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to leave the warmest bed i've ever known

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Olivia’s startle response has been worse since the accident. She doesn’t know if it’s tripped a small wire connected to her PTSD, or if everyone experiences that after a traumatic event, or if it’s the fact that she feels vulnerable now that she can barely shuffle around her apartment, much less striding through the bullpen or able to take on an aggressive perp. She’s all too keenly aware of these limitations when someone knocks on her door at almost midnight, jerking her awake and leaving her with a pounding heart and trembling hands.

She flips on her bedside lamp and reaches for her walking cast. She’s still strapping it onto her leg when another knock lands heavy against her front door. Cursing under her breath, she pulls the strap around her ankle tighter, latching it and levering herself out of bed, walking uncomfortably fast to her front door and sending up a prayer that she reaches it before the asshole on the other side wakes up Noah.

Through the peephole, she can tell there’s a man on the other side of her door, but he’s looking down so all she knows is that he’s bald and has a thick goatee. He’s powerfully built, his body thick with muscle from his neck down as far as she can see. She’s on the verge of asking who’s there, or getting her service pistol, when his head lifts and her heart nearly stops -- she would know those eyes anywhere, any time.

“Elliot?” she asks when she opens the door. “What’s going on?”

“Can I come in?" He’s already pushing forward even as he asks, leaving her with little option except to move aside as he walks past her.

She watches him pacing around her front room, as tense as a caged tiger. “Elliot--”

He looks up, locking eyes with her, his almost wild, like he’s forgotten for a moment where he is and who he’s with. “They’re sending me under.”

Christ. She needs to sit. She limps over to the chair and all but falls into it, bracing her elbows on her knees, her eyes never leaving his haunted ones. He stares at her helplessly until she asks, “What happened?”

“There are rumblings about the Albanian mafia.” He crosses his arms over his chest, but instead of intimidating, it manages to look vulnerable,” and Christ she’s not used to that word and Elliot sharing the same space. “They’re planning something, something big. The bureau thinks it might be on the level of bringing down the Italians and the Irish or even worse. They need someone with experience to get in good with them and bring them down before they end up with complete control.”

“It doesn’t have to be you.” She shakes her head. “You aren’t the only experienced detective in the NYPD.”

“No, but I’m the most experienced with the worst jacket.” His mouth compresses in a flat line. “They have me against the ropes, Liv. They want someone with my problems.”

“What --”

“Come on.” He looks rueful. “The rage. The violence. I’ve seen some shit. I’ve been shot multiple times. I’m scarred to hell and back, and they need someone like me. They need me.”

She wants to argue with him, but it’s obvious there’s no use. If anyone understands how the machinations of the NYPD work, it’s her. They won’t let him back out of this without losing his job, and she knows he can’t afford to lose the job, at least not mentally. She’s lost herself in it before, when she needed an escape from the crushing emotional weight of her personal life, and with everything from the past year -- she gets it.

“What if I don’t come back?” he asks. “What if--Liv.” He says her name like it’s a prayer and a judgment handed down, like it alone holds all of his hope in a single syllable.

She stands a little too quickly and catches herself on the back of the chair. Before she has a chance to stumble to him, he’s in front of her, his hand at her elbow to help her balance. She looks into his eyes, and the concern for her that has immediately trumped his own pain and fear hits her in the chest like a sledgehammer. She reaches up and cups his face in her hands, stroking her thumbs along his cheekbones. She knows she should provide him some words of comfort; she wants to reassure him that he’s coming back and he’ll be fine, his kids will be fine, Eli will understand, that -- that she’ll be here, too. But the words don’t come to her, and she doesn’t know if they’re what he needs right now, but she has to do something, so she leans forward and her mouth finds his.

It’s not that she’s never thought about it -- kissing him -- or what it would feel like, it’s just the complete and utter lack of thought that goes into her doing it now, here -- with him in this state and her son steps away behind a partly closed bedroom door -- that will surprise her later. Her son who has barely met Elliot, who certainly doesn’t know Elliot, and has never seen her with a man in quite this way. Because it doesn’t take Elliot long at all, takes him no time really, to grab her by the waist and slant his mouth over hers, to run his tongue along the seam of her lips and beg for entrance with just as much decorum as he’d asked to enter her apartment tonight.

She whimpers and slides her hands from his face to cup him around the neck, one slipping down to grab his shirt in her hands as she follows his tongue with her own, licking into his mouth and tasting him. Tasting Elliot. She can’t quite believe it still, even as she listens to the pleased rumble he makes in the back of his throat, and as his fingers flex against her hips.

“El.” She moans when his mouth leaves hers, kissing down her jaw and the line of her neck, his tongue tasting her skin. His hands wander along with his mouth, no longer gripping, but skimming up her sides, getting achingly close to her breasts. She gasps, curving into him despite her better judgment. He groans and grabs her ass with one of his hands, pulling her hips flush with his, and he’s already half-hard against her stomach. “Noah’s here,” she finally gasps out. “We can’t--”

He freezes the moment the word ‘can’t’ is out of her mouth. Of course he does, because he’s good, and he knows, and it was his life for years, and even if it hadn’t been, he would still be Elliot. She has a split second -- where her hands tighten to keep him in place and her breath heaves in her chest -- to call a stop to this or...

This could be her only chance. He could die. She may never see him again. She might never know what his skin feels like under her hands and mouth, and what his body feels like on top of hers, or what it feels like when he slides into her and fills her. It’s reckless, she knows it is, but she finds herself saying, “Not here.”

He pulls away just far enough to look down at her, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear and peering at her as if to judge whether she really knows what she’s saying or not. She’s certain, is the thing. She shouldn’t be. She should be anything but. But this is Elliot and he’s here and he wants her and she wants him so she’s going to take.

“My room.”

She reaches for one of his hands and takes one limping step to lead him before hearing him huff a half-hearted laugh. He doesn’t move with her, instead waiting for her to turn back and raise an eyebrow.

“Put your arm around my neck.”

“What?” He doesn’t answer her, instead using the hand she still holds to wrap that arm around his neck, bending at the waist to place his arm behind her knees. “No.” She shakes her head vehemently, refusing to cooperate. “You cannot carry me.”

He lets go of her, raising to his full height, and she can tell for a moment that he’s thinking about flexing. Probably doing something ridiculously machismo like making his pecs jump, which she’s certain he can do, as packed with muscle as he is now. He doesn’t, but he does step into her space again, crowding her, his hands once more bracketing her hips. “I’m not patient.”

She swallows, but before she can respond, he’s kissing her again. Harder this time. She can already tell how swollen her lips will be, how red her skin will be, from the brush of his beard. He takes both of her arms and wraps them around his shoulders and kisses her breathless, stroking her back up and down until she feels warm and languid and so tied up with want.

She pulls away from him just long enough to say, “Fine. Carry me then.”

He smiles like the cat that got the canary and bends once more to lift her, not even grunting. He’s ridiculous, and she would tell him, but it hasn’t been on her list of possibilities for several years for a man to carry her to bed, so she’s going to enjoy it and give herself this one moment to feel cared for and -- and feminine, and a whole list of words she no longer lets herself dwell on.

He’s careful with her, too, walking easily through her apartment and toward her bedroom as she whispers to him where to go, conscious of her walking cast and her head, and by the time he sets her down beside her bed she’s so ready for the taste of him again she’s almost embarrassed by it.

She has to grab the legs of her pajamas to keep herself from stopping his hands when they begin slowly unbuttoning her top. God, but she wishes he could have seen her ten years ago, when her tits sat higher, and before -- but no, she can’t think about him with Elliot’s hands on her, except that he’ll see --.

She lifts her hands and holds his wrists when he only has the top three unbuttoned, nothing even visible yet. “Wait.” His fingers loosen, but her grip keeps them where they are. “Something happened to me while you were … it’s been a long time, but you’ll see. I can’t talk about it now. Don’t ask me to. Not now. You just need to know that it might be too much when you see--”

“Liv,” he interrupts, his voice low and hoarse. “Nothing I see is going to change my mind.”

She braves a look into his eyes, letting go of her steadying stare at the pulse throbbing in his neck. She can see the concern and curiosity in there, but she can also see the desire and the need he feels for her. With a deep breath, she releases his wrists and he continues unbuttoning her shirt, his eyes never leaving her own, not until the last one is undone and his hands are sliding across her clavicle and over her shoulders, pushing the shirt off her body.

He looks down, his hands fingertips retracing over her collarbone, down to the slope of her breasts. She can’t bring herself to look away from his face, waiting for the moment he flinches from her. Tucker never had, but he already knew, had seen the file from the investigation into Lewis’s death; he’d seen them fresh, so the scars wouldn’t have startled him. But Elliot…

There is nothing in his face except reverence, though. Reverence and want, as his hands cup her breasts, his thumb skirting past scar tissue to circle her nipples, drawing them to stiff peaks. Goosebumps spring up over her entire body as he bends, kneeling before her, kissing his way down, paying no more attention to the raised scars than to her smooth flesh, his lips latching around one nipple, sucking and laving with his tongue before turning to the other to do the same.

She’s trembling, and she knows he can feel it because he stops and gazes up at her. He looks the penitent, begging forgiveness from a loving God, and she feels her power in this moment, at the expression in his eyes, and her ability to ruin him. Instead, she cups the back of his head with a shaking hand, her other settling against his cheek, thumb running over his lips until he stops it with a kiss.

His hands are on her hips, directing her to her bed, sitting her down even as he stays kneeling at her feet. He gently unstraps the walking boot from her leg, setting it aside, and then he reaches for the waist of her pants and she has that moment to decide as he gazes at her for permission. She lifts her hips and lets him drag them along with her underwear down her legs.

He gives her no time to think about being fully naked in front of a man for the first time in years, or what time and the inability to exercise after the crash has done to her body. His mouth between her thighs is a benediction, an act of devotion, and when his tongue traces the path from her opening to her clit and back again, she feels it swelling beneath her breast like deliverance.

“Elliot,” she breathes his name as he presses two fingers into her, his lips closing around her clit and sucking until she’s writhing, a high keening noise that she just manages to catch with her palm pressed over her mouth. He leans away just far enough to press kisses against her inner thighs and she reaches down, pulling at his shoulders, as she sits up again.

When he’s firmly planted on his feet, staring down at her, she runs her hand beneath his shirt, feeling the hard muscle of his abdomen ripple against her. She drags it up as far as she can and he takes it the rest of the way. She’s seen him without his shirt many times, but not for years, and where the years have taken so much from her physically, they seem to have blessed him in equal measure.

It’s her turn to drag him closer, her lips settling against his stomach. He sucks in a breath and somehow his stomach hardens even more beneath her touch. She unbuttons his jeans, running her palm over the rigid length of him, letting his noise of distress embolden her before she unzips him and shoves his underwear and pants down his legs. He toes off his shoes and steps out of his clothes, pushing them away and coming even closer to her, and nothing save the end of the world could keep her from taking his cock in her mouth, tasting the heated flesh of him and fulfilling twenty-two fucking years of fantasies.

“Jesus Christ,” he groans, hand hesitantly sliding through her hair, not gripping, barely even settling against her head.

She savors him, the salty musk of his skin on her tongue, and the strained moans as she takes him deeper, letting him touch the back of her throat before drawing back and tracing her tongue in a long line from base to head.

He gently encourages her head away from him, and the hunger in his expression makes her whole body tingle in anticipation. She’s never been scared of Elliot, not even at his angriest, years ago when Kathy had first left him and he was unraveling before her eyes; she’s not scared of him now, but she suddenly sympathizes with anyone caught in the line of danger with him as focused as he is now.

He grabs her around the waist and moves her higher on the bed; she helps him, settling herself back against her pillows. When he crawls after her, she expects him to settle between her thighs and give them both the relief they so desperately need, but instead he stops at her feet, lifting her right leg by the calf and leaning down to press soft kisses over the scars from her surgery, and she shivers, the flesh still tender from so much damage.

Elliot doesn’t stop there; he traces a path up her body with lips, and tongue, and teeth, paying no more attention to the blemishes than to any other part of her he finds worthy of attention, sucking red blossoms into the flesh of her thighs. She wants to push him away when he starts to do the same to her stomach; softer now and scarred and not a place she loves to look at herself, much less reveal to another, but before she can even reach him he groans low, raspy, happily, and grips her, pressing delicate kisses in a path over her navel up her sternum, until he can once more focus on her breasts.

He grabs her and holds her, squeezes and jostles, and somehow between the pleased rumbling in the back of his throat and the way he can’t stop marking her with the scrape of new beard and the suction of his mouth makes her feel like a goddess, makes her feel wanted for all of her.

By the time he’s face-to-face with her once again, she feels like warm caramel, languid and drawn out, pliable. She drags his mouth to hers, wraps her left leg around him, and tilts her hips in silent invitation. Elliot pulls away, brushing hair from her face and staring at her as if to read any hesitation she might feel.

“I want this,” she says, her voice unfamiliarly rough. She slides her hands down his sides and around to grab his ass. “Fuck me, El.”

He groans, pressing his forehead to hers for a long moment, before sliding his hand between their bodies, aligning himself and sliding into her in one smooth thrust. She feels it in her chest, the way he fills her up, how her body stretches around him. She whimpers and shifts against him.

“Okay?” he asks gruffly, his breath warm on her face.

“It’s been a while,” she whispers. “Just give me a minute.”

“I’d give you forever.”

For just a moment, she wants to shove him off of her and slap him for that word, for voicing something that sounds like a promise when the only reason he’s here is that he’s leaving her. Again.

Instead she waits until she knows she can speak without hating herself for crying and murmurs, “Move.”

He only shifts at first, a firmer press of his hips into hers, putting pressure against her clit and making her gasp and clutch at him. Her fingernails pressed into his skin seems to spur him on and he begins moving in and out of her body with the sort of heavy thrusts that leave her breathless and aching in the most perfect way. And all the while his voice is in her ear, murmuring her name, telling her how good she feels, how amazing this is, how long he’s thought of this.

She hopes that he mistakes the tears that leak from the corners of her eyes for sweat, because she can’t seem to stop them. It’s all too much: the weight of him on top of her, the smell of sex and Elliot mixed with the safety of her bedroom, the taste of his skin and lips and tongue, the feel of his hand slipping between them and his thumb pressing against her clit, circling in time with the meeting of their bodies.

She shatters first, biting down on his shoulder to muffle the unearthly cry that tears from her chest.

Fuck.” The rhythm he’s set falters and then he’s grinding into her and shaking in her arms, the breath shuddering out of him along with a deep groan.

She expects him to fall to the side of her, but he leans down and kisses her again while he’s still inside her, taking his time to explore her mouth before dropping his forehead to be braced against her shoulder. Maybe he realizes when he leaves her body, it means leaving her bed, leaving her again, that this is as much a farewell as the goodbye she never received the first time he disappeared from her life.

“You can’t stay.” It almost sounds like a question as she says it. She means for it to be a reminder, to him and herself, that this shouldn’t have happened in the first place, that he certainly can’t spend the night.

“No,” he says, and it sounds almost like an answer to the question she didn’t mean to ask. He slips out of her and she can’t help the gasp that escapes her at the suddenly hollow feeling that seems to spread all the way to her aching chest.

Elliot stands from her bed and picks up her pajamas for her, dressing while she does the same. She reaches for her boot, but before she can grab it, he’s on his knees before her again, helping her into it, strapping it securely around her leg, and there’s that awful choking feeling in her throat again. It’s been so long since she let anyone help, since anyone wanted to, and she hates herself for how much she wants -- things she can’t allow herself to completely acknowledge, even in the safety of her own mind. Not yet. Not now.

He helps her out of the bed, keeping pace with her while she walks him to her door.

He stops in the open doorway, his eyes taking in her face as if trying to memorize it. “Liv--” he starts, but she interrupts him with a shake of her head.

“Come back.” She lets her hand come up to rest on his chest, just over where his heart beats. “When you come back, we’ll talk.”

He raises one of his hands to hold hers tighter to him for a moment before letting it drop. “Take care.”

The smile that tilts her lips is a sad one, his statement too little, too late in so many ways, and she should be the one saying it to him. “You, too.”

They don’t say goodbye before she closes the door behind him.