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All My Love, Partner

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Takeout is spread all over the top of Olivia’s coffee table. Chinese, specifically. They had bickered back and forth about whether or not to have hoagies or Chinese and honestly, that alone felt like old times. Olivia won the argument, of course. Hence why she’s jabbing a set of chopsticks into the white container she holds in her hand. She takes a bite of her food and corners her eyes around at Elliot to see him cracking open a fortune cookie. 


Invested in what his cookie will say, Olivia sits the container down onto the coffee table and flattens her hands against her thighs. She’s sitting on her knees in between the couch and coffee table, so she leans in only a bit to get a better peek at Elliot, who is sitting on the floor at the head of the coffee table with one leg drawn, and his elbow resting against it. The moment Elliot cracks open his cookie, he examines it and releases a hearty chuckle. 


“What does it say?” Olivia asks, a huge smile on her lips. It couldn’t really be that funny. But then again, Elliot is laughing so hard his face is red. 


“Let me see.” Olivia says, reaching for the thin strip of white paper. She turns it over to read it. “You are the crispy noodle in the vegetarian salad of …” Olivia giggles. “Life.”


“What does that even mean?” Elliot throws his head back, rubbing his hand over his face, in part to stifle his laughter. 


“Um …” Olivia tilts her head and gives it a soft shake. “I think we’re not wise enough for this one.” She smirks, brown eyes flickering to him once again. 


“Well, what’s yours say?” Elliot asks, soft chuckles still coming out between words. 


“Cookies are supposed to come after dinner, Stabler.” Olivia grins, reaching for the last cookie that sits in the center of the coffee table, in between wrappers and straws. Elliot grins back at her and shrugs playfully. Olivia pulls the clear wrapper open and brings the cookie out. She gives it a soft snap in half, and pulls the thin strip of paper out. 


“What does it say?” Elliot asks, leaning forward a bit. 


Olivia, with both hands, moves the fortune away from him and grins wildly. She’s already read it, of course. 


“Come on, what’s it say? I told you mine.” Elliot whines and Olivia can’t help but laugh at his little tantrum. “Yours is better, isn’t it?” He adds with a laugh.


“You’re a child.” Olivia jokes, dodging as he swipes out for it again. 


I just wanna see.” Elliot whines yet again. 


So impatient.” Olivia sings, and admittedly, it comes out a little more suggestively than she would’ve preferred. She can tell he caught her tone by the way he raises his eyebrows at her. Was she flirting with him? Maybe. 


“What’s it say?” Elliot’s voice lowers just a bit, with a twinkle in his eyes and a grin on his lips. Olivia is practically halfway up on the couch in efforts to get away from Elliot, so she’s turned almost away from him.


Olivia looks down at the paper. “Be prepared to accept an exciting opportunity in the future.” She reads, then sinks back down onto her knees in the position she was in before.


Ah.” Elliot thinks for a moment, nodding. His lip puckers out with a slight crease and he shrugs. “Well, I’d say today was an exciting opportunity.” Elliot says. 


“These are supposed to be for the future. But yeah … working a case with you again was …” Olivia catches herself on the verge of becoming sentimental, so she stops and just offers a small smile. 


“Was what?” Elliot asks, smiling. 


“It was nice.” 


“Just nice?” Elliot asks, crossing his fingers in with one another until they’re latched. One of his arms rests on the seat of Olivia’s lounge chair. 


“Nostalgic.” Olivia smiles. “ Don’t Say just nostalgic? It means something to me.” Olivia hangs her head a little, the slight curl of her lip still very much present. 



“It meant something to me too.” Elliot replies, his expression fading. 


“Yeah?” Olivia asks, laying the fortune paper down on the table. She reaches for her chinese container and takes another bite. 


“Yeah.” Elliot’s smile grows. “It was like old times.” 


Olivia nods, taking a bite of food. 


“Only now I can kiss you.” The words tumble from his lips quicker than he can catch them. But the moment they come out, he watches as she freezes, chopsticks midair, and stares straight ahead at nothing in particular. She’s processing, and that’s about all he gets from her expression. 


The longer Olivia goes without saying anything, the more Elliot can feel regret sinking in. He probably should’ve kept that one to himself. 


“What makes you think I should let you kiss me?” Olivia asks, eyebrows raised. She begins poking her chopsticks aimlessly back into the container. Her tone doesn’t come across as annoyed or angry. It’s almost … teasing. 


Elliot’s mouth opens, but nothing comes out. 


“Um …” He laughs. 


Olivia stares at him blankly, waiting for an answer. 


I’ll wait.” Olivia smirks, brown eyes still fixated down on her food. She pokes another bite of noodles into her mouth, slurping them up. 


Elliot shifts and scoots upwards just a bit so that his back is resting further against the bottom front of the chair. His smile, which had faded and reappeared, has turned coy. 


“Because …” Elliot begins. 


Olivia stops, mid-chew, and looks at him. Her eyes are wide and alarmingly beautiful. He’s always thought they were pretty, but lately, he’s noticed a particular kind of light reflecting back at him through them. Perhaps for him. 


“Because we had a good day together.” Elliot says.


Olivia almost rolls her eyes. She’s playing hardball. 


“We’ve had plenty of good days together and you’ve never told me you’ve wanted to kiss me before.” Olivia’s voice lowers. She knows that the circumstances under those good days were different then. But she can’t help but mention it. Maybe a part of her wants him to tell her that he wanted to kiss her then too. When they really weren’t supposed to be thinking such thoughts. 


Elliot stares at her for an instant, and she can tell he’s thinking. Maybe a little too hard about what to say next. But there’s one thing that can be said for Olivia Benson. She’s a patient woman when it comes to Elliot Stabler. 


“You say, ‘ Now I can kiss you’ … but what if I don’t let you kiss me?” Olivia asks, sitting the white container, nearly empty, down onto the coffee table. She licks her lips and reaches with her fingers to rub at the corners of them. 


They’ve been flirtatious before, but this is taking things to the next level. Both are aware and clearly into it. They’ve been making subtle remarks towards each other since the moment they stepped into Olivia’s apartment with their dinner. 


“He’s shy now.” Olivia adds with a soft grin, which fills her cheeks enough to dimple them. She looks down, and he takes notice of the thick eyelashes that have fallen onto her cheeks. 


Elliot laughs, hanging his head. “I guess it just kind of … came out.” He rolls his blue eyes up at her and he’s smirking that smirk. The one he gives her any time they’re ever having anything beyond a friendly interaction. 


“And if I said yes?” Olivia asks, turning to face him just a little. 


Elliot admits to himself in that instant that he would be more than thrilled if she said yes and leaned straight in for a kiss. He would be caught off guard, yes. But thrilled. Because even though he had said the words out loud, there was still a part of him that sensed her hesitancy with him. He felt it coming from her when he invited her to Christmas with his family. He felt it when he asked her and Noah to lunch. And he felt it today, when they spoke about just how complicated people were. 


Elliot smiles. 


“It’s complicated.” Elliot says, repeating himself from earlier. 


“Hm.” Olivia smiles with a gentle nod. “Aren’t we all?” 


Aren’t we?” Elliot asks. 


Silence. Olivia gazes at him, her smile not fading once. 


We are.” Olivia sings. He’s heard that song before, in front of a fan and in a dark hallway. 


Elliot takes a deep breath and exhales just as heavily. “What if we don’t have to be so complicated anymore?” He asks. 


Olivia shifts in her position this time. She’s still on her knees, but they’re beginning to get a little achy so she slides up onto the couch, releasing a little grunt on her way. “Gettin’ old, El.” She teases. 


“Speak for yourself.” Elliot teases back, debating on whether or not he should call her out for deflecting his question. 


Olivia rubs her hands together a little and looks around her living room. “Well, I guess we never know what the future holds. Our fortunes were a little … interesting.” She smiles, but doesn’t look at him. “According to yours, you’re a crispy noodle.” A soft giggle escapes her, and she stands to her feet. 




She’s ready for him to go home. 


He’s moved too quickly. 


“It’s my bedtime, partner.” Olivia reaches for his hand to help him up. Elliot’s eyes fixate on it before reaching and wrapping his thick fingers around her palm. Elliot stands to his feet, feeling Olivia give him a little pull upwards.


He grunts. 


“Ahhh, yeah. See?” Olivia laughs. “ Speak for yourself.”  


They’re still holding hands. She doesn’t let go, and neither does he. But their eyes lock. 


“Today meant the world to me.” Elliot says, his voice lowering. “Really, it did, Liv.” 


Their hands are still firm in one another’s. 


“I’m glad we could get her home safe.” Olivia whispers with a soft nod. “It’s hard, you know? Not knowing where your kid is. That young … it’s just …” Olivia sighs, shaking her head. “There’s no worse feeling.” 


Elliot narrows his eyes at her, catching her comment as a little self insertive. He tilts his head at her, and looks down at their hands. Only when he does this, does Olivia pull her hand away from him in a soft motion. 


“Noah was taken a few years ago …” Olivia clears her throat. “It’s uh … it’s really hard for me to think about.” She closes her eyes. “But … I know that pain, and it’s not –”


“What?” Elliot asks, almost surprised. “Taken? By who?”


“His grandmother. It’s a long story but … he wasn’t physically harmed. But it was …” Olivia pauses, rubbing the hand that was just in Elliot’s against her pant leg. “ Intense. I thought I would never see him again and … I can tell you it’s … well, you know. Eli …” Olivia trails off. 


“You could’ve told me.” Elliot says, his voice trailing off into a whisper. 



You didn’t ask. ” Olivia replies, giving a soft shrug. Her voice cracks just enough so that he notices. 


Elliot’s expression falls, and as her words sink in, he realizes that really, the only question he has asked has been about her dating history. 


“I wanna know, Liv. Everything.” Elliot says. There’s desperation there, evident in the way he squints his eyes and the way his tone shakes. 


The room falls quiet and Olivia, somewhere in the middle of their stare session, thinks maybe she should’ve turned on another light in the apartment because it’s a little dull. But maybe the lighting has set the mood for more of a sharing atmosphere.  


Elliot breaks eye contact first, and looks down at the table to their fortunes that lie close to one another. He picks hers up and looks down at the words. 


Be prepared to accept an exciting opportunity in the future. 


Elliot smirks down at the small piece of paper that rests in between his thumb and index finger. 


“My friend, Olivia?” Elliot asks. 


Olivia smiles, but says nothing. 


“I’m going to call you tomorrow night, will you answer?” He asks, a silly grin on his lips. 


“If you call after nine. Noah’s bedtime.” Olivia answers right away. “Are you really going to call me …” Olivia takes one step forward. “...My friend, Elliot?” She asks, narrowing her eyes suspiciously.  “I think I uh, I think I would be disappointed if you didn’t.” Olivia’s expression relaxes and she gives a gentle nod. 


Elliot’s eyes linger on her. He knows what she’s telling him. She doesn’t have to say it. But her eyes, somewhat glassy, tell him all he needs to know. She can’t take anymore disappointment from him.


“The last thing I want to do ever again is disappoint you, Liv.” Elliot says, reaching and bracing both hands on her shoulders. She remains still as he leans in and presses a soft kiss to her cheek. She can’t help but smile because God, that’s the most she’s ever gotten from him before. Olivia wonders if he can see how flushed her cheeks are. 


He can. Because he’s smiling even broader than he was when he leaned in. 


“Goodnight.” Elliot says. 




They have no idea just how close their fortunes lie together.