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 - Veterans Day
Olivia picked up the two coffees she had just ordered and returned to the table they had lucked up on in the bustling coffee shop. She placed one cup in front of her companion and took a seat in the chair on the opposite side of the small table. Bright blue, smiling eyes looked back at her from across the table.
"This should warm us up," the detective said with a smile.
An arthritic hand reached out for the cup. "I'm sure you have better things to do than to have to deal with such a old man, Olivia, but thank you."
"You're welcome. And just for the record, I really enjoy spending time with you, Coop."
Benjamin Archibald Cooper, known as 'Coop' to his friends, lived on the bottom floor of Olivia's apartment building. A veteran of World War II, the spry 92-year-old had no family nearby, lived alone except for a one-eyed cat named Jack, and simply adored Olivia Benson. The feeling was mutual, and they now had a tradition of attending the annual Veterans Day parade together for the past seven years.
Coop smiled his infectious smile at Olivia. "You know how much I love spending time with you, Olivia, but I'm sure you'd rather be spending time with your friend Alex instead of an old codger who's old enough to be your grandfather."
Olivia looked surprised. "How do you know about Alex?"
He chuckled. "I'm not that hard of hearing. I've heard you mention the name a few times. I'd love to meet him one of these days."
"Well, I'm sure that can be arranged." Olivia hesitated for a moment trying to remember what she had told Coop about Alex. She was certain she hadn't discussed her romance with the ADA with her elderly friend, so she saw no reason to let him continue thinking Alex was a man. "But, Coop, Alex is a woman."
He looked surprised for an instant and then smiled again, his eyes crinkling as he chuckled quietly. "You mean to tell me it's another woman that makes your eyes light up like that?"
Olivia was speechless for a moment. He didn't seem to be offended, but he wasn't of a generation that was as openly accepting of same-sex relationships as today's generation. She didn't want to lie to him, but she didn't want to make him uncomfortable either. "What makes you say that?"
"I may be old, Olivia, but I'm not blind. You light up like a Christmas tree when you talk about Alex." He seemed to sense her discomfort and reached across the table to place his hand on hers. "All the more reason I'd like to meet her." Olivia visibly relaxed causing the old man to smile again. "You were worried I wouldn't approve?"
Olivia shrugged. "Not everyone does."
He withdrew his hand and tilted his head as he seemed to study Olivia. "You remember I told you that you reminded me of my baby sister Ruth?" Olivia nodded. "Well, I never told you that Baby Ruth had a best friend named Mary. She was a nurse." He paused as if remembering. "And she was the light of my sister's life. Those girls were like two peas in a pod. They did everything together. Called themselves roommates, but those that were close to them knew there was more to it than that." Then his smile faded a bit. "Mary took care of Ruth when she was her sickest. No one who has ever openly pledged 'in sickness and in health' could have done any better for Ruth than sweet Mary." He took a shaky sip of his coffee as he reined in his emotions.
Olivia knew that Coop's sister had died young of breast cancer, but he had never mentioned Mary. "What happened to Mary?"
"She died about ten years ago. She moved to California shortly after Ruth's death to be closer to her nieces and nephews. We exchanged Christmas and birthday cards every year for thirty-two years. She was like another sister to me." He smiled fondly. "I've never thought you had to share blood or have a legal document between you to claim someone as family."
Olivia swallowed the lump in her throat and nodded as she replied, "I couldn't agree more."
"I may be in the minority these days, especially for my generation, but I also don't think you can control who you fall in love with. You can control whether or not to act on it, but you can't control the feeling itself." He seemed to be on a roll as he continued, "And I don't know for the life of me why anyone would want to keep anyone else from marrying the person they love."
His voice had gotten louder as he spoke and a woman at the next table looked their way and frowned. Olivia glared back at her and she quickly directed her attention back to her own table. Coop continued, "Hell, if you and Alex want to get married, I'll even spring for the wedding." He nodded a self-satisfied nod and looked eagerly at Olivia.
"Whoa, slow down there, old man," Olivia replied with a laugh. She couldn't help but be amused by his eagerness. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves here."
He chuckled. "Well, my offer stands. And I don't mean to rush you, but at my age, you better not wait too long."
Olivia rolled her eyes. "You do realize that we can't actually get married in the state of New York, don't you?"
"And that's a damn shame. I sincerely doubt that I will, but I sure do hope I live to see the day that you can."
The woman, who was obviously eavesdropping on their conversation, stood up to leave and stopped next to Coop. Noticing his Proud to be a Veteran button, she huffed. "I would have expected better of you. I can't believe someone your age could condone such sinful behavior, and a veteran no less."
Coop looked shocked and amused at the same time. "Nice of you to join us. And what the devil does age have to do with it?"
The woman huffed again. "I would expect such thinking from the younger generation, but you sir, should be ashamed."
Coop's bushy white eyebrows skyrocketed. "Ashamed of what?"
"Did you not take an oath to defend this country against all enemies foreign and domestic?" She gestured to Olivia. "This type of person should be considered a domestic enemy for trying to break down the morals of this country."
Coop slowly stood up and raised his right hand. "I, Benjamin Archibald Cooper, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God." He lowered his hand as the entire shop had quieted to listen. "Last time I read the U.S. Constitution, there was nothing in it stating that any two people who love each other should not be allowed to get married and live happily ever after. In my opinion, the true domestic enemies are those who seek to take away the rights of others and pass judgment when someone disagrees with their own misguided views."
The woman looked stunned and somewhat embarrassed when she realized all eyes in the coffee shop were on them. "Well, I'm certainly entitled to my opinion."
Coop nodded. "You most certainly are. And so am I. Thank you for helping me to make my point."
A guy over by the window called out, "Hey, lady, it is Veterans Day, why don't you thank the old man for fighting for your right to express your opinion."
The man at the table beside them started to clap, and soon the entire shop had broken out in applause. The woman huffed one last time and made a hasty retreat to the exit. Coop sat back down and the coffee shop slowly returned to its normal buzz of activity.
The old man gave Olivia a sheepish look. "I hope I didn't embarrass you."
Olivia grinned widely. "Are you kidding? I couldn't be more proud."
He smiled. "So I didn't just ruin my chance of you ever introducing me to Alex?"
That brought on a laugh. "I'm pretty sure when Alex hears about this, she'll be clamoring to meet you."
"Good. I can't wait to meet the woman I'm going to give you away to," he said with a wink.
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