Laughter is the closest distance between two people.
She looked over at him and laughed even harder.
Detectives Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson sat in Elliot's living room at opposite ends of the couch. It was the end of the first official 'team night'. Odafin Tutuola and John Munch had left an hour earlier when their beers were gone and the movie credits were rolling down the screen.
The television was now dark and what was left of their beer and pizza lay forgotten on the coffee table. Elliot sat quietly on his end watching as Olivia's raucous laughter slowly died down to giggles. He reminded himself he'd been the one to start this whole scenario. Inadvertently, of course. With just a simple slip of the tongue, he'd turned an innocent statement on its ear.
Olivia toppled onto her back, holding her stomach as she gasped for air in between chuckles.
It had been a long time since Elliot had seen Olivia laugh like that. Sure, she would snicker at work every once in a while or half-heartedly giggle at one of Munch's bad jokes, but it wasn't a good, heart-felt belly laugh like she was enjoying right then.
As she wiped the tears from her eyes, she happened to glance over at him and doubled up in hilarity again.
"That wasn't what I meant to say," he protested.
She merely shook her head as she tried to concentrate on calming her breathing. Her eyes were locked on some invisible spot on the ceiling as her mind wandered back to what he'd said…and she lost it again.
He couldn't help joining in on the laughter, watching her pound the back of the couch with a fist. Her tears sprang anew as his laughing only made her laugh harder. She twisted around and buried her face in the cushion, trying desperately to calm herself.
His already-wide smile grew and his eyes began to leisurely travel up and down her body. In the back of his mind he knew it was wrong, but he was enjoying his slow perusal of her. Shaking his head, he reached forward to poke at her side, trying to get her attention.
Needless to say, he was startled when she jerked and let out a squeak.
She couldn't be that ticklish, could she?
He wiggled his fingers against her ribcage and she squealed with laughter, turning over to beat away his hands.
He ducked out of the way and chuckled. Thinking quickly he tickled her stomach and made her squirm.
"No," she gasped. "No, don't…hee-hee…p-please…ha-ha-ha."
Elliot redoubled his efforts and leaned over her as he attacked her waist.
"Ah, Go-ha-ha-ha-d…El, stoppit!" Olivia tried to fight him but he was too quick.
Somehow she was able to grab his wrists and pled for mercy. He refused and wrapped his arms around her as he found her most ticklish spot.
"Stop! My stomach hurts…" Olivia giggled as she tried to wriggle away. She pressed her lips together, pretending she wasn't laughing until a small scream escaped her and she gasped for breath.
His eyes twinkled as he watched her. Her cheeks were flushed from laughing, her hair sticking up at odd angles, tears streaming from her brown eyes, and laughter rippling from between her parted lips – it was then that Elliot realized what he felt for her.
He wrapped his arms tighter and buried his face in her neck. Blowing a raspberry on her pale skin, he smiled when she tried to escape his evil clutches.
Olivia tried to reach back and retaliate but he easily dodged her and blew another raspberry into her neck. She squealed with laughter and he smiled at the sound.
"God, I love it when you laugh…I love you."
Her laughter suddenly died and she quit wiggling around. Elliot hung his head, groaning. He hadn't realized he said that last part out loud.
Olivia slowly worked her way off his lap and stared at him for a second, then cleared her throat. "What?"
Elliot remained silent, his head down. She wiped her watering eyes and leaned close. "Elliot…what did you say?"
He shook his head and went to stand. At the last minute she reached out and tugged on his arm, nearly pulling him into her lap.
"Talk to me. Tell me what you said."
"Nothing," he mumbled.
"Liar," she whispered and grabbed for his waist.
He jumped in surprise and tried to ward her off. But Olivia didn't give up and tried to find where it made him laugh the hardest and loudest. He fought back valiantly, but eventually slid to the floor holding his stomach.
"No more," he yelped. Instead, she straddled his thighs and tickled him vigorously. He laughed harder, tears welling at the corners of his eyes. His laugh was loud and rich and she couldn't get enough of it.
He grabbed her wrists. "Uncle…uncle…"
She finally acquiesced and climbed off but sill leaned over him, not letting him go anywhere. "Tell me what you said."
"I love your laugh."
"Mm-hm. What else? I know you said more than that." She poked his side, eliciting another chuckled.
"Alright, alright. I said…" he took a deep breath, "that…I love you Liv."
He immediately covered his face with his hands and missed the smile that crept across her face. He heard movement and figured she was leaving. Only, a few seconds later he heard the television flip on and felt her gently prying her fingers from his face. She looked down on him from her perch. The faint light from the screen gave her an almost ethereal look.
"Come on. It's lonely up here on the couch, Elliot." She offered him a hand.
He stared at her for a second, not exactly comprehending what she said. "What?"
She smiled and tugged at his hand. "You heard me. Get that sexy butt of yours up here."
This brought a wave of fresh laughter as he climbed up and snuggled behind her to wrap her in his arms.