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The First Time

Chapter Text

Elliot Stabler was already dreading the day. It seemed like nothing was going right. His tie kept coming out crooked, the kids were arguing over breakfast, his car had a flat, which made him late for work, which made him late to meet his new partner. Who was of course the root of all his irritation.

He was being forced to train the new green horn and he did not look forward to it. SVU was difficult for the toughest cops, but showing someone new the ropes put you face to face with the reminder of how gruesome the job really was for the untested.

The last rookie he trained had vomited in the bushes at their first crime scene.

He had tried to pawn her off on Munch - he was more seasoned, he had been doing this longer. But Cragen insisted that Elliot take one for the team.

"Meet the new kid on the block yet?" Munch asked when he passed him in the hallway at work. Elliot shook his head as Munch smiled, "Be careful not to look her in the eyes."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Elliot asked, not in the mood for Munch's cryptic humor.

"You'll know when you see her," he said as he walked away to the elevator.

Great, so she was probably a harpy then. He got to spend his foreseeable future with some ranting person who probably liked to bitch about the injustice of the world while she wore a chip on her shoulder. Or even worse, someone who felt the need to prove herself but instead would make the job that much harder.

He needed coffee before he could bring himself to face her. He had just poured himself a cup when he heard Cragen say, "Elliot, come meet your new partner."

He tried to savor his last few moments of peace before he stepped into Cragen's office.

"You're late," Cragen said by way of greeting.

He shrugged and answered, "Flat tire."

"Call next time."

Elliot nodded and looked at the woman sitting at Cragen's desk as she looked over some paperwork.

"Elliot, this is Detective Olivia Benson. Benson, this is Detective Elliot Stabler."

Benson stood up and turned to face him and that was the moment that Elliot thought, Oh fuck.

And his second thought was that he should have taken Munch's advice and not looked her in the eyes.

In later years he would reflect and think back that that was the moment it had all started for him. That was the moment he had fallen in love. Which was ridiculous because he didn't believe in love at first sight.

He held out his hand to shake and she reached out to take it. Her eyes were large and dark and seemed to carry the world in them. And then she smiled and any resistance Elliot thought he might have mustered up completely disappeared.

Oh no.

"Pleasure to meet you." Her handshake was firm but her skin was soft and he held it a beat too long.

"Benson has already begun looking into your next case. She'll catch you up and you can go from there," said Cragen.

She nodded her head and they both walked out of Cragen's office.

"I'm a fast learner," she said to Elliot when she sat down across from him at her new desk.

Great, her desk was facing his - he would have a constant view of her all day long.

This is not good.

Elliot smiled at her and said, "So catch me up to speed."

She brushed her hair over her ear and began telling him about the case, her face animated and, truth be told, her reasoning and observations were sound.

Elliot took a deep breath. This was going to be a long day - and it would only be followed by more long days - days spent with her.

When he finally made it home at the end of his shift Kathy asked, "How did it go with the new partner?"

He shrugged and grabbed an apple from the counter and took a big bite of it before answering, "It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. She's smart, she has that going for her. I think it's gonna be okay."

Kathy laughed at him, "It's because she's pretty isn't it?"

He stared at her blankly. How could she possibly know that?

"I didn't notice," he finally responded.

"Hah," she laughed, "That's a yes."

She walked up to him and placed a quick kiss on his lips as she passed him by.

"Just don't fall in love with her pretty face and you'll be fine."

Shit.

Chapter Text

Elliot and Olivia walked outside of the restaurant where they'd just had dinner together and turned to each other to say goodnight. The sidewalk was full of people waiting for their reservations or walking past them, impatient that the two of them were blocking foot traffic.

He hated saying goodbye to her. He was always left wondering how long it would be before he saw her again. Tomorrow? In a week? A month? After a ten year separation it was ridiculous that he now could not seem to go more than a few hours without wishing Liv was by his side.

They stood on the concrete as swirls of people continued to walk around them. He pulled her by the arm so that they were leaned against the restaurant wall.

"This was really nice, Liv," he said trying not to notice the way her hair fell in soft waves around her face. "We should do this more often." It took all of his self control to not reach out and touch her.

"Yeah," she agreed. "It's been nice catching up with you." She looked into her purse and pulled out her car keys. She looked back up at him and now he tried not to notice how brown her eyes were. Should he compare them to chocolate or coffee? Neither did them justice. Her eyes were dark pools that had unlimited depth and he could drown in them easily. He was no poet and it was truly a trite sentiment, said by many would be lovers, but still true for him nonetheless. He knew he was being insipid but he forgave himself because there was no way his brain could work at full function when she was looking at him like that.

She was smiling and it was like his whole world lit up with it. He always imagined Olivia as being a warm fire on a cold day, all he wanted was to warm himself by her light - and try not to get burned. She'd burned him a lot lately. She was still holding him at arm's length and he was doing his best to respect that. But it wasn't easy. Not since last year when Wheatley had pretty much forced him to acknowledge what he'd kept hidden for decades.

Olivia was the love of his life. He could admit that now.

How did he control himself for thirteen years around her? How did he keep his sanity for ten years without her? How was it that in the year that he'd been back he felt an undeniable pull just to be near her?

The truth of the matter was he'd never lost his desire for her. Desire that was physical or mental or whatever you wanted to call it. He'd spent decades longing for this woman and pushing it away no longer worked for him. He had no marriage to hide behind anymore. There was no family waiting for him to come home. Now there was only Olivia and his love for her to keep him company.

"I'll see you later, El - " she began to say but was stopped short when he pulled her to him and his mouth covered hers in a light kiss. For the briefest moment he felt her body warm against his own and if he could he would have melted into her.

But she pulled away quickly, holding up her hand and stepping back.

"Liv, I -"

She didn't let him finish, though. "I'm not doing this with you, Elliot."

"Olivia," he whispered trying to take her hand, but she moved away too fast for him so that his hand hovered in the air between them.

"I'm not doing this." She shook her head and looked at him angrily. "I told you we were going to be friends, Elliot."

"I know," he answered. And he did know that. He'd laid awake nights thinking about that. Every time he looked at her and felt the desire to pull her to him he reminded himself that they were just friends. Hell, they weren't even partners anymore. They were just two people who occasionally met up for drinks or dinner.

"I told you not to wait for me."

He nodded his head. She had been very clear about where the line in the sand was. Over the last year he had walked that line as close as he could. And in one moment he ruined it.

"Olivia," he started but could think of no response that would placate her. "Olivia, please," he had no idea what he was asking her for, but he was still begging at her feet.

"You promised, Elliot," she was almost shaking in her frustration. "I'm not doing this with you, if you can't handle that then maybe it's best if we don't see -"

"No," he cut her off. "Don't do that to me, don't walk away from me," he pleaded. It was a bit of a hypocritical request, he could acknowledge that, but he asked for it anyways.

She sighed and looked away, worrying her lip between her teeth. "I need you to keep your promise, Elliot. Because this," she pointed her finger between him and her, "this isn't going to happen. I need you to respect that. Otherwise we can't be friends period. It isn't fair to me, Elliot."

She was filled with such certainty and it crushed his heart, but how could he hold it against her?

He nodded his head. "You're right, Liv," he agreed. "I'm sorry, it won't happen again. I swear it won't happen again."

She looked back at him. He was close to full blown panic that she would leave him and never look back, he knew that now she was capable of it. How could he explain to her that she was the most important person in his life? Wasn't that how she had described him once? - but she had used the past tense. And he was very much in the present. He couldn't seem to make their wants and promises line up.

"If it happens again -"

"It won't, I swear it won't." He was ready to agree to anything if it meant she would stay.

She looked irritated but nodded her head in acquiescense. "Okay." She blew out a breath. "Okay then. Goodnight, Elliot."

"Goodnight, Liv," he said softly.

She gave him.a grim smile then turned on her heel and walked away from him.

He wanted to follow after her. He wanted her in his arms. He wanted his lips pressed against hers. He wanted, he wanted, he wanted.

But he also needed her. He needed her in his life. He would have to push away what he wanted to keep what he needed. It was a brutal truth that he didn't want to face.

He watched her until she got into her car and drove away.

He wanted her. But she needed him to do his part. He would have to put her needs above his wants. For once he had to put her first. And putting her first meant that what he wanted didn't matter so much.

He couldn't help but wonder if this was how she had felt all those years ago. What had she done when she watched him go home to his family? How did she feel knowing that some things just weren't in the cards. She was a better person than he was. In all those years she had never made a move, she had never even hinted that she was maybe in love with him.

Respect. That was the difference. Olivia had respected his wife and family. She had respected the vows he'd made to Kathy and she had placed them firmly into the space between them. Could he respect her now that the tables were turned?

He took a deep breath. "I can do this," he said quietly to himself.

Then he too turned and walked away. "I can do this."

For obvious reasons Elliot chose not to mark that as their first kiss. It was too brief, she didn't kiss him back and he preferred not to think of her rejection at all.

So he waited.

She told him not to wait for her. She told him not to expect her to change her mind about them ever having a romantic relationship. And for years they kept to the status quo of being friends, good friends. Maybe they were even best friends again.

It took him seven years to try to kiss her again. Holding himself back for so long created a fortitude he didn't know he was capable of. In all those years he learned to cherish her, not as an object of desire but to really look at her and see the wondrous person she was.

Their lives seemed to be measured in decades and he had a good feeling that this time things would be different.

So he kissed her again. And this time it wasn't on a public sidewalk and it wasn't him grabbing her and pulling her close. It happened in his kitchen of all places. It happened in the space between grabbing a beer for her and checking on the pasta he was cooking for dinner. It happened somewhere in between laughing at an anecdote and being mesmerized by her eyes all over again.

He loved her and so it felt completely natural that one day they would find each other.

So between the refrigerator and the stove Olivia stepped up to him and this time she reached out for him too, and in the space between them they met each other for the first time. Elliot held out his heart to her and she gave him back her trust and when their lips touched there were no fireworks or music swelling in the background, but he still felt the stars align for them.

Their first kiss was in the kitchen. He was barefoot and she was wearing a ratty old sweatshirt with holes in it. A movie was playing in the background and he was almost positive that the garlic bread in the oven was about to burn.

In all the years he had imagined kissing Olivia he had never dreamed it would feel so domestic, it felt like he'd been kissing her all his life.

When they pulled away from each other Liv gave him a smirk of a smile, grabbed her beer and walked back into the living room where they'd been watching the movie. Elliot turned back to making the pasta with his own smile gracing his face.

Elliot knew a secret in that moment. He knew that he would spend the rest of his life kissing Olivia Benson.

Chapter Text

The movie credits were rolling on the television but Elliot refused to move. He was sat back on his couch, his feet resting on the coffee table and Liv was curled into his side, her head resting against his chest and her arm wrapped around his middle. He knew she wasn't asleep because her hand was absent mindedly playing with a thread on his shirt, but she wasn't moving from her spot either.

He rested his chin on top of her head and held her a little bit closer to him. He lived for these moments. These calm, quiet moments when the only people in the world who existed were him and her. In some ways it reminded him of late nights at the office, finishing up paperwork and looking across his desk and seeing her hunched over her work. It reminded him of stakeouts when for hours they'd be stuck in a car with nothing but each other for company. This was so much better.

In so many ways being with Olivia felt like the full thirty years of their friendship were packed into each moment. The love and the heartbreak, the joy and the terror and the absolute relief of having found her again.

In so many ways being with Olivia felt like brand new territory that he was slowly making his way across. Over the years he had to learn how to move at her pace. For every step forward he would take she would take two back because she still didn't trust him, or she was still hurt, or she flat out just didn't want to go where he was leading her.

And he could respect that. Whatever Liv wanted was what was going to happen. And when Elliot had put the movie on two hours ago Liv had wanted to curl up in his arms and rest her head on his shoulder. So he gave Liv what she wanted.

But now Elliot was painfully aware of what he wanted. He wanted Olivia. In his arms. Every night. He got this occasionally. Ever since their kiss a few weeks back they had tentatively begun to have - well he wouldn't call them makeout sessions - but there was definitely a hushed, furtive air to the way their lips would meet and their hands would roam and he would feel so damn alive. Why had he waited so long to do this? Why had she waited so long?

The older they got the less the past seemed to matter. It was a little ironic that with age they began to only care about the future. And he desperately wanted Liv to be his future.

"Elliot," she murmured as she nestled her head against his heart and he wondered if she could feel how fast it was beating.

He rested his cheek against her forehead before placing a quick kiss against the crown of her head.

He felt her tilt her head up to look at him and he risked his heart looking down into her eyes. Those damn eyes. He was no poet. He'd barely passed English Lit and he had never been able to describe her eyes in a way that fit. But he could say that from the first moment they'd met he had been lost to those dark brown eyes.

That was all it took for him. That and almost three decades of trying to get his shit together.

She looked down at his mouth then quickly back up at him again and he couldn't help the smile that came onto his face. Probably a cocky smirk that she wouldn't appreciate. He didn't know how he knew but he knew he had her. Just like that first moment when he knew he loved her then, with that one glance he knew that she loved him back. She smiled wryly at him, as if she could read his mind, but she didn't hesitate to lean forward and kiss him.

"Elliot," she whispered against his lips.

"Talk to me," he said as his lips met hers again and again.

"Take me to bed," she said.

And so he did. Slowly at first, leading her into a sedate rhythm until the passion of all the years he'd loved her came over him. He wanted to worship this woman. He wanted to pour every ounce of love he felt into each gesture, each touch, each movement of his body against hers. He never wanted her to doubt again that he loved her, that she was it for him. That he was wholly hers.

The night stretched before them and when they'd had their fill Elliot lay back in bed exhausted. Exhausted but sated. Sated and happy.

The sheets were pooled at their feet and he took the time to relish the sight of Olivia naked. He'd never seen her naked before, but now he looked at her lying next to him, stretched out languidly on the bed.

In the dark room it was difficult to gauge her expression, even when she turned to her side to face him, but then sleepily closed her eyes, her hand resting in the space between them.

She was older now than when they'd met, but then so was he. The years of knowing her, of not knowing her, seemed to settle into the past where they belonged. And now in front of him he could only see her and their future.

"Olivia," he whispered into the darkness.

She opened her eyes and looked up at him. He reached for her hand and clasped it in his own, then he tugged on it until her arm was wrapped around him and she had to scoot into his side.

He wrapped his other arm around her until she was nestled against him, her head resting on his chest and their legs tangled together. Olivia was in his arms. Finally. It felt like it was where she belonged, where he belonged. She was turning him into a poet - and a bad one at that. He didn't care if he was a complete fool for her, he just knew that what he wanted had finally collided with what Olivia wanted.

How many times over the past seven years had he ached for this moment? It wasn't even just about the sex. The sex was fantastic. The sex was earth shattering. Being inside of her felt like coming home. He was lost inside of her and then he was found.

But this - Liv lying in his arms - that was where he had wanted her for the past thirty years. And she was finally there.

He held her close. He inhaled the scent of her hair. He memorized the weight of her body pressed against his. He traced his fingers up and down her arm.

"I'm gonna say it now, okay?"

She was silent for so long and her breathing was even, he thought she might have fallen asleep. But then she answered quietly, "Okay."

"I love you," he said quickly, finally said, the way he had been desperate to say all these years. No more hiding, no more skirting the issue by saying 'you mean the world to me' or 'you're my best friend' or 'I'm not going anywhere'. Just "I love you, Olivia."

The silence stretched out before him, but he was content just to hold her, just to be with her.

"I love you, too," she answered back, her voice soft but firm.

From the moment they first met so long ago to this moment now - he had been denied this. Now it was time, he didn't have to dream anymore, he had finally got what he wanted, and so did she.