A/N: No one can find the rewind button now, so cradle your head in your hands, and just breathe.

DISCLAIMER: Dick Wolf owns SVU and its characters. TStabler© owns the narrative, dialogue and plot of this story.

He watched as her hands grabbed every bit of clothing off of the floor. "You're in a hurry to get out of here," he said, his arms crossed as he leaned against the doorframe.

She looked up at him with a small smile, tossing shirts and pants into an open suitcase on the bed. "I have somewhere I need to be," she told him.

"Yeah?" he questioned, then he straightened up and dropped his arms to his sides. He took a few steps toward her. Without warning he looped an arm around her and pulled her flush against him. "I think right now the only place you need to be is right here."

She couldn't help the way the laughter spilled out of her mouth, the way her head dropped back with the chuckle. She lifted her head and looked into his eyes, a deep sigh escaped, and she grinned. Her eyes lit up and she shook her head slightly. "You're wrong," she argued.

He had the good reflexes to catch her as she leaped up onto him, his hands palming her ass as he felt her legs lock at his back. "Here works," he teased, bringing his mouth to hers. His teeth nipped at her lower lip as he walked them toward the bed.

Against his lips she mumbled, "My luggage is..."

And before her sentence could be finished, he dropped her onto the mattress, letting one hand fly to his left to shove the offensive suitcase to the floor. "Oops," he shrugged, a smirk playing at his lips as he bent forward to kiss her again.

She laughed into his mouth, her hands wound around his neck. She said something that was swallowed by their kiss.

He murmured back to her, his tongue sweeping over hers, his teeth grazing her lips. "What?" he asked, an afterthought.

She scoffed, but raked her nails over his scalp instead of repeating herself. She arched her back when his hands pulled her shirt up, helping him get it off of her, and as she flattened out, she tilted her head again. "I need to ask you something," she whispered.

He knelt up and pulled his own tee shirt over his head, and when he tossed it away he nodded. "Anything," he said. "The answer's yes."

She dragged her nails up his bare chest, scraping back down lightly, making intricate paisley patterns in his flesh. She smirked when he moaned, proud of herself, and bit her lip as his eyes rolled back. "Do you want me to stay?"

His eyes shot open, he stilled, and he blinked rapidly. "Did you...why would...fuck, yes, I want you to stay! What the hell do you think this is?" he spat, waving an arm in demonstration, yet pointing to nothing.

"I'm asking..." she closed her eyes, took a breath, and said, "I don't have a place to..."

He silences her with another kiss, his fingers toyed with the buttons on her pants, and he worked his hand beneath the cotton as he said, "You don't have to ask. Baby, of course." He looked down at her, pressed his forehead against hers, and he whispered, "Stay with me."

She gasped when his fingers slipped beneath the silk panties she wore, her body bucked up into his. Her lips found his again and her groan was caught in his throat.

He teased her for a moment longer, then slid both hands over her hips, easing the black slacks down her body. He bit lightly at her chin and neck, laughing a bit when she raised her knees to kick off her pants. "Easy, girl," he joked.

She shook her head and gripped his neck, then pulled him down hard, kissing him with force and a loud moan of his name. She tugged at his jeans with her other hand.

He kept kissing her, muffling his grunts as he struggled to get out of the denim. Once freed, he held his breath and brought his hands to her face. He pulled away from her, worked his way between her legs, and stared into her eyes as he pushed slowly.

Her eyes widened, but she was holding her breath, too, afraid even that would ruin the moment. She felt his body meet hers, skin to skin, and finally let herself breathe.

He took a shallow breath, then, as well, then cupped her as he kissed her and slowly began to move.


Just beyond the wall, someone else was packing his bags to the music of their moans, but he wasn't looking forward to heading home, to anything that waited there. He tried to drown out the thunking of the bed against the wall, the cried out names, by turning on the television.

"Shit," he cursed, watching the reporter give out the details of their recently closed case. He sat on the edge of the bed, dropped his head into his hands, and tried to breathe. He felt suffocated, choked, and that's when it hit him. He turned to look over his shoulder, as if trying to stare beyond the wall. "You really couldn't breathe without him," he said to himself.

The knock on the door jarred him from his thoughts, and he rubbed his hands over his face as he rose to answer it. "What happened?" he asked, staring at the young agent before him.

"Nothing," Prentiss said, stepping into Hotchner's room without an invitation. "I just wanted to see how you were holding up."

"I'm fine," he said coolly, closing the door. "Should I not be?"

Prentiss shrugged. "If the person I loved was walking out of my life forever, I'd be bummed out." She sat on the spot on the mattress he had risen from, and she squinted. "Wow," she hissed. "They're like...that sounds...they are really..."

"I know," Hotchner interrupted, continuing to grab and fold his clothes. "She loves him, she has a job here, why shouldn't she stay?"

"This from the man who punched a hole in the hallway at the police station after finding out she was staying," Prentiss laughed. "What changed?"

Hotchner tossed the shirts into his suitcase. "Morgan and Garcia," he said. He sighed and zipped up the black bag. "Now...Reid and JJ..." he shrugged. "Benson and Stabler," he said, "They make sense. They all make perfect sense."

"Reid and JJ?" Prentiss questioned. "What the hell did I miss?"

Hotchner smiled. "I caught them kissing in the lobby. I think Reid finally told her how he felt."

Prentiss turned up her bottom lip and nodded. "Nice," she said. "You know, Hotch, she isn't the first woman to walk in and out of your life, and she won't be the last, but you have to decide...what impression you want her to leave."

"What?" Hotchner narrowed his eyes at her, the thumping growing louder and harder to ignore.

Prentiss stood, and she walked toward him. "Everyone leaves an impression," she said. "You can either let your memory of her be the smart, funny, hot chick you fell in love with...or the cold-hearted, distant workaholic that broke your heart." She picked a piece of lint off of his shirt. "Either way, she's gonna stay with you forever, and it will affect everything you do, every word you say, and every breath you take for the rest of your life." She looked into his eyes. "How do you want to breathe, Hotch?"

He closed his eyes and the words came tumbling out before he knew it. "I fell in love with her," he said, "Because she was the first person since Hailey that made me laugh without trying, that made me think without question, that made me..."

"Harder than a baseball bat?" Prentiss offered. She saw his eyes snap open and she shrugged. "You were getting a little too serious, and you can't deny the woman is hot."

Hotchner smiled and said. "She is. Very." He stepped around Prentiss and grabbed his suitcase, carrying it from the bed to in front of the door. "But I also realized...I loved her...because I knew she..."

"You knew about him, didn't you?" Prentiss asked, folding her arms. "You fell...you fell in love with her because you knew there was no way it would..."

"The women I love have a habit of getting killed," Hotchner said, staring at the white wooden door in front of him. "Not this time."

Prentiss stepped up behind him and let out a small scoff. "JJ picked this case, you agreed to it because it would bring us here, you practically handed her to him. Why?"

Hotchner turned, and for the first time since she walked in, he gave her a real smile. "She's safer here, with him. Happier. She can do her job and she can be with the man who will stop at nothing to keep her out of harm's way. Who won't let her out of his sight. I..."

"What happened to Hailey wasn't your fault," Prentiss intruded. "And that bastard is dead, Hotch."

He turned and grabbed the handle of his suitcase and rested his hand on the doorknob. "He would have gotten there in time," he said. "I won't take the chance of it..." he stopped, choking on his words.

"Okay," Prentiss said, nodding. "But what about you, Hotch? You can't just sail alone while everyone goes off in pairs to the four corners of the world without you." She reached for his shoulder, gripped it, and said, "You matter, too, ya know. Don't forget to save yourself when you're trying to save the world."

He blinked as he looked down at her hand on his shoulder, and as he rolled his neck to look at her again, he did something he couldn't remember doing in a long time. He relaxed.


Elliot felt his entire body sink into the bed as he exhaled. His hands curled in her hair as her head rested on his chest, he felt his heart pounding and knew she could hear it. "Jesus..."

"Christ," she breathed, trying to catch her breath. "That was..."

"That was some really fucking good 'welcome home' sex, right there," he chuckled, then he kissed the crown of her head, pressing his lips to her damp hair.

She closed her eyes and laughed, her arms draped over him, her legs entwined with his. "This is gonna sound really stupid, but..."

"I can breathe," he told her.

She froze. "How did you..."

"Every day, since you've been here, I have felt this...like someone was crushing my lungs." He interrupted her again but he didn't care. He twisted her hair around his fingers, playing with her locks. "Whenever we got a call, and I thought the case was closing, my heart...Liv, I felt like I was dying," he admitted. "The thought of you leaving...of having to go back to only having you on the weekends, going days without hearing your voice, seeing your face..."

"I know," she broke in, taking her turn at interruption. "I felt the same way. But now...knowing I'm waking up with you...and I don't have to leave..." Her words fell away as she tilted her head back, angling to look at him. "It's a huge weight off my shoulders. Everything feel's so much lighter."

He nodded as he kissed her, and he closed his eyes. "Tomorrow," he said, "We'll check outta here, get you settled at my place, and maybe Friday we'll take a trip down to get your stuff."

"Friday?" she asked, confused. "El, it's only Tuesday. What am I supposed to do until..."

"You," he said, pressing a finger to her lips, "Will not be needing any clothes, at all. Not until Friday."

She smirked at him and turned over, laying on top of him, rubbing against him. "And what happens Friday?"

He grinned. "Life, baby," he said. "You and me, your new job, the kids come home, and we get the life we wanted...before we knew we wanted it." He kissed her and nuzzled her a bit, then wrapped his arms around her tightly.

"I love you." She said it so easily, so clearly. And as she settled against him, she felt the space in her lungs widen, and she inhaled deeply. She breathed him in, taking in the scent of his body along with the oxygen she'd needed so desperately, that she was deprived of without him.

Emily Brunner once said, "What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of life." What she meant was this : everyone has someone that gives hope, that gives meaning to their life, and without them, we simply can't breathe.

A/N: So my first attempt at a non-exclusive SVU fic. Hope it was a good ride.