She's jealous and she can't stand it. She can't stop picturing his hands on her, his mouth.
That other woman... Flutura, or whatever her name was.
She knew, naturally. She'd read it the moment she'd seen him looking down at her, that he'd fucked her. That he'd had to, she kept reminding herself.
Her own vicious self awareness made every reason why she shouldn't be bothered by this blindingly apparent-
He had a good reason, even if she didn't know exactly what that was. There was no way that this outlandish woman meant anything to him, even without knowledge of her involvement in the sex trafficking. Now wasn't the time for the two of them, if it ever even would be...
But none of that made the pangs of jealousy sting any less. Despite the years of hurt, despite everything that had happened to them over the past six and a half months, Olivia's heart still beat for Elliot Stabler.
She could barely admit it, even to herself, but she'd almost kissed him, that night in his garden, before slipping off into the darkness. She'd let herself step a fraction of an inch closer to him, saw the infinitesimal way his face had fully opened to her, and she had been a split second away, heart pounding in her ears, from throwing all caution and taking what she'd wanted. If that other woman could touch him than so could she.
But it wasn't the right fucking time. Not yet.
She doesn't know if she can fully trust him, but god she wants to. She knows that he loves her. He's told her in so many ways. They've always been and always will be connected.
Her rational brain tells her that should be enough, that is enough, that whatever it is they're progressing towards they are headed in the right direction. The look in his eyes that night her first real sign that the man she's known better than anyone is still in there.
Her damn stubborn feelings continue to wage war with her logic.
The result has her derailed. She's cared so deeply for so many people her entire life, but this? This is foreign. Because this, she recognizes, is selfish. It's what she wants, against what's rational and against logic.
Against her sense of self preservation. And this want makes her feel fragile.
It's been years since she's been like this, masking her insecurity with anger. Sometimes it come out as downright bitchy.
She's a captain and a mom, and is in touch enough with her emotions to know that she can't let them control her like this, so she tries to push it aside, makes a concerted effort to tamp it down, at least for now.
Until Sgt. Bell calls.
"Captain Benson, we're pulling him out. Today."
Her response is instantaneous- "Where do I meet you?"
It's not elaborate, but no one questions it at OCCB when she takes the lead. She enters their headquarters and brings with her the same fierce grace that emanates off of here everywhere she goes.
It's easier, safer, to get him out before the raid. Keep his cover intact until Kosta, the Briscus, anyone who will want his head and who has the power to get it, are behind bars.
It's also to save him from himself. Ayanna knows he's been through a hell of a lot of new trauma, and that getting him back in therapy, back to some semblance of normalcy ASAP is crucial.
She doesn't know if calling Olivia Benson in on it is for his sake, or the Captain's.
Olivia sees him, through the slightly grimy windows, at the diner counter, seated next to the red head Reggie. They'd given her the rundown on him during the quick briefing, and she can tell that Elliot's going to take this guy's fate, whatever that may be, personally when this all goes down.
She knows that he knows that after tonight the operation is over, but he doesn't know they're pulling him first. She doesn't know how he'll react, but right now his physical safety is her priority, whether he's receptive to the extraction or not.
She takes a steadying breath, nods curtly to Fin on her left, and they step inside.
She already has her cuffs in hand and she grips them tightly, fighting the ridiculous urge to run a hand over Elliot's shoulders as she struts up behind him.
There's an almost imperceptible tensing to his entire frame. He knows her voice. This is the one she uses in work mode- tone low, hard edged.
He's smiling from something Reggie just said as he turns on his stool to face her and she's the only person in the room capable of reading the shift in his eyes, of sensing anxiety behind his smug bravado.
He rakes his gaze over her entire body before he speaks.
"Hey gorgeous. What can I do for you?"
"NYPD," she smirks. Suddenly this is very real. She's getting him out, taking him home, exiling Eddie Wagner from their lives, and she's so fucking happy she can't help a smile from sliding over her features.
She's good though. She camouflages it as her special brand of flirting, usually reserved to excite the exceptionally smarmy suspects into screwing up in interrogation.
"You're under arrest for arson." She steps closer and holds up the cuffs.
He's seen her do this so many times, been next to her on so many arrests, he knows exactly how to play it.
"Alright, Sweetheart, alright. Take it easy." He makes a show of chewing the piece of gum in his mouth as he raises his hands, palms facing her.
She gives it right back to him.
"Hands behind your back, Sweetheart," she all but growls in his ear, before continuing to Mirandize, and she knows it's taking every ounce of self control Fin's got in him to keep from rolling his eyes as he stands alert a few feet away.
Elliot is pliant in Olivia's hands as she maneuvers his bare arms behind him, knows exactly what to say as two muscular Albanians begin making their way over to the understated but still noticeable commotion surrounding their fire guy.
"Hey fellas, it's OK." They hold back, but maintain a skeptical guard.
"Listen, baby," 'Eddie' continues to Olivia, "there's obviously been some sort of misunderstanding here. Luckily for you, I'm an understanding guy, so I'm gonna do you a favor and go with you. Also..." he drops his voice to a rasp, "I got a thing for lady cops." He looks over his shoulder and winks at her.
She cocks an eyebrow in response, and tilts her head to the side out of habit. Something stirs inside of her and she tries like hell to convince herself she's not finding this just a little bit thrilling, a little bit sexy.
She does let herself remember, just for a second, while her hands are gripping his arms, that after tonight that other woman will be in a cell somewhere and he won't be touching her again.
"Come on tough guy." She muscles him towards the door, fingers of one hand pressed into the tattoo of Christ on his bicep.
"Yea, yea, I'm going, I'm going." He stops, resists her just as Fin opens the door for them, and he turns to face the restaurant.
"Hey, uh, Reg, everything's gonna be ok, yea?" It doesn't escape Olivia how much that sounds much more like Elliot than Eddie.
She waits until they're a few blocks away before glancing in the rearview.
He's looking absentmindedly out the window until her words register and he shifts his gaze up to meet hers in the mirror. He takes a deep breath and sighs, "Yea."
Once he's focused outside again she presses her lips together into a tight line, returns her concentration to the road ahead. She doesn't look over, but nods when she feels Fin in her periphery shoot her a knowing look from the passenger seat.
As soon as they're inside the precinct she uncuffs him, suddenly concerned he's been restrained for so long, though he never once complained. In fact he's barely spoken.
Fin claps him on the shoulder as Olivia steps away to speak to a nearby officer. "Hey man, good work out there." Elliot nods in response, and Fin waits until he's sure he's looking at him. "Look, not to get all mushy on you, but you know if you need to talk or anything..." He doesn't finish the sentence but continues holding pointed eye contact with Elliot.
"Thanks Fin." Elliot grabs his hand for a beat. "I mean it."
Olivia slips back over and rests a hand gently on Elliot's shoulder, as Fin heads over to take a seat at his desk. She's wearing her glasses and Elliot takes in the softness of her expression.
"I just need to send a quick email and then I can take you to your apartment. I told Sgt. Bell I thought it would best for you to be there, and she agrees with me."
"Actually, Liv," he speaks slowly, "can I hit the shower? Just for a few." There are dark circles beneath his eyes, and he looks utterly exhausted.
"Oh. Yea. Of course you can." She slips her hand off of his shoulder and her glasses off of her face. "Take your time. I'll be in my office whenever you're ready."
She smiles gently at him and he turns towards the locker room, stopping to quietly speak to Fin, who rises and heads with him in the same direction.
When Elliot slowly steps through the open door to her office almost an hour later, Olivia is lost in thought staring down at a file on her desk. He clears his throat to get her attention, and she looks up immediately, face freezing when she sees him. He dressed in the same clothes as before- work boots, jeans, that sleeveless grey cotton hoodie- but her sight is trained on his face.
He's trimmed his beard down to just a few centimeters of scruff, and for a moment she is entirely caught off guard. She knows that have to talk, about so much. She knows there's so much that he needs to work through. But standing in the fading light, in the doorway of her office, of this office, he is smiling at her, and some of the heaviness from earlier has already dissipated.
And he looks like Elliot Stabler again.
She returns his smile after a few seconds, and feels herself fighting off tears that suddenly burn behind her eyes and in the back of her throat.
"Let's go home, Olivia."
She parks on the calm Brooklyn street closest to the garden entrance, and the two walk slowly and in step to the cast iron fence, stopping just short of the gate. The dim light of dusk allows them a view of the scene inside the apartment- Bernie and Kathleen bickering over a simmering pot on top of the stove, Eli quietly laughing at the two from his perch at the breakfast bar.
Olivia and Elliot stand next to each other, bodies touching from their shoulders to the sides of their hands, until he turns to face her.
He's looking at her the same way he was that night, the last time they stood here. When the timing wasn't right and she couldn't bring herself to make a move.
It's still not the right time, but she's looking at him the same way too. They can see and breath and feel everything perfect and broken and healing and incomplete that the other is carrying and suddenly, finally she thinks, Fuck timing.
In the end they volley first moves. She reaches down and grabs his wrist, pulls his arm around her waist and places his hand flat against the base of her spine. He brings his other hand up to rest on her cheek, thumb grazing her bottom lip slowly. Her tongue instinctively darts out to run along the path he just traced and for a moment they are floating. In time. In space. In this little bubble they've always been able to occupy with only each other.
One deep breath and she raises her hands to cup around the sides of his neck and they move in tandem to seal their lips together.
It's achingly slow, and deep, and neither fight to control the soft sounds they illicit from the other's throat. Lips part and mouths open, tongues explore and entwine, and they hold onto each other with all of their strength, their shared want, need, hurt. Love.
Inevitably the need for oxygen causes them to pull apart. They rest their foreheads together and catch their breath, unsure how long they stood against each other. A burst of laughter rings from inside the apartment and they smile into one more kiss.
Elliot opens the gate, and leads Olivia inside by the hand.