It's funny. After nine years, I thought I had learned to control my emotions. I thought I understood the situation and knew the rules; Elliot was my partner. My friend. I could look, but never touch.
I was okay with that. Really, I was.
But then she came into his life, and she could look and touch. It didn't seem fair anymore. I was his best friend. His partner. Why her and not me?
She was beautiful. I couldn't deny that. But every once and awhile, through the years, I could've sworn I'd caught him looking at me. When I learned about his divorce, I immediately felt guilty. I'd never begrudge Elliot his family or his happiness. But it gave me hope and that made me feel terrible. So, I removed myself from the situation to gather my thoughts. I needed to regroup and get a grip on my feelings. I thought I'd been successful. But then I came back and saw them together.
The precinct elevator was broken again, so I'd opted to take the stairs. It seemed like an innocent enough decision. I never could've known that I'd stumble across them, talking intimately in the stairwell. They were standing side by side, closer than I would've liked. She was leaning towards him with a smile. Elliot had his arms crossed and he was frowning. I liked that. I wanted him to frown at her.
Neither of them could see me. I was half a floor above them, hidden by a concrete pillar. Her voice floated up toward me, "I'd like to see you again. I feel like we made a real connection-" Her hands slid up his tattooed biceps until they were wrapped around his neck. She leaned forward and pressed a seductive kiss against his lips.
Now, here's the part where my detective training should've come in handy. I should've quietly backed away and called for back up. And by back up, I mean a pint of Haagen-Dazs ice cream. But instead I made some sort of strangled, pathetic gasp. It echoed in the stairwell and they snapped around to look right at me.
I didn't even wait for their reaction. I turned and fled, running up the stairs, and bursting into the precinct hallway. I walked swiftly, practically at a run, as if I could outrun my feelings of mortification and anguish.
Vaguely in the haze of my mind, I heard Elliot call my name, but I kept going. I burst into the women's restroom, which was thankfully empty, and crumpled against the sink. I braced my arms of the edges and took a deep breath. It did nothing to calm the blood that was pounding in my ears. When the door flew open a minute later, I jumped from sheer adrenaline. It was Elliot. "Get out," I heard myself yell.
He stepped forward and tried to grab my arm. My instincts finally kicked in and I swung my elbow back and jammed it into his chest. His grip on my arm loosened and he stumbled backward, looking stunned. "Liv, it's not..." He wheezed. I must have knocked the air out of him. "I can explain..." He tried to catch his breath again. "It isn't what it looks like..." He coughed, grabbing his ribs. He was really hurt.
I instantly felt ashamed. I had physically hurt him. I opened my mouth to apologize but there were no words. All I felt was burning embarrassment for the way I had acted. I had no right. I had no claim to him. God knows, he'd never kissed me like that.
We stood there wordlessly for a moment. I knew I had fucked up big time. I'd lost all of my tightly wound control. I knew I'd never be able to explain my reaction. He'd realize how I felt about him and everything would be ruined; our partnership, our friendship, our relationship. I'd made a complete ass out of myself and the embarrassment was crushing.
"What happened back there, Olivia," he asked, looking deeply confused.
"Screw you!" I can't believe I'm yelling at him. But I'm embarrassed, and yelling is easier than crying. I refuse to cry in front of him. My dignity is already hanging on by a shred.
His face darkened. He was having none of this. "Olivia, talk to me." He used the tone he usually reserved for interrogations. "What the hell is going on here?"
I really wish I'd run into the bullpen. He never would've confronted me there. But here we are, all alone and it's the moment of truth. Elliot's gaze didn't waver; he wanted an answer. The silence was deafening and I looked everywhere but his face. I felt a lump form in my throat and swallowed to avoid the tears I wouldn't allow. "I'm sorry. I don't know why I did that," I offered up lamely, my voice scratchy with emotion.
"Yes, you do." He stepped forward, blue eyes set with steely determination. "Olivia, I don't have feelings for Dani."
"It doesn't matter to me," I countered, cursing myself when my voice caught. "You can date anyone you want. It's none of my business."
"But I'm not-"
"Elliot, just stop." I crossed my arms, managing a weak smile. "You don't owe me an explanation. It's fine."
He shook his head. "No, I need you to understand." Elliot stepped forward and clasped my hand. "She kissed me. I pushed her away." He looked right into my eyes, into my soul. "I don't have feelings for Dani. I promise."
"It's okay if you do; Like her, that is." I prayed that he'd deny it again. I wanted so badly to believe that she'd forced herself on him. I could live with that. "It's really none of my business."
"Yes, it is." He smiled at me and it melted my heart. "My business is your business, partner."
"I hate her," I bit out vehemently, surprising both him and myself. "I hate her. I hate seeing her...with you."
He instantly pulled me into a tender hug. I thought about pulling away but it felt too good. I rested my head against his chest, tucked underneath his chin. He wrapped his arms around my waist and held me tight. For just a moment, I felt safe and loved. "I'm sorry it upset you so much. It didn't mean anything." He pressed a kiss into my hair and I shivered. He felt it and tensed.
I quickly pulled out of the hug. "I want to go home now," I announced, not able to meet his eyes.
"Not until you answer a question."
My head jerked up. I frowned. "What?"
I'd sometimes wondered, late at night when my mind wandered, what it would feel like to have all of Elliot's brooding intensity focused solely on me. Now I know. It was exhilarating and completely terrifying at the same time. He turned those blue eyes onto me and asked, "Why do you hate her?"
"I just...I, uh, I'm not...I dunno." This was probably the most important moment in my entire adult life and I couldn't even string together a coherent sentence. Bravo, Olivia, I thought to myself. Bravo.
"You dunno?" he repeated, clearly teasing me.
"I just," I forced myself to meet his eyes. It was now or never. I closed my eyes and took the plunge. "I hate her because she's not me."
A slow look of understanding came over his face. His blue eyes widened and I saw something there I'd never seen before. I opened my mouth to say something; I don't know what, but no sound made it out. Elliot leaned down and pressed a kiss against my lips. I made a surprised squeak, but quickly fell into the moment. He was a better kisser than I'd imagined and I got lost in the sweet pass. The next thing I knew, I was wrapped up in his arms and we were pressed against the wall. I shivered again, as his kisses became slow and deliberate.
Then, without warning, a surprised gasp tore us apart. We both turned, and balked at the sight of Liz Donnelly standing in the doorway. If it had been anyone else, the reaction could've been disastrous. However, Liz was legendary for being unflappable. She just closed her mouth and smirked. "Well, it's about damn time. Continental drift moves faster than your relationship."
A/N: I'm home in bed with a cold. Reviews will make me feel (slightly) better...