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A/N: Sooooo many ways to bring these two together. This is my take.

 


 

Late morning on a Wednesday finds them on a bench in Tribeca. It’s been two weeks since Fin’s not-wedding, and they’re finally meeting to catch up; that thing that friends do.

 

Elliot nurses a large coffee while she purchases a hot dog from a nearby cart, reciting the order he still remembers by heart.

 

Extra relish. Light onion. Mustard only.

 

She grabs a handful of napkins and makes her way back over to him. “Hey.”

 

“Hey,” he grins, sighing contentedly when she sits down beside him, “Hey.”

 

“No lunch?”

 

Their schedules aren’t aligned anymore, Olivia realizes. She’s been up nearly six hours already, but she has no idea what hours he’s working today.

 

“I’ll get something later on,” he shrugs, holding up his coffee, “Missed this stuff, still making up for lost time. I had a caffè every morning over there, but, sometimes I just wanted something to gulp.”

 

She chuckles. “They look at you sideways for ordering an Americano?

 

“Yeah I only did that about twice,” he smiles, looking down into his cup, “More respectful to appreciate it the way they do, you know?”

 

Olivia hums and takes a bite of her lunch. They’re quiet for a few moments, watching the foot traffic around them. Eventually he notices her staring at him, and he tips his head quizzically, silently questioning.

 

“Finally admitted there wasn’t much left up there, huh?”

 

Of course, she’s noticed his shaved head, and the bushier facial hair he’s sporting.

 

“Fuck off,” he throws back, shaking his head with a smirk.

 

She snorts into a bite of her hot dog, reaching over to rub his head with her free hand.

 

Stahp,” he chuckles, half-heartedly batting her away.

 

“C’mon, it’s good luck!” she argues through a mouthful, spraying a stray morsel of onion onto his pant leg.

 

He flicks it away, raising his eyebrows. “Hey, you mind?”

 

She reaches for a napkin and makes a show of dabbing at the spot, even though there’s nothing left behind.

 

“So picky about our clothes now,” she teases, bumping his shoulder with hers, “When did that happen?”

 

He grins, letting her pick apart his appearance, watching twin boys argue over a swing in the park across the street. She’s cataloguing him. She’s letting herself take him in, taking stock of what’s different, what’s the same. She’s finally doing what he’s been doing since the first moment he’d laid eyes on her again.

 

After ten years.

 

For twelve years, they’d sat across from each other. He’d have been able to tell you exactly what she was wearing at any given moment; the color and style of her hair; what she’d had to eat that day.

 

For safety, is what he’d always told himself. If anything were to happen, he’d be able to give a description of her, or answer some questions for an ER doc. It’d been for safety that he’d kept such a close eye on her.

 

Now, he tells himself it’s habit.

 

It’s habit that he still does it every time he sees her; drinks her in, makes a note that she’s rolled her left wrist out three different times while they’ve been talking, like it’s stiff or sore.

 

It’s a lie.

 

They’re not partners anymore. He doesn’t need to understand the shape of her, to anticipate how she’ll move, to remember where he might need to cover her because of an injury or a bruise. He definitely doesn’t need to notice the places her pants hug, or that her hair is longer, and he especially doesn’t need to notice that she smells like rose and vanilla—

 

Jesus.

 

Fuck, he’s attracted to her.

 

He’s known that for years, but it’s always been stuffed down and tucked away, covered with the weighted blanket that was his marriage. Some nights, the guilt eats him alive, because he should be grieving his wife. And he has, he does. But without the overwhelming presence of his marriage, his feelings for Olivia rise up unchecked.

 

There’s been an unconscious tightening in his chest over the past ten years, so slow and subtle that he hadn’t realized it was there until their lives had roughly collided. Sitting beside her again, the tightness is gone, the weight is lifted, and he realizes now what’s been missing. Having her beside him feels so safe; it’s safety that’s been missing, the kind that only his partner brings.

 

The kind that only she brings.

 

He breathes easier when she’s next to him.

 


 

He’s been staring at her.

 

No, he hasn’t been staring at her. He’s been checking her out.

 

Blatantly, obviously, obnoxiously…she wants to punch him in the face.

 

He’s doing it again now, but he’s been doing it for months, and it’s distracting. She wants to tell him to take a fucking picture, because every time she catches him she can’t think about anything else for the rest of the day. Ten fucking years he’s been gone, and when he comes back, all of a sudden he’s letting her seewhat she’s always felt is true. 

 

Is he really

 

“I bought a car yesterday,” he says nonchalantly.

 

“What?” she asks, finishing her hot dog and crumpling the leftover napkins, “What kind of car?”

 

“Just a used corolla,” he shrugs, leaning back against the bench, “Something that won’t attract any attention but still has another hundred thousand miles of life in it.”

 

“You’re planning on putting a hundred thousand miles on a car?”

 

He’s quiet, then, tipping his face up into the sun.

 

“I just realized…I’ve never been anywhere,” he admits honestly, shaking his head, “Not a goddamn place.”

 

“You lived in Italy,” Liv counters, unsure where he’s going with all this, “That’s somewhere.”

 

“Yeah,” he says, smiling a little, “New York, Jersey, and Italy. Italy’s a place, I’ll give you that. But…still only one place. Three places.”

 

Something dawns on her.

 

“Are you leaving?”

 

It comes out more harshly than she’d planned, but the thought of him forcing her to ask this time makes her angry. She stands up and starts to look for a trash can, patting her pockets to make sure her keys and cards are where she always keeps them.

 

“You know what, Elliot, I need to take off—“

 

“—I’m not leaving,” he says, reaching for her elbow, “I wouldn’t—I’m not going anywhere. Stay, Liv, I’m sorry.”

 

He looks apologetic, like he hadn’t realized he was being so cryptic. While she’d much rather pretend it wasn’t the possibility of his leaving again that’s unsettled her, it seems they’re about done pretending with each other these days. She stares into his eyes for a moment, and then down to where he’s cradling her elbow with gentle pressure, coaxing her back down onto the bench. She sits back down slowly, re-settling herself next to him.

 

“New York is always gonna be my home base,” he says decisively, like he’s been putting thought into this, “I know this is the center of the universe to most people, hell, I think it was for me too. But I just—I wanna see some stuff. You know?”

 

She smiles a little, unconsciously relaxing just because it’s him. “Like what?”

 

“I dunno,” he shrugs, starting to unpeel the sleeve on his coffee, “Eat some Maryland crab? Fresh maple syrup in Vermont? Maybe take some longer trips in the summer, see if I can get Eli on board. Go see the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, hike or something—“

 

“—you’re gonna hike?” she teases, trying not to interrupt too much because she’s missed his voice.

 

“Hey,” he grins, moving like he’s about to elbow her, “I could hike.”

 

“I’m sure you could.”

 

She’s not even thinking when she says it, it just slips out. It’s borderline flirting, and it makes him glance at her in amusement. Oliva playfully rolls her eyes, looking away before he can see her cheeks flush. Wordlessly, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a pack of spearmint gum, offering it to her.

 

Always spearmint.

 

She takes a piece and gives it back to him, happy to chew away the onions in her lunch.

 

“So, traveling,” she sighs, clasping her hands, “That’s what you’re saying. You want to do some traveling.”

 

“Yeah, I do.”

 

She turns to look at him, propping her head on her hand. “Well, I think that’s great, El.”

 

He looks like he’s putting his next few thoughts together carefully, and she waits him out, giving him the time.

 

“It’s hard to be here, sometimes,” he says eventually, picking through the words, “Just—lotta memories.”

 

Her face softens in understanding. “With Kathy.”

 

He nods, looking down at his drink. “Yeah. I don’t want to run from it, but…gotta be able to breathe, sometimes.”

 

“I get that,” she says softly, giving him a safe place to land without even thinking about it, “I do.”

 

“You could come,” he grins, mood shifting again.

 

She raises her eyebrows. “Me?”

 

“Sure,” he says easily, “Be good for you to get out of the city, too. You ever have fresh Maine lobster?”

 

“I haven’t,” she admits, keeping the mood light, not entertaining the idea that he could be serious, “But I can’t really leave my kid to fend for himself.”

 

“Well, we’d bring Noah, obviously,” Elliot chuckles, sitting back to cross one ankle over his knee, “He’d love it. Dipping lobster in butter? Kids’ll eat anything so long as they have a dip.”

 

She can’t help but laugh at that. “You’re not wrong.”

 

When he turns his head and looks into her eyes, there’s something behind his gaze that stirs up old memories. Long nights doing paperwork, feeling his eyes on her and looking up to catch him staring; it’s comforting, and it makes her warm. It’s deep, all-consuming affection mixed with…something else. Something she put a lot of energy into ignoring back then, something she isn’t ready to confront just now.

 

Olivia clears her throat and looks away, brushing a piece of hair away from her forehead. They sit in comfortable silence for a few minutes, and she realizes it’s one of the things she’s missed the most about having him next to her.

 

“First, why don’t you come over and meet him sometime,” she says, smiling a little, “And we’ll take it from there.”

 

When she looks back at him he’s grinning, the kind that reaches his eyes.

 

“I’d like that.” 

 


A/N: A little bit about me! Thanks for letting me join this party, I’m an EO shipper circa 2008-ish. Watched the show in bits and pieces over the past ten years and dove headfirst back in with Meloni’s return. My body of fanfiction work is largely for the TV show Scandal. My writing is purely character-driven, rarely plot-driven, so you won’t find any case arcs or villains in this story. This story will peek into how their relationship could evolve in vignettes along a linear timeline. It will earn its M-rating. I also work heavily in one-shots, so it’s highly likely I’ll start a series of post-eps when the new season(s) starts, author alert if that’s your jam! I read every single review and will answer DM’s so feel free to interact, I would love it! “songbirdstrives” on Twitter.