So What Now?
Elliot and Olivia settled into comfortable conversation. He talked a little more about his work with the Feds and what all of the kids were up to. Olivia was excited to hear about all of them because she was such a big part of his family at one time and she really did miss his kids.
"This is actually really good Liv," he said finishing off the last of his food.
"You don't have to sound so shocked," she countered half laughing while sipping some of her wine.
"Well you were just never much of a cook before so it's a bit surprising."
"It's not that I couldn't cook I just didn't cook. Plus like I told you Stabler, things change."
"Yeah," he agreed but looked down sadly. He couldn't help but wonder how much things had changed.
Olivia took the plates to the kitchen and came back with more wine as she settled into the couch. She turned her body towards him and kicked off her shoes. Her body language instantly made him more comfortable.
"What's on your mind Stabler?" Olivia asked playfully.
"Just wondering. Like you said so much has changed for both of us. Is it possible to pick up where we left off?"
"I thought we already had, kind of."
"Well yeah but I didn't know if this would be more of a catch up and find out about each other's lives and it tapers off kinda thing or if it would be something else."
"What do you want it to be?" she asked seriously. His concerns were valid. She didn't really know where they went from here but since he was the one who exited the friendship previously she wasn't sure where he wanted her to fit.
"Honestly?" He turned his body also to face her and braced himself to be as honest with her as he could be.
"I want you in my life Liv. Everyday like we were before obviously not as partners on the job but in my life."
"That's umm going to be interesting to pull that off. We've only ever known each other as partners so it would be weird to navigate having a friendship outside of that all things considering."
"Things like what?"
"Your kids, my kid, your work, my work. I don't know, life. I mean all these things get in the way and you don't have time like you want to."
"Then we make time. Even if we don't see each other, we call, we text. I can't lose you again Olivia. Please."
"Ok? That simple?" he said with a small smile.
"Yep, that simple. We try and see."
She grabbed the remote and turned on some soft music, careful not to wake the baby, while they sat and continued to drink and talk.
"So…," Olivia said wondering where their conversation would go next. She had so much she wanted to talk about but then didn't know what to say.
"So…," Elliot countered mocking her.
"So what now?"
"Ask me something," he offered her.
"Ask you something? Like a random question?" she asked a bit taken aback.
"Yep, anything. I promise to answer." He took off his shoes and mimicked her relaxed position on the couch with his head resting on his hand along the back of the couch.
"Ok…umm. Oh I have one. When did you start driving by my house and what all did you see?"
"About a year and a half ago. I saw you with Brian, I saw you with Noah, I saw you come home alone on nights and I could tell a case had gotten to you. I saw you running out of your house..late as always. I saw you happy every now and then, of course more so after Noah. But before that I was worried. I saw Nick, I knew who he was before I met him that night with Lizzie…of course," he said looking at her with a little smirk that she immediately shot back with a knowing glance. "I saw you sad, and that's what was hardest to see," he finished.
He watched as her face grew serious and she set down her wine glass.
"Now my turn. Why were you sad?" he asked not looking at her and knowing the answer but wanting to hear it from her.
"I think you know why." She was avoiding the question as she always did when things were getting too emotional.
"Tell me," he urged in almost a whisper.
"I thought it would get easier over time when you left, I really did. Everyone told me it would but it didn't. Every time something happened I wanted to share it with you and I couldn't and that killed me. You were…you were just…" she took a deep breath before she finished "everything."
He took her hands in his while she struggled to continue.
"You were everything to me and I hated myself for being that dependent on you because I was always such an independent person. We always had our battles but I never let myself imagine a time when you wouldn't be in my life. To have to start over so abruptly I never got over it Elliot," she looked up to meet his eyes. "Never."
"I'm sorry Liv."
"You don't have to keep apologizing. Anyway I don't want to keep talking about that. Change of topic."
"Ok, go for it."
"Dani Beck," she said firmly.
He almost choked on his wine.
"Dani? Damn that's a blast from the past. What about her?"
"You guys seemed close."
"How would you know that?"
"Because I saw you guys in the squad room shortly before I came back. You touched her shoulder and it was like you guys had this physical type of closeness that we didn't have. When I saw you touch her I was shocked. We had been partners forever and I can count the number of times you touched me when it didn't have to do with rescuing me from something. It just made me feel like something was up."
Elliot didn't answer straight away and she immediately thought the worst.
"Did you sleep with her?" she asked horrified.
"NO! Of course not."
"But we did kiss."
"It's not like that."
"Looks like it was."
"Olivia when you left the way you did I didn't know what to think. I thought we had gotten past our issues after the Gitano case but then you up and disappeared to go undercover and didn't say anything to me for months. Me and Kathy were separated and I just felt numb. When we kissed I had just had a few drinks and so did she and it just…happened."
Olivia huffed and reached to pour more wine. The conversation had taken a turn and she needed to get some alcohol into her system.
"I know that sounds juvenile," he continued. "I just needed to feel something. I never for a minute would've gone further than that. I was feeling so rejected and I guess I just needed the attention. The stakes were higher with you Liv for reasons we all know now. That's why it was easy for me to kiss her and not you."
"So no feelings there?"
"No, not real ones. I think in the moment I appreciated that she looked up to me and seemed happy to be my partner but any real feelings no."
"Now my turn. Why were you jealous about Dani? And before you get ready to say you weren't we both know it wouldn't have upset you so much if you weren't. So spill it Sergeant."
"I was jealous because I had feelings for you. I was upset that you would touch her like that and you avoided me like the plague in that regard. During that time you weren't even with Kathy and you didn't even…."
"I don't know, make a move. You never did anything. We just went along as usual. I felt like there was tension between us but you never did anything about it so I felt like maybe I was reading things wrong," she said picking at some invisible lint on her dress to avoid looking directly in his eyes. "Was I wrong?"
"Does this count as your question?" he asked her smiling causing her to meet his eyes.
"Yes, fine it does."
"No you weren't wrong. Liv we always had this unspoken tension between us. There were so many times I wanted to do something or wanted you to do something but I was so afraid that we could never go back after that. I didn't want anyone else as my partner but you. I knew things between us would get hot and heavy if we crossed that line and there would be no way to hide it. When I was married I just wanted to avoid you at all costs. That's why the lack of touching obviously. But when Kathy and I separated I needed to have you in my life no matter what and not being your partner just wasn't an option for me. So I sacrificed a possibility of being your partner in life to be your partner at work. I don't know if that makes any sense."
"It makes perfect sense El."
"So why didn't you make a move?" he asked turning the tables on her again.
"I don't know. Same reason I guess." She gave him a shy small and drank more of her wine.
"El..when did you know? That you had feelings for me? Like really know," she asked. The wine was giving her the courage to ask questions she wanted to know for years and she was seizing the opportunity since he was finally talking.
"I knew you were going to be trouble for me the first time we met but when did I start to have feelings for you probably around the time your mom passed away. We had kept things pretty professional in the beginning but that was the first time I really saw your human side and I thought it made you even more beautiful."
Olivia paused to process what he said.
"When did you know?" he asked.
"Within the first six months of us being partners. I leaned on you more than I would anyone else. I let you in more than I did anyone else. It scared the crap out of me because that was so unlike me. I thought this man is married, he has these kids and all these people depending on him and I can't depend on him too. It's too much for him to handle. But you did. You handled it. I didn't feel like a burden to you and you made me feel like a priority. You managed to be there for me in all the ways that were important," she said as a small tear rolled down her cheek. Before she could reach up to wipe it away Elliot reached across and wiped it for her. He left his hand there and she leaned into his touch.
"Why did you leave me the medal El?" Her voice was still laced with unshed tears and she placed her hand over his on her face.
"Because I wanted you to know. I am always faithful to you Liv. Even when I'm not around and we don't talk or see each other for four days or four years. I am always faithful..to you," he said emphasizing the last word. "Only you. You are everything to me. You had been for a long time. You and my kids were the only thing that kept me going in one of my darkest hours. I got myself together to be their father and to hopefully be the kind of man that you deserve to have in your life."
He moved closer to her while still holding her face. He looked at her lips and back into her eyes as a way of both letting her know his intentions and also asking permission. She moved closer and that was all the confirmation he needed. He leaned in and softly kissed her lips. He pecked her at first and she deepened the kiss. They were both lost in each other and soon his tongue was begging for entrance. She granted it willingly and lost all sense of herself.
Kissing him was exactly how she imagined it would be and more. He was tender yet passionate and his lips were soft and demanding. It was when his hand started rubbing her exposed thigh under her dress and she started to feel a pull in the bottom of her belly that she regained her wits and stopped him.
"El, we have to stop," she said and slightly pushed him back. They were both out of breath and struggling to regain composure. She put his forehead next to his while they came back down to Earth.
"I'm sorry I didn't mean to.."
"No it's ok. I just..didn't want it to go any further."
"Oh." He was a little dejected and not sure if she meant she didn't want it to go further ever or just in that moment. She sensed his concern and felt the need to explain.
"We just got back in each other's lives. I want us to take things slow and figure out how to maneuver all of this. I don't want to do anything right now that's going to complicate that. I don't want to lose you again," she said as she reached out and placed a quick soft kiss on his lips.
"Ok. I understand."
They sat back on the couch and tried to return to how they were before even though there was a big elephant in the room.
"Now you see why I never tried to kiss you before," he added nervously.
"Because I knew how hard it would be to stop myself."
She acknowledged his comment with a nod and began to rub the back of the couch as she struggled for what to say next.
"Well we lost whose turn it was for questions," he said.
"I think it's your turn."
"Ok. Go on a date with me," he said putting his hand on her knee and looking her in the eyes. She was taken aback he could tell.
"Is that a question?" she asked laughing faintly.
"You're right. Olivia Benson would you do me the honor of going out on a date with me?" he asked while getting on one knee for added theatrical measure.
"I couldn't be more serious. I want to take you on a date. Dinner, a movie the whole nine yards."
"The whole nine yards hunh?" she asked raising an inquisitive eyebrow.
"Well not that nine yards unless…." he couldn't finish because she playfully slapped him on the arm and he temporarily lost his balance his head ended up laying on her thigh. He didn't get up right away. He took advantage of the moment to be even closer to her and made eye contact so she could see how serious he was.
"I'm not joking Liv. Will you go out with me?"
Without thinking she reached back and started rubbing the back of his head and short hair.
"I would love to," she finally answered.
"Ok. How about Thursday night?" he asked excited.
"Ill have to check with my sitter but I'm sure that will be fine."
He lay on her a little longer before he let out a small yawn and knew it was getting late. "I better get going."
She walked him to the door and leaned against it as he stood just on the other side of the threshold.
"Good night Liv. I had a great time."
"Me too. That was the best night I've had in a very long time."
"Glad to hear it."
He paused a moment before walking off wondering if he could give her a good night kiss. She read his mind and reached out to kiss him. It was soft and sweet just like the one before. "Good night El."
With that he turned to get on the elevator and she watched until he disappeared behind the elevator doors. She turned off the music, turned off all the lights and checked on Noah before finally going back to her bedroom.
As she lay in bed she touched her lips and smiled thinking about his mouth on hers. She had dreamed of that moment for so long and it felt like a dream that it finally happened. She reached in her drawer and pulled out the Semper Fi medal for the first time in a long time. She put it next to her phone, a reminder to take it with her to work tomorrow. She finally felt like she should start carrying it around with her again, a testament to how far her and Elliot had come in such a short amount of time.