AN: In this, my little story, Elliot, Cragen and Munch never left. It's only four chapters. And yes, they are already written. These characters unfortunately are not mine, and it's a damn shame cuz I like to have more than a little fun with 'em.

She's always equated height to a certain…power. And when she first walked into the squad room twelve years ago, she was just honkey dory with her five foot, eight inch frame. The average height for a female is four inches shorter. And, if it's one thing Olivia Benson's always strived to be, is above average, even though height is something she has no control over.

Those long legs of hers gave her speed and enabled her to run circles around nearly every woman in her academy class and some of the men too. Her former partner and training officer was only 5'4" and she was a force to be reckoned with. So according to Olivia, it would stand to reason that she herself should be even more of a force, more intimidating to perps and coworkers alike who would underestimate her.

Then she was introduced to Elliot Stabler.

Now of course she'd met taller men before coming into contact with the slightly elder detective, but she didn't see them in action every day. His solid frame coupled with the intensity of his eyes and his mere presence was enough for her to want to pose one question in particular to him, about three hours into their partnership.

"Umm Stabler," she'd began, almost shyly.

"Yeah," he'd said, trying to concentrate on the road as a deluge of spring rain was reducing visibility for them.

"How tall are you?"

"Huh?" He'd asked, confused.

"How uh…how tall are you?" She'd asked again.

"Six feet," he answered. "Why?"

"No reason," she'd told him. "Just curious."

He'd threaded his eyebrows together and smirked a bit in her direction but didn't press the issue. He hadn't known then that Olivia Benson didn't simply ask questions for the sake of doing so.

"Ok."

'How 'bout that, she'd thought, 'he's exactly four inches above average too.'

For the first couple of years, she was learning from him, watching him really. Olivia paid attention to how he'd get physically close to victims and perps alike, both for very different reasons of course. She'd notice a change in his tone of voice, his demeanor, his body language.

Elliot got witnesses to talk with his honesty, his genuine interest in getting justice for the victims. But sometimes, it took a little more. Sometimes, he used his size and that single-minded determination that would make guys even bigger than he, feel a little nervous.

And that's what Olivia wanted, a bit of that power.

Not to intimidate, not to instill fear, but to simply give pause to those who thought her incapable of being an effective cop.

So after about a year of learning the job and Elliot, she decided to…get a little bit of height on her side. Olivia ditched the sensible shoes and took a shopping trip to her favorite midtown boutique. The Monday morning after that, she damn near strutted into the squad room wearing boots with three inch heels.

She wondered if he'd even noticed.

If he had, he never said word one about it. And that was a more curvaceous body on her part, a divorce on his, and over a decade ago between them.

"What are you doing out here?" He asks, finding her on the patio.

Truth told she's avoiding her good friend Alex, knowing she'll ask what happened with her latest beau and why she hasn't brought him to the NYPD's annual policeman's ball. How the counselor hasn't yet heard the details through the infamous grapevine already, Olivia will never know.

"Getting some air," she answers.

"Isn't it a little too cold for that?" He asks, taking off his sport coat to put over her shoulders.

Elliot's hands linger on her skin, and she momentarily places hers over his before letting go.

"It's not that bad," she tells him as he stands next to her at the railing. "But it's April so I do kind of wish this city had more than the two temperatures of cold and hot."

They've been doing a lot of that lately, lingering touches, furtive glances. He's been divorced for about a year and a half and they haven't fallen into bed like everyone expected them to. Some even suspecting they've long since been sleeping together.

But up until a month ago she was dating Alexander Weston, television writer and producer extraordinaire. Things had been great for two months, until she got into trouble with Cragen for one of the episodes he'd written.

It was strangely and "coincidentally" as he'd put it, too close to a case they were working on at the time. And, after the incident with the newspaper reporter during her first year in SVU, she'd made it a habit not to leave files simply lying around her apartment in plain sight. But Olivia didn't think he'd had the skills to get past her password protected laptop.

She blames technology and Xander of course.

Cragen believed her story enough to have T.A.R.U take a look and they found a Trojan horse on her computer. Unfortunately, he was still forced by the brass to reprimand her with a negative mark in her jacket and a two week rip for what they called, "being careless with sensitive information."

She figured coming to the ball would make her feel a bit better about the break-up and the admonishment.

It's not working.

"I think I'm just gonna say my goodbyes and leave," she informs him.

"Me too," he says, stifling a yawn. "I'm kinda tired."

"Eli running you ragged huh?" She asks, turning to give him a smirk.

Elliot can't help but smile back. It's the truth.

"Yeah," he admits with a quiet chuckle. "I swear Kathy gives him cookies chased with espresso shots before I pick him up."

Olivia's always loved his laugh, mainly because in their line of work, neither of them does it as often as they'd like.

"I doubt that," she says. "She doesn't hate you."

"I know," he acknowledges. "Still."

She nods, letting the subject drop.

"So…Xander," he starts.

"Xander," she repeats, taking a breath. "Just another mistake in a very long line of mistakes."

"Don't beat yourself up too much," he tells her. "We've all made our fair share."

Olivia looks over to find him staring. When she does, he takes the opportunity to move a strand of hair up and over her ear, caressing the spine of it with his thumb before dropping his hand.

"I guess," she says, nearly whispering.

They eye one another for a few seconds and she sees a little something in his baby blues that, despite him knowing that she was dating Alexander, has been appearing more often lately. It makes her curious and nervous at the same time, so she does the safe thing and tries to ignore it.

"Clear night," she says, turning to look out over the city again.

"Gorgeous," Elliot comments, never taking his eyes off her.

She swears he's moved to stand closer.

"Yeah, the stars are really lighting up the sky," she continues.

"They are," he agrees, laying a hand against her cheek. "Liv?"

Her heart begins to race at his touch, feeling the warmth of his palm as he turns her face towards him.

"Have I ever told you how beautiful you are?" He asks.

Olivia thought maybe a bright red would be too much so she went with a strapless, maroon colored number that accentuates her curves and flatters her figure. The tan three inch heels are no taller than the wedged boots she normally wears daily but they aren't nearly as comfortable. Along with the feelings his touch conjures, they are yet another reason why it's time to go.

"No," she says, hoping the blush she feels isn't on her face. "You've uh…never really complimented me before for something other than getting a tight grouping at the range or a detailed confession," she adds, trying to make light of the situation.

"We're partners," he points out. "I didn't think it was…appropriate to voice those kinds of observations," he adds. "And I was married."

He boldly steps even closer.

"We're still partners Elliot," she advises. "Tonight's no different."

"But it is," he says.

Music begins playing somewhere inside and it flows out to them, loudly enough to hear the lyrics.

"Close your eyes, make a wish and blow out the candlelight…

It's Boyz II Mens' "I'll Make Love to You".

"I love this song," he tells her, getting a twinkle in his eyes. "You wanna dance?"

Olivia looks at him as if he's lost all his marbles.

"Excuse me?"

"Come on Liv," he urges. "I promise to keep my hands above your waist."

His whole demeanor is surprising despite the fact that he's been looking at her in less than platonic ways for weeks. Then again, there's always been a certain something there between the two detectives.

"Fine," she says, pretending to be annoyed with an eye roll. "One dance."

The minute he takes her into his arms, the rest of the world falls away and the intimate patio is all that remains. They move slowly in the small space, swaying back and forth together under the light of the bright full moon.

"How tall are you?" He asks, out the blue.

Elliot moves his warm hands beneath his suit jacket she wears and up her back. She loosens her arms around his neck to lean away, meeting his eyes.

"About 5'8" without the heels," she responds. "Why?"

He gives her a mischievous smile before pulling her closer again.

"No reason, just curious," he tells her.

"Elliot Stabler does not just ask a question out of curiosity," she asserts, having learned years prior that they both share that trait. "So tell me."

"I've just…" he tries. "I've always found it incredibly sexy to be eye level with a woman," he confesses with a shrug of his shoulders.

Well.

Apparently he had noticed her change in elevation all that time ago.

"Oh," she says, as they continue to dance. "Okay."

Elliot steps closer to her, still managing to keep moving as he leans his forehead against hers. She can smell his intoxicating cologne, feel his breath on her lips and she knows he wants to kiss her.

"Are we still just dancing?" Olivia asks in a whisper, prompting him to move back again.

"Yeah," he answers. "Just dancin'."

They sway for another minute before the song comes to an end. And she sees that look in his eyes return. It's that thing that's always been there between them, sometimes blatantly, other times just beneath the surface, and right now…it's the former.

The unmistakable pull of desire.

Olivia no longer has Alexander as a distraction, which if she's honest with herself, is all he ever was for her. But she knows she's not in a position to act on the chemistry she has with Elliot so she'll just fall on her tried and true method of avoidance.

After removing and handing back his suit jacket, she turns on her heels to leave.

"Thanks for the dance Elliot," she tells him. "See you Monday."

She can't get far enough, fast enough. It is not a good idea to call your partner beautiful, to put your lips so close to theirs or hold them so intimately while dancing to a song about making love. Why Elliot's deciding to break the rules all of a sudden is beyond her.

They've been effectively avoiding the pull they have towards one another for years. It's better for their jobs to keep it that way.

Olivia gets her trench from the coat check guy at the counter and bee lines out the front door of the Waldorf hotel.

"Where's a taxi when you need one?" she thinks.

She left in a haste, thinking that Elliot wouldn't have time to follow her. But she has a feeling that…

"Why are you running out of here so fast?" Asks the familiar voice from behind.

"I'm not," she tells him, wishing for instant transportation. "I told you I was heading out."

"You said you were saying your goodbyes and then heading out," Elliot reminds her. "You didn't say so much as a 'see ya later' to anyone before leaving."

"I'm just gonna see them in a couple of days anyway."

"So you're not in a hurry?" He asks in disbelief.

"No," she says, trying to sound casual, looking down the street and thanking God for the approaching yellow taxi.

"Then let me drive you home," he tells her.

"Hell no," she thinks. "Not a good idea."

"I'm fine," she says, putting her arm out and swearing as the occupied fare passes by.

"It's Friday night Liv," he points out. "As you can see, finding a taxi that's not taken won't be easy."

Olivia exhales a frustrated breath, knowing he's right.

"Okay," she reluctantly agrees. "I guess I'll be taking you up on your offer then, if it's still on the table?"

He nods and she follows him towards the parking lot.

Minutes later they're in his car, driving uptown. He's tuned into some classic rock station and is tapping his fingers on the steering wheel as he hums to "Don't Stop Believing". The man never hums, and while she's seen him punch the steering wheel, Olivia doesn't recall seeing him drum along to a music selection.

When they get to her apartment, he walks her up because it is both the gentlemanly and the Elliot thing to do.

"Thanks for the ride El," she says, turning to put her keys in the lock.

"Don't you wanna know?" He asks at her back.

"Know what?" She says turning to find him slightly outside her personal space.

"Why tonight's different," he reminds her. "Why I can say you're beautiful and not just because of the way you look in that dress," he clarifies.

"Elliot…

"It's because I finally feel…free Liv," he says, smiling. "I had an amicable divorce," he explains. "My kids are safe and despite this job that can be gut wrenching sometimes," he continues. "I'm happy and…

"And what?" She asks curiously.

"I want the same for my partner," he answers.

"I'm good Elliot," she asserts. "I may not be on whatever merry making cocktail or four you've been drinking," she adds, making light of his glee. "But I'm okay."

"I've only had one drink," he insists. "I'm just…tired of you settling less for what you can have," he says. "I wanna see you smile more often."

"If I promise to do that," she responds, creating space between them by backing up to her door. "Will you stop…this," she adds, gesturing between them.

Elliot lets her create the distance without advancing towards her.

"No," he says to her disappointment. "Because I don't want you to fake it Liv. I want you it to be real."

"Aren't you incredibly cocky?" She points out. "You think starting to tell me I'm beautiful on a regular basis is gonna do that?" She asks, turning to unlock her door.

"No," he answers. "But maybe I can."

The conversation he's begun has gotten too personal for it to continue in the hallway of her apartment building.

"And you've concluded that, how?" Olivia asks, finally opening the door.

"Because as much as we've gone through…put one another through," he adds following her past the threshold. "We're still partners Liv," he answers.

He watches as she deposits her purse on the hall table then throws her coat over the back of an armchair.

"Despite the fact that the all mighty NYPD brass said we shouldn't be," he reminds her. "We are," he points out. "And I'm done asking why we've fought so hard all these years to keep it that way."

"It's as simple as how well we work together El," she reasons, entering the kitchen to pour a glass of water. "I don't know that I'd have the same vibe with someone else."

"And you don't think we could have that same vibe…off the clock?" He asks, suddenly standing before her.

He chances a step in her direction and for lack of anywhere else to go, Olivia stays put.

"Don't get me wrong, perfect doesn't exist in our world and we'll still publically and probably loudly disagree sometimes," he admits, garnering a smile from her.

"Sometimes?"

He smiles and nods.

"But I'll never hack into your laptop, track your cell phone unless a perp is after you, put another detail on you without your knowledge or inject you with a RFID chip while you sleep," he adds, prompting a laugh from her.

"Wow," Olivia says, smiling at all they've seen and experienced together. "What an interesting ride it's been."

He's not a poetry and violins kind of guy and probably never has been. But he gets her in a way that no one else does or has. He's loyal, a good friend, someone who will not only stand up for her but will also stand up to her when she needs it.

However…

"But we can't have a romantic relationship and keep working together Elliot," she tells him. "Things could get messy."

"I think we could handle it," he says. "I don't exactly plan on pushing you into a broom closet and having my way with you."

There's a visual she'll probably go to sleep with in her head.

"Well then what's the point?" She asks smartly as she pushes past him.

"You know what I mean Liv," he says, staying put. "We keep it out of work."

"You saw what happened with Cassidy," she reminds him, resting on a bar stool opposite him. "That didn't exactly go well."

"I don't plan on being a one night stand," he contends boldly. "And this isn't some half-assed, spur of the moment move on my part," he adds. "I've thought this through."

With how quickly he's moved from joviality to sincerity, Olivia doesn't doubt it.

"I get that," she acknowledges. "What I don't understand is why, Elliot?" She asks. "We've worked together for a long time, I think we're good friends," she points out. "In fact you're my best friend so why change that?"

"I'm sure you've heard that best friends often start the best relationships Liv," he counters. "So why not?"

She has but that's beside the point.

"Because everything you think you like about me, my strong will, my independence among other things, will start to get annoying if we got together," she reasons.

He doesn't look the least bit convinced, so she continues.

"For instance, the way you still think it's cute to sip coffee from my cup and steal food off my plate."

Elliot eyes her over the counter, forearms resting on the top.

"Oh, so I annoy you now?" He asks, eyebrows raised.

Now? It's not a new occurrence.

"Of course," she says nonchalantly, offering a smile. "But it's not everything you do ya know? Just…things you have to accept when two people spend as much time together as we do," she clarifies. "I'm sure I do things that get on your nerves."

She takes a sip of her water before continuing.

"El the ink is barely dry on your divorce papers," she points out. "I don't think you've waited long enough to-

"First of all," he interrupts. "I've been divorced for over a year."

Olivia watches as he comes from the other side of the counter to join her.

"Secondly," he continues. "I've dated Olivia, so it's not like I've been living like a priest," he reveals. "I know what I want."

Her eyebrows nearly meet her hairline as she raises them in surprise.

"And suddenly that's me?" She asks, turning to sit sideways at the counter before crossing her legs.

Elliot watches the position change, struggling to bring his eyes back up to hers.

"I'm pretty sure you know that it's not sudden," he challenges.

Of course she does. But he doesn't need to know that.

"So you've been dating these other women all this time for what…practice?"

"Hell no," he answers immediately.

"Or did you just think that good old Liv would be waiting in the wings until you were ready?" She asks.

"Course not, you were seeing Alexander," he contends. "And there's the fact that I didn't think…seeing the guys you date, doctors, wall street types, guys with power and money…I didn't think I had a shot."

"Men are stupid," she thinks. "Just plain stupid."

She smiles and shakes her head.

"You've been divorced for a lot longer than I've been dating Xander," she reminds him. "And if you don't think you have a shot, then what's all this about?"

"Well," he begins, stepping closer. "It's just…I can't seem to make it past a second or third date without thinking," he pauses, unsure of how much he wants to reveal.

"Tell me," she urges after seeing his hesitation.

"Without thinking…Olivia would've gotten my corny joke or Olivia would've liked this restaurant," he confesses.

She immediately understands. There have been instances during her own dates and former relationships that she'd thought along similar lines.

"I figured…why not just skip the middle man so to speak, and…ask you out," he continues.

Elliot steps forward and to her surprise, removes the water glass from her hand to place on the counter.

"And, as much as we may annoy each other or get on one another's nerves," he goes on. "I'd still rather fight with you than be bored with someone else," he points out. "So I thought what the hell? The worse you can do is say no, my ego gets a little bruised and I see you next week."

He steps closer, standing against her outer thigh as he leans on the counter next to her and just smiles that cocky smile.

"Is that the end of your pitch?" She asks, with a raised eyebrow and a smirk.

"No Liv," he says, growing serious again. "I think I could make you happy…that we could be happy…together," he clarifies. "We're already as together as any married couple I've ever met, we just don't get the added bonus of having sex."

She shakes her head as she grins at this, knowing full well it's the truth. And, it's not the worst offer she's ever had.

Still it's…Elliot.

"Now I'm done with my pitch," he announces. "I'd like to know what you think."

Olivia uncrosses her legs, stands up and faces him. She reaches out with both hands, straightening his tie before resting her hands on each lapel of his jacket.

"I don't deny a physical attraction," she admits. "But El, workplace romances rarely work out," she answers. "And the stakes…are just too high."

Elliot looks disappointed but nods, giving her an understanding smile as he stuffs both hands into his pockets.

"Okay, maybe you have a point," he tells her. "I uh…guess I should get going."

He turns to leave and she follows to walk him out. Just as he's reaching for the knob, she stops him.

"El wait," Olivia says.

She knows his feelings are hurt, as anyone's would be, that his ego is a little bruised. But things don't usually go as well for them when they've disagreed on something.

"Are we okay?" She asks once he's facing her again.

"Of course Liv, like you said we're friends," he answers, sounding genuine. "And believe it or not you're not the first woman to shoot me down," he continues. "I'm a big boy though, I can handle it," he adds, giving her a gracious smile.

"Good," she says. "Okay."

Then Olivia steps close, resting her hands against his chest before leaning in to whisper, "Thanks for understanding," into his ear.

When she pulls back he's giving her the same look he gave her earlier in the evening while they were dancing. But before she can tell him what a bad idea it is or pull away, he's kissing her and Olivia isn't stopping him.

Elliot's warm hands are on the small of her back. He passionately moves his lips over hers before delving into her mouth after Olivia's gasp of surprise.

If they're going to shove the night under the rug and never speak of it again, as is their usual method, he wants her to understand what she's giving up on.

Even if it only happens once.

When he finally pulls back, he sees her bruised lips, flushed face and the look of shock with a hint of arousal and wants to kiss her all over again. But he can't because he wasn't supposed to do it in the first place.

"I should go," he manages, turning to move hastily out her front door. "See you Monday."

Before Olivia can respond, he's gone and she's just standing there alone.

Dumbfounded.

END NOTE: Well. Review and stuff.