“Beautiful, isn’t it?” She came up beside him, leaning against the wall next to him, gesturing toward the dance floor with her glass at his confused look. “Their happiness I mean. After everything, they found their way back to each other, and now they get their shot at a happily ever after. I just think there’s something profoundly beautiful in that, and in them both even being brave enough to reach for it.”
“Beautiful. Yeah, you could say that. Terrifying is what I see. How either of them could even risk it…I don’t know that I’d be brave enough.” He could feel her watching him, but he kept his eyes resolutely on the dance floor. Despite what he said, he knew he wasn’t brave enough. Never had been. That’s how they spent ten years apart, on different continents, how he wasn’t around when she needed him most. She didn’t say anything at first, and he thought she was going to leave it alone, like so many other conversations they didn’t have over the course of their partnership, but it was her quiet hum that got him, like so many times before, and he glanced up only to find his eyes caught by hers.
“That’s the thing El. Neither one of them was brave enough the first time around. But looking at them now? I’d say it was worth it for one of them to finally say something. Eventually silent declarations and unsaid promises stop meaning very much. They’re only supposed to be placeholders El, until someone’s brave enough to take that first step to something tangible.” She placed both their glasses on a passing tray, glancing around before grabbing his hand to drag him around the corner. “El, you said it first. In your letter, and then during your kids well-meaning intervention. You said it. And it’s taken me a long time to come to grips with it. You left me. I know that’s not really what happened, that you were married and had a family and had been through something traumatizing, but the only person up to that point that I had ever let really matter just left me, like I was nothing. So I made sure if anyone else left me, it wouldn’t matter. And then I got Noah, and then you came back, and I just…I wanted to let you in more than anything, but I was so scared…So absolutely terrified that the second I started to rely on you again, you’d leave me behind without a second glance. And this time it wouldn’t just be me, it would be my precious little boy. But you know I could never turn you away when you needed my help, so I helped.” She grasped both his hands in hers as she held his gaze, that lopsided grin he loved gracing her lips. “You’ve wormed your way back in Stabler, maybe even more than you ever were before. Please don’t make me regret it.”
Gently wiping a lone tear from where it was sliding over the curve of her cheek, he then brushed some hair gently behind her ear. “Liv, I will never be able to apologize enough for how I went about things. But I meant what I said. It was horrible timing, but I meant it. But you’re right. One of us needs to be brave, and as usual, it was you. All I can do is promise you that I will try not to hurt you again, and try to spend every day showing you how much you mean to me and how happy I am to have you, and Noah, in my life. And I want to show you every day how much you mean to me, and how lucky I feel to have you back in my life. I love you Liv, and I know you may not be ready to say it back, but you deserve to hear it. You deserve to know that you’re loved, and that I’m not going anywhere this time. That eventually I want you and me and our kids to be a family. Can you at least trust that?”
“I don’t know if I can fully trust that you won’t leave again, but I can promise to try. I can see that you’re trying to prove that you aren’t going anywhere this time, and that matters. It matters that you’re working things out with your kids, that you’ve been talking to someone, that you talk to me before making any big decisions. All of that matters, and it goes a long way toward showing me that you’re trying to do things differently this time.” Grasping his tie in both hands, she tugged it lightly before letting it slide through her fingers as she reached down to grasp his hands again. “And El, it matters that you haven’t pushed me or rushed me. So what do you say we get out of here? Noah’s got a sleepover all weekend, and I’m only on call if something really big comes up, so I don’t have anywhere I have to be. If you’re sure, and if you’re rea-mmph!” His lips slamming into hers cut her off, and she stiffened for just a moment before relaxing into the kiss and returning it with equal fervor as one of his hands slid under her hair to grasp the back of her head, tilting it slightly as he angled his head to deepen the kiss.
He pulled back for a second, murmuring to her as they both caught their breath. “I’m ready. I’m more than ready.” He took her lips again, nipping her bottom lip quickly, sliding his tongue past the seam of her lips to tangle with her own. As he felt her grasping his tie again with one hand, tugging him closer while using it and the arm wrapped around his shoulder and fingers clutching the back of his shirt to give herself that little bit of leverage, he slid his other hand down her back, pressing her closer to his body. Using his hold on her, he turned them until her back was pressed against the wall. He tugged her head to the side as he nipped his way down to the curve of her neck, using his nose to nudge the sleeve of her dress to the side slightly so he could suck a mark into the skin there. The guttural moan she let out surprised them both, and had him pulling back to catch her gaze.
“Still an overprotective, controlling asshole I see. Maybe you need to make it bigger; I’m not sure the unis in Queens will see it.” Smirking as she said it, she ran one hand up and down his tie while the other ruffled the hairs at the back of his neck. “But then, I always figured if we ever got together you’d have a territorial streak a mile long."
He glanced at the bruise starting to form on her neck before meeting her eyes again, a smug grin spreading as he saw her smirk. “Hmm…Something tells me you aren’t the least bit upset about that. That maybe, in fact, you kind of like it. Do you like knowing that my marks are on you? That all it would take is for your clothes to shift juusssttt a bit, and then everyone would know you belong to me? Because I gotta tell you Liv, you give me the word, and I’ll make sure you can’t look into a mirror without remembering that you’re mine.” He used his hold at the small of her back to boost her up just enough to slip his leg between hers, her dress riding up as she now sat astride his thigh. He thought he’d won their little battle of wills when her eyes fluttered shut and she let out a low whine, but then he felt her start to rock slightly against his thigh, and he clutched her tighter as he buried his face against her neck.
“Mmm-El-El-mmm,” she tilted her head even further to the side, pulling him closer even as he sucked what was sure to be a very large bruise into the crook of her neck. She rocked a bit faster, moans and whines interspersed with his name. He was surprised then, when she pushed slightly at his chest, but he pulled back to look her in the eyes. But she kept hers shut, panting slightly. “El, we can’t. Not here. We’re one wall away from Fin’s reception! Anyone has to leave for any reason, they’re going to walk right past us. For all I know, the whole reception could have walked by and I wouldn’t have even noticed. And don’t,” she snarled, snapping her eyes open to meet his, “let that go to your head. But we need to leave. Now. Before this goes any further. So your place or mine?” She pushed against him a bit harder, slamming her eyes shut again for a moment as she slid off his thigh. She was still breathing hard when they opened again, giving him some satisfaction.
“No. You’re right. I just-You go to my head Liv. Always have.” He pulled her in for another quick kiss, forgetting himself for a moment as they sank into it again. But he caught himself, pulling back, breathing hard and satisfied with the whine she didn’t quite hold back as he put space between them. “My place. It’s closer. Want to ride with me?” Without waiting for a response, he grabbed her hand and started leading her to the parking lot, glad that it was warm enough out neither one of them had brought a coat they’d have to go back inside to get and that Liv only had a small purse that had somehow managed to stay on her shoulder the whole time.
“I’ll follow you. If I leave my car here, you know that room of trained investigators will come searching for me. And even if they assume I’m with you when they see your car missing, you know they’ll start calling and showing up just to give us a hard time. No, if I take my car, no one will look for us for the rest of the weekend.” As they got to the lot, she used his tie to drag him close for a hard, quick kiss, before gently shoving him toward his car while she went to hers. “El. I’ll see you there. And then I’m all yours.” She smirked at him as she got in the SUV, watching as he looked around before subtly adjusting himself and sending her a glare before he got into his own vehicle. As she backed out of the parking spot, getting behind him at the turn onto the road, she couldn’t help but smile at how they were finally here and heading for something they’d both never thought they could admit.