thing I learn about you would make me fall in love with you even more. You are the most amazing person I've ever met. Smart, strong, and the most compassionate person ever to walk these crazy streets. You care about people in a way that doesn't come natural to many. You fight for what and who you believe in, in such a way that it makes everyone who comes into contact with you feel instantly safer. But I know what it does to you, how you invest so much of yourself into others. I want to be there for you, want to be the one who can help you replenish those bits of yourself you've given out to the rest of the world. I want to be the one that's there for you, and now I have to leave, and I don't know how to resolve this conflict inside of me. I want to live, but I want to live with you in my life. Who would have thought there'd come a time in my life when I couldn't have both? It's unfair. Why did it take so long for me to realize this?
But honestly, as I'm sitting here writing all this out, I'm also wondering if you might not feel the same... and that scares me. Maybe it's just your nature that makes me think you care about me as more than a friend. I don't want to believe that our feelings aren't mutual. And honestly, as I'm getting ready to leave, I can't let myself believe it because my feelings for you... it's the one true thing I have to take with me. It's the one thing no one can take away from me. And it'll be the one real thing I'll hold on to until I come back to you. I will come back Liv. I can't be me, without you.
Hammond just walked in and told me they're finally going to allow me to see you. Apparently they just sent a message to Cragen. I don't know what I'm going to say or how I can possibly tell you everything I want to. That I love you. That I'll miss you more than anything in the world. God, I hope you can see it in my eyes Liv. Like every time before, when I can't get the words out or don't know what to say, I pray that you can look into my eyes and figure it all out.
I remember when I was on the sidewalk, you called me sweetheart. You said, "Stay with me sweetheart..." And I will Liv. I'll stay with you, and you'll always be with me, in my heart... When I think about the chaos of what's about to become my life, I'll always be able to think of home. And home is with you.
I love you Liv, with all my heart, in every way I know how.
Olivia read the letter once more, and then folded it and slipped it back into the envelope. Her tears were still flowing, but she had the smallest hint of a smile on her face. She looked up at Elliot who stayed silent until she spoke.
And when her curiosity got the best of her, she had to ask. "Did you know? Could you see it?"
"Yeah we could see it. You two complete each other. It always seemed like you both just needed a *little* more time to realize it. I'm sorry. She's alive, and that's amazing. But still... I'm sorry."
"I need to talk to her. I couldn't say anything when I saw her. I was shocked. But El...," she flipped the envelope around in her hands again. "I need to talk to her."
"How? Witness protection. She's not going to be easy to find."
"She's still in that car. All those agents are still with her. She's not in hiding yet." And Olivia pulled out her cell phone, chose a number and began to dial. Elliot quickly put a hand over her phone.
"Elliot, did you hear me... I have...," but she was choking on the words.
"I know Liv, just..." he turned the corner quickly, pulled to the corner and pointed. "Use the pay phone, just in case..."
Olivia got out, hurried to the pay phone and dialed.
"Hammond." said the voice on the other end.
"It's Benson. Look, I know you broke a thousand rules letting us know she's still alive, and we appreciate all you're doing to keep her safe now. But please, you have to let me speak to her." Olivia pleaded with the handle.
"Benson, I can't."
At the name, Alex's head shot up in the car. Hammond instantly realized his mistake, but the look in Alex's eyes told him it wasn't a mistake. He wanted her to know that Olivia was calling for her. Alex had given him the letter, asking him to do what he could to get it to her. He'd have to read it, she knew, but more importantly, she needed to get it to Liv. He'd had an officer drop it on the seat while they were saying their good byes.
"Damn it Hammond, two seconds. I just need to tell her... " She trailed off and Hammond heard the crack in her voice. He knew there was no risk. Alex hadn't even been moved yet, and didn't know where she was going. He turned and slowly handed the phone to Alex.
"Alex..." And again she didn't know what to say. After too long a pause and a sigh all she could come up with was "God, I suck at this."
Alex tried suppressing a small chuckle, but there was no point. "Three years, Liv. So apparently I suck at this too."
"I got your letter. I...I want you to know... Okay... Look, Alex, wherever they take you, I know you'll be safe and that's what matters to me more than anything right now. And when we take care of Velez, and you come back, you have to know, I'll be here. And the day you come back I'll love you as much as I do right now. Because I do Alex, don't second-guess it. Just trust it. Trust me. I love you... in that whole crazy 'in love with you' kind of way. Okay?" It all rushed out and she wasn't sure exactly what she'd just said, but she knew the feeling she had when she said it was the strongest emotion she'd ever experienced.
Alex was speechless. Her mind was running a thousand miles a minute trying to process everything her usually silent detective had just said.
"Stop thinking so much Alex... You knew it. You saw it in my eyes tonight, but I needed to say it out loud. For you, and for me. I needed to tell you."
Hammond tapped Alex on the leg and pointed at his watch. Alex regained a whisper of a voice to respond to Olivia while she could. "You amaze me, you know that? I love you too, Liv."
"I'll see you soon Alex. Dinner and a movie. I believe after all this proclaiming our love stuff, I owe you a date." She was smiling as she said it knowing she had to keep it light. Or try. They would see each other again, and they both had to believe it. She could be the strong one again.
Alex smiled again, drawing strength from Olivia's confidence. "I'm holding you to that detective. I can't wait." Hammond signaled again and she knew the call had to end. "I've got to go Liv. Big brother is about to yank the phone back. I love you."
"Love you too...sweetheart."
And as Olivia hung up the phone, she wasn't so broken anymore.
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