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It’s late when she gets the call, Elliot’s name on her phone a familiar sight in the after-bedtime hours. She hadn’t been expecting to hear from him tonight; he’d said he had work to do with the Brotherhood—work he’d been a little cagey about, which had made her apprehensive. He doesn’t usually divulge all the details of his undercover shenanigans with her, but there’d been something about his tone when they talked earlier that made her think tonight was significant in a way he was trying to downplay for her sake.

So, naturally, she’s spent the rest of the evening in a state of low-grade anxiety, her evening cup of tea a well-caffeinated Earl Grey instead of her usual chamomile or Sleepytime blend in an effort to stay awake and alert late enough for him to check in. She’d distracted herself by deep cleaning the kitchen drawers, purging old take-out containers and expired yogurt from the recesses of her fridge, and freezer-burned ice cream and hamburger patties from the freezer.

Noah had frowned at her from the breakfast bar while he studied his spelling worksheet, asking if they were having company or if she’d had a bad day at work. She’d just smiled and told him she had energy to burn and wanted to do the boring tasks while she had the motivation. And then she’d smirked, asking, “Why? Would you prefer I wait until the weekend so you can help out?”

His blue eyes had popped wide, dark curls bouncing a little as he shook his head and answered, predictably, “Nope!”

He’s a helpful kid, but he’s still a kid, and sniff-testing the half-and-half or wiping crumbs from under the silverware sorter aren’t his idea of a good time.

Since he went to bed, she’s been trying to keep herself occupied with a book. She’d been on page 43 of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, when the phone rang, much earlier in the night than she’d expected to hear from him (if she did at all). Tucking a finger between the pages, she brings the phone to her ear and answers with a relieved, “Hey.”

“Hey, Liv, I can’t talk long,” he tells her, and she can tell from his tone–distracted and tight and determined—that he’s still on the job. “But I wanted to make sure you heard from me before anyone else.”

Her stomach drops like a stone—I wanted you to hear it from me—is rarely a good thing in their line of work.

“Okay…” she breathes, cautiously.

“Donnelly made me; the meet tonight was a trap.” And just like that, her stomach ratchets up into her throat, thick and tight, choking her, and he should be glad of it because she’s suddenly both terrified and furious. He had to have known, had to have had an inkling, and sure enough, he tells her, “We knew there was a chance it might be; I went in with a vest, I’m okay.”

She squeezes the phone hard to quell the tremble of frightened fury, her voice low and angry as she insists, “You should have told me.”

He hesitates for just a second, she hears the quiet, hears Ayanna’s voice indecipherable but familiar in the background as Elliot realizes she’s pissed and recalibrates. “I didn’t want you to worry.”

“What if you’d died,” she hisses. “What if—and you weren’t even going to tell me?”

“Liv, I—” He exhales, hard, then drops his voice and says, “I’m sorry. But I can’t do this now; they think I’m dead, we’re gonna let ‘em. Go after ‘em all now and round ‘em up while they think they’re safe.”

It’s a smart plan, and she might be able to think about that, to focus on that, if she wasn’t caught on They think I’m dead. Because if they think that, then, “You were shot?”

“I’m okay,” he insists, and he sounds fucking fine, but she’s sick of seeing him with bullet wounds and bandages. Has been sick of it for two and a half decades. “I had my vest on; I’m sore, but I’m good.”

Olivia scoffs, thinking of those goddamn short vests that Elliot always insists on wearing because they “fit his shoulders better,” thinks of Kat Tamin and the bullet that had snuck beneath her vest and lodged in her gut, thinks of Mike Dodds and the bullet wound to the belly that had ended his life.

But she doesn’t tell him any of that, doesn’t want to expose any of her trauma to him, not here, not now, not on a rushed phone call with his boss in the background. So she swallows it down with the lump in her throat, telling him instead, “Come here after.”

“It’s gonna be late—might not be til—”

“I don’t care,” she interrupts. She doesn’t care if it’s 2am, she doesn’t care if it’s 5am, she just wants to see him, alive and whole. “You were shot; I want to see you, as soon as I can. If it was me, you’d—”

“Okay,” he soothes, acquiescing. “Alright, as soon as I can, I promise. But don’t wait up—I’ve still got your key, and I don’t want you to lose a whole night’s sleep worrying about me. I’m fine.”

“Wake me,” she tells him; it’s not a request.

“I will,” he promises, and then his voice drops so low she has to strain to hear it over the line: “Love you.”

Her throat sticks for a whole new reason now, a mild TOO SOON TOO SOON panic fluttering in her chest. But then she sees him bleeding out in the dark, in an alternate universe where the Brotherhood goons aimed for the head, and the idea of him dying somewhere alone with her feelings still trapped safely behind her teeth makes her feel nauseous.

There's nothing like the specter of death hanging in the air to give you a little bit of courage.

“I love you,” she tells him, quiet but clear—and on purpose this time. “Don’t stand me up.”

“As soon as I can,” he promises again, and then he’s telling her he has to go, ending the call.

It’s not until after she drops the phone into her lap and her face into her hands that she realizes there are tears on her cheeks.

.::.

Donnelly is in the wind. They’d rounded up Bolton and Parnell, had a task force headed to the 3-7 in the morning to take in everyone else in the Brotherhood, but there’d been no sign of Donnelly since he’d watched as their brothers sunk three bullets into Elliot’s chest.

Nobody’s talking, or nobody knows, and Ayanna had looked at him half an hour ago and told him to go home for the night and get some rest. “I’ll call if we get anything out of these guys, but you’ve had a hell of a night. You can visit his wife in the morning and see if he’s turned up; go home.” And then her voice had dropped, quiet and knowing, as she added, “You promised to check in.”

She’d been just a few feet away when he’d called Liv—had been the one to remind him while they were working out their plan, telling him, “You should call Benson before someone else does.”

He’d tried to hide his Love you, tried to whisper it low enough for only Liv to hear (he could hear how scared she’d been, and thought maybe she’d needed to hear it, even if they were still pretending this wasn't anything serious), but when he’d ended the call, Ayanna had been there smirking at him, arms crossed, brows half-raised.

“We, ah, haven’t disclosed; we’re still—” he’d started to excuse, but she’d held up a hand to stop him.

“Is your head in the game?” she’d asked and he’d nodded, told her, Completely. “Then I didn't hear anything,” she’d said, and that had been that.

He’d pushed Liv out of his mind, hadn’t let himself linger over her quiet I love you, had focused on the job. On ending this fucking assignment and the prospect of finally getting to shake off the mantle of dirty cop.

But there’s a lull in the action now, and his boss had dismissed him for the night, and he aches. His body is sore, and his head is pounding, and every block that disappears between his car and Olivia’s door makes him crave her a little bit more. Ayanna had told him to go home, and she’d meant here, and hadn’t known just how right she was.

His place is in shambles, feels cold and empty right now. Olivia’s bed, her soft sheets, her warm, waiting body, that’s home tonight. The only place he wants to be.

He half expects to find her on the sofa, wide awake and waiting despite it being well past 3am. But when he lets himself into her apartment, it’s quiet and still. She’d left the light on over the stove, and he uses the meager glow to toe out of his shoes and hang up his jacket, stopping to pour himself a tall glass of water and chug it down before he pads silently toward the back of the apartment. Noah’s door is closed and dark, but Liv’s is cracked, a soft glow of light peeking through the gap. He pushes it open gently and finds her beneath the covers, her back propped up with pillows, her head tipped back against her headboard, her cell phone in her lap and a book resting open on her chest.

She’s also sound asleep, her glasses still perched on her nose, and the sight of her makes him smile.

For a few seconds, he just stands there, leans against the door frame and watches her, peaceful and safe. The night had been loud, harsh and violent and chaotic; the scene before him is anything but, and he finally feels his nerves begin to settle.

He’d promised to wake her, and he will, but he’s sore, and he’s sweaty, and there’s still dried blood streaked across his brow. Another fifteen minutes won’t make much of a difference, so he retreats to her bathroom, shuts the door behind himself and strips quietly, then turns the water on as hot as he can bear and stands beneath the spray, letting it wash away the grime. He uses her soap, and dries himself with her towel, and then he peeks into the hallway and makes sure Noah’s light is still out before he gathers his dirty clothes and walks naked to her bedroom.

He expects to find her exactly the way he left her, but she’s awake now, pillows redistributed and fluffed, her book and phone placed on her nightstand, glasses resting on top of them.

She smiles as he steps around the door, starts to say, “I thought about joining you, but—” and then she stops, and she sobers, her soft smile slipping away as her gaze strays to his chest. Her voice is soft and pained when she breathes out, “Jesus, Elliot.”

He lifts his pile of crumpled clothes on instinct, trying to shield the worst of it from her view, but it’s pointless—she’s already seen the bruises, and she was always going to. So he drops the clothes near the door and shuts it fully behind him, moving toward the bed as she pushes the covers back. It’s only then that he realizes she’s wearing his henley, the bottom hem hitting the tops of her bare thighs, the sleeves pushed up to her elbows, the snaps at the neck undone and revealing a wide swath of her collarbone.

He can’t focus on that, though, because she has gone pale and anxious, is about to climb right out of that bed and come to him, and he doesn’t want that. He wants to be in that bed, with her, wrapped up together and safe and sound for a little while.

So he tells her quietly, “No, stay,” and “Let me come to you,” and “I’m okay, I promise.”

She stays, but only just barely, perching on the edge of the mattress and reaching for him as soon as he’s close, her hands grasping at his forearms, sliding up to his elbows as she takes in the bruises on his chest with glassy, worried eyes. There are three dark circles where the bullets hit, each one haloed with a ring of white and then a corona of bruising already starting to darken to a deep purple. They’re close enough that the bruises run together, and he knows they look bad.

He also knows they’re pretty square in the center of his chest, and without the vest, he wouldn’t have stood a chance. So he lets her look, wraps his own hands around her elbows, fingers curling up the backs of her triceps and squeezing as he promises again, “I’m okay.”

The look she gives him is gutting—accusation and anger and pain and fear—her voice thick with unshed tears as she insists, “You should have told me.”

“I wasn’t sure—”

“It doesn’t matter,” she cuts him off. “It doesn't matter if you weren’t sure, you thought maybe. You can’t just—If we’re going to be—I need to know when you’re doing something this dangerous. You can’t keep me in the dark like—”

Her mouth snaps shut, her gaze dropping back to his chest, but he doesn’t need her to finish the sentence to know how it ended: You can’t keep me in the dark like Kathy.

He’d kept a lot from Kathy, as much as he could, had tried to spare her from the dark and dangerous parts of his work—and it had cost him. Their marriage, for a while, and her life, eventually.

But Liv isn’t Kathy, and he still remembers, years ago, decades ago, before the separation, sitting with Olivia in their old precinct and listening to her tell him that if he kept shutting his wife out, he was going to lose her.

She’d been right then, and she’s right now. He should have told her. He can’t shelter her from the danger of this job; she knows it all too well herself.

He wants to tell her he didn’t want her to worry in case it was nothing, but it was never going to be nothing. If it had been Webb, he could’ve ended up with a bullet in his brain. Donnelly had double crossed him, and he’d ended up on the sidewalk with three bullets in his chest.

Her fingers ghost gently against the bruised skin, and Elliot cups her cheek, tips her head up to face his and tells her, “I’m sorry. You’re right. I shoulda told you it was a dangerous op. I just didn’t want you to spend the whole night worrying about me.”

“I spend a lot of nights worrying about you lately,” she admits, and Elliot steps in even closer, pressing his lips to her brow, resting his forehead against hers. “If you’d died tonight, I—”

“I didn’t,” he assures her. “Don’t focus on the what-ifs. I’m here, I’m alive. And it’s over.”

She nods, their noses bumping from the movement, her fingers squeezing for a moment around his wrist before she asks, “You get Donnelly?”

“Everybody but,” he tells her. “Ayanna told me to head out, get some rest. I’ll go visit his wife in the morning, find out if she’s seen him.”

Another nod, and then she’s easing back, frowning over his bruises again, and asking, “How sore are you?”

Elliot groans, and tells her, “Feels like I got hit by a truck. I’m getting too old to get shot and then spend a few hours running around the city rounding up dirty cops.” She gives him a look, one that clearly says it’s too soon for jokes, but before she can scold him, he murmurs, “I’ve been lookin’ forward to crawling into bed with you; you gonna let me in?”

Olivia rolls her eyes, smiling, and scoots back to make room for him.

.::.

He could have died tonight.

But he didn’t.

That’s what she focuses on as he rounds the bed and climbs naked under her sheets and covers, scratches on his brow and a constellation of bruises still blooming on his chest.

He didn’t die. He’s here with her.

He did not die. He is here with her.

He is warm, and welcoming, sinking into her pillows with a grateful groan and opening one arm to her as if he’s inviting her to curl up against his side.

Ordinarily she would—would stretch her body alongside his and drape a leg over his thigh, an arm over his belly, and rest her head on his chest. But his chest is clearly not in any condition for serving as a firm pillow tonight, so she doesn’t cuddle up next to him. Instead she climbs on top of him, swinging her leg across his hips and perching there out of harm's way.

Elliot’s brows lift in pleasant surprise, his hands finding her thighs and settling there.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” she tells him, leaning forward over him but careful to keep her weight on her own arms, her fists sinking into the pillows on either side of his head as she bends to kiss his lips. His hands coast up her thighs, over her hips, stealing beneath the loose fabric of her shirt (his shirt, really), and running up along her back as they shift quickly from soft smooches to slower, deeper kisses.

Eventually, he winds up with one hand tangled in her hair, the other spread wide across her lower back, holding her against him as their hips grind slowly, lazily. She’s shifted down to her elbows, still trying to keep her weight off him, but her breasts rest against his chest and he doesn’t seem to be too sore for that. She can feel the warmth of him through the cotton of the henley and where her inner thighs press against his naked hips. It’s a welcome reminder that he is alive, safe, here, with her, beneath her.

He’s half-hard, stiffening beneath her as their hips move together, and suddenly she wants him. Needs him. It’s late, and they’re both tired, and she knows he’s sore, but she needs the reassurance of him against her, inside of her, gasping her name and clutching her close and spilling into her.

She pulls her mouth away from his with a soft, gasping smack and murmurs, “Let me take care of you. You’ve had a long day.”

The hand in her hair slides around her jaw, his thumb skating over her lower lip, blue eyes deep and warm as he rumbles softly, “Not gonna say no to that. You sure you’re not too tired? It’s late; I woke you up.”

“I’m sure,” she promises, reminding him, “I had a nap.”

Elliot smiles, a soft laugh bouncing in his chest; he relaxes back into the pillows and tells her, “Then, I’m all yours.”

Olivia takes her time; it’s late but she’s in no hurry, and he’s not up for anything vigorous anyway. So she sets a slow pace, kisses his mouth, and then his jaw, and then his neck. She sucks a wet kiss over his clavicle, but keeps it light and easy, and then she scoots down a little further, makes her way toward his chest.

The whole right side of it is one big, forming bruise, a triangle of bullet marks surrounded by a kaleidoscope of burst blood vessels. Vests may stop a bullet, but all that force still has to go somewhere, dispersing into skin and muscle. She’s seen the result of a shot to the vest before, but never on the man she loves, and it makes her heart ache for him, makes a wild sort of panic slither up her spine at how close he’d come to leaving her entirely tonight.

But he hadn’t, and he was right—focusing on the what-ifs wouldn’t do anything but torture her over a tragedy that hadn’t happened. He is here, warm, alive, running his hands over her hips, skimming his fingertips under the waistband of her panties and up beneath her shirt to caress her ribs.

So she swallows down the panic and presses her worries into his skin instead, featherlight kisses along the periphery of his bruises. She feels his lungs fill with a deep, slow breath, his thumbs pressing soothingly against her ribs. His, “I’m okay,” is so quiet she almost doesn’t hear it.

But she does, just, and she looks up at him, dark eyes meeting blue, the corner of his mouth tipping up in a fond, reassuring smile.

“I know,” she answers, softly. “But can you take it easy for a little while? Try not to get shot or beat up?”

“Hey, I won the fist fight,” he protests with a frown, and adding, “Eventually.”

Olivia gives him a look. He may have been victorious in the end, but she’d spent an evening in his wrecked apartment just a few days ago. She knows that had been a close call, too.

“You are one big bruise,” she tells him, leaning down to press another kiss against his skin, the other side of his chest this time. “I don’t like seeing you hurt.”

“It’s all over,” he assures her, again, one of his hands rising to comb through the hair above her ear. “They’re bringing in the rest of the Brotherhood tomorrow, I’ll track Donnelly down, it’ll all be over.”

“Webb?” she questions, brows rising.

Elliot’s brow pinches into a scowl, and he amends, “Soon—we’ll get Webb and it’ll all be over soon. And then I promise, I will do my best to avoid getting punched or shot at for a while.”

“You do that,” Olivia tells him, gaze lingering on his for one more minute as his thumb sweeps back and forth against her cheekbone. And then she turns her head, presses a kiss to his thumb, then bends to press another on the unbruised side of his chest. Another. One more. Her mouth covers his nipple and she gives it a little suck, feels it hard beneath the soft swirl of her tongue.

Elliot lets a heavy breath out through his nose, and she glances up at him again, asking, “You like that?” before she licks him again, then nips gently. His belly jumps.

“‘S nice,” he sighs, fingers curling in her hair. Olivia gives his nipple another slow, sucking lick, then moves southward, planting more wet kisses over his belly, her tongue trailing down the dip between his abs.

Jesus, he really is something these days.

He’s hard now, and the loose material of his shirt on her body has gotten caught on his erection, his tip bumping against the bare skin of her belly as she makes her way down, down, the henley inching up, up, as she goes. When his cock pokes against the bottom of her breast, he makes a quiet sound of appreciation, and Olivia shifts intentionally, plants a line of kisses over to one side of his torso, across to the other, back toward the middle, all to justify letting the soft weight of her breasts drag across him as she moves.

He moans again, low, needy, and she grins. He’s had one hand in her hair this whole time, the other rising slowly up her body as she descends his. That hand shifts now, leaves her shoulder and slips between them, dragging the front of the henley up to her throat and then reaching down to cradle her breast. He holds the weight of it in his hand, gives it a little squeeze, and then cups it until it presses alongside his shaft.

Olivia smirks, sitting back and tugging the henley up and off, tossing it away to get lost in the sheets before she bends over him again. She watches the way he watches her, his lower lip caught in his teeth, his eyes glued to her breasts, his hands molding to them as soon as she’s hovering over his cock again. His breath has gone a little deeper, a little quicker, and he rubs his palms over her nipples, then cups her breasts together, his cock disappearing between them. She shifts, and he shifts, his hips pressing up until the head of his cock peeks out of her cleavage.

Elliot groans, and Olivia grins, letting her body sway in counterpoint to his slow thrusts. He does it again, once more, again, and then he relaxes and rumbles, “When I’m not so sore, we’re gonna do that.”

Olivia chuckles warmly, pressing another kiss to his belly, and telling him, “Sounds good.” He must really be sore if he’s passing up the opportunity to do it now, though, so she urges him to relax tonight and shifts further down the bed, until she can wrap her fingers around his hard shaft and her lips around his sensitive tip.

He sucks in a breath, one hand clenching in the sheets near his hip, the other twitching against her shoulder as she runs her tongue along the bottom edge of his head, then slides it up over the top. Olivia uses her hand to pump him leisurely, focusing her mouth on the head for now, treating it to long sucks and slippery licks and pillowy kisses, keeping her attentions gentle, riling him up slowly. When he’s panting lightly and leaking precum against her tongue, she finally sinks lower, taking him deep in one long swoop.

“Christ, Liv!” he gasps, his hips bucking slightly, his hand moving from her shoulder to her hair and tangling in her long locks. She chuckles around him, pleased with herself, a little flush of satisfaction rippling through her middle at his reaction.

He pushes at her hair, tucks it behind her ears—giving himself a better view, she thinks, so sucks a little harder as she pulls back, hollowing her cheeks. Elliot mutters a quiet, tortured, “God…”

She keeps it up, taking him in long, deep passes, drawing back almost all the way, and then sinking back down as deep as she can stand. Again and again, letting her tongue slide against him, sucking harder, softer, harder again, until he’s threading his fingers through her hair over and over, whispering words of praise, telling her how beautiful she is, how good she feels, how he wants her to keep going.

She glances up and meets his gaze, finds him watching, staring, his jaw slack, his chest rising and falling deeply, blue eyes dark with arousal. His lashes flutter when she tightens the suction, drawing back slowly until he slips from her lips with a soft pop. And then she smirks at him, teasing, “Sure, this you can watch.”

Elliot scoffs and pushes his fingers against her forehead, turning her head to the side as they both dissolve into stitches.

“Shut up,” he laughs, grinning as he warns, “You’re gonna give a guy a complex.”

Olivia grins back, giving him another lazy stroke, and asking, “You know I’m just teasing, right?”

“Yeah,” he assures, tucking her hair behind her ear again. “Me too.”

“Good.” Olivia plants a kiss right below his head. “Because I have no complaints…” Another one, a little lower down his shaft. “...whatsoever…” And another. “...about your performance.” She flattens her tongue against him, drags it all the way back up to the tip and makes his breath hitch, before she finishes with, “I hope you know that, too.”

Elliot moans quietly, low in the back back of his throat, murmuring something that she thinks might have been, “I do,” except she chooses that exact moment to take him deep again, so it just comes out as a garbled sound of surprised pleasure.

She’s teased him long enough, she thinks, taking a slow breath and then sinking even deeper, until his tip presses against the back of her throat. A breathy Fuck… whooshes from Elliot, and Olivia bobs her head in short, shallow passes, fighting the urge to swallow, fighting her gag reflex, until she goes just a little too deep and has to pull back, coughing lightly.

She only needs a second to catch her breath, but Elliot doesn’t give it to her, looping his long fingers around her elbow and giving her a tug. He’s breathless and eager as he urges, “Get up here,” so she goes, climbing back up the mattress and letting him pull her close.

“Keep that up and you’re not going to be doing anything else,” he warns, and then he sucks the spit off her lower lip and delves his tongue into her mouth, the kiss carnal and sloppy. Olivia moans into his mouth, curling her fingers in the plush pillow on either side of his head to keep herself from pressing down against his torso.

They’re hip to hip, though, his cock pressed right between her thighs, and it makes her acutely aware both that she still has her underwear on and that she’s slick and hot beneath them. She rocks against him, but the dulled pleasure of his shaft through a layer of cotton isn’t what she wants, so she reaches down between them and tugs her panties to the side, not quite willing to break their liplock long enough to shimmy out of them just yet. The head of his cock is still wet with her spit when it presses against her clit, and Elliot and Olivia let loose twin sounds of pleasure at the slippery contact.

She hadn’t decided yet if she was going to give him a long, leisurely blow job until he popped, foregoing her own orgasm until he wasn’t a walking bruise, or if she’d wanted to be a little selfish and take him inside of her, rub her clit and ride his cock until they came together. But as she drags her clit down the length of him, her mind is made up for her, her nerve endings lighting up and sending an insistent want straight up her spine.

She’ll just have to do most of the work, that’s all.

Elliot must have the same idea, because he keeps one hand cupping the back of her head, holding her to him as they kiss and kiss, but the other joins hers between their bodies, grasping his cock and angling it just so. The next time she rolls forward, the tip settles right against her sex, sinking in just enough to make her gasp, their lips parting with a wet smack, eyes opening.

“This okay?” he asks, pressing in a hair deeper. She’s aroused, and wet, but not wet wet. She hasn’t had much direct stimulation tonight, so she’s snug around him, should probably stop him and tell him she needs some lube, but she doesn’t want to.

She wants it like this, just the two of them, doesn’t want to interrupt the moment. So she nods, and tells him, “Slow,” and presses down against his shaft slowly, blowing out a breath at the stretch and the pressure.

Her brow pinches, and he frowns, starts to ask, “Do you need—” but she cuts him off, whispers, No, and lifts her hips just a little, then presses down again, taking him a little deeper. He’s watching her carefully, always attentive to her pleasure, her comfort, but he doesn’t stop her, lets her work him all the way in, until he’s buried deep and she can feel him in her belly. He feels big, she’s very aware of the space he takes up inside of her. Of the length of him, the breadth of him. The hand that had been holding his shaft steady for her shifts, his thumb finding her clit and rubbing up and down firmly.

The pleasure of it makes her clench around him, both of them moaning at the sensation. She doesn’t lift herself up, doesn’t take him in quick, penetrating bounces. Instead, she keeps him buried deep and starts to rock her hips, moving in counterpoint to his thumb, one hand still holding her panties out of the way as the other rises to her own breast, squeezing and tugging her nipple as her hips switch from back and forth rocks to languid, rolling circles.

“That feel good, baby?” he asks her, his voice quiet and deep. The voice he uses with her when they’re like this, in bed together, working their way toward bliss. The voice that makes her nipples tighten and her breath hitch.

She sighs, “Yeah,” and he hums, rubs his thumb a little harder against her clit until her thighs tremble as they clench and work.

“You look so good like this,” he breathes, “Taking me deep,” and oh, fuck, he’s going to talk to her, isn’t he? He’s closer than she is—of course he is—and he knows that she likes that. Likes his voice in her ear, urging her on, likes the praise, and the compliments, and the dirty talk.

“Are you gonna let me feel you come?” he asks her, and she feels heat bloom up her back, flush into her cheeks.

She moans another soft, “Yeah,” and moves her hips a little faster, pinches her nipple a little harder. Elliot keeps talking.

“Mm, feels so good when you do, baby. Feels—” He gasps, squeezes his eyes shut for a second, and then moans, “Mm, God, you’re—so good around me…” He’s breathless when he confesses, “This is what I can’t watch, baby, you wrapped all around me, your thighs spread like that, feeling like you do… Wanted you so bad for so long. Wanted to touch you, fuck you, make you come… Can’t believe I get to make you come…”

He says it like he means it, like he can’t believe he finally gets to take her to bed, sink into her, bring her orgasm after orgasm. Like it’s a gift. And she knows he does mean it, because she feels the same way. Lucky, so fucking lucky, that they get to have this, finally, after all this time. That the hard, thick shaft she’s rocking and rolling over is Elliot’s, that it’s his broad hand cupping her hip, and his long fingers working her clit, and his blue eyes flitting from her breasts to her face, down her belly, back up.

He rubs her clit faster, harder, and she whines even before he urges, “Show me, baby; let me see us.”

Fuck. God.

Her cheeks feel hot, and pleasure is churning in her belly, and Elliot wants to see where they’re coming together, wants to watch as his cock works her higher and higher, and fuck, she wants it too.

She leans back a little, adjusting, angles her hips a little higher on her next roll so more of his shaft slips from her, so he can see.

They both end up moaning—Elliot from the view, Olivia from the way the change in angle drives his cock right against her g-spot.

“Oh!” she gasps, and, “F-fuck—El—”

“You gonna come, baby?” he asks, like he knows, like he can see it on her, and she squeezes her eyes shut and nods, because, yes, fuck, yes, she’s close now. The friction of his thumb working with the pressure of his cock, coalescing deep in her belly. Her hips move quicker, rocking, rutting, Elliot’s voice tight and tense as he urges her on, tells her to “Show me,” and “let me feel you, baby,” and “That’s it,” and “God, youfeelsofuckinggood,” and her name, low, deep, drawn out, “Olivia.”

It’s the last one that does it, her name on his lips, desperate, wrecked, for her. That growing ball of pleasure in her belly clenches and then expands, until she’s shaking and gasping and coming and coming. Elliot moves both hands to her hips, squeezing tight as he presses up into her and lets himself go with a deep, satisfied groan.

For a minute she feels like she’s floating, weightless and boneless, dizzy with release, and then she comes back to herself and becomes very aware of the ache in her fingers where they’re still clenched tightly into the gusset of her underwear.

Jesus, they’d done all that with her panties still technically on. Olivia lets out a shaky laugh, lifting gingerly off of him and letting her underwear slip back into place. She stretches out next to his good side, her knee protesting, her fingers tingling as she wiggles them. She can feel him leaking out of her; if she thought she was hot and slippery before

At least she’ll be able to change only her underwear tonight, instead of the sheets.

Elliot rolls onto his side with a grunt of discomfort he can’t quite hide, his hand settling warm on her belly. His lips press to her shoulder, and he murmurs, “That was… pretty spectacular.”

Olivia huffs a soft laugh, and nods. “It’s all been pretty spectacular. Us, being together.”

His lips are still on her shoulder, dotting kisses there as he sighs, “Mmhmm.”

Elliot notices her wiggly fingers and lifts his hand from her belly to wrap around them, squeezing and rubbing, bending them back just a little, just enough to stretch. The simple intimacy of it—the urge to comfort, the ease with her body, the familiar touch—makes her heart melt like candle wax, warm and pliant.

She loves him. Has loved him for so long—has been afraid to love him for so long. But he’s here now—bruised, battered, but alive and hers. Here in the dark, in the pre-dawn, stealing time with her like they always do. And she loves the quiet moments with him, loves this time that is theirs and theirs alone, but she wants… more.

It’s been on her mind lately. Since she blurted that accidental I-love-you weeks ago, and since he spent the night just holding her after they found Velasco’s trafficked girls. Since she laid in his bed a few nights ago and spilled her guts about Burton while Elliot held both her body and her trauma in his careful hands.

And tonight, while she scrubbed her kitchen and worried about him.

She doesn’t want him by halves anymore. Doesn’t want to sneak around in the dark.

She wants to love him in the daylight. She wants to wake up with him in the morning, and make him coffee they can drink together while Noah watches his Animal Crossing videos on YouTube and she does the Sunday Times crossword.

There’s a decade of hurt between them, and they should work through it, they really should. But it hasn’t kept them from connecting, it hasn’t kept them from communicating now—and wouldn’t working through those lingering hurts be easier if they weren’t always stealing time in the middle of the night?

“Hey,” he murmurs, nudging her out of her thoughts. She turns her head to look at him, and he asks, “Where’d you go?”

Olivia smiles softly, curling her fingers around his, weaving them together. “I was just thinking. About us.”

Elliot’s brows bounce. He’s trying for casual, but it doesn’t quite land, his throat clearing softly before he asks, “What about us?”

Olivia takes a breath, and leaps.

“I… I don’t want to keep sneaking around after bedtime,” she tells him. “I don’t want to hide anymore.”

His expression softens and warms, hope lighting in his eyes as he asks, “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” she breathes. “I want…dinner dates, and afternoons in the park with our kids, and movie nights on the couch, and Sunday morning pancakes. I want to tell our families, have dinner with our friends… I’m not sure I want to disclose yet, but… I want this.”

Elliot’s smile widens and he disentangles their fingers so he can run his own through her hair as he asks, “No more friends with benefits?”

“We never really were,” she admits. “I just needed some time. To… trust this. Trust that it wasn’t going anywhere, that it wasn’t going to fall apart.”

Elliots expression goes serious again, his fingers skimming down to her jaw, cupping there as he locks his gaze with hers and promises, “I’m not going anywhere, ever again. And we won’t let it fall apart.”

“I know,” she whispers into the space between them. “I believe that now. And I know we still have things to work through, but I don’t want to wait. I could have lost you tonight; I don’t want to miss out on what we could have now because we haven't had the time to work out what happened then. We’ll work everything out—together.”

“Together,” he agrees, leaning in and sealing it with a kiss. When he pulls back, he’s grinning, and he wastes no time in asking her, “Does this mean I can tell you I love you now?”

Olivia chuckles, shaking her head at him, and pointing out, “You haven’t exactly been holding it in before now.”

Elliot lets out a hmph, and then tells her, “You’d be surprised,” and Olivia’s heart melts just a little bit more.

She lifts a hand to curl around his forearm, squeezes there and says it first: “I love you. It scares the hell out of me, but I love you.”

Elliot’s brow drops to hers, their noses bumping as he murmurs, “You don’t have to be scared of this, Liv. I love you back.”

For a second she just breathes him in, and then they draw together like magnets, mouths meeting, tongues dancing.

It should feel different, she thinks. Committing to Elliot, finally being in a relationship with this man who has taken up so much of her heart for so long.

But it doesn’t feel different; it just feels right.

 

.::.

It’s days before they see each other again.

Life gets in the way—no surprise there. She doesn’t make it to the ceremony for his Combat Cross—foiled by an ill-timed CompStat meeting—and while she feels horrible about it, Elliot insists that it’s just as well. Insists he, “didn’t want the damn thing anyway,” and she’d known better than to push him too hard.

She hadn’t particularly wanted hers, either, at the time.

But she misses him, and he misses her, and since they’ve agreed that they don’t have to keep their relationship a dark-of-night secret anymore, she invites him to spend Sunday morning with her and Noah.

Which means that Noah needs to be told she’s dating someone—a prospect that fills her with more nerves than she’d been expecting.

He’s munching on a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, watching YouTube videos on his phone, and she waits for one to end before settles onto the stool next to him with a carton of yogurt and a spoon. And then she asks, “Hey, sweetheart, can we talk about something?”

He freezes, spoon halfway to his mouth, one soggy O falling into his bowl with a wet plop. He looks very much like he’s trying to figure out what exactly he’s done wrong, so she smiles at him and assures, “It’s nothing bad, don’t worry. It’s a good thing, actually.”

“O-kay,” he answers, shoving that spoon into his mouth and munching on his cereal as he waits for her to continue.

It takes Olivia a second—one she spends rubbing her suddenly-damp palms on her denim-clad thighs—but eventually she rallies, swallowing, and beginning, “It’s about Elliot.”

Noah frowns, concern etching his features. “Is he okay?”

“Yeah—yes,” she assures him, reaching for her yogurt again and stirring her spoon in the carton just to busy her hands. “He’s fine—great. He’s, um, he’s going to come over this morning, actually. For breakfast.”

Noah looks down at the bowl in front of him, the carton in front of her. “He’s kinda late for that, isn’t he?”

Olivia blinks. She’d been so busy thinking about how she was going to broach the news of her suddenly revived love life to Noah that she hadn’t thought about spoiling their appetites for brunch. She hopes suddenly that Elliot hadn’t gotten proactive and made them reservations somewhere.

“I’ll, uh, I’ll tell him to grab something for himself on the way,” she answers with a shake of her head, adding, “I wasn’t thinking.”

Noah narrows his eyes, studying her face and then asking, “Why are you being weird? Is he coming because you have to go to work again? You promised we’d go to that Dance in Central Park thing this afternoon.”

“No, no.” Olivia holds up a hand to cut him off before he gets too worked up. “I’m not going to work.”

She’d made sure of it, after spending the better part of the last three days—Saturday included—at the precinct working on a fresh rape-homicide, she’d asked Fin to cover her for the day. Had asked to be called only in case of emergency, and had told him exactly why, knowing both that he still gets a smug satisfaction out of knowing that she and Elliot are an item now and that he’d understand how important it was to her that Noah and Elliot get to spend some time together.

“He’s coming here,” she tells her son, “Because we’re… well… we’ve been… dating. For a couple of weeks now. And I want you two to spend some time together.”

“Oh,” Noah says, absorbing the news. And then he scowls and asks, “When have you been dating? You haven’t gone on any dates.”

It’s not the question she was expecting to have to answer, and she realizes she’s going to have to lie. She can’t very well tell her son that Elliot’s been coming over for middle-of-the-night booty calls on a weekly basis since March.

She buys herself a minute by shoving a spoonful of yogurt into her mouth, but she’s so anxious that it just tastes sour. By the time she swallows, she’s come up with a not-quite-lie: “We’ve met for coffee, and lunch.” They had, in fact, met for lunch—once. And three times they’ve “taken a coffee break together”—chatting on the phone while she walked to the coffee shop four blocks from the precinct and ordered an oat milk latte for herself. “And we talk a lot, on the phone, FaceTime. He’s been working a lot, but he’s just wrapped up the case he was working on, so now he has more free time. And he wants to spend it with us.”

Her fibs must be plausible, because Noah nods slowly—and then he scowls, asking, “Is that why you were so weird when we ran into him on Mother’s Day?”

Olivia frowns, stirring her yogurt again and insisting, “I was not weird.”

“You totally were,” Noah tells her, his scowl morphing into a smirk. “You got all pink.”

“I—No, I didn’t—”

“Uh huh,” he grins, laughing and adding, “Like you are now.”

She wants to deny it, but she can feel that her cheeks are warm, and the idea that her son had noticed her blushing at Elliot like a schoolgirl in broad daylight is mortifying, so she veers away from it, trying to get them back on track.

“Okay. Well.” Her spoon takes another lap through her yogurt. “Are you okay with this? With Elliot being around more?”

“Sure,” Noah shrugs. “He’s cool.”

And just like that, her apprehension pops like a soap bubble. Noah is fine with her having someone in her life, and Elliot’s going to be here in an hour to spend the day with them, and they’ll all figure out this new normal together.

She takes another bite of her yogurt, and this time she’s relaxed enough to appreciate the tart sweetness of raspberry as it hits her tongue.

And then Noah frowns and asks, “You’re not gonna make out with him or anything, right?” and Olivia nearly chokes.

Her brows lift, but she’s relaxed enough now to tease, “Not in front of you.”

“Ew, Mom,” Noah groans, making a face. “You could have just said No.”

For the very first time, she’s managed to embarrass her kid about her love life and something about it feels surreal. Like she’s stepping into a future she’d given up on ever grasping. One where she can be a mother, and a cop, and a lover. Where she can exist beyond the roles of Mom and Captain Benson, and actually get to share Olivia with someone.

It feels like opening the windows for the first time in the spring, a breath of fresh air rushing through her. The thrill of it buoys her through the next hour, carrying her right to the door when Elliot raps with three short knocks.

She opens it to find him brandishing a box of Dunkin Donuts and a smile, his eyes just about as nervous as hers probably were when she’d sat down next to Noah earlier.

“I know you said you ruined your appetite,” he teases (she’d texted to warn him they’d already eaten), “But I figure there’s always room for donuts.”

“Mm,” she agrees, taking the box from him as he toes off his shoes. “Can’t argue with that.”

She starts to step further into the apartment, but he snags her by the elbow and halts her retreat, leaning in to give her a hello smooch while they’re still out of Noah’s view. His voice drops low, private, and he tells her, “You look nice.”

She’s in jeans and a v-neck, her hair pulled up into a half-ponytail. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s been so long since he’s seen her in anything but work clothes or pajamas (or her birthday suit) that she imagines it’s probably a novelty.

So she smiles and tells him, “Thanks,” and, “So do you.”

He’s in jeans and a white henley, the sleeves pushed up to his elbows, and he glances down, pulls a face and teases, “What, this old thing?”

Olivia laughs, shaking her head at him, and finally stepping away, walking into the living room where her son is absorbed in his Switch.

“Elliot brought donuts. You want one?”

Noah looks up, then, nods, “Sure,” reaching for a strawberry frosted when she settles the box on the coffee table and flips the lid open.

“Hey, bud,” Elliot greets. “How’s your weekend?”

Noah doesn’t answer the question. Instead, he squints at Elliot and accuses, “‘Just want to be her friend,’ my butt.”

Olivia stops in the middle of reaching for a chocolate frosted, turning to her son and scolding, “Noah!”

Maybe he’s not so okay with all of this after all.

“I’m just saying,” he says, shrugging his shoulders dramatically. “That’s what he said back when he babysat me and I asked him about his intentions.” God, she’d forgotten about that. Elliot had told her, after, before they’d ended up making out on her sofa. Before they’d ended up in her bedroom, pretending they could have casual sex.

Noah turns his attention back to Elliot, giving him a look and telling him, “You weren’t very convincing. I knew you had a crush on my mom.”

Noah takes a big bite of his donut, and Olivia realizes he isn’t angry. Just… overly honest, in that way Noah can sometimes get. Olivia grabs that frosted donut, telling herself she should let Elliot handle this. That this is between the two of them, and if Elliot is going to be in her life, around her son, she has to let them learn to communicate with each other.

“I… did, yes,” Elliot admits, knowing that lying again won’t ingratiate him with her son. He settles on the couch next to Noah, his long arm stretching out along the back of it as he explains, “But at the time, I thought your mom just wanted to be friends. And if that was all she wanted, then that was all I wanted. I didn’t mean to lie to you, but I knew your mom wouldn’t want me to say I wanted more if she didn’t.”

“So you were just trying to be respectful,” Noah says, taking another big bite of his donut and chewing. At this rate, he’s going to be on donut number two before she even takes a bite out of hers.

“Exactly,” Elliot answers. “I care about your mom—a lot. She’s really important to me. I wanted to respect her privacy.”

Noah mulls that over while he swallows, and then he nods, and says, “Okay, that makes sense.”

Elliot finally reaches into the box, grabbing a Boston Cream and taking a big bite, a little bit of the custard filling leaking out onto his thumb. Olivia sinks her teeth into her own donut, just in time for Noah to ask, “So now what are your intentions?”

Noah,” she scolds lightly, around a mouthful of pastry.

Elliot holds up his hand to wave her off—then notices the custard on his thumb and sucks it off before he says, “No, it’s alright. He’s the man of the house, you’re his mom, he wants to know. That’s okay.” And then he turns his attention to her son, and tells him, “Now, I still want to be there for her, and be her friend. But I also want to make her feel special, and appreciated, and cared for. I want to be part of her life, and part of yours. And have you guys be part of my life. Is that okay?”

Noah makes a big show of thinking it over, taking another bite of his donut and chewing for a long time. Elliot waits him out, the corner of his mouth tipping up and rising higher the longer Noah drags out his blessing.

And then, finally, he smiles, nods his head and says, “Yeah, that’s okay.”

“Good.” Elliot grins, leaning back into the sofa cushions and taking another big bite of his donut.

Noah leans back, too, not quite mirroring Elliot’s posture, and probably not even trying to, but it’s close enough that Olivia’s heart clenches at the sight.

“So does that make you guys, like… boyfriend-girlfriend?” Noah asks, wrinkling his nose a little bit.

“Not boyfriend,” Olivia grimaces. “I think I’m too old for boyfriends.”

Noah nods as if he agrees, but he frowns and says, “Manfriend sounds pretty weird, though.”

Elliot laughs, as Olivia agrees, “Definitely not that.”

“You’ve gotta call each other something,” Noah points out, and she supposes they do, but boyfriend isn’t gonna cut it.

“What are we then?” Elliot wonders, taking another bite of his donut as he considers the alternatives.

It only takes a moment for the answer to come to her, and really, she thinks, there wasn’t any other option: “We’re partners.”

Elliot’s smile is slow and warm, and Noah nods next to him, says, “Yeah, partners sounds good. You’re mom’s partner.”

And just like that, over donuts on a Sunday morning, everything clicks back into place.