The Point of No Return
Written May 2004
Synopsis: Elliot takes Olivia out for a birthday she’ll never forget.
Disclaimer: The characters within are property of Wolf Films, Universal Television, Studios USA, and other corporations. No infringement is intended.
The aching that racked my body was pleasant, and I felt fully rested, even though I had gotten less sleep than usual. I kept my eyes squeezed shut, letting the memories of last night flood my brain. If I had had any doubts, they were certainly gone now. Good or bad, wrong or right, there was no denying that I had fallen head over heels in love with my partner. I reached over to put an arm around her.
And found nothing.
Opening one eye, I peered at the empty space where Olivia had been just hours ago. I could still see the rumpled sheets, the indented pillow, but she was gone. I listened for the sound of running water, a percolating coffee pot – nothing. “Liv?” Both eyes now focused on the room, I glanced at my clock. 7:42. “Shit!” I tried jumping out of bed, but my legs got tangled in the bedding and I went careening head first toward the floor with another curse. No wonder she wasn’t there; we were due for work in eighteen minutes. But why didn’t she wake me?
There was no time to ponder her hasty departure, nor was there any time to shower. I changed into the cleanest suit I could find, brushed my teeth, and raced down to my car, taking two stairs at a time.
“Elliot, how nice of you to grace us with your presence.” Munch dumped a white bag from Bagel Boss on my desk. “Sustenance?”
“Thanks.” I pulled a whole wheat bagel from the sack. At the moment, I didn’t care about cream cheese; I took a large bite and chewed quickly.
“So where’s your partner in crime?”
“You mean she’s not here yet?” I mumbled. There was nothing nearby to help soften the bread, so I kept chewing. Damn me and my big bite. If Olivia wasn’t here and she wasn’t at my apartment, where was she?
“Sorry!” Her timing was impeccable, as always. She scurried into the squadroom, yanking open her locker and shoving her handbag inside. “I got stuck in traffic.”
Munch raised his eyebrows and wandered back to his desk. “Sounds like you two had a long night.” His comment caught me off guard, and I nearly choked on my bagel. The sound did not go unnoticed, and I seemed to have just added gasoline and a case of lighter fluid to his conspiratorial embers. He shot a long look at me, a smug smile forming on his face. “I see.”
“Uh, Munch?” Olivia held the empty coffee pot up to the light and noted its lack of transparency. “What happened here?”
“It appears that someone neglected to clean it out.”
Fin came to her side and grabbed the pot. “Now that’s just nasty.”
She shook her head with a sigh, turning toward the exit. “Tell Cragen I’ll be back; I need some coffee.”
“What do you mean?” Munch called after her. “We have a perfectly good coffee maker right here.”
The second she was out of sight, the proverbial vultures began to circle. I looked up from my second bagel to see Munch and Fin hovering over me, arms crossed, eyebrows raised. Unfortunately, I knew exactly what they wanted. “Don’t look at me like that.”
Munch, as usual, was the first to come up with a wisecrack. “Looks like Olivia woke up on the wrong side of somebody’s bed this morning.”
“Come on, you guys, knock it off. She would never do that; you know Olivia.”
“Apparently not as well as you.”
Fin punched his partner in the shoulder. “Hey, if Elliot says nothing happened, nothing happened. He wouldn’t lie to us, would you, Elliot?”
Ah yes, the second most deadly question known to Man, the first being ‘How do I look?’. If I said ‘yes, I would lie to you’, they would instantly assume I was lying to them now. If I said ‘no, I wouldn’t lie to you’, I really would be lying – at least in this situation. So I settled for something neutral. “Thank you, Fin. Nice to know someone around here sticks up for me.”
Thankfully, Cragen strode into the squadroom before anything else could be said. “Where’s Olivia?”
“Out making funeral arrangements for Munch,” I replied with a smirk.
“She’s making a coffee run,” Fin clarified, “though I wouldn’t be surprised if there was poison in John’s.”
“Why is everybody picking on me today?” He slumped into his seat.
“Come on, John, take it like a man.” When he glared at my comment, I gave him a shrug. If everyone was going to speculate on my evening with Olivia, I was going to make damn sure I took every opportunity to shift the conversation in a different direction.
It was a slow Saturday. We spent most of the time working on old cases and finishing up our paperwork. Olivia barely said two words to me the whole day, but I didn’t make an effort to chat with her either. It was strange; I knew – and I suspected that she did, too – that we were under surveillance. Fin seemed to ignore us, but Munch was curious. Every once in a while, I’d catch him staring at us. He could’ve been a reporter, and I had to pre-think my words and actions. I had a hard time distinguishing between too much conversation and too little. Was I teasing her too much, not enough? Did we look at each other for too long?
The clock ticked over to five, and we all prepared to leave once Cragen gave the okay. Olivia glanced at me as she slid on her coat and rummaged for her car keys, but when I met her eyes, she looked away. I was already ready to go, but I was stalling. I wanted to see what would happen when we were alone, outside of the earshot of our co-workers.
“Hey, Olivia, you up for dinner?” Fin asked.
“No, thanks. I’m pretty tired. Have a beer on me though.” She smiled at him then turned and headed for the elevator. I said my goodbyes before following. I managed to get on the same car, and we were alone at last. For a while, neither of us said anything, our eyes fixed on the doors. Then she asked, “Chinese sound okay to you?”
“Whatever you want.”
We walked to the nearby Chinese kitchen, wrapping our coats around us. It was cold today, a complete change from the unusual warmth of last night. We split a plate of dim sum and egg rolls, and most of the meal was spent in silence. There was something wrong; I knew her too well to miss all the signs.
“So what’s on your mind?”
She gazed at me, eyes glistening in the light of the rice paper lamp hanging above our table. Tears? No, couldn’t be. “I, um…”
“Come on, let’s get out of here. We can talk somewhere more private.” I smiled as brightly as I could, but deep down, my heart was sinking. It was all becoming very clear to me – the lack of conversation at work, her absence when I awoke. But what I didn’t understand was why. Hoping for an answer, I paid for dinner and followed her to her apartment. Every song I heard on the radio was depressing, and I kept changing stations until I found some innocuous talk radio.
She waited for me at the front door and led me upstairs. We still didn’t speak, and I tried to count how many words had actually been exchanged between us since eight o’clock this morning. There was my “Thank you” for the coffee this morning and her “No problem,” so that made four…
It was snowing now, and I watched the white flakes fall outside her window as she locked the door behind me. She made a few noises; I didn’t watch her, but I could hear the refrigerator hum as she opened it and rummaged for something to drink.
“Do you want anything?”
The twisting of a bottle cap. Budweiser, maybe, or Evian. It was hard to tell sometimes. “I would ask you what’s wrong, but I think I know.”
“You woke up this morning, realized you’d made a terrible mistake, and you ran.” I turned around; she was watching me, bottled water in hand. “Am I close?”
“Well, I did wake up this morning,” she said with a small smile, “and I did run, but not for the reason you think.”
I frowned. “Really?”
“I woke up and realized that I’d had the best night of my life.” Placing her water on the counter, she approached me slowly. “And I ran because I learned early on that with joy comes sorrow.” She picked up my left hand and gently turned it palm-down, drawing her finger over my wedding band. “You have a family, Elliot. A wife and four wonderful children. I don’t want to be the reason that you leave all that behind.”
My throat was dry. There were so many things I wanted to tell her, but no words came out – except a feeble attempt to say her name.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, tears rolling down her cheeks. Then she turned away, and I let out the breath I didn’t realize I had been holding. She stopped by the counter again where she picked up a piece of paper. “I received this offer from the department in the mail on Wednesday. Sort of a blessing, now that I look at it.”
“What is it?” I asked, not sure I wanted to know.
“An invitation to join a different SVU for a six month transfer program. Learn some different techniques, make connections at different units.”
“A different SVU? What, like Brooklyn?”
“More like San Francisco.”
I couldn’t keep the surprise out of my voice. “California? That San Francisco?” Was she serious?
“Or Chicago, Dallas, Miami. The list of participating departments is extensive.”
I didn’t want to hear anymore. In five strides I had her cornered, and I pulled her into my arms. “Why?”
“Because of my last requalification scores.”
“No.” I squeezed her tighter. “Why are you even considering this?”
She pulled away, her arms around my waist, her eyes locked on mine. “Because you’re the one thing I want that I can’t have – and I don’t know what I’ll do when you finally move back home.”
“I broke my two major rules for you: never get involved with someone you work with, and never sleep with a married man. But I don’t regret it. I could never regret it.”
I nodded. I had broken some pretty serious rules of my own, and I didn’t regret it either. “I know.”
“Besides, this transfer program, it’s a great opportunity. I’ve never really been out of the northeast. Might be nice to see other parts of the United States.” She was trying awfully hard to convince me – or maybe she was just trying to convince herself. “It’s only six months. And maybe by then … who knows?”
I wiped one of her tears away with my thumb. “You don’t have to do this, Olivia.”
“Yes, I do. For both of us.” She gave me the sweetest kiss that I had ever known. “Goodbye, Elliot.”
I walked to the door, and she opened it. With one final look at her, my throat swollen and aching, I replied, “Goodbye, Olivia.” The door closed behind me with a gentle click, followed by an unbearable silence.
She was gone.