Disclaimer: I dun own it and be glad I don't 'cause it would've quickly dissolved into a Munch/Cassidy lovefest and Stabler's family would've died in a tragic fire that left him emotionally distraught and seeking comfort in guess-who's arms even though I actually dun like this pairing much…
Also, the quote
Stabler remembers is from Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, which I also don't own. I merely worship it.

Some Warnings to the Morally Impaired: Rampant E/O. E/K shippers, though you are few, don't flame. Just tell me I'm stupid nicely please.
Smut! If you dun like, dun read.
(Author experienced intense loneliness at times of writing resulting in) Feelings described over exaggeratingly to the point of blatant fantasy.
Finally, I'm a girl writing a sex scene from a guy's POV. Forgive me the wrong little details.

Notes: Revised on 12.06.04. Details were added where they were lacking or could be better and some other tweaks happened in places.
Couldn't make it too graphic 'cause there's no NC-17 rating anymore. ((tear)) So sad… um… so, the most graphic it gets in physical description is not actually that bad but it's rated R because of what happens, even though there's not a lot of detail… if that makes sense…
A sequel is a possibility, though I'm not promising anything.
Elliot does a lot of second thought-ing in this fic. If that's OOC in your opinion, too bad because in my most humble opinion, I think most anyone would be having a couple of second thoughts in the situation poor Mr. Stabler finds himself in here. He is married after all, don'tcha know? Or are we off in E/O AU Land already?
And that's all. Enjoy.

Never Again

This can never happen again.

Those were the words she spoke to me tonight, after we consummated our partnership, a thing forbidden by the laws that bound us to our jobs and the laws that bound me to my wife.

Sure, we were a little inebriated at the time it happened; we had got off the job early and so gone out for a couple drinks with Fin and Munch to celebrate solving a particularly tough case, and I drove her back to her apartment. When we arrived at the building, she didn't get out for a while, merely sitting in the car with me.

I was loath to break the silence that dwelled in the confines of the car but I couldn't allow us to sit there all night. "What's wrong?" I asked her, my words falling hard and heavy in the thick, quiet darkness.

"Elliot…" Her voice was tremulous, needy. "All of this, everything we see, do you ever sit down and think about how it affects us?"

"Sure, practically every day," I answered, looking over at her. "Liv, what's wrong?"

She ignored my question and continued talking, "Sometimes I feel like if I see one more body or one more victim breaking down into tears, that I'm going to break down myself. In fact, I know that I'm gonna break down. I just don't know when it's going to happen…"

I wondered if she had drunk more than I had thought she had. Olivia usually didn't break into such emotional talk without a good number of drinks in her system. "Liv, c'mon. Let's get you up to your place. It'll be easier to talk there."

Silently, she nodded, unbuckling her seatbelt and opening the door to get out of the car. I followed suit and watched her as she made her way around the front of the car. She looked pale and almost ill. I put a reassuring hand on her back as I followed her into her apartment building.

When we got to her door, she fumbled for a moment, trying to get the key in the lock. She looked at me with a hopeless expression and that was when I saw that her eyes were blurred by tears. "Oh, God, Liv. Here, lemme get that," I said, plucking the keys from her hand and quickly unlocking the door. I guided her inside, pushing her over in the direction of her couch. "Go sit down. I'll make you something to drink. What do you want? Coffee? Tea? Water?"

"I don't want anything to drink, Elliot," she sighed. "I just wanna talk."

I smiled, sitting down next to her. "Well, that order's easy enough to fill. Why don't you tell me what's bugging you?"

"Everything, El. Just everything." She rubbed her eyes on the sleeve of her long-sleeve shirt as she replied. "I don't think I can take it anymore. The job, it's just getting to me so bad and I don't know how to deal with it."

I let concern creep into my voice and eyes. She had to know that I was always there for her. "What's getting to you?"

"I don't have anyone else to talk to, Elliot. The last few relationships I had failed miserably, you know that. In fact, there haven't been any recent ones, and I'm so lonely that I'm near to dying with a need to find someone I can talk to."

"You've always got me, Liv," I reminded her.

She winced. "But Elliot, there's some things I can't talk to you about… they're more… personal."

I felt hurt and she must have seen an expression reflecting that emotion on my face because she quickly exclaimed, "Oh, no, El, it's not like that. They're of a different sort of personal nature. Like, stuff you would share with a lover."

I felt something change in the air the moment she said that word but I brushed it off, merely replying, "Oh, well, I guess I see where that wouldn't work out."

"Elliot…" My name on her lips was no more than an exhaled breath. I looked up at the sound to meet her gaze and became entranced with her eyes. They were so exquisite, like the dark, expensive chocolates that I sometimes buy Kathy when I've been working late and want to make her see that I was still thinking about her. Or maybe I buy them to try and bribe my way into her good graces. Maybe both.

I was captured by these eyes and found I could not tear away. Like a moth drawn to a flame, I wanted to drown in her gaze forever. She moved closer to me, sliding along the couch in a way that was not meant to alarm, although I was in such a state of mind that I probably wouldn't have noticed if she had jumped on me and started groping my crotch.

The night air was calling and I felt it singing through my blood. I hadn't felt this way since my late teens, early twenties, when I went out with my friends late at night drinking and groping, showing the world in our awkward, immature way we were alive and we knew how to prove it by the risks we took.

I briefly wondered how it would feel to feel that way again, to be alive again and take those risks.

I knew when I felt her lips touch mine.

It was intoxicating in the way that alcohol could never be. My world was spinning and all of my senses were focused on that tactile contact between us. Her lips were soft and sweet, just as I always had thought they would be.

Yes, I've thought about kissing her before. She's a woman and I'm around her all the time. If I never thought about kissing her, I'd have every right to be as good as dead. But just because I've thought about kissing her before, that doesn't mean that I actually wanted to.

Okay, maybe I did, just a little. That would explain why I gave in so easily, with only minimal protesting.

I pulled back, bringing my hands up to grip her upper arms lightly, but firmly. "Liv," I whispered, breathing heavily as I stared at her flushed face. "Should we…" I couldn't bring myself to finish the sentence. Maybe I thought that by doing so I would speak it into existence and I could never face Kathy again.

Or maybe I thought that by vocalizing what we were about to do, I would forever destroy any chance there was that it would happen.

"Shhh…" She brought her hand up and stroked the side of my face gently, staring at me with a tender look. Her hand crept back to hook itself around the back of my neck and she didn't have to coax me any further.

Our lips crashed together and I was pulled down and under into a swirling vortex impossible to describe, never wanting to leave. I felt like my brain would explode from the sheer amount of sensations that were pouring into my system. No high produced by God, Man or Machine could ever hope to rival these moments.

I felt my hands moving, as if of their own volition reaching out to fumble with the buttons of her blouse. She moaned into my mouth and I took that opportunity to explore, delving in with my tongue to penetrate a place I've only idly wondered about. She tasted faintly of alcohol, reminding me of the few beers she had consumed earlier and the memory made me pause, wondering if she really wanted this and if it was just the alcohol messing with her head. Or maybe she was using it as an excuse so she could tell me in the morning that it wasn't supposed to happen, that she had been drunk and if she had been sober, nothing would have happened.

As it turns out, I was half right, but that's not what matters now.

I quickly resumed my activities when I felt her responding to my touch, her tongue moving to slide against my own while she rubbed her hands over my chest, feeling the hard muscles of my abdomen and pectorals. The buttons gave way under my seeking fingers and I soon was caressing the bare skin I found hidden underneath. Olivia sucked in a breath and I felt her flesh ripple under my fingers as she shivered in pleasure.

She pulled back from the kiss, panting softly against the side of my face. "Want to take this somewhere else?" Her words slid across my cheek, her breath caressing my skin and causing a familiar tightening sensation in my groin. I could barely move my head to nod but I did, somehow, and she stood, pulling me by the hand to stand with her. Dazed, I followed as she practically dragged me towards her bedroom, the place where her last remaining secrets would be revealed to me.

We fell onto the bed, our limbs tangled and our lips fused. I never wanted to draw away, not even to allow myself to breathe. I wanted to stay that way forever, to never let the moment pass. I could feel her heartbeat throbbing through her body and I was ecstatic to know that I was the sole cause of her excitement. I possessed her in those moments. We existed in a universe all our own and totally devoted to these few minutes in which we allowed ourselves to break free from the chains that normally bound us. Our jobs, my family, none of those things that normally held us apart mattered anymore.

We no longer spoke; our voices had been discarded along with the clothes that were rapidly moving to cover her bedroom floor. Her blouse was long gone along with my shirt and she was working on the buckle of my pants while I kissed and sucked her neck, moaning as her hands brushed against my cloth-covered crotch. Her skin was soft, creamy in color and slightly salty to the taste from the sweat her body had been producing in our heated frenzy. As I tasted her flesh, I could have sworn that she was acting clumsy with my belt and moving slowly to draw out the moment and keep me tormented.

Finally, I pushed her to the bed with a growl and removed my pants myself in one quick motion. Then I set to work on hers, deftly undoing the button and then jerking on the zipper. It was stuck though and I worked at it for a more moments before snarling angrily and ripping the pants apart at the seams to tear them off of her body. I glanced up to make sure she wasn't angry about this action but her eyes were hooded with lust and she just smiled at me. By the way the threads had given way fairly easily, I knew they were cheap clothes and so I doubted she would be very upset about their state in the morning, if upset at all, and I could always give her money to replace them.

I mentally slapped myself. Why was I worrying about her goddamn pants? I had an almost fully naked Olivia Benson in front of me, an Olivia Benson who wanted me, and I was worried about her pants? Jeeze, Elliot, you gotta set your priorities straight, I mentally rebuked myself.

Moving onto the more important things, I removed her undergarments and then stopped for a moment to admire her glorious perfection. Her skin was perfect, free of blemishes, and it was currently flushed with passion, passion that I had caused. Spread out before me, naked and needing, she looked like a woman you would see on the cover of a smut novel or one of those Girls Gone Wild videos. I grinned and stripped off my boxers, moving in on her to complete what we had started.

I looked down into her eyes, to assure myself one final time that this was what we both wanted before we were committed. She nodded slightly and reached up with a hand to bring my head down to crush against her lips again. Then I moved forward and we melted together, our bodies fitting snugly against each other as though we were two parts of a puzzle that had finally been solved. I froze like this for a moment as my mind reeled from the perceptions assaulting my senses, struggling to make sense of it all. Her mouth pressing urgently against my lips brought me back down quickly however and I began moving within her.

Soon, we were moving in sync as she moaned against my cheek in ecstasy. I felt my world fold in upon itself until everything I could think, feel, or hear was all of her and the perfect motions of our lovemaking. My face was tucked against her shoulder and I felt the blood pounding in my ears as I heard her pleading and crying out below me while I brought us up and over the peak of our momentary universe.

Breathing slowing, I collapsed to the side of her, staring at the ceiling in disbelief. I was dreaming, wasn't I? I was going to wake up and see her standing over me in the squad room, smiling as she jokingly chastised me for falling asleep on the job. Or even worse, I'd wake up in a moment to find myself back in bed at home, lying next to Kathy, and feeling guilty as hell. "Pinch me," I panted hoarsely.

She propped herself up on an elbow and tweaked the skin on my upper left arm, smirking slyly. "Happy now?"

"Oh, god, yes…" I whispered as she leaned over to kiss me, gently and only for a moment before pulling back.

"You're gonna want to take a shower before you go home," she suggested, prodding my chest. She didn't mention that I was going home to Kathy. "You're all sweaty."

I merely nodded, realizing I was completely exhausted. Weakly, I sat up and swung my legs off the bed. I stood and walked to the bathroom, climbing into the shower and turning it on.

When I got out, Olivia was already clothed in her pajamas and she was sitting cross-legged on her bed. She gestured to my clothes that she had laid out next to her and it looked like she had even tried to smooth out some of the wrinkles in them. I smiled tiredly in appreciation and started to put them on.

She cleared her throat. "El?"

"Yeah?" I glanced at her while zipping up my pants.

She was staring at her hands, reluctant to meet my eyes. "You know… I had a couple of drinks and… well, you know that this can never happen again… right?"

I felt hurt on some deep level but I shook it off and merely nodded. After all, I had expected this. "Yeah."

"Good." She looked up and smiled at me. "Thanks."

"Sure." I was tempted to add "anytime" but I bit my tongue on the impulse. "See you tomorrow."

She nodded and I leaned close to her and gave her a chaste kiss on the cheek. When I pulled back, she looked relieved. "Good night, El."

"Night, Liv." I turned and walked out of her bedroom and out of the apartment, trying to tell my aching heart to crawl off and shove it.

When I finally got home, I turned off the car and sat in the silent dark for a while, sorting out my thoughts. I did it often and so if Kathy looked out and saw me, she wouldn't think it was very odd.

Kathy… I stared at the box of chocolates that I had bought for Kathy and guiltily remembered the color of Olivia's eyes.

I love my wife, don't get me wrong. She's beautiful, sweet and I couldn't live without her. It's just that Kathy could never understand the horrors that I see day after day.

What is that quote that I heard once? "Funerals often make us want sex—it's one in the eye for death." That's what my job is like, a funeral day after day. It's why I have four children. I used to come home every night, wanting to make love to Kathy, which confused her. I've stopped that for fear that she would think death and the sexual abuse of the victims I deal with turns me on or something. She doesn't understand why I come home every day and crave to touch her and hold her. She can never understand it. Even if we don't make love, I want to assure myself she lives and breathes; is nothing like those cut up, rotting corpses I see day after day.

Olivia understands all of these feelings though. It's what she was afraid to tell me, what she said she could only share with a lover. It's because of this understanding that when we made love tonight, it was both explosive and implosive, ripping and rending away our masks to reveal the true person who lies deep beneath our skin, the person reflecting the depths of the soul.

It's also why she pushed me away so fast. I know how Olivia likes her relationships, short and cold. She'll tolerate some amount of intimacy but as soon as she feels they're too close or getting too attached, she shuts them down, like she did with Brian and the others before him and after. She won't allow men to get close to her because she's afraid to reveal her soul to them.

What she doesn't realize though is that I've known her soul for years now. With our partnership, our job, it's almost inevitable that a bond like ours would form after so many years. We need that bond to support each other so we can stay sane after what we see every day.

This can never happen again.

I want to believe those words with all my heart, but I know that it's not so. This night I saw her naked soul and I saw the need that dwelled within it, burning hot and unfulfilled. She needed this night so desperately and I know that it would not be the last time.

I also want to say I wish it was, but that would be lying.

Dated 12.06.04:
There is now a sequel posted here on FF.N called Never Say Never Again.