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I'll Take You Home

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It shouldn’t be this easy between them right now. Too much time has passed. Elliot’s wife just died, for fuck’s sake. But it’s just so easy between them at Fin’s...whatever you call a wedding that isn’t a wedding. 

As the party starts to break up, she and Elliot are still in their own, little world. Somehow, they’ve gravitated even closer to one another, which doesn’t exactly make sense when they spent the majority of the party breathing each other’s air anyway. And all those touches. She doesn’t remember El touching her this much 10 years ago. Then again, he was married then, and he’s decidedly not now. 

The warning bells should have come when he lingered for just long enough to prove it was intentional when he brought her her coat. Or maybe they should’ve been there during that “one” dance they shared, which turned into two, then three, before they were pretty much the only two people still out on the floor. 

It should have been awkward when they finally noticed that it was just them, swaying to their own tune, but it wasn’t. Certainly something should have raised an alarm then. Olivia Benson’s Personal Defense System is most certainly broken.

Olivia will later blame this foreign sense of security, of warmth, of everything finally being right with the world for what happens next. 

“You know, as an NYPD Captain, I probably shouldn’t set a bad example by driving out of here after all the wine I’ve thrown back tonight,” she jokes to Elliot.

“Good thing I’m a lowly Detective with a jacket full of violations then. Where are your keys? I’ll take you home.”

She leans into him a little as she hands over her keys, clasps his hand and smiles up at him before remembering there are still at least a couple of people who know her very well here. Best not to give them a show...but El’s hand just feels so right in hers. 

“Come on, Liv. Let’s get out of here before someone gets the wrong idea.”

She laughs. “Yes, because I’m sure us walking out of here with your hand barely above my ass is going to give them the right idea.”

Elliot yanks his hand away before he freezes, his cheeks immediately turning a delightful shade of pink. And those baby blues of his are suddenly so wide and terrified. It’s clear he’s about ready to start offering some sort of apology, but all Olivia has to do is look at him just the right way. It shuts him up before he even starts, and his hand, so nice and warm, returns to her lower back, guiding her out of the venue.

The ride home is smooth, Elliot’s left hand lazily perched on the steering wheel while Olivia plays with his right. He takes his time, doesn’t even fall into road rage patterns when some asshole cuts him off. The city drifts by outside, twinkling lights dancing past the windows, while Olivia only interrupts the peaceful silence with a soft, “left here, El” or “straight through that stop sign and then a sharp right, Detective.”

He parks in her usual spot, right where she directs him to go. No questions asked, no arguments, just this easy sort of following her lead. It should be unsettling after all this time, but it's not. There, in the dark, it’s easier to remember what she always felt for him, even as she knew it was wrong. A blurted “I love you” from weeks ago bounces around in her head, but she dare not disturb this bubble of theirs by mentioning it.

Instead, it’s what feels like a lifetime of just holding each other’s gazes. That broken Olivia Benson Personal Defense System fails to do her any good once again.

Elliot looks like he’s fighting some sort of internal battle between doing the right thing and doing the inevitable. The “right” thing seems to win because he clears his throat and looks away for the briefest of seconds before returning his gaze to hers, offering up a crooked little grin, and unbuckling his seatbelt.

“I’m going to grab a cab. But first, you know the drill. Blink your lights when you get inside.”

...and there it is. Something inside Olivia breaks. This whole, perfect, dream-like night gets ripped apart. Every beautiful new memory, nothing more than shards of broken glass.

She’s sobbing, and she knows without even so much as looking at him—God, she can’t look at him. She’s so embarrassed—that Elliot is equal parts terrified and at a loss for what he’s done wrong. He’s out the door and over on her side, practically dragging her out of her own passenger seat and up against his chest before Olivia even knows what’s happened. 

“Liv, Liv. What is it? I’m sorry. Whatever I did, I’m sorry.”

All she can do is hold on so tightly, she’s sure she’s making him (even more) uncomfortable. When she’s worn herself out enough to finally stop sobbing, she gives Elliot a couple light squeezes to let him know he can loosen his hold on her enough for her to look up at him.

“If you were here, it never would’ve happened. You would have known. You would have made sure I was home safe, and when I didn’t blink those lights, you would’ve known. Where were you?

Elliot swallows, three times in rapid succession, never once loosening his grip on her. “Liv, I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I’m sorry. Whatever it was, I failed you. I should have been here. Wherever I was on that particular day—”

“Days,” she cuts in, “he had me for days . But that night, when I came home and he was here, you would have known.

“Whenever it was, whoever he was, I was in the wrong place. I should have been here. It’s on me. Whatever you’re talking about, whenever or if ever you’re ready to talk about it, it’s on me."

He leans down and nuzzles her neck, just holding her there in the middle of the street, on what used to be this magical night of them drifting toward something . She lets him. It’s when she feels the lightest press of lips against her neck that she starts to shiver.

“Can I walk you up? I don’t want...I mean...I know we had a good time back at Fin’s whatever-you-call-it back there, and I know where I want this to go. Eventually. But I didn’t drive you home tonight looking for it, and I definitely don’t want it to be something that happens when you’re obviously upset about something I can’t understand so you regret it in the morning. But I’d feel a lot better if I could make sure you got in safely. I’ve got your six, Cap.”

She gives him a watery smile and grabs his hand. 

“Detective, you are to watch my six at every opportunity from here on out. That’s an order.”

Elliot’s face lights up, and Olivia thinks maybe, if she can bottle that smile and keep it somewhere to let out whenever she feels down, she’ll never need anything else again in her life.

They make it to her door, then inside. Elliot literally makes sure to check every possible place anyone could hide, and Olivia thinks, not for the first time—not even the first time in the last 20 minutes—about how different things might have been if he’d just been here...But now, oddly, it’s a good feeling. Like nothing will ever touch her again. Her partner’s back. For better or worse.

“All clear, Captain,” El says as he finishes his textbook investigation of her personal space. “Looks like someone ransacked your closet looking for something. But otherwise.”

Oh, it’s like this now. She blushes. She’s actually blushing because that shit-eating grin tells Olivia that El knows exactly what happened to that closet and why. She was trying to find something nice. Something to impress. Something to impress him .

“Shut up, Detective,” she tosses back, still blushing and now grinning at him like an idiot. “That’ll be enough.”

“Yes, ma’am. I guess I’ll be on my way then.”

That same word vomit bug Elliot had weeks ago seems to have made its way to Olivia’s system because the next thing she knows, she’s asking him to stay. “I mean, a guy like you isn’t going to get a cab too easily at this hour, and I’d hate to lose you when I just got you back. Might as well crash here...if you want.”

El’s cheeks are pink again? Interesting. “Uh, sure. Thanks, Liv. I’ll, uh…” He shuffles over to her couch, makes to start getting settled there. 

“El,” she whispers. He looks over at her, and he knows before she even says anything that whatever she asks is going to cost her something.

“Whatever you want, Liv,” he says, staring into what he can only describe as eyes so terrified, he can’t even believe they’re hers. 


She blows out a frustrated breath.

“This is stupid. I can’t believe this is so hard.”

“Like I said, Liv. Whatever it is, it’s yours. If I could actually read your mind like everyone has always sworn was possible, you wouldn’t even have to ask.”

The words come rushing out all at once, not a single pause even for the shortest of breaths: “Wouldyoujuststaywithmeandholdme?”

“Yes.” It’s so simple, the way he says those three letters...just...yes. 

Olivia looks down, mumbles something about needing to get changed first. 

“Hey, take your time. I’m right here, Captain.”

There’s that easy laugh again. “You really love using that title, don’t you, El?”

“Oh, Liv, you have no idea…” The heat in Elliot's gaze is unmistakable. 

“Stop right there, Detective. Not tonight. Maybe sometime, if you’re good...just not tonight. There’s still a lot we need to...I just don’t want to ruin tonight any more than I already did with that display downstairs, but we need to have that conversation before…"

Elliot sobers instantly. “Liv. Whatever you want.”

Olivia clears her throat, backs up a step. “Ok, then. I’ll be right out.”

She goes through most of her nighttime routine and comes out with one of those free toothbrushes from the dentist in her left hand, her own in her right. Wordlessly, Elliot follows her back to the bathroom, brushes his teeth right alongside her while she takes care of her own. If there was an award for Most Instant Old Married Couple, she muses, she and El would definitely take the title right this little moment of domesticity.

When they finish and head into her bedroom, there’s no fumbling awkwardness or asking about sides of the bed. Olivia leads the way, slipping under the covers. Elliot follows. It’s painfully simple, up to and including the part where El turns on his side and starts reaching to wrap her up in his arms, just as she’s scooting back into his chest and grabbing his arm.

“Always so in sync,” she murmurs before she realizes those are his dead wife’s words. Verbatim. But somehow, even that doesn’t break this fragile moment they've somehow managed to build.

This time, it’s Olivia who’s about to apologize but is cut off. “I know, Liv. It’s OK. I think she knew she wasn’t going to make it and was trying to push me in the direction I should’ve gone in years ago.” He notices her gun is within reach, so before he makes his next move, he clears his throat, slips his fingers in between hers, and nervously asks: “Hey, promise not to shoot me for what I’m about to do next?”

“El...I told you…”

“No, no. Not that.”

“Fine. I promise not to shoot you. I do not, however, promise not to smack you.”

“Fair enough,” he forces out on a laugh. 

He pushes himself up on one arm, leans over, and barely touches his lips to the corner of her mouth. 

"Goodnight, Captain,” he whispers, “now, shut your mind up and get some rest.”

Olivia yawns, turns over in his arms, and gives him a sleepy, pathetic imitation of a glare. “I’m supposed to give the orders here, Detective. But since I’m tired enough? OK.”

She turns back around before she lets herself think about the absolutely enamored gaze she was met with, even as she’d been trying so hard to ignore it. It doesn’t take long for her to fall asleep, and the nightmares don’t bother to try interrupting her. Not with her partner there to protect her. 

Elliot watches her until he can’t force his eyes open any longer. 

They both wake up the next morning thinking it’s the best night’s rest they’ve ever gotten.