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Alter/Altar

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The apartment is dimly lit by a single lamp on an end table and two candles that are flickering in their containers to send dancing shadows skittering up the wall. The glare and gleam of a Manhattan night has been blocked out by heavy curtains, making Olivia’s living room feel peaceful, intimate.

Something just for the two of them.

Elliot leans forward to pick up his glass of wine from the coffee table and, when he settles back into the couch cushions next to her, he is ever so slightly closer than before. Close enough that she can feel the press of his thigh against hers, the movements of his arm as he flexes his fingers against his leg like he’s thinking about reaching for her. Like it is an effort for him not to.

They haven’t outright said that tonight is different to all the other nights, nothing obviously new about the dinner they’d shared at a restaurant earlier, but there’s something hovering in the air. It has been there between them all night, every time their eyes have locked, a physical thing that is both soft and electric, and full of promise.

It had prompted her to tell him at the end of their meal that she has an empty apartment for the rest of the night, and by unspoken agreement they’d climbed into a taxi together and come back to her place and neither of them needs to say that wherever it is they’re going, they’re just about to arrive.

Her heart is beating a rapid tattoo in anticipation. She had forgotten that anticipation could feel so sweet.

“This is really nice,” Elliot says, and it’s possible he’s talking about the mouthful of wine he has just swallowed, but somehow Olivia doesn’t think so.

Her gaze flickers over his face and she gets caught on the fact that the wine has stained his lips darker than normal. That she could just lean over and kiss him and he’d let her - he’d welcome her - and she could taste him and see if the wine tastes the same on his mouth as it does from her glass and -

It’s mad, she thinks, how they are here now. How they’ve both just decided, suddenly but not, that this is where they are. She knows that she’ll know what he tastes like before the end of the night.

“It is,” she agrees.

Elliot puts down his wine glass and then rubs his palms over his thighs. He glances over at her and she sees as his gaze snags on her lips for a moment before he snatches it away again. “It, uh, it feels like we should probably talk,” he says, half question, half statement.

A smile passes over her face. “Because we’ve always been so great at that.”

He chuckles. “Hey, we have.” He shrugs one shoulder. “About some stuff, anyway.”

Some stuff - but not them. There’s so much about them that for so long they couldn’t say. They’ve always been better at the bits between the lines. Olivia takes a swallow of her own wine and feels the warmth of it right down to her belly. “What did you want to talk about?”

Elliot shifts on the couch so he can look at her face on. “Guess I just wanted to make sure we’re on the same page here. Before we…” The unspoken words hang heavy between them.

“Yeah. Okay.” She reaches over to put down her glass.

Elliot takes the opportunity to take her now empty hand in his, fingers wrapping around hers and holding on. His eyes are intent and his voice is as honest as she has ever heard him when he says, “Because Liv, I want you to know that I have no doubts here. I’m all in.”

It’s a bigger commitment than she ever expected from him - from anyone, really - and she knows that this is one of those moments from which there’s no going back. This is the bit that she doesn’t know how to do well. The bit that’s scary. The bit that feels like a risk because it is, and because it’s Elliot it’s more of a risk than she has ever known, because he matters, because they do, because she cannot lose him, because she did that once and it almost broke her (it did) and she doesn’t want to lose him again, especially if they do this and she knows what they could be, knows what it’s like to love him and have him love her -

She reminds herself to breathe. “Me too.”

He’s watching her closely and he can no doubt see all the thoughts she has churning just below the surface. “But..?”

“No buts.” She’s certain too: she’s all in.

Elliot knows her well. “But..?” he prompts again.

Olivia looks down at her hand held in his, feels the warmth of his touch, the surety of it. She confesses, “Us, diving in? It’s a big change.” It’s a big change that they’re even voicing this thing.

And they’ve both dealt with a lot of big changes, over the years. Things that have changed them irrevocably as people and as partners. This is another one - a good one, undoubtedly. One that is much longed for. But one with the potential to hurt them both.

“Not where it counts,” Elliot says, and she knows he means that they have always been solid, right from their beginning at the tail end of the last millennium. They’ve always been them, despite everything: this is just them, building. He dips his head down to catch her gaze where she’s still staring at their hands. “Olivia, I get the feeling there’s something you want to say. Just say it. It’s okay.”

His hand is trembling a little in hers, like he might actually be nervous by what she has to say. As if he’s wondering whether she might be about to set him down despite the commitment they’ve just made to each other, despite the promise that has been between them all night.

She holds onto him a little tighter. It’s not so much that there are things she wants to say - as there are things that she needs to. She shifts her fingers in his grip so she can run her thumb over his finger, the one that until relatively recently used to wear his wedding ring.

He watches her do it. “Liv?”

“Does it feel empty without it? Without your ring?” Maybe it’s an unfair question, she thinks; she is essentially asking him do you wish your life had never changed when it doesn’t matter what the answer is because the fact is that it did. But she needs to hear his answer.

Elliot clears his throat. His voice is a low rumble, but nowhere near as flayed open as he sounded in the early days of his return. “It did.”

He doesn’t need to say anything else. Doesn’t need to tell her about the sinkhole of grief into which he had fallen when Kathy was murdered, or the forty-plus years of stable ground that had been suddenly ripped from under him, or the teetering weight of trying to prop up his grieving children, how the bottom of his world had fully fallen away and sent him reeling.

She saw all of it.

“It was the biggest change I’ve ever faced. A turning point I never expected. But now…” he trails off. He absently rubs at the bare patch of skin that spent decades wearing his ring, watching the movement of his own hand as his fingers slide alongside hers. “Now it feels like I can step forward, you know?” He looks back up at her. “Like I want to step forward.”

Olivia is filled up with emotion; she can feel it all rising up her throat. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.” He nods, blue eyes wandering over her face and it’s like a physical thing; she can feel the places he’s looking, can feel the warmth rising in her cheeks as he lingers, looking at her like she’s… Like she’s where he wants to be. “You wanna go there with me?”

“I do.” It’s the truth, but it comes out sounding unfinished.

Of course Elliot picks up on it. “What is it?”

For a moment she struggles to find the words. Thinks that it’s not fair to either of them, the way that she knows the thing that changed his life so completely and abruptly and awfully but he doesn’t know hers, because it happened while he was vanished and since he has been back it has never felt like a good moment to tell him about the worst thing that has happened to her in her life. But he should know, before they alter their relationship. Make sure they’re starting clean. That they’re carrying their burdens together. It’s not even for his benefit. She owes herself this; deserves it. She steels herself. “Something happened, while you were away.”

“What happened?” he prompts, gently, leaning in, and it feels like an opening rather than a demand and yes, she thinks, she can tell him this, the bones of it. The meat of it can keep for now, and she can trust him to wait for it.

It takes a few seconds for the words to come; her throat still feels dry every time she thinks of this. “I met the devil,” she tells him, knowing he’ll understand, but knowing he’ll want - need - more of an explanation too.

But trying to find the words to tell him about the very worst days of her life - she can’t do that and keep this. Can’t do that while he’s looking at her like he is and it makes her both look away and want to sink into him like she wanted to when she faced down evil and won (she spent a long time wondering what that might make her, and not always liking the answer, and wanting him to be there to steady her when she stumbled).

So rather than tell him the story in so many words, she takes his hand that she’s holding in hers and presses it to her chest. Slides it beneath the loose, dipping neckline of her shirt and down, down until his fingers land on a couple of the little patches of skin that still feel itchy and tight and raw sometimes, despite the years that have gone by. She watches Elliot’s face now, watches the realisation bloom across his features, the way his eyes crinkle and harden with anger for all of two seconds before the rage is washed away by welling tears that he tries and fails to blink away.

He presses his palm to her heart, like he needs to feel it beating.

It’s beating fast now, her heart, both because she’s finally letting him in on this and because of the way his hand on her feels like an anchor, feels like something she wants more of. She leans into him a little more. Tells him, “It was four days of…”

She blinks, shakes her head. The blanks can be filled in later, when they’re in a different mood with the light pouring in and not in the near-dark hovering precariously at the brink of something.

“It was a long time ago now,” she says.

Elliot’s hand is still on her chest and he’s watching his own movements as his fingers smooth over her skin beneath her shirt. “The guy who?” he asks, and she knows that he won’t be able to settle without the answer, his voice coiled tight like a spring but still controlled, contained.

“Dead,” she confirms. And then, “Eventually.”

“Good,” he says, voice dark like he’s picturing the grave.

Then he looks up at her and she feels tears well in her eyes at the sheer emotion she sees on his face, at the sheer emotion - the fucking relief - she feels from telling him, from putting it out there, like the proverbial weight has been lifted, like they’re rising even as they’re falling into something.

“Olivia.”

Her name on his lips always contains so much, and now it is a magnet, or a flame she can’t resist, and she reaches for him, her head landing on his shoulder as her arms loop around his waist to feel the strength at the core of him.

She knows that if asked, he’d say that she is the stronger of the two of them.

(She agrees - mostly.)

His arms come around her, one at her ribs and one hand sliding into her hair to cradle her head and this, she thinks, this is it - this is their change, this is when they are altered and she can’t think of a reason to wait anymore.

Especially when he breathes into her hair, “Doesn’t matter what happens, or what changes. We’re always us. And I love who you are.”

The pulse in his throat is thrumming when her lips brush against it. “I love who you are,” she whispers. It’s easier to confess that to him when she’s not looking at his face.

But then she does look at his face, pulling back just enough to see him - his eyes focused on her like there’s nothing and no one else he wants to look at, the depth of the emotion she sees there enough to make her heart skip and to steal her breath right from her lungs. She wants him.

She wants him, and she knows he wants her and she’s not just going to let herself have this, she’s going to give herself this. Give them both this.

There’s a part of her - a big part of her - that wants nothing more than to sink back into the cushions of the couch and to pull the weight of him over her and pull his face down to hers. But she can still feel the hum of vulnerability in her veins, thrumming just below the surface of her skin after her admission, and so instead she pushes up, lifts up just enough that she can swing her leg over both of his to straddle his lap, sitting back against his knees and humming as his hands stay warmly on her ribs the entire time, firm enough that she can feel the heat of him, the want in him, but giving enough that she knows he’ll follow her lead.

Olivia takes a moment just to look at him, her hands on his shoulders and her eyes on his face - the way his lips are slightly parted as he looks back at her with eyes as dark and deep as she has ever seen them. The candles lighting the room are dancing shadows across his face, and she lifts one hand to trace the flicker of a flame on his cheek.

He leans into her touch, fully shivers with it. She can feel his breath hot and shaky against her wrist as he exhales. His fingers flex at her waist.

She leans in closer, eyes locked to his. Brings both hands up to slide against his jaw, feels the light scratch of late-night stubble and the way his muscles move beneath his skin. Watches his gaze flick down to her lips and back up and then she kisses him, soft and experimental.

Chasing her lips with his as she draws back, Elliot slides one hand back into her hair and tightens his fingers just enough that she can feel the slight tug but not enough to control and, damn, it does something to her. Makes her feel it low in her belly and she can’t resist dipping back in for another taste, longer this time, her hands on his jaw guiding him against her.

This time when she pulls back she takes a moment to study his face. He looks both blissed out and desperate for more, and like he’s perfectly happy to just sit there and let her kiss him as much as she wants.

Which is exactly what she wants.

“Olivia,” he whispers, mouth hovering just below hers.

She pulls back just enough to smile at him. “Hey.”

“Hey.” He uses the hand in her hair to encourage her mouth back to his and she can feel him smiling against her lips. His hand slides from the back of her head down to the nape of her neck and her hair falls down around their faces like a curtain.

She presses closer, deepening the kiss a little and tilting Elliot’s head back to rest against the cushions of the couch. He relaxes back, lets her guide him, and she feels a little rush at the thought of him trusting her like this. Maybe it’s a little bit because he wants her to feel comfortable by giving her control, but there’s something in the way he’s moving beneath her that makes her think he’s giving himself over to her.

“This okay?” she mumbles against his lips.

“That’s meant to be my line.”

She feels the rumble of his voice deep in her chest. “El.”

“It’s extremely okay.” He lifts up to dust a kiss along her jaw. “More than.”

Olivia hums in response. “Good.”

Elliot is tilting his head towards her ready for another kiss but she diverts her path a little, pushes her hair back from her face the better to see his face and lets her lips connect instead with his forehead. Enjoys the warmth of his skin and the way she can feel the slight movement of the muscles in his face as she kisses him, the way his pulse is thrumming against the side of her hand as it cups just beneath his jaw.

She draws back slightly just in time to see his eyes fall shut and his mouth go slack and she has the fleeting notion that this is some sort of act of benediction. She takes the opportunity to look at him a little up close, the slope of his nose and the little lines on his skin and the shadows on his cheeks cast by his late evening stubble and the candles that continue to burn. The fall of his eyelashes catches her attention and she very gently trails one finger just beneath his right eye before leaning in to press a kiss there. It makes him shudder.

“Liv.” He says her name like a prayer, hands sliding down her spine like he’s going to haul her right up against him and she wants that, she really does, but she’s not finished just yet.

So she catches him by the elbows and trails her hands down over his forearms until she can snag his hands and draw them away from her body, pressing them carefully into the couch cushions. He goes more than willingly, blinking his eyes open to look up at her and watching her face with such depth of feeling painted across his features that she feels the urge to look away - like she has just seen something that usually stays hidden, that doesn’t usually come out into the open.

But she doesn’t look away - how can she? - and she feels warmth starting to spark deep inside her. She works her way slowly across the topography of Elliot’s face, pressing kisses to his temples, his cheeks and his chin, before giving him a lingering smooch on the lips and letting herself deepen things just long enough to taste him.

Elliot’s hands are twitching in hers. “Need to touch you,” he says when she breaks the kiss.

“Not just yet, okay?”

She waits for his nod before she swoops back in and kisses him properly, thoroughly, letting her tongue press into his mouth before giving one of his hands a firm press into the back of the couch - a silent instruction to stay put - before she lifts her own hand to hold his face again, the better to feel his jaw working as he kisses her back enthusiastically.

A groan escapes Elliot’s throat when Olivia presses a little closer into him, shifts her weight from his knees to his thighs, needing to be nearer, physically unable to keep her distance. Arousal is building within her, starting a slow, viscous crawl through her veins that feels dark and delicious and deep. She can feel the tingle of it in her fingertips.

And Elliot - she can tell that he is enjoying this by the way he’s pressing up into her, one hand clutching hers and the other clenching against the couch cushions, his kiss telling her everything she needs to know about how much he wants this.

She breaks that kiss after long, breathless minutes, pulling away just enough to let them both draw in a breath from the same shared air and to share a smile.

Leaning back in - staying away feels like a sin, and making sure Elliot knows he is loved feels urgent (she has collected so much love for him over the years that now it has started to spill over, she can’t stem the flow, doesn’t even want to) - she gives him another kiss. This time when he lifts his hands, she gives him space to move and can’t resist a sigh of satisfaction as his hot, large palms land heavily on her thighs.

Squeezing slightly, he says, “Kiss me again.” He practically pouting in anticipation of it.

It makes her smile, makes her brush her thumb over his lips to feel the shape of his kiss. Olivia dips down, lets him feel the wash of her breath over his lips again before diverting at the last split second, chuckling at his brief groan of disappointment before she drops a kiss to the corner of his jaw and it turns into contentment instead.

She trails kisses down his throat, lingering at his pulse point where she learns the beat of his heart and how it quickens when she sucks lightly at that spot, learns that the careful scrape of teeth over his skin has him hissing in pleasure and his hands tightening on her thighs like he’s trying to anchor her to him.

Like she’d even think of moving right now.

Elliot is sinking into every touch, soaking it up like he has been starved of it for too long - probably he has, Olivia thinks. She knows that she certainly has. Can’t wait to feel his hands on her. The lazy arousal is starting to build, prickling at her skin. She nuzzles her nose into the hollow of Elliot’s throat, lifts her hands to the top button of his shirt.

She drops a slow, wet kiss to the little space between his collarbones then sits up to look at him while she fiddles with his button. “Can I?”

A nod in response, and now he doesn’t take his eyes off hers as she slowly undoes the buttons of his shirt, completing the task by feel alone, running her fingers further down his sternum with each button. The heat in his blue eyes is enough to take her breath away - his pupils are blown wide and he’s looking at her with more intensity than she has ever seen from him. And she considers herself no stranger to the intensity of Elliot Stabler. He looks like he wants her to consume him. Like he wants to consume her. Like -

Damn but this is everything. Olivia has had the feeling all evening that their relationship was about to be altered at some deep level, and she has always had the feeling that she and Elliot would start fires from the sparks if they ever allowed themselves to touch beyond a brief glancing brush, but she hadn’t quite expected… this.

This feels fundamental, elemental.

Buttons all undone, she splits Elliot’s dark blue shirt open. Runs her hands up over his chest to his shoulders so she can push the material down his arms and off. He lifts his hands off her reluctantly to let her pull the cuffs from his wrists, but as soon as he’s free of the fabric he’s touching her again, palms sliding higher up her legs and thumbs sliding down to tease at her inner thighs.

It sends heat shooting through her, has it pooling low in her belly. “Elliot.”

“Gonna let me touch you now?” There’s a smile in his voice like he knows just how he is affecting her, like he is thrilled about it, happy (borderline smug) to be making her feel good. Happy that she is making him feel good.

“Uh-huh.” She nods, fingers clenching against his biceps. “Please.”

That’s all the encouragement he needs before he’s surging up to meet her, his arms wrapping tight around her and his mouth crashing to hers. He pulls her down in his lap, splitting her thighs further open and pressing her centre against his erection. Fuck he is hard already, and the promise of more has Olivia shifting in his lap to feel him moving against her.

Elliot’s tongue sweeps into her mouth like a wave and then she is caught up on a wave of feeling as big hands sweep over her back and his broad chest presses to hers and his thighs thick with muscle tense beneath hers. His hands move further down, gripping her legs firmly and it’s instinct that comes from decades of knowing him, moving with him, that has her clinging onto him as he presses up from the couch and stands.

Her legs wrap around his waist, holding herself up, although she has the strong suspicion she could relax every muscle in her body and he’d still hold her up with no problem. The seam of her jeans is sitting directly between her legs, against her clit, and she presses into it, seeking more, wanting the friction, feeling herself start to grow slick and hot with want. Elliot’s arms are wrapped around her back, one hand gripping her waist and the other sliding up and back into her hair.

This time he directs the kiss and she lets him, lets herself enjoy the feeling of getting swept away by an overload of physical feeling and emotion, as well as the knowledge that this is Elliot.

Holding her, kissing her, carrying her.

She smooths her palms over his shoulders and hopes he knows how much she feels for him, even if she isn’t entirely sure how to put it into words just yet.

He starts to walk then, a couple of steps before he stops and tears his mouth away from hers - he looks like he can’t believe he had the audacity to stop kissing her even though he has no one to blame but himself - and then he’s looking up at her where she’s held securely in his arms, her face just a little above his. He presses up, presses a sweet, tender kiss to her lips that calls tears to press at the corners of her eyes, and when he pulls away she sees the sheen of moisture in his eyes, too.

The hand in her hair slides down so he can brush her hair back over her shoulders, and then his fingertips trail over her hairline, her forehead, down her cheek, his touch precise and reverent. “Liv,” he whispers.

“Tell me what you want,” she murmurs.

His answer is quick. “You. I want more of you.”

She smiles at him. “You have me.”

He kisses her again. “You have me.”

He starts to move again then, holding onto her firmly as he walks them across her living room towards the short hall where her bedroom is. But he stops when he gets to the dining table, swooping in to give her another kiss which she suspects he intends to be short but doesn’t stay that way, and then he’s setting her down on the edge of the table and skimming his hands up the outside of her thighs, up over her hips, her waist, dragging the hem of her silk shirt with him as he goes.

Lifting her arms over her head so he can pull the top off her, Olivia shivers at the feel of Elliot’s fingers trailing deliberately over the soft skin of her inner arm and leaving a little trail of goosebumps in his wake. Her shirt falls to the table behind her and then Elliot is carefully circling her wrists, wrapping his fingers around them so his thumb can brush at the sensitive underside of her wrist, pressing lightly against her pulse. He leans in to kiss her as he draws her arms down and around his neck and then his hands are sliding down her arms and around to her shoulder blades and down further until he’s cradling her ribcage in his palms, thumbs resting gently against the sides of her breasts.

The tenderness of the touch has her pressing further into him, wanting more of it, wanting to sink into him, to consume him, to have him consume her.

Elliot’s tongue teases at hers for several long minutes and his thumbs brush deliberately against her until she’s practically vibrating with the pleasure of it, both desperate for more but also just to stay here in this moment with him wrapped around her and her arms tight around his shoulders so she can feel every flex of his muscles, every sharp intake of breath.

Then he starts to lose a little finesse as the heat builds between them, tongue less precise and hands firmer against her sides, and Olivia moans at the idea of Elliot losing himself to her, to what they’re doing, and she presses her pelvis into his to feel him hard against her, knowing it will make him groan.

It does, the sound rumbling through his chest and into hers, making her smile. He grinds his hips against hers as he kisses her like she’s more essential than air, and then his hands drop to clutch at her hips and pull her forwards and up off the table.

Olivia stands on slightly shaky legs, pushing Elliot back in the direction of her bedroom. His back bumps into the wall in the hallway and she takes the opportunity to push him up against it and stretches up onto her toes to better take control of their kiss. Her hands run up and down his chest, fingernails catching intentionally against his nipples.

He gasps into her mouth. “Liv. Liv, please.”

She backs off - only a little - and smiles up at him. “Please? Please… more?”

He nods shakily. His hand tangles itself into her hair, fingertips pressing into her scalp and palm cradling her skull. He steps forward, pushing off the wall at his back and pushing her into the wall at hers, crowding her in and dropping his head to rest heavy against her shoulder.

Hot breath washes over the top of her chest, hitching as she lets her nails dig in just slightly as she continues her exploration of Elliot’s extensive collection of muscle. “God, you’re gorgeous,” she mutters to him, turning her head to sneak a kiss to the top of his head - the only bit she can currently reach.

“Me?” He surges up, looking at her with disbelief. “Liv, you - you’re -” A heated gaze runs over her body. “You’re incredible.”

A rush of power floods through her at the look on his face as he drinks in the sight of her caught between his chest and the wall, her hair no doubt wild around her head from having his fingers still tangled in it. Elliot’s expression is heated and reverent and aroused and filled with so much feeling (dare she call it love? She thinks she does) that it takes her breath away.

The hand not holding her head lifts from the wall to land on her collarbone, and then Elliot’s fingers are taking a wandering journey down her chest, over the swell of each breast and down over her torso, taking in curves and scars and skin and muscle and bone. She watches him, the way he alternates between watching his hand and watching her face, and the way his eyes darken when her breath quickens, her pulse picks up.

“Bedroom,” she murmurs.

He nods, stepping back and taking her with him. His eyes are locked to hers now as he steps backwards towards her bedroom and she guides him with a hand on his arm.

She shuts the door once they are in the room. There’s no need for it; they’re alone for the night and at any rate the front door is locked and bolted, but it feels good somehow, being shut in like this together, closing themselves into her space. Makes it feel more intimate, somehow.

Elliot lets her go and steps back to kick out of his shoes while she crosses to the window to draw the curtains and switch on her bedside lamp. It casts a golden glow across the bed but otherwise leaves the lighting in the room dim and muted.

Olivia moves back across the room to stand in front of Elliot where he’s waiting at the end of her bed. She steps into him, and by some unspoken agreement their arms come up around each other and they just stand there for several blissful minutes in an embrace, skin to skin, pulse to pulse. It feels good, standing in his arms, like she’s where she’s meant to be. Safe and protected. She hopes he feels the same.

She thinks he does, by the way he relaxes into her, holds tightly onto her, lets his head drop down to her shoulder again and breathes out a long sigh like he’s letting go of the weight of something. “You okay?” she asks, voice low.

He drops a hot kiss to her collarbone. “Very.”

“We don’t have to -” She wonders if maybe he’s overwhelmed, needs to wait.

“I want to.” The answer is immediate.

She smiles, hums in the back of her throat. “Me too.”

Another hot kiss, this time with the slightest scrape of his teeth. He starts planting slow, sucking kisses up the side of her neck and Olivia can feel the effects of it through her whole body, nerve endings all tingling and her arousal growing heavy at her core. Elliot lifts his head so that he can press his forehead to hers and watch her face up close as his hands sweep over her back and down to the waistband of her jeans.

One hand comes to ride low on the small of her back while the fingertips of his other hand start to tease at her side, slipping down just beneath her waistband and then back up to skim along the denim ridge of it. “That feels good,” she breathes.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

He stretches his neck to kiss her mouth, a sweet thing that ends far too soon and leaves her lips tingling. Then he asks, quietly, fingers still stroking along her waist, “Can I undress you?”

Oh God, hearing those words from Elliot… Olivia nods and makes a noise of agreement that comes out not unlike a whine.

They fall quiet then, as Elliot looks into her eyes as though seeking further reassurance from her before he drops his gaze to his hands, carefully working the fastenings on her jeans before sliding them over her hips, down her legs. The sound of their breathing and the fabric rustling is all Olivia can hear as Elliot drops to his knees to pull her jeans the rest of the way off - that, and the rushing of blood in her ears.

He looks up at her from his place on the floor like she’s something holy, and even as it calls to mind the last, far less wonderful, time he fell to his knees in her apartment, it has her blinking back tears from the depth of feeling she sees on him and fighting her lifelong urge to run away from this sort of intense moment. She definitely doesn’t want to run now, even though it is something new for her to stay.

She holds his face in her hands, runs her fingertips over his forehead, his cheeks and nose and chin. He leans forward and presses a kiss low on her abdomen just before he stands up, and they’re still quiet as he reaches behind her to unclasp her bra and it falls to the ground. His eyes lock onto hers. He hooks his fingers into her underwear and pushes them down her legs and once she has stepped out of them he just holds her against him again for a minute, just wraps her up in his arms and breathes her in.

Olivia can feel that she’s wet between her legs and she’s eager for him to touch her but also doesn’t want to break this mood, so she tells herself to be patient - to just let herself enjoy this. They have time.

But also she wants to get him out of his clothes so after a minute she puts enough space between them to get her hands in the space between their bodies and opens the button on his pants. She can feel him looking at her body, feels her nipples tighten in response to a combination of his gaze, the cool air in her room and the brush of his chest against hers every time they breathe in.

The anticipation is becoming its own animal.

She’s just pushing Elliot’s pants down over his hips when he catches her jaw in his hands and draws her mouth back to his for another kiss, his tongue pushing eagerly into her mouth to stroke along her own. She moans and then so does he, and he keeps the kiss going as he shifts to catch the weight of her breasts in his palms, strokes his thumbs over her nipples.

She groans into the kiss as hot darts of pleasure shoot through her, and she has to break away to mumble, “Fuck, El.”

“Good?” he asks, like he’s genuinely making sure, wants to be certain that he’s doing something he likes.

When she nods, he smiles and just keeps on going, running his thumbs over her again and again until her heart is thumping hard and she knows she’s properly slick between her thighs now and she can’t hold back the strangled, “Please.”

He kisses her forehead and then he’s pressing her back towards the bed, coaxing her to lie down while he pulls off the rest of his clothes and then he’s climbing over her, covering her with his body, legs on either side of hers and his forearms resting up by her head.

She looks up at him above her, at the sweat that’s starting to break out on his forehead, and the way his pupils have blown wide and his mouth is hanging slightly open as he sucks in a breath. She looks down the length of his body, the lines of hard muscle and soft skin and the trail of hair that leads down to his groin where he is more than ready for her.

It feels good, affecting him, being surrounded by him, and it feels even better when he lowers himself down to let some of his weight rest against her and she can feel all those lines and muscles and skin pressed against her own body.

There are more indulgent minutes of kisses, starting soft then turning wild and tongue-filled and then back to soft.

There are hands stroking and touching, learning responses and testing reactions. There are soft questions and answers - Does this feel good? Yes. And this? - and then Olivia is parting her legs so Elliot can settle in the cradle of her thighs and his erection is pressing against the wetness between her legs and fuck that feels good.

“I wanna be inside you,” he whispers to her in the dim room, the words with the timbre of a confession, as though it isn’t obvious, as though he hasn’t somehow been inside her, part of her since the very beginning.

“I want that too,” she says.

They share a smile - a look of we’re here, now - and then he’s reaching down to slide first one and then two fingers into her, stretching her gently to make sure she’s ready for him and teasing her a little, building her up. She pushes up into his hand, seeking more, taking in shuddering, gasping breaths at the intensity of it.

As soon as she’s panting, he withdraws his hand and then he’s guiding his erection down and into her, pressing inside slowly. She feels the pressure of the intrusion and the stretch as he enters her and her body adjusts to accommodate him. She holds him where he is, just slightly inside her, for several seconds with her hand on his hip, just long enough to get used to his size until she relaxes and then he’s sliding the rest of the way in until their hips come to rest together.

Elliot’s eyes flutter shut and his jaw is working like he’s overcome by this, the physical feeling and the emotion. Olivia can’t look away from that look on his face, the way he is consumed by this, by her, and it makes emotion well from deep in her chest.

She reaches for his hands, lacing their fingers together up by her head. She brings her legs further up until her knees are bracketing his hips.

“Liv,” he says, a goddamn prayer of a thing, and then he starts to move.

He goes slow at first, learning the rhythms of how they move together, how her hips press up to meet his every time he pushes back inside her, the hot wet clutch of her like her body is trying to hold onto him each time he pulls back. He opens his eyes briefly, when he can, gaze tripping over her face as if to check she’s still with him, that she’s okay, that he is, they are. They are. But he can’t seem to keep them open for long, eyelids drawn together like magnets, like he’s having an experience so intense and internal that it is best lived and felt in the dark.

Olivia doesn’t mind; likes it, actually. It gives her the opportunity to watch him freely, his expression uninhibited, blue eyes shot through with love meeting hers briefly before he falls back into wherever he is. He looks like he’s treading holy ground. Maybe he is.

Elliot starts to speed up his movements after a while, his thrusts getting firmer, more purposeful, like he’s starting to chase release. His fingers untangle from hers and he slides his hands beneath her torso instead, shifting until he can dig his fingers into the balls of her shoulders, his forearms clamped against her sides. She wraps her arms around his like vines, clings to his strong biceps and just holds on, cranes her neck to buss a kiss to his chin.

It feels good, the thrusting, so good, and it’s building her up but on its own it’s not enough to drive her to orgasm, the promise of release just a little too far out of reach. She finds she doesn’t care. This is a whole other thing, a whole different kind of experience.

Watching Elliot come apart above her like he’s at worship and she’s his altar.

She holds tightly onto him with her arms and legs, hopes he knows that, while she’ll continue to give him hell every time he deserves it (and occasionally when he doesn’t), in her he’s got a soft place to land.

He’s tightening against her, around her, inside her, and he’s hot and sweaty and heavy, breathing hard and heart pumping harder and she knows that he’s close.

“That’s it,” she murmurs. “There you are. I’ve got you.”

“Liv.” He opens his eyes and his gaze locks onto hers as he lets go and comes inside her, body arching and going rigid above her for long seconds as his release crashes through him.

If she had to put a name to what she sees on his face, she’d say she’s looking deep into his soul. Doesn’t think she’s seen that precise look on anyone’s face before. It feels like he has given her a gift.

She gentles her grip on him and strokes her hands over his arms, his shoulders, relaxing him as he comes down slowly. She presses kisses to the top of his chest and his neck, the underside of his chin as his head hangs down over hers and he gradually comes back to himself. “You okay?” she asks, when she’s sure he’s fully back with her.

He answers her with an eager, love-filled kiss. “Yes.” Another kiss. “That was…” He trails off, words failing him. The smile spreading over his face says it for him.

It brings a smile to her face too. “Good.”

Elliot shifts. He’s starting to soften inside her now so he pulls out carefully, a small rush of wetness following his retreat.

Her brain gets caught on the fact that that’s Elliot seeping out of her, and so she almost misses it when he speaks.

“But you didn’t -” He looks a little troubled.

Olivia traces the lines on his face with one finger. “That’s okay.”

Elliot shakes his head. His eyes are starting to clear but they’re also starting to fill with renewed purpose as he looks down her body, lingering on her tight nipples, the dip of her waist and curve of her hips. “Hmmm, no it’s not. Let me make it up to you?”

“Nothing to make up,” she tells him as he shifts above her. “But I’m certainly not going to stop you. I - I need - “ I need you to make me come, is what she doesn’t say but she’s pretty sure he hears it anyway in the silence. Certainly he can see it in the tremor of her stomach and the way her whole body is practically straining with need.

“I’ve got you,” he says, moving off her to settle at her left side. He shuffles down the bed a little way so he can pillow his head on the top of her chest, his breath falling against her breasts and making her shiver at the sensation.

He just lays there on her for a minute, one arm heavy over her hips, anchoring her to the mattress. Then he moves, sliding his hand up her belly to the centre of her chest, where he runs his fingers up and down her sternum, turns his head to kiss wherever his lips land.

She’s reminded of the way he’d touched her while they were on her couch earlier, when she’d slid his hand beneath the neck of her blouse and down to touch her scars and then he’d pressed his palm over her heart. He’s doing the same thing now, holding his hand firmly against her. He’s also looking at a couple of the little round burn marks on her chest.

“El,” she says to get his attention, because she doesn’t want to bring all that into bed with them right now.

He turns his head and smiles up at her, a little wetly, and then drops down to press his lips right over her heart where his hand had just been. “I love you,” he says.

It stops time for a second. Catches her breath in her throat, pauses everything between one heartbeat and the next. She wants to say it back - is going to say it back - but then time restarts and Elliot’s lips close around her nipple and suck gently and suddenly she can’t form words, can’t do anything but groan at the feel of it and wrap her arms around his head to keep him right where he is.

He takes his time, kissing and licking and sucking at her breasts until she’s quivering beneath him and her hips are pushing up into air in search of friction that isn’t there. She moans, a desperate thing, and she thinks she knows now what he was feeling earlier when he lost himself to her, because this - this - is taking her over, sending her mad with want and she wants, needs, more.

Elliot lifts his lips from her chest and kisses her mouth instead. Strokes her hair, brushes his thumb against her temple in a way that is calming, makes her feel cared for. “Okay?” he asks when he breaks the kiss.

She nods, her hands sliding against the sweat on his back.

“Olivia?” he prompts, pulling back to look at her and she knows he needs to hear her say it.

“Yes. More than okay.”

He brushes her sweaty hair back from her forehead. Dots little kisses over her face, down the slope of her cheekbone towards her ear. “Good,” he praises her. “Still feeling safe, feeling happy?”

God, this man. Tears spring up behind her eyes from the sheer depth of emotion she’s feeling. “Extremely,” she answers.

The tip of one finger catches a tear that breaks free from the corner of her eye. “Happy tears,” Elliot says.

“Uh-huh.”

He kisses the spot he just touched, tongue darting out to taste the salt.

“Elliot?”

“Yeah?”

“Make me come.”

She feels his pleased chuckle vibrate out of his chest. “With pleasure,” he tells her, eyes crinkling at the corners as he smiles down at her.

He moves to hover over her again but this time he holds his weight off her, braced close enough that she still feels like he has wrapped her in a cocoon but just enough space in between them that he can slide his hand onto her belly and down, down. He’s watching her face closely as his fingers slip between her parted thighs, teasing lightly at the crease of her leg and then down to her inner thigh. Her hips rock towards him, seeking more.

She feels exposed like this, with him watching her face so intently, but it feels good too, to have his attention like this, to know he’s so completely focused on her, so caught up in making her feel good, in watching her reactions so carefully to learn what she likes so he can take care of her properly. Plus watching him earlier had been a whole different kind of pleasurable experience for her, and she can’t deny him the opportunity to feel that, too.

“Touch me,” she says - demands - fingers clenching in the sheets beneath her.

“I am,” he replies.

“El - “

“Shh, I’ve got you.” He drops the teasing, slides his fingers up to her core where they glide easily through both her arousal and his, circling at her entrance before he presses two of them inside her.

He’ll be able to feel evidence of both of them inside her and the thought of that does something to her - does something to him, too, if the wide-eyed look on his face is anything to go by. Olivia moans as he pushes his fingers deep and then pulls back slowly, stroking firmly along her inner walls until he finds the little spongy patch of tissue just inside her. He crooks his fingers to press up against it, sending her hips bucking off the bed.

“That feel good?” he queries, even though he must know that it does.

“Yes,” she says. “Do it again.”

He chuckles and complies. He sets up a little rhythm inside her, alternating between thrusting and rubbing and then, when she’s a writhing mess beneath him, he leans down and takes her nipple in his mouth again, biting gently between his teeth and God how can she be this turned on without coming?

“Fuck, I -” She cuts herself off with a gasp when Elliot’s thumb nudges her clit.

His mouth releases her nipple with a little pop. “What do you need?” he asks - practically croons at - her.

He’s still got his fingers in her and it’s making it hard to form sentences. Heat is swirling in her belly, rippling through her veins, sending shivers of arousal across her skin.

Elliot kisses the centre of her chest. Strokes his thumb over her clit again. “Can I kiss you here?” he asks, voice low and deep and intimate. “Would that be all right, do you like that?”

She nods jerkily. “Yeah - yes.”

“You’re gonna let me taste you?”

Maybe he can just keep talking to her to get her off. “Yes.”

“Taste us, I guess,” he says, (Jesus) before starting to trail a line of wet kisses down her abdomen until he’s got his shoulders between her thighs and he’s using his hands to spread her open, pushing her legs wider and then draping them to rest over his shoulders. He shuffles like he’s getting comfy, like he’s settling in.

And then she can feel his hot breath against her centre, looks down to find him looking up at her, running his gaze over the curves of her body like he can’t believe his luck and that look of blissed-out reverence is creeping back into his expression and, fuck, if he gets like this just at the prospect of getting his mouth between her legs, Olivia thinks it might actually take him out when she gets her mouth between his legs. “Please,” she says to him.

His gaze drops back down to her core and he presses a single, deliberate kiss to her clit before he moves to kiss and lick at the soft tissue just below it. He’s in no rush and he’s careful, tender in the way he’s touching her and while part of her wants nothing more than for him to just seize her and take her already, she also doesn’t want to miss this.

Elliot’s thumb is teasing at her entrance, circling slowly, dipping slightly inside and then retreating. His other hand is holding her spread open, and cool air mingles with his hot breath against her. “Feel good?” he asks.

“Yes.”

“What do you need? What do you like?”

He chooses that moment to suck slowly at her clit and it shorts out her brain briefly and so it takes her a few seconds to answer. “Put - put your fingers inside me again.”

“You like that? Feeling me inside you?” From the tone of his voice it’s clear he’s actually asking, not just playing at dirty talk.

“Yes.”

“I like it, too,” he tells her as he slides two fingers back into her heat and starts to thrust slowly. His mouth goes back to her clit, kissing and sucking and building her up until she can’t keep her eyes open anymore.

And yeah she gets what he was experiencing earlier, because she can’t focus on anything except what Elliot is doing between her legs, the fact that this feels so damn good and he’s building her up to an orgasm that feels like it’s going to absolutely wreck her, but it’s more than that, it’s more than just the physical pleasure of it, it’s also that it’s Elliot and it’s them and she has wanted this - them - for the longest time and she feels both altered by it and more settled in herself than she thinks she has in a long time. Ever, maybe.

Down between her legs, Elliot asks, “You think you can take three? Can you do that for me? Open up a little more?”

Olivia is pressing her head back into her pillow and pressing her hips towards his touch and she chokes out, “Yeah.”

He eases a third finger inside her. She feels the stretch of it, that deep pressure right at the depths of her that makes her feel like she’s going to break apart at the seams. It’s a feeling she tends to shy away from, not willing to be that vulnerable with someone or even on her own. But this is Elliot and she knows he has got her just as she has him and so she lets herself be carried away on the feeling, lets go of conscious thought and just enjoys the feeling of his fingers making her so full with every thrust and the way she can feel the wetness seeping out of her along with the remnants of his come and the way he’s sucking at her clit sends warmth radiating out through her whole body and the pressure is building, building, building -

Her body snaps taut, arms thrust wide on the sheets as she grapples for purchase, fingers clenching in the material and her hips held in place only by Elliot’s firm grip on her. The orgasm crashes into her, washes over her, through her, stealing her breath and her voice and rippling with waves through her abdomen, her chest, her arms, her legs.

Her mind goes blank with it, whited out with pleasure, and she’s not sure how much time has passed when the waves slow to a gentle ripple and then cease, and she starts to come back to herself. Her nerve endings are still alive with it, still sensitive as she relaxes back into the bedsheets, blinks her eyes open to the dim light of her bedroom.

“There you go,” Elliot is saying to her, still knelt between her legs with a look of smug awe on his face like he has just seen God. “That’s it, I’ve got you. God, Olivia.” His eyes crinkle with a smile. “You’re beautiful. You with me?”

She reaches one hand down to touch his face. He leans into her touch, presses his cheek to her palm. “Yeah, I’m with you,” she says.

He eases himself out from between her thighs, letting her legs fall back to the bed. She winces a little as her hips protest the movement after being in one position for so long, and a little shiver runs through her as sweat starts to dry on her skin.

“You’ll stay tonight?” she asks him as she watches him settle down at her side.

He leans over to drop a chaste kiss on her lips. “Of course I’m staying tonight.”

“Good.”

The quiet, soft mood between them is lingering and Olivia finds she likes it, doesn’t want to let it go. It stays even as she slides off the bed to head to the bathroom to clean up and to turn out the lights in the living room, even as she slides back onto the bed as Elliot slides off for his turn in the bathroom, even as he comes back to lie next to her, drawing the covers up over them for warmth now that the fire that has been burning between them all evening has been sated.

They turn onto their sides facing each other, still lit only by the little lamp on the bedside table. They look at each other in the silence and Olivia thinks that for all Elliot has missed of her life, he is still the one person who really knows her. She thinks that she’s the one person who really knows him. They can fight and resist and wound each other - they will - but they always come back to this.

Things change, but things stay the same.

Olivia is blinking sleepily now but doesn’t want to let go yet - of him, of this, this night.

Elliot’s hand smooths against her arm, tugs her towards him. “Hey,” he says. And then, again, “You with me?”

He rolls onto his back, takes her with him, coaxes her to settle her head against his shoulder, wrap her arm across his chest. His arms come securely around her, one hand in her hair, one on her back. His fingers scratch soothingly at her scalp. She thinks the motion is as much for him as it is for her.

“Liv?” he nudges her quietly, mouth feathering lazily against her forehead.

“Yeah,” she answers, letting her eyes slip closed and her body relax to the feel of him all around her and his pulse beating strongly against her cheek. “I’m with you.”