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i'll slug it out, i'm sick of waiting

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Olivia will never admit it to anyone, but she’s thought a lot over the years about all the ways in which she might someday encounter Elliot again. As it turns out, exactly zero of them involved her being in the middle of a speech while he unexpectedly beams with pride at her from the audience.

She wonders now how she must have looked in the moment, as she felt the color drain out of her face and rage explode hot in her chest.

Professional as ever, she’d managed to finish her remarks to the sound of light applause and make her way off the stage, down to the floor and straight at Elliot.

She’d smiled genuinely at Kathy, laid a welcoming hand on her arm and leaned in to kiss her on the cheek.

Elliot’s hands had been clasped in front of him, Kathy’s arm tucked into the crook of his elbow. He’d congratulated Olivia, smiling again, and she’d let her own smile drop off of her face just before she’d leaned in close to his other side, as if to hug him. Instead, it had taken her less than a second to hiss don’t into his ear before she’d turned on her heel and walked away.

He follows her home, the stubborn bastard, and she has just enough time to relieve Lucy and tuck Noah into bed before he’s at her door.

She opens it, mostly because she’s afraid he’ll wake either Noah or her neighbors, but doesn’t remove the chain.

“What?” she asks, her tone harsh.

“Liv,” he says urgently, and the familiar rumble of his voice is like a knife to her heart.

She sighs and leans her head against the door frame. “Elliot, I can’t do this right now. I don’t want to do this right now. It’s been a long day, I’m tired, and my son is asleep in the next room. What are you even doing in the city, anyway?”

“I took a job back here, in Organized Crime,” he explains quickly before soldiering on. “Have dinner with me? Once, and we can take it from there, but only if you want to. Hear me out. Please?”

Olivia eyes him warily.

“Thirteen years together, Elliot. Thirteen years and not a word. I had to hear it from Cragen.”

Her voice breaks then, and she angrily swipes at the tears beginning to form in her eyes with the back of her hand.

“Liv – “

“Then another ten and you just show up here unannounced? I had no idea where you were. You could have been dead for all I knew, and now what? What exactly are you hoping to get out of this, Elliot?”

She doesn’t let him answer before adding, “I deserved better than that from you.”

Elliot nods soberly. “You’re right, you did. You do. Let me make it up to you.”

She snorts. “It had better be one hell of a dinner.”

Elliot lets out a breath, his expression one of immense relief. “Thank you.”

Olivia nods, already wondering if she was going to live to regret this, if she was foolishly holding out her heart only to have it shattered all over again.

The raw sincerity in his eyes makes her stomach clench, and she knows that no matter how angry she is with him, how deeply hurt she is by what he’s done, she’s kidding herself if she thinks that she could have ever actually refused him. He’s always been the weak spot in her armor, her Achilles’ heel. She’s fighting a losing battle, and she’s so, so tired.

Against her better judgement, she closes the door, removes the chain, and opens it up again.

Elliot looks surprised, but pleased. He opens his arms and she willingly allows herself to fall into them. The warm familiarity of him makes her throat close and tears well up in her eyes again. She’s missed this, missed him, and all of her carefully packed up and compartmentalized emotions from the past decade are threatening to overtake her.

“I’m sorry, Liv. For all of it.”

She knows. Somewhere inside of her, she knows.

Still, she can’t resist getting in one final jab.

Olivia pulls back, still loosely wrapped up in his embrace.

“Promise me you won’t blow it, Stabler.”

She’s not even sure if she’s being flippant or not. Regardless, he seems to take her statement seriously.

“I’m in, Liv. For the long haul. I’m not going anywhere.”

It scares her just how badly she wants to believe him.