Chapter 1: Opening.
There are parts of herself that she’s forgotten. Ones that laid dormant, that had long given up scratching and clawing at surfaces they knew they’d never get out of. She had once told him that he knew her better than she knew herself. So maybe it made sense that once he came back, he drug those parts that she’d rather have forgotten right back along with him. The realization that it was so quiet inside because those forgotten bits had somehow made their escape, had stunted her delusion of progress – the progress she made of living life without him. The ice cold awakening of it all that made her ache for the comfortable warmth of obliviousness once again. But through that awakening, and what she often perceives as the misfortune of others being more aware of her feelings than herself, she’s aiming to ask him one very important question. To ask herself … one very important question.
"Where do I put my love?"
Because if he will not have it, then there’s nowhere else for it to go.
Chapter 2: There's No Hiding My Ways From You
Buckle up, lovelies. <3
“So how is vacation going?” Lindstrom asks. He sits perched back in his seat, his calm demeanor almost off putting as he rubs his fingertips together. It’s a very therapist thing to do, she realizes. They either click their pens, rub at their fingertips, or tap at the arms of their chairs.
“Fine. It’s going fine.” Olivia nods with a half smile. She doesn’t sound convincing and she knows she doesn’t, because Lindstrom goes uneasily quiet. He has a way of looking at her when he calls her bluff that’s wordless in its judgment, but impeccable in its loudness. “I’m feeling … more alone than usual.” She adds, tilting her head at him. Is he satisfied now? Sometimes she thinks he isn’t satisfied until she draws her replies straight from the depths of her fucking soul. He’s a good therapist though, but it’s hard to lie to him. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing, she’s come to know.
“And spending time with Noah, does that … aid the feeling or make or–”
“It’s a different kind of …” Olivia doesn’t finish. She shakes her head and purses her lips together, bringing her hands to clasp over her lap.
“Loneliness?” Lindstrom asks.
“Yeah.” She answers.
“You can say that, Liv. It’s okay to say you’re lonely.” Lindstrom offers a faint smile. Olivia says nothing, but gives a gentle nod in response and casts her eyes down to her lap, where she twiddles her thumbs. She knows it may give the appearance of boredom but maybe if he thinks she’s bored with his line of questioning, he’ll move on. “Do you think now that you’re, what, almost a week into vacation that … you’ve perhaps used work to fill that empty space?” He asks, scooting forward in his seat a little.
He doesn’t give a shit about her pretend boredom. Pity.
“Um … maybe.” Olivia sings, looking up at him. “Work keeps me busy. My mind busy. We’ve talked about that before.” She adds.
“Well, yes. But we’ve also talked about how work tires you.” Lindstrom replies.
“Sometimes I like to be tired.” Olivia says.
“Because if you’re tired then it’s much easier to just … turn it off?” Lindstrom asks.
Olivia reaches to scratch the back of her neck and gives a shrug in response. “Turn it off?” She asks. “What? My thoughts?” She adds, drawing her leg up underneath the other. She might as well get comfortable.
“Your thoughts. Your feelings.” Lindstrom suggests, motioning upwards with his hands.
“I just … like to be busy.” Olivia answers, which really isn’t an answer at all.
“Am I being too invasive?” Lindstrom asks, and Olivia narrows her eyes at those particular word choices. She’s heard them before, but not from her therapist.
“Yes.” She answers straight away. “I mean, no. I … because of recent … things in my life I’m uncomfortable talking about the things we discussed before.” Olivia clears her throat and shifts in her seat.
“Okay. That’s fair. Are you comfortable with talking about Elliot Stabler again? I was wondering if you had put any thought into what we talked about before. When we talked about maybe exploring –”
“I haven’t. That’s … really the furthest thing from my mind right now.” Olivia interjects. The room falls silent, and Olivia turns her attention to the clock on the wall. She’s usually not in a hurry to get out of her sessions but today she’s anxious. That could be because she doesn’t have work to retreat to or it could be that she’s had time to sit with the subject matter brought up in their last session. And now, she feels more than ever, that she must be so easily readable for people to know that she’s in love with —
“Liv?” Lindstrom asks.
She must have zoned out.
“Hm?” She looks up.
“You mentioned at the end of our session last week that Noah had a dance recital that weekend. How did it go?” He asks, seeming genuinely intrigued.
Olivia’s smile broadens, partly because she’s once again successfully dodged the topic of Elliot Stabler. She scoots forward in her seat and drops her other leg onto the ground, then reaches for her phone. “He did so well. He’s getting really good.” She beams, scrolling through her phone to find the exact photo she would like to show Lindstrom. She pulls it up and stands to her feet, leaning forward a bit with an outreached arm to let him have a better look.
“Ah! Fantastic!” Lindstrom clasps his hands together. “Becoming a fine young man.”
Olivia brings her phone back into her space and glances down at the photo of Noah, who is in the middle of a pirouette. “Yes he is.” She smiles, tilting her head. The curls on the corners of her lips begin to fade down and Lindstrom, from watching her expression, does the same.
“Liv?” He asks.
“We ran into him on, uh … on Mother’s Day.” Olivia corners her eyes down at Lindstrom. He, as if taking that as a start to a new conversation, gestures his hand towards the couch for her to sit down. Which she does.
“Okay. How did that go?” Lindstrom asks. “Was Noah excited to meet him?”
“I think he was. I think … Elliot and I were just so stunned that it was hard to really … appreciate the moment, you know?” Olivia sighs. “We didn’t talk very long. He and his children went to his wife’s grave after that …” Olivia twirls a piece of her ponytail around her index finger, staring off into nothing as she speaks.
“Oh? How did that make you feel?” Lindstrom asks.
“He should’ve gone to her grave, of course. It didn’t upset me.” Olivia replies. She feels she’s being judged, for some nonexistent reason.
Lindstrom stares at her blankly.
“No, I mean, how did it make you feel that the first time he met your son was cut so short? Were you hoping for a more official meeting? Maybe dinner or …” Lindstrom waits for her to fill in the gap.
Olivia feels a soft blush rise to her cheeks, only because she misunderstood his question and answered with that. “He asked Noah and I to lunch before. I said no.” She replies.
“Why?” Lindstrom asks.
“Why?” Olivia repeats.
“Yes. Why?” He releases a soft laugh.
“I don’t want Noah getting attached to someone that may not stick around.” It comes out too quick to catch. Tumbles from her. She’s said it before, to herself. She’s even told Elliot that Noah gets attached too easily. But to say something like this, to her very own walking bullshit detector – well, that wasn’t a swell move.
“Elliot has been back for a year now. What makes you think he won’t stick around?” Lindstrom sits back in his seat, and she can tell he’s satisfied with the breakthrough he’s just gotten.
“I guess there’s no way to know that.” Olivia answers truthfully.
“Then why deprive yourself of that connection?” He asks.
“I’ll protect my son. Always. If I let Noah get close to him … and he just … disappears again … then I don’t think Noah could take that. It happened once. And it really hurt him.” Olivia’s voice drops, and an ache grows there in place of any bass that was once present. She watches Lindstrom’s eyes shift from her to the tissue box that sits in the middle of the small coffee table between them. He thinks she’s about to cry. Olivia swallows down any emotion that may be on its way up, and shakes her head. Silence falls heavily on the room.
“Are you, maybe afraid, that you are the one that will get too attached to Elliot … only for him to leave you again?” Lindstrom questions.
“ Wow.” Olivia breathes out a shaky laugh. Tears spring to her eyes anyway, despite her resistance. “I … was talking about Peter Stone.” She clears her throat.
Lindstrom gives one single nod. He doesn’t believe her. Olivia looks away from him yet again.
“Okay …” She shrugs. “Maybe … I don’t want to let myself go there again. Is it so wrong to protect myself?” Olivia asks. “It was … hard for me.” She pauses. “To come back after … that …” Olivia’s voice, which at one point grew in strength, diminishes again into a soft crack. She’s becoming emotional. Damn him, he’s reeling it out of her.
“After he left you?” Lindstrom finishes for her, and suddenly, he’s reaching for the tissue box.
Silence. Lindstrom stands up and hands the tissue box across to her, and only for a moment does Olivia stare at it before taking it from him and pulling a couple of white tissues from the box. The room is once again quiet, and Lindstrom adjusts his suit jacket before sitting back down. He looks away as she dabs at the corners of her eyes, almost as if he’s relieving her of some embarrassment. Giving her privacy for invading and poking at a raw spot. He’s good at what he does, and even better at knowing exactly when to back off.
“It broke me.” She whispers, eyes cast down. She won’t look up at him. She can’t.
Lindstrom remains quiet.
Olivia looks up at him when she feels like she can again.
“Unlike anything else.”
There’s something about the empty apartment she floats around in tonight of all nights. Noah left last night for a sleepover and won’t be returning until tomorrow afternoon. So she’s been here, for the most part, doing nothing but watching television. At some point she must have zoned out, because her thumb just keeps pressing against the channel up button, over and over again. The news. Shopping networks. Old tv shows. Gone With The Wind is what catches her and brings her back to reality. Olivia, who sits with her elbow propped on the arm of the couch, lifts her head up from its lying position against her knuckles and stares straight ahead at the scene playing before her.
She hasn’t seen this movie in forever. Probably since she was a young girl, and in fact, thinking back on it, she’s sure the last time she watched it was with an old boyfriend. Todd. He was into these kind of movies. A cinephile, he called himself. Olivia pushes her black rimmed glasses up on her nose and watches as Rhett pulls Scarlett down from the carriage, and she leans against him as they walk side by side, devastated by his declaration that he’s going away.
“Oh Rhett, please don’t go! You can’t leave me, please?! I’ll never forgive you!” Scarlett cries.
“I’m not asking you to forgive me.” Rhett removes his hat, and pulls Scarlett closer to him. “I’ll never understand or forgive myself.” He states, staring down at her.
Olivia turns the tv off, and tosses the remote to her side. The quiet apartment rings in her ears. The clock on the wall. The dryer kicking off. Maybe it’s not so quiet after all. But she doesn’t notice, because the tears in her eyes are stinging too badly for her to notice any of those things. But she hears it anyway. The deafening nothing.
The deafening nothing.
She reaches back for the remote, and turns the television on again. Anything is better than that. The nothing. Just as the TV comes on again, Rhett is kissing Scarlett’s forehead. That’s what sends the first stream of tears down her cheeks, and after that, as Scarlett begs for Rhett to let her be, Rhett pleads for her to kiss him. Finally he pulls her into him, and their lips meet.
Olivia watches the scene play out before her, silent tears flowing heavily down her cheeks. The reflection of the scene is prominent in the lenses of her glasses. She reaches and pulls them off her face, wiping at her cheeks with the back of her hand. This shouldn’t be getting to her so bad. But it is. The movie, as silly as it sounds, has poked at the ache already present in her chest. Bruised it. Peeled the scab. Why is she torturing herself? She should just turn it off. Yes. That’s what she should do. Turn it off.
Olivia pushes the off button on the remote for a second time and stands from the couch in the same beat. She tosses her glasses down on the coffee table, and her remote back onto the couch.
Wine is brought from the cupboard. Poured once. The glass is emptied. Poured twice, and when she’s about halfway through her second round, it’s only then that she realizes her phone rests on the kitchen bar. Facedown. As she stands there, with one hand on her hip, and the other swirling the stemless glass in her hand, the thought crosses her mind. Maybe she should call. Check in. See how he’s doing. But if she doesn’t answer, she’s going to feel like a fool.
Olivia eyes the phone as she takes sip after sip of wine. She presses her lips together, deep in crevices of her mind that she usually prefers not to ever go to. The idealism. The deafening something that dulls out the deafening nothing in the real world around her. She could pick up the phone, press call on his number and they would talk for hours. Tell each other about their days and about how they can’t wait to see each other. He would tell her how he wants to kiss her, amongst other things. She would agree and promise him all the ways she’s going to make up her busy schedule to him. But they’re not there. Holding hands for them is as palpable as it gets, and once that final thought – the thought of how holding hands is just about as good as it gets for her, for them, sinks in … she finds herself drifting back to Lindstrom’s choice of word from therapy.
This is stupid. She should just call Elliot.
She should just tell him that she’s thought about it, and has decided to take him up on his offer.
“ Lunch sounds amazing.” She’ll say.
“ I’m glad you changed your mind.” He’ll tell her, his eyes beaming and sparkling at her like they do.
But those are thoughts and nothing but thoughts. Thought without action, is just something that takes up space. Olivia has allowed Elliot to take up space for a long time. But the older she gets, the more she finds the place he resides in is becoming bigger. Prone to echo and notice of lackluster. The idea, the daydream of him, however, is the one she holds onto and has for the past twenty-three years. The love she has for him, has so deeply rooted itself in her, that although she lacks the way to verbalize it, she can never dig it out. And so it’s become a thing like vines, which clutch at and weaken moving on for her.
She figured a long time ago that she would love him until the day she died. Even if he never came back. But he is back now, and has been for a while. So the cosmic joke of it all, now that his wife is gone, is that she’s less sure of how he feels about her now than she was during their twelve years together.
Before she can overthink herself out of putting her phone down, she’s hitting the phone icon beside his number. Olivia presses the phone to her ear and waits, listening to it ring and ring … and ring, before —
“Hello?” Elliot’s voice comes through clearly.
“Hi. It’s me.” Olivia replies, after a moment of pause.
“It’s you.” She can practically hear him smirking with his teasing little reply.
“It’s me.” Olivia says with a chuckle. “I haven’t heard from you. So I just thought … I would call and check in. I heard about Donnelley … I just, Elliot I —”
“Ah, I don’t wanna talk about that. Let’s talk about you.” Elliot interjects.
“ Okay. What do you want to talk about?” Olivia asks.
“ You.” Elliot repeats, laughing.
“There’s really nothing new going on with me. I mean, I’m on a vacation for a couple of weeks but I’m sure you already knew that.” Olivia says.
“I heard. I swear cops are worse than old women when it comes to gossip.” Elliot replies.
“Me being on vacation is gossip?” Olivia laughs.
“It is when you never take any time for yourself. Old habits die hard though.” Elliot says.
“ Mmm … I forgot there’s no hiding my ways from you.” Olivia teases.
“Never. Where’s the kid?” Elliot asks, quickly changing the subject.
“The kid?” Olivia lets out another laugh, this time, a little more boisterous. “ Noah is at a sleepover for the weekend. He’ll be back tomorrow.” She adds.
“He’s great, Liv. You’ve done a nice job. Really.” Elliot’s tone changes. Shifts into something that resembles a bit more than a compliment.
“You there?” Elliot asks.
“Mhm.” Olivia tucks her bottom lip into her mouth.
“What are you doing in the morning?” Elliot asks.
“Sleeping. That’s the plan but … you know how that goes. My internal clock is … beyond repair.” Olivia reaches for her wine glass to finish off what’s lying in a red puddle at the bottom.
“Is that why you’re up at two in the morning?” Elliot asks.
“It’s 2:00 am.”
“No it’s not.”
“I promise it is. Look at your —” She hears, but pulls the phone away from her ear to see that it is in fact, five past two in the morning. Her mouth gaps slightly and she presses the phone back to her ear. “I guess you’re right. Did I wake you? Were you going to bed?” She asks.
“No. You know me. I’m a restless sleeper. Besides, what kind of ending to the night is it if I don’t chit-chat with my old partner first?” Elliot chuckles.
“Your old partner?” Olivia teases.
“Sorry, my favorite old partner.” Elliot corrects.
“Mmh, that made it a little better. Still not quite. You still know how to talk your way out of things, I’ll give you that.” Olivia grins.
“There’s no hiding my ways from you.” Elliot repeats her words.
Courage? It comes swiftly.
“Old habits die hard.” Olivia’s voice drops almost into a whisper.
“Come to breakfast in the morning with me.” Elliot says. It doesn’t come out as much of a request as it does a statement. She can tell he’s emboldened himself in the moment, in the midst of whatever little banter they had going on, to ask her yet again to go out with him. As what though? Friends?
Olivia is sure of one thing and one thing only. She would rather not spend another twelve years staring across food, and aching for a man that doesn’t want her back.
“I-I can’t.” Olivia sighs.
“Why’s that?” Elliot asks. “Busy not sleeping?” He jokes.
“Come to breakfast with me. It’ll be like old times.” Elliot suggests.
Oh, he knows how to get her. Both ends fall quiet, and neither say a word.
“What does … old times mean to you, Elliot?” Olivia asks, hanging her head. She’s made her way back over to the couch at that point, quite honestly because the wine is hitting her a little harder tonight than it usually would.
“Um … it means … breakfast with my friend.” Elliot explains. She can hear the pride in his voice. The sound of feeling like he said the right thing, when in reality, that’s not really what she wanted to hear. But who is she to blame him? She’s the one that told him she wanted friendship. She created this new dynamic between them.
Is that all? She wants to ask.
But she doesn’t.
“I just wanted to call and make sure you were well.” Olivia, as she does, tries to change the subject.
“I’d be better if you came to breakfast with me tomorrow morning.” Elliot persists.
Olivia laughs, tossing her head back.
“I am going to be busy not sleeping.” Olivia teases.
“I can bring breakfast to you.” Elliot suggests. “If that’s more comfortable.”
“It’s not.” Olivia replies straight away. His end goes quiet.
“There’s no hiding your ways from me, Olivia Benson.” His words come out sure. Firm. They grab at her and whilst her mouth opens to respond, nothing comes out. What she thinks must be the beginning of some intimate declaration, is nothing of the sort because Elliot follows up with — “You just don’t want to watch me put ketchup on my eggs.” He adds. “I know it’s always grossed you out.” Elliot says.
“I’ve gotten over that. Noah puts ketchup on his eggs.” Olivia replies, eyes cast down.
Quiet. They both know there’s much that has slipped between the cracks when it comes to their knowledge of each other over the years.
“It’s late, I should go. I’m getting tired.” Olivia rubs at her face with her fingers.
“Okay. I’ll call you.” Elliot says.
“Liar.” She teases.
“I will, I promise. I want us to talk more.” Elliot adds.
“Okay.” Olivia says. That’s all she can say.
“Night, partner.” Elliot says; She can hear him smiling.
“Night, El.” Olivia replies.
She hangs up, and lets her cell glide through her hand onto the couch cushion. She buries her face in her palm, with her elbow resting on the back of the couch. A deep sigh leaves her. Confusion and exhaustion mingle, because how in the hell is she supposed to get anywhere with him when she keeps rejecting his advances?
They are advances, right?
He just wants to share a meal with her. That’s all. They’ve done that countless times before. There shouldn’t be any added connotation to that. Except, she knows herself. Olivia knows that if she allows herself to slip back into the place where it became comfortable and enough for her to be with him in that way, that when he breaks her again, she may not recover this time around.
Olivia feels her phone vibrate next to her leg, signaling she’s received a text message. She picks it up and sees —
It was good to hear your voice.
Chapter 3: Special Sauce
In the words of Mr. Darcy, forgive me? LOL
I know I haven't updated this story in a hot minute BUT we're back and very much so back in action.
“ Whaaa?” Olivia mumbles in her sleep. She can hear the knocking in the background. Soft, then building into a steady thud. Thump, thump, thump. Her brown eyes flutter open, adjusting to the light of the room as she lies there on her couch. The sun is out, that much she can tell, because it’s blinding the shit out of her. Olivia raises halfway up and blows a piece of hair out of her mouth. She makes a soft sputtering sound, exaggerating the removal of honey strands from her bottom lip.
Thump, thump, thump, thump.
“I’m comin’ …” Her voice, gravely and full of bass, isn’t quite loud enough. “I’m coming!” She repeats, louder.
“It’s me.” Elliot says through the door.
That’s enough to wake her up. To cause her brown eyes to widen and begin fumbling to get the blanket off of her. She’s not sure at what point she dozed off. It may have been somewhere in between rereading his text message. It was good to hear your voice. It was good to hear his too. But she’s an absolute mess right now and dreads the moment she has to walk past the entryway mirror that resides behind the front door.
Regardless, Olivia stands to her feet and tries to pat down her frizzed hair just enough so it doesn’t look like she just rolled out of bed. But he’s going to be able to tell. He knows her. He’s seen her in every state possible. Tired. Hungry. In need of a shower. Covered in rain, mud, every other element that God dished out to them when they’ve worked cases together.
With that in mind, she moves to the front door, where she opens it to come face to face with the man she’s spent much of her time avoiding. Especially over the past few weeks since some things were brought up at therapy. Since Amanda brought up some things.
“Elliot …” Olivia says. She already knew he would be standing there because he announced his presence before she opened the door but … what else was she supposed to say? She’s a little taken aback that he showed up anyways after she essentially turned him down for breakfast … which is in a bag in his hand. He holds it up, dangling the white plastic handles from two fingers.
“I know you said that you didn’t want to get breakfast. But—” Elliot pauses, clearing his throat. “I brought you some anyway.” He adds.
Olivia, silent, stares at the bag he’s extending out for her. He only brought breakfast for her? Not for them.
“You drove all the way over here to bring me breakfast?” Olivia asks, raising a brow at him. The gesture alone, sweet natured and caring, made her heart flutter. She can’t help but crack a smile. “That’s …”
“Intrusive?” Elliot asks, his expression falling slightly. “You’re right. I’m sorry, Liv –”
“No. No. Not intrusive. I –” Olivia, after a moment of thought, reaches out to take the bag from his hand. “Come in.” She says, bringing the takeout bag into her space. Elliot looks at her as if he’s surprised she’s invited him in.
“Really?” Elliot asks.
“I’m not just going to slam the door in your face.” Olivia snickers, moving aside for him. Elliot brushes past her and enters her apartment.
“Wouldn’t be the first time.” Elliot teases. There had been plenty of instances in the past where she had been pissed at him and slammed squad room doors, car doors, you name it – in his face. So, he wouldn’t have been too surprised to have a door slammed in his face for popping up uninvited. “Note to self though, frittatas earn me good graces.” Elliot grins smugly, spinning around to face her. Olivia is already peering into the bag, holding each end open to peak inside.
“You can take the man out of Italy …” Olivia sings, brown eyes peeking up. He’s brought frittatas.
“You gotta little …” Elliot rubs his index finger at the corner of his own lips. “Dried …”
Olivia urgently reaches to rub at the corner of her lip. “They’re not authentic, by the way.” Elliot chimes in, referring to the frittatas.
“Oh, he’s …” She licks her thumb and wipes at the corner of her lip. “Become a frittata snob. Great.” Olivia teases, carrying the bag over to her kitchen island.
“And a cappuccino snob.” Elliot corrects, sliding into the barstool across from Olivia. “Where’s Noah? I brought some for him too.” He adds.
That fluttering feeling returns to her, just as suddenly as it went. She doesn’t answer him at first because the kind gestures such as including her son in things is enough to make her want to toss herself into his arms. But she doesn’t. She doesn’t know if she’ll ever be able to truly act on anything she feels towards this man.
“He’s at a sleepover.” Olivia answers, taking each item out of the bag. “So I guess you’re gonna have to stay and eat with me now.” She smiles, eyes cast down. She can see his expression just enough in her line of vision to notice a smile form on his lips. “Well, that would only make sense.” Elliot retorts, to which she gives a soft “ hm.” to.
It was funny to Olivia how differently she viewed spending time with him when she was alone. It scared her out of her mind, but once they were actually in the moment, everything fell into place. They were comfortable and had an awareness of one another unlike that of anyone else. There was no fear when he was actually standing in front of her. But a space he didn’t exist in left too much room for thoughts and consequence to ruin any fantasization of time like this together. Just being how they used to be.
“What do we have here?” Olivia asks, opening the foam containers. Inside one is a plain frittata and the other is more traditional. Tomatoes, mushrooms, artichokes – the works.
“I figured Noah might be picky so …” Elliot shrugs.
“A little … I can’t get the kid to eat an olive to save his life.” Olivia jokes. “There’s just some things he won’t eat.” She adds, reaching into the dish drainer and pulling two clean forks and two knives from the utensil slot. She hands him his silverware and she begins cutting into the one meant for her. Elliot pulls the plain one towards him. He begins cutting bite sized pieces, while noticing Olivia cutting hers in multiple pieces. What she does then makes him smirk because she slides the foam container in the center of the island. He catches the hint, and moves his container to sit beside it.
They’ll be sharing, just like the old days.
There are some things she prefers to not be like the old days at all. But moments like these, she’ll take anytime. Sharing food. Cold, bitter coffee. Picking crumbs off each other’s shirt.
“ Mmm.” Olivia hums, mouth full of frittata.
“It’s good,” Elliot’s mouth is full – already picking from her container. “But not–”
“ Not Italy good.” Olivia mocks him, grinning ear to ear. “When did you become such a snob?” She reaches over into his container, picking at the plain frittata.
“ Mmm …” Elliot pretends to think. “Somewhere in 2015 I think. Their subs are unmatched too.”
“ I see.” Olivia chews. “Nothing is as good as Frasier's.” Brown eyes wander down, brows raised, with a slight grin on her lips. Frasier’s was a hoagie shop they used to go to all of the time back in the day.
“God, I haven’t thought about that place in ages. Is it still open?” Elliot asks, sticking another bite of frittata in his mouth.
“Closed a few years ago.” Olivia replies, her voice quietening.
“Damn. Too bad.” Elliot shrugs, blue eyes still cast down.
“Bet you don’t remember my order.” Olivia grins. She remembers his and she knows there’s no way in hell he remembers her. Elliot says nothing at first, then shakes his head. “I don’t.” He replies, and truthfully, it makes her heart sink a little. They used to know every detail about each other like that. What they liked on their pizza. How they took their coffee. Ice cream. But Frasier’s was their most visited place. Coffee aside, that meant he must not remember anything else about what she likes to eat. It’s silly to feel sad over something like that, but she moves on anyway to her original plan – make him feel like an old man by remembering his order.
“You liked meatball, extra provolone. No peppers - you hate green peppers. The bread had to be lightly toasted or you would complain that it was either too crunchy or too soft. You asked for the special dipping sauce on the side because you were too embarrassed to ask them to actually put it on the hoagie … because it was a gross combination.” Olivia says, watching him stare at her the entire time she recites his order. “Even though they probably had a hunch you were slathering it on anyways.” Olivia sings playfully, plopping another bite past her lips.
“ Wow.” Elliot smirks, a breathy chuckle following.
“ Mhm. No retirement home for me, my friend.” Olivia teases. “I’m all,” She knocks at her temple with the end of her fork. “Here. I’ll be retiring to Spain, me and my great memory.” She closes her eyes with pride, sticking her nose up.
Elliot nods in approval of her statement. “Send me postcards, just make sure you write your name in bold, spaced out letters.” He slights himself, another soft chuckle joining their banter.
“If I have the time.” Olivia’s tone shifts into a high pitched, playful song.
“Oh?” A boisterous laugh leaves him. “What will be so important that you can’t send your old friend a postcard?”
It comes out. No. Pours out. Tumbles from her lips as if it’s been hiding in her cheeks next to frittata and leftover wine from the night before.
“What was so important that you couldn’t send me one?”
Elliot’s expression drops. So does hers.
“I …” Olivia breathes out as if something has just plummeted into her chest. “I don’t know … where that came from. I am … I’m sorry.” Olivia drops her fork and brings her fingers to the bridge of her nose. Elliot doesn’t speak. He looks flabbergasted and frankly, given the playful nature of how they started, she can see why.
“It’s okay.” Elliot says, shrugging and offering a slight smile.
“ It is.” Elliot reassures her.
Brown eyes lock on blue ones.
“You meant it, and that’s okay.” Elliot adds, offering a soft smile. Her eyes, dark and wry, become somewhat glassy.
“I’m still working through some things.” She closes her eyes and gives a single nod.
“Me too.” Elliot replies, twirling his fork against the side of the Styrofoam. “Been thinkin’ about a lot lately, Liv.” He adds, blue eyes cast down.
“ Me too.” Olivia says in a song-song voice. She’s not ready to know what it is he’s been thinking, but she knows whatever it is, she’s not prepared for the two very different ideas of what it could be in her head. She’d rather ponder on it late tonight, just between her and a glass of wine. Some old movie that makes her cry when she sees it because it reminds her of them.
Casual conversation is exchanged as they finish their breakfast together. It’s light and hardly what they should be talking about. But that’s okay. Since Elliot has been back, there’s been little time for things like this. Simplicity. Sharing food and talking about things that really don’t matter, but do, between them.
How Eli keeps taking Elliot’s ‘good’ razors, insisting he has enough on his face to shave. Olivia tells Elliot how Noah’s newest form of rebellion is pushing dirty clothes meant to be picked up under his bed.
Her story is the one that really catches Elliot’s attention though.
He watches her talk about motherhood with an excitement that he’s not sure he always thought he would ever see her wear. There was a point when she wanted children, sure. But after a while he thought she had given up. Especially after Calvin. It had destroyed her when he was taken. But to know that Olivia bounced back in good old Liv fashion made him all the more proud that she had found her son – and that Noah had found her, because equally, he could tell they were made for each other.
How does he tell her that he realizes they were made for each other too?
When it’s time for Elliot to leave, she walks him to her door. Elliot crosses through the threshold and into the hallway. He turns around to face her, a soft grin on his lips. “Aren’t you glad I disobeyed a direct order?” Elliot teases, referring to how she told him not to bring breakfast last night.
“You’re not gonna let the captain thing go, are you?” Olivia chuckles, reaching to lean against the doorframe with the palm of her hand.
“Probably not.” He shrugs. Elliot’s eyes squint, his smug grin still very much in place. He tilts his head at her, saying nothing.
“What?” Another laugh leaves her, through a pearly white smile.
“Italian on herb. But not the one with the oregano dusted on top. You didn’t like the texture. Just Italian with regular herb.” Elliot pauses, thinking. “Tomato on the side, because you didn’t like when the dressing made them soggy. Double wrapped in parchment.” He recites her Frasier’s order.
Olivia’s expression fades, little by little, until she’s a very obvious puddle.
“And the special dipping sauce wasn’t for me, it was for you. Because you were too embarrassed to ask for more. I’d take a little out, say I was full and give it to you.” Elliot says, tone low and blue eyes dancing over Olivia’s features. She doesn’t say a word because frankly, she’s caught off guard.
“Have a good day.” Elliot gives her a little salute and turns to walk down the hall. Olivia comes from her apartment just enough to lean her back against the outer frame of her door, and watches as he stops in front of the elevator. He reaches to press the button and only then does he turn his head in her direction. She’s standing there, with her hand on the side of her neck, rubbing at it anxiously.
The elevator tings, and Elliot looks away from her. The doors open and he steps forward, walking inside.
The doors shut and only then does Olivia release the breath she’s been holding in. The one he knocked from her and returned to her in one go.
What is she supposed to do with that?
Chapter 4: Did I Drive You Away?
Chapter title inspired by "Sparks" by Coldplay which I highly recommend you listen to towards the end of the chapter. :')
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
He’s stopped texting. Calling.
Olivia thought maybe after their breakfast together that they would be seeing more of each other; And really, she should expect this of him by now but when Elliot ghosts her, or there’s nothing but radio silence on his end, it hurts a little more each time.
So here she sits, yet again, listening to Peter Lindstrom’s clock tick that sits on one of his bookshelves. Her foot dances back and forth, trying to distract herself from what she’d really like to talk about. But Elliot is coming up more and more in therapy and the last thing she wants is to look desperate or like he’s all she thinks about. Because he’s not. She thinks of plenty other things like Noah, and work … and frittatas. And text messages that read: It’s good to hear your voice.
Lindstrom sits in his usual seat, one leg crossed over the other, and watches Olivia’s foot with raised eyebrows. “Vacation. How was it?” Lindstrom asks, putting on a soft smile. He brings his attention up from her foot to her face, which is just as disconcerting.
In one deep, exaggerated sigh, Olivia replies. “It was good!” She nods, lips pursed together. Liar.
Lindstrom nods in approval. “Anything eventful happen?” He asks.
“Not really, no. It was … quiet.” Olivia replies. Frittatas. It was good to hear your voice. “Noah and I had some much needed time together.” She adds, focusing on the good that happened during her short vacation.
“ Mhm.” Lindstrom nods. “Sounds like you had a nice vacation. Have you heard from Elliot Stabler?” He asks, clicking his pen. Olivia notices and furrows her brows slightly. She stares at him, knowing there was no way in hell she was going to escape that one. Lindstrom knows Elliot is an important area of her life that she needs to work on.
“Yes. I did.” Olivia sings in her usual tone when she’s trying to concoct something that sounds believable. She resists the urge to bring her fingers to her chest and rub. Or chin. “We texted during the first week of my vacation and he brought over breakfast that weekend.” She adds, licking her lips and hoping that he doesn’t push any further.
“That sounds nice.” Lindstrom beams, his smile growing larger. He repositions himself in his seat, genuinely enjoying the news that Olivia and Elliot are spending time together. He really has no idea how complicated that is.
“And I haven’t heard from him since.” Olivia spits out.
Well. That didn’t take a lot of push.
Lindstrom’s expression drops. He looks at her as if to say: Not again.
Lindstrom is all too familiar with Elliot Stabler’s ghosting habits.
“Oh, Liv …” He tilts his head and Olivia holds her hand up in refusal to accept any kind of pity.
“Really, it’s fine. I’m … getting past it. I just expected more I guess, at this point.” Olivia says. Her foot begins to shake again, back and forth, anxiously.
“Your expectations are valid, Olivia. A simple phone call or text is a very doable gesture to let someone know that you’re okay.” Lindstrom states, trying to reassure her that she’s not overreacting. Because she’s not. This has been a common conversation between Olivia and Peter Lindstrom, especially since Elliot came back in the picture.
“I texted him twice. Nothing. I know he’s okay but … I also know he lets his family know when he’s working. And …” Olivia trails off.
“And … that makes you feel, how?” Lindstrom asks, leaning forward a bit. Olivia looks out the window of his office; It looks like it might rain.
“It makes me feel like I don’t matter as much as I used to to him.” Olivia confesses, her voice dropping. The room falls quiet, and Lindstrom doesn’t say anything at first. He’s quiet and so is she, but she can tell he’s thinking about what to say next.
“Olivia. We’ve talked about … letting go before. About you opening yourself up to the possibility of what you and Elliot could be together. But, and this is just my observation, I think there could also be a second possibility here.” Lindstrom states.
Olivia stares at him. Which is?
“This thing between the two of you is a two way street. Elliot has to put in work too … and … it’s unfair to keep pulling back from you every time you open yourself up to him.” Lindstrom’s voice softens. Olivia’s gaze doesn’t diminish. Instead, she nods in agreement.
He was right. God. She hated that Lindstrom was always right about these kinds of things. He was telling her in the kindest way possible that maybe it was time for her to start thinking about letting go. Not because she couldn’t open herself up to him, but because Elliot wasn’t available for her. It’s something she’s known for a long time. It’s definitely not the first time she’s set with the thought of letting Elliot Stabler go.
She first sat with it twenty-two years ago.
On and on, until she did have to really let him go. But even that wasn’t by choice. He was forced from her because he made himself unavailable. Because he decided when he would go. No call. No nothing. Truthfully, she’s still angry about it. There’s things that she’s gotten over and things that she hasn’t. Elliot’s unavailability to her is one of those things she hasn’t gotten over.
It’s lightning when she arrives home that night after picking Noah up from dance class. The two of them run quickly alongside one another, with Olivia’s umbrella canopying over them to shield them from the harsh downpour. It could be hailing too, she can’t really see but either way, the rain is hitting the pavement so hard that raindrops bounce and spatter against it.
As Olivia and Noah approach the awning that hangs over the entrance of their apartment building, she pulls the umbrella down and tucks it at her side. Noah shakes off what little rain got on him and tugs at his navy raincoat, which hides his black leotard.
Olivia turns around when she hears her name being called, and of course, it’s none other than Elliot. He must have parked way out on the street because by the time he makes it underneath the awning, he’s soaked.
“Elliot …” Olivia says, a little startled by the fact that he’s once again just popped up. Especially after not having heard from him in so long. Almost a month to be exact.
“Hey kid.” Elliot smiles down at Noah, who grins back up at him sheepishly. Noah gives a little wave. “I uh,” Elliot begins, noticing the standoffish look on Olivia’s face. She reaches for Noah’s shoulder, almost as if she’s going to direct him inside. “I was in the neighborhood. I tried to call but …” His voice fades off. He reaches to wipe droplets of rain from his face.
“I was driving.” Olivia replies, brown eyes fixated on him. Quietness falls between the three of them, but Noah chimes in as soon as thunder rolls upon them. The rain seems to be coming down harder too. “Mom, can we go inside?” He looks up at her. “Um …” Olivia glances at Elliot, but instead of answering Noah right away, she reaches into her bag and brings out her keys. “Sweetheart, why don’t you head on up. I’ll be in soon. Go straight up, okay? Here take your bag too.” Olivia hands him the keys and his small neon green dance bag.
“ Okay.” Noah takes both, slinging his bag over his shoulder. He looks to Elliot. “Bye, Elliot.” He waves again, this time goodbye. Olivia opens the door for him and turns around to face Elliot again just in time to see him wave back at Noah. As soon as the door shuts, Olivia notices Elliot’s expression fade.
He noticed she didn’t invite him in.
“What are you doing here, Elliot?” Olivia asks, eyes narrowed slightly at him. The rain floods down off the edge of the awning; The gloominess of it all is enough to make her want to hurl the residential flowerpot at her side towards him. But she doesn’t. Rather than anger, which she doesn’t sit in very long these days, especially with him, she feels a particular kind of sadness seep in. Maybe that is due to the gray dreariness around them.
“I was in the–” He begins, but she interjects. “The neighborhood.” Olivia finishes. “Yeah .. I …uh …” Nothing. She doesn’t know what to say to him.
“I meant to call, Olivia.” Elliot reasons.
Olivia nods, silent. “Then why didn’t you?” She asks, her voice softer than perhaps he deserves.
“Things just got crazy. You know how it is.” Elliot states. Olivia tilts her head at him, mouth slightly agape. She gives him a look as if to say: Do I? Do I know how it is?
“I don’t.” Olivia replies. “I don’t … know how it is … Elliot.” Her voice becomes a little firmer.
Rain fills the space where words should be between them. They stare at each other, long and hard. Olivia looks behind her, through the glass of the door to make sure Noah has gotten safely onto the elevator. He has, so she turns to face Elliot once more.
“I thought you know, after uh …” She scratches the end of her brow. “After breakfast you would … reach out more.” Olivia nods, searching for the right words. Are there any right words? It feels like all her previous ones have failed her with him. Maybe frankness is what’s needed with him. Maybe if she just tells him exactly how she feels, no matter how harsh, it’ll be a relief.
“I’m sorry, Liv. Like I said, I meant to get in touch. I just …” Elliot grimaces. His forehead forms lines from his intense gaze at her; His wet jacket sleeves drip onto the otherwise dry concrete leading up to the entrance of the apartment.
“You just didn’t.” Olivia slaps her hands at her thighs in defeat. She offers a small, timid smile. She’s accepted where this is heading. “The thing is, Elliot. If you wanted to, you would. If you really wanted to be in my life –”
Olivia holds her hand up, silencing him.
“ If you really wanted to be in my life, you would be, El.” Olivia’s voice softens. “It wouldn’t be such a … such a task for you. See, I keep telling myself that it’s me that’s holding me back but I … I don’t think that’s true anymore.” Olivia shrugs, becoming slightly more agitated. “I think the problem is that we’re not on the same page anymore. I think there’s a part of you that still expects me to just … be there.” Olivia states, nodding along with her own words.
Elliot remains quiet.
“Because I was always there, Elliot … and that’s not really your fault. It’s mine. I made myself available to you in every way that I shouldn’t have. But I can’t keep sticking my hand over the flame for you anymore, El.” Her voice cracks, and tears fill her brown eyes. “It’s um …” Nothing. She pauses to compose herself. “It’s starting to really, really hurt.” She finishes, head turned and eying him.
Nothing. Elliot stares at her long and hard, with his lips slightly parted. He wants to speak but doesn’t know what to say. Because he knows, deep down, that there’s truth in everything she’s saying. Olivia has always been there for Elliot. It hasn’t been a two way street; She’s told him that before. So what can he really say in the moment to make it better? Nothing. His mind is jumbled with a thousand and one words that he’ll never be able to articulate to her. Twenty-three years worth. But yet, he’s quiet.
“I deserve more than this. I deserve someone who is going to stay. I can’t keep doing this. My life is not a revolving door that you just get to keep going in and out of whenever you please. It doesn’t work like that, El.” Olivia’s voice shakes with emotion, yet it’s calm. “I just … I …” She doesn’t think she’s physically able to get another word out without bursting into sobs, so, she turns around and opens the entrance door to leave and throws her hand up as if to say: We’re done with this conversation – although it hasn’t been much of a conversation.
With her back to him, and only then, does he find the courage to say it.
“ Olivia …” Elliot’s voice raises, calling out for her to stop. For her to not walk away from him. She doesn’t look at him, but she halts in place. “ I love you.” Elliot breathes out. It’s true and sincere, but perhaps the moments when she needed to hear it most have gone by far too long.
Olivia remains still, her hand perched on the side of the glass door. She looks over her shoulder just enough to get a decent view of him. Tears line her brown eyes, bloodshot from the sting and making them look like chocolate covered cherries.
“Maybe …” Her words come out nasally – breathy. “You’ll understand how it feels now.”
And with that, Olivia walks inside, letting the glass door shut behind her. She doesn’t turn around one time to look back at Elliot, who stands under the drowning awning, with tears in his own eyes, blue and full of the reflection of her walking away from him.
*Mr. Darcy voice* Forgive me?
Chapter 5: Crash
Buckle up. ;)
It’s been weeks. Weeks of parenting and work, with little to no time to herself. That’s usually the case, but given the circumstances of the past couple of months, she’s feeling the effects more. So when Amanda suggested a blind date, hesitantly, Olivia had agreed. “ He’s a friend of a friend.” Was all Amanda said to her. “ Good looking, charming, great job … and what do you have to lose?” She added. What did Olivia have to lose? She hadn’t heard from Elliot since their chat about her availability to him. Not that that had anything to do with anything; But at the same time, it did.
Actually, Elliot had everything to do with the reason she was here tonight, with Ben. Ben was educated, witty, caring … everything she looked for in a guy. After Olivia gave the okay for Amanda to give Ben her number, she was stunned when Ben called that night. Not a month later. He was upfront and told her that he wanted to take her out to dinner and asked if she would join him. Olivia agreed, but reluctantly.
Lindstrom’s voice replayed over and over in her head: Maybe it’s time to start letting go.
This was Olivia Benson letting go of Elliot Stabler. Dating. Dipping her feet back into a pond that has long been cold and without real interest on her part. She’s not sure if she even wants a boyfriend right now but … companionship would be nice. Ben sounds like a good fit for that. He is a sports journalist, who worked his way to the top with a well known published magazine. The icing on the cake? He hasn’t brought up sports one time. Instead, he talks about things she’s interested in. In return, to his surprise, Olivia brings up sports to keep the conversation mutual and interesting for them both.
They talk about playoffs, and museums, and restaurants, and baseball — genuinely interesting conversation for them both.
He’s good looking. Thick salt and peppered hair that rests in styled waves on top of his head. Nice eyes, blue. A well-tailored suit. Handsome face, with a killer smile. Light stubble. He’s her type.
Ben suggested this place over the phone. Not super fancy, but elegant enough to host a first dinner date. There are tables off in a specific area, in a more dimly lit space, where Ben and Olivia sit, and there’s a bar to the right with better lighting. People have come and gone from that specific area all night. There’s large windows in front of the establishment, interiorly lined with plush red velvet curtains, tied with gold – matching the rest of the accents throughout the restaurant. Light music plays from somewhere; Speakers, she thinks. Ones she can’t see.
Olivia keeps squinting her eyes at Ben while he talks to see if his eyes really are blue; What shade they are, exactly. Unconsciously, she’s looking for a particular shade of blue.
“My kids are coming in for the holiday, I’m pretty excited about it. I haven’t seen them in a couple of years so I think it’ll be a fantastic opportunity to really get to know my youngest grandson.” Ben states, bringing his glass of wine to his lips.
“You have a grandson?” Olivia asks, smiling charmingly at him.
“Yes. One and a half in just a few days. Looks just like me.” Ben replies proudly, reaching for his phone to pull up a photo of him. He holds the phone across the table for Olivia to take, so she does, and her smile broadens at the photo of the little boy. Dark hair, and yes, blue eyes. They do look alike.
“Beautiful.” Olivia hands his phone back to him and reaches for her own glass of wine; Red and on its second fill. She grips at the napkin that sits in her lap, across the material of her violet silk dress. Her dress fits nicely to her sides, a detailed tie just below her breasts that give her shape. The front dips, showing a hint of cleavage. The sleeves are billowy, coming to rest just above her elbow.
“Thank you. Very excited to see them all. Amanda mentioned you have a young son?” Ben asks, sitting his phone face down, which Olivia takes notice of. He doesn’t want any distractions between the two of them.
“ I do.” Olivia sings, reaching for her own phone. She pulls up a photo of Noah and turns her phone around to face Ben. “He’s eight. In ballet. Incredibly smart and … kind.” She shakes her head in disbelief, still, to be able to talk about her child like this. Motherhood means everything to Olivia.
“Wow, that’s amazing.” Ben smiles. “My daughter was in ballet clear up to highschool. If they ever meet, they’ll have a lot to talk about.” He adds, bringing his silverware from the table to begin cutting into his steak. Olivia has been poking at her food, salmon and potatoes, but hasn’t actually eaten much. She’s a little nervous.
“ They would.” Olivia replies. She’s a little taken aback that he’s already thinking about their children meeting, but regardless, it seems promising.
“I gotta be honest.” Ben leans forward a little. “And please, if I’m being weird just say so. But … getting back into the dating pool after my wife passed away has been the… scariest experience of my life I think. But I’m glad that Amanda set us up. I really like you, Olivia. I hope that’s not too forward.” Ben smiles timidly. Olivia stares at him for a moment, a larger smile curling on her lips.
“It’s not. That’s very sweet. I like you too.” Olivia replies. But you’re not Elliot.
She’s still looking into his eyes. Will she be able to fool herself with them?
Ben raises his wine glass to toast, so Olivia raises hers.
“To a wonderful first date. And to you for being a spectacularly beautiful conversationalist.” Ben flashes a crooked, charming smile and Olivia, purely from flattery, hangs her head. Their glasses clink together and Ben is the first to draw his back in. Olivia brings her glass to her lips, taking a small sip. The moment she looks up, she sees him. Olivia’s expression fades into nothing. Not surprise or disdain. Just nothing.
It would be tonight of all nights that Elliot Stabler would walk into the restaurant she’s dining at with her date. She watches as Elliot makes his way over to the bar, which is lit up with what seems like a thousand little decorative lights. He sits down, but only when he turns towards Olivia does he actually notice her. His expression falls, coming to match hers.
Ben is still talking, but truthfully, she hasn’t heard a goddamned word he said since Elliot walked in.
Their eyes remain locked on one another; Neither look away. They’re both taking in the moment for what it is. She feels caught in some strange way. Elliot must be observing the fact that she’s on a date because his eyes keep flickering between the back of Ben’s head and Olivia.
Elliot is the first to break contact, so Olivia, trying to return to some normal state of being and ignore the fluttering in her chest, turns her attention back to Ben who is still talking. About what? She doesn’t know. Her focus chimes in somewhere in between the remodel of his home in upper Manhattan and a planned gazebo.
“That sounds beautiful.” Olivia smiles. She could be saying a horse’s ass looked beautiful right now and would have no idea. When Ben gives a light laugh and thanks her, she assumes her comment was on point.
Olivia’s phone goes off, silencing Ben and causing him to look down at her phone.
“Do you need to get that?” Ben asks.
“It might be my babysitter.” Olivia nods. She reaches for her phone and picks it up.
Elliot: On a date?
Heat rushes up her neck, invading her senses. Invading anything inherently good she might have felt about the evening.
“Everything okay?” Ben asks. He notices how she’s staring down at her phone.
“It’s just Lucy wanting to know if it’s okay for Noah to watch a movie before bed.” She lies. “One minute …” She says. Olivia begins tapping at her screen.
“Of course, take your time.” Ben waves his hand as if to say no worries.
Olivia: None of your business. Leave.
Olivia hits send.
Right away, ting.
Elliot: I came to have a drink, I think I’ll stay.
Olivia looks over the top of her phone, flashing quite the look at Elliot, who is looking at his phone. She narrows her eyes and begins typing again. Ben sits there, quietly waiting for her to finish speaking with “Lucy”.
Olivia slams her phone down onto the table a little harder than intended. “Are you okay?” Ben asks, concerned. She nods quickly. No. “I’m all good.” She smiles, reaching for her wine again. She’s ready for another fill. Especially after this. Olivia makes it a point to not look at Elliot once. As her and Ben continue to talk, she keeps her attention on him the entire time. What else was she supposed to do? Keep ignoring Ben? Go over to Elliot and introduce him to Ben? Invite Elliot to join them? That was a little too fifteen years ago for her.
When the waiter, a young man, brings over a tray with a drink resting in the center of it, on top of a napkin, he leans down to place it beside Olivia. She looks over at it, quickly, and holds her hand up. “I didn’t order that.” Olivia insists, eyebrows furrowed as she looks at the drink. It's scotch, on ice.
“The gentlemen at the bar sent it over.” The waiter states, curly blonde hair hanging down from his ponytail and into his face. “He said …” The waiter looks back at Elliot, who is staring them down. Ben hasn’t bothered looking behind them until that very point. “It’s from the …” He hesitates. “ Ass.”
“Take it back.” Olivia states immediately, reaching and sitting the glass back on the tray. “Thank you.” She waves her hand again. Ben finally turns around to look at Elliot, who simply waves his hand at him. Hi. Olivia can feel her cheeks turn red. She’s going to kill him.
“Do you know him?” Ben asks, confused, watching the waiter walk away.
“Unfortunately.” Olivia retorts with a mumble, straight away. She raises her wine glass to her lips and takes more than a sip. Ben, who is clearly confused about the interaction, shifts in his seat. “He’s uh, he means well.” She excuses him, trying to lighten the mood. “He’s actually my old partner.” Olivia adds. “Right now we’re having a disagreement about something so …”
A disagreement was one way to put it. Olivia had told him off and in return, he told her he loved her. The first time she heard those words were in front of his children and in an act of desperation, so there was part of her that felt like him saying I love you now was a way to win her over with a different mechanism than before. Kathy was gone, and there wasn’t anything stopping him from spitting those words at her. The problem was, Olivia didn’t know whether or not she believed him. Of course she knew he loved her; There had been love between them for many years. But there were layers to their love, some more complicated than the other.
The complicated parts were beginning to bleed through.
The waiter approaches them again, this time, with two glasses of scotch on his round black tray. Two napkins underneath. He looks embarrassed. The waiter clears his throat to get Olivia and Ben’s attention and when they look up at him, Olivia instantly looks back to Elliot who is still sitting at the bar, with his head down.
“The …” The waiter pauses, glancing over at the bar. Elliot looks at him, giving the young man a nod: Go ahead. “The … ass, at the bar said he would like to um …” The waiter clears his throat once more. “He would like to send his apologies as well as extend a round of drinks to the two of you.” The waiter straightens his posture, suddenly becoming more comfortable.
Ben looks over his shoulder at Elliot, who waves at him again. Ben gives a crooked, toothy smile and waves back. Olivia, however, is less than thrilled. She doesn’t even drink scotch. He knows this; He should know this.
“ I am so sorry. Send it back, tell him we’re not interested and not to bother us anymore tonight. Thank you.” Olivia’s voice could cut. The audacity of this man was beyond immeasurable. How dare he? Clearly he was trying to sabotage her date. Ben frowns – he wanted that scotch.
“Are you sure everything is okay? If you’re uncomfortable, we can —” Ben begins, but …
“I’m fine, really. It’s good. I’m good.” Olivia reassures, reaching for her wine. Another sip. This night had started well. Promising, even. But as soon as Elliot Stabler walked through the door, she could practically hear the cued toilet flushes symphonically alerting her of the night’s descent. Simply put: It’s going to hell.
The waiter, once again, awkwardly walks away.
Olivia huffs, aggravated and already anticipating a text from Elliot. Sure enough, when she lifts her phone, she sees the notification.
Elliot: What’s wrong with you?
Olivia, once again, places her phone down on the table. This time, she stands up. “Just a minute.” Olivia lowers her voice to imitate anything other than the absolute anger that’s dripping from it. Ben nods, lips pressed together. He’s really starting to, finally, get a feel for how the evening is descending.
Olivia makes her way over to the bar, and not once, not until she comes to stand beside Elliot, does he actually turn to look at her. This is when she really gets a better view of him. He’s dressed in a black button up shirt, sleeves rolled at the elbow. Dark wash jeans. Freshly shaven.
Elliot, blue eyes full of mischief, looks at her as if she’s invading his space. He has a glass of something, she’s assuming scotch, that he holds between his fingers. The glass is pitiful compared to the size of his hand, which she makes note of.
“What is wrong with me?” Olivia repeats his text to him and leans against the bar and puts her hand on her hip. “What is wrong with you?”
“What do you mean what’s wrong with me? There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m having a drink. What’s wrong with you?” Elliot asks, speaking quickly and without stumbling. He takes a drink of his scotch.
“You are what’s wrong with me.” Olivia states. “I don’t want any drinks, I don’t even drink scotch, by the way. I want you to leave me and Ben –”
Elliot interjects. “Ben? That’s his name? He looks like a Ben.” There’s a cocky suggestion to his tone.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Olivia asks, arching a brow. He would say something like that. Something to make her question why she’s on a date with him. There’s nothing wrong with Ben. Ben is perfectly fine and acceptable. He’s nice looking, has a good job, he’s kind — oh. “You’re jealous.” Olivia retorts, her tone laced with satisfaction.
“I’m not jealous.” Elliot responds a little too fast.
“Oh yes you are.” Olivia scoffs.
“I’m not jealous. I don’t get jealous.” Elliot shakes his head, thick brows furrowed into a knot. He sits his glass down; There’s only about one sip left.
Olivia fights her desire to laugh out loud at that statement. “Yes you do. You so get jealous. The whole time we were partners–”
Elliot rolls his eyes.
“ The whole time we were partners,” Olivia speaks over his eye roll, as if it’s louder than she is. “That’s all you did was … insert yourself where you didn’t belong and then—”
“I did not insert myself.” Elliot argues, scoffing at her. He goes to pick up his drink, but –
“You are the most jealous man I have seen in my entire life.” Olivia pokes her finger into the glass top of the bar; Dedicated to make her point.
Elliot drops his hand. He becomes alarmingly quiet. Blue eyes corner around at her, and he narrows them in such a way that makes her smirk. I win.
“Can you blame me?” Elliot asks. His voice dips off into a thick, yet soft, huskiness. It may be the first time he’s ever used that kind of tone with her. Olivia’s brown eyes widen a little and her mouth opens, but nothing comes out. She’s quiet now, unable to concoct any other words because he’s obliterated her with that statement. Elliot reaches for his drink and knocks his head back, finishing it in one take.
Olivia releases a slight breath, just enough to welcome oxygen back into her lungs. How does he do that? Use one small, effortless statement to knock the wind out of her? He’s always been capable of it. It was enough to satisfy her during their twelve years together. Those subtle statements of his still strongly affected her, as much as she hated to admit.
“ Elliot …” Olivia whispers, reaching to rub at the side of her neck, past the V shape of her dress. It dips down just enough, which is slightly more revealing than her usual attire. “I’m asking you to just … go somewhere else.” Tears fill her eyes.
“I knew you were here.” Elliot confesses, looking away from her. Olivia is silent. “I went to the precinct earlier. Fin said you were here with someone.” Elliot puckers his lips forward, in deep thought. “I know it was wrong to come but–” He shrugs.
Olivia inhales dramatically and looks around. “ Wow.” Her expression twitches into unwanted surprise. “So you just … what?” She drops her hand from her waist and waves it. “Decided you would come ruin my night?” She asks, her voice cracking.
Elliot shakes his head. It dawns on her, given his demeanor, that he’s not really sure what he came here to do. Maybe he expected it to be like it was all those years ago when she would just give up everything for him. When she would just drop anyone that was in the room as soon as he walked in. She wanted to believe that wasn’t the case anymore. She really did.
“I’m sorry. You’re right. I – this was not okay.” Elliot states, his voice becoming firmer.
“No, El. It wasn’t.” Olivia agrees. Her tone softens and she tilts her head. But the moment Ben walks up to them, she turns to look in his direction. He has a soft smile on his lips. His phone is in his hands and his suit jacket is tossed over his arm.
“I hate to cut tonight short but um ….” Ben looks back and forth between the two of them. “I think maybe another time is better.” He says, trying his best to be nice. Which just makes the situation worse. Olivia didn’t even realize she had been standing over here as long as she had. “Or you know, whenever.” Ben adds with a gentle nod. “It was nice meeting you, Olivia. And uh …” Ben looks at Elliot, who is sitting there as if he’s completely innocent. As if Ben has infringed on his evening. “Olivia’s old partner.” He gives a knowing smile, as if he’s aware of the fact that these two are completely, incredibly, head over heels in love with each other.
“I’m so sorry.” Olivia apologizes, to which Ben gives a shrug: It’s alright. She resists the urge to grab Elliot by the ear and make him apologize too, but … she refrains. Elliot, in all of his Elliot Stabler-ness, ignores Ben’s existence. Olivia watches as Ben walks out of the restaurant, and without another word, she shakes her head and walks back over to their table to grab her purse and jacket off the back of her chair. That gets Elliot’s attention, though given the look on his face, he’s expecting her to leave. She’s pissed at him, which is more than obvious.
As Olivia is gathering her things, the waiter walks by. “Can I get the check?” She asks him.
“It’s already been paid, Ma’am.” The waiter nods, holding a menu from another table in his hand. He leaves her presence before she can say another word. Olivia’s shoulders drop in defeat; Perfect. Now she feels guilty. She should’ve ignored Elliot all together. The text messages. His drinks. All of it.
Olivia tosses her jacket over her arm and holds her purse strap, which is bunched into various hoops, in between her fingers. Elliot, she knows, doesn’t deserve her company. Especially after the stunt he just pulled. However, she finds her feet carrying her back over to the bar where he sits. She tosses her jacket down on the bar stool residing next to another empty one, which she slides onto, then puts her purse on top of the bar beside her with a less than thrilled gesture. Her phone comes down next, resting face down.
Elliot, surprised that she’s sat down beside him, corners his eyes around at her again. He says nothing, but their eyes lock and for a moment, if only for a brief moment, the world stops. As it has thousands of times before with them. Maybe if the world stopped as often as they shared these kinds of looks, time would’ve slowed enough for them to make things right when it counted. To confess to each other things that are stale from not being aired out. To bask in the afterglow of what was going to come when they finally put it all out there.
“So, you win.” Olivia scoffs. “What’s your play?” She asks, turning around to face the bartender who approaches from the other end of the bar. She opens her mouth to order a drink, but —
“Pinot Noir, on my bill please. And another of these …” Elliot orders for her, and himself – holding his empty glass up. Not scotch or something random he knows she won’t drink. Contrary to Olivia’s current beliefs, he still knows her.
“No scotch?” Olivia jabs.
“I know what you like.” Elliot states.
Olivia looks down, tongue in cheek. “Do you?” She asks. It’s almost challenging, but not quite.
“I think I do.” Elliot nods, scooting his empty glass between both hands as if he’s playing a game with it. “I know you.” He adds, his expression is nothing short of puppy dog.
“ Mm.” Olivia nods once. She doesn’t believe him. “People change. I haven’t stayed the same. Kind of seems like you have though.” Her jabs keep coming tonight, but as she’s gotten older, she’s gotten more vocal about things. Especially her feelings.
“You like the Italian subs from Fraiser’s. Which … isn’t closed by the way, I checked.” Elliot glances at her. Her eyes flicker up. “You were afraid I would ask you to go with me, I’m … still not sure why.” Elliot sighs. “I know you don’t like scotch because of the after taste.” He adds, and just as he does, she finally looks at him. “And regardless of your old partner being an asshole,” Elliot cracks a smirk. “He’s still your favorite partner.”
“Is he?” Olivia asks, tears lying heavily in her eyes. She looks away from him as a soft grin curls on her lips. Damn him.
“ Mm.” Elliot nods, staring at her profile intensely. “He is jealous. He does crazy things like crashing his best friend’s dates. He drives you crazy but …” Elliot trails off.
“He always has.” Olivia scoots Elliot’s napkin to her and begins spinning it in a circle with her middle finger. She still won’t look at him. The bartender brings both Elliot and Olivia their drinks and sits them down.
“He knows.” Elliot chuckles. “He also knows … that he has terrible communication skills. He’s working on it. He knows he can’t just come in and out of your life whenever he wants. The last thing he ever wants to do is hurt you.” Elliot speaks low, so that only she can hear him.
Olivia continues to spin the napkin. She doesn’t reach for her wine or look up, but keeps her eyes fixed on the napkin. Maybe trying to entrance herself to keep from getting emotional. “Then why do you keep doing it?” Olivia asks. Why do you keep hurting me?
“I don’t mean to.” Elliot replies honestly.
Quietness, besides the piano music playing softly in the restaurant, takes over. Elliot reaches out and places his hand over hers, which stills her from spinning the napkin. He slips his fingers into the palm of her hand and almost immediately …
Her thumb grazes along his.
Chapter 6: In the Backseat of a Taxi
They’ve been sitting in silence together for about fifteen minutes. Patreons are beginning to clear out of the bar and it’s becoming quieter and quieter around them. Olivia sips on her glass of wine, occasionally glancing over at him.
“I don’t know why I’m still here to be honest.” Olivia sets her glass down on the granite top and looks over to Elliot, who is still fumbling with the rim of his glass. “I should’ve left.” She adds. After the stunt Elliot pulled by crashing her date, she knows she should have just gotten up and left. She should have told him to fuck off and went home after that. But she doesn’t.
“Yeah.” Elliot hangs his head, voice quiet. Yeah? That’s all he can say? Olivia takes another sip of wine. She’s been slowing down though because she doesn’t want to end up drunk.
“Part of me thinks you want me to be by myself so that you’ll be happy,” Olivia murmurs. There’s truth to that statement, deep down. Even when Kathy was still alive, and they were partners, Elliot had a way of making her either not want to share who she was dating at the time with him or not tell him at all, because she could feel jealousy ooze from him. Which in turn, just made her feel guilty. As if she were cheating or … whatever. She laughs about it now. The irony of it all was what made it comical.
“I want you to be happy, Liv.” Elliot replies. He doesn’t deny her statement, but rather adds to it.
“Doesn’t feel that way. Feels like you —” Olivia begins but stops herself. She looks away from him, turning so that her jawline is what he’s met with should he look at her. She sighs, unable to finish. “Nevermind.”
“No, tell me,” Elliot replies. “I want to know.”
Olivia shakes her head again in defiance. She won’t tell him. Instead, she purses her lips together. Her words may spill otherwise. Wouldn’t want that. They have enough going on.
“We’re not young anymore, El. This isn’t a game. It’s not something that is cute or …” Olivia waves her hand and picks up her glass. “Things are going to have to be decided on.” She says.
“I wanna try.”
“I’m not sure I do.” Olivia takes another sip of her wine.
Nothing. Quiet. Elliot sets his glass down. The bartender is close enough to them to eavesdrop, so she wonders if he is listening to their rather vague conversation.
“I won’t ask.” Elliot hangs his head. “Because I know you already do.”
Olivia corners her eyes at him, just enough so that she seems as suspicious of his words as she is.
“I think there’s a lot of love between us, y’know? So … I won’t ask if you love me enough to give me a try. There’s still a lot to talk about, I know that –”
“You have no idea.” Olivia scoffs, lips curled into a passive smile. “This is so much more than whether or not we love each other, Elliot.” her voice quietens. “This is — you know,” Olivia’s pitch raises accusingly as if she’s just had a lightbulb moment. “I really think that you ….” She stops. Purses her lips together in an effort to keep anything unkind from coming out. Olivia turns on her stool to look at him fully, sitting her wine glass down. “Every day for twelve years, I was quiet. I listened to you …” She stops – again. “I listened to you tell her that you …”
She can’t do this. Olivia reaches for her purse and jacket and slides off the stool in one swift motion. She’s angry, at both herself and him.
“Liv, hold on—”
Olivia holds her hand up. “ Good night, Elliot.” Olivia waves him off.
Of course, he doesn’t listen to her.
She’s not even halfway down the sidewalk before Elliot comes chasing after her. He was only slowed down by paying their drink tab. The chilly air thrashes against her as she fights to get her arm through the sleeve of her jacket.
“ Liv! Hold up!” Elliot calls out to her.
Olivia isn’t one to make someone chase her, so she stops and turns around. Exasperated, she asks: “ What Elliot?!”
“You listened to me tell her every day what? ” Elliot asks. He’s trying to get her to talk. Who she is is obvious to them both. Kathy.
“I wanna go home, Elliot. I have a son waiting on me I —”
“How long are we going to do this?” Elliot asks, his voice becoming unsteady. “This back and forth with each other?”
“Isn’t that all we do? Back and forth?” Olivia asks. She’s not wrong and he knows it because he becomes quiet. “You know Elliot, I think sometimes that’s all this has ever been. Back and forth.” They stare at each other in what feels like silence but in reality, there are taxis and people and the world sounding off around them at a million miles a minute. If only they could slow down for each other.
There isn’t a single word that Elliot could mutter at the moment to make what Olivia has just said less true. So, he stands there, just feet away, speechlessness growing.
“Let’s be real, Elliot. This … This charade … it’s not real. This is you doing what you’ve always done. The only difference now? You’re free to take it to the next level.” Olivia speaks with certainty. “I listened to you every day…” Olivia points her finger at the pavement. “I listened to you tell her every single day for twelve years how much you loved her and missed her. At first, it was nothing. I thought that’s so sweet. I thought wow, she’s so lucky. ” Olivia’s voice cracks. “But as time went on, and I …” She stops, looking away. “And as I felt more for you … I realized that it was never going to be me , on the other end of that phone, hearing you say those things to me .” Olivia’s lips purse together. She’s fighting back tears, present and ready to spill.
“But now? Now when I even think about the possibility of it being my turn? All I can think is … you’re only here because she’s not. ” And just like that, Olivia’s voice breaks off into a quiet sob, there on the streets of New York.
The expression on Elliot’s face says it all: Blue eyes, intense and gazing, slightly downturned. Fine lines that almost give Olivia a clear page to read what he’s thinking. Dark gray brows furrowed into a knot on his forehead. His mouth is slightly agape and his nose is scrunched in confusion.
“ Yeah. ” Olivia’s response is dry.
“ God , you’re afraid.” She hears the very second she turns to walk away. No sooner than she’s turning on her black heel, does she spin right back around on it to look at him. She matches his expression from before; Bewildered and speechless. Until she’s not … until —
“ Go to hell. ” Olivia spits. Any kind of emotion that lingered in her voice before is gone now. It’s stale and bitter. “Go straight to hell.” She repeats, turning around to walk away from him. She has to find a cab. Her hand flies up as she approaches the curb, in the hope of hailing a cab. She uses her other hand to wipe away her tears, which cascade down her blushed cheeks.
“ Hey …” Elliot calls out. She’s walked a great distance from him, but only then does he realize he has to go after her. There’s some kind of poetic justice about the moment. He knows, past his pride, past everything, that it’s his turn to be as loyal, to be as resilient as she’s always been with him. “Hey! Now wait’a goddamn minute!” Elliot calls out again, his voice higher and more pleading.
“Elliot, go away .” Olivia won’t look at him. She’s intent on getting as far away from him as possible. All she wants is to go home, kiss Noah goodnight – even if he’s already tucked in and asleep, and go to bed. Maybe a hot bath before then to wash this absolutely unbelievable night away.
‘How can you say you’re sick of the back and forth when I’m standing right here trying to talk to you? Do you hear yourself?” Elliot asks, both hands gestured as if to say: What gives?
“Do you hear yourself? ” Olivia retorts.
“Oh, this is ridiculous.” Elliot scoffs, a less than amused laugh following. Olivia finally hails a cab, which pulls up to the curb. She opens the door and just as she climbs in and goes to shut herself inside, Elliot’s fingers, large and broad fly to the rim of the yellow steel.
“ Let go.” Brown eyes stare up at him furiously from inside the cab. He can see a thousand unkind words swarming around in them, so because he’d rather not hear such things, he releases the door with flared fingers and pursed lips – sheer annoyance on his face. He shuts the door for Olivia. She looks away from him and straight ahead at the cab driver. Although he can’t hear her, he assumes she’s giving directions to her apartment.
The thing is, Elliot can’t let go. Not this time. It’s becoming increasingly more obvious to him that what he wants, who he wants, is sitting in the cab before him, about to drive away. God knows when he’ll see her again. It could be two, or three months from now when they inevitably have to work on another case together.
Quickly, Elliot jogs around the back of the cab and just as the vehicle begins to move forward, Elliot pulls on the handle of the cab door and slides in more suavely than she’s seen him do in years. He shuts the door as soon as he’s seated beside her and shifts to look at her straight on.
“Get. Out. You’ve already ruined my date, my night – what else do you want, Elliot?!” Olivia tosses her purse down in the seat between her and the door.
“I want to talk. Really talk. Just you and me.” Elliot says, blue eyes searching. “No distractions. Just you and me.”
“I’m done talking.” Olivia sits back completely in her seat.
“Are we ready to go or?” The cab driver asks, dark eyes peering at the pair through the mirror.
“ No.” Olivia and Elliot say simultaneously.
“ Okay. Well, I have to go so if you’re not ready to go then you both have to get out.” The cab driver waves them off with his hand. “Go on, out. Both of you.”
“I’m going home, he’s leaving.” Olivia glares at Elliot.
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“Yes, you are.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Get out or I’ll make you get out.”
“ Try , go ahead.”
“Don’t play with me, Elliot.” Olivia is becoming angrier by the minute. She’s in a good mind to tackle him out of this fucking cab if it takes every bit of strength she has in her body. She hasn’t tackled someone in a long time but it might as well be the pompous ass sitting next to her.
“I’ll call the cops and make you both get out. Out! Out of my cab!” The cab driver fishes his phone out of his pocket.
“We are the cops.” Elliot states.
“Ahhh! Okay. Makes sense. New York’s finest doing whatever they want, whenever they wan—”
Elliot rolls his eyes and leans into Olivia, “Give me a chance. Just one more. One more chance, Liv.” His voice softens, blue eyes staring persistently into hers. The moment he takes her hand into his and grabs onto her fingers, like he has many times before, Olivia’s boiling expression melts away. Her eyes slant and her brows furrow upward. “Let’s talk,” Elliot’s face is just inches from hers and she hates how weak it makes her. How her eyes, by instinct, fall to his lips. He could be obnoxious and a cocky tough ass, but when he was like this, all she wanted to do was wrap herself up in him. She’s never been able to do that, but tonight, she just might let it happen.
“ Okay. ” Olivia whispers, eyes flickering up to his. She can see relief flood over him. Olivia doesn’t know whether to feel good about it or pissed that he’s yet again gotten his way. She squeezes his hand. Feel good it is.
They were going to need a new cab.
Chapter 7: This Universe
Olivia’s heart is beating a mile a minute. Maybe five, she’s not sure, but the consistent thud in her chest is enough to make her question how she’s even still breathing. She’s sitting in the back seat of a ( different) cab with Elliot Stabler right now, in destination to a place where they can talk .
Where they’re going makes her even more unsure about all of this. It’s far from a ‘ good’ idea. This could quite possibly make or break them, completely, depending on what happens in their hotel room, which they’ve yet to obtain.
Elliot sits with one hand in his lap, but when the other flies to hers to take her hand into his own, she looks down at their intertwined hands. He squeezes. It hasn’t been a long time since they've touched like this. They just held hands at the bar. But the way their palms are gliding against each other as the taxi cab driver hits bumps in the road causes her breath to catch in her throat.
It’s only when the driver slows down at a stop light that she realizes it’s not speedbumps and potholes in the road responsible for the movement of his palm against hers. Elliot is doing it. He’s moving his hand back and forth, touching her in a way that she can’t tell if it’s either seduction or comfort. Could it be both? She wants it to be both.
They’ve been emboldened in the past to hold hands, to hold each other’s faces, but … this feels different. It feels like It’s okay and finally and I want you and we’ll make this right. All of those ideas seem like good ones, But she can’t help but let the part of her that lives in absolute fear of losing him convince herself that he’s just holding her hand because he feels like it. Because he just wants to touch her.
As she’s gotten older, Olivia longs for more verbal affirmations. Not from anyone else, but from him. Olivia couldn’t, and she knows Elliot knows this, take another twelve years of intense gazes and flirtatious remarks. She wants him to tell her that he wants her and only her. That he won’t leave her again. That he loves her.
But that’s selfish to a degree; Olivia acknowledges that. She can’t even say I love you herself. He’s said it to her twice now, but every time she musters up even an inkling to speak that truth back to him, she chokes on it with no other choice but to swallow it back down.
Her fear is, that if she gives it to him, he won’t hold it properly. That he’ll take something she’s held inside of her all of these years and make it obsolete.
“You’ve called your sitter?” Elliot asks, rolling his head in her direction. His words break the silence between them. Olivia doesn’t answer straight away, instead, her eyes flicker from their laced hands and come to meet the pair of eyes looking back at them through the rearview mirror. Once the cab driver realizes he’s been caught, he looks away and focuses on the road. She nods in response to Elliot.
Olivia can about imagine what the driver is thinking. He must think they’re lovers about to spend a wild night together. Maybe he thinks they’ve just met at a bar and are off to find refuge for the night with one another. She almost finds herself laughing at that assumption, should it be his, because this is not a one-night kind of thing.
There are twenty-three years of history sitting in the backseat of his cab.
But then again this could be a one-night kind of thing. Maybe they talk, maybe they get caught up in more than that. Then come tomorrow morning they’ll part ways and there will be nothing but radio silence between them. Olivia hates the commonality of that, but she’s also grown used to it.
That’s what she wants to tell Elliot. She’s tired of being used to it.
She only hopes that every word she’s kept is able to come to the surface. Or if she’ll swallow it down, yet again when he looks at her with those piercing blue eyes of his. Olivia’s attention directs to their hands again – this time, she pulls hers away from Elliot’s.
Olivia waits in the lobby of the hotel, seated in a chair as she watches Elliot book their room. She can’t believe she’s doing this. What is she doing exactly? This entire idea was absurd and the longer she sits there, with her fingers perched over her mouth and her elbow resting against the arm of the lounge chair, she resists the urge to wait until Elliot’s back is turned so she can slip out and hail a cab before he even notices her missing.
But unfortunately for Olivia’s ego, there is a bigger part of her that wants to talk to him. That wants to figure out what the hell is going on between them. But did they really have to do it in this way? It seems suggestive and far beyond anything logical. The two of them, alone in a hotel room, could either get nasty or entirely too intimate for her. Funnily enough, she keeps hearing Amanda’s voice in her head: Just get it out of your system.
There was a lot to get out of her system. There were words she had held onto, feelings that she had gripped so tightly over the years that she wondered if even she herself could dig them up and bare them to Elliot.
That was always the problem, wasn’t it? Brian Cassidy had once spoken something to her that still lingered in her mind more often than him telling her that she was the love of his life.
You were never gonna bare your soul to me, am I right?
Brian was right. Olivia looked at him as if he were invading her privacy for asking her something like that, and maybe that was a lot of the problem when it came to her closeness with men in general. Every time a man tried to get close to her, she could feel herself back up into twelve years of Elliot Stabler.
For a long time, it was comfortable and enough even after Elliot was gone. But eventually, she just closed herself off completely. Including Elliot — the corner of her world that he existed in was no longer a safe place, but it was a haunted house with revolving doors and ghosts of men that she’s yet to mention to him; Ones that have given her scars and pistols to the side of her head and men who have tried to love her wholly but to whom she couldn’t give the same to.
So there was a lot of misplaced love roaming around inside of Olivia Benson. The kind that’s been given to Elliot Stabler, who just wouldn’t have it before. Or like now, who she’s not sure will hold it in the way she needs it held because she’s spent so long cradling her feelings for him. It’s almost like a parent, holding onto the back of a bicycle while their child learns to ride without wheels – you’re afraid to let go, but if you don’t, you know they may never learn. But then there’s the possibility of them falling over on it and deciding they’ll never ride again. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
Elliot approaches her, their room card slid in between his two fingers. He flips it as he comes up to her, a somewhat displaced scowl on his face. “Ready?” He asks, looking down at her. Olivia rolls her brown eyes up at him, giving a gentle nod in response.
Their room is nice. It’s nothing spectacularly fancy but there’s a bathroom, a tan lounge chair in the corner with a matching pillow presented neatly in the middle, and of course the bed. The decor is color coordinated, sticking with neutrals, and the only pop of color is the terracotta-colored throw pillows on the bed. The bedding itself is white; All white, with an ornate comforter, pleated and silk-ish.
Across from the bed is a TV that hangs on the wall. She’s tempted to walk over to it and turn it on just to add noise in between the silence of them. It was quiet the entire elevator ride up to the room and still is.
Olivia kicks her heels off and scoots them with her foot so that they’re leaned up against one another by the door. It’s one of the only feelings of relief she’s had tonight. She peels her jacket off next and she catches a glimpse of Elliot peeling his own off through the black screen of the TV.
“Do you wanna order a drink or …”
“I’ve had enough,” Olivia states, tossing her jacket down and plopping onto the foot of the bed. “I can’t hold it like I did when I was younger.”
“Neither can I.” Elliot cracks a soft smile and looks around the room before tossing his coat over the lounge chair. He takes a seat on the footrest of it and perches his elbows on his knees.
“Where do we start?” Elliot asks.
“This was your idea, Elliot,” Olivia replies. “What are we doin’ here?” She waves both hands out in a gesture that reads: And now what?
“To make things right.” Elliot’s voice softens.
“What if we can’t do that?” Her tone lowers to match his. She wonders if he can see the result of the sting in her eyes.
Silence, yet again.
“I think we can do anything.” He gives her that look. The one he’s always given her. It resembles a puppy dog and has a sincerity that must be Stabler-specific because she’s yet to see another man wear it. His eyes squint in a way that causes fine lines to form on the outer corners. “And I think maybe there was a time when you thought that too. So I guess I’m just …” He hangs his head. “I guess I’m just asking for a little bit of that faith now, Liv.”
“We could do anything as partners … we’re not partners anymore, El.” Olivia won’t look at him. Instead, she brings one hand behind her back to rest flattened against the mattress. Her face is turned away from him.
“That’s not true. Partners for life, remember?” Elliot asks. Only then does she glance at him. Not fair. She’ll tell him so too.
“That’s not fair.” Another deep, exasperated sigh leaves her. “I can’t help but feel like you’re … man-ing me.” Olivia laughs.
“Man-ing you?” Elliot raises a brow.
“ We’re so good together, don’t throw us away, take me back … ” Olivia mimics a deeper tone.
“I … okay, I am not doing that. ” Elliot laughs, but Olivia finds no amusement in him finding what she’s said comedic.
“What are you doing then?” Olivia asks, drawling both legs up onto the bed. She crosses them underneath her and pulls at her dress just enough so that it’s covering her knees.
“Breakfast went well. Then I … I know I should have called, but I couldn’t – I was working a case and then –”
“But you let your family know, right?” Olivia interjects. His silence tells her yes. “Do you not see me as an extension of your family?”
“Of course I do.” His voice softens.
“Then what stopped you from picking up the phone and letting me know that you weren’t hopping another plane, Elliot?” Olivia asks – her voice sharpens and he accepts the jab right away.
“I guess that’s a good place to start.” Elliot, again, hangs his head.
“I don’t know if I want to start there is the thing.” Olivia purses her lips together. Her eyes flicker away from them and from sheer dedication to not look weak, she resists the urge to reach up with her knuckle to wipe at her eyes. “I don’t think you’re ready for what I have to say about that.”
“You were a coward.” Olivia spits it out – no – hurls it out. It tumbles from her lips in a shaky, full of bass tone. A long silence fills the room, but she uses the empty space to look at him. It’s then she can see his blue eyes filled with tears. He nods in response.
“You are so full of apologies, Elliot but the problem with your apologies is there’s not one real reason behind any of them,” Olivia says, her tone dropping. “You wanna walk in and out of my life, that’s fine. That’s on you. But you can’t keep coming and going whenever you please and not tell me why. It doesn’t work like that. Not anymore.”
“Do you? Then why?” Olivia shrugs. “Why did you leave? Please, no more of the …” She waves her hand. “No more of you being afraid to hear my voice and how you couldn’t have walked away if you did. I want a real valid reason, why you felt like … you needed to … why you didn’t consider my feelings at all.” The moment all comes out, Olivia’s voice breaks. She looks away from him again, fighting back a blink. Instead, she closes her eyes halfway in an effort to keep any tears at bay.
“When it happened …” Elliot begins and Olivia immediately corners her eyes at him. “When I shot Jenna Fox … the only thing I could think of at that moment was I couldn’t let her hurt you and … when she was laying there I just saw that little boy. It just felt like another messed-up choice that I made. I knew after that … that you came before everything. And I was … afraid of that because I …” Elliot tucks his lips together, tears streaming down his face. Olivia allows the first few strays to trickle down her cheek. “ I was afraid of loving someone that much. And I didn’t know what to do with it. But I did think of you, Liv. I knew it was cowardly what I was doing and I knew it was wrong to just walk away. But ..,. There isn’t one second of one minute that I didn’t think about you. That I didn’t miss you.” Elliot finishes, fingers tapping against fingers out of anxiousness.
It’s his very last sentence that gets Olivia. As soon as he says There isn’t one second of one minute that I didn’t think about you she releases a soft sob and reaches to cover her eyes with the back of her hand.
Elliot doesn’t move toward her. He lets her be; Gives her space to work through what he’s just said.
“You did what you had to do, Elliot. There were so many people there, she could’ve—”
“I wasn’t thinking about them.” Elliot blurts out abruptly. She brings her hand away from her face, eyes bloodshot and puffy. “I know I did what I had to do. But it was selfish. Just like before. The problem was … it was easier the second time around.” Elliot states. Olivia narrows her eyes at his words, slightly furrowing her brows.
Elliot was a protective man, she knew that. But she also knew how he could be when it came to her. How they could be when it came to each other. There was so little emotionally spoken between them over the years with words, but their actions had spoken volumes. Enough to make up for any words lost over the years. They were each other’s protectors at one point.
“It doesn’t make up for the fact that I was … missing you. That I felt … abandoned and broken and —” Olivia wipes at her face.
“I know. I know. ” Elliot nods with urgency. “I know, it’s … it was so wrong and I should have talked to you. I should have returned your calls.” Elliot adds.
“So you listened to my messages?” Olivia asks, a brow arched.
Olivia’s gaze fixates on him. What was she supposed to say to that exactly? What could she say to that? Somehow, she finds the words.
“So you just … listened to my heart break then what? Moved to Italy?” Olivia scoffs, a breathy laugh following. “ Ohh.” Leaves her as if she can’t actually fathom the thought. As if what he’s just said to her was cruel; And in many ways, it was because it was an acknowledgment that he had heard her but simply ignored her pleas for him to pick up the phone and talk to her. At one point, she remembers being emboldened enough to tell him “ Miss ya.” Which at the time, was hard enough to express to him.
Olivia ponders, briefly, on going over to the door and slipping her heels on. Leaving before this goes any further because she’s not quite sure she wants to hear any more at this point.
“I don’t think there’s anything I’ll ever be able to do to make up for what I did. But Liv,” Elliot scoots further towards the edge of his seat. “I … It’s taken me a long long time to come to terms with things about us. To come to terms with the past, the present …” Elliot trails off.
He stops when she glares at him.
“The future.” Elliot finishes. “That’s all I can make right.”
Silence falls heavily in the room. Olivia can hear the traffic seeping through the hotel window. The curtains are open and a thousand city lights in the distance illuminate the yellow-ish glow the room already has. She can see a helicopter in the distance – a billboard with some workout ad on it.
After a moment of silent thought, she turns her head in his direction again.
“I don’t know what kind of future we can have now, Elliot, ” Olivia asks. “You talked about a parallel universe. You and I being together in that one. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.”
Elliot brings his fist, one hand cupped over it, to his lips. Blue eyes peer up over his knuckles, which look rougher than they are. She remembers earlier holding his hand at the bar. In the cab. He has soft hands. She loves his hands – maybe one day she’ll tell him that.
“We’re supposed to be together in this one. This universe. ”