Disclaimer: I do not own Law & Order SVU, but I would accept them as Christmas presents.

Author's Note: An early holiday fic but I couldn't help myself. Slightly on the humorous side but everyone should be in character. Please enjoy.

Dedication: To everyone who read "The White Flag" and liked it. Thank you.

Romeo In a Bottle
By Goldberry

"You so owe me, Elliot."

Olivia Benson rubbed her hands together briskly, trying desperately to regain any kind of feeling in fingers she was sure were frozen. Her breath misted as she breathed, little puffs of cloud that melted into the air a few inches from her face. She was dressed warmly in a lined leather coat with a long black scarf wrapped around her neck but the icy wind somehow still found its way inside her protective layers, making her shift from foot to foot anxiously as she waited for the store to open. At least she was not alone. Her partner stood beside her, as well as at least fifty other people just as miserable as she was, all equally as cold. Well, maybe not Elliot. Even as she tried to glare at him for dragging her out of her nice warm apartment at the crack of dawn, she was inwardly happy to see the relaxed set of his broad shoulders, the sparkle of holiday cheer in his eyes.

Or was that a gleam of manic anticipation?

"Alright, you remember the plan, Liv? Doors open, we make for the toy isle, grab the Peachy Girl doll, hit the registers and we're out of there." He nodded decisively to himself. "It's brilliant. Kathy was completely overreacting when she said this would be hard."

Olivia snorted. "Elliot, do you think all these people would be freezing their asses off in front a store that isn't even open yet for a toy that every little girl wants for Christmas if this was going to be easy? We'll be lucky to make it out in one piece." She glanced over the crowd, the detective part of her analyzing the situation. "This could definitely get ugly."

"We should probably split up," Elliot continued as if she hadn't spoken, his gaze religiously focused on the toy store's tightly sealed doors. "Better chance of finding a Peachy Girl." Olivia struggled to keep a straight face. If he said "Peachy Girl" one more time…

"Elliot, are you even listening to me? This isn't a raid, and you're insane if you think I'm going to take people out to get a toy."

He finally turned towards her, his expression one she had seen many times before, usually right before he broke down a suspect's door. She managed not to roll her eyes. Really, he acted like they were preparing for war. Sure, it would be hectic, more so than he probably thought, but it didn't require a battle plan.

"Olivia," he said patiently, "you do understand I will be in the proverbial dog house if I don't get Elizabeth this doll. And if I'm going down, you're going down with me."

"Ah, I see now why you wanted me to come with you."

He smiled slightly. "You're the only one I would trust with my life."

She arched an eyebrow wryly. "Touching, Stabler, but you should quit trying to butter me up. I'm not attacking some old woman because you forgot to get Elizabeth's gift early."

He shrugged. "Then I'll be sending her your way when's she's crying her eyes out on Christmas morning. You can explain to her why Santa didn't get her what she wanted."

She nudged him with an elbow. "That's low, Elliot."

His smile grew. "I'm a dad doing his holiday shopping the day before Christmas. I'm not above anything."

She sighed. "Alright, alright, but you really owe me."

A sudden murmur at the front of the crowd drew their attention and Olivia stood on tiptoe to see a store employee unlocking the doors. Next to her, Elliot breathed out deeply.

"Here we go."

As soon as the doors clicked open and the employee was clear, every man, woman, and child surged into the store, the moving mass of bodies taking Olivia and Elliot with them. Warm air washed over Olivia as she entered but she had no time to enjoy it. Elliot called her name once and then was off to the doll section, leaving her scrambling to catch up with him. She wasn't the only one headed in that direction either. The Peachy Girl doll was a sought after item and she wondered if Elliot would actually come away with one.

Hurrying down the isles, Olivia somehow managed to make it to the Peachy Girl display without losing a limb only to find a mass of people hurrying away with one of the limited toys. She didn't see Elliot and the dolls were going fast.

"Crap." She readied herself and then started making her way to the display. "Excuse me. Sorry. Coming through." People pressed in all sides, all moving in different directions, and by the time she reached the case there were very few Peachy Girls left. Grabbing one of the last, she hugged the doll to her chest and prepared to make her getaway.

"Hey, lady, give me that!"

An arm came out of nowhere and she found herself doll-less and pushed back against a shelf of Lego kits. The man who had taken Elizabeth's gift turned on his heel and hurried away, clearly intending to escape.

Oh, it was on now.

Scrambling over boxes she had spilled in her fall, Olivia lurched to her feet and threw herself in the fray, trying to keep the perp insight. Ahead of her, Elliot came into view, a frown crossing his face as he caught sight of her.


She motioned frantically as the thief ran past him. "Stop him, Elliot! He's got Peachy Girl!"

Her partner's eyes widened and he turned and broke into a short run to grab the guy's coat and yank him backwards and off balance.

"Hey, where ya going in such a rush?" Elliot asked dangerously as Olivia got to him. "You wouldn't be trying to get away with this, would you?" He plucked the doll from the other man's hands and handed it to Olivia.

"Dude, come on, that's mine!" the guy whined, reaching towards Olivia. She stepped out of reach as Elliot knocked the guy's hand away.

"I wouldn't touch her if I were you," he said lowly. Her partner glanced at her. "Are you alright, Detective?"

The creep's eyes widened. "Detective? Hey, I didn't know she was a cop. Honest!"

Olivia ignored him. "I'm fine, Elliot, but I think we should leave before I decide to press charges. I really don't want to have to draw up papers for an assault on Christmas Eve."

Elliot raised his eyebrows at the guy he was restraining. "Hear that? Looks like you go free today." The would-be thief nodded and took off like a jet as soon as Elliot released his jacket. Her partner shook his head.

"It's a mad, mad world," he said before turning to smile at her. "I can't believe you got one. I took a wrong turn at the bike rack." He took the doll as she handed it to him. "Wow, Elizabeth will love this."

Olivia had to return his smile. "I'm glad." She laughed a little. "And at least I won't have to worry about you being in the dog house tomorrow."

Elliot's expression suddenly grew serious. "You should come over for dinner tomorrow night, Olivia. The kids would love to see you— " She cut him off.

"Christmas is for family, El," she said as they headed towards the cashier line. "I'll be fine." Well, she would be after a few drinks and a dozen attempts at forgetting childhood memories of holidays spent with her mother, but he didn't need to know that.

His hand on her arm made her stop and face him.

"You are family, Liv," he said quietly and before she could really process his words, he bustled her off towards the registers again. "Listen, you come over to eat, the kids'll show you all their presents, Kathy will serve you really horrible egg nog and then you can go home if you want. Don't tell me you want to miss all that."

"Well…" she faltered and then sighed. "I guess I do deserve some turkey after everything I've done for you." She smiled slyly.

He grinned. "You bet."

They left the store a few minutes later, emerging into the winter white world together. As they stood waiting for a taxi, Olivia took a small, wrapped box from her pocket, clearing her throat to get her partner's attention.

"Merry Christmas, Elliot."

He tilted his head at her, a gentle smile curving his lips as he took the gift from her. "I thought we weren't exchanging presents until we got back to work?"

She shrugged. "I know, but I saw something that reminded me of you."

Elliot unwrapped the box and drew out a small bottle of cologne, Romeo. He looked up at her.

"Whether you know it or not, a lot of people depend on you, Elliot, and you always come through," she said truthfully. "I just wanted you to know…"

He reached out abruptly and drew her to him, Olivia blinking in surprise as he gave her a one-armed hug and kissed her forehead.

"Merry Christmas, Livy."

Then he was stepping into a taxi and she was standing on the edge of the street as lacy snowflakes began to fall, some of them catching in her dark hair as she watched him go, knowing she would see him tomorrow.

She walked home humming carols under her breath.