The first time Elliot really tried to draw Olivia, he knew he was well and truly screwed.
Line. Wrong. Line two. Even worse. Into the trash with that page.
Line one, two-point-oh. Damn, where is a lighter when you need one.
Line one, three-point-oh. Elliot scrutinized the line, looked up at Liv dozing in her chair and back down to the line. There was something strangely numinous about her presence that this line failed to capture – that any line Elliot could even hope to draw could capture –
And he drew her wherever he could – on post-it notes, on paper takeout bags, on napkins that shredded under his pens. At night, while his wife slept beside him, Elliot would trace her shape in the air, imagining his finger left glowing gold lines.
Ah, he thought. Shit.
When you loved someone enough, Elliot thought, you couldn’t draw them properly because there was some intangible quality that could not be rendered two-dimensional. Whatever magic allowed him to bring a different subject to life was suffocated under the weight of the love he felt. When Maureen was born, Elliot had burned through an entire sketchbook in a week.
Elliot could not draw Olivia ipso facto he loved her. Elliot Stabler was completely, irrevocably in love with Olivia Benson. Even now, slouched with her face squished into her shoulder (and drooling slightly, Elliot noted to his amusement) Olivia was beautiful. Privately, Elliot thought that no artist could properly capture Olivia Benson’s full glory.
Or maybe he was just a crappy artist.
Instead, he drew her hands. Compared to her face, hands were easy. Late nights doing paperwork, he would idly sketch the way her fingers caught the shadows. He loved the calluses on her palm.
It became almost an obsession. Her hands wrapped around a cheap paper cup. Her hands on the shoulder of a woman in need. Her hands loose and relaxed when she dozed off. Her hands as she twirled a pencil. Her hands around the butt of a gun. Her hands curled into fists. Her hands on a keyboard. Her hands after she spent a meeting chewing her nails. Her hands after spending too much time with a punching bag. Her hands pushing her hair behind her ear.
He dreamt of her hands. Olivia’s hands doing things they would never do in real life. In his dreams her fingers trailed down his forearm, dancing at his pulsepoint. In his dreams, her hand was interwoven with his, swinging as they walked. In his dreams, her hands worked furiously on the buttons of his shirt–
Even years after he had left New York, he saw her hands everywhere. In Rome, he saw Kathy’s hands wrapped around a mug and drew as if they were Olivia’s. A secret, shameful wish that it were her here with him. Kathy took notice, of course she did, of how often he drew hands.
She joked that her fingers were slimmer than that and her nails longer. Elliot nodded. They weren’t her hands, but she did not need to know that. Olivia’s hands were a refuge, sacrosanct in a way he didn’t dare speak to even his priest about.
God must have known, though, if He made them. Elliot privately wondered if God, too, became distracted by Olivia’s beauty. Her kindness, her grit. No, any God with eyes would not blame Elliot for dreaming of Olivia.
Ten years passed like molasses and tasted like glass shards, but the instant Elliot’s eyes met Olivia’s, Kathy being wheeled into an ambulance behind her, the years went up in a puff of smoke. Elliot hated himself a bit because his wife was dying, and he could only think ‘Olivia.’
He hardly realized he called out to her. She was walking towards him.
She was older, he was too, but time had not dimmed her radiance. Bathed in the red lights of the ambulance, she looked like an avenging angel. His personal messiah.
He could still read her face. Anger, shock, grief, but mostly, mostly pain. By the time he left, excising the parts of him that belonged to her was impossible, and he knew the same was true for her.
Elliot felt lucky to be blessed by her presence once more. This strange, consecrated bond frayed by time and distance but still there. Elliot tugged.
She took a step back, eyes guarded. Elliot let go lest his efforts to bring her closer snapped whatever trust and care remained between them. Olivia put her hand on Elliot’s shoulder, and his world stopped.
He had spent the last ten years drawing her hands from memory. They looked different now. He should not have been surprised, but just like that the weight of their decade apart rushed back. Elliot stumbled and tried not to read too deeply into the way she grabbed his arms to steady him.
Elliot could not look at her hands. Ten years.