We have come to the final chapter of our story here! Don't worry though, there is lots more to come in the sequel "I Choose You"

Thank you for all the support and positivity! I am having so much fun writing and it has been such a great release during all these crazy times. I know my stories are AU but I gotta live out my Bensler fantasies somehow, don't I? Hahaha! Can't wait until next week's crossover! Looking for some good E/O scenes!

Have a wonderful evening!

A week later, Olivia was feeling much better. Her stitches had been removed, most of her bruises had begun to fade, her lung had healed and she was able to breathe much better. Her ribs still ached occasionally but was able to move around on her own. On this particular morning, she was heading to work...more specifically back to work. Back to SVU. She was still technically on desk duty for another week but she was so happy to return to what she considered her first home that she didn't even care. Today was only to fill out paperwork and to check in with Cragen, Fin, Munch and Elliot. But it still felt damn good to know she was headed back.

After the check in at the office, Elliot and Olivia were going to go by her apartment. It was finally considered safe to enter and she wanted to see what if anything was salvageable. Elliot's house was fully furnished and she while they did discuss making some changes to make her feel more at home, she did finally feel comfortable there. Occasionally there were reminders of Kathy but she knew her place in this family and felt the love that Elliot had for her as well as the children. She had no doubts which shocked her. Making such a big decision only 6 months in was something she never thought she would do.

But it felt so right.

In some ways, she had been part of the family long before they crossed the line from friends to lovers. She was here all the time to help before that. She didn't care if anyone thought she was crazy, that they were crazy, maybe they were. But for the first time in her life, she didn't care. This was where she wanted to be.

Pulling up out front of the Precinct, Elliot noticed James standing by the front door. He smiled, leaned in and gave Olivia a kiss on the cheek. The night before, they had talked needing to make sure they kept any PDA out of the office. Elliot had made more than one comment about it being hard to keep his hands off of her. But she reminded him they were lucky to even be given this chance so they needed to be careful.

"I'll meet you upstairs." Elliot said, she gave him a strange look and he cocked his head to the side, "Take your time."

Olivia looked back at Elliot and smiled, reaching for his hand, "Thanks."

Giving her a little wink, he exited the car, shook James' hand as he walked by and went into the building. When Olivia closed the car door behind her, she turned and saw James leaning on the hood of the car.

"Hey…" She said with a little smile, he had been a good friend and a good partner in just a short time.

James looked up at the building, "I'd say I take it personally…"

Rolling her eyes she shoved his arm, "Don't be like that. It wasn't...it wasn't you. I just...I belong at SVU." She smirked at him and whispered, "Maybe you can transfer in?"

James laughed and shook his head, "Nah...I tried SVU in the beginning. I don't know how you guys do it. I give you a hell of a lot of credit. You need to be tough as hell to not break."

"It is difficult." She whispered, "Somedays are harder than others...but I also love helping victims. Getting justice for them. Helping them start over...it's so rewarding. Of course sometimes it breaks your heart too. I guess you just have to find the balance." She said with a sigh.

"And I think you have." He looked at her carefully, "You feeling okay?"

"I'm good." She smiled softly at him, "I never really got the chance to say thank you...for going to Elliot. Even in just a short amount of time it means a lot that you were worried about me."

"Gotta look out for my partner." He said with a smile, "You know even though we aren't working together anymore...I hope we can still be friends."

"I'd like that." She said with a sincere smile, "Maybe sometime next week we can grab dinner? I'd love to get to know Christine and you could get to know Elliot."

"Sounds like a plan to me." He said walking over to her, "Go kick some ass Benson."

She smiled, leaned up to hug him and squeezed, "Thank you James. For everything."

Together, they walked back into the building and then climbed into the elevator, parting when they had to go to their respective floors. Walking onto the familiar floor, her heart sped up a bit and she felt a sense of excitement and peace wash over her. She had to bite her lip to keep the smile from her face. When she rounded the corner into the squad room, she stopped short and couldn't help but smile when she saw the large banner and all of her coworkers standing by.

"Welcome back!" They all yelled in unison and clapped for her.

Her eyes shot over to Elliot and he smiled and shrugged his shoulders. Her face flushed, she felt overwhelmed but so grateful for this place. As hard as it was some days, it was where she wanted to be most. After a few welcome back hugs and words of encouragement, Olivia walked to her bosses office. Cragen was standing behind his desk, a proud smile on his face as he pointed to his chair.

"Have a seat Detective Benson." He said, she moved quickly to her spot and she smiled at him, "How are you feeling kid?"

She took a deep breath and nodded, "I feel great Cap. Really great."

He nodded slowly, "I'm glad to hear that. But until I get the paperwork from your Doctor...you're behind the desk. No way around it."

"I understand." She said tugging at her blazer, "Cap I just...I wanted to say thank you. For fighting for this. I understood why I was transferred and I would have accepted it. But...I want to be here. I want to work and I promise that Elliot and I will both work really hard to make sure this works out for everyone."

"I know." He said with a nod, "I'm sure...there will be bumps along the way. But I trust the two of you. I know how dedicated you are to the job and I also know that you enjoy working together. We'll make it work."

A knock on the door caught their attention, "Cap?"

Don smiled, "Come in guys." Elliot, Fin and Munch walked into the room and took seats where they could, "Okay. Now that we're all here...are we all comfortable with our new arrangements? Olivia and Fin will be partnered and Elliot and John. Anyone have any problems with this?"

Olivia looked at Fin and Munch, "Are you two sure about this? It's a lot to ask...and we don't expect-"

"Todl you she'd try and argue with us about it." John said with a sigh, "I think she actually just wants to work with me."

"In your dreams Munch." Fin said with a shake of his head, "She's my partner and we're going to be a hell of a team." He held out his first and Olivia smiled and bumped it, "We're going to wipe the floor with your asses."

Don laughed, "Well it's not a competition...but I'd say you two are less likely to kill each other so you may have a one-up."

Elliot sighed and playfully rolled his eyes, "While I think I got a raw deal here...I think it's worth it."

"Can we agree that there will be no lovey-dovey talk, no heart shaped eyes thrown at each other across the room?" Munch said gesturing between Olivia and Elliot.

Fin started laughing, "Please...they were doing before they got together…"

"Good point." Munch said pointing at Fin, "Although if I'm honest...my biggest concern is that Elliot will fall in love with me. I don't want to be the cause of Olivia's broken heart…"

Fin laughed again but Olivia sighed, "I take it back...I think I'll go back to Computer Crimes after all. The people there weren't so infuriating."

Cragen chuckled and shook his head, "No chance Benson. You're staying. Turns out you're the only reason shit gets done around here."

Olivia smirked at him, "Well I could have told you that…"

"But going off of what Munch was saying...you need to keep boundaries." He said eying Elliot and Olivia, "As much as you can, keep your personal life out of the office. While IAB is allowing this...you will be watched. If anyone feels like you can't be objective...then you will be brought in again. The two of you will work alongside each other at times...but no stakeouts or time out in the field together. Unless there was some sort of emergency in which we were short staffed. But the idea is to keep you separated for safety...not just for the both of you but for all involved. Understood?"

"Yes Captain." Elliot and Olivia said together from their spots.

"Okay. Then I have some forms for everyone to fill out...we'll make some moves with desks and go from there. If along the way anyone has concerns...please be respectful of each other and discuss it with me first. We'll go from there. Any questions?" Cragen asked looking at the four of them.

"I have one." John said quickly, all eyes turned to him, "If we do get to the point where Elliot falls in love with me…should I-"

"Dear God…" Elliot said, hanging his head, "What the hell did I get myself into?"

Fin leaned in and pointed at Olivia, "My advice...tune him out. But when you can't...remember what you get to go home too."

Elliot looked over at Olivia who was smiling nervously at him, "How could I forget?"

Cragen just smiled and reached across the table to hand out the papers which everyone took. Munch continued to make remarks about Elliot falling for him but everyone paid him no mind. Olivia then went up to Computer Crimes to check in with her Captain up there and have more forms filled out and to clean out her desk. When she got back downstairs with a box of her stuff, she looked at Elliot who had moved his desk to be across from Munch's. Fin was setting up at Elliot's old desk. It felt strange for a moment, looking at his desk and seeing someone different. As she rounded the corner and put her box down on the cool metal, she felt her breath hitch in her throat. But when she looked up, she caught Elliot's eye and he smiled, letting her know he understood and that everything would be okay. And more than that...it would be worth it.

A few hours later, Olivia and Elliot pulled up in front of her apartment building. She hadn't been back since the fire and it felt strange looking up at it. It had been the first place of her own, the first place she considered home. With her Mother...she always felt out of place. And although she had lived alone, this place would always have a special place in her heart. She had been proud of herself signing her lease. Proud that she could take care of herself. A lot had happened here. She had grown up, become the woman she was here.

She had spent her first night with Elliot here…

Turning back towards him, he offered her a little smile and she could tell he sensed her emotions were running wild, "You okay?"

She nodded, trying to sound confident and sure. "Yeah...yeah it just feels a little strange."

"I get that." He said with a nod, he paused for a moment before whispering, "You know...it's not too late to say you aren't ready. I know it's a lot...and quick. I'll understand, and the kids will too."

Sighing softly, she shook her head, "It is quick. But...I'm sure El. I mean I can't imagine going to look for a new apartment when I know where I want to be in the end. I'm not saying I'm ready for marriage...but I am committed to making this work."

Elliot smiled at her and took her hand before pressing it to his lips, "I hear you. And I'm more than happy to take this step with you." He looked up at the building, "You ready to go in?"

"Yeah…" She said unclicking her seatbelt and turning to go inside, so grateful that he was beside her for this.

Together, they walked into the building and took the elevator upstairs. Olivia felt her heart pounding as they got closer to her floor. How many times had she made the trip up to this floor? Some nights so deliriously tired she practically did it with her eyes closed. She had learned that the damage had been contained to just a few of the apartments on the fifth and sixth floor. Walking carefully down the hallway, Olivia pulled out her keys and pushed the door open, hearing it creak as it opened.

Immediately she gasped, seeing the damage in front of her. Elliot had been by quickly to get what clothes he could salvage so she knew he wasn't as surprised. She felt him press a gentle hand into her back, urging her forward and. Her feet stumbled into the apartment and her head moved back and forth. The living room was not destroyed, but still had a layer of debri and ash covering it. Her throat began to close up again and she shook her head looking over at the kitchen which was not recognizable at all as she started to cough.

"Jesus…" She whispered to herself, stepping scattered items on the floor. "I don't know what I was expecting...but it wasn't this."

He could hear the emotion in her voice and he wanted to hug her, he also didn't want to crowd her, "It's...not great."

Carefully, she stepped further into the living room and kicked at the ash covered rug, "I think it's safe to say nothing is salvageable…"

"I'm sorry Liv." He whispered from his spot by the door, he saw her shake her head and he wished could have said something more encouraging, "I mean maybe we can-"

Looking back at him, she had tears in her eyes but she tried to offer him a smile, "There isn't really anything I'm attached to. It just...feels strange. This was my home. However little time I spent in it because of work...it was still my home. Mine. Mine alone."

He walked over to her and tilted her face up, he hated to see her eyes glistening with unshed tears, "Liv…"

"And…" She smiled slightly, feeling one of her shoulders lift slightly, "We...had some good moments here."

Elliot glanced around and nodded in agreement. Despite the damage he could remember every place they had made love in just a short amount of time. He remembered the night he held her after her Mother's death, when she had opened up to him. When he had held her close, told her he loved her and knew that he was ready to push the boundaries of their relationship. He understood and respected how big of a jump this was for her. The fact that she trusted him, loved him and wanted to take this step meant more to him than he could possibly explain. Yes her apartment was damaged, but she could have found her own place. She was choosing to move in with him, with his children, to face the fears she had held within her for so long.

"We did…" He whispered, cupping her face lovingly, "But...we still have those memories. I know I'll never forget them. Not a second of any of it. Plus...we'll make new memories." He saw her smile, "It doesn't matter where we are Liv...as long as we're together."

Sighing, she leaned into him and pressed her face against his chest, "This is happening…"

"This is happening." He mumbled against the top of her head, "And it's going to be good Liv. It's going to be so good. I promise."

Smiling, she wrapped her arms around his waist tighter and breathed him in. She always thought that if she moved in with a man, if she made this kind of commitment she'd be a wreck. And while there was some fear...there was more excitement. And more than that, there was hope. She felt that this was a step in the right direction and that no matter what happened…

1 month later…

Olivia felt him stirring before her mind or body could come out of her sleepy haze. The warmth of him, the solid mass of his body that would have scared most but provided her comfort and a safety net was pressed firmly against her. A smile spread across her face when she felt all of him. His need for her was ever present and something that in some ways still surprised her. Nestled here against him in the early morning, the sun barely peeking through their window, she couldn't help but feel so content. Months before she had felt out of place here, and yet now this was her home. And she had never felt more safe, more loved and more sure of anything in her life.

She felt his hand slide up and over the sheet covering her body, resting against the curve of her hip. He sighed, somewhere between sleep and being awake and rocked against her, rousing her more from her slumber. They had worked long hours the last few days and there hadn't been a lot of time for intimacy. She always thought that with the nature of their job, with the things they saw everyday, she'd shy away from sex at times. She had done just that with other partners. But Elliot...he was different. She didn't feel the need to hide from him, didn't feel the need to be afraid of her want, desire or need for him. Because she knew it was a very mutual feeling…

"El…" Her voice was so soft and laced with sleep she wasn't sure if she had actually said it out loud.

When he pressed his face against her neck and the stubble there scraped across her skin she knew she had, "Mmm...God you feel so good."

Biting her hip, she sighed and leaned back against him, feeling the heat grow between her legs, "So do you…"

Her words spurred him on, and she felt his fingers dip under the sheet and find the space where her shirt had ridden up on her abdomen. His fingers danced across the flesh there causing her to moan gently. Wherever he touched her left a trail of fire and it always led to one place. Biting back another moan, she reached behind her and pulled his face down against her neck again and he smiled against her flesh, "This okay?" He whispered softly.

She couldn't help but smile at his words. This was something he always did. Especially after that night at his house which spurred a fight. He always made sure he had permission to touch her, to love her, claim her as his own. She found it so damn endearing that she wanted to cry. It wasn't a gesture that would mean much to every person but to her she knew it was his way of telling her that he not only loved her, but he respected her. He respected her choices and her boundaries. But in this moment, he didn't need to wonder.

"Yes…" She sighed as his hand slid further down, "Dear God yes…" She felt his smile twitch against the back of her neck, "Don't stop."

When his hand slid below the waistband of her pajama pants she shuddered and cried out when he pressed his full hand against her aching core. "Damn Liv…"

She smiled and pressed her ass against him, "Well you can't expect me to wake up to that and not react…"

He chuckled again and nuzzled her closer, letting his fingers slide under the edge of her panties, "You can't expect me to sleep next to this and not react…"

Pushing herself up for more leverage, she rotated her hips against his fingers, needing more friction, "El...please."

Elliot ground himself against her backside and rubbed her gently, relishing in the little shudders and tremors her body presented, "Please what?"

She groaned when he dipped his finger inside of her, "Please...I need more. Not your fingers…" She cried out as he plunged a second finger inside of her, "Fuck...not your fingers. Please...please…"

Biting down on her shoulder, he felt her start to push her pants down over her hips and he pulled his hand away. He heard her whimper and reach for him, tugging at the waistband of his sweats. His hand found hers and shoved it away before he yanked his pants down his legs and kicked them away. Panting against her ear, he pressed himself against her core which was on fire, "Liv…"

"Now El. Now." She begged, sliding herself against him, "I want you."

Grasping her hip, he dug his nails into her soft flesh and slid into place causing them both to cry out, "Shh…" He said with a little smile against her cheek, loving the effect he had on her. Loving that he was the man that got to touch her, love her, fuck her, "Gotta keep it down babe…if we're interrupted right now I'll cry."

Her head fell forward and she couldn't stop the laugh that escaped her lips, "Me too."

Slamming harder into her he felt her body clench around him and he cursed against her neck, "So fucking tight. Jesus Olivia…"

Holding one of his arms in place, she grabbed the sheets in front of her, giving her leverage as he continued his relentless pace, "Just like that El...yes!"

"Olivia…" She groaned louder unable to contain her pleasure, "Bite down on something." He said with a smirk knowing she wasn't going to be able to keep quiet, "Seriously...fuck."

Turning her head into the pillow, she cried out as his free hand pressed against her center, moving in rhythm with his hips, "Shit." She mumbled into the fabric.

He himself had to bite down her shoulder again and he knew he was going to leave a mark, "Liv...tell me you're almost there. Please God…"

Feeling the fire building she nodded, only able to grunt out a quick, "Yes."

Rolling her slightly more onto her belly, he held himself above her, bracing his hands on either side of the mattress. She arched her back up, giving him leverage to push deeper inside of her and he heard her moaning into the pillow again. He could hear the bed springs creaking and the sound of his hips slamming into hers. He prayed to God his kids didn't wake up because he couldn't stop. When he felt her tense up and begin to gasp for air he knew she was unraveling with him. Biting his lip hard, he gripped her hips with both hands and pushed forward, feeling the dam begin to break. When her walls gripped him and her body shuddered his own release exploded and he felt himself spill inside of her, feeling her continue to shudder against him. The little whimpers he heard let him know that she was still coming down from her high as his hips continued to move slowly. Leaning forward, he pressed lazy kisses against her sweaty back, pushing her hair to the side with his nose.

"Liv…" He whispered, his breath tickling her damp skin and she shivered again, "Babe…"

Sighing, she turned her head as his kisses slid to her shoulder, "If I had more energy I'd kick you." He chuckled, "You called me babe twice…"

Elliot fell onto his side and sighed, leaning out to smack her ass playfully, "You know I can't help it. I'm a possessive son of a bitch. I like calling you babe…"

She rolled her eyes and moved his arm to rest against his check, "I don't know what has happened to me...I never let anyone call me babe. Or honey or...sweetie. I hate you."

"You don't though." He said tugging her closer, pulling her leg up around his waist, "You love me. Which is why you let it happen."

Groaning, she nipped at his shoulder, "Fine...but if you call me babe at work I reserve the right to shoot you."

"Okay." He smiled and smacked her again, "Babe."

He felt her laughing as she tried to shove him away, "Elliot…"

He smiled and rolled her onto her back, smiling down at her, "Yes dear?"

Her smile only grew and she sighed, "One month into living together and you're already turning us into an old married couple."

He smirked at her and leaned down to kiss her, "We'd need to be married to be one of those...if you're telling me that you-"

She pinched his sides and pushed him away again, "Slow your roll there Stabler…" He flopped onto his back and huffed, "Don't get any ideas."

"Oh I have ideas." He replied as he traced shapes against her abdomen, "Many...many ideas. Just waiting for the okay from you."

Sitting up, she held the sheet against her chest and looked back at him over her shoulder, "Please don't drag me to some sports game and put it on the jumbotron…"

He chuckled but shook his head, "No. I might be crazy...but not that crazy. I know that's not your thing."

Smiling, she nodded before continuing, "And...don't put the ring in food. With our luck I'd choke on the damn thing and die."

"Okay. No food. No sporting events. Anything else?" He asked, rubbing a hand down her spine loving that she was talking about this with him. He knew she wasn't ready but knowing she wanted it made him feel so happy.

Turning back towards him, she leaned over him and smiled, "Nothing that I can think of...but just so you know when I'm ready…" She kissed him softly and her voice lowered down anoctave, "I don't need anything over the top. Just you."

Brushing her hair behind her ear he smiled, and shook his head, "You deserve some romance Liv."

Pressing her palm into his chest, she rested her chin on top of it and beamed up at him, "Hm...romance?"

"Yes." He said softly, "I'm not just going to be out one night with you and say, 'so uh wanna do this thing or what?'" She smirked, "I'm going to think it through. Make it memorable. Give you no reason to say no."

Her face flushed and she sighed feeling a rush of emotion take over her body. She could tell herself it was insane. Tell herself she needed to wait. But when he said things like that and when she knew he meant them, sometimes it was hard to resist, "Well okay then…"

He saw the wheels turning in her head and he couldn't help but smile, "I'm wearing you down...I know I am. You're thinking about it right now."

Pulling away, she scooted towards the edge of the bed, "You know nothing."

Clamoring off his spot on the bed, he wrapped his legs around her from behind and pulled her closer making her laugh. Resting his chin in the crook of her neck he nuzzled her ear, "I know everything. I know you. You want this as much as I do."

Leaning back into him she felt him rock her back and forth, "El…"

"We're already living together...it isn't that big of a step, is it?" He asked, trying to ease her tension but she didn't respond and he knew in her mind it was, "Okay...yeah. It's big. Sorry...I won't push."

When she felt him start to pull away, she grasped his arms and held him tighter to her, "No. Hey...wait." She felt him relax and knew he wasn't moving, he was listening and wanted to understand, "It's not that...that I don't love you enough for that. That I don't...want that. I think sometimes...I just need to slow down a bit. Take everything in. I'm so happy here...with you. With the kids. I know we'll end up there and I want that. I just need...a little more time."

Her words eased his tension and he smiled, knowing she was being honest, "Take all the time you need. I'm not going anywhere." Pressing another kiss to the crook of her neck he whispered, "Just make sure I'm the first to know when you're ready."

Turning her head slightly, she caught his eye, "Of course." Kissing the corner of his lips she smiled, "I love you."

Kissing her gently back he smiled, "I love you too." His eyes darted towards the clock and he smirked, "You know...it's still early."

Her eyes followed his gaze and she nodded, "Hm...yes. It is." Her fingers started to trace a path against his strong forearm, "But...I really need a shower." She heard him sigh and fall back on the bed causing her to smirk.

She pulled herself up off the bed and let the sheet fall leaving her fully naked standing over him. She felt a sense of pride when his eyes roamed her body from top to bottom and her smile grew when she saw the way he was reacting to looking at her. Taking one small step back she gave him a look, daring him to move. Leaning up on his elbows, he bit his lip and watched her take another step backwards.

"You know...I could use a shower too." He said in a husky, hopeful voice.

She nodded slowly and stepped back again, "I think I heard showering with a buddy is good for the environment...we'd be saving the fish."

Elliot chuckled and pulled himself off the bed, "Saving the fish. Right."

Her eyes lit up when she saw the desire in his eyes when they grew dark, "I'm just looking out for the fish…"

"Uh huh." He said, reaching for her making her gasp as he lifted her and tossed her over his shoulder, "You keep looking out for the fish. I'll keep looking out for us babe."

She growled and smacked his ass as he walked them towards the bathroom, "You better make it worth it babe."

Elliot chuckled and bit her hip as he stepped into the bathroom and placed her down. Reaching out to turn on the water he ran his hands down her sides and she smiled up at him, "I'm really glad you live here."

Wrapping her arms around his neck she kissed him softly, "Me." Kiss. "Too."

That afternoon at work, Elliot, Olivia, Munch and Fin were drowning in piles of paperwork after their hectic few days. Elliot was looking for a certain folder when his cell phone rang in his pocket. It was close to dinner time and his Mother had the kids until Elliot and Olivia were hoping to get home.

Flipping the phone open he saw that it was Bernie, "Hey Ma. Everything okay?"

"Hi. I think so...but Maureen is a little upset. She said she wanted to talk to you and Olivia. I said I'd call but I know you're at work." He said.

Elliot looked over at Olivia and saw that she was reading his body language and watching him carefully, "Okay. Put her on." He shifted the phone to his shoulder and looked at Olivia, "Maureen wants to talk to us…"

Standing up, she walked towards him and he took the hint. Standing up they walked towards the room beside Cragen's office to be out of the loud squad room. They also wanted to be away from prying eyes knowing they needed to maintain their boundaries. They both heard some movement on the other end of the phone before Maureen's worried voice echoed through the phone.

"Dad?" Her soft voice called, "I'm sorry...I told Grandma it could wait."

"Hey honey. It's okay. Liv's here too. What's going on? You okay?" He asked, his heart pounded in his chest worrying for her.

"I…" Maureen sighed softly, "I'm...not sure. It's about...Emma. And I don't know if I should say anything. But I'm worried."

Olivia looked over at Elliot and saw the way he tensed at the mention of his daughter's best friend. Since the incident in the gym...Emma and Maureen had been able to maintain a good relationship. There were still play dates but they were mostly facilitated by Bernie to keep Elliot and Ethan apart. The school had spoken to both fathers but nothing serious had come of it.

"Mo?" Elliot asked again, "Is Emma okay?" He heard her sigh again and knew that she was worried about her Father's reaction, "Honey...it's okay. You can tell us. Whatever it is...we'll figure it out. But if Emma needs help…"

"Mr. O'Conner was arrested last night." She blurted out and Elliot and Olivia both froze, "Emma's Aunt brought her to school. But she was upset...really upset. She saw him being taken away by the cops and she asked me to...to talk to you. To help him. But I don't know-"

Elliot stood up a little straighter and ran a hand through his thinning hair, "Uh...okay. Does Emma know why?"

"No. But she said he had been acting strange…" She whispered into the phone, "She said he...was really upset. And that he hadn't been sleeping." She paused again, "I...I know you don't like him. That he did something wrong...but Emma's my best friend and she doesn't have a Mom. What will she do? Where will she go?"

Elliot sighed, "Okay...listen. I'll deal with it okay? I'll figure something out. Are Emma and Austin still with their Aunt?"

"Yes. She picked them up after school." Maureen said with a sniffle, "I'm sorry I-"

"Maureen, sweetie, it's okay. Everything is going to be okay." He said to her, "Liv and I will figure something out. Can you put Grandma back on the phone?" He heard her hesitate, "I promise...it's going to be okay. I love you."

"I love you too." She whispered and then handed the phone off to her Grandmother.

"I heard most of the conversation." Bernie said to him, "I have my overnight bag. I'll be here. Is there anything I can do?"

"No. I don't think so." Elliot answered, "Just...call me if Emma calls. Or if Maureen seems upset…"

"I will." Bernie said before hanging up.

Elliot looked over at Olivia, "Guess we aren't heading home…"

She bit her lip nervously, "What do you think happened?" He gave her a look and she shook her head, "El...he was pushy with me but I don't think he'd-"

"We don't know that." He said, shaking his head, "It could be anything…"

"Well we can't just show up at the Queens PD and demand information." She said with a frown, "And I think we both know that Ethan isn't going to want-" She paused when her own phone rang, she gasped and held it up.

Elliot frowned and then saw Ethan's name flashing on the screen, "Answer it…"

Flipping it open, she never took her eyes off of Elliot, "Hi…" She paused and listened to him carefully, "Yeah...yes. Ethan...I'm with Elliot and-" She paused and gave him a look, "We'll be there."

When she hung up, she looked at Elliot who frowned, "What did he say?"

"His Dad bailed him out. But...he wants to meet us." She frowned, "He didn't say why…"

Elliot rubbed the back of his neck, "Liv…"

Reaching out, she touched his shoulder and squeezed it reassuringly, "Don't. This is for Emma...and Maureen. That's all we need to worry about right now." He gave her another look, "El...I'm serious."

He sighed and looked away, "Yeah. I know. But if I find out he hurt some woman and he could have-"

"I know." She said squeezing his arm, "I know. But let's...let's not go there yet. He wants us to meet us at his house. I'll go talk to Cragen."

Elliot nodded and watched her go. Standing in the small office room, he clenched and unclenched his fists a few times trying to calm down. After a few minutes, Olivia walked out of Cragen's office and went to her desk to grab her stuff. Following her, he went to his desk, said something to Munch and then followed Olivia towards the elevator.

Thirty minutes later, they pulled up in front of the O'Conner house and parked behind Ethan's car. Olivia looked over at Elliot and watched the way his hands were gripping the steering wheel. Reaching out, she touched his arm and instantly felt him relax. Giving her a reassuring nod, he moved to get out of the car and walked towards the door knowing it would be okay if she was beside him. She would be the one that kept him anchored to the ground, she always was.

The door opened before they could even knock and a disheveled looking Ethan O'Conner greeted them, "Come in."

Walking slowly into the house, Olivia felt Elliot behind her, "Are the kids here?"

Ethan shook his head as they walked towards the living room, "They're with my Mom. And will be...for awhile."

Olivia looked back at Elliot who was staring hard at Ethan, "Ethan...what happened?" Ethan shook his head and started pacing, his hands were shaking and she could see he was sweating, "Are...are you okay?"

Ethan stopped and turned to look at them, "I owe you an apology Olivia." He looked back at Elliot, "Actually I owe you both an apology."

Olivia heard Elliot suck in a deep breath and felt him stand up straighter behind her, "You bet your ass you do." He growled.

Olivia reached out and grabbed his arm, "Elliot…" Her voice was stern and full of warning.

Ethan shook his head and looked back at her, "I deserve it Olivia. The way I treated you...tried to force myself on you…" He swallowed hard, "I was way out of line and I need you to know it wasn't...it wasn't me. That's not who I am. I'm not that guy."

Elliot huffed angrily, "So...your evil twin was on that date with Olivia?"

Ethan opened his mouth to respond and then sighed, "Can...can we sit? I'm exhausted. Sleeping in a jail cell...didn't help my situation."

Olivia glanced at Elliot, trying to decide if he could handle it or not. He stood stone still for a moment, then slowly walked towards the couch and sat down. Looking over at her, his eyes told her he needed her beside him. She glanced at Ethan who nodded and sat across from Elliot, she followed Elliot's path and took her spot beside him. Elliot's hand instinctively reached out and touched her knee. She understood he needed to feel her support and she wasn't about to turn him away.

Ethan swallowed hard and looked at Elliot, "I uh...I'm not sure you remember my wife?" Elliot was quiet for a moment, "The girls were only little when...when she died." His voice cracked, "But she was a wonderful woman." A sad smile played on his lips, "The best woman...and I loved her more than anything."

Elliot shifted in his seat and Olivia threaded her fingers with his, "Denise. I remember…"

Ethan leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, "When she died...I think part of me died with her. Everything happened so damn fast. Austin was only 6 months old. She had been having headaches...I told her to go to the Doctor. She said she was just tired. And then one night…" He swallowed hard and looked down, "One night we were putting the kids to bed and she was acting strange." He pressed a hand to his lips, "After she put Emma down...she stepped into the hallway. One minute I was looking at her and the next she was...falling. And I tried to get there before she fell but I couldn't. She was looking at me...her eyes were wide and full of fear. And I tried to understand what was happening...everything slowed down and yet was speeding up too. And suddenly her eyes were dim...her face was pale...and she wasn't breathing. And I knew...I knew she was gone. But it didn't make sense. It didn't make any sense because how could that be possible? She was only 35. She was my wife...the mother of my children. She had no preexisting condition that we knew about. No family history...and she was just gone. And there was nothing I could do about it." He looked at them both and could see the confusion on their faces, "Brain aneurysm…"

Olivia frowned and squeezed Elliot's hand, "I'm...I'm so sorry Ethan. I can't imagine…"

Leaning back, he sighed, "After that it felt like my life was spiraling. I tried to hold it together for the kids. I knew they needed me. But I wasn't sleeping...everytime I closed my eyes I saw her falling. Over and over." He licked his lips and frowned, "I started drinking...after the kids went to sleep. Thinking it would dull the pain so at least I could sleep without dreaming. But the alcohol wasn't enough…" He shook his head, "One day during an open house...I went into the bathroom and I found a bottle of oxy in the medicine cabinet and that was it. I won't even tell you the things I've done to get more pills...but it isn't pretty. I barely remember much over the last few years...and when I think of what I could have done to my children." His voice cracked and he leaned forward again, "Jesus Christ...I could have killed them. Driving them in the car high as a fucking kite…" He looked over at Olivia, "I could have killed you!"

Olivia felt Elliot tense up beside her and she held his hand firmly, "Ethan...what can we -"

"I need help." He whispered in a pained voice, "I know I don't deserve it. God help me I don't. But my children...deserve more. Last night I was arrested because one of my dealers sold me out. Emma...she saw me being taken out in handcuffs. I hate myself. I need help...please. You have to know someone...someplace I can go."

Olivia looked over at Elliot, "El…"

He shifted beside her and whispered, "You had my daughter in this house...when you were using?"

Ethan cringed and nodded, "Yes…"

He cracked his neck back and forth, "You endangered my child. Your children...and Olivia."

Ethan crumpled forward again, "Since Denise died...I've thrown myself at any woman. I was so desperate to feel something again. I'm so ashamed." He turned to Olivia, "And when I met you...I realized how much you helped Elliot. How you were there for him...his children and I wanted that. I wanted you to be there for me. And so I asked you out and I screwed it up. I screwed it all up. Please believe me when I say...that isn't who I am."

Olivia frowned but nodded, "I...I believe you."

Ethan turned to Elliot again, "I don't know what your relationship like was Maureen's Mother. But my life revolved around Denise. It was like...every breath I took was for her. Every decision I made was for her. She made everything better...everything good. She was the most incredible wife and Mother and my life has no meaning without her. But sitting in that jail cell last night...all I could think about was how disappointed she would be in me. For hurting our children like this. And...and I need to do better. I need to be better. I will never not miss my wife. I will never love another the way I love her. But...I still have part of her here on Earth. Austin and Emma are part of her and I need to finally step up and be the Father they deserve. I don't deserve it but I'm begging...please help me."

Slowly, Olivia started to disentangle herself from Elliot's grasp, "I...have a friend who may be able to get you into a facility. You'll need to figure out if you can go...if you have an upcoming case."

"My lawyer got them to agree to letting me check into a rehab if I could find one." He whispered.

She nodded slowly, "Okay...I'll make the call." She looked at Elliot, "El…"

He knew she was asking if she could leave him alone with Ethan and while part of him still wanted to pummel him into the ground, he knew he couldn't. Instead, he gave her a quick nod followed by a smile that seemed to relax her. When she got up, Elliot immediately felt the loss of her body heat and the control she had over him, her ability to keep him firmly on the ground. He was quiet for a moment, focussing on the sound of her voice as she made the call. Then, he turned back to Ethan who was looking at him with a fearful expression. The man looked so broken...so devastated part of his anger began to subside.

Ethan took a deep breath, "Elliot...I know there is nothing I can say to make you forgive me. For so many things. But please...please don't take Maureen away from Emma. She will need her best friend now more than ever. This is all my fault. Please don't punish my daughter."

Elliot leaned forward and studied him carefully, "If anything...had ever happened to my daughter or Olivia. I would have killed you. Do you know that?"

Ethan swallowed hard and leaned back on the couch, "I...I know. The force of that pie hitting my face told me everything I needed to know."

"You're lucky all you got was a fucking pie tot he face." He said through gritted teeth, "Ethan…"

The other man shook his head, "I can see it…" Elliot gave him a strange look, "You love Olivia the way I loved Denise. That type of love that consumes you. That you can't live without. The type of love that is your reason to live...your reason to get up every morning and fight another day." The tears fell again, "I am only half the man I was now that she's gone and I'm not sure I'll ever be whole again." He looked right at Elliot, "Don't waste a minute with her Elliot...because you'll never know when it will all be taken away from you."

Elliot looked back at Olivia who was still on the phone. He thought back to the panic he felt after hearing about the fire. He thought about anytime where she had been hurt at work. Tried to imagine getting that phone call that told him she was gone. Or witnessing it as Ethan had...and the mere thought of it sent him into a tailspin of full dread and depression. She was like oxygen...without her he didn't think he could go on. When Kathy had left he had been upset. And yet...he felt relieved to not have to fight anymore. In the last six months being with Olivia, anytime there was a problem, if they fought or were separated somehow he felt so alone. What would that feel like to lose her forever?

He wanted to be mad at Ethan. Wanted to pummel him for hurting so many people. And yet...in this moment he felt pity but also understood him. Olivia was back in a moment, she was saying something to Ethan and he was responding. He watched them move on autopilot but he didn't really register what was happening.

Somewhere through the haze he found himself walking outside with Ethan. He found himself promising to watch after Austin and Emma when he could. He promised to allow Emma to still see Maureen. And then Ethan was gone, whisked away in a cab. They stood alone outside of the house and Elliot felt like they were the only two people in the world.

When she reached for him, he realized he had been holding his breath, "Liv…"

"I know that wasn't easy for you." She whispered to him, "I know you're angry. And you have every right to be. But...that wasn't easy for him to open up and ask for help either."

He sighed and looked at her, "No...it wasn't."

Lifting her hand, she traced the side of his face gently, "I'm proud of you."

Leaning into her touch, his eyes fluttered closed, "Liv?" He heard her mumble a response, "Can we go home now?"

Leaning towards him, she rested her hand on his chest, "Are you okay?"

She felt him take a rattling, anxious breath but he nodded, "Yeah. I just...want to go check on Maureen."

Knowing better than to push him right now, she gave him a quick kiss, backed away and then followed him towards the car. Hoping that later he would talk to her about what was bothering him most.

As soon as they pulled into the driveway, Maureen had run out the front door to greet them. She was frantic and it took both Elliot and Olivia's support to get her back in the house. Bernie took the three other kids and brought them out to the backyard to give them the space they needed. When Elliot and Olivia had finally calmed her down enough to talk, they explained as best as they could what the problem was. Maureen had a lot of questions and they tried to answer without worrying her more.

After a few minutes, Maureen sighed and looked at her Dad, "But...what will happen to Emma? Will she have to move away? She's my best friend?"

Elliot shook his head, "Emma and Austin are staying with their Grandmother. I think she will probably come to their house so that they can still go to your school."

Maureen felt a lump growing in her throat and she looked down nervously, "Are you going to let me still see her?"

Elliot cleared his throat, "Maureen…" She started to cry and his heart broke, "Hey...honey look at me." Lifting her head, her lip trembled, "You can still see Emma. She is welcome here anytime."

Maureen shifted in her seat, "But I can't go to her house?"

Elliot glanced over at Olivia, she was smiling letting him know she supported whatever decision he decided to make, "I think...for right now it would be best if she was here. And...I need to ask you something. I want you to be honest with me. Okay?"

Maureen looked over at Olivia, "O-okay?"

Elliot took a deep breath and leaned against his knees, "Anytime you were over at Emma's...did Mr. O'Conner ever do anything that made you uncomfortable? Or...worry you?"

He watched as his daughter tried to understand what he was saying, "No...why?"

Elliot rubbed the back of his neck, "I just...want to make sure that you were okay there. That nothing happened that made you feel unsafe."

Maureen shook her head adamantly, "No. Never. Usually...he just let us play on our own in Emma's room."

Elliot let out a shaky breath but nodded his head, choosing to believe his daughter, "Okay. Good."

Maureen looked at Olivia again, "Will...will he ever come home? Emma already lost her Mom. She shouldn't have to lose her Dad too. Even if he did make bad choices."

Olivia reached out and touched Maureen's back, trying to soothe her, "I think that if Mr. O'Conner can continue to make better choices, he will definitely go home. He wants to be home with Emma and Austin."

Maureen swallowed the lump in her throat but nodded, "I hope so…" She was quiet again and then looked at her Dad, "Was it okay that I called you? I...didn't know what else to do. I know that you don't like him but Emma was so scared…"

"You did the right thing." Elliot said reaching for her hand, "You know you can call me for anything. You can call Olivia for anything too. You never have to be afraid to talk to us. No matter what is happening. Okay?"

Leaning forward she wrapped her arms around her Dad, "Okay."

Elliot hugged her tight and pressed a kiss to the side of her face, "Everything is going to be okay. I promise. We'll make sure Emma is okay."

Maureen pulled away, hugged Olivia and then asked to be excused. Elliot hated the thought of her upstairs on her own but he understood that as she got older she often needed some time to think things through. It was hard to let go but he knew there was no way to slow down time. When she was gone, he hung his head and rolled it back and forth hearing it crack. He could feel Olivia staring at him, trying to read his body language but he didn't move. After a moment, he heard her move and felt the dip of the couch beside him.

"El…" She whispered tentatively, her hand reached out and squeezed his bicep, "Talk to me."

Elliot cleared his throat and looked over at her, "I'm just...frustrated." His eyes roamed over her face and he shook his head, "He could have hurt so many people."

"I know." She whispered, leaning closer to him, "As a parent, you have every reason to be upset. I'm upset too. I hate to think about anything happening to Maureen. But you handled this well. You said all the right things. She will need Emma and Emma will need her."

Elliot looked at her carefully, "I could have lost you too."

Her heart flip flopped in her chest and she fidgeted, "El…"

"You were in a car with him. Or he could have been strung out and attacked you more that night. I could have lost you before I even had the chance to start something with you." He whispered, "Liv...that would have broken me."

The rawness in his confession made her eyes burn with tears, "I'm okay…"

Elliot swallowed hard and looked down at his knees, "Liv...when I knew you were hurt. It felt like someone had ripped my heart out. As angry as I am at Ethan...I can't even imagine what it would be like to watch something like that happen to you. To lose you. We've only been together for six months but you've been the most important person in my life for years. I'm not whole without you…"

Leaning in, she felt him melt against her and she pressed a kiss to his cheek, "I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere."

Glancing up at her his lips turned down in a little frown, "Denise had a brain aneurysm. No one saw that coming. Anything could happen. Any minute of any day...something could happen and you'd be gone. Just like that. And I can't say that I wouldn't react the same damn way he did."

He hand slid down his arm and squeezed reassuringly, "I know that. But if we think like that...if we get stuck in that mind set, we'll be a mess. I love you so much. It would kill me too. You're everything to me El. The only family I've ever had. Someday...one of us is going to have to face. But God willing...it will be a long, long way from here. Okay?"

His eyes ran over face again as if he was trying to memorize every part of her, "Okay."

He started to pull away and she could tell he was still upset, "Where are you going?"

"I uh...I think I'm going to go to the gym for a bit." He saw her frown, "I just need to blow off some steam. Is that okay?"

She waned to tell him to stay, to talk to her more but she also understood the feeling of needing a break at times, "Yes. I'll...stay with the kids. Your Mom can head home." She frowned, "El…"

Leaning down, he pressed a kiss to the top of her head, "I'll be back in a bit. I promise."

She felt the rush of cold air as soon as he turned from her and walked out of the living room and up the stairs. She wanted to run after him but she didn't. If anyone could understand needing time to process, it was her.

An hour and a half had passed and Elliot was still gone. She had sent Bernie home and she had dinner with the kids before they settled in to watch a movie together. She was standing in the kitchen after she finished cleaning up and glanced at the clock. She wanted him home. The house felt empty without him.

Suddenly her heart squeezed in her chest and she felt a rush of panic. Standing here, looking at his four children, home alone, she wondered what that would be like. She'd never leave them no matter what happened. But what if Elliot died? What if someday he was shot in the line of duty and didn't survive? Or what if there was an accident? An illness? Some freak accident that took her away from him? From his children?

Her eyes burned and she had to turn away from the living room so they didn't see her in case they turned around. The tears came hard and fast and she wondered how she would ever survive without him? Now she understood what he had been feeling and thinking. There was no doubt in her mind that he was her soulmate. He was the man that she was supposed to marry, that she was supposed to spend forever with. But how long was forever? What was she waiting for?

Who cared how long they had officially been together? He had been right...they had been together a lot longer than either of them could admit. From beside her, she heard the back door open and knew it was Elliot. She didn't move for a moment and then he was beside her. His arms were wrapped around her and she was cradled against his chest, in that safety net that always brought her back home.

Pressing a kiss to the side of her face he whispered, "I'm sorry...I drove around for a bit. I just needed to calm down."

She shook her head and turned her heads towards him, "I'm not mad."

His thumbs smoothed across her cheeks to wipe away the tears, "Then why are you crying?"

"You're right." She said in a cracked voice, "We don't know what can happen. I could lose you at any minute. Lose this…" Her hand pressed into his chest, desperate to feel his heart beating under her hand, "That scares me."

"I know." He whispered in a breathy, anxious voice, "I know."

Taking a deep rattling breath, she looked straight into his eye, "I don't want to waste time." She saw him look at her with an expression that told her he was confused, "I'm not saying ask me now...or tomorrow. But I want to be your wife."

A slow smile spread on his lips, "Liv…"

"Don't…" She said shaking her head with a little smile, "Not today...but soon. I want this forever El. I want you. Forever. But we don't know how long forever will be."

Pressing his forehead against hers he sighed, "Not even forever would be long enough with you…"

Another tear slid down her cheek and she shook her head, "I love you. I'm sorry I got upset...I just was thinking...about everything."

"You don't need to apologize." He pulled her against his chest again and sighed, "I get it. I've been going crazy thinking about all the possibilities all day. I love you too...just say the word for sure and I'll be right with you."

Smiling, she squeezed him tight and knew she was making the right choice. Life was unpredictable. There were no guarantees. For so many years she had hid from the things she wanted because she didn't think she deserved them. Didn't think she deserved to be happy. But Elliot had broken down all those walls. He had proved to her that she deserved more, that she was allowed to have more. And everything she wanted was right here in front of her. This man and his four children were her world and she was ready to take the plunge.

When she finally pulled away, kissed him again and went to check in with the kids, Maureen walked into the kitchen to get a drink. Turning towards her Dad she saw him watching her carefully. Elliot smiled at her, and she hopped up onto the counter. Taking a sip of her water, she glanced at her Dad. "Is everything okay?"

Elliot walked over to her and leaned against the counter beside her, "Everything's okay."

Maureen nodded and looked down, "Hey Dad?"

Reaching out to her, he squeezed her leg reassuringly, "Yeah?"

"Thanks for...being such a great Dad." Her cheeks flushed, "I wish...Emma could have better. It's been hard since Mom left but you've never let us down."

Elliot swallowed the lump in his throat and leaned closer to her, "You, your sisters and your brother are the most important things in my life. No matter what happens in this life, I will always put you first."

Maureen smiled and then looked back at the living room, "We got pretty lucky with Liv too…"

Elliot followed her gaze and smiled, "We did. You know…" He nudged her with his shoulder, "I should thank you for pushing me...making me see what was right in front of me."

Maureen smiled at him, "You're welcome." He laughed slightly, "I think you would have gotten there eventually. But I didn't want to wait…"

Elliot smirked and looked right at her, "Turns out...Olivia might not want to wait too long either."

Maureen's eyes lit up, "Are you saying what I think you're saying?"

Elliot nodded slowly, the smile growing on his face by the second, "We should probably speed up our planning...make sure everything is ready."

Maureen jumped off the counter and smiled, "You think...she'll really say yes? To all of it?"

Elliot wrapped his arm around her and squeezed, "Yeah kid. I do."

Looking up at him, she smiled, "This is going to be good Dad...real good."

Holding her close and watching Olivia with his three other kids his heart thumped away in his chest, "Yeah. It's going to be really good. We're going to be happy Mo. I promise."

The End.

To be continued in the upcoming sequel "I Choose You"