Around Again

"Olivia debates reality and possibility and decides she likes the latter better. EO"

"I hate you."

She says it because she knows that he won't believe her, but she feels like she needs to say it anyway. He blinks up at her and her suspicions are confirmed – his eyes are laughing even if he's trying to keep his lips from twitching – and tilts his head to the side.

"And what brought on this new revelation?" He asks in that same voice that just drips of damp sheets and sweaty limbs.

Kathy doesn't know what a lucky son-of-a-bitch she is.

And that's the entire problem, Olivia thinks. That the woman who doesn't understand nearly as much – who doesn't care nearly as much – is still the woman who ended up with Elliot. It hurts far more than Olivia is willing to admit, but when she thinks about it, she's always been good at denial and doesn't see any reason to falter now.

After all, it's been nine years.

Nine years of watching a devoted, caring man try to juggle a merciless job and an ever-growing family. Nine years of watching him struggle with the fact that sometimes he couldn't save everybody, including himself. Including her.

"Sudden epiphany," Olivia shrugs, standing up as she heads for the coffeepot, "Woke up this morning and thought, goddamn, who'd have thought?"

She can't face him right now. The teasing is light-hearted as always, but the smile on her face still fails to reach her eyes and she can't face Elliot just yet. Her hands are shaking slightly as she fills a cup with lukewarm coffee and takes a sip, hiding the grimace as she swallows. Feeling more comfortable away from Elliot's overwhelming gaze, Olivia stares instead at the office wall and tries to find something interesting in the faded wood.

"Liv," It's not so much a call as an order, and not so much an order as a question.

She turns to face him but remains a safe distance away, leaning against the counter with her mug in two hands, "What?"

He studies her and she knows that he's hyper-aware of her sudden distance. His mouth opens and he looks like he's going to say something, but then the phone on his desk rings and his expression twists with annoyance. Olivia watches as he answers the call with more force than strictly necessary, his ice-blue eyes suddenly on fire.

The call is taken care of quickly and he's back to studying her, "Did something happen?"

He's wary of how far away she's moved even if he knows that her offhand comment was in no way true. Those piercing blue eyes are somehow still freezing even from a good fifteen feet away, and Olivia drops her gaze to her coffee and ponders her possible response.

Yes Elliot, she would begin, Something did happen. You moved back in with your wife and four beautiful children and are currently eagerly awaiting your fifth.

But that would be a step outside of office protocol so Olivia takes another sip of her coffee and says, "Nah, just messing with you."

Olivia thinks she must be really out of it, because before she has time to notice and take defensive measures, Elliot is right in front of her. His warm hands tug the mug of cool coffee from her and sets it aside, standing close but not close enough for anyone – including her – to call 'foul'.

"What's up, Liv?" Elliot is honestly concerned and Olivia's feels a familiar tug.

So she stares into his eyes and studies his resolve, wondering what he would do if she were to tell him. Knowing Elliot, he would laugh it off because they're partners, and partners didn't fall in love with each other. He would smirk at her in that same infuriatingly sexy, I'm-good-and-I-know-it way and then he'd go sit down and everything would be normal.

And Olivia knows this is best, so she preempts his smirk with one of her own and slides past him, glancing over her shoulder as she says, "Nothing." And sits.

Elliot follows her lead and Olivia pretends not to notice the way she's breathing around her heart and he is sneaking puzzled looks at her.