A/N: I am so sorry this is so late. I meant to post it Tuesday, then work got crazy and hasn't stopped since. I'm finally taking a moment to breathe. At any rate, here's the last part of the story. Thanks for sticking around:)
Elliot fumbled with the phone, nearly dropping it onto the floor. He heard his name being called and hurried to answer whomever was on the other end.
"Elliot?" She repeated his name a second time. She sighed and went to hang up the phone when she heard him answer.
"Wait. Liv? Damnit!" Elliot frantically called out into the receiver, hoping she'd hear.
"This wasn't how I planned starting out this conversation." Her shoes scraped against the concrete as she made her way up the stairs.
"Yeah, well things for us rarely go as planned. You know that, Liv." He heard her heavy breathing and wondered what she was doing. Seconds later, he heard footsteps and listened as they got closer, forgetting that he was ignoring Olivia.
"Maybe I shouldn't have called." She regretted her decision the moment she heard him pick up. He sounded distant.
"Sorry. This is weird. It's been a while, ya' know?" He stared at the door and craned his neck to look under the small crack at the bottom. A shadow blocked the light from coming in.
"Yeah. I lost track after a while. You going to let your partner in?" She stood hopefully, waiting for him to open the door and let her back into his life.
"Aw, hell. I was expecting the postman." He tried to disengage the lock. He was thankful she couldn't see his shaking hands. He stood back to let her by and smiled as she crossed the threshold.
"Hey." She returned his smile and closed her phone. She laughed as he held the phone to his ear. Rolling her eyes, she took the receiver from him and hung up before placing it on the stand.
"Hey. It's a mess." He glanced around, wishing he'd cleaned. She was always giving him a hard time about his apartment being so messy. She said he didn't have a reason for it to be that way since he was never there.
"This is me being shocked. Mind if I sit?" She shifted her weight from one leg to the other. Her calf muscles had become more defined from all the walking.
"You have to ask?" He took in her nervous expression, laced with a bit of fear. It was then that he realized all that was going through her mind. She was afraid of his rejection. He placed his hand on the small of her back and led her to the couch.
"You didn't..." She quickened her pace and made it to the table in three strides. She plopped down on the couch and peered into the glass bowl.
"I get him every other weekend and on holidays. Break the agreement and I'm calling Casey." He'd been so incredibly decisive about which fish to get when he'd stopped by the pet store. He'd finally chosen the one that was paired up with a smaller one. It reminded him of Olivia and her innate ability to help those in need; the many sacrifices she made for the victims. He'd meticulously cleaned the bowl and let the water warm to room temperature. Once he'd deposited the fish into its home, something clicked. He'd taken care of it as if it was his own, and it could be the one thing that would bring them back together.
"I'll drop him by on Friday night to stay over, then. Thanks, El." She wanted to say so much more, but the words died on her tongue. The look in his eyes told her he understood. So much more than just a fish. He understood how much she wanted him to know that her job was on the line. She had to leave. She had returned, though. She'd been granted a week's vacation and had yet to catch up with him.
"I got you some things." He bent over the side of the couch and handed her a small, pink bag with tissue paper sticking out the top. He'd never been good at stuffing the paper. He laughed at her reaction to the color.
"You son of a bitch." She shook her head and tossed the paper aside.
"So I've been told." He smiled as her eyes fell on each item. He had a feeling she hadn't gotten many presents in her lifetime.
"You shouldn't…you didn't have to do that." She rifled through the contents and laid each one out.
"I wanted to. I don't want to hear you complaining about the coffee for at least a week." He'd set aside ten dollars each week to buy her a gift card. He couldn't imagine going without a decent cup of coffee as long as she had.
"I think I may use this." She didn't start to lose it until she found the very last item. She turned the small book over and inspected it. Words of wisdom were printed on the outer cover.
"You should. I want that signed, by the way." It amazed him that they'd gone so long without talking, yet their conversation seemed to pick up where they'd left off. He wondered why it was so awkward to begin with. They'd done it before. He nudged her with his shoulder. He knew she felt uncomfortable losing it in front of him. He'd seen her come close, but she was the epitome of composure.
"Mmm…this smells good. I love the smell of vanilla." She pressed the cap down and set the bottle of lotion to the side.
"It's more for my benefit, really. After reading about how infrequent you shower these days, I had to do something to mask the smell. You better use that or I'm going to Cragen. You'll end up with Munch; if he'll have you after what you did." He laughed as she started to rattle off a list of choice words.
"Very funny. You know you missed me." She grew serious as she thought of his new partner and all the times she wondered if he'd gotten used to her being gone.
"Maybe." He ran his fingernail over the wooden surface of the coffee table. Olivia had commented on the table and how it was too good of a table for him to not have any coasters.
"Has John forgiven me for going to the other side?" She regretted leaving her friends in the dark. Most of all, she hated that she felt like she was betraying them.
"You know Munch. He's since moved onto bigger and better conspiracies." He tried to lighten the mood, knowing that she was beating herself up.
"I have something for you, too. She reached into her back pocket and pulled out a letter she'd written at the airport.
"You're getting into this writing thing. From now on, you're doing all the paperwork." He smiled and fingered the edge of the folded slip of paper. He tapped it on the palm of his hand and set it down on the coffee table.
"Yeah, don't read it now. That'll be awkward." She eyed the letter, knowing there was no going back.
"I'll read it at work and show the guys." He studied her expression and the blush that caressed her cheeks as soon as the words came out of his mouth.
"You do and you're dead." She feigned being angry and let out a laugh. It felt like old times. She propped her feet up on the coffee table and leaned back into the cushions of the couch.
"When's the last time someone took you out?" He watched her think and realized just how long it had been.
"I think an easier question would be when was the last time I didn't go out. A year or so ago, I think. No, wait. I didn't end up going out that night, so it's been a while. You buying?" She cocked her head, wondering what he was thinking.
"No, I offered so you could pay. Of course, I'm buying." He studied her with an amused expression at how she was making herself at home.
"Oh, shut it. It's comfortable." She laughed and smacked him on the arm.
"I didn't say a word. I want to live to see my next birthday, thanks. How's your hand?" He pointed to a small, raised portion of skin on her hand.
"Oh, it's fine. Just me being me. I didn't realize there was a broken bottle where I put my hand down. It took a while, but it finally healed." She flexed her fingers and turned her hand over.
"You get everything all wrapped up?" He didn't know how much she was allowed to divulge. The weeks he'd gone without any contact had made him think the worst. If she hadn't come when she did, he would have found a way to get to her.
"Yeah. I feel like I wasted six weeks of my life. I kind of caught a case while I was there, though. I keep wondering how long the poor girl would have suffered." She stared up at the ceiling, thoughtfully.
"She okay? The girl?" It never ceased to amaze him how she wound up in the middle of a case completely out of her jurisdiction. Her sixth sense paid off after all.
"She will be." She turned to him and raised her eyebrows. She almost added that they would be, as well.
Elliot merely nodded, letting her know he was listening. She was safe, that's all he cared about.
The silence lingered for what seemed like hours, until she finally spoke.
"So, when are we going out?"