It’s two weeks out from the wedding, a late Friday afternoon when he presses her to meet him. He does this when there’s something he wants to discuss outside the math worksheets, soccer practices, and Bernie’s twice-a-week 6 pm dinner rule that make up their life at home.
“Let’s grab that”, Elliot nods to a bench ahead.
They’re down in DUMBO, walking along the East River, threading their way through a stream of selfie-takers and advertising people on whatever has replaced coffee breaks, 'smoothies?' 'matcha?' Elliot doesn’t know. It’s not their scene but Eli’s therapist is down here and he makes a point to always pick him up after the appointment.
Olivia slides onto the bench without really looking – she’s deep in text.
“I’m gonna take that phone.”
“I’m sorry.” She’s really getting better about a work/life balance but sometimes she still needs a reminder, to be present, “I’m here.” She pockets the phone and turns to him with a smile, that smile, “What’s up?”
It grounds him, the knowing that emanates from that smile, he throws his arm across the back of the bench. The late April sun is transforming from the passive winter ‘light in the sky’ to actual warmth and he feels it. He feels her. Through his pores. It gives him the kick to say what’s on his mind.
“I want us to write our vows.”
Olivia sucks in a breath, “I thought we agreed to do the pre-written, the traditional route.”
“I need to say some things, that I’d like the room to hear.”
“Detective, are you getting married or being called to the stand?”
“Olivia.” He turns to her, a warning in his voice. He’s serious about this wedding. Prickly when she tries to treat it too lightly. Probably because, over the course of three years, he's formally proposed twice and informally proposed, well – let’s not count up those.
She tries again, “El, a wedding is usually proof enough of deep – feelings, commitment. You don’t need to – convince the room.”
She’s staring out at the river, talking with her hands, trying to land her point without meeting his eyes. He knew she wouldn’t be on board. He’s fine with that. He’d never admit it but there lurking, in some primal part of his mind, he sometimes likes to see if he can push her to submit.
Her head flips to him, startled, “Excuse me?”
“Oh yeah, Benson. You’re scared.”
She scoffs, “Of what?”
He shifts closer to her, nudging his face within a couple of inches from hers, “Of going off book, getting caught – saying something that reveals you.”
She lets out a short laugh, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Let me ask you this.” His voice dips an octave, “When we’re in bed and – and I’m inside you, lifting your hair, so I can see your lips part to say my name – what’re you thinking about?”
It’s hard to fluster Olivia Benson, but she’s wide-eyed, “Jesus, Elliot. I’m well, I’m usually thinking about – you, being there with you.”
He smoothes a piece of hair from her face, “Gonna need you to get more specific.”
“I hardly think this is something we need to tell the room.”
“We can keep it PG.”
This is still hard for her. But she knows he needs it. She needs his love in service. His dedication to her, his kids, to Noah. But he needs to hear it from her, he needs to physically feel it. Sometimes when he makes love to her, it seems like he can't get deep enough – that's he's trying to join them, wanting all of her beating inside his muscle.
Olivia squares her shoulders. She can do this, she can be vulnerable on the spot, “Alright. I’m focused on your eyes. How many hours I’ve looked at them. How long I’ve known them. How everything changes. How everything will continue to change but your eyes – they don’t. They’re an anchor. God, even when I hadn't seen you for a decade. I saw your eyes and..." She shakes her head, "They’re my home.”
He’s quick. The arm that’s been hung over the bench swings back, so both of his hands can cup her neck. He points her face up to meet his eyes, but he doesn’t kiss her. He holds her there, looking up to him. Tracing her lips, her laugh lines, her eyelashes with his eyes. He thinks, in that dark way he’d never speak out loud, that he might have been the first person who loved her own huge, dark, all-seeing eyes. That being the first to love them meant they were always his – just waiting for him to claim them.
“Is that sufficient?” She interrupts their staring, a little breathless.
“It’s not bad.” His voice is thin too, “But now that you told me – you’ve gotta think of something else.”
She dips her head back and laughs, “God, you’re incorrigible.”
He brings her face back to him, “Hey, no five-dollar words either – it’s gotta be stuff I can understand.”
“Oh yes, I have to remember. I’m marrying a cop from Queens.”
He grins and pulls her all the way in. Her lips are slightly chapped, a remnant of the last winter she'll have a solitary last name. He nips at them as he covers them with his, “That you are, Captain. That you are."