Driving through the city at dusk was something she'd never tire of doing. The sunset on the river. The pink glow over the buildings and warehouses. She turned up the volume of the song she'd had on repeat. It must have been a new song that Noah added to her Spotify. She shouldn't be getting in her feelings on the way to his place. She needed to get a handle on her emotions because they were threatening to make her do some stupid shit. And this song wasn't helping.
My baby left and he ain't got a word to say. I guess it ain't his day.
She was tired of the push and pull. She either felt the closest she's ever felt to him or like she'd never reach him again. She hadn't really spoken to him since McClane escaped a few weeks ago. Her texts had gone unanswered. She'd stopped by his place and had tea with Bernie while she waited for him to show. But she'd given up at 11pm and gone home to relieve Lucy. She'd shown up at the OCCB with coffee but she ended up giving his coffee to Jet.
But he's magnificent. Honestly, I wish you could see all the things that I see.
She pulled up beside the gate to his patio. Her head fell back to the headrest. What was she doing? She shouldn't be here. She didn't know if she was strong enough to be rejected by him again. But the panicked voice of Bernie Stabler begging her to do something replayed in her head. She closed her eyes and the song surrounded her.
'Cause it's all in his smile. It's all in the way he dies for me. And he'd die for me, honestly.
His car was parked across the street so she knew he was there. Truthfully she could feel that he was less than 50 feet from her. She rolled her eyes. The universe was laughing at her and her inability to let this man go. She opened the door and sank out, trying to steel herself with armor before she faced him. She'd listened to the song too many times because it was still playing in her head.
I don't give a fuck if he's bad for me. I know he's bad for me but he brings me peace.
She blew her breath out and opened the gate. She rolled her eyes again at the lights strung up on the patio. It looked so charming and wistful and the complete antithesis of Elliot Stabler. She felt the lead in her chest get heavier as she got closer to the back door.
And he's spectacular. Honestly, you could never see all the things that I see.
She stood there for a minute. Her arm was unwilling to move forward to rap against the glass. Her eyes were trained on the ground, trying to make her arm move when the door opened. She looked up into the dark, murky ocean of his eyes.
'Cause it's all in his smile. It's all in the way he dies for me. He'd die for me, honestly.
She needed to say something. She had to say something but the words were stuck in her throat. They stared at each other for minutes or hours. She didn't know. Time wasn't exactly in the forefront of her mind when she was this close to him.
"Olivia, thank God." She heard Bernie's voice behind him. She moved Elliot out of the way and grabbed her hands. "Come in, sweetie." The entire left side of her body brushed against the front of his as she allowed herself to be pulled into the warmth of this home. "I made dinner."
You know that he'd die for me, cry for me, lie to me. Why do these people think that I see differently?
Neither of them had spoken and Bernie was flitting around the kitchen, making the three of them plates.
"What are you doing here?" His voice was sharp and her anger flared. She spun around to face him.
You know that I'd die for him, cry for him, lie to him. Why do these people think that he sees differently?
"No.. what are you doing here, Elliot?" He scoffed and narrowed his brows at her. "You're going to get yourself killed and then what?" Her voice was on the precipice of cracking with all the emotion in her chest. She could see him buzzing with pent up rage and wondered if he'd take it out on a wall after she left. Or if she'd let herself be his punching bag again. "Or you're going to lose yourself just like you did with the Albanians." She was breathing too hard. But she couldn't stop. "Why can't you ever just be here?" Her yelling is what set him off.
He grabbed her arm and pulled her down the hall to what she assumed was his bedroom. Her mind wandered back to New Year's Eve when she and Noah slept on the pull out couch. When he cornered her in the hallway and finally kissed her on the way to the bathroom at 5am. It was so fucking hot and slow and dirty and all she thought about for days after. " Elliot Stabler!" She heard Bernie's angry voice travel down the hallway and her eyes went wide when he froze. She tried to keep the smirk off her lips when he released her because she knew it would only gas the fire in him. "Olivia is here because I asked her to come. Now, dinner is ready. Get in here."
He shoulder-checked her on the way back down the hallway and she had to stifle her laughter. He was so predictable.
She didn't realize how much she needed someone to take care of her. Make her dinner, pour her tea, tell her she looked pretty even when she was weary and tired. Her eyes stung and her throat closed against the tears. Elliot was fuming across from her at the table while Bernie doted on her. She guessed that was also fanning the fire in him. He looked like he was on the verge of an explosion and she needed to calm him down. She didn't think about the fact his mother was about to see this, her body was up and moving toward him before she even decided to.
She sat on the chair beside his, facing him. Her hand landed on his shoulder and she could see the tension leave his jaw as he drew in a deep breath. "El." He exhaled and his eyes closed. His hands relaxed and he put his fork down, turning toward her. "We need you, here ." Her hand moved down his arm and wrapped around his hand. "You have to find a way to move forward. To be with your family." Their knees were interlocked and they both moved closer.
"He took something from me." His eyes were red and she couldn't help but mirror the tears. "From my kids."
She nodded. "I know. I'm so sorry she's not here." She was so sad for him. "But don't let him take you too. They need you. I need you."
"Liv." He was whispering now. "I don't know how to do this. I thought I was better."
"It's not linear, El. Grief is a cycle. And working with Kathy's murderer put you right back into the thick of it." Her hands moved up to his cheeks to tilt his head so he would look her in the eyes. "You just have to remember who you are. And who you need to be for your family."
He nodded and she saw his throat work to swallow his anger. The tension in his body was gone and she tried to remove her hands from him but he caught her wrists. And he held her there, against the sides of his neck. "I'm afraid that he'll hurt you, too." He choked on the words and the tears spilled out of him. "And.." He couldn't continue. He couldn't say the words out loud. He couldn't tell her he wouldn't survive if anything happened to her. Not after he'd survived losing his wife.
"Hey." She rubbed her thumb across his jaw and he closed his eyes. "Look at me." He opened his eyes and got lost in her. "He can't hurt me. You won't let that happen. Fin definitely won't let that happen." She smiled but he couldn't bring himself to. He nodded. "Is that what this is all about? Why you're shutting me out again?" He nodded again. He knew he was being stupid and reckless but he had to make sure nothing happened to her.
His hands left her wrists and moved up her arms to her shoulders. "Olivia." His head dropped, he couldn't look in her eyes anymore. "I can't." He felt her breath exhale against the top of his head. He owed her so much more than he could give her. Her hands dropped from his neck and she moved her chair back. He knew he was losing her. And there was nothing he could do about it. He couldn't have Wheatley after her. And he'd break her heart before he let his feelings for her cause her harm. He was rocketed back to 2011 when he made this decision for them the first time. He pulled his head up to look at her. Her eyes were stone. She wouldn't give him another chance if he did this. He couldn't stop the tears from falling. "I can't lose you." He whispered.
She looked away and shook her head. "You're really going to do this again?" She didn't wait for his answer. Her chair scraped as she got up and went back to the other side of the table. He'd completely forgotten about dinner and his mother's proximity to all of this. Shit. He watched her take her dishes to the kitchen sink. His mother was wrapping up some leftovers and shaking her head at him. He wanted to stop her. To take it all back. To hold her against him.
But he just sat there and watched her thank Bernie for dinner and the leftovers for Noah. He watched her put her coat back on while his mother yelled at him with her eyes. Olivia glanced over at him as she walked to the back door and he met her pleading eyes. He couldn't stop her. He couldn't let her get closer to him and he couldn't let himself put her in harm's way. She shook her head and let herself out. He didn't move his eyes until he heard the gate shut. His mother stared at him from the kitchen sink.
"Aren't you tired of living with all of this regret you carry around?"
"Don't, Mama." He took his dishes to the sink and took over the cleanup, sending his mom out of the kitchen.
She hated driving through the city at night. The headlights glaring against the slick, shiny roads of the cold winter. The red of the brake lights mirroring her heartache. She turned up the music. The darkness swallowed her up in the black hole of her thoughts. She knew what would happen if she went over there. And she was a glutton for punishment because he did exactly what she expected. She'd never be able to get through to him and the sooner his family accepted that and left her out of his chaos, the better. It would never be her. He's proven that to her one too many times.
I love that he lies to me. 'Cause he always lies to me.
He couldn’t stop the path his vehicle took until he was parked across from her building. It was like she had a line on him and like the north star she was, she lured him in.
turns out, i couldn't leave it like that.
“When do you get to be happy?” His mother stood behind him as he finished drying the dishes. She’d left him alone for the past fifteen minutes so he knew he was on borrowed time. “When does she? ” He shook his head.
“It’s not that simple, Mama.” He whispered.
“It is that simple, Elliot. You’re an idiot if you think breaking her heart will keep her safe from that man.” He stalled for a few minutes, washing his hands, before he turned to face her and threw the towel over his shoulder. She walked toward him, putting her hands on his arms. “If I thought you were going to do that to her, I never would have called her. She doesn’t deserve that.”
“No, she doesn’t. You can’t call her again.” Bernie shook her head at him and he saw the disappointment in her eyes.
“She doesn’t deserve that either. What she does deserve is for you to get your shit together.” Her voice rose and Elliot looked away. “I know you love that girl.”
He needed to get away from this. He gently moved her out of the way. “It doesn’t matter, Mama. I won’t let her get hurt.”
“She already got hurt! You hurt her. You did. And you can’t blame anyone else for that.” He shook his head and grabbed his keys and coat. He couldn’t listen to this anymore.
He let the cold winter air envelop him before he shrugged his coat on and slid into the car. He just needed to lose himself for a while. To not think about how he’s fucked everything up for himself. For his family. For her. He shuffled his playlist and turned up the volume. The Spotify gods must be against him because every song made him think about her as he sped through the streets of her city. Or maybe she was all he thought about all the time. He couldn’t stop the path his vehicle took until he was parked across from her building. It was like she had a line on him and like the north star she was, she lured him in.
He slammed his head back against his headrest and rolled it to the side to stare at the building. He shouldn’t be here. He shouldn’t bother her while she’s home with Noah. He knew that. But he needed her. He needed to see her and to make this right. He just didn’t know how. His mother’s questions replayed in his mind over and over. When do you get to be happy? When does she? If he was being honest with himself, he’d never truly been happy. His kids made him happy, he guessed. But responsibilities and his sense of obligation were prioritized over his own happiness. And the truth was they’d been in love with each other and not able to do anything about it for a few decades. He made sure of that. He nodded to himself. He was going to change it. He was out of the car and jogging across the street before he fully realized what he was doing.
He waved to Tom at the front desk and fuck he should have stopped for flowers or something. That’s what people do with these grand gestures. He’d send her something obnoxious tomorrow. He pulled out his phone while he waited on the elevator. He was nervous and it was manifesting in the shake of his hands. He was about to blow this all up. He ordered her a few dozen peonies and paid the out of season price. He had two days until they showed up so he figured they could either be an apology or the start of something.
He walked slowly down the hallway to her door. Shit. What was he going to say? What if he’d fucked it up already? Maybe she didn’t want this. He stopped in the hallway in front of the door and squeezed the bridge of his nose.
“Elliot?” He heard Noah’s voice through the door.
“Yeah, buddy. It’s me.”
“Tom texted Mom while I was playing my game on her new phone. She’s in the shower. I’m gonna go ask her if she wants me to let you in.” He heard Noah’s feet running toward the back of the apartment.
His mind wouldn’t work. He couldn’t come up with anything to say to her other than he’s fucking stupid and he loves her and he’s going to protect her. He rolled his eyes. This wasn’t going to end well.
The door swung open and he was met with Noah’s worried face. “She said to let you in so the neighbors didn’t call the cops.” He eyed him wearily before turning around and heading toward the living room. Elliot locked the door behind him and followed the kid to the couch, sinking down on the opposite side. He couldn’t quiet his mind enough to make sense of what he was going to say to her. He felt Noah’s eyes on him. “She only takes a shower before I go to bed if she’s sad. If something happened.” This kid. They should set him up at Quantico. “I know she was at your house. What happened?”
He turned toward him. “I hurt her. And I just needed to tell her how sorry I am.” Noah narrowed his eyes.
“She’s crying. I could tell because of her voice.” Noah held him with his eyes that looked a little too much like his own. “Why did you hurt her?”
Jesus. “I thought I could protect her. But I think I just got scared.” They both heard the water turn off and looked toward the hallway. He looked at the clock and it was pushing 8:30. “Shouldn’t you be in bed?” Noah scoffed, exactly like his mother, making Elliot laugh for the first time in days.
“Elliot, I’m 10 years old. My bed time is 9pm.” He’d be put off by his attitude if he wasn’t so damn similar to Olivia. “Do you think you could teach me how to box? I saw one of those punching bag things in your house.”
“Why do you want to learn how to box?” The one-eighty threw him slightly.
“I just do.” He shrugged. “I’m smaller than other kids in my class and I just don’t want to be messed with.” Elliot stiffened in his seat and felt the tension in his neck immediately. Were kids messing with him?
“Yeah, I’ll teach you.” He stared at the kid who was now smiling.
“Cool.” He nodded and turned back to the phone while they waited for Olivia to come out of her room. "I'm free this weekend." Elliot laughed lightly.
"I'll check with your mom." He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the cushions.
"You okay?" Noah was still eyeballing him.
"I'm afraid I messed it all up with her." He kept his eyes closed.
"Should've brought flowers or something. Mom likes fancy tea. For next time." Elliot laughed at the little Benson again.
"I ordered flowers in the elevator." He rolled his head to face him. "Are the kids messing with you?" Before he could answer, they heard her door open. Noah’s eyes shot to the hallway but Elliot couldn’t let it go. “Noah.” He turned toward him.
“It’s not a big deal.” He put Olivia’s phone on the coffee table and got up off the couch. “Just ask her, please.” Elliot nodded and turned his attention toward the woman walking into the living room.
Her eyes and cheeks were red. Her hair was damp and wavy. She’d never looked more beautiful. He couldn’t tear his gaze away from her as she ruffled Noah’s hair and hugged him goodnight, telling him she’d be in soon. She wouldn’t look him in the eye as she sat in the wingback chair opposite the couch.
“Ask me what?” Her voice was barely a whisper. Her eyes were everywhere but where he wanted them.
“He wants me to teach him how to box. Wants to start this weekend. Told me to ask you-”
“That’s not a good idea.” She cut him off, shaking her head.
He got up off the couch and knelt down in front of her. “I’m not doing it again. Olivia.” Fuck he was already letting the tears fall freely from his eyes. “I’m not leaving you.” He brought his hands up to her thighs. “Look at me.” She shook her head again, tears escaping from the corners of her eyes. “Please, Liv. Baby look at me.” Her wide eyes shot up to his. “ Shit. I’m sorry.” He couldn’t be too sorry though because the slip up worked. “It terrifies me that he might get to you. I thought that pushing you away would keep you safe. But it won’t. He knows it will destroy me if anything happens to you.” He couldn’t tell if he was getting through to her. “I’m in love with you, Olivia.” He uncurled her fist and laced his fingers through hers. “I want you.” He brought her hands up to his lips.
“I want to teach Noah how to box. I want him to trust me enough to tell me why. I want to come home to you. I want to drive you to work in the morning and fight with you about my expensive coffee. I want to kiss you whenever I feel like it.” He kissed her palm and smiled when she sighed and closed her eyes. “I want to go to Noah’s dance recitals. And get pizza with the kids after.”
“You keep changing your mind.” He looked back up to her eyes and nodded.
“I’m sorry for making you think that I’ve changed my mind about us. Liv, I’ve loved you for decades. And I’m sorry for the stupid fucking decisions I’ve made to make you question that. I’m not going anywhere.” He cleared his throat for the next words. “And if you decide you don’t want this, I will still be here. I’ll be your friend.” Even though it will kill me.
“We can’t keep doing this push and pull, El. I’m too old and it’s too hard.”
“Then be with me.” He was pleading with her at this point.
She was quiet for too long. He gently put her hands back in her lap and started to get up off his aching knees. “You’re going to have to earn it.” His eyes widened and he couldn’t help the smile that tugged his lips up. His heart was racing as he stood up. He leaned down again and braced his hands on the armrests on either side of the chair.
“I can do that.” His smile grew when she rolled her eyes. His eyes landed on her lips and fuck he just wanted to taste them. So he did. He pulled her up and his hands moved to her jaw to tilt her face up toward his. She was so fucking pretty and her lips were so full and pink. He traced his thumb over her bottom lip and pulled her mouth open for him before he wrapped his lips around hers. He had to keep it somewhat quick because he couldn’t back her into her bedroom and show her just how he was going to earn it. When he pulled away he licked his lips just to taste her one more time and smiled at her closed eyes. “Go say goodnight to your son.” She nodded and he stepped back to give her space.
She followed him to the door to see him out. “He’s free on Saturday.” She smiled up at him. He stepped out into the hallway and turned back toward her.
“I’ll pick him up at 10.” She nodded and leaned against the doorframe. He tucked her hair behind her ear and kissed her forehead. “I’m gonna see you tomorrow. Lock the door so I can hear it.”
He couldn't keep the grin off his face as he waved to Tom on his way out. It was still plastered to his face when he walked back through the front door to his house.