By the time Elliot arrives at Olivia's door to pick her up for Fin's wedding, she's already considered opening up a bottle of wine and polishing it off in the same breath in a misguided effort to calm the nerves that have decided to take up permanent residence in her system since she woke up this morning.
And the way he's standing in front of her now with a heated stare that undresses her from head to toe is um, not helping matters.
"Jesus Christ, Olivia," he croaks, his blue eyes darkening considerably as his gaze travels the length of her. "You look incredible."
She flushes under the praise. "Thanks, El," she replies, biting her bottom lip. "You're looking pretty sharp in that suit."
Though she can't help but note with just the slightest dismay that it's three pieces, making it that much harder to tear off him at the end of the night if things go well.
"What, this ole thing?" He grins, preening.
And just like that, relief floods through her because — despite the weight of tonight — he'll always be the same old arrogant asshole who walked beside her for more than 12 years. She rolls her eyes with the shake of her head, spinning around on her heel to walk back toward the hallway, an open invitation to follow.
Elliot coughs in surprise just then and she's so grateful that he can't see the full-on smirk on her face right now.
"Liv," he chokes out. "I think you forgot to zip your dress."
She sashays into her bedroom, lifting a pair of short dangly earrings off her dresser as he lingers in the doorway.
"I didn't forget." She slips one earring on. "Just couldn't reach. You mind?" she asks, lifting an eyebrow towards him.
The smolder in his gaze shoots fire through her veins before her eyes fall to the rough bob of his throat as he swallows. She fights the urge to smooth a thumb over his Adam's apple, wanting desperately to know if his throat would ripple under her touch.
He takes a step toward her then and she gasps quietly, could fall into him so easily, press her mouth against his and fit her hand to the back of his neck in that freckled spot she often catches herself staring at.
His lips part slowly and her mouth goes dry. "Turn around," he commands in a low rumble.
Fuck, she thinks she would do just about anything he said right now if he promised not to stop talking to her in that voice.
She turns around slowly, offering the bare slope of her back to him before she meets his eyes in the antique mirror in front of her.
Elliot steadies himself with his hands at her waist, his fingers slipping through the dark purple silk that lays draped there. Even through the fabric, his touch scalds her and she has to bite down hard on her lip to suppress the whimper that wants to escape.
Olivia sucks in a breath as his calloused hands slowly brush across the nape of her neck to gather her hair to one side, the waves falling across one shoulder.
"You look beautiful." His breath caresses her skin, sending a shiver tingling down the length of her spine.
She'd only meant to tease him a little — it's been so goddamn long — but she wasn't quite prepared for the levity of this moment to hit her with such force. She's never been more ready for these unchartered waters they're navigating, but that readiness doesn't dampen the nerves that zip through her blood, up through the flush of her cheeks.
He takes his time zipping her up, sliding tooth by tooth, and his lingering touch makes her feel drunk, swimming every single one of her senses.
When he finally reaches the top, he smoothes his hands across the top of her shoulders, boldly pressing his lips in the gentle curve of her neck before he reluctantly lets her go.
She licks her lips, expelling a slow breath as she watches him struggle to tamp down the want in his eyes.
He clears his throat, shooting her a crooked little shy smile. The enigma of him — the way he's able to flit between sexy and commanding to shy and gentle — will never get old for her. "We should get going. Don't want to be late."
Olivia turns around to face him, her eyes cast low at his chest as her fingers slip down his tie, smoothing away nonexistent wrinkles. She just needs a moment to gather herself, fight back against the array of emotions she's battling right now.
He seems to know — of course he does — because he goes quiet, taking a long slow breath as he busies himself too, his hands gentle and playing at the curled edges of her hair.
"You - " she starts, but chokes on it, swallowing it back down. His thumb slides down to brush against her clavicle in soothing, hypnotic circles. He means to calm her, but it only lights her up more.
She wants to try again, but settles for lifting her gaze to his. She swallows roughly, throat tight, at the history that flickers through his blue eyes as he searches her face. She doesn't know what he's looking for, but his lips flirt with a smile, eyes crinkling at the corners as his hand coasts down to press over her heart. Can he feel it thrumming as loudly as she can?
"You ready, Benson?" he rumbles and all of a sudden she is young and green again, eagerly matching him step for step down the streets of their city.
A watery laugh ripples through her, breaking the heavy spell that settled over them.
"Twenty-three years, Stabler." She settles her hand over his, squeezing. "I couldn't be more ready."
He grins. "Good." Their hands fall away from their spot on her chest, but they don't relinquish each other's grasp. He links his fingers through hers and it burns warm and bright in her belly.
She will not survive this night.
"What a way to go though, huh." His deep voice caresses the shell of her ear and fuck, she should not still be surprised that he can read her so easily.
Elliot is grateful that he's behind the wheel tonight, if only for the brief reprieve it gives him to attempt to get both his emotions and his libido under control.
God, she looks fucking unbelievable and he has no idea how he's going to get through the next few hours without tugging her into the nearest secluded spot to sink his mouth onto hers and drown his hands into the waves of her hair that he spends nights dreaming about.
Christ, he's already thinking about getting her under him and they haven't even kissed yet. But he supposes that's the nature of the two of them — decades of slow burn and yearning culminating in one explosive evening.
Well, not just one. There's no way in hell he could possibly get enough of Olivia Benson. And he's certainly not letting her go once he has her.
He already made that mistake once.
After he returned to New York just over a year ago, it took months for them to find solid ground again. He knew he'd have to really work to earn her trust again — as friends first, let alone as anything more. It grew easier the more honest they were with each other and the more time they spent working cases — first his and then the other ones they'd found excuses for to keep working together.
And he'll never forget all the innumerable ways she was there for him and his family when he was struggling with PTSD.
They're finally good again, seem to be in sync once more and back to finishing each other's sentences and knowing what the other was thinking with just a glance. It isn't quite the same as it was before —
Better because he knew the two of them were inevitable — there's no possible way they wouldn't be, not when they were both single and didn't have to worry about fucking up their working partnership.
He still struggles with waves of guilt for having feelings for her while he was married, for moving on after Kathy passed. But that's what therapy is for, which he has her (and Kathleen) to thank for, too.
God, he owes her the world and then some.
Over the last few months after they regained their footing, they'd spent more and more personal time together when they could — cozy dinners in or drinks out when they were able to manage it with Eli and Noah. And at least once every week or so, they'd break from their workday to have lunch or coffee somewhere.
Eventually, when Elliot stopped looking, he could feel the final broken piece of their friendship slide back into place.
It was only a matter of time before it turned into something more and he knew she felt it too — it was all there written in the curve of her smiles that had become more and more frequent, the lightness in her step when she walked beside him, and the way she trusted him so completely with her son.
After everything they'd been through, all of the obstacles he had been responsible for, he knew he needed to be the one to make the next move.
He'd been at a total loss, anxious and torn up over how to make it perfect. He didn't think she exactly would've minded if he just said it all with the surprise of his lips against hers, but she deserved more pomp after all these years.
Elliot found the answer he'd been waiting for when Fin's wedding invitation arrived in the mail.
He propositioned her one warm and rainy Friday night when they were tucked into her couch eating a late dinner, windows open and wine on their lips while her son slept soundly in the next room. She was extra flirty that night, knowing exactly what she was doing to him as her fingers drifted lazily along the back of the couch while Coltrane filtered through her kitchen speaker.
He cleared his throat nervously, lifting a hand to rub at the back of his neck. "So, what would you think about going to Fin's wedding together? You know, as like a plus-one type of thing."
Olivia grinned over her wine glass, eyes sparkling. She always could see right through him. "Plus one, huh?" She cocked her head. "You know we were both invited, right? Kind of negates the whole need for one of us needing a plus one for the other."
He groaned. "Jesus Christ, Liv, you're really going to make me come right out and say it, aren't you?"
"It's been 23 years, El. If you wanna ask me out, I think I deserve something a little more official," she huffed playfully, narrowing her eyes at him.
"You're right. You deserve it," he agreed gently. Her brown eyes went soft on his and she somehow managed to look both powerful and vulnerable — an enigma, as always — at the same time, sitting in one corner of her couch wrapped in leggings and a sweater, her hair piled on top of her head.
"Will you come with me to Fin's wedding?" he asked. "As my date," he added pointedly, sweeping his thumb rhythmically across the curve of her knee to tame the erratic beat of his heart.
She bit her lip, barely touching the wide smile behind it as she shrugged.
"I guess, since you asked so nicely," she teased, reaching down to settle her hand over his.
He's pretty sure his heart hasn't resumed beating since that night.
They're 15 minutes early to the ceremony, so Elliot finds them an empty couple of seats near Munch while Olivia dashes over to Ken Tutuola to say hi and fawn over Fin's grandson. She's practically floating on air in her 2-inch heels, the corners of her eyes crinkling with her laughter as she coaxes the shy child out from behind Ken's legs.
If this woman is what he has to look forward to for the rest of his life, he thinks he could die with (almost) minimal regrets.
"I see you finally manned up and asked Liv out," Munch says by way of greeting, clapping Elliot on the back.
Elliot narrows his eyes, amused. "She tell you?"
Munch peers at him over his glasses. "No. You did, just now. But it doesn't take a genius to figure it out, my friend. She's just…" he trails off, shrugging as his hand gestures in her direction.
He doesn't need to finish. Elliot knows. She's...well, radiant. And he can't believe what a lucky son of a bitch he is that he has anything to do with that.
"Hey, but don't screw this one up. I've got a lot riding on it."
"Hold up. You can't possibly tell me there's a 23-year-long pool on me and Liv."
"Don't be ridiculous." Munch scoffs. "We stopped it after you left and started it back up when you came back into town. So it's only been 13 years," he jokes.
"That makes me feel better."
"What makes you feel better?" Olivia asks, sliding into the pew next to him.
Elliot turns to her. "Did you know they've got a pool going on us?"
"Know about it? I've got 100 bucks riding on it. Double if we sleep together tonight," she says casually, winking at Munch. Elliot's jaw drops.
"Relax, I'm kidding." She laughs, patting his knee.
"Jesus," he grumbles.
A flirty smile lingering on her lips, she leans into his ear. The subtle notes of her perfume — all feminine, pure Olivia — leave Elliot curling his fingers into his palm. "Let's hope you're as easy in the bedroom as - "
Munch coughs behind them. "All right, all right, children. Save somethin' for later."
At this rate, Elliot's starting to think that might be an impossible task.
If you would like to join me in the happy EO bubble I was in while writing this chapter, you might listen to "Ivy" by Taylor Swift on repeat.
If you're on Twitter and enjoy flailing over all things EO/SVU, come find me at OliviaJRoweee.
I'm imagining probably 4-5 chapters for this story and it will all be posted before Fin's actual wedding, the SVU season finale on June 3.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Elliot catches her tearing up toward the end of the wedding ceremony, smiling to himself as he pulls out a small pack of tissues from the inside of his suit jacket. He'd brought them for just such an occasion, and he was a little too pleased about being right.
He nudges her. "Your secret's safe with me," he whispers, sliding them into her hand.
She rolls her eyes, bumping her shoulder against his. "Ass," she mumbles under her breath, surreptitiously picking at the plastic wrapper to make as little noise as possible. "I saw you swipe at your eyes earlier, Stabler."
He shrugs. "Allergies."
She narrows her chocolate brown eyes at him. "You don't have allergies."
Damn, she really does know him so well.
He swipes a hand over his mouth to cover a blooming grin. He will never grow tired of all the walking contradictions that come with Olivia Benson. Tough on the outside, soft on the inside. It's one of the many things he loves most about her.
He drapes a hand over her thigh possessively and that seems to shut her right up — she jerks under his touch and lets out a little gasp that he will definitely be thinking about for the rest of the night.
"You're playing with fire," she sing-songs through gritted teeth, timed with the applause that comes with Phoebe and Fin's first kiss as a married couple.
Elliot smirks. "Oh yeah? How's that?"
But then the pack of tissues falls from her lap to the floor in front of him and then she's leaning over to retrieve them, giving him a very distinct view of her tan cleavage as the move traps his hand between her leg and her chest, lighting him on fire from the inside out.
After she grabs them, she looks over at him on her way back up, a cocky smile on her face as she winks at him. Fuck, she did that on purpose.
"Jesus Christ, Liv," he groans, scrubbing a hand down his face.
She laughs, full and rich, and he wishes he could bottle it up for later. "Two can play this game, baby."
He looks skyward. "It's gonna be a long night."
"It's been 23 years and you can't wait a few more hours?"
He shoots her a knowing glance. "You heard yourself say the first part, right?"
"Chin up, Stabler. I hear there's an open bar at this reception," she says as they rise to their feet for the recessional.
"I'm gonna need it to keep up with you."
"See, you're learning already."
A throat clears behind them. "For the record, you two disgust me," Munch says.
Olivia presses her lips together, eyes sparkling with amusement. "Sorry, John."
She's not and John knows that, but when Elliot turns around to look at the older man, he's smiling at them, waving them off as he trails a few people out of the pew into the bustling aisles.
Olivia snags his hand, tugging him away from their seats. "Let's go, you're buying me dinner."
He chuckles. "Liv, I think the food is also free."
She rolls her eyes. "Elliot, what is Fin doing right now?"
Elliot cranes his neck, looks toward the front of the church to see Fin and Phoebe milling around with the rest of the small bridal party as the photographer sets up her equipment.
"Exactly. Do you know how long those take? It's at least two hours before dinner. I've barely eaten anything today." She pats her stomach.
His hand falls to the small of her back as they trail a few uniforms he recognizes from the 1-6 out the door. "Too nervous about tonight?" he surmises, his mouth brushing against her hair.
She turns her head, and he gets another hint of her light floral perfume — all her — that makes his stomach flip. Her deep brown eyes look up at him with the kind of weight and yearning that leads him to stop dead in his tracks — much to the chagrin, he's sure, of the wedding guests behind him.
"Yes," she rasps, swallowing hard.
God, how he wants to tell her that he loves her again. He promised himself he wouldn't say it again until they were both ready to hear it and this doesn't seem like the most opportune time, but it clogs his throat and burrows itself in his chest.
He settles instead for kissing her on the forehead, letting his lips linger along her hairline. "Let's get out of here before we give everyone a show," he murmurs.
Olivia tears into her egg roll with such ferocity that he can't help but laugh at her, which she very much does not appreciate.
She narrows her eyes at him. "Shouldn't you be keeping your eyes on the road, buddy?"
"We're at a red light and I'd rather look at you." It's meant to be teasing, a little sarcastic, but it doesn't quite come out as light as he intended and she flushes under his words.
"Such a line," she says anyway, swiping at the corner of her mouth with a napkin.
He's quiet as he turns back to the busy street in front of him, his foot settling onto the gas as the light turns green again. A few seconds later, he feels her warm hand come to rest on top of his over the gearshift. He smiles to himself as her thumb begins to sweep the back of his hand in soothing, rhythmic motions.
He's been looking forward to this night for a very long time and as much as he can't wait to see how the night plays out in front of them, he's been enjoying the calm, the peace that he feels being by her side like this.
He's not surprised, necessarily. They've always been in sync in so many ways. But they've had so much to work through to come together, obstacles he knows that most people wouldn't be able to overcome.
But they've never been most people. And the relief he feels that they're both on the same page about what this is and where they're headed — it's palpable. He doesn't know how much time he has left on God's green Earth, but he intends to take advantage of every second of it to show her how much she means to him.
How much she deserves.
She's been dealt so many terrible hands over the course of her life, more than ten people combined should have to endure, but if he has any say in it at all, that part of her life is over now. It's so much later than she deserves and he'd be lying if he said that didn't keep him up at night sometimes.
But the knowledge that despite it all, despite everything, that yes, it might be later but it's not too late — it's the thing that gets him out of bed in the morning.
His family — his children, Olivia, Noah — it's everything that keeps him going.
"Thinking pretty hard over there." Her voice snaps him out of his reverie as he turns left onto the street where the reception hall is held.
He shrugs. "Just content. That's all."
Elliot allows himself a long second to take his eyes off the road, just in time to catch the light that blooms across her face, ducking her head as a shy smile crosses her lips. He will never get over the way that this brazen woman can still possibly be shy around him, but it's something he'll never take for granted.
When he turns back to the road, he hears her let out a contented sigh. But he knows them all — has catalogued all the variations over the last 23+ years. And this one?
It's brand new.
She wonders if he's noticed that she seems to be completely dumbstruck tonight. Shy and blushing again like she's a teenager again and not a handful of years away from turning 60. Do they still give out AARP cards to fools in love?
He squeezes her hand in his as they make their way into the reception hall. Fuck, does he know that her gaze immediately flits to his mouth when he does that? She can't imagine she's been conditioned enough for it to be a Pavlovian response after just a couple of hours, but everything inside her is moving at lightning speed after what must be the slowest burn in the history of time.
"Do you know if Fin and Phoebe are doing assigned seating?" Elliot asks, pausing just inside the entryway. Olivia's breath catches in her throat as she takes in the intimacy of the small hall where 75 guests can comfortably fit. The room is bright only with white lights and candles that flicker gently on top of tablecloths decorated with peonies.
It's beautiful. In fact, if she doesn't pull it together, she's going to tear up again. Too many emotions in a single day.
She clears her throat. "I think Fin told me it's open seating."
Elliot points their clasped hands off to a table near the left, not far from the bar. "You feel okay about sitting with Cragen and Eileen?"
She bites her lip, thinking it over. She and the Cap have remained close over the years and he reconnected with Elliot when he came back to New York from Italy. Their former boss is certainly not an idiot and Olivia doubts very much that he would be at all surprised by the evolution of their relationship.
But there's still that nagging feeling in the back of her mind that he might entertain the idea that the she and Elliot crossed a line when they were partners. And well, they did in the way that they were far too close for many years, but nothing beyond that.
Still, she counters, Cragen would find out eventually. She's never letting the man beside her get away ever again.
"Hey," Elliot gently interrupts her dizzying thoughts. His hand slides under her hair, drifting to the back of her neck to knead soothingly there. It's been years since the first time he touched her there and it still calms her as much as it did the first time, back to that night in Jersey when he'd just wanted to offer her some comfort when she was lonely and aching for family.
When all along her family had been right beside her.
"If you're not comfortable with it, it's okay. We can sit somewhere else and say hi later," Elliot reassures her.
She shakes her head. "No, it's fine. I'm just overthinking it."
His lips find her forehead for the second time already tonight and she wonders if being able to touch each other like this could ever possibly get old. She has no idea how they've kept their hands off each other for so long.
"Liv, you know the Cap could never possibly be anything but happy for us, right?" he says softly.
She nods. "Yeah."
"Well, happy and ready to kick my ass if I let anything happen to you," he adds lightly.
His joke makes her laugh, the heaviness of the moment slipping away, leaving only warmth behind again. He chuckles too, the vibration of his laugh against her skin thrumming down her veins into her toes.
"Come on, Benson," he says, leaning down to kiss her cheek all too briefly. "They just started serving the rolls and I know you're already hungry again."
Let me know what ya think!
Thank you for all the love you've shown this story. I really appreciate it.
I am still shooting to have this all posted before Thursday's finale, so I think just one more chapter after this. It will likely be a bit longer than the previous ones and I will probably change the rating to M or E.
Don Cragen, for his part, takes one look at their clasped hands as they approach his table and shoots them his trademark Mona Lisa smile.
"It only took you, what, 23 years?" he asks them in greeting, shaking Elliot's hand as he claps him on the shoulder.
The relief Olivia feels is palpable as she wraps her arms around her former captain in a warm embrace.
"Careful, Captain. You might want to keep your distance. These two have been all over each other all night." Munch appears, a drink in his hand.
Olivia flushes, but doesn't miss a beat. "You jealous, John?"
"Nah. That romance ship sailed a long time ago and took my three ex-wives with it. More power to the both of you," he says, taking a seat next to Elliot. "Though I still think you can do better than this schmuck, Olivia."
Olivia rolls her eyes, settling down onto Elliot's other side as she turns to Eileen. "You look beautiful, Eileen."
The other woman smiles. "Thank you, Olivia. Your dress is stunning." Olivia doesn't know Eileen very well, but she's enjoyed her company in the past when she hosted dinner parties with Brian — which feels like a lifetime ago.
Olivia reaches for a dinner roll from one of the bread baskets, ignoring Elliot's look of amusement over being right about her appetite. "Have the two of you planned any trips for the summer?"
"We were thinking Paris in July," Don says, glancing over at Eileen with warmth in his eyes that makes Olivia smile.
"Paris is beautiful," Olivia replies wistfully.
"Have you been?" Eileen asks.
"I - "
"I'm going to grab a drink. You want a glass of wine, Liv?" Elliot interjects gently, draping a hand over her shoulder as he rises from the table.
"Uh, sure," she replies, flustered. She looks up to search his countenance for any sign of irritation or hurt, but his back is already turned to her on his way to the bar before she can get a good look. Hmm.
Elliot had been remarkably calm when he finally found out about her relationship with Ed Tucker, really proving once and for all how much he's changed — for the better — over the years.
She never really felt like he had a right to be upset after the way he left her, but she'd still expected a more visceral reaction from him when she told him. Instead he swallowed it all down with just the clench of his jaw, the tightness loosening after she told him that Tucker had ended his life after being diagnosed with brain cancer.
He'd surprised her even more when he wrapped her in a comforting hug and told her he was sorry that she'd had to endure yet another painful loss, even if she hadn't been with Tucker when he passed.
Still, she knows Elliot isn't exactly thrilled about that particular romance, so she's not sure if his absence from the table is intentional or just coincidental.
Olivia turns back to the conversation, biting her lip. "I went 5 years ago with my boyfriend at the time. Haven't made it a priority to go back, but it was incredible."
"I'm trying to convince Don to take a detour over to Italy, too," Eileen admits, nudging the former captain.
"Okay, is this what I have to look forward to when I retire? Because I might think of doing it sooner," Olivia jokes, slipping a piece of bread into her mouth.
"Speaking of retirement," Cragen starts, turning his attention toward their surly, grey-haired friend. "John, are you still with the DA's office?"
"Captain, what else am I gonna do? Sit at home and knit?"
Olivia chokes on a laugh. "No big travel plans in your future, John?"
"I don't trust air travel."
"Of course you don't," she replies, shaking her head.
"Anyway, where the hell is Fin?" Munch asks, craning his neck. "I'm starving."
"You should've come with us to get first dinner," Olivia admonishes.
John peers at her over his glasses. "To crash and be the third wheel? I think I'll pass."
"You're the fifth wheel at this table right now, aren't you?" she teases, cocking her head.
"Not after Cassidy joins us."
Olivia pales, her throat going dry. "As in Brian?"
"No, Shaun Cassidy."
Olivia glares at him. "John."
He laughs. "Relax, Liv. I'm kidding. You should've seen the look on your face, though."
She narrows her eyes at him. "Not funny."
"I beg to differ," Cragen chimes in, amusement glinting in his eyes.
"I did catch a glimpse of him and his little blonde date on my way out of the church, so don't say I didn't warn you."
"Great," she grumbles. Bringing up one ex while another one lingers nearby? Elliot will love that.
"What's great?" Elliot asks from behind her, depositing a generous glass of red wine in front of her. She's definitely going to need it.
Well, no use in hiding it. She'd rather he be prepared than caught off guard if they bump into him tonight.
"Sarcasm," Olivia replies lightly, forcing a small smile. "Bri - um, Cassidy," she corrects. "He's here." She lifts the wine glass to her lips and takes a long sip without taking her eyes off him to gauge his reaction.
"Oh yeah?" He seems only mildly interested as he sits down, smoothing down his tie before he takes a swig of his beer. The foam coats his lips and oh, it distracts her, her gaze dipping to his mouth. Suddenly all she can think about is devouring him.
Twenty-three years and she still has no idea what his mouth tastes like. Such a damn shame.
"You want to go say hi?" he asks.
"What?" Olivia says thickly. She cannot for the life of her remember what they were talking about and now all she can do is picture him naked and on top of her.
Or beneath her. She's not picky.
The corners of Elliot's lips twitch in amusement, the son of a bitch. "Cassidy. Do you want to go say hi?"
"Oh." Wait. That's what he asked her? "No, not really."
"You can, you know." He lays a soothing hand over her arm that rests on the table. "Or we can."
"Are you actually cool with this or are you just trying to be cool with this?"
To his credit, he laughs gently. "Liv, I'm the lucky son of a bitch who gets to be here with you tonight. Not him." The tips of his fingers drift lazily along her forearm and it sends goosebumps prickling across her skin. "And I know you cared about him. So if you want to - "
"I don't, El." She drapes her hand over his, ceasing his exploration. She needs to be able to focus on this conversation. "I'm not going to go out of my way to ignore him, but to be honest, I don't know how he'll take this - " she gestures between them, "and I just don't want the theatrics. Not on Fin's wedding day, and not tonight."
Olivia tilts her head, smiling at him. "Okay?"
The light in his blue eyes only grows brighter. "You're the boss, Liv," he says softly.
She leans into him, her mouth resting just centimeters away from the shell of his ear. "And don't you forget it," she rasps, watching in delight as he swallows hard.
Fin, Phoebe, and the rest of their small wedding party show up about 30 minutes later, thank God. Olivia's forgotten how to handle a hangry John Munch after all these years and she would prefer to forget about it all over again.
The salmon and asparagus is heavenly, rich on her tongue, as she listens to the easy cadence of the conversation that flows around her, content to just observe.
When Elliot had left 11 years ago — and all the years in between — she could have never predicted that they'd all be sitting here like this together again, laughing and joking while they shared a meal. Almost like it was one of those early years on the job before they'd all become weighed down and haunted by violence, pain, and loss.
That she's the only one remaining in the unit is bittersweet, but she's comforted by the fact that her job still brings her an incredible amount of purpose every day. But even more importantly, it's not the only thing that brings her purpose anymore.
Not when she has them, her friends.
A combination that makes it a hell of a lot easier to walk through this life she's chosen for herself. Because now, even when she goes to bed cloaked in darkness, the light is waiting for her when she wakes up.
"You're kind of quiet there, Benson," Elliot murmurs to her in a break in the conversation.
Olivia smiles a little. "Just taking it in." She shrugs. "All of this...you know? I just never..." She trails off, pressing her lips together as she tries to swallow down the emotion.
"I know," he says softly, lifting a hand to cup her cheek, thumbing it gently. His gaze is deep, steady, all-knowing and it makes her heart stutter in her chest.
Oh, what she wouldn't give for it to just be the two of them right now.
Something sparks in his eyes as his hand falls from her face to wrap his fingers around hers. "Come on."
She frowns. "What are we doing?"
She gets to her feet, even as she protests. "Elliot, we can't. Fin and Phoebe haven't even had their first dance yet."
"I know." He laces their fingers together and leads her away from the table, past the bridal party and through a set of side doors that open into a dark, poorly lit concrete stairwell.
"This evening certainly has taken an interesting turn," she jokes as she follows him up the steps. "You didn't bring me out here to murder me, did you, Detective Stabler? Because if you did, I should warn you that my squad will hunt your ass down."
He chuckles. "Captain Benson, your lack of faith in me is insulting." They go through another door into a different stairwell and now she's really confused.
"Elliot, seriously, where are we going?"
"Have you always been this impatient?"
"Yes," she huffs.
"Don't you trust me?" The question is light, but she hears the meaning in it.
"I've never trusted anyone more," she says softly. He doesn't say anything to that, but squeezes her hand gently in reply.
It's only another minute before he leads her through an exit outside, the slight chill in the air a welcomed relief from the flush in her cheeks that's been her steady companion all night.
She gasps. Oh.
He's brought her up to the roof.
"How did you know to come up here?" she asks as they walk toward the center of the building, toward the glittering city lights and spectacular view.
"An old buddy of mine got married here last year, not long after Kathy passed." He rubs his chin thoughtfully. "I was in a bad way that night, hadn't slept much the day before. I just felt suffocated around all those people."
Elliot stops in his tracks and stares out at the city, keeping a hold of her hand. "At first, I started pacing the stairwells. Just walking up and down them, trying to get out of my head." He looks over at her with a small, sheepish smile.
"Eventually, I stumbled out here. Just laid down right here and stared up at the sky." He looks up, taking a deep breath. "Just breathing while I listened to the sirens."
She curls a hand around his bicep. "I'm sorry you had to go through that, Elliot."
He sighs, turning into her as one of his hands cups her cheek. His face is inches away from hers now and she wonders how long she can go without breathing before she passes out. "I never would've made it if it hadn't been for you, Liv."
"Yes, you would've," she assures him quietly, resting her hand on top of his, holding it there.
"No." He shakes his head fiercely. "I wouldn't have. And I don't know that I ever thanked you enough for putting aside everything to be there for me when you had every reason to completely shut me out."
He leans down, resting his forehead against hers. "I didn't deserve it, but you gotta know that I've never taken for granted what that must've cost you on top of everything else."
"Elliot," she rasps, swallowing hard. Fuck, she's going to start crying.
"I've made so many goddamn mistakes and I wasn't there for you for a long time like I should've been," he presses on. "But I swear to you, Olivia, I swear to you I will be whatever you need or want me to be until God takes me off this Earth."
"This," she whispers, wrapping a hand around his other wrist to lift it between them, pressing it against her chest. "This is what I need, Elliot. And you," she starts, resting her hand at his heart, mirroring him. "You are what I want."
"Liv." Her name is a mangled whisper on his lips, a warning, a plea, a prayer — everything wrapped in one syllable.
Her heart thuds in her ears as his hand migrates away from her heart to sweep her jaw before his thumb smoothes against her lips.
"Jesus Christ." The broken curse spills from her lips without her permission and he chuckles, low and throaty as his dark heady gaze falls to her mouth.
She whimpers. "Elliot - "
And then his perfect, delicious mouth crashes onto hers.
Thanks again for all the love around this story!
I've got about 7 chapters posted of another one — a bit more angsty fare that dives into Elliot's mental health, therapy, and his relationship with Liv after he comes back under very different circumstances. So if you're into an angsty slow burn, it's called leave us in ruins.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
He's drowning in her — a wonderful, beautiful, heavenly abyss. His hands sink into the waves of her hair, gently tilting her head so he can get closer — but it will never be close enough. Even when he's inside her later, God willing, it will never be close enough.
Elliot wants to climb inside her and never leave.
She moans into his mouth and it's electric, running through him like a shockwave. Her fingers are warm and firm at the back of his neck and he wants them to brand him so that everyone knows that he belongs to her.
Her other hand slides around to press urgently at his back. He'd been trying to maintain a modicum of distance between their lower halves but fuck, that's all over now. Her heels are the perfect height to line them up just so and she whimpers against his lips as he makes contact with her core.
She grinds against him a little and he can't believe he doesn't just burst into flames right then and there.
"God, Liv." In any other moment, he would cringe at the desperation, the need that reverberates through his words, but there's no fucking way he cares when she's in his arms like this.
Oh they should stop, though. He's not sure he can be responsible for his actions if this goes on much longer and he does not want their first time to be on a rooftop (though it has a certain allure in general, he can't deny that).
Never not in sync with him, Olivia breaks away from his mouth on a gasp, her lips lingering at his cheek while she catches her breath.
He pants gently at her forehead as his fingers slip out of her hair, falling to her neck to massage there. She shudders against him then and he can't help the smile he presses to her skin.
"Shut up," she grumbles, but her arms are wrapping around him in a loose, easy embrace. They stand like that for a few minutes, matching the slowing cadence of each other's breathing, lazy and content as the city bustles around them on all sides.
A gentle breeze catches her hair, dispersing notes of her vanilla shampoo. He relishes it, all of it, as he lets his eyes drift closed.
He isn't sure how much time passes when she speaks again. "I believe you said something about a dance?"
His lips skim her hair before he smoothes a kiss there. "I did."
She hums. "Well, I'm afraid you've waited too long, Stabler. My dance card is full."
He laughs. "Oh yeah? With who?"
"Munch," she quips, not missing a beat.
"I don't think so, Benson. There's always room on your dance card for me."
She leans back in his arms, her warm brown eyes meeting his gaze. "You're right about that one," she confirms softly, nearly all traces of playfulness gone.
He brushes her hair out of her face, tucking a few strands behind her ear. "So what do ya say? Will you dance with me?"
She wraps her hand around his wrist, leaning into his touch. "I thought you'd never ask."
He reaches into the pocket of his pants, noticing the shiver that works its way through her at the loss of his touch.
She shrugs, an answer all on its own, so he slides out of his suit jacket and helps her into it, gently tugging her hair out of its confines.
"Better?" he asks, tugging gently at the lapels, cozying her up. He can't explain what it does to him seeing her wearing his clothes and he knows without a doubt that he's woefully unprepared for future lazy mornings with her sliding out of bed, her tan, naked back exposed before she picks up one of his button-downs from the floor and wraps it around her delectable curves.
Some would say his thoughts are cocky — and maybe they are — but even if he's never really known this side of Olivia Benson before, this version of her is just as familiar to him as all the others. Just as natural and fitting.
She smiles. "Much."
Elliot unlocks his phone and scrolls through a playlist, one he'd made with her specifically in mind — mostly songs she loves and a few that make him think of her — before he makes a selection, slipping his cell back into his pocket.
As the rich and warm instrumentation drifts around them, Olivia lifts both hands to gently circle his neck. Elliot's hands fall to her waist and she wastes no time before she lays her head on his shoulder, nuzzling into him.
He feels her sigh against him, her warm breath caressing his collarbone as they sway together under the moonlight.
He closes his eyes, reveling in the moment, the way she must trust him so implicitly for them to be here now. He never could have imagined in his wildest dreams (okay, maybe in his wildest dreams) that they would've ended up here tonight — not even just after all this time, but just even...at all.
He could stay here, exactly like this, forever.
Absentmindedly, his thumb begins to move in short, lazy circles at her hip, slipping against silk. She's warm beneath him, as if he burns her with his touch. She grows restless under his hands, growling as her nails scrape against his neck.
"Starting to really see why we barely touched each other in those 12 years," she chokes out.
He dips his mouth down to graze her ear, chuckling. "At least we have a place to hold all that sexual tension now."
She hums. "What time is it?"
"Too soon to leave."
"You sure about that, Stabler? There's nothing I can do to convince you?" She nips gently at the curve of his neck then, soothing it with her tongue.
He groans. "You're really not playing fair, Liv."
"Screw fair. I'd rather screw you."
He barks out a laugh. "I really don't remember you having a mouth like this on you before."
She leans back in his arms, a wicked glint in her eye to match her smirk that can mean nothing good for him. "I think you'll find, Detective Stabler, that there is a lot about my mouth you have yet to discover," she says throatily.
"Thirty minutes," he croaks. "We're leaving in 30 minutes."
They make their way back downstairs five minutes later for a few more shuffles around the dance floor before they serve the cake.
"You want to split a piece?" Elliot asks, settling back down into his seat. They're the only ones left at their table, but he's pretty sure he saw Munch and Cragen table-hopping to chat with some old uniforms who used to work at the station house.
Olivia cocks her head, her cheeks flushed from dancing. "Are we doing a role-playing thing where we pretend like we've never met before and you know nothing about me? Because I'd really like to save that for a rainy day, El."
He nearly chokes on his water. "You're right. What was I thinking?"
A waiter reaches their table with a tray of cake plates and Elliot thanks him as he grabs two, passing one of them to Olivia.
"I haven't seen Rollins or Carisi tonight," Elliot observes, sliding a bite into his mouth.
"She and Jesse both have the flu so Carisi is helping out and also keeping an eye on Billie."
"I thought Noah was with Jesse and Billie tonight."
Olivia shakes her head. "That was the original plan, but now he's spending the night at his friend Ryan's. He was so excited that he was all ready and packed two hours before Mrs. Sorenson picked him up."
"You picking him up in the morning?"
"Not until the afternoon. They're getting breakfast and going to the park first." She pauses, taking a sip of her wine. "You asking because you've got big plans for morning sex and waffles?"
He nearly slams his knee against the table. He cannot believe he's gone 23 years without seeing this side of her. Jesus Christ.
He tries to recover quickly. "I assume I'm the one making the waffles in this scenario?"
"Well, yeah, I'm in charge of the orange juice," she deadpans.
"But I don't even get my own glass. How is that equal division of the responsibilities?"
She throws her hands up. "Hey, if you want to be the one to break with tradition - "
He rolls his eyes. "At least throw in the coffee too."
She grins, leaning in to steal a kiss. She swipes her tongue across lips and oh, she tastes like sugar and vanilla wrapped in the earthy notes of her cabernet sauvignon.
She pulls away a moment later, but lingers at his mouth. "Deal," she murmurs, eyes bright with it. He watches, enraptured, as her teeth tug at her bottom lip just as her hand drapes over his thigh. "Will you take me home now?" Her voice is low, all sex dipped in chocolate.
His fork clatters to his plate. "Let's say our goodbyes."
He's already hard before they even step all the way through Olivia's door. It's barely shut behind her before she drops her clutch to the floor and she's in his arms, her hot mouth devouring his.
He groans, a hand carding through her hair to cradle her skull as he pushes her back against the door.
"Elliot," she moans against his mouth, her nails scraping the skin at the nape of his neck, sending a delicious shiver down his spine. It's a reflex then, a symptom of her touch, when he thrusts against her, his length pressing against her core.
God, she's burning him alive and they've barely gotten started.
She seems just as impatient as he is because then she's removing one of his hands from her waist and sliding it up to cup her breast.
He swears under his breath as he kneads it, thick and heavy and perfect in his palm. She whimpers at his cheek, her grip tight and clutching at his neck. He's a goner already, fuck, and then he swipes his thumb over her nipple as he dips his head to paint her clavicle with his tongue. She keens, her neck snapping back, knocking his hand roughly against the door.
"Shit, sorry," she apologizes breathlessly.
"S'okay," he mumbles against her before reluctantly pulling away. "But maybe we should move away from the door because I'm not sure I'm young enough for this anymore."
She laughs, eyes bright and cheeks flushed. The most beautiful fucking thing he's ever seen.
She leans in then, her breasts heaving as she trails a hand down his chest to take him in her hand, teasing his length. "I don't know, El. You feel pretty young to me."
He lets her tease him for a moment before he remembers the task at hand, reluctantly removing her grip on him. He links her fingers with his, kissing her gently.
"You sure about this?" he asks, touching his forehead to hers.
"Yes," she says softly. She tugs on his hand, her eyes intent and steady as she leads them down the hallway into her bedroom.
As he follows her in, he feels the nerves kick in now that some of the adrenaline and urgency has worn off. Twenty-three years on and off by this woman's side, more than half of that spent dreaming about a moment like this — about being with her.
"You okay?" she asks, eyebrow raised in concern as she flicks a lamp on.
He shrugs, a sheepish smile stretching across his mouth. "Just a little nervous, I guess," he admits.
"Hey," she says softly, stepping into him again. She slides her hands around his waist, leaning back so she can look him in the eye. "It's just you and me. No matter what's happened...at the end of the day, it's still just you and me."
She wraps her hand around his wrist to rest his palm against the rapid thud of her heartbeat. "I'm nervous, too." She smiles shyly, warmth flickering through his chest. "But it's you and me."
"You and me," he repeats back to her quietly.
She kisses him as her trembling fingers slowly start to unbutton his shirt. "You and me," she murmurs against his lips.
His hands shake too as he finds the zipper at her back, tugging it slowly down her spine. Feeling the desperation start to build again, he cups her bottom, squeezing it as she jerks into him on a moan.
And then the frenzy begins again.
She's naked — holy fuck, she's naked — as he takes her in for the first time, sprawled on her back beneath him, biting her lip as she watches him watch her. There's not a single inch of her that he doesn't want to explore every day for the rest of his life.
But first. He knows just where to start.
Never relinquishing eye contact, his mouth falls to reverently brush over the first line of puckered skin he encounters. He feels her sharp intake of breath and rests his palm on her belly to steady her, keep her grounded.
"Okay?" he asks.
"Yeah," she shoots him a watery smile. "I'm okay."
He takes his time with each one, focusing solely on her to keep the images out of his head, savor this moment just for them. After she told him about that monster and what he did to her, Elliot has spent plenty of sleepless nights imagining every single detail of the things she shared.
But that bastard is dead and doesn't get to take this night away from them, from her, too.
When he's finished with the last little scar, she reaches for him, pulling him in for a kiss just as he settles on his side next to her.
Her palm cradles his cheek, the deep well of her brown eyes flitting across his face, searching for something. He turns his head into her hand, kissing her palm as his arousal starts to quiet down.
Whatever this is, this moment right now, he wants to give it to her.
"I love you."
He sucks in a sharp breath, his heart loud and pounding in his ears. Stunned, he takes it all in, quiet for a moment.
But he must take a little too long because now she's looking at him with a little worry and a lot of amusement.
"You still with me, El?" she asks.
"I love you, too," he blurts out, a little stupid with it. But she lets out the biggest laugh, one he's sure poets could write endless sonnets about, and eliminates the last of the space between them, cuddling into his chest.
"I thought you might," she teases.
He wakes an hour later to find her naked and draped over him, nipping at his chest with her teeth.
"Jesus Christ," he groans.
She looks up at him, cocking her head as a smile flirts at her lips. "You know, we haven't even spent our first night together and you've already fallen asleep on me."
"I don't think so," he growls, pulling her up into his arms. She lets out a little huff as he flips them so she's beneath him again. "You fell asleep first," he points out, kissing her.
"I did not." She kisses him.
"Did too." He laughs into her mouth and she huffs again, arching her back to rub against his growing erection.
She grins. "I thought that might shut you up."
Hmm. Two can play that game.
He tugs her thigh up, rubbing against her as his other hand roughly kneads her breast.
"Son of a bitch," she pants and he has to bite back a laugh because of course, of course she would curse him out in bed, too.
He captures her lips with his, groaning as he feels her start to undulate impatiently under him.
"Elliot," she whimpers, low and needy. She wraps her hand around his erection again — Christ, she has got to stop doing that — and rubs him against her clit.
"Ohhh," she moans, her head snapping back in ecstasy as she grips his shoulder tightly in her other hand.
"God, you're so wet, Olivia." he rasps against the shell of her ear. Goosebumps prickle at her skin and oh, he's ready to break. He wants to take his time with her, but 23 years of build-up leading up to this night -
He's not sure he has it in him to wait much longer.
"Elliot, please," she grits out, pulling his head up roughly to take his mouth with hers, biting down on his bottom lip.
He grips her gorgeous, thick thigh tight in his hands as he opens her up to him a little more, lining them up perfectly.
He can't take his eyes off her as he enters her gently.
"Oh." Her eyes slip closed as her teeth clamp down on her lip.
"Liv, open your eyes," he coaxes her gently as he slides in further.
Cheeks flushed, her eyes flutter open and her gaze is wanting, dark as night. He knows the combination will remain burned in his memory forever.
"You feel so good," she whispers. "Let me feel all of you."
He pulls out of her only to thrust back in so he's fully seated inside her, hot and tight and so perfect around him.
He finds her hands, lacing his fingers through hers as he pins her to the mattress. He strikes up a steady rhythm then and she's losing the battle to keep her eyes open, heavy-lidded as she gasps under him.
He will never forgive himself for waiting 23 years to do this.
Impatient, she starts to thrust into him, a vision with her hair spread out across her pillow. It's begun to curl a little at her temples where she perspires and she's never been more beautiful.
"Harder," she pleads.
He slams into her, so ready to tumble over the edge already, hungry for her. He releases one of her hands so he can dip his head to nudge at her breast, wrap his mouth around her nipple.
He suckles, his hips never stopping, and then she's keening as she writhes under him.
"Elliot," she cries.
He groans, nipping at her skin. "Come for me, Olivia."
Her body begins to convulse and he can't miss this, so he slips her out of his mouth to watch.
What he sees takes his breath away. She looks at him with such intensity, such love, as her orgasm overwhelms her that it takes him with it too, and he's thrusting into her blindly as he empties himself inside her.
Spent, he falls onto the mattress beside her. She shivers, goosebumps peppering her sensitive skin, so he tugs her into him and pulls the sheet up around her waist. Sated and warm, she shoots him a sleepy little smile before she smoothes a kiss across his lips.
Nuzzling into his neck, she lets out a deep, contented sigh. "I knew you'd put out on the first date, Stabler."
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