Disclaimer: Not mine. I believe we've established that.
Spoilers: Through Season 12, to be safe. Slightly AU as E/O are still partners.
It was just after one in the morning when his phone rang, wrenching him from sleep and throwing him into the confusion of waking up somewhere unfamiliar. No matter how many months he'd lived in the apartment, he wasn't sure it would ever start to feel like home. Not that the house he'd bought and paid for and lived in with his family for almost thirty years had felt like home for the period preceding his divorce either.
Of course, that was something he could contemplate another time, perhaps when his phone wasn't still ringing. He reached out, misjudged the height of the bedside table as he did every time he awoke, knocked his hand into the side of the stand and sent the phone sliding under the bed.
With a growl at the familiarity of the circumstance despite the perpetually unfamiliar surroundings, he managed to locate the phone under the edge of the bed while it was still screaming for his attention.
Already exhausted, he sighed grumpily into the phone. "Yeah, Stabler."
"Can you come get me?"
His heart raced at the sound, terrified as to what might have prompted such a phone call. "Are you ok?" He was wide awake instantly, grabbing a pair of jeans off the floor and pulling a shirt over his head. He was in the hallway, keys in hand, by the time she answered.
"Yeah, I'm just fucking great."
The slur in her words gave him pause, his sheer terror died back a little, replaced with confusion. In fifteen years of knowing her, his partner had never once called him intoxicated and asked for a ride. He wanted to smile and be glad she'd finally decided he was worthy of such an honor, but he knew it had never been a matter of trust. She'd always trusted him, the same as he'd always trusted her. She just didn't often get tanked and he knew when she did feel compelled to drink herself stupid, she did so in the security of her own home. In their line of work, they were all too familiar with the perils that could befall a woman alone with too much alcohol in her system to defend herself.
He got the name of the bar and promised he'd be there soon, disconnecting the call and spending the ride contemplating what the hell had happened. Olivia sure as hell wasn't going to tell him, she never told him anything if she could help it, and though he'd never seen her drunk enough to need a ride home from a bar, he doubted even inebriation could relax her enough to confide in him.
The bar was crowded at the relatively early hour and as Elliot waded through the crowd of over-dressed, slightly desperate women near the door, he feared he'd have a hard time finding his partner.
He needn't have worried.
As always, his eyes found her immediately, his instincts always able to locate her without even trying. The crowd seemed to disappear then, his vision narrowing around the unbelievable sight. Even knowing intuitively that it was her, his consciousness did a double take, his eyes raking over the shapely form on the bar stool, her usually disguised curves highlighted by the form-fitting, fire-engine red dress. Her legs were crossed at the knee, drawing his attention down their tan lengths, right down to her red stilettos. He'd swear on a stack of bibles and his children's lives that it was Olivia, and yet, there wasn't one damn thing recognizable about the woman, not the dress, not the shoes, not the carefully styled waves of brown hair falling over her slight shoulders.
In fact, as he made a path through the room, ignoring the stares of the hopefuls in his way, he wondered how it was that he'd never noticed that her shoulders were slight before. He'd never noticed her size or weight, would have defaulted to describing her as average if asked, but seeing the way her waist curved in from her hips, he realized she was tiny. Perhaps the addition of a gun and a badge made her the formidable woman he knew.
But without them, he couldn't deny the desperate urge he felt to protect her.
Without the slightest fear that he was about to scare the crap out of a total stranger, he slid onto the stool next to her, leaning forward and breathing into her ear.
"What's a girl like you doing in a place like this?"
Rather than jumping out of her seat like she would have with the benefit of sobriety, her head lazily turned toward him, her eyes dancing and her lips curling into a smile of recognition.
He couldn't resist the urge, part of him hoping she wouldn't remember in the morning, part of him praying she would, and let his eyes wander appreciatively over her, the low cut of the neckline, the thin straps, the way her crossed legs had pushed the short hem further up her exquisite legs. How was it he'd worked beside her for so many years and never realized how fucking amazing her legs were? He swallowed hard and decided her normal lack of short skirts and stilettos had something to do with his ability to resist his caveman instincts.
"I didn't know you were here." Her smile faded as she indicated the drop of fluid left in her martini glass. "You want a drink?"
He grinned, knowing she was actually more intoxicated than he'd thought. "You don't remember calling me?"
Her eyes widened and she stared at her phone accusingly, as though it had decided to call him of its own accord. "I called you?" Her fingers slipped over the screen as her brow furrowed. "I wonder who else I called."
He picked up the phone, his fingers far more coordinated as he checked the log for her. "Just me."
She squeezed her eyes closed, her body relaxing a bit. "Oh thank God."
He shook his head, slipping her phone into his pocket and offering her his hand. "Never took you for a drunk dialer."
She shrugged, trustingly slipping from her stool and flopping against his side. "Don't really have anyone besides you."
His heart went out to her then, knowing she never would have said such a thing to him had she been sober, hating that she felt so lonely. He wanted to hug her, to promise her that she didn't need anyone else, to assure her that he wouldn't mind a bit if she wanted to call him and drunkenly confess whatever came to mind. But he couldn't, he had to remember that that wasn't his place, that no matter how close he wanted to feel to her she wouldn't appreciate him having pried when she sobered up.
He slung his arm around her waist, helping support her weight, and led her toward the door. "I'm sure there are a hundred guys in here who would be happy to help you out, Liv."
He'd said it as a joke. He'd said to make her feel better. He'd said it because it was true – the fact was that Olivia was a fucking knockout and the only reason she wasn't married was because she didn't want to be. She would dispute it, he knew, claim that she'd always wanted to get married and have a family, but he knew better. He knew her better. She never wanted to be as vulnerable as loving someone would make her.
Mercifully, on the nearly silent trip to her apartment, Elliot discovered Olivia was a quiet, thoughtful drunk. He was glad he didn't have to listen to personal information he'd rather not have nor did he have to deflect excessively personal questions about himself that he didn't care to answer even if she wouldn't have any recollection of them in the morning.
He almost thanked her, as he righted her from a stumble over the last step to her floor, for still being recognizable as the woman he knew rather than one of those women who was normally so repressed that she turned into a horny octopus after one beer. Not that he would mind one bit if the beauty at his side tried to cop a feel, but he couldn't be sure he'd be able to stop himself and therefore was happy she wasn't putting him in that position.
Though she was leaning heavily on him as she picked through her bag for her keys, she was able to pick out the right one to fit into the lock and open the door. In fact, watching her as she set her bag and keys on the table by the front door and balanced on one foot to unhook the strap of her shoe, he found himself wondering if she had really been so drunk as to need assistance.
He felt bad as she tripped a moment later while she tried to switch feet. She was Olivia, after all, she wouldn't have called him unless she'd needed him. And despite the admirable job she was doing of appearing relatively sober, he knew she wasn't, certainly not after she nearly fell over a throw rug on her way to the kitchen.
He stepped forward, deciding she'd called him because she trusted him. He wasn't just going to stand there and watch her. His hands fell on her shoulders, steering her back toward the living room, prodding her across the floor toward her bedroom.
"Come on, Liv, time for bed."
She grinned, raising an eyebrow at him. "Took you long enough."
He chuckled, ever more thankful that she'd managed to reduce the tension of the situation. He'd been in her bedroom before, but just once, and it had hardly been a romantic situation. He'd been eavesdropping on her fake date with that son of a bitch Porter while TARU bugged the bastard's phone.
His muscles tensed as he remembered the long, uncomfortable silence in that conversation, when he'd known the asshole was kissing her, when he'd had to fight an unfathomable desire to march out there and inform everyone in the room that Olivia was his. He hadn't enjoyed that feeling. He hadn't understood that feeling. He hadn't let himself so much as think about that feeling again.
Until the moment he was settling Olivia onto her bed, reaching down to remove the shoes she'd loosened, looking up at her face to find her hooded eyes staring back at him.
Jesus Christ he'd never seen anything so fucking perfect in all his life.
He balled his hands into fists and reminded himself he couldn't touch her. Because she wasn't his. Because she didn't want to be. Because he'd just make an ass out of himself if he tried.
She went to stand, and Elliot cursed under his breath at the fates that taunted him, making him reach out to stop her.
"Sleep, Liv. Time to sleep."
She looked up at him, her face unguarded, her eyes welcoming. "I'm thirsty."
Water. Fuck, of course she'd be thirsty. He nodded, stepping toward the door. "I'll get you something. Stay put."
With any luck, she'd be passed out asleep by the time he got back.
Any luck, that was, besides his.
She not only wasn't asleep when he returned, she was actually back on her feet, one knee up on the bed to help her balance while she tried to reach the zipper of her dress in the middle of her back. With her leg positioned like it was, the skirt was pushed up so high he felt his heart racing. She had no idea, not one fucking clue how incredibly sexy she was.
She certainly had no intention of giving her partner a heart attack at the almost coy way she looked over her shoulder, past the curtain of hair that fell over one eye. "Can you get my zipper?"
At least, he assured himself, she'd forget the way he'd started to hyperventilate at the idea of his partner asking for his help getting undressed.
He could understand her reasoning. He knew her only concern would be sleeping in a dress that had undoubtedly cost a lot of money.
And he had no choice, couldn't refuse without giving himself away, and so he reluctantly stepped forward, setting the bottle of water he'd brought her on the night stand and reaching for her.
He felt like he was sixteen again, fumbling with a bra hook that shouldn't have been so complicated. He was shaking so hard he couldn't grasp the zipper the first two times he tried. He stared at the mole on the back of her shoulder and tried to decide if he could come up with a feasible excuse to run away.
She waited a beat before looking back at him again, her body impossibly close to his. "Something wrong?"
Mortified, he felt his cheeks burning red. She really didn't know. She couldn't imagine her partner was standing behind her with a suddenly irrepressible hard on and his hips threatening to thrust against her and let her know exactly what was wrong.
He swallowed hard. "I think it's stuck." Turning his eyes back to the dress and deciding the faster he moved the sooner he could escape, he grabbed the zipper and yanked.
Unfortunately, he yanked so hard she lost her balance, falling back against him. Her leg was still on the bed, the curve of her ass providing the perfect cradle for his dick to nestle, his hands moving to her hips, steadying her, holding her.
He was frozen, in fear, in desire, in embarrassment.
She had in no way intended to turn him on. She'd called him to help her, to protect her, to provide a safe, asshole-free trip home when she was drunk.
And there he was, his erection pressing between her legs, his hands unconsciously reaching down to touch the bare skin of her thighs.
She was frozen too, it seemed, obviously well aware of the situation and too drunk to know what to do about it. She was shaking, trembling and breathing heavy.
She was waiting, he realized, for him to indicate exactly how big of an asshole he was. Would he keep going, expecting something from her he had no right to expect, or would he keep the violation from getting any worse?
"I'm so sorry." He backed away, terrified to face her, ashamed of his powerful reaction, yet completely unable to leave her. He clearly couldn't control himself, but he remained there, praying she wouldn't extend an invitation he might be powerless to resist even while he recognized she was far too drunk to consent to such a thing.
Perhaps it was that he was hoping she might assure him she wasn't mad.
He definitely wasn't expecting her to climb into her bed with her half-unzipped dress, curl up in a ball and pull the covers over her head.
Considering the damage he'd already caused and how much more damage he'd cause by attempting to comfort her, Elliot turned away from the guilt-inducing sight of the shaking lump on his partner's bed. He'd be lucky if she didn't fucking shoot him in the balls when she sobered up.