He's always chased after the taste of her, almost since the moment he met her.
It starts with small flavors - a sip of her coffee here and there, a taste of her orange juice when picking her up in the mornings, a stolen potato chip from her deli plate. He waits until she has her share of things before coming in after her, pretending he can taste her lips on what she's left behind. Between her scent, which always surrounds him, and the illusion of where her mouth has been, he can almost pretend to taste her.
It's not cheating, he thinks, if his lips never touch hers. And despite what his heart screams, he can ignore how his body reacts when she wets her lips when his touch the same place hers were moments prior.
He drinks more coffee when she's around him. He never used to be a huge coffee drinker, but it's hard to resist the urge to place his lips on a steaming mug of it in tandem with her. She sips, he sips. The bitter tang of it, the way it slowly spreads into his body to bring him further awake whether it's early morning or late at night becomes synonymous with the time he spends with her, and now he finds himself making pots of it when Olivia's not around.
He sits on his porch in Queens with a cup, the bold blend hitting his taste buds and translating in his brain to the vanilla scent he associates with her. His wife notices and fusses at drinking caffeine so late in the evenings. Kathy doesn't realize he can't sleep anyway; he hasn't gotten a good night's sleep since he asked Olivia to blink her lights back in their second year as partners.
They break, Kathy and Elliot, and he gains an apartment. Eventually, so do Olivia and Elliot, and he loses his mind. She goes away to Oregon, and he wishes for nothing more but an IV line that will feed him coffee directly. No matter how much of it he consumes, he can't will her back home, so he floats, exists, spends his time with a woman who does let him taste her. Dani tastes of beer and cigarettes and of nothing that is scented sweetly, directly or indirectly in his head. He lets her go without a fight or a regret - she's not the flavor he craves.
When Olivia comes back, she's drinking tea, and he is lost.
Eventually, Olivia starts drinking coffee again, but she's hesitant about it. She drinks it more carefully, with more precision and discrimination, and her stares mark him when he sips alongside her. The taste is weaker in the blends she brews, and he misses the bold flavors they once shared. It leaves him less aggressive, and he finds himself giving up the pots of evening and weekend coffee when he moves back to Queens.
When Elliot breaks for good, he loses her taste completely. No matter how many espressos he downs in any number of cafes in numerous countries that aren't his home, he can't get back the flavor of her.
It's fine. If he's honest with himself, he doesn't want to wake up enough to walk the world without her anyway.
Olivia can't remember a time she didn't associate mint with Elliot.
The man has an oral fixation, and there's not a moment in the day when he's not sipping coffee or chewing gum. When they share cups of coffee, she can taste the mint flavor his mouth leaves behind. And if she darts her tongue onto the spots where his lips leave traces of it, well, it's just because she likes the dichotomy of it.
She can almost taste him whenever he's close, which is most of the time. Somehow, their partnership is made up of moments where they hunch over shared computer terminals, and their breath mingles as they bring their brains together. His personal brand of gum has a strong flavor, and she can feel it tingling on her tongue when he exhales near her.
He'll often tear a piece in half and offer it to her, usually after their coffee rituals, and she gladly takes it so she can have Elliot's flavor on her own taste buds. It's alive and spark-ful and cooling, a balm after the heat and boldness of the coffee she mainlines regularly with him. She starts keeping a pack in her desk drawer so he's not ever without it, and on the days when he's off spending time with his family, well, she may go through it twice as quickly, but she's always restocked before he comes back, griping about missing her coffee and complaining about the rain on their vacation.
At some point, they break each other's hearts, and his words are as cold as the icy breath the mint brings her when she chews it. She runs to Oregon, and gives up both his and her vices. She trades her coffee for tea and his mints for oranges, something with enough zing to keep her in the game but violently different enough from him that she can find her own path without trying to breathe through the chill of the taste he leaves in her mind.
She comes back, and she incorporates her hesitance into their relationship. The tea is flavored orange, but, eventually, she finds herself craving her coffee again. He offers her his gum again, and she's back in it, but this time she brings with her a sense of caution at how the mint can freeze her out.
The taste is exciting, but she knows how to temper it now. She can take half a stick, or she can opt for tea. She thinks he notices she's expanded her skill set. Their tastes mingle again for a while, and eventually it's a routine that nobody can break: coffee, mint, coffee, mint, Benson, Stabler.
Then, he leaves her. She clears his desk and empties the packs of gum from her drawers. She can't bring herself to taste it without him. It's too strong, too vibrant, too electric.
It's a decade and some change later, and Elliot groans into Olivia's mouth. She tastes of coffee, he of mint, and their tongues are dancing back and forth, drawing the flavor from each other so deeply that neither of them know how they managed to keep the two tastes apart for so many years. He sips from her mouth, then leaves it to experience new tastes: the salt of her skin as he nips down her neck, the sweet hint of vanilla he knew he would pick up with his tongue as he nuzzles into her breasts. He licks and scrapes and tastes and tastes and he never wants to give this up, never wants to let her get away from him.
She pulls him back up to her mouth so she can breathe in the vibrancy she missed for so long. She fuses their mouths together, pushing her tongue in as far as possible so she can circle the roof of his mouth. She dances it along, letting her taste buds fill themselves with him, him, him, and she can't get close enough. Can't savor him enough as she comes back alive, as she lets herself taste the electricity of him she locked away years before.
They break apart for a moment, noting the weight of where they're headed. Then slowly, they deliberately merge back together. They whisper promises to each other and seal them with kisses, and as they make each other their own, they become a tangling of tastes: a merging of ice and fire, bold and exciting, and finally, finally, so truly the flavor of them that their heads spin from the sensation.