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They’re better when they’re not using their words.

He’d learned that pretty early on in their partnership, how ferociously synchronicity could exist in pure silence.

Quiet hums behind burnt cart coffees before the crack of dawn. Twin gaits sauntering through the doors of the 1-6 - some defeated, some victorious - at the end of a long day. 

And it’s no different now.

I love you, says the mug filled to the top with black coffee she leaves tucked in its spot under his Keurig in the mornings.

And I know you love me too, says the way she waits to turn the shower faucet on until she hears his footsteps, the creek of the bathroom door.

He doesn’t need her to utter a single fucking word for him to lose himself in her - slowly, and then all at once. Like a tide marrying the shore in the dog days of summer. With woven fingertips pressed up against the shower tile. With lips lost in the depths of her hair, in the space between her collarbone. A silent I love you lives in his center, and when it finds hers, there’s no need to say a goddamn thing.

He’ll tell her sometime later on how beautiful she is to him. How she grounds him. The pillar that holds them both up - solid and steady with ease. How he loves the way she’s started to fill his home with little fragments of herself, day-by-day. First a handful of blazers on velvet hangers in the very back of his closet, now a coffee cup — handmade with love in now-faded marker from her son two, three Mother’s Days ago — sat on the countertop boldly beside his, like that very spot has always been its home.

This morning he settles on a kiss before he’s out the door - swift and light and loose, because they’re already running late.

 

By the time he gets home he’s missed her awake, probably by a few minutes.

She’s sprawled out across the couch - glasses still perched crookedly atop her hair, case files scattered messily across the coffee table, her styrofoam coffee cup cold when he touches a finger to it.

She whistles softly through her nose like she does on the nights she absolutely loses the battle with the parts of her that fight to stay awake. Just one more file.

He could shake her shoulder, wake her up. Selfishly, he wants more moments with her. He knows he’ll wake up tomorrow morning paralyzed by the feeling - the feeling of reaching out for her beside him, and she’s nowhere in his orbit.

Only this time she’s right here in the living room, still in dress pants and a blazer. He hovers above her sleeping form, licks the pad of his thumb and wipes off a crumble of mascara that’d fallen from her eyelash to her cheek, and she still breathes the same, still whistles through her nose. Barely flinches at his touch. 

Night baby, he mutters so quietly he can hardly hear his own voice, and then he turns off the light.

At five in the morning — at least, what he can make out on the alarm clock when he squints at it looks enough like a 5 to him — he feels the touch of fingertips curl loosely around his bare arm, the heat of a cheek wedge itself between his shoulder.

He opens one eye slowly, exhaustedly, and there she is. Her work clothes, he knows, are thrown haphazardly somewhere on the bedroom floor, because someone has got to keep the laundry in check around here, and that someone is not Olivia. She’s in nothing but one of his old t-shirts and a pair of underwear, her hair tickling his skin as she surrenders to the sheets, wraps a leg around his own like she’s ivy.

In the dark he hears her whisper back, Night, baby like he’d done four, five hours ago, and then nothing more.

 

He doesn’t need his words tonight.

Carisi had said it all in his vows, and now the words float. Settle in his own chest, bury themselves in his lungs. It’s everything he’s ever said to Olivia over the course of a quarter-century about best friends, partners, better halves, without saying a damn thing at all.

A Fleetwood Mac tune buzzes through the speakers in a Staten Island backyard and one hundred and fifty tipsy, loud-mouthed Italians start to dance off-beat around them to a song about a free and fearless gypsy.

Without a word, she comes to him.

She dips her head low, her hair falling loosely around her face, the updo she’d had before the ceremony long undone. The bottom of her dress trails behind her, and she doesn’t seem to mind the stain of grass brushed at the very edges of the peach fabric. Doesn’t seem to mind him staring either, holding her firm against him when their bodies meet.

You don’t dance, is all she can say before he pulls her close, proves her wrong.

They don’t need words for this. The light and free way she sways against him is fine in the silence, narrated only by the music.

Maybe she’s tipsy too like the flock of Carisi’s, or maybe she’s just accepted their fate. Accepted that this is what life is now - him and her and a slow dance to a goddamn Fleetwood Mac song at a backyard wedding with her coworkers. 

He’s aware she thinks it’s ridiculous, but he’d do this one day - slow dancing in the grass, I Do’s under white twinkling lights. Fuck, she could wear a blazer to the damn thing, if she wanted.

Wordlessly, she hums, brings one of her hands up to cup his cheek as he dances like he’s got two left feet.

I love you, she says in the way she lets his toes stomp onto her own. The smooch she places at the nape of his neck. The harmonious way he knows she’s thinking about one day, too.