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Underneath the Lights

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What was she doing here?

She shouldn’t be here.  Olivia took a deep breath and checked her watch.  It was nine fourty-five Christmas Eve. 

What was she doing here? 

She should be at home… with Noah.  Thank God for Carisi offering to look after him when she had to call Amanda in.

He had already been at Amanda’s.  There for the girls.  For Christmas.  But the look between the two of them after Olivia kissed Noah goodbye…  She knew that look, but Amanda tried to cover it up as they left the apartment.

Yea… she’d have to be blind to not see what was between them.  They were both kidding themselves to think no one knew about them.  It had been obvious from the beginning that Carisi had felt something for her.  Everyone could tell.  Except Amanda.  It sure took her long enough to see it… and then longer to do anything about it.  He was good for her.  Someone reliable… someone who knew her…inside and out… all the baggage… and who saw her.

Elliot’s face flashed through her mind.

Oh God… what was she doing here.

Olivia ran her hands through her hair and took another deep breath.

She remembered a time when she would have given anything just to see him one more time… see his face… his blue eyes… the ones that knew her better than she knew herself.

That’s what this was.  He had come back into her life and now she just… missed him.  She had spent so much time telling herself she didn’t miss him.  She didn’t need him.  She didn’t want to see him again… and it had all been a lie.  She had been lying to herself for ten years.  Whatever made it easier to try to let go… to try to move on.  And the second she heard his voice saying her name on the street that night, the glass walls around her shattered.

And now had been too long since she had seen him last.  That’s all this was.  She was sure of it.  Maybe it was just him checking in with her.  Letting her know he was ok.  It was an odd time, but he was undercover.  Maybe tonight was the only night he could get away to let her know he was still ok.  That was all this was.  She had to keep repeating that in her head otherwise she might just fall apart.

She closed her eyes and tried to control her breathing.  It was all this was… nothing else… because it couldn’t be anything else.  She needed it to be this… because if it was something else…

Olivia felt her pulse quicken.  It couldn’t be anything more than that.  The last time she saw him in his apartment after their big sting, she had read all his signals wrong.  The way he called her partner… how quickly he had believed her about her instinct about Eli, when in the past he would always shut her out of dealing with his kids.  And how he had wanted to walk her out through the garden, which was clearly a longer way. 

And she thought they had a moment… when she finally said what she was feeling… she wanted him to come home.

She wanted him to come home.  Not just… come home.  She… wanted him to come home.  To come home to her.

She was trying to tell him in a subtle way… she wanted him.  And before she knew it her hand was on his neck, her thumb on the side of his face.  She had touched him in a way she had never allowed herself to touch him before and when she realized it, she had quickly removed her hand.  And then after she told him her worry for losing him in his UC… she had leaned in the slightest bit… and he had backed up.  She had read him wrong.

After he had come to her apartment, drugged… reaching out for her, they hadn’t spoke about it or the things he told her while he was there.  As much as she would like to think they had changed… she had changed… they had slipped right back into their old habit of never really saying what they wanted to.  Out loud anyway.  And she had thought, maybe…

…it will always be you and I…

It was still ringing in her ears.  Every time she thought about Elliot, or worried about him being undercover… those words creeped into her mind, and it was all she could think about.

And then there was his voicemail.  He had called her three times, left no messages, and then he had called again… and finally left one.  He had told her thank you… for everything she had done for him… for the kids… his kids, but he hadn’t referred to them that way.  He had told her that she was his rock…. And then had been cut off when he was about to say something about the day he told her I love you.

He had called again after that but didn’t leave a message.  It almost sounded like he was saying goodbye to her… like he knew he might not make it out alive of this UC and he tried to tell her sober how he felt.

She had replayed that message as many times as she had read that letter.  The letter that he didn’t write except for the last line.

And she thought… maybe….

Maybe he did feel about her the way she had always felt about him.  But then he had pulled away.  So, he couldn’t feel the same way.  He wasn’t… he didn’t…

Her mind couldn’t finish any of those thoughts because it hurt too much.  It sent a blinding pain throughout her mind and heart and soul to think about him rejecting her again.  She wouldn’t survive that again.  She had barely survived it the first time.

She sighed.  She was again… lying to herself.  She hadn’t survived it.  She had just learned how to hide it and keep living.  Living without the half of her he took when he left.

She thought everything that had happened between them since he had come back… and all his actions… his words… they were clearly not in line with what he wrote in that letter… except the last line.  And now knowing he didn’t write that.  Knowing he didn’t think that what they had wasn’t real… it meant he knew it was.

He was sending her mixed signals all over the place… and it was sending her head spinning.

But, when he had texted her to meet from his own cell phone, and not through Bell, she had jumped at the chance.

Now here she was, sitting at the little diner he told her to meet him at.  The only diner in the city that would be open this late on Christmas Eve.

Waiting.

Always waiting.

She had been waiting for ten years.

In all honesty… it was closer to twenty.

He had texted her at around nine.  She had sent Amanda home and told her she wouldn’t be far behind her to come and pick up Noah.  There was paperwork to be done, but the truth was Elliot had texted her.  And she needed to see him.  As much as she didn’t want to be that girl, as much as she wasn’t that girl… she would always be there for him.  Even when she had been mad at him, furious even, she had always been there.  Even when he had hurt her more than anyone had ever hurt her and then showed back up… she had been there for him.

She sighed and looked at her watch again.  She took another sip of her coffee and looked out the window.

It was beautiful outside.  Cold as hell, but beautiful none the less.  The streets were covered in snow.  It clung to everything.  Every ledge, windowsill, tree and brownstone were covered with snow.  The lights on the street were hazy from the snow falling softly down out of the sky.  Ice was forming on the edges of the window, making beautiful and unique crystals.

It was just… beautiful.  Romantic even…

Olivia pinched her eyes shut and swallowed.  What was she doing here?  She could feel her stomach twist, and the sadness she knew all too well seep into her chest.  Why did she keep doing this to herself? 

Just as she was going to pull her phone out to text Amanda that she was on her way to pick up Noah, she heard the bells jingle on the door of the diner.  Her heart stopped at the sound and her eyes looked up.

And there he was.