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Unapologetic

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A/N: This picks up 1 year post-UC. Inspired by "Call It What You Want", by Taylor Swift. Very brief mention of suicide in name only, not related to any main characters.


 

Olivia massages her temples, lifts the glasses from her face and tosses them onto her desk. She sighs and leans back in her chair, closing her eyes to give them a break from the screen in front of her. It’s Friday at six o’clock, where the heck are—

 

On cue, she sees them get off the elevator, Noah skipping along a couple paces ahead. He walks backwards for a few seconds, gesturing wildly at Elliot, obviously in the middle of a grand story. Elliot’s listening intently, and whatever Noah’s just said makes him laugh; he points at her open door, and then Noah’s running through the squad room, straight into her office.

 

“Hi, Mom,” he says breathlessly, “Are you ready to go?”

 

“I was just sitting here hoping you guys were about to come rescue me,” she grins, spinning her chair toward him.

 

Every Friday, Elliot picks Noah up from school and they spend a few hours together, just the two of them. Sometimes they’re outside, in the park, reading, or talking, or trying to toss a Frisbee back and forth. They’ve gone to underground art exhibits, hole-in-the-wall bookstores, and tried every weird ice cream flavor and cult dessert in the city. Sometimes, he takes Noah to open studio and watches him dance, which she knows from experience is mesmerizing; his concentration and focus, his joy.

 

She’s not sure what they did today, but she’ll ask them over pizza, their second Friday night tradition. 

 

She glances up in time to see Elliot exchange a passing fist bump with Fin, who’s on the phone. He keeps his head down as Rollins eyes him, eventually giving him a nod. Amanda’s never been a fan of Elliot, but they’re polite to each other now, which Olivia’s grateful for. It makes things easier, when they’re dropping off Noah, or picking up the girls. Truthfully, she doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him.

 

She doesn’t care what anyone thinks of them, and she never has.

 

Not one of the times she’s watched him walk through the bullpen toward her, has she second-guessed them.

 


 

One Year Ago…

 

She’s zoning out, absently tapping her pen on the desk.

 

It’s late, too late for her to still be at work, but the forms have been piling up all week and she has no choice. She’d talked to Noah for nearly an hour in between signatures, until his yawns outnumbered his words, and then exchanged soft ‘love you’s and ‘see you in the morning’s. Now, it’s nearly ten, her detectives home hours ago, and she’s left with the soft shuffle of night patrol.

 

A soft knock on her door jerks her attention back, and her breath catches when she looks up.

 

“Hey,” Elliot says, smiling gently.

 

“Elliot,” she blinks, eyes flicking over his casual clothes, his clean-shaven face, “What are you doing here?”

 

“I, uh—well, I wanted to tell you, I’m home,” he sighs, taking a few steps into her office, “I wanted to tell you in person.”

 

“Oh,” she says softly, absorbing him now, what his change in appearance actually means, “Yeah, I heard rumblings that the Kosta trial was big. An old lady pulled a gun on everyone?”

 

“Word travels fast,” he chuckles, hands in his pockets, “It was a little dicey but the bailiffs got her.”

 

“Yeah, no one was hit, I heard,” she nods, toying with her pen, “Otherwise I would’ve—I figured you were in there, that they pulled you. But I didn’t know for sure. Here, sit.”

 

He hasn’t moved any closer, like he’s waiting for an invitation, so she gives him one.

 

“I wanted to wait until it was official,” he says, sinking into a chair opposite her, “Figured shaving Eddie’s beard off is as official as it gets.”

 

She smirks, eyes roaming over his smooth jaw. “Well. Welcome home, Detective Stabler.”

 

“Thanks, Captain,” he grins, settling further into his chair, looking around her office.

 

They’re quiet for a beat, then two, before their eyes catch, and hold.

 

“How’d you know I was here?” she wonders, suddenly, brow furrowing.

 

“I texted Fin, asked if you guys caught a case,” he admits, rubbing the back of his neck, “He said he thought you were probably still here. I didn’t want to just show up at your place. Again.”

 

“I’m glad you’re out,” she says softly, nodding a little, “I’m glad you can be with your kids. And your mom.”

 

He looks down, clears his throat, and she feels herself soften. The desk is too wide, now, and she gets up to go sit beside him, dragging the other chair over to face him.

 

“It’s okay to need time, you know,” she says gently, clasping her hands together.

 

He looks up at her with a hint of desperation in his eyes. “I—I think I expected more…relief?”

 

“But instead, you feel out of place?” she finishes, tipping her head.

 

Elliot nods, after a moment, rubbing his jaw. “This isn’t why I came here, I’m—I wanted to tell you I’m back, and I’m here, not this—weak, bullshit—“

 

“El,” she interrupts, sighing, “It’s not weak. It’s—you lost someone you loved. Someone really important—“

 

She watches him swallow hard, examining his hands.

 

“—and you’ve barely had time to…figure that part out, what life looks like, now. You went under before you even had the chance.”

 

“You were right,” he rasps, glancing up at her, “It was too soon.”

 

“I didn’t want to be,” she murmurs, reaching over to take one of his hands when she sees him getting shaky.

 

She holds his hand between both of hers, and feels him steady.

 

He folds his fingers around hers, and looks at her with warmth in his eyes, lips parting as they stare at each other.

 

“Liv, I—“

 

“—you need to grieve her, Elliot,” she says, softly, “And I can’t be part of that.”

 

“S’not gonna change the way I feel,” he murmurs, still staring at her, and it’s the steadiest his voice has been all night.

 

It’s her turn to swallow, and use the touch of their hands to ground herself.

 

“Take the time,” she says, rubbing gently with her thumb, “Let yourself settle. Figure out where your new coffee place is, where you’re gonna stop on the way home if you need toilet paper—“

 

He huffs out a laugh, shaking his head as he stares at their hands.

 

“—you took care of each other for a long time,” Liv says carefully, treading gingerly, “It’s okay to feel…untethered, without her.”

 

“I just don’t want you to think—“

 

He stops, trying to find his words; he switches their grip and takes her hand between both of his.

 

“—you’re not—you’re separate, from all of that. I don’t want you to think I’m just filling a void. This, isn’t that, you’ve never been that. This is…something else.”

 

“I don’t,” she whispers, shaking her head, “I don’t, think that.”

 

“Okay. Good,” he murmurs, tracing the tender skin on the inside of her wrist.

 

It makes her warm.

 

“Take the time, Elliot,” she urges, softly, meeting his eyes, “And then, maybe we can…talk. About, this.”

 

This.

 

Them.

 

He stares, and nods, and lets go of her hands to rub at his face, glancing at his watch.

 

“Walk you out?” he offers, giving her a soft smile.

 

She can’t help but smile back when he looks at her that way, and she stands up, nodding.

 

“Yeah. Give me two minutes.”

 


 

Eleven Months Ago…

 

It’s three weeks before she sees him again.

 

They text here and there, checking in, because they can’t help themselves; he calls her once, to ask her opinion on a birthday gift for Kathleen. It’s something Kathy would have picked out, she knows, but she doesn’t mind helping. He’d have asked for help anyway, and he could have gone to one of the other girls, to his mother, but he’d wanted her opinion, and she’s okay with that.

 

She’s in her office early this morning, blessed with light traffic after dropping Noah off at school, but the bullpen is already full. Rollins and Velasco are looking over a case file together, picking through a witness statement taken over the weekend. Just as she’s about to go back to her computer, she sees Elliot step off the elevator; he’s back to his suits, and she can see one under his wool coat. He’s carrying two travel mugs, and he looks lost in thought as he starts to walk back toward her office.

 

Before she can get up, Velasco steps into his path.

 

“Can we help you?”

 

Elliot stops, taken aback, glancing between him, and Rollins. “I’m headed in to see the captain.”

 

“We don’t let people just roll into the captain’s office. She know you’re coming?” Velasco asks, still blocking him.

 

Elliot looks at Rollins, who knows exactly who he is, and obviously still has no intention of vouching for him.

 

“Velasco,” Liv calls, intervening smoothly from her doorway, “This is Detective Stabler, he’s a close friend of mine. Rollins, you remember, I’m sure.”

 

“I forgot,” she says flatly, folding her arms, “Sorry.”

 

Velasco eyes him for another moment, and then steps back. “Sure thing, Cap. Can’t be too careful.”

 

Elliot clenches his jaw and walks away without saying anything, but she can see the annoyance in his posture.

 

“Hey,” she says softly, beckoning him over to her couch, “Sorry about them, they’re just…protective.”

 

He sits down with her, clearing his throat. “Not used to being the guy you need protecting from.”

 

“You’re not,” she says immediately, shaking her head, “That won’t happen again. I don’t mind if you walk in, you of all people. You know that.”

 

Apparently, I have a reputation,” he sighs, looking everywhere but her face, “I don’t want that to cause problems for you.”

 

“Look at me,” she says softly, but firmly.

 

It takes him a minute, but he finally meets her eyes, finding warmth and familiarity there that soothe his bristled edges.

 

“I don’t care,” she says slowly, staring at him, “They don’t know what we’ve been through together. Only we do. Only we know what we are. And that’s the only thing that matters to me. The only thing.”

 

“People are gonna talk, Liv,” he says, quietly, “I don’t wanna be the guy who comes in here and just—you’ve worked so hard for this—“

 

“—yeah, and I wanted you there at every step,” she whispers, fiercely, “Every ceremony. Every happy hour, afterwards. But you were a fucking ghost, Elliot, and now you aren’t. And I want my friend back. I want my partner back, and nobody is going to tell me otherwise. Not even you.”

 

His eyes are glassy, all of a sudden, because it’s been so long since he’s truly felt wanted, and seen.

 

He clears his throat, nodding a little, and gives her a soft smile.

 

“Here,” he says, holding one of the travel mugs out to her, “I actually just stopped by to bring you this, I gotta get to a meeting.”

 

“What is it?” she says suspiciously, teasing him, popping the lid open and giving it a sniff, “Coffee?”

 

He shrugs. “You told me to find my new coffee spot. Turns out what I make at home is better than anything else.”

 

“Italy turn you into a coffee snob, Stabler?”

 

“I guess so,” he grins, watching her, “Try it.”

 

She eyes him for a second, and then carefully raises the mug to her lips, sipping slowly, and then more quickly after it doesn’t burn her tongue. He watches her face change as the flavors hit her palate, and her eyes widen a little as she takes another sip.

 

“You made that?” she asks, incredulous, “Wha—how did you make it?”

 

He chuckles, giving her knee a squeeze as he stands up. “It’s an art form, Benson, can’t be described.”

 

She rolls her eyes, watching him take a sip from his own cup. “Here, I’ll put this in a mug, you can take your thermos.”

 

“Nah, keep it,” he says, brushing her off, “I’ll get it back from you, we’ve got plenty.”

 

The implication is there, that he’ll see her soon enough, and she finds that she needs the reassurance. She likes it.

 

“Thank you,” she says, before he can walk away, “This is…nice of you.”

 

He smirks, and that cockiness is something she recognizes, something that feels achingly familiar as he leans in closer, murmuring to her.

 

“Well, if you’re ever around for breakfast at my place, I’ll show you how to make it.”

 

Her lips part in shock for a moment, and then she closes her eyes and laughs, watches the way it makes his eyes light up.

 

“Get outta here. Don’t be late for your meeting, you already have a bad reputation.”

 

It’s his turn to laugh, and he throws his hand up in a quick wave before he turns and leaves her office, striding back toward the elevators.

 


 

Nine Months Ago…

 

They see each other plenty over the next two months, outside of work; over dinner, and lunch, on the soccer field, at the dance studio. Their lives slowly start to intertwine, through phone calls, and messages, old stories and new ones, family time and wine in the garden.

 

But the next time she sees him in her precinct, he’s running.

 

CSU is still pulling bullets out of the wall, and there’s still glass on the desks, and a puddle of Velasco’s blood is still on the floor, and she knows from experience that she’s starting to get shock-ey and shaky but she can’t do that, because she’s in charge.

 

There’s a small commotion and her head jerks up, and there he is, trying to get through all the chaos with just his badge, trying to get to her. She brushes past the techs and the paramedics, and Fin—

 

“Detective, this is an active crime scene—“

 

There are two officers holding him off.

 

“—you think I don’t fucking know that? Liv!”

 

“Guys,” she calls, shaking her head, “Seriously? He’s good, let him through.”

 

She can see that he’s angry, but when their eyes meet his focus shifts and he softens, moving swiftly and carefully through the scene to get to her.

 

“Hey,” he says quietly, his palm landing warm on her bicep, “It came over the radio and I—are you—“

 

She looks up at him, feels him next to her, and the muscle memory is so visceral it takes her breath away. Her heart rate slows and suddenly she’s exhausted. She’s always gained strength from him in a crisis, but first he makes her adrenaline crash.

 

“I need a minute,” she announces, turning to the people in her office.

 

Three people start talking at once.

 

“—Captain, we really should get you to—“

 

“—the sooner we get a statement, the—“

 

“—I don’t know if that’s a good—“

 

“I need a minute,” she repeats, louder, raising her eyebrows, looking at them in turn, “I’m aware that I’m in shock, I’m fine, I wasn’t the one who got shot. I’m not giving a statement for another hour. And Fin, with all due respect, I’m good.”

 

Slowly, they file out of her office. Fin squeezes her shoulder as he passes, and they share a look.

 

Elliot stands silently to her left, watching, feeling the looks directed at him when he doesn’t leave. But he’s not supposed to, and he knows that.

 

She closes the door and jerks her head at him, scrubbing a hand over her face as she wanders to the front corner of her office, away from the windows. He follows her the way she’s asked, and she closes her hands around the edges of his jacket, putting his back to the wall, encouraging him to take a step back and lean there.

 

“I just need a minute,” she whispers, swallowing.

 

She steps into him and presses her forehead to his chest, exhaling when his arms come up around her. As she takes a slow breath, breathing him in, he loops one arm around her body, pulls her in close, and cups his other palm at the back of her head.

 

“You’re good,” he murmurs, feeling the tremble in her, “It’s not easy. You’re human.”

 

She nods against his chest, still just breathing, sinking into the safety of him for a few moments. He knows she won’t linger, but now he also knows he can call her later, he can check on her tomorrow, and the next day.

 

She takes one final deep breath, and pulls away from him, looking up into his eyes. He grips her shoulders as she stands up straight and tall, giving her a gentle smile, with a hint of pride.

 

“Got it?”

 

“Yeah,” she sighs, stepping back to sit on the edge of her desk, “Fucking suspect grabbed some rookie’s service weapon. Opened fire on us.”

 

“Your detective gonna be alright?” he asks, hands in his pockets.

 

“Yeah, I think so,” she nods, reaching to check her phone, “It was a through and through to his shoulder, we did triage until the paramedics got here.”

 

“Good. Liv, what can I do?”

 

She almost laughs because it’s so foreign, having someone there offering help, someone she actually feels comfortable asking.

 

“God, I didn’t even realize what time it is. I told Lucy I’d be home in fifteen minutes,” she groans, pinching the bridge of her nose.

 

“Okay, why don’t I go grab Noah, relieve Lucy. Would that help?” he offers, dipping to meet her eyes, “Mom and Eli are home, and I’ve got Lizzie coming for dinner, too. He can hang with us. You come get him whenever you’re done here, don’t worry about it.”

 

Olivia blinks, nodding slowly; Noah likes the Stablers, all of them, and the idea of him around their table is reassuring.

 

“Yeah,” she says softly, looking at him gratefully, “That would help. He would love that.”

 

“Done,” he nods, following her gaze out into the bullpen, “I’ll let you get back to it. Hey.”

 

He’s breathless for a second, and her breath catches too when he sweeps her into a hug, holding her tight.

 

“I just needed to see you were okay,” he whispers, fingers pressed into her back.

 

It’s quick, and he lets her go before she can get her breath back. His eyes are warm and serious, and she nods a little, reassuring him.

 

“I’m okay,” she says softly, smiling a little, “Go get my kid.”

 

“You got it, Captain.”

 


 

Seven Months Ago…

 

She’s drawn her blinds, this afternoon.

 

When a twenty-three-year-old victim you’ve been mentoring for two years commits suicide, you draw the blinds, and pour a finger of scotch, she reasons.

 

That seems like the thing to do.

 


 

Outside, the bullpen is quiet, and they’re all glancing at her closed door in turns. They all know what’s happened, they’d watched as Laura’s father had trudged in, like a zombie, and asked for Captain Benson. They’d watched her be strong for him for nearly an hour, offering him a cup of tea, and all the empathy in the world.

 

They’d watched her call him a cab and walk him out.

 

And then they’d watched her draw herself in close, walk back into her office, and close the blinds.

 

They’ve been diverting people away ever since, and so when Elliot Stabler strides off the elevator, Amanda Rollins has no intention of letting him walk by.

 

“Not a good time, Stabler,” she says ominously, stepping right into his path.

 

He eyes her carefully, and she’s surprised when he doesn’t immediately puff out his chest and try to knock past her.

 

“Whatever this is,” he gestures, eyes narrowing, “I’m gonna need you to get over it.”

 

“This?” she scoffs, crossing her arms, “This, is gatekeeping. It’s what detectives are supposed to do.”

 

“No, this,” he emphasizes, “Is whatever problem you’ve had with me since the minute we met. You don’t even know me.”

 

Rollins takes a moment, looking at him in amusement. “I know enough. I know you abandoned her without a single word, after twelve years. And I know you knew her well enough to know how much that would hurt.”

 

“That’s between her and I,” he says softly, dangerously, “I don’t know why you think you have the right to stick your neck out.”

 

“Because she’s my friend,” Rollins says, honestly, “And she has a blind spot, where you’re concerned, so somebody needs to—“

 

“—hey, what’s goin’ on?” Fin asks, coming back from the breakroom with a mug of coffee, “Get your ass in there, man, she needs you.”

 

Rollins raises her eyebrows. “You called him?”

 

“Yeah, I called him,” Fin says, sinking down into his chair, “And I respect you, you know that. But you need to stand down on this one.”

 

“Thanks, Fin,” Elliot says, still holding eye contact with Rollins, “You mind?”

 

She does mind, he can see it, but she obviously trusts Fin far more than she trusts him, because she reluctantly steps aside. They watch him knock softly and go inside, closing the door behind himself.

 

“Why do you do that?” Rollins asks, perching on the edge of his desk, “Just, give him a pass. You saw her, after he left. You were here.”

 

“Yeah, and I was here before that too,” Fin says, raising his eyebrows, “And you weren’t. So just cool it. You know her, but you don’t know them.”

 


 

Olivia looks up at the knock on her door, tucking her glass beside her thigh on the couch, prepared to tell whoever’s managed to get past her squad that she’s now suffering from a migraine.

 

But, it’s Elliot.

 

“Can I come in?” he asks softly, waiting until she nods before he steps in and closes the door.

 

“Fin called you,” she says, sighing.

 

He peels off the light jacket he’s wearing and slowly kneels down in front of her, wincing when his knees crack. “Yeah, he called me.”

 

She shakes her head and drains the glass, and when he gently moves to take it from her she lets him, watching him reach to set it on her desk.

 

“I know what you’re going to say,” she says quietly, staring at her hands.

 

“Oh yeah?” he murmurs, kneeling in front of her again, resting his palm on her knee, “What am I gonna say?”

 

She takes a breath, refusing to look at him just yet. “You’re going to say it’s not my fault. That I already did more than most people would. You’re going to tell me I can’t save everyone, because people have to want to be saved. Or they have to save themselves. And you’re going to say that I’ve already helped more people in one career, than most cities do altogether, and I should remember that.”

 

“Wow,” he says softly, brows furrowed, “I had a lot to say.”

 

“Elliot,” she sighs, rubbing her forehead.

 

“Well, all of that is true. But I wasn’t gonna say any of it,” he murmurs, reaching out to take her hand.

 

“No?” she says, feeling herself start to crack open a little, just from his proximity.

 

She lets herself look at him, finally, and his eyes are warm and soft, full of a brand of compassion that’s as familiar to her as her own.

 

“I was gonna say that your heart is what makes you extraordinary at this job,” he says softly, rubbing the back of her hand, “And I’m sorry for how much this must really fucking hurt.”

 

Her eyes instantly flood with tears, and she looks scared for a moment, like it’s been so long since she’s let herself feel this much she’s afraid she can’t handle it. Her breath catches, and her face crumples, and he slides onto the couch just in time to catch her when her arms wrap around his neck. She buries her face in his shoulder and sobs once, twice, and then she cries in soft, hitching breaths, wetting his shirt.

 

“I’m sorry, Liv,” he whispers, tracing warm circles over her back.

 

He holds her until her tears slow, and then he gently shifts back against the couch, encouraging her to curl into his chest. She does, wrapping her arm around him, closing her eyes when he cradles her cheek, rubbing her temple with this thumb.

 

“Sorry I cried all over your shirt,” she says, after a while, clearing her throat.

 

“Eh,” he shrugs, squeezing her bicep, “Just salt. Washes right out.”

 

She laughs a little, sniffling.

 

“And,” he continues, still slowly rubbing her arm, “I’ve got three daughters. I’ve dried some tears in my day. Doesn’t bother me.”

 

“Good,” she says softly, blinking slowly.

 

He gives her another few minutes, feeling her breaths slow and even out again.

 

“Noah’s at my place with Eli tonight, isn’t he?” he asks, resting his chin against her hair.

 

“Yeah,” she nods, clearing her throat, “Kathleen picked him up an hour ago, she texted. I’m sure they’ll end up playing video games, getting very little sleep. Typical Friday.”

 

“Why don’t you let me take you home? It’ll be quiet at your place,” he asks gently, willing her to just let him, “We can order some food, watch something stupid. Whatever you want. I don’t want you to be alone.”

 

Slowly, she sits up and rubs her cheeks, tired, pink-tinged eyes meeting his clear blue ones.

 

“I don’t want to be alone, either,” she murmurs, shaking her head, then smiling a little, “I’d like that.”

 

He puts on his jacket while she gathers her things, rooting around in her bag for a makeup wipe, cleaning away the tear tracks and mascara before she puts her glasses on.     

                                                      


 

They look up when her office door opens, surprised to see their captain exit first, Stabler’s hand on her back.

 

“I’ll grab the elevator,” he says quietly, gesturing, and leaves her to talk to Fin.

 

She gives him a nod, and turns to Fin, setting a hand on his shoulder. “Can you hold down the fort, Sergeant?”

 

“You know I got you, Liv,” he grins, spinning to face her, “You lettin’ Stabler drive you home?”

 

“Yeah,” she sighs, glancing at Rollins, “Just—been a long day.”

 

“Get outta here,” Fin says sincerely, waving her away.

 

“Call me if anything comes up.”

 

“Not a chance.”

 


 

Six Months Ago…

 

‘Help. Paperwork is taking over. SOS need fancy coffee.’

 

Once every six months it seems, she has a night like this, when she has to just put her head down and plow through it; when there’s so much, it’s not even possible to take a break long enough to fight traffic.

 

‘ETA 30 min’

 

She smiles when he texts her back, and then turns her attention back to her computer screen, squinting. Thirty minutes pass in record time, and before she knows it she hears the elevator ding and looks up to see him stroll in, nodding to the officer on duty out front.

 

“Thank god,” she groans, reaching for the mug of coffee immediately, making him chuckle, “What’s that?”

 

He holds up the plastic bag. “You’re gonna take a break and have dinner with me.”

 

“Is that so?” she says, raising an eyebrow.

 

Of course, he’d predicted she hasn’t eaten anything yet.

 

“Yep,” he says, reaching to slowly close her laptop, pushing despite her protests, “Save it, whatever it is, hurry, save it—“

 

“—wait…wait!” she laughs, clicking a few keys to save her progress, “You’re a real pain in the ass, you know that?”

 

Her laptop clicks shut, and he starts unloading takeout containers onto her desk. “Yeah, I’ve been told. Alright, that’s a veggie lo mein for you…spicy sesame chicken for me…and egg rolls to share.”

 

She walks around her desk to sit with him, taking the container he hands her.

 

“Thanks for this,” she says, after a few minutes, “I was hungry.”

 

He gives her a look. “I figured.”

 

They eat in companionable silence for a minute, until he catches her staring at him.

 

“What? I got sauce on my face or something?” he grins, picking through his meal for a piece of broccoli.

 

She smirks, reaching for an egg roll. “You ever think we’d be doing this again?”

 

He could act like he doesn’t know exactly what she’s talking about, but he doesn’t. Instead, he settles back into his chair, thinking.

 

“No,” he sighs, shaking his head, “I didn’t. I never let myself go there, it was just too…”

 

“Too hard,” she finishes for him, nodding.

 

They’ve had this conversation before, a few different versions of it, but there are still things they haven’t said; things she needs to say to him. She stands up and sets her food down, taking a step to lean against her desk right in front of him.

 

“What?” he says softly, picking up on the look in her eyes.

 

“I just,” she starts, swallowing, glancing down and back up, “I missed you. When you weren’t here. I missed…us. I want you to know that.”

 

He’s caught for a moment, still chewing, not expecting it. But then he swallows, and his throat almost closes with the honesty of the moment.

 

“Me too,” he says, reaching to set his food on her empty chair, “I…god, it hurt to think about you. I missed everything. Your voice. Your laugh.”

 

Her breath catches at the longing in his voice, in his eyes, the way it isn’t new; it brings her right back to these nights all those years ago, glancing up to catch him staring.

 

“El?” she whispers, suddenly breathless.

 

She’s not sure what her face is doing, but his eyes widen a little. “Hmm?”

 

“Do you want to kiss me?”

 

His lips part, and he stares at her for a moment, trying to figure out if he’s in a fever dream or not.

 

“Yeah,” he murmurs, barely able to breathe, “I have for a long time. Would that be okay?”

 

Instead of answering, she pushes off her desk and steps between his knees, reaching for his forearms. She pulls him up, and when he stands they’re in each other’s space. Her palms slide over his chest, exploring, curious, and then she cradles his face and tips her jaw up. He feels her hesitate for just a second, breath on his mouth, and then she’s kissing him, lips against his in a soft press. He slides his hands around her waist and feels her sink into it, kissing him again, and again, slow and deliberate. Her breath catches when his hands move lower, to the curve of her lower back, and he opens his mouth for her tongue with a soft groan.

 

It’s something else, something instinctual. Something slow, and hot, and so deeply engrained that they couldn’t fuck it up if they tried.

 

She remembers where they are and reluctantly slows them down, resting her nose next to his, still pressing close. They both swallow, breaths short and tense.

 

“Spicy,” she whispers, licking her lips.

 

He pulls back an inch, looking at her. “What?”

 

“From the chicken. That sauce—“

 

“Oh,” he realizes, chuckling, “I thought—it is, you’re right.”

 

She’s laughing quietly too, realizing. “I didn’t mean—although—“

 


 

Three Months Ago…

 

The day they disclose, they do it separately.

 

They’ve been so private, so careful, and turning her memo in to the chief feels like throwing open the curtains to let in the light.

 

They know what it means.

 

They can’t work in the field together anymore, ever, and any collaboration between their departments is going to be heavily monitored and scrutinized. They’ll have to cross every single ‘t’ and dot every single ‘i’, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s worth it, in every scenario, every time.

 

Every time she sees all six of their kids together.

 

Every time she catches him staring at her from across the room, gaze cutting through the chaos to find her.

 

Every dinner, and movie night, and cup of coffee.

 

Every time they tangle together in bed, whether he’s buried inside of her, or they’re asleep in seconds.

 

Every morning that she wakes up to his warmth.

 

She’s not surprised to see him getting off the elevator, a certain surety in his steps as he heads for her office carrying two travel mugs.

 

“Captain Benson,” he greets, trying not to grin too much, “Caffeine?”

 

“Did you go home and make this?” she asks, biting the inside of her cheek, “That’s ridiculous.”

 

He hands her the mug. “Figured we had cause for some celebratory coffee today.”

 

She walks closer to him when he perches on the edge of her desk, trying not to stare at his mouth, as is the case a lot of the time, lately.

 

“Everything go okay?” she asks quietly, eyes bright, taking a sip of the coffee, “Shit, that’s good.”

 

“It went fine,” he chuckles, always amused by her reaction to Italian coffee, “Everything we already knew. You?”

 

“Yeah,” she nods, sipping again, “Little lecture about how I need to set a professional example, etcetera, etcetera. I tuned him out, mostly.”

 

He grins, watching her roll her eyes. “So…we’re good. We’re disclosed.”

 

“We are,” she says, letting herself get lost in his eyes for a few seconds.

 

A knock on her door interrupts them.

 

“Sorry, Liv, Rollins and Velasco just got back from the hospital, they were gonna throw it up on the board,” Fin says, eyeing them suspiciously.

 

“It’s fine,” Liv nods, glancing back at Elliot, “I’ll be right there.”

 

Fin stays for an extra second, and then he turns to leave, shaking his head.

 

“I’ll let you do your thing,” Elliot grins, hesitating for a moment before he heads for the door, “I’ll see you later?”

 

“Yeah, tonight,” she smiles, scooping her tablet off the desk, following him out a second later.

 

Her team is waiting in the bullpen, already sorting evidence and pinning things to the digital board. Olivia takes a breath, watching him walk toward the elevators, muscles shifting under his shirt.

 

“Detective Stabler,” she calls, tucking the tablet under her arm in between a few quick strides.

 

Elliot turns, eyebrows raised in question, just in time for her to cradle his cheek and seal her mouth over his in a kiss. He makes a soft noise of surprise, automatically reaching a hand out to hold her waist, tipping his head when she sighs and gently massages her lips against his.

 

When she pulls away, he opens his eyes and grins at her in surprise.

 

“Just, umm,” she says breathlessly, resting her hand on his chest, “Have a good day. Be safe, okay?”

 

His eyes flick behind her, noting that everyone but Fin is staring at them in shock.

 

“Yeah,” he murmurs, taking her hand, kissing her fingers, “You too. I’ll see you later.”

 

She nods, and watches him walk away for a few seconds before she turns around, clearing her throat.

 

“Alright, what’ve we got?”

 

Rollins and Velasco get ahold of themselves, awkwardly moving to start presenting at the same time, but Fin dissolves into the most delighted laughter she’s ever heard.

 

“Imma need a minute,” he wheezes, pulling out his phone, “I got people to call—“

 

“Fin,” she starts, rolling her eyes.

 

“No, no, seriously. Munch is old as shit, he cannot die before he knows about this—“

 


 

Present Day…

 

“Mom? Ready?”

 

Her attention snaps back to her son, and she smiles. “Yeah. I’m definitely ready. Hey, you.”

 

“Hey,” Elliot grins, strolling into her office, “Noah, you tell her who’s coming for pizza?”

 

“Dickie, Eli, and Lizzie and Gram are all coming, Mom,” Noah says excitedly, “We’re gonna need a big table.”

 

“Oh, and look at that,” she grins, glancing through her text messages, “I’ve got Mo and Katie over here saying they’re done at the spa and they can make it, too. That’s everybody.”

 

Noah’s eyes widen. “A really big table. Can I get water before we go?”

 

“Sure, you know where it is,” she nods, watching him scamper off to the break room.

 

Elliot rounds her desk and steps into her space, wrapping an arm around her waist. She hums into his kiss, breath catching when he pulls her into his body, nuzzling her ear.

 

“You look hot, today,” he murmurs, kissing her cheek, “Couldn’t catch you this morning to tell you that.”

 

“White button-down shirts do it for you?” she whispers, curious, watching the way his eyes slide down over her neck, “So noted. Kept it work appropriate, but, since we’re leaving—“

 

She pops another button on her shirt and lets the silk slip open a little more, not in an obvious way, just enough that from his vantage point he gets an eyeful.

 

“Liv,” he rasps, swallowing, “Dinner. Mom. Kids. So many kids.”

 

Humming, she pats his chest in faux sympathy, tipping her head. “Guess you’d better start thinking about baseball or something, then.”

 

He chuckles darkly, letting her pull him out of her office by his hand, lacing their fingers together.

 


 

A/N: Thank you for reading!