Disclaimer: Nope. Not mine. Still.

Authors note:

I wish I had some sort of brilliant excuse as to why it's taken me over a month to update. But I don't. I can be honest with you though. I've been putting it off because I knew that once this chapter was finished, then that would be the end for this story. And that made me sad because I've loved writing this, and I've loved hearing how each chapter has affected you guys (or not affected you guys. Lol) So, seeing as this is the last chapter, you have to let me know what you thought. I was thinking of doing a sequel (with a wedding, or post-wedding story) or even a companion piece from Olivia's point of view. So let me know if you think that's a good idea my dears.

I have so many people to thank, and I'll only list a few otherwise this will go on forever and ever. If I don't mention you, don't take offense, it's not that I've forgotten you, it's just that this AN would be 70 pages if I put everyone down.

First, to all those who've reviewed. Thanks for all your support; I look forward to hearing from you for the last time.

To Gabby, my recent convert and bestie. I've loved your in-depth reviews and the way you describe smut as "sexy time". Love you long tan!

To Denise, Allie, Rach and Sarah; thank you for your uber supportive reviews. For listening to me bitch and moan about everything and anything and still loving me enough to keep talking to me.

To those on the forums who make me laugh with their enthusiastic EO support.

To Hannah for keeping me going by giving me snippets of your story. And of course for asking every single night about the status of Senses, and making me laugh about penal sanctions and Elliot's gun. So thank you sweetie.

Last but not least, my beautiful betas.

Scar who has gone a little mad; but it still brilliant. Despite the time difference you've always managed to get your feedback to me so very quickly, and having me in stitches with each and every reply. Thank you so much.

And to Nettie who has read over as little as two sentences and still commented. I don't think I'd have it up today if it wasn't for your constant pressing. Which is a good thing. I also don't think I quite have the words that would describe how appreciative I am. 'Wockets' seems to blasé and 'thanks' just too simple. But I think you have a general idea of what I'm trying to say, so thank you will have to do.

Just a side note: You'll come to a part in the story where Elliot refers to a case and when his kids come to visit him at work for his birthday. It's an actual episode called "Contagious" from season 6.

So without further ado, enjoy the final chapter. Thanks for any and all feedback.

Laura xoxo

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"Meeting you was fate, becoming your friend was a choice, but falling in love with you I had no control over."

Anon

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Elliot Stabler liked to think he could exercise self-control. That he knew how to hold back when all he wanted to do was put a hole through a wall.

Preferably, using somebody's body part.

For two decades he'd proven that even the most asinine of perpetrators wouldn't have him lose his badge and gun for a momentary loss of control. He never gave any of them the satisfaction of knowing they were under his skin.

But he thought tonight, for the first time in over twenty years; he might have to give in.

There were a number of options he could take of course; all of which were appealing but none of which were practical when you were driving.

So, he estimated Casey had all of twenty seconds before he decided he would simply pull the Navigator over and throw her into the closest river on the way to Munch's retirement party.

She had been talking more than he had heard a human being talk in all his years on Earth; and that included those spent in a household with four females.

Olivia was doing her best to appease him; her hand on his thigh was probably the only thing keeping him sane. They exchanged a quick look as Elliot pulled into the car-park; she hid her smile with her right hand, her left rubbing his thigh soothingly. In the rear-view mirror, Lake looked as though he had half a mind to jump out of the SUV and save himself. He caught Elliot's eye in the mirror and motioned with his finger across his throat.

Next to him, Casey continued on and on about the wedding of one of her friends back home in Michigan. "And, there's the cake. At Penny Drayton's wedding, her cake was almost five tiers. It was the biggest one I've ever seen."

His hands tightened on the steering wheel. "Casey," he started through gritted teeth, "I have no idea who Penny Drayton is."

Olivia squeezed his leg as she chuckled quietly. "Of course you don't Elliot. Haven't you been listening to anything I've been saying?"

Lake's eyes widened, "I need to use the bathroom."

And with that, he was out of the car before Elliot had managed to properly pull into the car-space.

"And if you ever need a wedding planner, I know a divorce lawyer whose sister is fabulous."

He bristled as Casey's head appeared between him and Olivia; lip-gloss out as she used the rear-view mirror to adjust her make-up. He would have complained, but her lips were now occupied and no longer spouting useless information about people he didn't know.

Rather, he and Olivia were now focused on Lake; who, instead of using the bathroom like he had said, was now at the car of a female detective from vice. In fact, the bathroom looked like it was the last thing on his mind.

"That asshole," Casey muttered as she pushed the door open, making a bee-line for Lake.

They watched in silence as Lake noticed her in the corner of his eye, and rushed off in the direction of the hall, Casey hot on his heels.

Olivia began to laugh, "Poor Chester. He'll never hear the end of it."

Elliot shrugged, "I think this was the calm before the storm. As long as we're engaged, I think Lake is safe."

Olivia smiled, closing her eyes. "Say it again."

He frowned in confusion. "What?"

Olivia turned her head, eyes now open. "That we're engaged."

Her smile was infectious and he couldn't help leaning in and kissing her. "We're definitely engaged."

He went to pull away, but Olivia made it extremely difficult to do, lithely climbing out of her seat and onto his lap. He had no idea how she managed to do it, but he was far from complaining.

Olivia smiled at him impishly, but he could tell that the steering wheel was probably cutting into her back. He reached down blindly and pulled the lever of his seat, holding onto Olivia as they barrelled backwards.

"Hello..." Olivia cut him off with her lips, her tongue invading his open mouth. His hands gripped her hips as her hands cupped his neck to keep his head steady.

He felt his body responding as she began to move rhythmically in his lap; the heat from her centre seeping through the material of his dress pants. She moaned as his hand cupped her breast through the gap of the dress' neckline, his finger tracing the budding skin he found peaking at his touch.

He tore his lips from hers, his voice deep and gravelly. "Liv, don't start something you can't finish."

Her eyes opened, her pupils so dilated they looked black. "You wanna skip this thing and have dinner on our couch?"

He laughed, he couldn't help it. He wanted nothing more than to take Olivia home, get out of these ridiculous clothes and sit on the couch watching rubbish television all night.

Steadying his breathing, he took Olivia's left hand in his, the ring cool against his fingertips. "As much as that thought appeals to me, Munch won't forgive us;" he nodded his head in the direction of the hall, "and what can be more fun than listening to Casey tell us what colour the toilet paper needs to be for our wedding?"

Olivia leant her head back and laughed, the length of skin she exposed tempting him beyond belief.

And he realised that as much as he wanted to go straight back home and eat take-out with Olivia on the couch, or watch terrible late night television, he wanted to tell everybody they were getting married more.

Olivia returned her gaze to his, her thumbs brushing against the underside of his ears. He was absolutely captivated as her eyes searched his own. For what, he didn't know, but she seemed to find it, because the tension in her shoulders finally seemed to ebb away.

"I'm nervous Elliot."

Her honest statement washed over him, and he realised that she was simply looking for the reassurance he would be by her side as much as she needed him for the night. She had never been nervous of her colleagues before; but then again, she had never been engaged to her ex-partner either.

Her ex-partner who had seemingly been happily married for 20 odd years.

Those close to them knew the truth; he had been loyal to his wife and Olivia to their partnership. But there would always be the small group of people who believed he and Olivia had been involved long before the disintegration of his marriage to Kathy.

He knew that in the end, she didn't really care what others thought of their situation; but when it came to his own, he knew it was different. In the first month of their relationship, he'd had to reassure her she wasn't the other woman. She was who he wanted to be with.

In that month, they both realised there probably hadn't really been anybody else.

In that month, their relationship would change irrevocably.

In that month she had read a newspaper article about soul-mates; and about the various opinions which existed by those 'in the know'. He had been laying on his side in their bed, watching her read it in what appeared a cynical manner; but underneath, he knew she felt differently. She had read it with a smile, but her eyes betrayed what her voice was saying.

Her eyes would always give her away.

He had to give her credit, she managed to keep her voice level and seemingly unaffected; but it was when she had reached the final quote of the article, her voice betrayed her. Her eyes, shining with tears, had refused to meet his until he had taken her in his arms and simply held onto her.

Breathlessly and on the brink of sleep, she confessed what she had wanted all along was confirmation that no matter what; he would always be by her side –he would always have her back, no matter what anybody said.

He had never made an easier promise.

Now, she was looking for a reaffirmation of that promise; because this was a new level of their relationship, and if Casey was anything to go by, they would definitely need to stick together.

He brushed the hair that had fallen over her eyes to the side. "I'll be right beside you all night, Liv."

She leant forward and pressed a chaste kiss to his lips. "You see? This is why I love you."

He grinned, cupping her cheek. "You mean it's not because I'm so good-looking?"

She slapped at his chest playfully as she managed to roll herself back into her car-seat as gracefully as she had done in reverse. "You're still an idiot."

He moved his fist to his chest in with a wounded expression on his face. "You sure know how to make a guy feel special."

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He swirled the auburn liquid in his glass, the ice clinking within as he surveyed the room. Munch and a detective friend from Baltimore were to his left, talking about something he had lost interest in as soon as the word "theory" came out of John's mouth.

His Captain and Casey were talking at their table towards the front, near the dais, and a relieved looking Lake had finally found the detective from vice he had been speaking to earlier. Most of those who filled the hall were not people he recognised, despite over two decades with the force.

But then again, most were Munch's age and therefore retired.

"As I was saying Elliot," he drew his attention away from the room and to Munch, "I think the Government is tracing all of our actions in all these new electronics they're so eagerly importing," he waved the arm holding his drink in front of him, "for all we know, they could be listening to this as well."

He shook his head in polite amusement, "Whatever you say, John. I'm sure the Government has an incredible amount of interest in your retirement party."

He laughed as Munch looked at him over his glasses. "You say that now my friend. But in three months when this is all over the internet, you'll think differently."

He took a sip of his drink in reply; wincing slightly as the liquid burnt the back of his throat. He scanned the room again, smiling politely at those he recognised; even offering a wave to Jones from Warrants.

His eyes stopped when they reached Olivia, who was now in an animated conversation with Casey and another woman he didn't recognise. Casey was holding Olivia's left hand to the woman who was fawning over her ring. And if he ever needed a physical definition of what the term 'mega-watt' smile was; then Olivia was providing him with the perfect example.

His heart clenched in his chest as he remembered just how close he'd come to never seeing that smile again. Whether it was the one she offered after his lame attempt at a joke, or when she saw him first thing in the morning, to the ones she gave to the smallest of victims to reassure them that everything would be okay; Olivia's smile could offer hope in the most dire of circumstances.

And the one he remembered most was the one she had offered him three years ago.

Three years ago, as his life was falling apart, he had wallowed in helplessness and ignored any and all attempts to be assisted. His wife had moved in with her mother, taken his children and left him with an empty house full of distant memories. Memories that only served to make him even more upset; even more unapproachable and unstable. He began to drown in "what-ifs" and "could-haves" of past mistakes, and he couldn't find the light.

Three years ago, he had experienced a case that had gnawed him to the bone and had brought him to the brink of resignation. Never, in his near two-decade service with the force, had Elliot ever really come that close to leaving the job. The job was what kept him going; what helped to keep his children safe and allowed them, if not him, to sleep at night. But he had sunk so far he had begun to suffocate, and had almost taken his frustrations out on the wife of a suspect.

But, three years ago, while most around had all but abandoned him, Olivia had been there to bring him back. She had taken it upon herself to drag him, albeit kicking and screaming, to the surface where he could clear his head. He hadn't realised it at the time, but her actions had been the catalyst for his change.

She had called the people in his life that were his ultimate driving force.

His kids

I'm going home

Maybe you should stop at your desk first

Think you got enough candles on that cake?

We always have a cake

You have to make a wish

Of course I do

Had Olivia not called his children, it would have been the first birthday he spent not surrounded by family and a birthday cake. The thought had scared him, because after over forty years of routine it was a shock to the system to suddenly be alone.

But when he had looked up at Olivia; at where she and Lizzie were stuffing their mouths with chocolate cake, he began to think. Olivia had been alone her whole life, but she had never, ever begrudged anybody of that. She had continued to do her job just as effectively as he did; but without the support he had relied upon and taken advantage of for so long.

And she did it, for the most part, with the most beautiful smile on her face.

That day had been no exception, but the next three years of their partnership, he realised that the less he offered her by way of simple gestures of appreciation; she would reciprocate less and less. He began to fear that the day there would come a time when he would forget what it looked like for Olivia to smile at him; when the memories of the evening she stood with his kids and himself around a cake with far too many candles would simply fade into his distant memory bank.

So much had happened between them both professionally and personally between that night and Olivia's kidnapping; but somewhere along the way the most effortless of actions had become an isolated past-time. Granted, there had been nothing for them to smile about. But he wondered if maybe, instead of telling Olivia that they couldn't be partners, he smiled at her and apologised, if anything would different.

But he knows, as Olivia spots him watching her, that despite their near-death experiences, he wouldn't change a thing. Besides, they weren't the sort of people to do anything really productive unless provoked.

And he hadn't seen a smile as heart-stopping as the one Olivia had given to him the day in the hospital room their lives had changed dramatically.

But he had to say, the one she was giving him now was offering some fierce competition.

He reached out his arm to place his empty glass on the tray of a passing waiter, barely noticing if he'd actually made any contact. He loved it when she walked towards him, especially when she maintained such heated eye contact. To the ordinary onlooker, it would seem like a regular walk; somebody heading from A to B, but he knew Olivia's footfalls better than his own.

The way she was moving now was completely different to how she did before Ashton had kidnapped her. Since she had left him to work for Computer Crimes, she'd had a slight slouch in her walk, her eyes barely meeting the ones of those around her. He thinks it might have been the physical manifestation of the tension that existed in their partnership, of the horrors the job presented her with.

Yet, since their hospital-room confessions, her back had become straighter, her head higher and he had never seen such a beautiful vision. And it was coming towards him.

"You miss me?" Olivia kissed the side of his jaw as his arm slipped around her waist possessively.

"I was getting jealous of you and Casey," he joked, her hair tickling his cheek. "Munch thinks the Government is spying on his party."

Olivia rolled her eyes. "Of course he does; he's Munch."

"And that's a bad thing?" Munch's friend had disappeared back into the crowd and his interest had been piqued at the sound of his name.

Olivia widened her eyes in feigned innocence. "I have no idea what you're talking about John."

Munch nodded, completely unconvinced. "And I was going to say nice things about you guys in my speech."

They laughed, but Elliot had the distinct feeling they were all consciously ignoring the heaviness which had settled between them. To acknowledge it would mean it was real; that saying goodbye would mean no more Munch after next week.

Elliot couldn't imagine walking into the precinct in the morning and not having sludge-like coffee to complain about; or some far-fetched claim that the Government really was trying to kill them.

"We'll miss you honey." Elliot rubbed Olivia's back as she pulled Munch into a fierce hug.

He could feel Olivia begin to shudder, and he knew that she was sobbing. Munch had always been someone for her to look up to on the job, and he found himself fighting tears of his own. Olivia let go, and immediately turned to bury her head into the crook of Elliot's neck, her tears hot against his skin. He held onto her with his left arm and dragged Munch in for as manly a hug as was possible in the position they were in.

"I'll miss you man."

Munch nodded, patting his back hard twice. He moved away, giving them a shaky smile, accepting the glass of champagne that Fin offered him.

"You better do this before Casey kills Lake," Fin said gruffly, indicating the middle of the room where the pair was in a heated discussion.

Elliot kissed the top and Olivia's head as he led her back to their table to where a much calmer Casey was peeling the label off her beer, a quiet Lake to her left. "I hate goodbyes."

He nodded in ascent, squeezing the hand Olivia had linked through his own. Most of the people gathered had taken their seats, the conversation settling to a low mumble. Munch had made his way to the microphone, tapping it to check if it was working.

He cleared his throat, the sound reverberating through the hall. "Everyone got a seat?"

There was a chorus of 'yes' from various points in the room, most notably from Morales who had already had entirely too much to drink.

"I wanted to start by thanking everybody for coming here tonight. I've worked as a detective for so long, and been to so many places I forget how many people I know," he paused, smiling, "whether they like me or not."

A rumble of polite laughter filled the room, and Elliot couldn't help but notice Fin was staring at the surface of the table. He had a blank expression on his face, his finger tracing the condensation which had formed on his glass.

Munch continued. "I just wanted to share a story with you guys. It's short, and free of theories," he smiled, scanning the room, "although I will be available afterwards for those interested."

Laughter again. Then silence. Heavy and sullen.

"Over two decades ago I was partnered with a guy who loved the job so completely that the day I found out he ate his gun, I didn't believe it. I couldn't."

Elliot took a sip of his water, his throat suddenly dry. "I went to his funeral and listened to the eulogy his best friend gave. There were the obligatory niceties and exploration of past experiences. But what stood out was when he spoke about the way Tony had become withdrawn from those outside the job. Shut out his friends and his family."

The room was so quiet that Elliot could hear Munch's intake of breath clearly. Olivia had joined Fin in keeping her eyes on the white tablecloth, the fingers of her right hand scratching at a stain as though she could wipe it away.

"It's no secret that I've had a number of unsuccessful marriages," a self-deprecating chuckle, "but I think it had a lot to do with the fear that I would lose touch with reality; get so absorbed in the job that I'd turn out like Tony. That'd I'd just give up on life because there was nothing for me but the long hours and mountains of paperwork. I thought that I would only ever be defined by the boundaries of being a detective, and never have an identity separate to it."

Munch's eyes roved over the table where he, Olivia and the rest of the squad were sitting. "I thought I would end up like Tony. But then I joined Special Victim's."

Olivia squeezed Elliot's hand tightly; her glassy eyes now back on Munch. Fin had done the same, and Casey swiped at her cheek where a tear had fallen.

"And I learnt through the people I met, and worked with, and lived in the pockets of..."

Olivia's laugh caught in her throat, and Elliot released her hand so he could pull her to him. Munch was moving into territory that only those in the room, who had experienced similar accounts, would understand.

It was the feeling of hopelessness. Of being sucked into the darkest reaches possible and living in a world of shadows. Where nothing was tangible but everything was real. There were times when he himself had contemplated ending it all; to give up because it seemed so much easier.

Because he felt that the no matter what he did, things just got worse. And everything was different.

Everything's changing, Liv

Maybe you are?

It had taken a heart to heart with Olivia for him to finally realise, that despite his situation with Kathy, he was too important for so many other people to just give up the fight.

He was more than just the job; he was a father to his children.

And he was everything to Olivia.

Since then, he relied on that connection, on that definition, outside of work, to pull him through.

And he couldn't be happier.

He kissed Olivia's head as Munch cleared his throat again. "I learnt that the job is far from everything; that if you work with certain individuals your life can change for the better. Yes, the job will kill you sometimes; everybody goes through that; even ADA's..."

Casey laughed, another tear escaping and sliding down her cheek. This time, she made no effort to get rid of it. Elliot could feel Olivia's own on his neck again, and he knew that this was as much the truth for her as it was for him. That, like him, she had come close to leaving everything for a promise of nothing.

Because sometimes the nothing was much more appealing than the emptiness.

Munch shifted where he stood. "But if you're lucky like me, you know after even the worst day possible, you can meet your best friends for a drink to make it a little better. Friends who remind you that there is more to life after the working day is over. That although it's hard, we have others in our life who need us to go on..."

"In our children," he rose his glass to Fin and Cragen, "in our significant others," to Casey and Lake, "and in each other," to Elliot and Olivia.

They raised their glasses, albeit shakily, the others in the room slowly following their lead.

"And although not all of us are lucky enough to have it, I can safely say I do. So thank you."

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When Lizzie was nine years old she vowed never again to speak to Dickie. Shoulders squared, chest puffed-out, she declared she would never, ever, forgive him for breaking the head off her favourite Barbie Doll. It was easily repaired, but she had lasted two days completely ignoring her twin before she caved; falling for Dickie's peace offering of triple chocolate cookies.

But in the two days she had given Dickie the silent treatment, she had introduced Elliot to her imaginary friend, Jenny. He'd sat on the sofa in their living room, and listened with a straight face as Lizzie told him all about her new best friend in the whole wide world. Her face had been bright, her eyes wide as she recounted their experience in the backyard exploring the various, and possibly dangerous, flora and fauna.

So happy had she been, that two days later, he had been surprised to walk into the twins' bedroom to see Dickie and her putting on a show for their very patient mother. He watched, amused, and completely absorbed in their display, clapping loudly with Kathy as they took their bows.

While Dickie followed Kathy into the kitchen for ice-cream, he had helped Lizzie pack away the various toys scattered around the room. He'd brought up Jenny, and asked if she had been in the play as well, and if they were still friends.

Lizzie looked at him seriously, her brow furrowed, as she told him she didn't like Jenny anymore, they'd had a fight and were no longer friends. She said that when Jenny was around she had to pretend to be better at everything to impress her.

Elliot had laughed, but stopped mid-way when he realised she was entirely serious. And when she answered his last question, he wondered when his daughter had become so unassumingly wise.

You forgave Dickie because he gave you cookies?

No, I don't even really like those cookies.

So why did you forgive him?

Because I can be myself with him Daddy

He never really understood the full meaning behind his daughter's words until very recently.

It wasn't until he was sitting with Olivia that Sunday, three and a half weeks into their relationship. The cotton sheets cool against his heated skin as Olivia moved off him, her silky hair brushing against his chest. They had spent the entire day in bed, only leaving the room when it was absolutely necessary.

Luckily, he had collected the paper earlier in the morning, and Olivia had thought it would be amusing to read each other's star signs. Normally, she'd read them the day after and see how accurate they had or hadn't been.

This particular Sunday however, before she'd even had to chance to reach them, she'd come across the article on soul mates; her smile coy as she pretended to seem unaffected by what she was reading. He'd remained still, his fingers brushing the length of the leg resting over his waist, completely absorbed in the way that Olivia's lips were moving; with the words that were coming out of her mouth.

His heart had pounded, his fingers moving higher to tangle in her hair, against her cheek as her eyes became shiny. But she didn't cry. She wouldn't.

So she continued instead.

"Here, listen to this, El."

He shifted to his side, propping his elbow so he could rest his head on his hand. He had noticed a shift in Olivia's mood. Just from the way that her shoulders had squared somewhat, in the way her breathing pattern changed. Just a little bit.

Just enough for him to sense it.

"What is it?" He moved his hand from her hair, resting it on her leg again.

"Quote on soulmates." She shifted in the bed until she was straddling his waist.

Sensing the importance, he ignored the way her breasts swayed so tantalizingly in front of him; the way her heat was pressed against his stomach.

"What's it say?"

He watched Olivia shrug; her way of feigning indifference. But he need only look at her face to see this mattered. That his opinion on what she was about to read to him mattered.

So he listened.

"Ready?" He gave her a smile, a quirk of his lips to encourage her. "It's from a guy called Richard Bach. It's long...I can cut some of it out if you..."

"Liv?" He cupped her cheek, "just tell me what it says."

She nodded, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. He felt her shudder slightly as she took a deep breath, a shaky smile gracing her features.

"A soulmate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we're pretending to be."

His heart beat accelerated, his hand rubbing her forearm as a tear escaped. He watched it, enthralled, as it dropped from her chin onto his hand. But he was too focused on her words; on how they were making his stomach clench at their levity, at their hidden meaning, to wipe it away

Hidden to others, and he realised, hidden to himself as well.

Until now.

He had spent his whole life being somebody else. He was a father to his children and a husband to his wife, but he had been pretending. Never with his emotions; because he loved his children - more than himself - there was no questioning that.

But he pretended to be strong in front of them. He pretended to be a menacing figure who would intimidate potential partners of theirs. He pretended to be the man that had all the answers to their life questions.

He pretended to be somebody he really wasn't.

He realised that the only person he had never pretended in front of was Olivia.

She could always see through his bullshit.

She knew that sometimes, after the hardest cases, he'd take a long shower; the sound of the cascading water muffling his own sobs.

She knew he kept a chocolate bar in his locker even though he'd swear blind he never ate the stuff.

She knew that underneath the hardened Detective Stabler exterior, there was a person who simply wanted to keep his kids safe from the horrors he saw everyday

And now she was sitting in front of him – hell, on top of him, and she was returning the favour. She was showing him, finally, that despite her derisiveness in the first year of their partnership when the subject was broached; she believed in soulmates

The Detective Benson that everybody else knew would never take her for somebody who believed in something so...feminine. So not hard-ass.

But he knew, like her, it was mainly a façade. Like him, Olivia did her fair share of pretending as well.

She pretended that every rape case they investigated didn't remind her of her mother. She pretended finding her half-brother wasn't one of the most thrilling things to ever happen to her. She pretended transferring out of SVU had been the right decision at the time.

But he knew SVU was in her blood; despite her protests it was a job.

He knew at the end of the day, she'd steal the chocolate bar in his locker and claim the cleaners removed food to stop bug infestation and that he hated the stuff anyway.

He knew under the hardened exterior that was Detective Benson, there was the most beautiful person he had ever encountered, who simply wanted to stop people from becoming victims like her mother.

He was broken out of his trance by the feel of Olivia's lips on the tip of his nose, then on his top lip. "You still there?"

He smiled, holding her head in place so he could maintain contact. "Yeah," he finally mumbled.

He groaned as she pulled back. "There's more."

His heart flipped at that; he honestly didn't know if he would able to take anymore, but she was fixing him with that look again, and he knew leaving was not an option.

Not anymore.

"Go on, Liv."

He rubbed her leg, watching as she found her place again, "Okay. Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person we're safe in our own paradise. Our soulmate is someone who shares our deepest longings, our sense of direction. When we're two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we've found the right person. Our soulmate is the one who makes life come to life."

She wasn't looking at him anymore; her eyes remained fixed on the paper in her shaking hands. Christ, she looked like she was about to burst into tears. He hated it when she cried; he hated it because it was something that made him physically ache.

The sound of their breathing filled the room and she still wasn't looking at him. But she wasn't crying either. She was just sitting there, blinking slowly as she seemed to absorb the words she'd just said.

He tried to think of something to say to break the silence; to make her smile, to make her do anything.

Then finally, mercifully, she spoke. Her voice had been tiny, so quiet, but he was finally listening, and he heard her clearly

"El, if I told you, you were my fucking balloon would it be the cheesiest thing you've ever heard?"

He sat up so quickly even he was surprised at his agility. His arms wrapped around her, her skin soft under his rough palms. She tilted her head towards where his lips were settled against her ear.

"You're my fucking balloon too Liv. Don't you ever forget that!"

And then she had kissed him.

And everything insignificantfell away.

"You still there?"

Elliot smiled, accepting the glass of wine Olivia offered him. "Yeah, just thinking."

Olivia crawled along the mattress, the material of his NYPD sweater dwarfing her, teasing him as it rode up her legs as she moved towards him.

She grinned back sassily as she paused before she reached him. "You know the last time you did some thinking, it resulted in an engagement. I don't know if I can take much more tonight."

He laughed, opening his arms so she could settle against his side, smiling into her hair as she pressed as close as she could.

For all the times they had spent as far away from each other during the most trying times of their partnership, they had more than made up for it in the past year.

"I was just thinking about tonight, that's all."

Olivia's breath was warm against his bare shoulder, her hand soothing the skin of his abs. "It was lovely," he nodded, shifting as Olivia's fingers drifted to the material of his boxers, "very Munch-like."

He hissed, her hands making contact with his manhood. "Can you not talk about Munch when you're doing that please?"

She laughed against his jaw, her tongue tasting the skin. "What's on your mind?"

He placed the glass of wine on the bedside table, his other hand trailing lazily in Olivia's hair. The silky strands slipping easily through his fingers as her lips continued to tease the side of his face.

"About what John said tonight..."

Olivia's hand stilled, but her lips pressed tighter against the side of his head, an almost imperceptible nod brushing the stubble on his cheek.

"I just...Liv..."

He could never get over how gracefully Olivia moved. Especially when it was over him; her eyes maintaining smouldering eye contact as she accepted him inside her body.

Before he could even draw a breath, he found himself right there; buried inside the only home he'd ever really known.

Olivia's lips were at his ear again, and she was whispering. "I know Elliot, I know." She released a groan, "me too, El."

Elliot found the motivation to move, bringing his arms up and under his sweatshirt. It was hers now though; apparently it smelt like him and she'd wear it during the long cases when they were separated. He wonders momentarily if she wears it at work in the cribs during one of those all-night jobs; if she thinks about him the way he thinks about her as he pushes his head into her pillow so he is overwhelmed by her scent.

Really, it shouldn't be healthy to want, to need, an individual this much.

To rely on their mere presence to get through the day.

There had been a time where they could barely tolerate the other's existence; where they couldn't stand the other's proximity on the job. And his heart jolted again as her mouth moved from his to his left shoulder, her tongue tracing the scar that now resided there.

His hands moved up her bare back and fisted in her hair, pulling her face to his. "Do you remember what you told me after Ashton shot me, Liv?"

Olivia's eyes were closed, her breath coming out in short pants as she rolled her hips down. But he saw her nod. Just once.

But it was enough.

He thrust up, his lips pressing hot kisses to her collarbone. "What did you tell me Liv?"

Olivia moaned, her nails scratching at his shoulder blades. "That...oh El." Her head dropped to the crook of his neck as her body released around his pulsing length.

He groaned at the sensation of her body gripping his erection so viciously, but he tried his best to remain composed. He almost lost it however, when Olivia's eyes finally met his; the brown so dark it was almost black.

She smiled so brightly, despite the effect his body was having on hers, so brightly he almost came. Yet he held on. Just.

But it was enough.

"I told you, that if you left me, I wouldn't make it."

His lips caught hers in a devastating kiss as soon as she got the sentence out, his tongue seeking her own almost desperately. She whimpered into his mouth as he began to move inside of her again, her body was obviously still sensitive and he smiled against her lips despite himself. He pulled away when his head began to spin from lack of oxygen, occupying his lips with her neck instead.

Olivia squealed as he sat up, one arm behind him to keep him stable, the other seeking out the tiny nub of nerves that would have her exploding his arms. Her head had dropped back again, as her hands reached out behind her to grasp the firm muscles of his thighs for leverage.

"Liv?"

He flicked his thumb the sensitive flesh as he spoke, smirking as Olivia's head shot forward, her mouth open in a silent scream. But her eyes held his. Not for long.

But it was enough.

"Me too baby, me too."

He groaned into her chest as he exploded inside of her, her muscles gripping at him so tightly they almost pushed him right back out. Olivia's moans were so loud he brought her mouth back to his to muffle the screams as best he could, his teeth nipping at her bottom lips as she began to settle against him.

He lay back, manoeuvring himself into a lying position, Olivia still content to stay on top of his spent body. Not that he minded. Not really.

She moved her head so she could look at him, and he held back a chuckle at the state of her hair. "Loving this look, Olivia."

She rolled her eyes, bringing her left hand up to run against his face, tracing the lines that were becoming more pronounced. "I love you, El."

He kissed her thumb as it passed over his lips. "Love you too, Liv."

She bit her lip, smiling as her eyes moved to her ring. "Olivia Stabler," she looked back up at him, "I like the sound of that."

He kissed the palm of her hand, the muscles in his cheeks beginning to hurt from being so overworked. "I don't think anything's sounded so perfect."

Olivia's nose crinkled as she laughed. "You're a charmer Stabler. I need to watch my back with you."

He drew her lips towards his so they were barely touching. "You got nothing to worry about Stabler," he swallowed her gasp in a quick kiss, "'cause I've already got it."

And he realises, he always has.

Not long after, Olivia's breathing evened out, and he knew she was asleep; her breath light against his chest comforting him. Her heartbeat was having the same effect, its slowing rhythm thrumming against his cooling skin.

He brushed her arm lightly with his fingertips and he found it hard to remember a time when he'd felt so alive.

Her words play over in his head, in some wonderful loop; her voice sultry, on the edge of oblivion as she tells him that he is her everything.

That if he left her, she wouldn't make it. And he knew, without even pausing, that it worked both ways.

He'd spent his whole life willing to die for those who meant the most to him and for those he served to protect.

He thinks now, he understands what it truly means to live for somebody.

Because he's finally, gloriously, come to his senses.

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The End

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So, sequel?Companion piece?General feedback? Let me know! R/R.