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“What’s going on, Liv?” Elliot asks innocuously.

She’s pacing in front on him on the sidewalk outside her building. Her exasperated sighs are only magnified by the wispy puffs that dance through the winter air. He can tell she’s pissed and that the fury is directed straight at him. But considering his track record lately he isn’t sure which of his shortcomings is currently stoking her fire. She’s fidgeting with her hands almost as if she is trying to find something to ground herself. They run through her hair then jump down smoothing the sides of her coat and make their way back up to the collar of her shirt.

“What the hell, Elliot? Eli called me. Bernie called me. I’m having serious deja vu. Actually, it’s more like whiplash,” she grits out.

“What are you talking about? Why did they call you?”

His seemingly innocent questions seems to halt her pacing, planting her feet firmly to face him square on. Her molten brown eyes almost black in the dim lighting meet his icy blue ones.

“Please, do not play dumb with me right now. Eli saw you. With Angela. Again,” she hisses.

She is doing everything in her power to hold her composure. She knew she had failed to hide the emotion in her voice but she hopes that her anger superseded her hurt. She resumes her movement because she needs an excuse to turn away from his gaze so she can gather herself once more. She is not going to breakdown in front of him. He is not going to get that from her.

God, she feels pathetic. Friends, for now? Yeah, until my mob wife, grief partner comes back into the picture.

“Olivia, I swear it’s not that. I’m using her to get to Wheatley. She means nothing to me,” Elliot explains.

He goes to step towards her, his arms aching to engulf her frame and backup his statement.

Angela meant nothing. Olivia means everything. Why is he failing so miserably at making this clear? How can Richard Wheatley know this and yet Olivia doesn’t? Or maybe he hasn’t given her enough faith to let herself believe it? 

“I thought we were past this. I thought you understood. After the courthouse, after Eli in the hospital, I thought it was finally getting through to you. This isn’t healthy. You’re going backwards and I can’t go with you, Elliot.”

“Liv, I just can’t walk away. He killed her and I’m supposed to just let him get away with it? He’s most likely behind setting Eli up. He was hanging around my place with my mother home alone. He ran you off the road. As long as he’s a free man, I’ll always be looking over my shoulder. Waiting for him to hurt my family, the people I love.”

“You’re hurting them all on your own, Elliot! You’re hurting me!” Olivia shouts as she loses any last ounce of restraint or composure she had left.

“I keep thinking that if I can just get you through whatever crisis, then maybe, maybe you’ll change. So, I do it! For you, for your kids, and for some godforsaken reason, for myself. Because I actually let myself think that maybe we were finally figuring out this thing between us. That maybe I could begin to trust you again. I let you meet Noah. I let you be there after the shooting. And now I’m thinking it was all a mistake to think I could do this, that we could do this.”

“Liv, please don’t say that,” he pleads.

This time he can’t help himself. He need to be near her. He needs her warmth, her weight against him because he can feel her slipping, drifting out away from him. That’s how everything feels nowadays. Slippery. Very few things feel real to him. His hate for Wheatley is real. His love for Olivia is real. His overwhelming urge to protect everyone he loves, even if it means pushing them away, is real and it wins out over everything.

“I just need a little more time. I need to make it safe. For us. Let me do that and I swear I’ll spend the rest of my life making it up to you,” he whispers.

His hand is cradling her face while his thumb strokes her cheek. She couldn’t help but lean into his touch as he brushes away stray tears that betray her.

“I don’t think I have any time left. I don’t have anything left to give you, Elliot,” she confesses.

Her head tilts forward as she lets the weight of her words and emotions wash over her. His lips find her forehead and rest there for a moment while they hold space in this monumental hurt. 

Why is it always like this between them? So heavy?

She thought she had seen sparks of their light in the hospital waiting room. Elliot’s honesty at the police station. The hope in his eyes as she offered them a place to start. Friendship. Like tiny signs of life coming back to a nuclear disaster site. Their playful banter, their ease, their synchronicity.

Had it been real? Or was she imagining it?

What we were to each other was never real.

The haunting words echo through her mind and she finds herself squeezing her eyes shut to try and drown them out.

Was it just an old reflex kicking in? Like phantom pains from a limb that wasn’t actually there anymore?

That’s what it seemed like. He had amputated himself from her years ago. From their partnership. A clean break. Even though it was anything but. She was left to bleed, to mourn, and wait for the wound to heal but it never did. Now he was back with wounds of his own and insurmountable grief.

“I’ll do anything, Olivia. I’ll go back to therapy. I’ll quit the force. Let me make them pay and I’m yours again. I’ve always been but I’ll be home. For good.”

“I guess I don’t have much choice. It just feels like I’ve lost you again. I told you once I wanted you to come home. So, come back to me. Don’t keep me waiting much longer, El,” she murmurs into his chest.

“I prom—“

“Shhhh,” she says, her fingers covering his lips.

“I can’t hear that from you anymore. Don’t say it. Just do it.”

“Okay,” he concedes.