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Breathe Again

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Chris didn't consider himself a very anxious person. He was much more complex than people took him for, but anxious? No, that wasn't him - at least, most of the time. 

As someone who’d been in the entertainment industry for decades, it was important to Chris that he remained consistent - consistently dedicated, laser-focused, intensely truthful, and purposeful in everything he did. He saw himself as someone surprisingly more emotional than people realized. His strong, protective, and sometimes angry demeanor could have some assume he also wasn’t sentimental, soft, and incredibly grateful. There was a unique humor about him and also an acute self-awareness about how ridiculous his so-called "celebrity" life could be. He never bought into Hollywood glamour or strived to be included in the A-List celebrity circles. He kept the people around him a tight group, surrounded by family and the same friends he had before anyone else knew his name. He preferred staying inside privately rather than attending red carpet premieres. 

Truthfully, he wasn't even sure he actually loved acting. Instead, he loved the creativity of telling stories and the human connection people felt by the art he created. That was what kept him in the industry so long and what continued to drive him - creating timeless stories and making people feel something. 

Yet, there were those rare moments where he did find himself incredibly anxious - almost panic stricken, like someone who'd been through real trauma. Those were the times he experienced something he detested more than anything - fear. 

Fear that he no longer could control his emotions or the direction in his life. Fear that he'd lose just about everything he loved or cared about. Fear that he would experience the same kind of pain and regret he felt years ago that he swore he never wanted to feel again. 

Days like today, when he woke up with his white tank top soaked in sweat from a night full of paranoia, restlessness, and uncontrollable thoughts, he felt that same sense of fear he loathed so much.  

He knew quite well there was no stopping this feeling until he was able to reach her. 

Her.

Yes, her. 

His “her” - the woman who both killed him and brought him back to life - Mariska.

It's been weeks since Chris had last seen her. Between both of their busy schedules, it barely gave them a chance to even speak. For the last two days, Chris tried reaching her, but she uncharacteristically didn't answer or return his calls. He wasn't seriously worried about her, but he still couldn't shake the crippling feeling that overtook him whenever he felt disconnected from her. 

He no longer felt the heavy anchor grounding him that he needed in his life. He was lost without the person who kept him stable; who kept him balanced; who kept him safe. She was always that last missing piece in every puzzle he needed in order to feel complete. 

He sat at the edge of the bed as he rubbed his face trying to find the energy to start his day, but his feet felt like cement on the floor. He had a long day of shooting on location ahead of him, but couldn't focus on anything other than needing her. 

He grabbed his cell from the nightstand to check for any missed calls or texts, but was only met with alerts of more disappointing news headlines. He checked the clock and realized his driver must already be outside ready to take him to set. Putting his phone down in frustration, he stumbled to get a quick shower before dragging himself to work. 

As Chris stared out the window of the black suburban, he pulled the hooded sweatshirt above his head and tightly shut his eyes, trying to settle himself down. However, it became increasingly difficult as his mind continued to wander to her. 

Words always failed him when he was asked about Mariska. 

“Chris, how would you describe your relationship with Mariska?", "How does it feel to be working with each other?”, “When did you two first meet?”

Truthfully, he couldn't remember the exact moment they met because he struggled to recall his life before her. All he remembered about that moment was that it didn't feel like a greeting; it felt like meeting someone again. Someone who he must've known in a past life whose soul was once again intertwined with his. Their instant connection was too deep, too sacred, and too divine for having just met a stranger. 

While he couldn't pinpoint when exactly they met, he could never forget how it felt - that rare, chills up your spine, life changing moment where you knew deep down - this was going to be something. This was important. I’d better pay attention to this. 

He knew they’d be asked countless times how they met, so they made up their first meeting story to tell time and time again. They had it memorized to the exact word for every interview over the years. They figured it was a lot more interesting to tell fans a funny story than just focusing on a feeling that felt too special to overly share. 

Chris shook his head thinking how Mariska insisted on sending John Slattery a gift basket with a note apologizing for dragging him into their little storyline. To this day, it still makes them laugh because even though they knew it wasn't true, it became a shared joke between them that they were willing to share publicly, but held their real treasure hidden just for them. 

"Sir, I’m sorry for all the traffic. It looks like the bridge is backed up. We should get there in about twenty minutes,” his driver said.

"All good, thanks," Chris replied, from the back of his dry throat. He couldn't remember the last time he took a sip of water.

His mind continued to drift as he thought about how their relationship evolved over the decades they've known each other. It was solid, yet fragile. It was intense, yet playful. It was manic, yet peaceful. It was soft, yet sexual. It was simply everything. They didn’t just finish each other’s sentences - they finished each other’s breaths. They were their inhale and exhale and one couldn’t exist without the other.  

Of course, they had their ups and downs over the years. When things were great, they were the highest of highs. When things weren't so great, they were some of the darkest and ugliest times either had experienced. They contributed this type of bond to the promise they made to each other a long time ago - to always be brutally honest, no matter how much it hurts. 

Right from the start, Chris and Mariska never held back their opinions or shielded their feelings from one another. They didn't fight their natural chemistry or ever deny what they felt was real. 

Their relationship was never built upon lies, guilt, or scandal. There were no secrets, hiding, or hurting those closest to them. Those they loved the most accepted and respected them for who they were to each other. That was all that mattered - not outside judgment on relationships or traditions or rules or society standards. They both were advocates that life was hard enough, why do you need to put restrictions or boundaries on love? 

They decided what worked for them and no one else. 

Chris frantically tapped on his armrest in the passenger seat as his reflective thoughts continued to spiral in his head. If she were here right now, she’d instantly recognize his triggers and be able to pull him out of it. She always knew what to do, but he still couldn’t reach her as he kept checking his phone obsessively. Pressing his fingers to the bridge of his nose, he felt a migraine coming on and was no longer able to block out some of their darker times from flooding into his mind.

Back when their lives imitated their art. 

 

_________________________________________________________________________

 

It was never lost on him that he broke her heart when he left the show. While his decision was mainly for professional reasons, there was also a part of him that needed to try living without her for a while, and create a space for them to grow as individuals. He needed to experience new adventures, projects, places, and people. Their codependency was so acutely heightened back then that he hoped this could give them better balance and get them to a healthier place. Looking back, he was never more wrong than to think any amount of separation could alter the bond they so carefully cultivated. 

One of the more painful moments that continued to haunt him was when he told Mariska he wasn’t renewing his contract for their show. 

Chris couldn't even get the words out before she ran out the room in tears unable to look at him. Even though they always knew that someday this could happen to either of them or the show could be canceled, nothing could’ve prepared them for how it felt when it actually happened. 

He spent over a decade protecting her from getting hurt and now here he was breaking her heart more than anyone ever could. He knew by her distant behavior days later that she was completely devastated, but he hoped that someday she would understand his decision. 

Mariska begged Chris to reconsider and give her more time so they could leave together, but between the disrespect that was shown to him in his last negotiation conversation, and his conflicted desire to branch out on his own, only solidified his decision to leave. 

He was done.

Twisting the knife even deeper, he also decided that he and his family were going to move to the West Coast as part of his decision. He just couldn't be in New York and not have every street corner, every coffee shop, every NYPD car, and every moment in their city remind him of her and their show. If he was going to begin a new chapter in his life, it had to be from 3000 miles away. 

As much as he hoped she'd be happy for him or at least supportive, Mariska didn't attend the going away party his friends threw for him before he left for LA. All night, he watched the door waiting for his best friend to walk in and light up the room as she always did, but she never came. 

His heart sank even lower when he received her text in the middle of that night, "I tried, but I can't watch you leave. I'm sorry. - M". 

He knew then they'd never be the same. 

Weeks went by which turned into months which turned into years. Like any abrupt divorce after a once beautiful marriage, whether official or not, it was hard at first, but over time he began to put the pieces back together. He started appreciating his new life in LA and enjoyed the warmer weather, constant sunshine, and fresh open space that he didn't have in New York. The frequent smiles and laughs of his young family made it easier for him to move on as well. He was booking big budget projects and experimenting with his art in ways he always wanted to do. 

Despite all of this, he still never could get himself to watch any old or new episodes of their show. He couldn't even watch shows or movies that took place in New York, for fear it would make him doubt his decision. His family would automatically turn off the TV knowing he would quickly get up and leave if they didn't. 

For him, she was his favorite city - that electric, gritty, loud, and chaotic place that made him feel alive to the point of beautiful exhaustion, where everyday felt like a fever dream of endless possibilities. For Chris, Mariska was New York. 

He began to accept that the wound of her - of them - might've now turned into a scar on his chest, but it was still present with him always, no matter how much he hoped he was healed. 

While Chris and Mariska still kept in touch over those first few years, there was a painful distance underneath the surface that wasn't just attributed to the miles put between them. 

Publicly, they continued to support and praise each other both personally and professionally on their projects. They still spoke on the phone weekly and kept each other updated on what was happening in their lives, but there was carefulness in their words that was never there before. 

Mariska would sometimes call him to recall a memory of them filming together, but those calls became harder and less frequent. She couldn't let it go and he couldn't continue to rehash the past he tried so hard to move on from. All Chris heard in her voice was abandonment, and he couldn't stand that he was the person that caused it, so he chose to speak to her less and less. He thought he was doing her a favor to make this separation easier for her, but it was probably more for his own selfish reasons than he'd be willing to admit. 

The handful of times they were able to see each other in person was even more difficult. Their physical intimacy stopped the moment he told her he was leaving the show, which was like two magnets being unnaturally held apart whenever they were in the same room together. 

As much as Chris wanted to, he knew he wasn’t strong enough to initiate anything, and was afraid the regret of his decision would outweigh the pride he felt for starting a new chapter. Perhaps more than that, he felt her tense up whenever he even attempted to hug or hold her a little longer than he should. Their ever present love language of physical touch morphed into forced smiles and talks about anything other than what they actually needed to discuss. Eventually, they evolved into cordial old friends who shared an experience they’d forever be grateful for.

They both knew it was really all either of them could handle and the past had to be the past. 

It wasn't until Chris received texts and calls from their mutual friends asking if he'd spoken to her lately and suggesting he reach out, that he knew something was wrong. Despite their cooled relationship, he dropped everything to call her, but was met with only her distracted short answers. He felt it deep in his bones that she wasn't acting like the same person he still knew so well.

He knew what her every sigh, every silent pause, and every crack in her voice over the phone could mean, and it deeply worried him. As much as he asked her, she wouldn't confide in him about anything, which was something he’d never experienced, even in recent years.  

A few days’ later, things became clearer when he got a call from one of the SVU producers telling him that Mariska had been filming some of the most disturbing scenes she or the show ever had to film, where she was the focus of a gruesome storyline. Chris felt a huge pit in his stomach as he begged the producer to stop discussing details of it, feeling sicker and sicker at just the thought of his words. 

The producer went on to say he was afraid for Mariska, that she was struggling to separate her character from her reality and was visibly suffering because of it. She hardly ate or spoke to anyone on set. She looked completely exhausted from lack of sleep and always just wanted to be alone in her trailer. When she did interact with the cast or crew, she usually snapped at them in irritation. This wasn't the warm, open-hearted, and fierce Mariska they all knew. 

As soon as Chris hung up the phone with the producer, his suppressed feelings of guilt and responsibility for her crashed into him like a tidal wave. He immediately sent her a plane ticket and begged her to come to LA that next weekend. She continually refused, but somehow her family convinced her that a change of scenery would be good for her. They also knew there was nothing more they could do to pull her out of her current deteriorating state. 

She needed the only person who could relate to her in this experience. She needed her partner. She needed him.

Chris arrived at the airport two hours ahead of her flight arrival time. He didn't want to risk being late to pick her up. Honestly, he was ready to drive to the airport as soon as her family called to tell him she'd be coming to LA in three days. He had to see with his own eyes that she was okay and prayed that everyone was wrong about her. 

She would be fine. She would be there with him. Everything would be fine.

After some flight delays and what felt like an eternity, he finally got the alert that her flight landed. He would never forget how she looked while walking out of the LAX airport to his car waiting for her. She was dressed in all black - black jeans, black leather jacket, black boots, and big black sunglasses. Her hair was shorter than he'd seen in awhile, but it still suited her. She looked beautiful as ever, but pain and exhaustion were written all over her, as she shielded her face from the bright California sunshine. His fear now became reality - everyone was right to be so concerned about her. 

Suddenly, Chris felt like he couldn’t breathe watching her seemingly smaller figure roll her suitcase behind her. He thought about running over to her before she was even a foot out of the airport door, but he knew how defensive she got when she felt ambushed. He also realized his fists were irrationally clenched ready to fight anyone who got near her, including a young security guard who helped her through the crowd, so he took a few deep breaths first to collect himself. 

Once she spotted him leaning against his awaiting car, he quickly prepared to take her bag and crush her in his protective arms. Instead, he was met with only a quick peck on the cheek as she mumbled, "Hi", under her breath and handed him her suitcase handle. 

He knew things between them simmered in recent years, but she’d never been this cold towards him. Previously, he couldn't remember a time where she didn't wrap her arms around his neck and jump on him, unable to let go for an embarrassing amount of time after they’d been separated. He also couldn't remember a time where they'd been separated for this long since they met. 

Everything felt all wrong.

They drove back to his house in silence, which in the past, they’d have so much to talk about they would continually circle the blocks just to finish their conversation. As he looked over at her in the car like he'd done countless times before, his heart ached as she kept her head down low like the weight of the world was sitting on her shoulders. He figured keeping quiet and letting her open up when she was ready was the kinder thing to do, so he chose not to break the heavy silence.

When they entered his house, she immediately went to sit on the couch near the darkest corner of his living room. It was as if the light in the house was physically hurting her. He was grateful to his family for taking a short trip away, allowing them to have their space because he didn't know what state he'd find Mariska in. Looking at her now, it was the right decision.

He went over to the refrigerator figuring she could use something after a long flight. 

"Hey, are you hungry? I can attempt to cook something, but I can't promise it'll be any good," he asked from the kitchen. "How about a drink? Water? Wine?" 

He opened the cabinet to get a glass, but when he didn't hear a response from her, he glanced over at the couch. Chris watched as she pulled her knees up to her chest and suddenly heard the most crushing sound of her softly sobbing. He didn't even take a second to put the glass down before running over to her as the glass smashed on the floor behind him.

Chris grabbed her body and picked her up as if she was a weightless doll, pulling him to his chest as he rocked her back and forth. "Okay…its okay. I've got you now, shhh, I've got you," he soothed repeatedly, "No one is going to hurt you, you’re safe. I've got you, shhh, you're okay." 

Was it an hour? Was it three hours? He didn't know how long they stayed that way as she cried all of her pain and fear on his now soaked shirt. As he held her body, the most intense feeling of protectiveness washed over him, and it confirmed what he always knew was true - he would kill anyone who messed with her. 

He continued to sooth her crying form. "I'm not going to let anyone hurt you…I'm here,” he said, petting her soft hair.

Mariska pulled back from him and spoke for the first time in hours. "But…you weren't," she choked out. 

"What?" Chris asked, narrowing his eyes confused by what she meant.

"You weren't there…not when I needed you. You left. You left me,” she stated, as he continued to hold her. 

"What? What are you talking about? Where is this coming from?" he stuttered back, shocked she was taking it there.

“You know what I’m talking about. You left me and I'm tired of pretending that you didn't," she said more forcefully this time as she started to untangle herself from him, but he continued to keep a firm grasp on her.

“I-I didn't leave you. I left the show. I'd never leave you," he said intensely, trying to make direct eye contact in hopes she'd really hear him. 

"But you did! You did. You fucking left me and stop acting so innocent about it," she repeated, now elbowing him in the chest as her voice got angrier.

“I didn’t leave you! It was just time for me to move on from the show. Please, you must know that," he pleaded, as he began to lose confidence in his own words. 

“No," she shook her head now aggressively, "You left me like it was easy. Like it all meant nothing. Like you’ve never been happier. Do you know what that did to me? Do you know how that made me feel - how it still makes me feel?”

Chris was stunned as he sat staring into her now engorged tearful eyes.

Mariska went on, “In every interview, every magazine, and every post, I have to hear about how you’re living your best life and pretend I’m happy for you - say that we’re still close and how great you’re doing. You’ve never even looked back, have you? Partners for life, right? Or is that only when it’s fucking convenient?”

Chris was speechless. He couldn't believe she actually thought this hadn’t been a daily struggle for him not to call her, not to jump on a plane back to her, and not want to give it all up in an instant. As long as he'd known her and for all the fights they've gotten into over the years, Chris never saw or heard this level of pain - of betrayal - from her. No matter how harsh some of the words they've used before were, he never wondered if they’d be okay in the end. Right now, he wasn't so sure. 

She continued to lay into him as her voice became louder, “I want you to admit it - admit it to my face right now. You didn’t just leave the show. You left me."

Chris was ready to interject, but was interrupted by her now fully shouting in his face. 

"And you just couldn’t get farther away, could you? You had to move across the fucking country? After everything...” her voice began to crack again in anger and emotion as tears continued to run down her face. 

“That’s not fair! Have you been holding onto this all this time?” Chris asked, still stunned by how things unraveled.

He now had to hold her arms down as she pounded them hard against his chest trying to free herself from him. "Don’t touch me! You left...you fucking left me," she repeated like a painful mantra in his ears. 

It was now his turn to feel the sting of tears running down his own face as it finally hit him like a ton of bricks. 

She was right. 

He did leave her even though he always tried to rationalize it in his head as something else. He ran away from her - from them - and that harsh realization was a feeling he'd never been able to shake since. 

This went deeper than her just being affected and hurt by a disturbing storyline in the show. She never completely forgave him for leaving and the resentment she held onto for years was now spilling out of her. 

Grabbing her punching arms, he steadied her body against his. "Stop! Rish, stop! I'm sorry...I'm sorry, please… I’m sorry," he pleaded as buried his face into her hair, breathing in the scent of her for the first time.

She felt his tears now running down her chest repaying her the favor, slowly resting her beating arms against him and allowing him to continue clinging onto her. 

"Don't ever do that to me again," she whispered with anger still deep in her voice. 

"Never," he said firmly. 

Out of instinct, he slowly pulled her chin up so he could touch his lips to hers once again. 

She quickly pushed his face away before his lips could reach hers and he breathed a heavy sigh of rejection hot against her neck. 

He didn't mean to overstep their newly established boundaries, but it's like his body automatically reacted to holding her this closely again for the first time in years. The possibility of actually losing her in his life made him think back on that feeling of when he first met her - that instant click, that habit he couldn't break, that perpetual magnetic pull to always be close to her.  

He wondered and hoped if she still felt it too, but was just too hurt and too stubborn to give in.

Mariska dug her head further into his muscular shoulder to keep her lips away from his; torn between needing to get out of his arms immediately and needing to never let him go again. 

"Don't," she huffed into the crook of his neck, "Please, don't. I can't."

"Look at me," he gently requested into her hair, trying to separate his body just enough from her so he could see her face. He needed to look into her big brown eyes and make her see that he was desperately sorry, and see how much he still wanted her - how much he'd always wanted her. 

"No…you don't get to do that anymore," she said a little more breathlessly, as she continued to squirm against his shoulder desperate to keep her composure.

"Look. At. Me," he more strongly demanded.

Mariska now became more aware of his body forcefully pulled against hers and cursed herself for how her breath hitched feeling his warm muscles through his shirt. 

“Please, Rish. I need to see you. I need you to see me. Just look at me,” he whispered more softly, finally getting her to lift her head up and stare back into the blue eyes that were still burned in her mind.

There she was, he thought as he moved her messy hair out of her watery eyes. The hurt was still there mixed in, but he finally saw a flicker of the woman he still knew like the back of his hand. 

Chris could feel her start to melt more into him as she began slowly moving her body now in a dangerous grind in his lap like it was out of muscle memory. 

All they needed was to look into each other’s safe, trusting eyes and it was like that effortless connection never left. 

"I might not get to do this anymore," he drawled closer to her mouth, "but I'm going to anyway." 

She grabbed a fistful of his shirt and pressed her forehead hard against his, knowing the inevitable was about to happen. If she was being honest with herself, she knew this would happen the minute she stepped out of the airport and saw him waiting for her with such intensity and fire in his eyes. 

"Fuck you," she breathed against his lips, wanting nothing more than to let his lips destroy every inch of her. 

So he did. 

Their kiss was instantly rough, hungry, and desperate. His lips already stung with pain by how hard she was kissing and biting on them. He smiled against her as she growled into his mouth still angry at him and continued softly punching her arms against his body of steel, now happily losing steam in her fight. He wouldn’t admit it to her, but he loved when she got this worked up and it only made her more attractive to him.

Kissing her again was like pure ecstasy. Chris felt like an addict who’d been priding himself on his sobriety, but one hit of his favorite drug and he was back to day one. The taste of her lips mixed with the taste of both of their salty tears was completely intoxicating, and he felt himself free falling into the pure aura of her again. 

They wasted no time matching each other's forceful tongues as they both fought for dominance. It was always a battle for control with them. He could easily overtake her, but he let her take the lead for a while. It also drove him insane to have this sexy, powerful woman straddling his lap, vigorously trying to dominate every part of him. 

Mariska clawed at his chest, his arms, and his ass, needing to feel him everywhere to remind herself that this wasn't a dream. He was really here, wanting her again without a hint of hesitation. She fought back the lump in her throat as she never thought that this would happen again. 

Pushing her emotions aside and replacing it with sheer desire, she ripped at his paisley shirt and sucked hard on his neck purposely trying to leave her mark on him. Whether she knew it or not, her mark on him never faded, no matter how much time had passed.

As she began moaning louder into his mouth, Chris had enough of her being in control as he forcefully tried picking her up from the couch.

“Let’s go,” he commanded, lifting up her legs, but she pulled him back down to her.

"No, I want you here," she said, as she ripped the last of his shirt off of his broad chest. 

He was sure there were already scratches and marks all over his body, but he didn't care. He knew what she wanted and what they both needed. She didn't want this to be slow and sweet. 

She needed him to fuck the pain away. She needed him to fuck the fear away. She needed him to fuck the countless days and nights she spent missing him away. If he was being honest with himself, he probably needed it more than she did as he felt her hands reaching for his belt, but quickly pushed them aside. 

Not tonight, this was about her. 

He swiftly lifted her shirt off and flipped her on her back, pinning her arms above her head. He began his assault on her neck and gently sucked her earlobe remembering how much she liked it when he paid attention to her favorite sensitive area, as if he’d ever forget. 

"Missed you..." she moaned, relishing the feeling of his tongue on her again. 

“…so fucking much,” he finished her sentence, still working on the spot below her ear. 

He noticed she already took off her own jeans as she began to rock hard up against his throbbing groin. He also made a mental note that she was wearing an all black lace underwear set - his favorite- and something he always requested her to wear for him. 

He knew it. 

She was ready and wanted this to happen just as much as he did. This only drove his craving for her even deeper, and he quickly realized they weren't going to last long at this pace. He unhooked the black bra he now knew she wore for him, allowing her heavy breasts to spill into his hands and mouth. 

His mouth was everywhere on her and he couldn’t stop kissing and licking every new droplet of sweat that formed on her chest, dripping down in between her breasts. He kneaded her breasts roughly with his hands, gently squeezing her nipples in between his fingers, causing her hips to increase her thrusts against his jeans. 

Words couldn't describe how much he missed the feel of her body against his. Her body had changed slightly in all the best ways since the last time they were together, and he couldn’t get enough of rediscovering her every curve. 

He toyed with the lace of her black underwear as she bit his ear impatiently, causing him to hiss at the intense pleasure and pain. 

"Just touch me," she whispered into it, begging him to test how wet she was for him. It was clear she had been dreaming of this too. 

Her deeper, huskier voice that only grew sexier with age made him feel like he was about to explode. His pants were now getting painfully tight by her continuing to rub up against him, so he hurriedly freed himself from his restraining pants as the friction was becoming too much to take.

Without warning, he dropped to his knees on the floor, spreading her already shaking legs out on the couch in front of him. 

He looked up into her pleading eyes and devilishly grinned, ready to feast on his favorite meal. He’d thought about tasting her again more times than he’d like to admit and couldn’t believe he got to indulge his constant craving once again. This was admittedly one of his favorite things to do because he knew it drove her absolutely wild once she was comfortable enough to give up control to let him have his way with her. He also was just so fucking good at it. 

Licking his lips, he started his torturous pleasure parade by kissing and nipping at her inner thighs as the smell of her wetness caused his nostrils to flare up with want. 

He worked his way up, placing little kisses over her underwear as she already lifted her hips off the couch to grind them into his face. Annoyed with the slower pace he'd chosen, she collapsed her shaky, thick thighs tight around his neck nearly choking him. Patience had never been her greatest virtue.  

“Easy, baby, or you’re going to kill me,” he chuckled against her core.

He grabbed her thighs and pushed them further open, giving him better access to his favorite destination.  

Anticipating her unhinged reaction, he placed a firm hand on her stomach holding her back down on the couch, and bit her lightly through her underwear causing her to cry out at the sensation.

She loudly gasped, shimming underneath his hands, "Chris, baby, more...please. Stop teasing."

Hearing her increased moans and pants, he finally gave into her as he knew she'd been suffering enough lately.

He pushed aside her underwear and inserted a finger in to test her as she moaned, throwing her head back wanting more. He couldn’t believe she was practically dripping for him already. He took his finger out and put it in his mouth, groaning at how much he missed the sweet taste of her. No one else could ever drive him this crazy.

“Do you know how good you taste?” He asked huskily in her ear.

“Then keep fucking going,” she whimpered impatiently, grabbing his hand and pulling it back to her core. 

Chris gave her a cocky smirk, quickly getting the message and indulged her by adding another curved finger, moving more forcefully to match the pace of her hips trying to fuck herself against his hand. 

She decided everything in her life and constantly sought control, but nothing made her feel more alive than when he made her work for it. She wanted to kill him, yet devour him whole, as he kept changing the pace and intensity of his fingers moving in and out of her while pressing a flattened thumb hard against her clit. 

Suddenly a sharp pain stung his shoulder as he swore there was blood running down his left tattooed arm from how deeply her nails were digging into him. His assumption was right as he felt Mariska bending down to lick the small droplets of blood grazing over Jesus’s outstretched arms. He grabbed her neck and kissed her hard to taste it too, grinning as he remembered how sick and twisted and incredibly sexy they could be together. She always loved hurting and healing him while he loved licking her every wound in return. Some would call it animalistic; they called it their version of physical comfort. 

Chris couldn't go another minute without tasting more of her as he edged her black, now soaked underwear down her legs. He closed his eyes savoring this moment, unsure he would ever be able to do this to her again. He softly swept his tongue over her folds and plunged deep inside of her, lapping up every drop she had for him. 

“Delicious, you’re so fucking delicious,” he panted, sucking every part of her.

She held his head tightly against her, rolling her eyes back and feeling herself already starting to let go. No one knew her body or how to touch or taste her like he did. Their intense connection was prevalent in all situations, but nothing compared to when they were intimate. 

"Come for me, Rish," he encouraged, “Let go, baby. I’ve got you,” he said, still keeping up the forceful rhythm of his tongue and fingers working her. 

Mariska thought she'd never be able to walk again from how intensely her legs were shaking against his face, as she mumbled things out loud she’d never want to remember again. She tried to hold out a little longer, but collapsed hard around his hand as the waves of much needed pleasure coursed through her body. Catching her breath, she pulled him up to her and kissed him sloppily, still tasting herself on his tongue and licked the last of herself off of his chin. 

"I need you inside me," she whispered, looking deep into his piercing blue eyes. Within seconds, he tore off his underwear and hovered over her body staring intensely back at her, nearly letting his emotions overtake him as he couldn't believe they were about to do this again. 

“This” was everything. “This” was all that ever mattered - not the fame, not the money, not the weather in LA, not the other projects he wanted to do. None of it. Nothing else mattered except what they had since the beginning - each other. 

She smiled back at him as if she was able to read every thought and memory that was surely running through his mind - just like she used to. 

“I know,” she breathed, nodding in agreement at the overwhelming feeling of it all. 

She gently stroked the length of him as he jerked in her hand and entered her with a gasp. He wanted to give her time to adjust as he knew they hadn’t been together in years, but she quickly began thrusting her hips back into him. She wanted to feel the soreness of him passionately loving her for days afterward. 

"Harder," she ordered, "I want to feel you…”

He obeyed her commands as he lifted her legs around his waist, allowing himself to go deeper and fill her completely. 

He then began pounding into her excessively - determined to erase the memory of him leaving, determined to erase the years they lost together, and determined to erase every moment he so foolishly spent thinking he had done the right thing. 

Just as he predicted, neither of them lasted long as he crashed on top of her, both completely exhausted and satisfied. She held him in place for a while unwillingly to let him detach from her. Even that type of separation felt like it would be too distant.

A few minutes went by as they caught their breath before he spoke.

"I’ve never stopped by the way," he mumbled into the skin of her neck, still crushing her body underneath his. 

"Hm?" she hummed, keeping her eyes closed savoring what just transpired.

"Loving you. It never lessened," he admitted, placing tiny kisses behind her ear. 

She turned to face him as a slow smile spread across her face. She didn’t know if she'd ever hear those words from him again in this way. She kissed his forehead then his cheeks then his lips, still holding him inside of her.

"And I love you,” she smiled into his mouth, “insanely."

She remembered. She still remembered back when they decided that just saying “I love you” felt too weak and didn’t capture their feelings enough, so they added “insanely” at the end of it. 

Because that’s how they’ve always been - absolutely insane for each other. 

The next two days in LA with her were spent pretty much the same way. Laughing and loving together, relaxing in the sunshine by the pool, going out to dinner, and finally getting her to sleep soundly through the night, safe in her partner's arms. 

For the first time in a very long time, she started to feel like herself again and he realized that he did too. They had forgotten what it felt like to really smile and laugh like this again. 

After she regretfully went back to New York, Chris called the SVU producer again to check on how she was doing. Thankfully, he said she was doing much better, but the producer ended up sharing something with him that still haunted him to this day. 

While keeping some of the details of the storyline hidden by Chris’s request, the producer asked him if he knew that his former character, Elliot Stabler, was also mentioned in the episodes. 

"What do you mean? My character hasn't been involved in the show for years. Why would he be tied to this?" Chris asked him, confused and concerned. 

"Well it was kept pretty quiet, but I figured she would’ve told you,” the producer hesitantly began.

“When we were filming, Mariska got so lost in her character that she started talking about Elliot, and how he would’ve handled the situation. It was like ‘in her final moments, she needed her partner again, but he left her’ kind of thing. It wasn't in the script, but Mariska was so raw and believable that we decided to leave it in as a subtext of the episodes. It's some of her best work," the producer replied, completely unaware of the devastation he just passed onto Chris. 

Chris could barely speak; barely breathe as he hung up the phone. Mariska never told him that his character was mentioned in the storyline or that it was her decision to add it in. She probably assumed he wouldn't watch it, just like he stopped watching anything about the show. 

Is that why she was so devastated and angry with him when she came to LA? Had she been grieving him or Elliot leaving through her character’s painful experience? Had something triggered her enough to dig up her own feelings of abandonment, longing, and betrayal for both her character and for herself? 

He knew the answers before he even asked himself the questions. 

Chris felt like someone reached into his chest and pulled the heart right out of him. He couldn't fathom how hurt she must've felt to be broken enough to incorporate her own personal pain into a show that had tried so hard to cancel him.

Whether anyone liked it or not, he was still a part of her - and of Olivia - just like she'd forever be a part of him. It wasn’t an option to eradicate their impact on each other because it was something that always lived within them. They never needed a script to show that. 

Chris ran to the nearest sink to splash cold water on his face as he felt the blood rushing from his head and knew he could soon collapse. He still loses his breath just thinking about how badly he and Elliot had failed her. 

Even though Chris just saw her in LA, he booked a ticket to New York a few days later, ready to throw himself at her feet once again and beg for forgiveness with this newfound information. 

He knew they were back on solid ground after her recent trip to LA, but it wasn't enough for him. He wanted to make sure she never felt without him again, even if he was across the country or they were working on different projects. They didn’t share a bond like this with anyone else and he never wanted them to forget it again. 

He also vowed to himself that someday, he would come back. 

He didn't know when, or how, or in what capacity, but he would find a way to come back to her - and to Olivia. 

He would come back to make it right. He would come back to give her the ending she needed and deserved.

He would come back to her. 

 

_________________________________________________________________________

 

"Sir? Mr. Meloni, are you alright?" the driver asked, shaking his shoulder as the black suburban had now stopped. 

Chris faintly heard the sound of the driver next to him as he sat slumped over, trying to slow down his panic breathing and pull himself out of his thoughts. 

Between the disconnections he currently felt from being unable to reach Mariska and from rehashing some of their more intense times together, it brought out his greatest fear - losing her again.

"Everything okay, Sir?" the driver asked again, with a concerned hand still placed on Chris’s shoulder.

"Where are we?" Chris asked, still looking down struggling to breathe.  

"We're here, Sir. At the set of your show...Law & Order: Organized Crime," the driver slowly said, unsure of what to do next. 

Chris let those words slowly sink in and repeat in his head, as his trembling hands began to settle.

"Can you say that again, please?" Chris asked softly.

"Um, sure. We’ve reached your destination…the set of your show, Law & Order: Organized Crime," the driver repeated, now fully confused, but worried for the man beside him.

A small smile formed across Chris’s face after hearing those words again and he finally breathed out a deep exhale with his whole chest for what felt like the first time today. 

Chris picked up his head to look outside the tinted suburban window. His piercing blue eyes focused on the tall skyscrapers decorating a grey, overcast sky. Down below, the busy streets were filled with impatient cab drivers, honking their horns at a garbage truck holding up traffic to collect mounds of black bags, as the wind blew a mix of stray trash and blackened snow throughout the sidewalks. Chris’s smile grew even wider knowing he’d never seen a more beautiful city. 

God, how he missed her. God, how he missed his New York. He was home. He was finally home again.

"Has anyone seen me yet?” he asked, suddenly worried about potential onlookers catching his private moment. 

The driver patted his shoulder reassuringly, "No, I don’t think so. Take your time, Sir." 

Chris nodded in appreciation for his discretion. He was still getting to know his new cast and crew and wasn’t ready to show such personal vulnerability yet.

Chris continued rubbing his thumb against his phone praying he'd hear from Mariska soon, but he started to feel her presence everywhere, as he watched a crew member unfold the black “Stabler” actor chair next to his trailer.

It was time to get to work. 

Chris had to become Elliot Stabler again – a man who hadn’t yet found his inner peace or redemption, but came back to prove to both Mariska and Olivia that he’d never leave again. 

More importantly, he came back to prove just how much he’d always loved her – insanely.  

Chris took another deep breath as he opened the suburban door ready to be greeted by excited fans and ready to put on his best brave face for them. 

Chris was back.

Elliot was back. 

He came back to her.