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hope in these waters

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His mother turns to look at him as the door slams behind Olivia, and he can see the pity welling in her eyes. "Oh, Elliot. Are you really going to let the woman you love walk out of your life like that?"

He hates fighting with Olivia, always has, but what’s made this fight even more difficult - besides the fact this time feels more final than most - is the fact his mom and Eli bore witness to it.

Eli has long since fled to his room, but Elliot has no such luck when it comes to his mom. Go figure. He sighs, runs his hand over his face. “I can’t make her stay, mama,” he chokes through tears.

He can’t make her do anything, but Jesus, Mother Mary and all the saints know he’d do anything for her.

She shakes her head and clicks her tongue softly. “Elliot, my boy, for as much as you never wanted to be him, you're as thick as your father was...”

“Ma-“ They’re treading on dangerous ground; his father’s been dead for nearly 30 years and they barely speak his name. Elliot has spent his entire adult life trying his hardest to prove he is more than his father’s son.

And yet.

“Go after her and apologize! Listen to her! Show her some affection! I knew when I met her, she was the right one for you. If you don’t go now, you may lose her forever.” She clutches her hand over her heart. “You have to give her a reason to want to stay.”

“And what if she doesn’t?” It’s his worst fear, that no matter what he says or does from this junction, Olivia will still want absolutely nothing to do with him. It’s her choice, because of course it is, but he can’t bear the thought of being without her. Again.

Even his palazzo in Rome doesn’t feel as distant as the thought of Olivia Benson’s silent treatment.

“Then you’ve done all you can do,” she says, and he sees a tear forming in the corner of her eye. “But let me tell you something, she loves you. A woman can recognize a woman in love from a mile away.”

“She’s never said it.” He chews at the corner of his lip. Has she ever really been in love before? He’s not sure which thought breaks him more: that she’s been deprived of the giddy feeling of someone who’s hopelessly in love with someone else, or that she had it, and that the lucky person wasn’t him, and that whoever they were, they squandered their chance.

Because Olivia deserves the world and everything in it.

He thinks he could give it to her, given a chance and the rest of their lives to make it right, but first, he has to have the chance.

“You don’t have to see it with the eyes to know it exists,” his mom says, throwing her arms around her oldest son and clutching him tightly to her. “Go. Before it’s too late.”

He blindly grabs his keys and phone from the kitchen counter, pointedly leaving behind all traces of Eddie. Let them be unable to contact him for a night, because right now, he only wants to be himself. “Love you, mama,” he says, tenderly kissing her on the cheek before darting out the door. Hopefully he’d be able to catch up to Olivia.

Before it’s too late.

--

Bernie watches as her oldest son – the one that always bore the brunt of his father’s anger, the one that had to grow up far too young – runs out the door, and she prays that he can make it to the woman he loves and tell her exactly how he feels, before it’s too late.

Even when things were good between us, his pop never looked at me like he looks at Olivia, like she holds the moon and stars up in the sky every night and the sun every morning, and has the key to his very eternal happiness clasped in her hands.

Fly, my Elliot, fly like the wind. Fly to your Olivia. And don’t stop flying until you have a safe place to land.

--

Stoplights, stop signs – they’re all an imaginary concept as he speeds through the streets of New York late that night. If anyone asks, he’d pull out his badge and cite police business, but thankfully no one around seems to care.

He sees her getting out of her car in the parking garage of her apartment building, and he calls out to her. “Liv!” he shouts.

She spins around at the sound of her name, his voice; he isn’t sure which, except that it has the same effect either way. There’s a look of confusion on her face, that morphs into a form of anger as she walks up to him. “I thought I told you I didn’t want to see you anymore.”

“I know,” he says, his breath catching between pants. He feels like he’s run a marathon to get here, to be looking at her in the gloomy light of the parking garage. “I know I’ve messed up. And I know you have every reason to hate me right now.”

“I don’t hate you,” she says, and she shuffles in her purse for her keys, pointedly refusing to meet his look. “But I can’t keep doing this with you, Elliot.”

“I know.”

“You claim to know a lot of things.” She finally looks up at him, holding her keychain. “But do you know what I need? Not what you want me to need, not what you think I need. What I actually, truly, need.”

He pauses.

“For someone who claims to know everything, you really don’t, not when it comes to me. I’ve stuck up for you, Elliot, saying I know you better than anyone else, even after you left me. But maybe you don’t know me as well as I know you, or maybe none of that’s true at all.” She sighs. “I’d hoped – when you came back – that things would be different.”

He nods, blinks, looks at her. Really tries to look at her, see the woman she is – the woman he admires so much, the woman he’s loved for so much of his life that she’s as much a part of him as anything – and he releases his shoulders in a sag. “I want them to be different, Liv.”

“So, then, why aren’t they?”

Asking the tough questions. He takes a breath, steels himself. “Because when I choose you, it’s for keeps. And right now, with the undercover, there’s too many loose ends.”

“You’ve chosen everyone over me before, Elliot, why should I believe you when you say you want to choose me now?”

He cups her chin in his hand and tugs her gently toward him, and he rests his forehead against hers, saying softly, “does this answer your question?” He’s never let himself be this close to her before, not even when he was drugged in her apartment, and she’s stunning from this close of a distance.

Her lips curve into the beginnings of a smile, before his cover hers with an urgency neither of them could have expected. Her lips part for him, and he nips at the corner of her lower lip, and her tongue inside his mouth is one of the most glorious sensations he’s ever felt. His hands are clawing at her hair, grasping onto loose tendrils for dear life, and she’s latching the ankle she injured around his calf and trying to pull him into her.

“Liv,” he whispers, saying her nickname in soft reverence. “Olivia.” If she isn’t realizing now that she’s his first choice – his only choice, forget what anyone else thinks – then she’s never going to.

“Yeah?” She looks at him, as if she’s in a daze, and smiles softly. “Don’t leave me waiting too long.”

“I won’t. I promise.”

This isn’t like the “promises” he’s made as Eddie, where the intent to follow through is only as far as his cover extends. This is Elliot making a promise to Olivia – semper fi and you mean the world to me, and he hopes one day I do.

“I’m counting on it. Don’t let me down.” And he can feel that moment where she puts her heart in his hands and is silently begging him not to let anything happen to it. But, maybe, in a way, it’s always been there, and he’s only realizing the impact of its presence.

“I won’t. Give me a little more time,” he says, kissing her again, softer this time, but no less emotional for him.

“For you? I think I can manage.” She laughs, her nose crinkling slightly, and it’s one of the most beautiful things he thinks he’s ever seen. Hell, she makes him want to stay, despite the fact he has to go back to his camper and sleep alone tonight.

If he doesn’t, he’s not sure he’d ever get the willpower to go back, and she seems to realize that, as she tilts her head to look at him from a new angle. “Go,” she whispers, “before I don’t let you go.”

“I’m holding you to that one of these days, Liv,” he says, taking her hand in his and gently squeezing it, luxuriating in her simple touch. “I wouldn’t expect anything less.”

As he reluctantly walks back to his car, he looks over his shoulder at her. Every fiber of his being is crying out for him to stay, but he can’t. Not yet.

One day, soon, he will. And they’ll stay together.