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Here in the Silence

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Since their disastrous attempt at talking to each other, Elliot has given her space, as requested. They see each other on outings with James, but make sure never to be alone together – and James, seemingly having picked up on the tension, has taken to making sure that there is always somebody with her besides just Elliot if he has to leave a room. Olivia feels guiltiest about this – that her son has decided that he has to play the role of protector. She’s told him – repeatedly – that she is fine, and that there is no reason for him to worry about her, but James is stubborn. It is a trait, she supposes, that he has picked up from both his parents.

James is also, gradually, seeming more comfortable with Elliot, and Olivia hopes that soon he will be ready to spend time with his father without her. Because – even though he is respecting her boundaries – spending any amount of time with Elliot is still painful and exhausting. He is more than living up to his promise to stick around and be there for James, but still, seeing him so comfortably step into the role of being James’ father has been especially hard, and she often finds herself wanting to wring his neck when she sees them together – the reminder that it has not always been this way too painful to think about at any length. She knows that it isn’t a strictly rational thought, but Dr. Lindstrom has assured her that it is a perfectly normal response. The whole situation is just hard, and Olivia often finds herself relieved that James is so close to Maureen’s son, because Elliot’s oldest daughter is excellent at running interference. Yet another thing she feels guilty about – using Maureen to avoid dealing with Elliot.

And so, over the next few months, Olivia throws herself into work with even more intensity than usual. She talks to Dr. Lindstrom about the issues she’s having with Elliot’s return, but otherwise she pushes all thoughts of him back into the locked box at the back of her head. It helps, a bit, and she’s able to see him for short periods without wanting to cry, or hit him, or pull him into her arms – so, all things considered, she takes it as a victory.

With the exception of an occasional knowing look from Fin, everyone around her seems to have gotten the message that the topic of Elliot is very much off-limits, and Olivia is grateful for it. The last thing she needs is for her personal life to come barging into the office with her, and the separation of the two allows her to focus on work completely, choosing to ignore the disaster in her own head.

So, when she is lightly stabbed in an altercation with a suspect, Olivia is horrified to realize that she will have to call Elliot. Fin has taken the week off to go upstate with Phoebe, Amanda is in Brooklyn on a stakeout, and she doesn’t even consider calling Lucy – who is with James. Because her son absolutely does not need to see her like this. She has – for the last half-hour – been badgering the ER doctor to just let her call a cab and be on her way, but he has stood firm that she needs to have someone sign her out. Apparently, the combination of heavy-duty pain killers and mild-to-moderate blood loss makes her a liability, and she is not to leave unescorted. Really, Olivia thinks, the whole thing is ridiculous. She has been injured far worse without such fanfare, but the man is insistent.

She briefly considers calling Maureen – with whom she has struck up something of a friendship – but feels bad about the idea of making her drive from Queens. She has a busy job and a family, and it would be an inconvenience at best. Elliot, however, is working in Manhattan, and Olivia has no such aversion to inconveniencing him. Besides, her blouse is crusty with blood, and she just wants to take a shower and go to sleep, so if briefly dealing with Elliot is the price to pay for that to happen – well, she’s willing to make that sacrifice. The drugs have also probably dulled her resistance to the idea of seeing him, she is vaguely aware.

When Elliot comes barrelling through the flimsy curtain separating her from the rest of the ER, Olivia has such a sense of déjà vu that it makes her laugh out loud. He has the exact same look on his face that he’d had every other time he’d had to meet her in a hospital waiting room during their partnership. Alarmed, agitated, and vaguely frantic. She knows that her laughter is probably not appreciated, but, well, the drugs have well and truly kicked in.

“Liv!” He exclaims, rushing to her side and taking a catalogue of her injuries.

She rolls her eyes. “No need for all that, Elliot. I’m fine.”

“You were stabbed.” He grits out, clearly worried.

“Lightly stabbed,” she corrects. He is obviously unconcerned with the difference.

“Jesus, Liv,” he huffs. “You can’t be lightly stabbed. You’re either stabbed or you’re not – it's a black and white deal.”

She rolls her eyes again, finding his indignance amusing rather than infuriating. Must be the drugs.

“Just sign me out so I can leave, would you?”

“Fine,” he nods. “You got another shirt?”

“No,” she looks down at her shirt – it really is covered in blood. “I’ll be fine for the ride home.”

“You absolutely will not,” he shoots back. “Also, I’m pretty sure that’s evidence. Let me go get you something from the nurse’s station.”

She just leans back onto her gurney, deciding not to argue with him about this. The shirt is uncomfortable, and – he's right – it probably is evidence. When Elliot returns with an oversized grey t-shirt, the room has begun to spin a bit – and though it isn’t entirely unpleasant, Olivia isn’t sure she’ll be able to manage changing her shirt alone. She’s starting to see the doctor’s wisdom in having someone come pick her up.

“Need help?” He asks, more than likely having noticed her unsteadiness.

“Yeah,” she admits. “Just make sure I don’t topple over; I think I can do the rest.”

He looks skeptical – and she doesn’t entirely blame him – but agrees, holding out the t-shirt and standing close to the gurney, ready to catch her. It turns out to have been a good choice, because as soon as Olivia looks down to undo her buttons, she begins to pitch forward.

“Alright, alright,” he steadies her. “How about you just sit up straight and I’ll do this?”

She just nods – feeling as though she will well and truly fall over if she tries again – and he steps further into her space, starting on her shirt buttons. Only when he pauses and lets out a shaky breath does she realize that he has not seen her in any state of undress since William Lewis scarred her.

“El, not now,” she says, momentarily sobered. He just nods silently, finishing ridding her of the ruined shirt without meeting her eyes. When he does, finally, look up at her, his gaze is intense, and she is very aware of the fact that she is essentially topless. If she had anything to hold in front of herself – or the ability to properly lift her arms – she would do so.

“Here,” he whispers, handing her the t-shirt. His hand and the fabric have blurred together, and Olivia knows that – once again – she will need his help with it.

“El, can you?”

He nods again, and his eyes seem to have taken on a glossy shine. She wonders if the drugs are making her imagine it.

She is surprised at just how gentle he is while helping her into the shirt. Of course, she knows that he’s capable of gentleness – has experienced it from him before – but the way that his hands slide across the bare skin of her back still makes her shiver, and she is vaguely aware that she has missed his touch.

Shaking herself out of those particular thoughts, Olivia moves to stand once the shirt is on and winces. Something is pressing into her recently sutured wound, and it hurts.

“Liv?” His concern is obvious, and mildly embarrassing – as she has just realized that the source of her pain is, in fact, her bra. She’s quite sure that if she doesn’t take it off, it will reopen the sutures.

“Elliot,” she sits back down, blowing out a breath. “I need you take my bra off.”

His face is a cartoonish impression of a deer in headlights, and – even with the pain – Olivia can’t stop the laugh that escapes her.

“Your-” he hesitates, “bra?”

“Yes, Elliot,” she confirms. “My bra. Surely you’re familiar with the concept.”

He huffs out a small laugh, but pauses, looking as if he’s not quite sure how to approach her.

“Just reach up the back of my shirt,” she rolls her eyes. “I’d do it myself, but I don’t think I can bend that way at the moment.”

“Right,” he nods, and then his hands are on her skin again and she has to clamp her eyes shut at the sensation.

Thankfully, he makes a quick job of it, and before she has even fully gotten used to the feeling of him touching her, he is again standing awkwardly in front of her – now holding her bra. She realizes, with a tinge of disappointment, that she probably won’t be able to get the blood out of it. She hadn’t actually been aware that she’d been bleeding all that much.

“Just leave it,” she sighs. “I don’t see that coming out.”

Elliot nods again, dropping the bra into a trash can and helping her stand up. “You, uh-” he pauses, “you want my jacket?”

Olivia shoots him a look, because it is the middle of July, and approaching ninety degrees outside. The fact that he is still wearing his suit jacket is absurd to her. But then she looks down at herself and realizes that the shirt she’s been given is quite thin, and her lack of bra is more apparent than she really cares for.

“Yeah,” she sighs. “Sorry in advance if I bleed on it,” she tells him. “But I’ll tell you right now, I won’t be covering your dry-cleaning.”

That draws a laugh from him, and he covers her with his jacket, not removing his arm from around her as they make their way towards the exit. She doesn’t shrug it off, rationalizing that her balance really isn’t all that good – she certainly doesn’t need to be falling on her face in addition to her stitches.

--

Elliot isn’t sure just how many painkillers Olivia has been given, but the fact that she’d let him take off her bra – asked him to take off her bra – suggests that the answer is probably a lot. She’s been steadfastly ignoring him since their disastrous conversation some two months ago, so he’s pretty sure this new openness is down to narcotics. Whatever the reason, he is unreasonably happy to be spending any time with her at all. He very much wishes that she hadn’t been stabbed in order for it to happen, but he’ll take what he can get.

She mostly naps on the drive back to Queens, and when they arrive at her place, she is dopey and sleepy and adorable. He doesn’t tell her this, because he values the structural integrity of his face, but it’s pretty much all he can think about. Well, that, and the memories that taking off her bra had provoked. And – on a much less pleasant front – the questions that had sprung to mind upon seeing the scars littering her chest and stomach. He had looked away when he’d realized what they must be from – not wanting to violate her privacy any further – but the sight of them had put a lead weight in his stomach.

And, he thinks, she’d called him El for the first time in more than a decade – twice – and he’d physically had to stop himself from pulling her into his arms, because it was all too much. He knows that this, too, is likely down to her pharmaceutically lowered inhibitions, but hearing it had still put a lump in his throat. Jesus, when did he get so soft?

“El,” she slurs – that’s three times – “I’m thirsty.”

He chuckles, because she’s so unbelievably stoned. “Alright,” he tells her. “Let’s get you inside and get you something to drink.”

She’s mostly able to keep herself upright, but Elliot is ever so slightly concerned about the way that Olivia leans into him as they make their way up to her place. He enjoys the excuse to be touching her, of course, but the fact that she hasn’t fought him tooth and nail about it suggests that she really must be in pain.

“Liv,” he prompts her, once they’ve reached her door. “You got keys?” If she doesn’t, they’ve really made this whole trip for nothing. He doesn’t imagine that she’d love the idea of him kicking in her door.

“Mhmm,” she nods, digging through her purse. He finds that he’s taking more of her weight as she does so, and it occurs to him to be ready to catch her – there's a real possibility that she might just drop.

He is relieved when she not only finds her keys, but unlocks and opens the door - all while managing to stay mostly upright - and he quickly directs her into the living room and onto the couch.

“I’ll get you a glass of water,” he says, already moving into the kitchen. “You have any more pills you need to take?”

He is momentarily concerned when she doesn’t respond, but when he returns with the water, he discovers that she’s fallen back asleep.

“Liv,” he sets the glass of water down on the table and gently touches her shoulder. “Come on, if you want to sleep, you should do it in bed. Sleeping out here’s only going to fuck up your back and get blood on the couch.”

She grunts and tries to push him away, opening one eye to attempt a glare.

“Come on,” he tries again. Then, realizing that she’s unlikely to move on her own, he loops one arm around her shoulders and slides the other under her knees, lifting her easily off the couch.

“Elliot!” She shouts, startled. “What are you doing?”

“Taking you to bed, dopey.” He makes a guess at which door leads to her bedroom, and is relieved when it becomes obvious that he’s guessed correctly.

“I can walk,” she grouses. He can’t help but laugh.

“Yeah, well you weren’t. Figured this was easier than arguing with you about it.” She just huffs in response, but Elliot can’t help noticing that she’s resting her head against his shoulder.

“Here we go,” he sets her down gently, moving to pull the covers back so she can get in. She gives him an odd look, but kicks her shoes off and climbs under the blankets nonetheless. “Need anything else?” He asks.

“Water,” she says, voice small.

He nods and goes to fetch her glass from the living room. When he returns, she is tossing her slacks towards the laundry basket, and her face goes pink when she sees him.

“They’re covered in city dirt and not that comfortable to sleep in,” she shrugs.

“I believe you.” He hands her the water, shrugging. She still has the same odd look on her face, and Elliot figures that she’s probably about ready for him to be out of her way, so her voice surprises him as he’s turning to leave.

“El?” She sounds almost nervous.

“Yeah, Liv?”

“Stay?”

That really does surprise him, because he’d assumed that she would want to be rid of him as soon as possible. But she’s drugged up, and in pain, and it’s not like he could ever say no to her anyways.

“Course,” he nods, kicking off his own shoes and tentatively sitting down on the bed next to her – on top of the covers. He is even more surprised when she leans into his side, using him very much like a pillow, but she has fallen back asleep before he can formulate any intelligent response.