Upon request, here you are. I had to fudge the details of Tucker's exit a bit so it wasn't, uh, an exit…
Oh, and also, Noah's the correct age.
One shot only then back to my beloved AU. Short, sweet, to the point. Long Live #Tuckson!
A cold September rain streaked the apartment windows, and a red box in the upper corner of the television screen kept a real-time tally of global and domestic Covid cases and deaths. Olivia held her coffee mug with both hands and dreaded heading out into the rain and into whatever work had in store for her and the squad that day. She stifled a yawn in order to avoid Ed noticing her fatigue even though she was sure the dark circles under her eyes were obvious and only partially obscured by makeup. The entire city and most of the country had ground to a halt, but police business did not stop. No stranger to controversy and the tension between politics and justice, Olivia nonetheless felt unsettled and uncertain about the relationship between law enforcement and marginalized groups. The path forward was fuzzy, and she simultaneously worried about the safety of herself and her detectives while agonizing over the tragedies that had occurred at the hands of police officers. Adding to the stress and uncertainty were Covid-related concerns. Though there were some lighthearted moments-Fin, for example, perpetually wore his mask upside down-Olivia, at times, felt like she was in charge of a bunch of intractable, absent-minded middle schoolers. On the homefront, she hated that Noah, who had finally started blossoming socially, was not able to start Kindergarten in a traditional way; yet, knowing Ed was acting as his teacher, warmed her heart and eased her nerves.
While she finished her coffee and prepared to leave, Ed got Noah ready for "school." He changed into jeans and a polo shirt, brushed his teeth and combed his hair, and sat down at the desk which they'd relocated from his bedroom to the small dining nook. The space was a little cramped, but it afforded Ed the use of the dining table or the kitchen island to work the puzzles he'd been assigned as part of his rehabilitation. Each morning when Noah practiced his letters on his own, Ed tackled a crossword. When Noah had math work, Ed opened his Sudoku book. After lunch, the duo donned masks and ventured outside but only after Ed checked in with the doorman and was certain they would have either the rooftop or part of the block to themselves.
"I'll see the two of you later," Olivia said as she slung her bag over one shoulder. She hugged and kissed Noah and grinned when he gave her a semi-curt goodbye and adjusted his grip on his pencil. "I'll let you get back to your work, sweet boy."
Next, Olivia kissed Ed and gently touched the scar on the side of his head. Now that his hair had grown back, it was barely visible, but she inspected it every day. "Don't work too hard," she said.
"I won't," Ed replied, "But Noah here...we're gonna do a little science today. States of matter."
"States of matter?"
"Yeah, liquid, solid-"
"-I know what they are. I didn't know they were part of the Kindergarten curriculum."
"They are now."
Olivia grinned and patted his chest, "I look forward to the debrief later," she said and kissed him again. "Bye. I love you."
The drive to work no longer resembled a weaving, jerking, cacophonous battle with other vehicles. If Olivia hit all or most of the green lights, what used to be a twenty minute commute now took half the time. The streetscape was a blur and it seemed like she was being propelled downtown in her own personal chute. The only sounds were sirens and the occasional clang of a utility truck. With not much else to occupy her mind, Olivia's thoughts drifted to the past few months and how her life had been upended, twice, since January.
The only gut punch worse than meeting Ed's fiancee had been when he told her about the cancer diagnosis. The headaches and dizziness he'd been experiencing during his last few weeks on the job weren't the result of mounting anxiety about retirement or his upcoming marriage. In the middle of the Gary Wald case, he was being shuttled from specialist to specialist and, finally, to one of the city's best neurologists who concluded surgery was Ed's best shot at living a normal life. The tumor was neither large nor aggressive and, as far as cranial procedures went, was ideally located. Olivia knew all of these details because she had been by Ed's side during each and every one of the appointments. As the accusations against Gary Wald unfolded and Ed increasingly came under suspicion, his fiancee lost faith in him. The questions she asked, though valid, were laced with airs of doubt. Though Ed's name was cleared, the trust he thought they shared had been irrevocably shattered. One night, with the trial and surgery on the horizon and his engagement over, Ed showed up at Olivia's apartment, awash with bourbon, anguished, and broken.
The next morning Olivia took Noah to preschool, called Fin and told him she would be in a few hours late, and went right back home to Ed who was nursing both a hangover and the painful tumor. Every unspoken word between them came tumbling out. Ed admitted he was confused and furious after Olivia broke off their relationship so much so that he refused to contact her even though he desperately wanted to beg for a second chance. Olivia apologized and tearfully confessed how scared she'd been to let herself fall in love and immerse herself in the elusive happiness she'd always craved yet couldn't quite accept. She'd hurt him. Torn him away from Noah's life. She felt and regretted the void immediately, yet she put her head down and soldiered on.
"I'm going to be here for you," she promised that morning. "During the surgery. After. Let me take care of you, Ed. Everything else, nothing else matters right now but you getting better. Let me do this for you."
"And if it ends up...the worst case scenario?"
"It won't," she said assuredly, "We'll fight it. Together. Like we should have been doing all along."
Ed didn't look convinced.
"Remember this?" Olivia went to one of her drawers and found a small album of Paris photographs she'd put together after their trip. It was filled with shots of them smiling in each other's arms in front of all the tourist stops and the picturesque Seine. "This was us. And it can still be us."
"Liv, I can't ask you-"
"-yes you can. And you're not the one asking. I am."
From that point on, Olivia undertook the role of caregiver. She used vacation days in the aftermath of Ed's surgery, had his essential things moved from his apartment to hers, and watched him like a hawk. She accompanied him to follow up appointments and oversaw his rehab and physical therapy. At night, she instinctively woke up every hour or so to make sure he was still breathing, still alive, still with her. When the residents of the city went into lockdown, she wondered aloud if Ed should go back home since she was going to work each day. He refused. It had only been a couple of weeks ago that they went over to his place together and were able to crack macabre jokes about how it appeared the occupant had either bolted or been forcibly taken away while he was in the middle of things. A newspaper was open on the coffee table. Bourbon had reduced to a gooey layer at the bottom of a tumbler. A load of laundry was sitting in a wrinkled heap in the dryer.
Though the threat of the virus still loomed, there were rumors and rumblings that the city would soon begin to loosen restrictions. Olivia wondered what that would mean for the three of them. To any outside observer, the goings-on in the Benson apartment had all the markers of family. Aside from the scar and some occasional fatigue, Ed seemed like his old, normal self. He'd even pouted a little when Olivia drew the line of intimacy at sex even though Ed's doctor had given him the green light. She was still too apprehensive, so Ed exercised all the patience he could muster. Lovemaking, or, the lack thereof, aside, all was well. Work was too quiet and Olivia fretted about what was happening behind the doors closed by Covid, yet she learned to slow down, delegate, and trust the others when she couldn't be there. They had all stepped up, and she was confident they would do so again if need be.
Seconds after she parked the SUV, Ed called. Olivia answered right away. "Hey," she said, "Everything okay?"
"Yeah, we're good. Just wonderin' if you want chocolate or strawberry cake tonight."
"States of matter," Ed replied.
"Oh, I see. In that case, strawberry please."
"That's what I figured you'd say but I wanted to make sure."
Olivia could practically feel him smiling against the phone. God, she'd missed him. "I can't wait," she said, "Hopefully it'll be an early night."
"I hope so, too."
A few hours later Olivia swore to herself she would never end a call that way again. It was bad luck, a jinx, and always resulted in the exact opposite of an early night. Minutes, literal minutes, before she grabbed her bag and headed out, a call came in from the 911 dispatch center. A child was on the line and describing a man attacking his mother. He was hiding under a bed in their apartment, but he was too young to tell them exactly where he lived. In a scene reminiscent of so many others, SVU and a swarm of officers and specialized teams sped to the general location. The child was somewhere in an enormous apartment building. Once out of their SUVs, Olivia and the others looked up with desperate, despairing eyes. There must have been a thousand units looming above.
As she marched inside, Olivia barked orders. She grimaced and tugged on her face mask. It was far too risky and also against policy to take it off, but she was tempted. The pliable strip of metal positioned across the bridge of her nose fit snugly, but, as her adrenaline pumped and blood flowed, her entire face swelled a bit and the piece pinched uncomfortably. At least in the office she could remove the mask, but here, surrounded by dozens of officers, many of them shouting commands of their own, ditching the covering wasn't a possibility. They went floor-by-floor, following Rollins who was tracking the phone's signal, and finally found the likely unit. After a three-hour standoff, the man surrendered and the woman and her son were rescued.
"You want me and Kat to go to the hospital, Liv?" Rollins asked.
"No, no, I need to go," Olivia replied.
"She's refusing," Kat said.
"I don't blame her," Rollins replied.
Olivia made a split-second decision and started walking in the direction of where the woman was standing. "Tell the on-call nurse at Mercy we need her at the precinct," she said to Rollins and Kat.
"Liv, that's not gonna hold up in court," Fin warned.
"We're in the middle of a pandemic, Fin," Olivia shot back, "We're going to make it hold up in court."
"Call the chief at least?" Fin asked.
"Yeah, yeah call him," Olivia said. "And call Carisi.
"What about the kid?" Rollins said, catching up with them, "He might need separate representation in family court."
"How 'bout the Chief's friend?" Fin suggested. "Edgar?"
"Good idea," Olivia muttered, "He could use some redemption. Rollins? Nurse on her way?"
The sky was signaling dawn when Olivia finally trudged into the apartment. Ed jumped up from the couch and helped her out of her damp raincoat and held her waist as she kicked off her boots. Exhausted, she fell forward, into his arms. He held her close for a minute but then gently set her at arm's length.
"Still got the mask on," he said in a gentle, hushed voice.
"Oh, shit," Olivia peeled it off and tossed it aside. Suddenly reminded of how exposed she'd been all night, her stomach twisted in a knot and she stepped farther away from him. "Let me go shower real quick, okay? I'll be right back."
"I'll be here."
Ed turned off the television and neatly lined up the two remote controls on the coffee table. He was pleased with himself for the state of the apartment-Noah's toys were all put away in their proper places, his desk was organized, and both Olivia's dinner and the rest of the strawberry cake were in the kitchen though he was certain she wouldn't want to eat. As promised, she reappeared quickly dressed in a baggy t-shirt and cotton shorts. Her damp hair was swept back in a clip. She sat down beside him and narrowed her eyes when she noticed Ed scrutinizing her.
"I look like hell," she said, "I know."
"You don't. It's just…" Ed reached over and gently ran his finger from one side of her nose to the other along a dark, purplish line that had formed, "You got a bruise here."
"From the mask," Olivia sighed, "It was killing me all night."
Without another word, Ed took her head in his hands and brought her face close to his. Carefully and tenderly, he kissed every section of the bruise. Olivia's lips curled into a relieved, satisfied smile and she closed her eyes. Ed repeated the trail in reverse, more slowly this time, until he felt Olivia tremble and her breathing become shaky.
"Hey," he whispered, staring intently into her eyes, "You alright?"
"Yes," she replied, "It hit me just now...the whole night, whenever I got tired or frustrated...I pictured you here, waiting for me...and I was so...relieved. And here you are, coming off brain surgery and you...you're worried about a bruise."
"I can go through hell. But not you. Not ever again."
She managed a smile.
"Seeing you with one bruise is worse than the tumor."
Olivia couldn't help but let out a little laugh.
"And it covers up those freckles," he started kissing her again and smirked when she gasped, "Can't have that. I really can't stand that."