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“Why can’t you trust me anymore?” Elliot asks, following her into her apartment.

She stifles a groan. 

They’ve been having this argument since he barged into her office at the One-Six half an hour ago, firstly to ask her out to dinner (for the fifth time in the last week), before getting first upset, then frustrated when she’d told him no.

It’s not that she doesn’t want to; in the perfect world she’d have accepted his invitation months ago.

But this is not a perfect world, and, like she’d told him back at her office, on her way out, only to have him follow her first into the elevator, then stand by her car door until she’d taken pity on him and let him climb into the passenger side, where he’d sat while she’d driven them both all the way here and then following her into first her lobby, then her elevator, and now her apartment… she can’t trust him. 

It’s not a total lack of trust; on the job, at work, she trusts him implicitly. He has her back, she has his, just like they always did. Never any doubt.

But with her heart… and with Noah’s… that’s entirely different. He shattered her once, and it left her nervous, unsure. She doesn’t know if she can risk it all again.

“Because you left me,” she points out, shrugging her coat off and tossing it haphazard over the stand, kicking off her boots and leaving them on their sides on the floor before padding further into her apartment. “Now can we change the subject?” She’s halfway to her kitchen, wondering if she has any food in the fridge or if she needs to order in. Noah’s at a sleepover, so she doesn’t need to worry about him (any more than usual, at least); her only concern is does she order for one, or two. Maybe I should ask him to stay, she thinks. We used to eat takeout together back when we were partners… that’s a safe option. Nothing new.

Behind her, she hears Elliot sigh. “No,” he tells her and she grits her teeth. “I’ve apologised for that Olivia,” he reminds her. “We’ve talked about that.”

She scoffs, annoyance taking over as she whirls around on him. “You mean you talked, I listened and nodded along in the appropriate places?” She snaps, patience gone. Dammit Elliot, all I wanted to do was come home and relax. Should’ve known better…

Elliot sighs. “I don’t know how I can make this better,” he throws his hands up in surrender. “We talked, or I thought we talked. But now you’re saying it made no difference? What can I do? How can I fix this, us?”

“Maybe you can’t.”

The words leave her lips before her brain has fully contemplated their meaning, but she knows she’s not wrong.

He sighs, pursing his lips. “I don’t get it Liv,” he tells her, shifting from foot to foot, uncomfortable. “I don’t get why you can’t understand-”

It’s too much. “You abandoned me, Elliot!” She snaps. “You left me on my own and I was raped!

Sucking in a breath, she slaps her hand over her mouth. Fuck. Shit. Fuck fuck fuck… I didn’t mean to say that!

Elliot, for his part, is standing in the entrance to her living room in shock. “What?” He breathes the word, like he can’t believe what he’s just heard. His eyes are wide, his mouth open as he stares at her, watching her carefully. “What… did you just say?”

It’s out there now, she thinks. May as well just tell him. “I was abducted, Elliot,” she swallows thickly, shaking her head, wrapping her arms around herself. “A nut-job came after me, and… no-one noticed I was missing for two days.” That part still stings; how no-one even realised.

His shocked expression shifts rapidly, his face paling, and she wonders if he’s about to puke. “Two… two days?” He swallows repeatedly, and she wonders if she should go get a bucket.

“Two days,” she confirms, nodding, looking anywhere but at him. “Took them another two to find me once they realised.”

He wobbles at that; reaches out blindly to his left, his fingers grabbing onto the back of her brown armchair, holding on tight. “You… you were raped?”

She bites her lip. “I shouldn’t have told you that.” I really shouldn’t have.

“Why?” He asks. “Other people-” He stops, the penny dropping as he nods to himself with the realisation. “You never told anyone.”

It’s a statement, not a question and a correct one at that. Pursing her lips, she moves to her couch, sitting down hard on the cushion and leaning forward, putting her head in her hands. “He… he was sadistic,” she finds herself telling him. “Liked to play.” She swallows hard, the memories scratching at the corners of her mind but she forces them away. “Cigarettes, wire hangers…” Her skin itches. “I have scars,” she adds.

She hears Elliot move; doesn’t take her eyes off the floor. “He uh… he forced me to drink alcohol, vodka… lots of it. Drugs too, stop me from fighting back.” She swallows. “I uh… I got free… eventually,” she tells him haltingly. “I beat him with a metal rod,” she continues, blowing out a breath. “In a way that, technically, should’ve cost me my job and put me in prison.” She flicks her gaze up, watches Elliot’s face as he realises what it is she means, as he nods once, saying nothing. 

Letting her tell her story. She’s grateful for that; she hadn’t intended on telling him, not yet. Maybe not ever.

Looking back to the floor, she presses on. “I was still pretty out of it when they got me to the hospital,” she tells him. “When the nurse asked me if I’d been raped… I don’t know why, but I told her I didn’t know.” A beat. “I don’t know why I said that.” She shrugs. Too late now. “Then… the kit came back clear,” she furrows her brows. “I still don’t know how, but it did, and I… I started to think I’d imagined it.” She swallows, pinching the bridge of her nose. “They found Vicodin, Valium and Meth in my system, among other things…” She shivers lightly. “The doctors, they kept me in hospital for a few days after, because they were worried about what he’d given me, the mixture of it. So I uh… I figured drugs equals hallucination and that I’d imagined the whole thing.” She bites her lip.

“I believed that,” she continues, glancing briefly at Elliot, who is sat in her armchair, eyes red and watering but listening to her intently. “Until the trial. He said some things that made me… wonder.” She looks away, looks out of her window. “Then when he had me the second time-” She hears Elliot suck in a breath; knows he’s going to ask and holds up her hand, palm flat, stopping him in his tracks. “Yeah, there was a second time,” she tells him. “The whole mess went on for almost a year and I just… just listen to me, please…”

“Okay,” he murmurs quietly.

“When he had me the second time,” she continues without hesitation. “He told me, what he’d done to me. Confirmed it, that the memory was real. He’d uh… he’d figured out that I didn’t remember it properly, that I wasn’t sure and he uh… I remember him saying don’t worry, I’ll just have to jog your memory.” She shudders violently, the memory so sharp she hears his voice in her ear as she says it, making her jerk. He’s dead, he’s dead.

“Don’t worry, he didn’t get the chance to,” she tells Elliot quickly, before he can ask. “He’s dead, shot himself shortly after-” that’s one way of putting it- “And uh… yeah.”

She’s painfully aware that she’s both missed out the majority of the story, told it the wrong way and missed out several key components, but she’s too tired, too drained mentally to try and make sense of it, and definitely not in the right frame of mind to let Elliot know every detail.

“Liv…” He says quietly, softly. “I… I’m so sorry.

He doesn’t seem to know what to say, but that’s okay; neither does she.

She shrugs, looks back at him, at his ashen face, his slumped posture where he sits on her armchair. “It was a long time ago,” she tells him. “Most days… most days I don’t even think about it anymore.”

“Except for right now,” he points out. “Do you… do you blame me?” He seems horrified at the prospect, a feeling mirrored in herself as the words leave his lips.

“No!” She snaps, her head shaking violently. “No, of course not!” She blows out a breath. “I just…” She grimaces. “I wanted you,” she admits. “I wanted it to be you looking for me.” Biting her lip, she winces. “I wanted you because I know you… you wouldn’t have stopped until you found me, and… and you wouldn’t have left me on my own after either.”

His expression hardens with anger. “Don’t tell me that the squad…”

She nods slowly. “I don’t think they knew how to handle me. What to do…” She tells him.

“That’s no damn excuse!” Elliot snaps, his rage only increasing.

His anger has an oddly… soothing effect on her. Makes her feel less alone; someone fighting her corner for her, taking the load.

“I was dating Cassidy at the time,” she tells him. “Long story. But… I had him, so I guess they thought it was okay to back off, leave me to heal.” She grimaces. “Only… Brian never could handle victims, and I knew that, so I… didn’t tell him anything,” she admits. “Not a damn thing. In the end, that was one of the things that broke us.” That, and the fact he is, simply put, not you.

“Liv, I…”

“You wouldn’t have left me on my own,” she continues, unable to stop now. “You would’ve been there, annoying the hell out of me every damn day, but you wouldn’t have let me withdraw, you wouldn’t have made me feel awkward, like I…” She trails off.

“Like you couldn’t tell anyone?” He fills in the blank.

She nods. He still knows me, she thinks. “After you left… I had to be strong,” she tells him. “Impenetrable. My walls were build up high, my armour firmly in place. I wanted to prove… to myself, as much as anyone, that I could do it without you.” She huffs out a sigh. “What… Lewis… did to me… even what the squad know about… it dented that armour. If they’d known the whole truth… I’m not sure if I would’ve been able to face them, I really don’t.”

“But you… would’ve been able to tell me?” Elliot’s voice is gentle. It sounds like a question, but she’s not sure if he intended it on being one.

“You’re different.” She states, like it’s obvious. “I can… I can talk to you.”

“But you still can’t trust me.”

They’ve gone around in a full circle, and she suppresses the urge to scream in frustration. “Because you left me!” She snaps, her anger bubbling up once more, having dissipated while she’d been telling him her story. “You left me without a word, and I got hurt, and I can’t take that risk again Elliot!” She looks at him, the tears in her eyes sliding down her cheeks. “I can’t take the risk that you’ll leave me again.”

“I’m not going to do that-”

“But you did,” she cuts him off. “You did, and you stayed with your wife, with Kathy and I understand that, I do… you were loyal to her, to your marriage and I get that Elliot, I do-”

“So what, you want us to go down to the courthouse right now?” Elliot interrupts. “Because I will Olivia,” he tells her firmly. “I will marry you right now if it’ll make you believe that I’m never going to leave you again.”

It’s quite sweet, really. “El…” She says, trying to be diplomatic. “You… marriage is a big thing,” she points out. “A lifelong thing.”

He raises his eyebrow. “Yeah Liv, I’m aware of that,” he says dryly. “Listen to me… I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want you to know that I’m never going to leave you, or Noah, and if the only way I can prove that to you, make you believe it is to go down to the courthouse now and marry you… then I’ll do it.”

Okay, more than a little bit sweet. “Elliot…” she says carefully. “I… we haven’t even kissed,” she points out the obvious. It sounds more than a little ridiculous when she says it, but it’s also true.

“True,” he agrees with a nod. “I mean… when I’ve imagined this… we did do things in the right order,” he tells her. “But…” He shrugs, throws his arms out wide. “We never did do anything the easy way, did we?”

She blinks. “You… you’ve imagined this?” She tilts her head, shellshocked.

He ducks his, suddenly shy. “Yeah,” he murmurs to the floor. “I have."

She’ll freely admit to herself that she has imagined it more than a few times over the years, but him? Knowing that he’s had the same thoughts, the same feelings… her anger melts away.

“I don’t wanna marry you Elliot.” She tells him. 

He looks up, hurt, and she realises how that sounded. Shit. “Not… not right now, anyway,” she corrects herself. 

In all honesty, she’s never truly considered marrying anyone (not when she was at an appropriate age, anyway), but with him, with Elliot… the idea doesn’t feel so scary.

Nothing feels scary when he’s by her side.

Maybe I do trust him with my heart after all, she thinks. Maybe I’ve just been scared, or waiting for a big gesture and this is it.

“Okay…” he says slowly, nodding along. “Okay… so what… what do you want?” He asks, tentative yet open, waiting for her to make her choice.

“I… I um…” She’s nervous all of a sudden; butterflies in her stomach even through her upset. “I’d kinda like you to hold me,” she tells him. Because I really want to cry, and maybe having him hold me will make that a little less painful.

“Kinda?” He quirks an eyebrow.

“Mmhmm,” she confirms with a short nod. “And then… maybe later… you could kiss me?” She blushes, her cheeks hot. “If… if you… if you want.” She’s stuttering, stumbling over her words because he’s looking at her like she’s something precious, something that deserves to be protected, to be cherished and honestly? No-one has ever looked at her like that.

He pushes up from her armchair, crossing to the couch in a single stride, sitting down next to her and pulling her into his arms, letting her nestle against his chest. “Oh, I want,” he tells her, voice low and sexy, making her insides flutter. 

“And maybe we could… go out for that dinner, sometime?” She suggests quietly, her arms winding around his waist. 

“We could,” she feels him nodding. “Or, we could order in, eat from your coffee table while watching trashy TV like we used to,” he suggests, unknowingly mirroring her earlier thoughts. “Only this time it wouldn’t be as work partners.”

“What would it be as?” She asks quietly, turning her gaze up to look at him. 

He pauses for a moment, in thought. “Life partners,” he decides with a firm nod, looking down at her to check.

Life partners… yeah, she thinks. Yeah, I like that.

Maybe there is hope for us after all, she thinks, snuggling herself deeper into Elliot’s side.