I don't own these characters any more than Fox owns me.

The Three Ways It Could Happen

#1.

They were lit.

The bar was clearing out and Munch, Fin and Casey were long gone. Olivia was having a hard time sitting up straight so she propped herself against the bar.

"Do you think...this case...those little kids," Elliot said, teetering on his barstool. He'd talked about quitting that week. Three siblings were dead thanks to their mother and father, who sold them for sex acts on the internet. One of the clients just happened to be wanted in New Hampshire on murder charges. Between two long drives to New Hampshire and back and the emotional stress, both of them felt like bridges swaying under heavy trucks.

"Don't talk about the case. I can't THINK about the damn case. I just want to have a good time. We're having a good time, right?"

Elliot didn't answer. He looked a little sick.

"You know, I should quit the force. Just say the hell with it and take a job as a wilderness guide," he said, looking into his empty glass. Olivia had just put a handful of pretzels in her mouth. She started laughing and choking at the same time.

"Hey, don't want to have to do the Heimlich Manuver here," Elliot said, putting a hand on her back. "Might start rumors."

She stopped laughing and turned slowly towards him, swiveling on the barstool.

"What did you say, Elliot? Rumors?"

"I can't remember. I should call my kids."

Olivia couldn't read the numbers on her watch. A digital clock above the bar flashed 12:00...12:00...12:00...

"Don't call them now. It's midnight. We shut the place down," she said, motioning for one more round.

"Last call," the bartender reminded them.

"Yeah, yeah. Liv, how bout a toast to us. Two of New York's finest. And the hell with you for laughing at my dream of becoming a wilderness guide."

Olivia laughed again but they both managed to click their glasses together after a few trial attempts. It had been a long time since Elliot had been good and drunk. He felt safe getting tanked with Olivia, knowing that she wouldn't let him jump off a bridge or eat anything disgusting.

"Rocky Mountain oysters," he said out loud, and laughed at the sound of those words and at the memory of eating deep-fried bull balls on a dare. Olivia was face down on the bar, in a puddle of condensation and Samuel Adams. Her arms hung limply at her sides.

"Liv, we'd better go. How about that all night bakery? Want a crueller and a light?"

She moaned but was able to lift her head and slide off the stool. Elliot staggered over to the coathangers to get their jackets.

Olivia pushed him away when he tried to give her the coat she'd worn earlier.

"I'm not wearing a jacket. It's too warm. You wear it," she mumbled, thrusting it roughly back at him. He sighed and rolled his eyes. They walked out looking like they were standing on two different sides of the equator.

The clock over the bar was still flashing.

12:00...12:00...12:00...

XXXXX

Knackel's Bakery attracted the sort of people you'd expect at this ungodly hour. Drunk folks, poor folks...cops...

Elliot and Olivia snagged a booth by the window. Olivia had a trough of coffee and a gigantic eclair. Elliot had decided to just stick with his usual, just a small coffee and a crueller. He was feeling a little better. The night air had cleared his head a bit.

"Cragen's really been kicking our asses lately," he said.

"Yeah, I noticed. Well, I guess we haven't been angels."

"Nope. We've been fighting a lot with Munch, Fin, each other."

They sat in an uncomfortable silence. This was approaching territory they were afraid to walk on. There were borders around their relationship. Anything that even poked at these borders was cause for fighting or silence on both parts.

"I guess," she said, not really addressing anything but wanting to close the issue fast.

"Confusing. Things are always so confusing," he said, finishing his crueller.

'"They wouldn't be if you were a wilderness guide," Olivia said. He laughed, aware of his drunkness.

"Right. A good argument, there. You should have Casey's job."

Amazingly, Olivia has dispensed of her eclair and coffee in about ten minutes. The smell of donuts was making them both sick, so they went back out into the night. It was starting to rain.

"Neither of us can drive. You know that, right? No way," he said, running under an awning.

"Come on, my house is close," Olivia said, tugging his sleeve.

"Ten blocks!" he shouted, but she was already ahead of him. He had to sprint to catch up. They both laughed as the rain poured down on the city, soaking them.

XXXXXXXXX

They puffed into her apartment hallway, waiting as she fumbled for an eternity for a key. Both desperately had to go to the bathroom. She had only one.

Elliot had to be a gentleman and let her go first. She dawdled on purpose, laughing as he pounded on the door.

"Liv, if you don't let me go, I'm going to piss in your potted plants."

She ran out, still laughing at his predicament. When he emerged, Elliot looked very content now that his bladder had shrunk back to normal size. Both of them were soaking wet and water was beginning to puddle up on the floor. Olivia stared at the water dripping from her jeans before slowly opening the linen closet and pulling down every towel she had.

"I want to get really dry," she said, pouring water out of her shoes and into on of her pee-free potted plants.

"Your floor is getting ruined. If you'll give me a towel I can sop some of this stuff up," Elliot said, holding out his arm. Olivia grabbed a towel but instead of giving it to him, she rolled it up and snapped it at his arm.

"Don't do that. That's locker room crap."

She snapped it again, this time at his rear end.

"Liv, I'm warning you. I didn't tell you this...but Kathy and I got divorced...because she snapped me with a towel."

She snapped it at his butt again.

"That's it Benson, You're toast."

He ripped the towel from her hands and began chasing her around with it. She shrieked and jumped over furniture, knocking over books and a stack of clean clothes.

Elliot cornered her. She was laughing as he closed in, towel poised. But instead of snapping her, her wrapped it around her head and pretended to roughly dry her hair.

"So you want to get really dry, huh?"

"Ow! Elliot! Come on!"

He whipped the towel off her head and tried to arrange her hair back to normal.

"Lost cause. I'm like Little Orphan Annie when it rains," she said, swaying a bit.

"Hey Liv."

He pinned her to the wall. His arms limited her movement without them actually touching her. There was two feet of space between their faces, but to her it was like an eternity.

"Liv, why have we been fighting so much?"

"Because your moods were unpredictable and when I wanted to talk to you, you ran off to Miss Shrink and I was mad," she mumbled, looking over his shoulder. "I'm sorry about what happened and I want to help."

Elliot let out a sigh. She could feel his hot breath on her face.

"And I thought you were distancing yourself from me. You didn't seem like you wanted to work with me anymore, and that hurt," he said. "So what now?"

Olivia tried to say something but it caught in her throat. Their faces were just inches apart now, and all she'd have to do is just duck under his arms to get away. His hand steadied her jaw. They were both trembling.

"I don't know," she finally said, in a careful whisper. She leaned forward a little and his lips caught hers.

The idea of time stopping is a totally unreal one. Olivia and Elliot both felt the air around them slow down, though, as they kissed that rainy night. Eight years, they'd watched each other from a distance. Eight years, Olivia had prayed he would love her someday. Eight years, Elliot had wondered...

They were both out of breath when the kiss ended. There was a lot to say to each other now. Not necessarily "I love you" but other things that they had kept hidden from each other.

Elliot rested his forehead against hers and closed his eyes. She began unbuttoning his shirt.

FADE OUT