"Do you love her?"
There was no accusation in her tone, as she sat there with her head on Elliot's shoulder, voice soft. She was looking at him with gentle curiosity in her eyes. But he didn't see it, couldn't bear to look at her when faced with that question.
"Its complicated Kathy." He says instead. Because he knows who she means.
She hums, then without missing a beat, detaches herself from his shoulder and starts rummaging around in the bedside table.
He turns to watch her with a furrowed brow, "What are you doing?"
She takes out a magazine and tosses it in his lap.
At a glace, he sees it reads; "non-monogamy."
"Maureen was doing a school project. About differing sexualites."
Elliot gives her a confused look.
"Its called polyamory."
"Just—" She puts a hand out to stop him, then grabs his own hand gently, "Just let me finish."
He gives a sigh, rubs his face and worries this conversation will head in a direction he's not ready for. Although he doesn't know what this "polyamory" is, he knows that look in his wife's eyes is never good.
A silence stretches throughout the room. And then, after when feels like eternity, he speaks.
A smile makes its way onto Kathy's face, happy and mischievous all at once. And Elliot worries he's gotten himself into something troublesome.
God damn it.
They'd only had their talk last night and Elliot is already regretting the fact that he'd agreed to go along with this.
He sighs into the phone, "Kathy please, I'm at work."
She huffs on the other end, "If you dont ask her, I will."
There's something terrifying about that thought, and a chill runs up his spine thinking of all the ways that could go wrong.
He's Olivia's partner. He should be the one to bring up this whole ordeal.
"Fine." He says, and hangs up the phone.
Olivia smirks at him from her desk across from his, still in the middle of her paperwork. "Trouble in paradise?"
He gives out a tense laugh, "Yeah I guess you could say that."
The thought of sharing a partner had never come to his mind before. He grew up catholic and traditional. He wouldn't even know this kind of thing existed were it not for his daughters project. It was nearly impossible for him to believe it even could work.
But the thought of getting to be with Olivia, of not having to leave or lie to his wife? It was...tempting, to say the least.
Olivia is as beautiful as his wife, he thinks. Brave and kind like her too. He can't imagine a life without her. He can't imagine a life where he actually gets to be with her.
But his wife gave him permission, bearing a kind, understanding smile.
Nothing like the clever smirk Olivia's got plastered on her face right now.
"You're staring." She says, barely looking up from her papers.
Elliot scoffs, trying to play it off, "No I'm not."
This time she does look at him, eyes searching, smile fading. She puts down her pencil and tilts her head, voice concerned, "Are you ok? You've been tense all day."
"Aren't I always tense?"
She chuckles and shakes her head like they've been through this before. They have been through this before. Whenever he'd try and close off his walls. She'd always find a way to climb over and rip his feelings right out of him. Just like Kathy.
"More then usual." She says.
He doesn't say anything for a second, a distracted smile playing at the corner of his mouth, "Can I talk to you? Somewhere private?"
"Oh!" Her eyebrows shoot up, looking around the office like she's wondering what needs to be said that the others can't hear, "Uh...yeah. Sure."
They get up from their seats and head to the empty break room, rarely used because everyone is always so busy. Elliot thinks he sees Fin eyeing the two of them with a smirk. He ignores him.
Elliot closes the door on their way in, and watches Oliva turn to him, hands in her pockets and shoulders tense.
"What did you need to talk about?"
Elliot makes it a point not to look at her, biting and worrying his lip. He coughs to clear some of the awkward tension he feels. It doesn't work.
Olivia is still standing there, crossing her arms instead. Staring at him, confused and concerned.
"Is everything ok El? Your really starting to freak me out."
He huffs out a sharp breath, rubs his forehead and starts talking. "Alright look. I wanted to—" he stops himself remembering its his wife's fault for getting him into this mess, "Kathy wanted me to ask you something."
Olivia's brows furrow, her body tenses. She's always been afraid of Kathy hating her, with how much time she and Elliot spend together. Always worried Kathy would get jealous and push her out of their lives altogether.
Elliot wishes she could know that Kathy could never hate her.
'She'll find out soon enough.' A very unhelpful voice in the back of his head adds.
"She read about this...this thing." He hesitates, fingering the belt loop of his pants, "This new thing. Called— called polyamory. Or something." He tries shrugging off the word, like he didn't spend all last night trying to memorize and pronounce it. "Ever heard of it?"
Olivia flounders for a bit, arms still crossed, brow still furrowed, and mouth opening and closing like she doesn't know what to say.
"Thats what I was afraid of." He says. He really was hoping he could skip the explanation and just get this over with. He stares down at his feet, which are infinitely more interesting at the moment.
He breaths a deep sigh. "Apparently," He starts, "there are some people out there who..." he pauses, trying to find the words to explain this. "Who want to date multiple people. At once."
Olivia raises a brow, "Like...cheating?"
"No." He's quick to say, shaking his head "No. Not like cheating. Cheating is when you go behind your partners back. This..." He shrugs, like he doesn't understand it himself, trying to act nonchalant about it, "This is when your partner gives you permission."
He finally looks her in the eyes. She's tense, anxious, worried to see where this is headed.
"Kathy...Kathy wants me to ask you if..." he stops himself, feeling like a teenager all over again, embarrassed about confessing to a girl he likes. "If you would want to...maybe go out with me sometime. As in, y'know," he shrugs, "A date."
He's tapping his foot, heart beating out of his chest, face beet red.
'This is humiliating' He thinks.
Olivia flounders again, eyebrows raised to her hairline again, and despite the nervous anxiety wrapping its way around his chest, he can't help but thinks she looks adorable when she's confused.
Her cheeks are tinged pink. She takes a deep, fluttering breath, when she finally speaks.
"Told you she'd say yes." Kathy says over the phone.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. I don't need you throwing it in my face." Elliot laughs. "Tell the kids I said goodnight."
"Alright. And you tell Olivia I said goodnight."
"Goodnight Kathy!" Olivia calls from where she clears the dining table."
"You're on speaker Kath." Elliot chuckles, looking at Olivia with fond eyes as he speaks.
"Thanks for the warning." She says sarcastically, "Goodnight Liv! Goodnight El. I love you."
Elliot watches Olivia watch him, content grins on both of their faces, hears the earnest way Kathy says she loves him. Something inside of him clicks. And suddenly he feels complete.
"I love you too."