Around Again
by cgb

She remembers the sound of her feet on the worn wooden floorboards. She remembers a scream, someone calling out, "No!" She remembers kicking the door open, finding the mother and two children in front of the television, a portrait of the perfectly normal family, like nothing had happened.

She was just at the point of wondering how they could have got it so wrong, when she realised something wasn't right. They were too normal, too still. She remembers lowering her gun just as she saw the girl's eyes shift nervously to the left and then heard a gun shot, felt the wall behind her as she slumped backwards, dazed. After that the world moved around her in blurred shadows and distorted voices. Someone applied pressure to her shoulder and there were voices saying, "Olivia? Can you hear me? Olivia, stay with me."

She tried to answer. She thinks she might have said something but she can't remember what it was.

Eventually the paramedics came and they put her on a stretcher and loaded her into an ambulance.

She remembers the sound of the siren, the wail that repeated and repeated over again until everything went black.

She woke up in a hospital bed.


Olivia blinks the room into focus, sees a nurse at her bedside checking the IVU.

"You're awake," the nurse says. "Theatre nurse said you'd be out for hours."

Olivia opens her mouth and finds her throat to dry to speak. She swallows and manages to say, "What happened?"

The nurse takes Olivia's wrist, puts two fingers on her pulse. "You were shot," she says. She checks the time on her fob watch and makes a note on Olivia's chart.

Olivia remembers the pain, the way it spread from her shoulder to her chest until it was difficult to breathe. She reaches for her shoulder, touches the bandage and runs her fingers along the edge of the sling holding her arm in place. The shoulder feels numb, like it's unattached. "What happened to Bielling?"

"Bad news," the nurse pulls a face. "He'll live."

"The family...?"

"They're all fine," the nurse says. "You saved their lives."

Olivia closes her eyes and breathes out, relieved. When she opens them again she notices the flowers on the dresser. "Where did the flowers come from?"

"Which ones?"

And then Olivia sees all the flowers. There are arrangements on the windowsill, on the floor along the far wall and at least three are crowded together on the locker beside her bed.

"Where did they come from?" Olivia asks.

"Everywhere," the nurse says. "You're a hero, Detective Benson."


Olivia spends the night in and out of consciousness. She has strange dreams about wandering aimlessly in a forest, searching for a lost child. The child calls to her, "Olivia! Help me!" and is always just out of reach.

She's dreamed this dream before. Most of the time it's a faded memory, something she can't recall even when she tries. But it always returns like it's been waiting for her, comes around again like the seasons.

By morning there's a steady stream of visitors. She's notices no one's bothered to bring her a fresh set of clothes so she greets them in a white hospital issue nightgown and hopes it isn't as see-through as it is flimsy.

Cragen is first. In typical NYPD fashion he brings donuts and coffee rather than flowers. She's grateful for the change.

"You read my mind," she says. She reaches for a donut with her good arm.

"Stands to reason they'd make lousy coffee here," he says. He takes a donut for himself, sits in the chair by the bed. "There'll be an IA investigation - but I don't think anyone will have difficulty believing your life was in danger."

"What happened to Bielling's family?" She doesn't remember seeing them as she went down. She remembers Bielling. She remembers his face when she shot him empty, like he didn't even feel it.

"They're all fine - staying with Mrs Bielling's parents."

"They're lucky they have nosy neighbours," Olivia says. "He could have come and gone and we'd be left with only their dead bodies to tell us he was there." She shakes her head. Too many of their cases end this way.

"Some times we catch a break," Cragen says. He pulls a note pad from his inside pocket. "You have an Aunt in Denver - a 'Gloria Mayne' - listed as your next of kin. I told her you'd call her as soon as you could reach a phone."

"You called Aunt Gloria?"

"It's standard procedure, Olivia."

She hasn't seen her Aunt in years. Her mother and her sister weren't close. "What did she say?"

"She was worried about you."

Aunt Gloria was a nice lady. When Olivia was twelve her Aunt Gloria pressed a phone number into her palm and told Olivia she could call whenever her mom was in one of her 'moods.' Olivia never did take her up on the offer.

"I'll call her," Olivia says. She takes a sip from her coffee and returns it to the nightstand. "I heard we made the six o'clock news."

"As luck would have it," Cragen says. "There was a camera crew filming a story on the other side of the street. They heard the sirens and thought they might get a story out of it. You were the main feature."

She's glad she didn't see it. She's willing to bet a degree of sensationalism was involved. "I'm sorry I missed it," she lies.

Cragen makes a face indicating he doesn't believe her. "Actually, Olivia, we've been approached by the network to do a follow up to the story. They'd like to interview you."

"No way."

"Olivia... it's not often we're on the news because of we did something right."

"If we'd done something right, Bielling wouldn't have been there in the first place."

"You saved that family, Olivia. He was going to kill them..."

She didn't doubt that. But she stood in the firing line of a killer - hardly standard police procedure. The last thing she wants to do is field questions about why she was there in the first place

Her shoulder hurts. The painkillers must be wearing off. "What would I say?"

"The usual," Cragen says. "You were just doing your job, you're glad no more lives were lost..."

"I should have waited," she says. "I ran in too fast."

"I know," Cragen says. "Trust me, they won't ask about that. It's not what they want to hear."

She gives a hollow laugh. "I feel like a fraud."

"Olivia, you do good work," he says. "Take the credit for a change."

"Okay," she says, eventually. "I'll do it. When?"

"I'll arrange a time this afternoon. Tell your partner to get you some clothes."

"My partner?"

Cragen stands, places his empty coffee cup on the nightstand next to Olivia's. "I'll send her in."

He leaves. Donovan arrives seconds later. She frowns when she sees Olivia. "Jesus, Olivia, you look terrible."


The interview lasts an hour and takes place in her hospital room. They do her hair and her make-up and the camerawoman asks if she has a blue shirt rather than the grey NYPD sweats Donovan brought her. Olivia tells them it's the only shirt she has. The camerawoman shrugs and says, "It will have to do."

The interviewer is a young man. The hair and make-up team spend more time on him than they do on Olivia. He looks impeccable. Not a hair out of place.

He asks her why she became a cop, why she chose special victims, what went through her mind before she shot Bielling and was she scared? He asks her other questions but these were the ones she remembered. She gives him the standard, "I just did what any member of the New York cop would have done in the same situation," and he seems satisfied.

What makes it onto the programme is barely three minutes long and virtually meaningless - a few standard answers about police procedure and a brief account of her injuries before the segment cuts to a tearful Mrs Bielling surrounding by her children and thanking god for the intervention of Detective Benson.

Donovan watches from the end of Olivia's bed. "Munch is taping it," she says. "In case you want a copy."

Munch has a warped sense of humour. "It's ridiculous," Olivia says. "I mean, you were there - you know I shouldn't have run in like that."

Donovan shrugs. "You saved their lives. Isn't that what matters?"

"I could have got us both killed."

"I may be new at Special Victims," Donovan says. "But I've been a cop for fifteen years. I don't follow anyone anywhere without thought for my own safety. And if I do then more fool me." Donovan throws her bag over her shoulder. "Gotta leave, Benson, I got a hot date tonight."

Olivia smiles. "Good luck."

"Don't need it," Donovan says as she goes out the door. Donovan's been at special victims for eight months and she's still well adjusted. She was a good choice. Everyone says so.

Her last partner wouldn't have let Olivia get away with foolish behaviour. Heroic or not.


Eventually they send her home with her arm in a sling and a week's supply of pain medication. They tell her not to exert any pressure on the arm.

She spends two weeks at home letting her bones knit, returning to the hospital only when the pain becomes unbearable. Bones, it turns out, knit quietly and without fuss but the inflammation of the tissue surrounding the bones causes excruciating discomfort and it only gets worse as the break heals.

They tell her, "four weeks." Four weeks and she can return to the station house for light duties. She's not had this much time to herself since she graduated from the academy.

She gets at least one more call from a journalist who wants to do a feature piece on her in a magazine she's never heard of. Cragen agrees that she's done more than enough for the image of the unit and allows her to graciously decline.

Jeffries visits on the weekend and cleans the house. Jeffries is five months pregnant. "I really don't think you should be doing this," Olivia says, attempting to make coffee with one arm while Jeffries fills the kitchen sink with hot water. "I can get a part-time domestic."

"I need to get my mind off the cravings," Jeffries says. "Yesterday I ate three peanut butter, jelly and pickle sandwiches."

Olivia spoons coffee into the coffee maker. "I feel so useless," she says.

"You are useless," Jeffries says. "But you're allowed to be - for four more weeks."

"What do I do in the mean time?"

Jeffries shrugs. "Read a book, catch a movie." She washes and dries two mugs and hands them to Olivia. "Why don't you visit Stabler - what's he doing now?"

"Security assessment for rich people with more money than sense," Olivia says. "He always wanted to make a difference." It sounds more snide than she intended. Jeffries raises her eyebrows.

"Have you seen him lately?"

"Not since he left," she says. "We had a falling out." It's ridiculously euphemistic but she can't think of any other way to put it.

"Sounds serious."

"Yeah," Olivia says. She turns her attention back to the coffee mugs, pours cream in each. "I really don't want to talk about it."

"Okay," Jeffries says, carefully. She doesn't bring it up again.


Olivia spends a day attempting to write with her left hand. She copies out the first four pages of The Great Gatsby before her hand and shoulder cramp and she gives up and resolves to use a keyboard.

She writes a letter to her Aunt in Denver and tells her that everything is fine, she's healing faster than they expected and she's sorry she doesn't call/ write/ visit as often as she'd like to.

Her doctor told her a gunshot wound to the bone produces splinters that travel in the body, potential lethal weapons capable of puncturing blood vessels and vital organs. If you're fortunate, the splinters cause no damage and 'die' in the body like fossilised bone dissolving into sediment.

The fracture of the bone can also sever the brachial nerve causing paralysis of one side of the body and if the bullet had severed a major blood vessel she could have bled out in minutes. They told her everything that could have gone wrong but didn't; their way of telling her she was lucky this time.

After four weeks she returns to the hospital for x-rays and blood tests and a doctor who presses her thumbs against the break and asks Olivia if she "feels anything."

Olivia says, "No." She doesn't feel anything at all.

On the way out she passes Kathy Stabler.

Olivia is just outside the exit when she sees Kathy, her hand on the entrance door about to go in. For a moment Olivia considers walking on, pretending she didn't notice. For a moment her instinct is to run. The moment is over when she catches Kathy's eye.

"Olivia! What are you doing here?" Kathy looks around, a habit probably garnered from constantly seeing Olivia attached to her husband. She's dressed in pastel purple, nurse's scrubs. This is not her usual place of work which means she's either moonlighting or she's changed jobs. "Are you working on a case?"

"Outpatient," Olivia says, and her hand automatically rises to her shoulder. "I was... injured on the job."

Kathy's eyes fall to Olivia's shoulder. "What happened?"

She can't say it. Some four weeks later and the event seems unreal. Absurd to think something so easily foreseeable in her line of work could become unbelievable in the retelling.

It seems like an eternity passes before she says, "I was shot."

"God." Kathy covers her mouth with her hand. "God, are you... was it serious?"

"A fractured bone. Nothing a little R & R couldn't handle."

"I - we didn't know," Kathy says. Olivia notes the emphasis on we.'

"It was on the news," Olivia says. "I could send you a tape." It's a joke. Olivia tries to smile.

Kathy's brow furrows. "You made the news?"

"It was nothing - slow news day. Some news starved journalist thought it would be interesting to do a piece of a crazy cop who ran into a bullet."

"I'm sorry we missed it. We've been on holiday - staying with my sister in Arkansas."

It explains something. Maybe everything.

Olivia makes an excuse to leave, glancing at her watch and professing to be late. She tells Kathy to say "hi" to Elliot and the kids. Kathy tells her to call them and Olivia says she will.

Olivia is reminded of feeling like a fraud. The feeling doesn't go away.


Olivia doesn't think about the lives she's taken. Her counsellor told her it was potentially destructive to bury her darker thoughts but the counsellor also admitted to having never killed anyone so what could he know?

She visits Huang for a debrief and he asks her if she dreams about the people she's shot. "When you close your eyes," he says. "Do you see their faces?"

She knew about posttraumatic stress disorder so she tells him, "no." The truth is that a kill shot takes the life from the victim's face before he has a chance to realise what's happened. There's nothing to remember except blood and lifeless limbs and your heart pounding in your throat.

She remembers Bielling's face when she shot and feels nothing. Nothing at all.


When it's dark she turns on the lamp in the living room and sits on the couch while she moves her shoulder according to the instructions the hospital gave her. Her arm feels heavy and tired. The doctor said she could write and type which means a green light to go back to the station house on Monday. Four more weeks and everything will be back to normal. Just like that.

Someone knocks on her door and she sits staring at it for a moment while she makes a mental list of everyone who would knock on her door without ringing the buzzer first. It isn't a long list. It includes her neighbours and her former partner and she doesn't want to believe it's the latter. It's too much to hope for.

She answers the door and he's standing there in jeans and a long jacket and he looks cold but otherwise just the same. She is reminded that people don't change on the outside when they change on the inside and there's potential to be mislead into thinking everything is the way it used to be.

She's not that naive. "What are you doing here?" she says.

Elliot doesn't blink. "Kathy said you were shot."


"How did it happen?"

She raises her hand to her neck and scratches the hemline of her hair, absent-mindedly. She opens the door wider. "Are you going to come in?"

He comes inside carefully, hands in pocket. He looks around the room like he's seeing it for the first time.

"Nothing's changed," she says. She sounds impatient and she thinks maybe she is.

He indicates the lamp by the sofa. "New lamp."

She bought the lamp two days before she was shot. "Except the lamp."

They stand in her living room facing each other. She crosses her arms.

"Can I sit?" he asks.

"Sure." She holds her palm out toward the sofa. Elliot takes off his coat and hangs it over the backrest before sitting down. "Can I get you something?"

"I'm good."

She sits on the armchair opposite, her hands clasped together on her knees. There's a stretched silence and then she says, "I was on the news."


"I wasn't the villain this time."

He smiles. "Good thing television audiences have short memories."

"I suppose so."

"You tape it?"

"Munch taped it."

"You have a copy?"

"You're not watching it."

"All right." He nods. "Are you going to tell me how it happened?"

"It was..." She shakes her head. "It was not my best moment."

"No shit."

She ignores the chastising tone in his voice and tries to remember that she didn't invite him over. No apologies. "It was a tip-off," she says. "The perp disappeared just when we thought we had him on a rape and murder charge. We watched his family for a week but he never returned. There was a history of abuse and his wife was prepared to give him up so we figured he'd gone for good. Then one of the neighbours spotted him in the hallway. I'd given the neighbours my card so he called me. Donovan and I were first on the scene and the door was open so I ran on in - right into the firing line."

"Donovan's your partner?"


"What happened to Guzman?"

"Only lasted three months. Donovan's working out a lot better."

"He let you run into the room without back up."

"She didn't have a choice. I got ahead of her."

"You're lucky you're not dead."

She is suddenly on her feet, the heel of her palm against her forehead. "Jesus christ, Elliot, you think Cragen, three nurses, my doctor and Donovan haven't told me that already?" She walks toward the kitchen, stops before she gets there and turns around.

"Why did you come here, Elliot?"

"I was worried about you."

He says it so easily, like it's all that needs to be said. She thinks it should be enough. He probably does too.

"It's been a year," she says.

"I know." He nods his head slowly. "And I'm sorry. Things with Kathy took time and the kids weren't adjusting. It all got away from me."

She looks at him incredulously. "Is that all you have to say? You didn't have time?"

He doesn't answer. His eyes shift from her to the window. A part of him seems to slip away, disappears out the window into the dark.

"I didn't mean for it to happen," he says.


It was one year ago almost to the day that Elliot resigned. Olivia always thought the time would come when Elliot had to choose between his family and his job but Kathy left and Olivia was nave enough to think the choice had been made for him.

As it turns out, spouses have bonds that hold them together despite long periods apart. Olivia's relationships are exceptional when they last more than six months so it's no surprise she didn't see it coming. She hadn't figured on warning shots before the kill. She never believed he could hide things from her so easily.

He tells her right after he tells Cragen, only he tells her in front of Munch and Fin. She figures it's so he doesn't have to face her alone and she wonders if he's doing it for her benefit or his. She can't decide. She doesn't react the way she might have if he'd told her in private, but she's not the kind of person to make a scene whether there's an audience to witnesses it or not. Maybe that's what he's afraid of?

The ensuing weeks are characterised by discomfort, silence and a lack of eye-contact. He asks her if she's coming to his farewell party at Maloney's, as if he's entertained the idea she might not.

She tells him, "Of course," and he seems embarrassed that he asked.

The farewell party is on Elliot's second to last day. The entire squad is there along with a selection of special victims alumni and half the DA's office. Olivia makes a plan to remain sober but after two beers she's already feeling light-headed and drowsy. She blames it on her usual lack of sleep or perhaps the current flu season. It must have shown because Munch asks her is she's feeling okay. She tells him she's fine but she sneaks out early, right after the speeches are made. She tells herself she'll say goodbye tomorrow when there's less people around

She admits to herself that she's running away but she believes in a time and a place for everything so long as it doesn't mean trying to explain her complicated feelings towards her partner. Better to forget it.

Better to have a glass of warm milk, an aspirin for the headache she's about to get, and a good night's sleep. Hope that by tomorrow she'll feel halfway normal again, ready to face the change.

She's asleep on the couch when a knock on the door wakes her up. She checks her watch and knows it's him. No one else knocks on her door at midnight.

She opens the door and Elliot's leaning against the frame. "What happened to you?" he says.

He walks past her and she closes the door behind him. "How long did it take for you to notice I was gone?"

He stands in her living room and says nothing, looks around as if he's waiting for a prompt. She folds her arms. The light bulb in the kitchen flickers its last and dies while they are exchanging accusatory stares.

"Shit," she says. Even her light bulbs have lousy timing.

"You got a spare?" he asks.

"I can do it," she says. She goes into the kitchen to change the bulb. He follows, uninvited. She stands on a chair and he hands her a towel telling her the glass will be hot. She pulls a face but takes the towel and uses it to prise the bulb loose. She replaces it with a new bulb and there's light in the kitchen again.

Elliot offers her his hand and she takes it as she steps down. He doesn't let go. He edges her against the sink until she's trapped between his body and the counter.

He leans in toward her and her mouth goes dry as she realises he's going to kiss her. She leans back and he stops, doesn't come any closer. He still has hold of her hand.

"What are you doing?" she says.

"I don't know."

She doesn't know what to say. She searches his face for a clue as to her next move. Somewhere, she hears a voice telling her to get away while she still can, but his hips are pressed against hers and his eyes are full of intent. Maybe tomorrow she'll tell herself he hypnotised her.

"Do it," she says, suddenly. "Whatever it is."

He kisses her open mouthed and hungry, his hands on her hips, pulling her hard against him. He slides his hands under her ass and lifts her onto the sink. Two cups fall into the basin as he pushes them out of the way.

His hands are under her t-shirt, on her waist, her ribcage. One hand dips to the waistband of her sweat-pants, edges them over her hips. She helpfully lifts herself so he can slide them off. Her underwear follows soon after and then she's naked from the waist down, feeling exposed and vulnerable. He pushes her legs apart, slides two fingers inside her, curls them slightly as he thrusts them in and out again. Her breath comes in little gasps and her eyelids flutter. She grips the counter top with both hands.

Elliot unlatches his belt with his other hand, pushes his pants and boxers down over his thighs. And then he's inside her, hands gripping her hips as she arches backwards, wraps her legs around him. He says, "Fuck" and "Liv" but he doesn't close his eyes or look away. He's still wearing his jacket.

She braces herself with her arms behind her, palms flat on the sink. He slips his hand between them and she flinches at his touch. She is sensitive and aching, his fingers fast and slick. She doesn't know how long she can last.

He says, "Come for me," and his voice is all the encouragement she needs. She thinks she might have said his name but all she remembers is closing her eyes and seeing stars exploding in front of her. When she opens them again there are still black dots prickling her vision. She can barely make out his face.

She's just started breathing again when he comes and then it's all over. Too soon, too late.

He holds onto her longer than he should, longer than he needs to. He leans forward, rests his damp forehead on her shoulder and says, "Fuck."

His hair scratches her cheek. He smells like sweat and sex with a hint of cigarette smoke lingering from Maloney's.


He lifts his head off her shoulder. "Yeah?"

"You understand, that without you watching my back, I'm probably going to get myself killed."

He laughs, breaks the tension. "Bullshit," he says. "You'll do fine."


One year ago and she still remembers the way he looked when she opened the door that night. How his eyes took her in, drifted down her body and up again. The way he moved across her living room, stepping carefully, no sudden movements.

"Yeah you did," she says.

"Maybe I did," he says. "But it shouldn't have been like that. It shouldn't have been so..."


"It should have been nice," he says.

It was nice. She remembers it in vivid detail, smells, sensations, the way he said her name. In many ways it had been beautiful.

It was over too fast and he left her with a guilty kiss on her forehead but she clung to the memory like a precious relic, something to remind her it wasn't all about being cops and partners and witnesses to more brutality and inhumanity than normal people are supposed to cope with.

She leans against the wall and folds her arms. "I take it you usually do dinner and a movie first?"

He shrugs. "Would that have been so hard?"

"You mean like a date?"

"Not like a date," he says. "Like you and me being together. Didn't you ever think about it?"

"Yeah." She nods, thoughtfully. "Yeah, that would have been hard."

"Maybe," he says. He picks up a coaster off the coffee table and turns it over mindlessly in one hand. "Are you okay?"

She nods. He's not looking at her so she says, "I'm okay."

He gets up and comes toward her. "Show me," he says.

She's momentarily confused. "What?"

"Show me..." He points in the vague direction of her shoulder. "...your scar. Let me see."

She gives it very little thought before lifting her t-shirt and pulling it over her head. She's wearing a spaghetti-strap tank top because the wound is still itchy and the pressure of her bra strap is uncomfortable. She pushes the strap to the side to give Elliot a better view of the scar.

The skin shows a rainbow of colour and the swelling still hasn't died down entirely.

"Ouch," Elliot says, and he tentatively reaches toward the scar, touches it carefully. She flinches at first, but it's an instinctive reaction. It doesn't hurt. It doesn't feel like anything at all. He trails fingers along the length of the scar, studying it like he's a scientist and she's an alien specimen. He's so close she can hear him breathing.

He slides his hand down her arm and returns the strap to her shoulder. He puts his other hand on the back of her head and gently pulls her against him, presses her head against his shoulder.

"I'm sorry," he says. "I'm so sorry."

She wraps her arms around him and holds tight, doesn't ask him what he means. When he leaves he promises to call and she thinks this time he probably means it.


She returns to work and makes Huang's office her first port of call. Huang is typing, concentrating hard on the screen in front of him.

Olivia taps lightly on the door frame and he looks up. "Got a minute?" She asks.

"Always." He stops typing, indicates the seat in front of his desk. "How are you?"

"Still sore," she says. "But glad to be back."

Donovan was out on the job when Olivia arrived but she left coffee, a doughnut and a "welcome back" banner above Olivia's desk. Olivia never likes being the centre of attention but she laughed anyway, grateful for the sentiment.

Huang clasps his hands in front of him on the desk. "What can I do for you?"

"Remember..." She looks at her hands. She has a scar on the knuckle of her left thumb. She doesn't remember how she got it. "Remember when you asked me whether I saw Bielling's face when I closed my eyes?"

"Yes," he nods.

She smiles, ruefully. "I wish it were that simple."

"It's a classic reaction," Huang says. "Not universal. Trauma is personalised, just as our experience is."

"There's something else I should tell you," she says.

"Go on."

She breathes. Let's her body inflate and deflate, like the ebb and flow of a tide. Everything comes around again, perps, children, partners, Elliot, another gun in her face.

"I wasn't afraid," she says. Huang looks confused. "Of dying - when I was shot." She remembers her head felt heavy and she wanted to close her eyes and sleep. Sleep forever.

"Oh," Huang says. He leans back in his chair. "So you're saying you weren't just being careless, you really didn't care?"

"And I made the six o'clock news," she says. "There's something very wrong with that."

"Do you think of yourself as suicidal?"

"No," she says. "God, no."


"Maybe I just don't care what happens anymore."

The words hang in the silence for a while. Huang looks thoughtful and then he leans forward again. "I don't think that's true."

"Why not?"

"You're here."

"Where else do I have to go?"

"I mean here, in my office. Olivia " He pauses, scratches his nose. "Did something happen since I last saw you?"

Something did happen. She hadn't thought about it but maybe that's why she's here. Maybe she just needed to know that these things would happen and she'd move on, that she'd come around again like the tides.

"No," she says. "Nothing in particular."


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