Elliot has tried to show restraint his entire life. As a cop, as a parent, as a husband … it’s always been about restraint to a certain degree. Restraining his temper, his words, his opinions … his feelings.
All of it, locked away and hidden just enough to let him make it through the days. Through the years.
It’s worked, too, kept him moving when all he’s wanted to do is stop. Even if he’s always been moving the wrong way, in the wrong direction, away from where he really wants to go.
Until now. Until not even a lifetime of restraint can keep him from pounding on Olivia’s door in the middle of the night.
Elliot rests his forehead on the door. He’s coming apart, the awkward, uneven stitches that have held him together all of his life finally unraveling - breaking beneath the strain of it all.
Who he is, what he’s done … what he wants, and has never been brave enough to reach for.
But it’s the middle of the night and Olivia isn’t answering, and Elliot is stepping away when the door swings open.
“Elliot,” she whispers emphatically, surprise and concern bleeding through the single word.
He can’t tell if he’s woken her, can’t find the words to explain the unbearable, aching need that has driven him here to her.
That is seconds from driving him to his knees.
Olivia knows him, though, and she is grace given form, so she opens the door wider and ushers him into the sanctuary of her home. The lights are on and it soothes him a little to know that he hasn’t pulled her out of bed.
“Sit,” she instructs when he starts to pace.
Elliot does, but it’s tense. He sits right on the edge of the couch with his shoulders curled inward and his hands clasped in the empty space between his knees.
“What is it?” She prompts when seconds have passed in pregnant silence.
He fidgets. “This assignment, the undercover …” But he can’t continue.
He’d had to burn the bodies. Had to, because he’d been Eddie “Ashes” Wagner and setting fire to things is who he was. Is. Is pretending to be.
Fuck, it’s all such a mess and the lines don’t look like lines anymore, not like they should, and he’d burned those bodies.
Olivia sighs heavily and settles herself into the spot next to him. She chooses to face him instead of facing forward, and he can see the upset in her eyes.
“I knew this was a bad idea,” she says.
“You never should have gone undercover, Elliot. It’s too soon. Being undercover is challenging at the best of times, and this …”
“I’m fine, Liv. I can handle it, I just …”
It’s another sentence he can’t finish. Olivia shifts in her spot next to him and he turns his head to look at her.
She wants to know why you don’t tell her how you feel. The person you love.
Elliot shakes his head once, sharp, trying to dispel the memory of Reggie’s mother reading his coffee grounds.
He doesn’t know that it’s almost the exact same motion he made all those months ago during the intervention, the same pull of muscles if not the same expression.
It unsettles Olivia, though. Heightens the concern in her soft, beautiful face, and Elliot doesn’t want that.
“Listen, I know how this works, Elliot. I know how quickly everything can get out of control, how it can go from trying to get to the truth one minute to just trying to make it out in one piece --.”
Elliot sits up straight. The movement halts Olivia’s words and the recognition of what she’s hinted at passes over her face in a moment of regret.
She’s talking about Sealview, and she has never, in all of the months and years since it’s happened, even hinted at what happened in that basement.
“Don’t,” she bites out before he can say anything. “I’m just trying to say that ninety days is enough, Elliot. It’s too long when you shouldn’t have been under in the first place.”
She sweeps to her feet now, agitated. “I’m not doing this with you.”
“Talking? I thought that was something we do, especially now.”
“Really, Elliot?” Her tone is no match for the way her expression darkens and her brows draw down, preparing for the fight. “That’s really where you want to go with this after three months of silence?”
“Liv, I told you I was going undercover.”
“Just like you also told me that you’d keep in touch.”
Elliot sighs and hangs his head. Just for a moment, long enough to breathe in the air that somehow smells like her and exhale the anxiety building in his chest.
“I didn’t know what else to do,” he admits. A lifetime of restraint, but what good is that now? “After the accident - after the hospital - I thought you’d be safer without me around.”
“You told me that Wheatley is after the women in your life but that --.”
“What? What do you mean, no?”
“He’s not after the women in my life. Well, I guess in a general sense, maybe, but that’s not the whole story. He’s after you, Olivia. You, specifically, because he knows what you mean to me. I don’t know how, but he knows.”
You mean the world to me, Liv.
I love you.
Impossibly, Olivia looks more pissed off now than she did a minute ago.
“What are you saying, El? Are you saying that I’m being targeted?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t think so, but then the accident happened, and the hospital, and I --.”
“This can’t be happening again,” she mutters as she paces away from him.
What a small word. One syllable, just five short letters, but it reaches across the distance that separates them and shoves itself down his throat to cut off his air.
“Again.” He repeats it, but it doesn’t sound the same when he says it, doesn’t have the same grimness to it.
Doesn’t sound as if it’s covered in something old and oozing, dark - as if it’s dragging monsters behind it.
“Olivia.” When she stops mid-stride and turns to him she’s close enough to touch, close enough to reach out and grab, but he doesn’t.
Restraint. So much of it, too much, but old habits die hard.
“Talk to me. What do you mean, ‘again’?”
“We’re not having this discussion, Elliot.”
“Because it’s over, and I won’t pull out old skeletons just for you to disappear again when you decide you don’t need anything from me.”
“What the hell does that mean? You don’t really think that’s true, do you?” When she doesn’t respond he’s gutted. “How the hell could you think that, Liv?”
“Because that’s what you do, Elliot! You’re here one minute and gone the next, and I can’t do that anymore. I won’t.”
“I told you, I left because I didn’t know what else to do! Three months ago, ten years ago - I thought I was doing the right thing, Olivia, I thought you’d be better off without me.”
“Yeah, well, I wasn’t. So, just tell me what it is you need now, Elliot, and get out.”
He’s coming apart, coming out of his skin, all of the demons of his past clamoring for him as they climb out of every dark pit he’s ever stashed them in. His transgressions are too numerous and insurmountable, too poisonous to survive.
His restraint is finally choking him - has been choking him, for years.
“What happened, Liv?”
“What happened,” he repeats, stronger now.
She blows out a weighted breath. Relents just enough even though her expression is crestfallen and grim, and the vice around Elliot’s heart tightens.
“William Lewis happened. Four days of hell, Elliot, and when it was done … somehow, after all of the torture, the worst thing he’d done is make me like him. I met the devil, and I walked away. So, whatever this is, whatever you think Wheatley is trying to do, I’ll handle it.”
The way he reaches for her is slow. Carefully, he slides his arms around her waist and hears the quiet sound of surprise she makes as she freezes and her muscles tense. Elliot tightens his arms until he’s clinging to her and turns his head to rest it against her breasts.
It’s intimate - the most intimate touch they’ve ever shared, in a way, because there’s no gun, no perp, no imminent threat looming over them. It’s just him, and her, and the waiting silence of her home.
He knows he shouldn’t. Knows all of the reasons she should kick him to the curb right now and never speak to him again. Instead, she just stands there, solid and still as a statue.
I met the devil and I walked away.
Of course, she did. That’s who Olivia is, the truth of her that everyone seems to miss: she saves herself.
He can hear her heartbeat under his ear, can feel her tension in the clench of her muscles as she struggles with how to respond, and all of the reasons not to don’t matter anymore because all of his demons know her name.
But he’s been blind to her demons, ignorant of their presence as they lingered in places he didn’t know to look, and Elliot needs … her. Just her, just Olivia, the other half of whatever is left of his undeserving soul.
So, Elliot does what he’s never allowed himself to do: he reaches for her. Tentative, tender - he will not touch her with hollow hands - he reaches, and feels the strands of her hair slide over his fingers, the soft skin of her cheek against his thumb.
She is the key to all of his chains, and if she can find it in that hallowed heart of hers to forgive him he will show her what it means to be loved freely, without restraint.
“I need you,” he whispers, because she’s asked. She’s asked and he’s listened, and he’s finally brave enough to answer.
He hears her heart race under his ear and feels her breath hitch against his cheek. He leans his head back just enough to see her, to lock eyes with her, and all of their years are staring back at him.
He has been wrong, and foolish, and wasteful, but no more.
He will be worthy.
She saves herself, but Elliot will teach all of her demons his name.
Olivia is softening beneath his touch. Little by little she’s moving, pulled in by the gravity of them, and it’s all there: her fear, and trepidation, and desire. The love and concern that’s always waiting for him, as grounding as it is overwhelming.
Olivia’s love moves mountains.
Her hands slide slowly up, over his back and shoulders until her thumbs and forefingers rest against his jawline and her other fingers are against his neck.
She hesitates inches from his face, seconds from the connection that they both crave. “Elliot,” she whispers, and it’s his name but she breathes it into him like a revelation, a benediction that he has waited for his whole life.
There’s nothing else. It’s just his name, but Elliot hears the rest of it: I can’t; not yet; I’m afraid.
So, he waits, because his whole life has been a study in restraint.
Olivia kisses him. It’s gossamer, tremulous … uncertain but wanting, and Elliot pushes his luck and pushes forward just a little. Just enough to reinforce the connection, and that will be enough, he thinks, until she’s leaning into it. Into him.
It’s more than he’s hoped for and less than he wants, and when she pulls away enough to look at him he knows it’s for the best.
He hasn’t talked to her in three months because some things are just too precious to gamble with - he waits now for the same reason.
But, “Let me stay,” he murmurs, because he has done too much leaving.
May have to do more before all is said and done and he’s finally free to come home and be himself again.
He lets her go when she moves away, but her hand trails down his arm and she snags his fingers in her own to draw him to his feet.
The conversations have only just begun, but for now Elliot lets her lead him down the hall with their hands joined. He climbs into her bed, wordless and waiting until she slides into the space next to him and curls into his side.
Olivia falls asleep before he does. Elliot listens to the sound of her breathing and stares into the long shadows of night as if they’re waiting to strike.
He is just one man, and Olivia is just one woman, but together they are greater than the sum of all their parts. Together, they are unstoppable.
Come out, come out, wherever you are.
Their demons don’t stand a chance.