well it's been an awful long time hasn't it. god it's been a REALLY long time. so i'm sorry about that. but i'm posting this chapter out of guilt simply because every time i get a sporadic review or favorite author/story email, i'm always reminded of how i left this story hanging. and no it's not finished yet, and no there aren't any guarantees that the next chapter will be up by the next week or two weeks or month even, but hey, depending on the kind of reviews i get, it might just guilt me into writing the next chapter as soon as possible. :)

Only after Elliot had stormed out of the building did he realize his own stupidity. He hadn't asked Huang where Olivia was, and whether or not she had left after her interview. Without any idea where she was, or where she was going, it could take hours to find her. And now, with gas prices being so ridiculously high, Elliot wasn't sure he wanted to drive blindly around New York, looking for his partner.

Blowing out a breath and watching the white puff dissipate into the cold air, he stuck his hands in his pockets; watching the endless line of yellow taxis drive by amidst the honking of horns. It was getting late, but not yet late enough for the local bars and restaurants to be filled with New York's countless night owls. Wondering if he should just give up and go home, Elliot suddenly spotted very familiar brown hair, disappearing in the direction of Central Park. Accidentally running into a hot dog stand in his rush to catch up, he ignored the new ketchup stain on his shirt and ran after her.

By the time he had actually reached the park, the last shreds of sunlight were disappearing behind the tall skyscrapers. Taking a moment to catch his breath, his eyes were immediately drawn to Olivia, sitting on a bench. Though she wasn't looking in his direction, somehow he knew that she was waiting for him.

He took his place next to her; far enough away to make her feel comfortable, and not have her think that he was closing in, but close enough to hear the steady rhythm of her breathing, smell the slight perfume of her hair. "You know, I used to sit here as a kid, when I needed to get away, and just stare at that tree over there," she said, face still turned away. He looked at the specified tree, and saw faintly, carved in the wood, the letters "OB +" in a heart. But the second set of initials had been worn down by someone's hand, so that they were no longer visible. "I'd stay here for hours, just watching and watching, feeling so sad. I would wonder who OB was and if they knew that they had seen their name alone on that tree. Wonder if they were okay, if they were lonely. Who had once come after that plus sign." She kept talking almost as if he wasn't there, as if she needed to get this out. "And then I'd wonder if I would ever have to face that situation, have my name be all alone some day, without anyone to be there for me. I figured with dealing with my mother all the time, hating my father, crying myself to sleep every day out of loneliness, maybe I would find happiness somewhere in the future. And I vowed that I'd come back and carve my someone's initials in that space, so that whichever person who came here next, searching for an escape, would feel as if there is just a little more love in this world."

Elliot was stunned; this was a side of Olivia he had never seen before. The pure intimacy in her words, in the small piece of her past she was sharing with him, gave him the strength to ask her something he would've never dreamed otherwise. "And have you found those initials yet?" She looked down at the ground, and he could see a tear fall from her eyes, catching the light from one of the nearby lampposts before it disappeared onto the grass. "I don't know," she said, her voice breaking just the slightest bit. "I don't know." "Olivia, look at me," he said, guiding her face towards his, until she had no choice but to look at him. But when she did, the depth of heartache struck him dumb, and left him speechless. The only time he had ever seen that expression was in the eyes of the victims, as they pleaded with him to keep them safe, to shield them from their nightmare of a life. And it was only then that he realized that, no matter how hard he tried to convince himself that it was Olivia pushing him away, not letting him get close enough to help her, it was his and his own fault alone that he didn't try hard enough to keep her from running away.

Overcome with guilt, he brought his lips to hers, gentle rather than desperate, as if he was afraid she would fade away at his touch. But instead her pliant mouth opened under his, and he once again tasted her sorrow; however it was unbearably sweet, and it made his heart twinge in places he didn't know he had. Once again, she was his, and even if just for a moment, he wanted to believe that this was it; that nothing was ever going to come between them.

When he finally pulled away, he felt suddenly vulnerable; he had just laid everything he had on the line, with more than a good chance of rejection. She too seemed shaken; closing her eyes, causing more tears to course down her cheeks, and shuddering at even his slightest touch. "What's happening to us, Elliot?" She asked, eyes still closed and voice barely above a whisper. "This isn't how it's supposed to be, this isn't how we are…" "I know. I know this isn't us, this isn't the way our partnership goes but…" "But what?" He looked at her, needing her to believe. "But maybe it's what it could become."