Disclaimer: This is fanfiction people. FAN… FICTION… That should say it all. They're not mine or we wouldn't still be waiting twelve years later for El and Liv to get together!

A/N: First, let me say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to everyone who has reviewed. You guys are awesome. Thanks for the great welcome into the EO world.

Second, according to the show Elliot and Olivia are a few years older than I've made them in my story. ::shrugs:: Just call me Bobby Brown… It's my prerogative!

Third, this is gonna be a fairly long chapter and definitely more lighthearted than the first two, so settle in and enjoy.

Comfort. Truth. Hope.

Chapter 3: Hope (3/3)

"My kids are something else aren't they?"

"Yeah, they are." Olivia said wistfully. "Cragen was right you know."

"Only partly." Again, Elliot knew what she meant. "You want a family, but you're not so desperate that you would do what he or Hardwicke suggested."

"But I am." She admitted. "I mean, I wouldn't do that, and I couldn't let Vivian go, but I want a family so bad El. I don't have anybody. Simon hardly counts. I don't have any other family. I can't make a relationship with a man work. I want kids, but it's probably too late for me to have one of my own. I've been turned down for adoption. I lost Calvin."

"What about me?" His quiet question stopped her in her tracks.

"What? What about you?"

"What am I to you Liv?" He asked quietly.

"You're my partner." Elliot chuckled. "What?"

"Liv, I'm fairly confident that we're more than partners. Can you imagine Fin sitting on Munch's lap or vice versa?" Olivia immediately tried to remove herself from his lap, but he stubbornly held her in place. "I wasn't complaining Liv."

"El." Her voice was filled with questions and confusion.

"What?"

"Please let me up." He released her, and she slid off his lap to sit beside him. "What's going on El?"

"Answer my question first. What am I to you?"

"You're my partner and my friend. You're my best friend." She paused and took a shaky breath. She looked away from him as she continued. "You're my family. My only family."

Elliot took a deep breath and stood up. He began to pace around her living room. She watched nervously. Unsure as to what was going through his mind. Had she gone too far? Said too much?

"You're family to me too, Liv. You have been for a long time. That's why…" He took another deep breath as he continued to pace. "That's why I've waited for so long."

"Waited for what?"

"I've had something that I wanted to talk with you about since Kathy and I divorced. Hell, longer than that, but it wasn't until the divorce that I was in a position to talk to you about it. I waited though, cause… I wanted to be sure. Not of you, but of me."

Olivia watched as her walked back and forth across her living room. She was totally lost and not following his words. He seemed to be nervous; he kept running his hand over the back of his neck. Somewhere, in the back of her mind, there was a glimmer of something. An idea she ruthlessly smacked back. He couldn't possibly be talking about… that.

"So, I've been spending more time with you; biding my time. I'm once I put out there I can't take it back, you know?"

"No, I don't have a clue." He turned to look at her then, incredulous. "Seriously? The thought never even occurred to you?"

She cocked her head to the side and studied his face; tried to read his eyes. Her own eyes widened. Hope flared.

"You mean… us? Together? More than partners and friends?" Olivia asked warily.

"Yeah," he answered honestly; his gaze never wavered from her.

"Of course," she answered quickly, and then blushed. "You mean you have too?"

"Only off and on for as long as I've known you." It was his turn to blush faintly.

"Oh!" She flopped back against the couch. "Wow!"

"So, anyway, I wanted to wait until I was sure."

"Sure about what?"

"That I could be what you wanted and give you what you wanted." Olivia raised an eyebrow in question.

"What is it that you think I want?"

"I know what you want Liv. You told me part of it. You said that you want a family, a relationship that works, and you want children. Then there are things you don't say, but that I know you want. I know you're tired of being alone and that you want someone who is going to be there for you, no matter what. I know you want to love someone and someone to love you. I could be that person Liv. I am that person."

"So what, you're come in here and offer yourself up like some sacrifice?" It was her turn to pace the living room.

"No! I told you I've been thinking about this for a while now. Even though I wasn't in love with Kathy anymore, I wanted to take time after the divorce to get my head on straight. I could have come to you then, but I didn't want you to think that it was because I was lonely and on the rebound. I wanted to be sure that when I came to you that I could honestly tell you that I was all in."

"What does that mean? All in?" She asked in a hushed tone. She'd stopped pacing and stood in front of him; her eyes on his. Olivia watched his eyes closely. His gaze never faltered and she saw the truth in them as he spoke.

"I want to give you all those things, Liv. I want to give you a family, kids, love… a husband," he finished softly.

Olivia took a shaky breath. "You want to… marry… me?" He nodded. "But that's just… just."

"Yeah, I know it's fast and probably seems to you like it's coming out of the blue, but I'm serious Liv."

"Out of the blue? Ya think?" She snorted.

"Look, if I'm way off base here, let me know. I don't think I am though." He raised a hand to cup her cheek, and continued in a huskily; his voice filled with emotion. "I love you, Livvy. I have for a long time. I've been falling in love with you for so long. I've fought it, ignored it, and denied, but I can't. I don't want to anymore. I won't. I'd made my bed and I thought had to lie in it. Like I said, I realized that I can handle my responsibilities and be happy too. If you don't love me, then we can just forget this and go back to being best friends. Just tell me what you want."

"I didn't think you wanted any more kids. After Eli, you said Kathy wanted another kid, and you said five was enough." She avoided telling him how she felt, and stepped back from him; his hand dropped to his side.

"I did say that." He held up a hand to stop her from speaking. "And it was true at the time; it was true with Kathy. But Liv, I want kids with you. There's a difference."

"How is it different? What if I can't have kids?"

"It's different because it would be with you. A little piece of you and me. A little Benson and Stabler. Can you picture it? I can. A little girl that looks like you."

"But with your eyes," she whispered.

"Even if we couldn't have any of our own, we could adopt. I want to experience raising a child with you."

"This is so sudden El. I mean we've never been on a date. Hell, we've never even kissed. Now you're standing there telling me that you love me and want to marry me and want to raise babies with me!"

Elliot gave her the Stabler grin that never failed to release butterflies in her stomach. "Yeah, basically."

"Stabler!"

"What?" He smirked at her for a moment, but sobered. "Look, I know this isn't exactly the most romantic thing to say, but… we're not getting any younger. I'm 44 and your 40. Even if we got pregnant tonight, by the time our kid, or kids, graduated college we'd both be retired, or just about. I'm not asking you to marry me tomorrow. Hell, I'm right now I'm not even asking… yet. Liv, you need to know that if you're interested in this." He gestured between the two of them. "If you want this as much as I do, then you gotta know that it's comin'. I'm gonna ask you to marry me before too long, and I'm gonna try like hell to get you pregnant."

"You're serious!"

"You're just now figuring this out?" He snorted in disbelief. "Haven't you been listening to me?"

"Well, yeah, but!"

"But… what?" Elliot grew frustrated.

"Give me a minute to catch up, okay?" She smirked at him. "It's not every day that the man that I'm in love with tells me that he wants to make all my dreams come true."

"The man you… love?" Elliot felt a bit light-headed for a moment. "You love me?"

She gave him a smile that released his own flock of butterflies. "Well… yeah… I do."

"Oh, Livvy." He breathed. It took two quick steps and he had her wrapped in his arms with his face buried in her hair. Her arms wrapped around him a split second later.

"Livvy huh?" She teased. It was moment that probably called for more solemnity, but she was so damn giddy. Elliot had given her something so precious to her; something that she'd never really experienced before… hope. Her first experience with it was a wondrous thing.

"Yeah, you like it baby?" He teased back.

"Yes, I actually do. Does that mean I can call you Elly?" His head reared back and his face held a look of disgust.

"Hell no!" She laughed at his immediate and adamant reaction, but her laughter died as his face grew serious. "Say it Livvy."

"I love you, Elliot Stabler and I want the same things as you. I want them with you. Only you."

"I love you, Olivia Benson… Stabler." He said as his eyes twinkled at her. "So, do you think that I could take care of that first kiss now, and tomorrow night I'll take care of our first date?"

At her nod, he lowered his mouth to hers. Her body tensed slightly at the first brush of his lips to her. Although, it was only a moment before she relaxed and her body molded to his. She was the one who let her tongue slide against his lips and seek entrance. Then it was him who tilted his head to deepen the kiss. One of his hands slipped into her hair to, while the other skimmed down her back to cup her butt and pull her closer to him. He was the first to break the kiss. His lips trailed along her jaw and down her neck. Olivia hid her face in his neck as her body began to shake. It took a moment before Elliot he was conscious of her body shaking. He lifted his head and turned her head so that he could see her face. To say he was shocked would have been an understatement.

"You're laughing?" The shock in his voice only made her laugh harder. That, only made him feel self conscious. "Is kissing me that bad?"

"No!" She tried to say through her fit of giggles. "Your hand… was…"

"What about my hand?" He crossed his arm and narrowed his eyes at her.

"On… my…" Olivia couldn't get any more out as she struggled to get her giggles under control.

"You're laughing because my hand was on your ass?" She lost it. One hand was over her mouth, and one arm was wrapped around her middle. "What's funny about that?"

"I… it's not… really…" She tried desperately to get herself under control. Elliot's lips began to twitch, he wasn't sure what had brought this on, besides his hand on her ass obviously, but it amused him to see her giggling. His partner never laughed like that. He loved it.

"You know, it's gonna be hard to make babies, if you laugh hysterically when I touch you," he told her. He lowered his voice and bent to whisper into her ear. "What are you gonna do when I get you naked and put my hands somewhere else?"

More laughter ensued as Olivia flopped down on the couch and Elliot sat down beside her to wait her out. It took a few minutes, but finally she calmed down enough to talk.

"I'm so sorry, it's not that I didn't like it… it's just… your hand was on my ass."

"I know, it's a nice ass by the way." He winked at her.

"Nice hands too." She smirked at him. "I don't know what happened. Stabler's hand was on Benson's ass! It just seemed so unreal to me and it made me laugh. I'm sorry if I offended you. We're Benson and Stabler. You're hand is not supposed to be on my ass."

"But we're also Liv and El, and it's alright for my hand to be on your ass or anywhere else for that matter. We're in love its allowed you know." He smiled at her.

"I know. I just…" She sobered then and looked at him with all the love she felt for him. "I guess it was the release of stress and tension. I won't deny that I've been attracted to you from the beginning, and have been in love with you for a long time. To finally know that you feel the same way that I do…" she shrugged.

"Yeah, I get it. I confess to having thought about our first kiss for a long time, a lot longer than I will ever admit to, but trust me, not in a single one of my fantasies did you ever giggle hysterically." He chuckled.

"Hey, we're rule breakers," she smirked at him. "We've always done things our own way."

Elliot put his hand on her knee. "I should probably go. It seems I've got a hot date tomorrow night." He wiggled his eyebrows at her.

As he stood, he kissed her on the forehead; not wanting to risk setting her off again. Her voice stopped him as he reached for his coat.

"El?"

"Yeah Livvy?" When he turned to face her, he saw that the humor was gone from her face.

"About tomorrow night…" her voice trailed off, and he felt a knot begin to form in his stomach.

"You're not changing you're mind are you?" He asked tentatively.

"No! I… tomorrow's Saturday."

"And…"

"Do you think… can we… can I…" Olivia couldn't meet his eyes. He simply waited for her. "Calvin's been sleeping in my room, and I…" Ahhh, he thought, he understood.

"You aren't ready to sleep in there, are you?" She shook her head. "How about this? You go pack a bag. Bring enough for the weekend and work on Monday, and you can come stay at my place. You said it yourself, we're rule breakers. Who says a first date has to be just an evening; we'll have a weekend long date. We'll talk about everything and nothing, watch some movies, eat in, eat out, whatever we decide. That sound alright?"

Her eyes finally met his; he saw the gratitude and relief in them. "Yeah, it sounds good."

"Maybe we'll even get you to stop giggling when I put my hands on you!" He winked at her. "Go pack Livvy. Make sure and pack something nice for tomorrow night."

Olivia paused in the doorway of her bedroom. "El?"

"Yeah?"

"About this weekend…"

"Olivia, there is no pressure. That probably sounds crazy considering everything I've told you tonight, but there's no pressure, I promise." Elliott rubbed a hand over the top of his head. "Listen, I have my reasons for pushing for so much so fast, but I promise you that nothing physical will happen before you're ready… until we are both ready. Okay?"

She blushed, but gave a quick nod and disappeared into her bedroom. A short time later, she reappeared with a garment bag and a duffle. "I'm ready."

"Let me carry that for you," Elliot said as he relieved her of her bags. He held out her his hand to her, and tugged her towards him. Once she was close, he dropped his forehead to hers. "Last chance to back out. I'm serious about this Livvy… about us."

She pressed her lips to in a quick but firm kiss. "I'm serious too El. I'm nervous and excited and scared and about a million other emotions, but I'm definitely serious. I think we should probably talk some more, but I want this… I want us."

Elliot released a sigh of relief, and closed his eyes briefly. "Thank God," he whispered. He pressed his lips briefly to hers and stepped back.

After locking up her apartment, they walked hand in hand towards his car… their weekend date… and future. Both were comforted by the fact that they'd finally spoken the truth about their feelings, and both were filled with the hope of a future together.

THE END

Yes, seriously, this is the last chapter. I'm fairly confident that a lot of you are not going to be exactly thrilled about that. However, I've received so many encouraging reviews and ideas that I'm considering doing a follow up to this. I'm not guaranteeing anything, but we'll see. I have some ideas for a sequel. If those plans work out, I'll post a notice here. However, this is how I had the story planned out from the beginning. I wanted it to end on a hopeful note. That way the readers can imagine it going anyway they wanted.

Also, I totally mooched the part about the laughing during the kiss from an episode of Friends. The one where Ross and Rachel kiss for the first time… it was a classic. Obviously, that doesn't belong to me either, but I just loved it and thought I would use it. I definitely wanted this chapter to be lighter than the previous too, and well… hopeful!

Thanks again to everyone.

=)bandbi