DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SERIES: Part of the Holiday Shorts series.
Holiday Short - Memorial Day
Olivia smiled as Alex padded barefoot into the kitchen. "Good morning, sunshine."
Still groggy from sleep, Alex attempted to smile. "Morning."
Olivia picked up the mug of coffee she had just poured and handed it to Alex, who accepted it gratefully, along with the kiss Olivia gave her. The ADA took a sip of coffee and her smile looked a little more sincere. "Better morning now," she said. Olivia chuckled to see, that even half asleep, Alex could still smirk with best of them.
Alex looked curiously at the detective. "What are you doing up so early? Isn't today a holiday?"
Olivia nodded. "Yeah. I thought I might pay Coop a visit this morning before the traffic gets crazy."
Olivia stopped by the flower cart and purchased a bouquet of white calla lilies, tied with a red and blue ribbon, with a small US flag nested in the middle of the bundle. Then, she made her way through the gates of the cemetery toward the headstone marked 'Benjamin Archibald Cooper'.
As she approached Coop's grave, she met a couple who looked to be in their sixties. They nodded cordially to Olivia as they walked in the opposite direction.
Olivia located the grave and laid the flowers at the base of the headstone. She swallowed the lump in her throat and said, "Happy Memorial Day, old man. You know, you coulda warned me that one-eyed Jack was a bottomless pit."
She spent a few minutes pulling up errant, long blades of grass around the headstone belonging to the man who was probably the closest thing she would ever have to a father. As hard as it had been to lose him a few months earlier to a sudden, massive heart attack, she was glad that he had been able to live out his days in his own apartment with his beloved cat, just the way he had wanted. His greatest fear was that he would become a burden, but Olivia only wished he knew how lucky she felt to have him in her life.
As she made her way back toward the cemetery gates, she found the couple she had met earlier, standing as if waiting on someone.
The man eyed her curiously and smiled. "Excuse me, but are you by any chance Olivia?"
Shocked, Olivia stopped in her tracks, speechless. He continued, "I'm sorry, but I couldn't help but notice that you visited Benjamin Cooper's grave. And you do look a lot like the pictures."
Olivia frowned, still confused. "Pictures?"
"Of Ruth." He shook his head. "It really is uncanny."
"Ben's sister." Then the man stared at her a moment longer before he realized that she had no idea who he was. "I'm sorry," he said again as he extended his hand. "I'm Joe Hamilton and this is my wife, Jean. My Aunt Mary and Ben's sister Ruth were "
The light dawned on Olivia. "Oh. Yes. Olivia Benson," she said as she shook the man's hand. "Coop or Ben, I guess always told me I reminded him of his sister, but I never saw any photos."
"This is just amazing that we found you," the woman said. "We had hoped to be able to look you up, but all we knew was the name Olivia and that you were a police detective. As much as he talked about you, he never told us your full name." She nudged her husband. "Go get the box." She turned back to Olivia. "It's not much, but we wanted you to have it. Mary never had any children and Ben thought of you as his daughter, so we wanted you to have the photos and few things Mary had that were Ruth's."
Joe spoke up again. "Thank you so much for being there for Ben. He was lucky to have you."
Olivia swallowed another lump. "I was the lucky one."
Jean chattered on. "We used to call him every Sunday, just to check in with him since he didn't have any family close by. Then when he died so suddenly, we weren't able to make it all the way from Sacramento for his funeral. Then we realized that we didn't know how to find you. And now, here you are!" The woman seemed giddy with the fact that they had 'found' Olivia. She nudged her husband again. "Joe, go get the box!"
Her husband walked over to a waiting taxi and retrieved a small box from the back seat. Jean explained to Olivia, "We brought this with us today with the plan to find a police station near where Ben lived with the hopes that we could locate you. And now, here you are!" She repeated her earlier phrase. "It just tells me it was meant to be."
Joe walked back over to Olivia and handed her the small box. Olivia opened it and saw several old black and white photos, some letters and other memorabilia. She picked a photo out and held it up. It depicted two women, one dark-haired and one blonde standing side-by-side smiling for the camera. Olivia couldn't help but note that she did bear a striking resemblance to the dark-haired woman in the photo.
"That's Ruth and Mary in 1953. See how much you look like her?" Jean asked. The older woman reached in the box and pulled out another photo of the same two women, slightly younger, with a handsome man in an army air-corp uniform. "And this is Ruth and Ben and Mary just before he shipped out to go to war."
Olivia could recognize the eyes and charismatic smile of her old friend Coop standing between the two women, an arm draped around each young woman's shoulders. Ruth was looking at her older brother with pure admiration.
Olivia shook her head and looked at the older couple. "I- I really can't take this."
Joe looked at her warmly. "But you must. Ben would want you to have them. You were his family."
Olivia looked back into the box and picked up an envelope that had 'For the Fountain' hand-written on the outside. The envelope was sealed, but she could hear coins jingle inside. She looked questioningly at Joe.
"That was for the Trevi Fountain in Rome. Aunt Mary and Ruth always had a dream of throwing those three coins in that fountain in the hopes that they would someday be able to get married. I guess they were a little ahead of their time. Unfortunately, Ruth died before they ever got to make the trip."
Jean shook her head sadly. "I wish I could have known Ruth. Aunt Mary talked of her so often, I feel like I did. I can hear her right now telling a story of one of their adventures and then laughing and saying, 'She was a sight, my baby Ruth.' I used to bring her Baby Ruth candy bars just to see her face light up like that."
Olivia swallowed yet another lump in her throat and blinked back tears. Joe reached in his pocket and pulled out his wallet. He handed her a business card and said, "You go through that box, and if you have any questions, we'll be glad to try and answer them."
Olivia retrieved one of her cards from her own wallet and handed it to Joe. "Where are you staying while you're in town?"
"We're at the Marriott Marquis on Broadway. We splurged. It's our 40th wedding anniversary this week."
Olivia smiled. "Congratulations. All the more reason we'd love to take you to dinner while you're in town."
"That would be wonderful," Jean said. "If it's not an imposition for you and..."
"Alex." Olivia said. "I guess you could say, if I'm Ruth, then she's Mary."
The Hamilton's both smiled. "It was meant to be," Jean said.
Olivia re-entered the apartment and was immediately greeted by a loud half-meow and half-yowl. The big orange and white tabby cat circled her ankles and looked up at her with his perpetual wink as he yowled again.
"I guess you're ready for breakfast, huh, Jack?"
Alex's voice called from the kitchen. "Don't fall for it. I've already fed him and given him a handful of kitty-crunchies."
Olivia chuckled and made her way to the kitchen. She put the small box on the table and walked over to give Alex a kiss before enveloping her in a full body hug.
A little surprised, Alex returned the hug and then after a few moments, pulled back slightly, surprised to see unshed tears in Olivia's eyes.
"Are you OK?"
For the fourth time that morning, Olivia swallowed the lump in her throat. "I'm great."
"Are you sure?"
"So what's up?" She glanced at the box Olivia had put on the table. "What's in the box?"
"You'll see, but first I have a question for you."
Alex looked a little skeptical. "OK," she answered a little hesitantly.
"How would you feel about a trip to Rome?"
Alex's chin almost hit the floor. "Italy?"
Olivia smirked. "Well, Rome, New York, wouldn't exactly be a honeymoon would it?"
Alex stared. "Back up. What are you talking about?"
Olivia smiled. "You know that Coop left us money for a 'honeymoon' right?"
"Yeah. But, we aren't married."
"So? We'll take the honeymoon first."
Alex looked at her for a moment. "Did you just propose?"
Olivia laughed. "I guess I did." She kissed Alex again. "Did you just say yes?"
Alex grinned. "I guess I did." They kissed again and then Alex pulled back to look curiously at Olivia. "Not that I'm complaining, but, why Rome? I've never heard you mention it before."
Olivia smiled. "I've got three coins to throw in the Trevi fountain. And some things were just meant to be."
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