A/N: This was inspired by some press Mariska did this week, where she talked about how deeply safe and protected Olivia always felt with Elliot. It got me in my feels. If you haven’t gathered by now, my brand is to take characters and put them in painfully common, ordinary situations, and do a deep dive into the everyday human experience. This piece is the epitome of that. "A Thing or Two" verse is established EO. Otherwise canon.
Olivia winces as the paramedic carefully dabs the burn on the top of her left hand, and the one on her forearm.
“You’ll be alright, Captain,” he says kindly, opening another packet of fresh gauze, “I can just flush and wrap them right here, save you a trip?”
“Yeah,” she sighs, glancing around, “That’d be great.”
The scene of the accident has expanded with another patrol car when she looks up, and she sighs again, heavily. Getting sideswiped in a four-car accident on the LIE after a long day at the precinct is the very last thing she needs, but it’s her current situation.
It happened faster than any accident she’s been in, and her heart is still skipping beats.
A violent bump from her right side had sent her spinning, into another car, and finally into the median with a sickening crunch of metal on concrete. A rush of adrenaline, the seatbelt squeezing at her hard enough to bruise, and the incredible pop of the airbags—and then it was over. She’d been left shaking and breathless, with airbag burns on her left arm, and her only instinct had been to find her phone and call Elliot.
It’s her third serious car accident, and somehow she’s less equipped to cope. Maybe it’s because she’d stayed conscious this time, or maybe it’s because looking down and seeing the raw skin on her arm had instantly turned her stomach, but for whatever reason she can’t be a cop in this moment.
He talks her through it.
Talks her through a couple minutes of deep breaths, until she can talk again, until she doesn’t feel like she might black out.
He gets her to see if her lights still work, and to turn them on when she discovers that they do.
He has her look around for a mile marker, so that he can call for patrol cars.
He takes care of it, over the phone, all while he’s running to his own car so he can get to her.
They hang up when patrol officers come to guide her out of the wrecked car, and she’s been sitting in an ambulance for the past half hour. Thankfully, she hadn't hit her head, and the paramedics are satisfied that she hasn't sustained any serious injuries. They'd told her to expect general body aches, a bruise from the seatbelt, and then turned their attention to the burns on her arm.
She hears him before she sees him, and she closes her eyes, lets his voice wash over her, shaking her head at his shout. His accent is always thick when he’s angry, language sharp and colorful. She doesn't have to see him to know he'd come barreling into the scene looking for her, barking at anyone in his way.
“—yeah, you didn’t see her? You didn’t fuckin’ see her? Wha—no, you fuck off, car’s fuckin’ seventeen feet long, but you couldn’t—I don’t fuckin’ care, you hit my partner you deal with me—“
“—Detective, with all due respect we’ve got this. Your wife is in this ambulance here—“
Olivia keeps her eyes closed, smiling a little.
People keep assuming that they’re married, and they don’t always correct it anymore. She wonders what that means.
She opens her eyes, and he’s climbing right into the ambulance, pushing some medical supplies out of his way so he can sit beside her.
“Hey,” he repeats softly, eyes roving over her frantically, “You alright? C'mere.”
He sits, leans, pulls her into a hug, and instantly her nervous system starts to decompress. She melts into him on a long breath, leaning heavily into his embrace, wrapping her good arm around his chest.
“I’m okay,” she says quietly, pressing her forehead against his neck, “Don’t yell at people.”
Her heart’s not really in it when she scolds him. He’s just being protective, and she knows better than anyone that instinct isn’t something he has any control over. She wouldn’t want him to control it.
“Ah,” he scoffs, rubbing slow circles over her back, “Guy’s drunk. He deserves it. Coulda killed somebody.”
Could’ve killed you.
The unspoken thought clogs her throat, and he holds her a little tighter, shushing her gently, reassuring them both. “You’re alright.”
“With what we do every day…just don’t expect it, you know?” she manages, clearing her throat.
“Here,” he murmurs, pulling back a little, “Lemme see.”
She lets him take her arm, but she looks away, avoiding looking at it for right now. She’ll be okay once they’re home, once she’s fully calmed down, but right now—her adrenaline rush has subsided enough that it’s starting to hurt.
“Paramedic went to find some saline, his kit was out,” she says, swallowing thickly, “After he wraps it up, we can go, I talked to the officers already.”
“Okay. Hey, look at me.”
She brings her gaze back around and meets his, and finds her breaths come easier when she’s looking at him, focusing on his eyes.
“We’ll get you cleaned up, and then we’ll go home,” he soothes, reaching for her uninjured hand, thumb stroking over the back of it, “Car’s not even yours, right? The department’ll handle it, get you a new one issued next week. Nothin’ to do but breathe.”
The paramedic comes back with a few big syringes of saline, apologizing for taking so long.
“This your husband?” he asks, glancing between the two of them as he lays out his supplies.
“We’re partners,” Liv says softly, automatically, glancing at him.
The paramedic notices the badge on Elliot’s jacket and nods, smiling gently.
“Well, lets get you out of here, Captain. Detective, if you just want to step out for a few minutes, it’s a little tight in here—“
“Ah, no, I’ll be staying,” Elliot says easily, shifting to the other side of her, “Burns are tough.”
He doesn’t say anything more than that, again letting the paramedic draw his own conclusions. If the man is confused, he doesn’t show it, quickly deciding to work in the space he’s being given.
“Okay. Well, I’m going to just clean them with the saline, and put a loose dressing on there. Definitely follow up with your family doctor to monitor healing, and you’re going to want to keep—“
“—I’ve cared for burns before,” she interrupts, a little sharply, faking a tight smile, “Let’s just, get this over with.”
She can’t focus on this stranger anymore, especially when he guides her arm over a sterile tray, but Elliot is already pulling her face into his neck, wrapping her free hand with his. She feels ridiculous, making such a big deal, but her body is just reacting, and she’s beyond grateful that he doesn’t make her ask. He gets right next to her ear, cradling the back of her neck.
“Alright, I’ll tell you when. Not gonna take long, piece of cake,” he murmurs calmly, absorbing the shake of her hand into his own, “So, he’s gonna start cleaning right now, just squeeze my hand…squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, as hard as you can—“
It’s a searing pain she knows all too well, and she can’t hold back the whimper that escapes, but she buries it in his skin, focuses on his voice. He knows better than to talk to her about dinner, or the kids, knows it’s not about distracting her. It's about hearing him, feeling the pain for what it is and not what it isn't, circumventing a major panic attack.
“—keep squeezing. That all you got?” he teases softly, squeezing her back a little, “Almost done, don’t even worry about it, there we go, that’s a squeeze. Little more. Almost done. Done? Done. You’re done with that. Deep breath. All good. Just a stupid airbag, it’ll be feeling better in no time.”
He keeps up a steady stream of consciousness into her ear, cradling her cheek and tracing back and forth with his thumb, until she gets her breath back and slowly pulls away. She tips her forehead against his chin, grasping his wrist, and then sits up and looks at him. It’s a silent exchange, where she tells him without a word how grateful she is for him, and he gives the slightest shake of his head to say she doesn’t need to thank him, pressing his mouth to her forehead.
He takes her to his car and puts her in the front seat, leaves her his keys and goes to get everything out of her crunched vehicle; he insists, in fact, that she sit and relax and calm down.
He’s got this.
He’s got her.
She knows she can call him, and that he’ll drop everything and come to her.
It’s so deeply comforting, that she doesn’t have the words for it.
She’s used to being in charge, to taking care of everything and everyone around her; not just because she’s Captain, but because after he’d left, there had been no one else. There’s been no one there to check that she’s home safe, to pick up the takeout, to back her play without question. She’s had to do everything herself, be her own best friend, self-soothe and self-start.
She’d forgotten what it’s like to have him.
Her best friend, her protector. It’s never felt right to let anyone else get this close, because she’s never trusted anyone enough.
But she trusts him like she trusts her heart to keep beating; faithfully and unconsciously.
Even small, silly things, like sitting in his car, bring her peace. Inhaling the leftover spice of his cologne, picking through his messy cup holders to see if he has any Chapstick, it all centers her, feels comfortable and normal.
She looks up to see him coming back from the scene, arms full of things she’d forgotten were even in the car; things he’d insisted she keep in the car. Extra jackets and a mini snow shovel, deluxe first aid kid, extendable ice scraper; he’s got it all piled up, and she uses his keys to pop the trunk.
“Hey,” he calls, from the back, “You alright?”
This time when he asks, she actually is feeling better, the shock of the accident starting to wear off.
She twists around and nods, watching him dump most of the items into his trunk. “Yeah.”
He comes around holding her work bag, along with one of his NYPD hoodies, and climbs into the driver’s seat with a grimace. “This was kinda flung all over the front seat, I think I got everything. I just threw it all back in there, you’re gonna have to re-organize it.”
“That’s okay,” she smiles, chuckling a little, taking the bag, “Thanks for getting it.”
“’Course,” he sighs, settling into his seat, reaching for her, “You alright? You hurting?”
The concern is just bleeding out of him, and it makes her feel warm and safe…so, so safe.
He cradles her cheek and she leans in, meeting him in a soft kiss, and then another.
“I’m okay,” she reassures him softly, taking the sweatshirt from him, “I’m good. Better once we get home.”
He watches her take her blazer off and wrap his sweatshirt around herself instead, eyes soft. “We can do that.”
“Oh, honey, come sit.”
The second they walk in the door, Bernie’s fussing over her.
“I’m fine, I promise,” Olivia reassures her, letting Elliot guide her into the kitchen with a hand on her back, carrying her bag, “Just a little burn from the airbag.”
Noah’s running to her next, and she turns just in time to catch him as he collides with her body.
“Hey, baby,” she says softly, wrapping her arms around him, “How was school?”
He looks up at her, eyes wide, as if this is a ridiculous question. “Are you okay?”
“I’m okay,” she breathes, pulling him in for another hug, “Somebody ran into me, and my car got pretty banged up, that’s all. I was wearing my seatbelt, so I’m okay.”
“Honey, sit, I thawed you some soup,” Bernie urges, trying to nudge her over to the couch.
“Ma, you didn’t even ask her if she was hungry.”
"Why wouldn't she be hungry?"
"Soup sounds great, Bernie, thank you."
They all turn when Kathleen bursts through the door, Eli close on her heels.
“Liv, are you okay?”
Olivia’s eyes widen, and she laughs a little when they rush over to hug her from both sides. “Oh, you guys, I’m fine, you didn’t need to rush here.”
“Are you sure?” Kathleen says worriedly, taking her by the shoulders, “Because, you know, you’re going to probably start getting really stiff, it’s a delayed reaction from the whiplash.”
Olivia gently switches their position so she’s holding Kathleen’s shoulders instead. “I got hit from the side, so I don’t really have whiplash. But, I probably will wake up a little stiff tomorrow, you’re right. I’m okay—hey, Eli, c’mere.”
Eli’s standing nearby chewing his thumbnail, looking anxious and worried.
They’re traumatized, Olivia quickly realizes, and in rapid succession, she realizes that she’s important enough to them now that the thought of anything happening to her is traumatizing. Pushing that thought away to process later, she gently draws Eli into a hug, rubbing his back a little.
“I’m good. All good,” she says softly, noticing her chest is already sore from the seatbelt when she gives him a firm squeeze.
He nods against her shoulder and takes a deep breath, relaxing.
Being watched over by four Stablers and a Noah is a little overwhelming, but she lets them put her on the couch and give her the soup Bernie’s thawed. She lets Kathleen dump her destroyed work bag out on the cushions and help her reorganize it, and she lets Noah stay up past his bedtime, sandwiched onto the couch with her. She lets Eli make a pot of cocoa, even though it’s not December, and they all drink a cup with her around the coffee table.
Eventually, Elliot orders everybody who currently lives, or who has lived in the loft to bed.
She’s starting to feel exhausted, and she knows he can see it. He’s still making decisions for her, taking even the smallest burden off her shoulders, and she still needs that. He gets her into a hot shower, steps in with her to help so she can keep her arm dry, and it’s deeply settling to feel his skin against hers.
When they move around their bedroom in a familiar dance, getting ready for bed, she thinks her pulse hasn’t fully slowed until this moment, soothed with the normalcy of it.
He’s at the dresser when she finishes putting her pajamas on, carefully tucking their badges into the box he keeps there, and something about it hits her right in the chest. She walks to him and wraps her arms around him from behind, turning to rest her cheek between his shoulder blades. He’s warm and grounding, solid against her body.
“Okay?” he asks quietly, rubbing her forearm with his palm in, slow, back and forth strokes.
She hums, nodding against his back, eyes closed. “I love you.”
His breath catches, and he slowly turns in her arms, until he can pull her into his chest and hold her. “I love you.”
Even now, when he tells her that, he still sounds in awe of it; it’s a promise and a prayer on his lips. They don’t shower each other with it, because they don’t need to. It’s there in the background, in everything they do. The actual words are reserved for these quiet moments, when they have the time to make space for it, to really stand in it; on solid ground.
A/N: Thank you for reading!