A/N: Love really is beautiful.
DISCLAIMER: SVU and characters belong to Dick Wolf. Tstabler © own this story.
Sitting in traffic, tapping on the steering wheel impatiently, he couldn't think about anything but her. The way her eyes lit up and crinkled just a bit in the corners when she laughed, the way her lips parted and curled when she smiled, even the way she cried was beautiful.
Not that he'd seen her cry often, but when he did, it was the most beautiful sight he'd ever seen. Truly letting go of all of her emotions and inhibitions around him, she cried in his arms. And though he wanted nothing more than to make her pain go away, stop the tears and the grief, he had to marvel at how beautiful she looked when she let go.
He smiled as the traffic moved a bit, and he let the car roll forward as he thought of the first time he'd seen her in a dress.
She hadn't been dressed up for him, or for any even he was attending. She was dressed for a date, and she wore something revealing but classy. He remembered exactly where the hem of the dress hit, just above the knee, and he remembered how she wore her hair, short with a bit of a flip on the ends and a small, sparkling clip in the side.
He laughed, recalling her reaction to the compliment he'd given her. She rolled her eyes when he told her she looked beautiful, and nothing he did convinced her he was being honest.
His smile faded into something more menacing when he remembered her shoes, though. Black heels, something she'd never wear to work unless they had to be in court, and he couldn't help but think about what she would look like in the morning, looking for them on the floor of his bedroom, wrapped in a sheet.
That was when he was married.
That was when it was wrong.
He shook his head and drove through the toll, and suddenly he was hit with another memory. She was in sweats, an old band tee-shirt, and sneakers with her hair in a ponytail. She was in his back yard, teaching his son how to throw a fast ball.
He remembered watching from the kitchen as he absent-mindedly helped his then wife wash dishes. He recalled her trying to tell him something, something about how he had been distant and combative, but he wasn't paying attention.
He was watching his son and the woman of his dreams, and he remembered thinking that even in mud-covered sweatpants and a shirt that would be too big even on him, she looked beautiful.
He punched the gas as soon as the traffic cleared, and he took a deep breath as he headed into the heart of the city, turning down the avenue to Herald Square. He spotted something in the window of a store and he smiled. She would look beautiful in that, he thought.
Then again, he had long ago decided that she would look beautiful in anything.
He turned down her street and checked the clock on his car radio. He hoped she wouldn't kill him, or at least make it quick and painless, when she realized he had turned her alarm off the night before, after switching around shifts and making unkeepable promises to get this particular day off.
He parked in front of her building, turned off the car, and sighed, looking at the door. This was it, he thought, the day that would change everything. He took another deep breath, calming himself down, and he grabbed the bag off of the passenger seat.
He walked quickly up the steps, pushed open the door, and he nodded to the doorman with a small, nervous smile. He ran up the stairs to her floor, and he stopped in front of her door for a moment. Another sigh, and his key to her place was not only in his hand, but in the lock.
He twisted the knob and pushed into her apartment, letting the heavy door shut with a soft click. He toed off his shoes, carefully avoiding making any noise that might wake up his Sleeping Beauty. He padded into the kitchen and placed the bag on the counter, taking out the bread and the eggs, the small glass vase with the single rose in it, and the tiny, black, velvet box that held the only thing standing between him and a future with the only woman with whom he'd ever really connected.
He moved quickly and quietly, making the French toast on a low flame so the sizzle wouldn't be heard beyond the kitchen.
He flipped it like a pro, and when it was perfectly browned he slid it onto a plate, then put the plate onto a tray. He cleared his throat and put the vase on the platter beside the food, and then he lifted the ring box into his hand.
He looked at it, almost as he looked at a perp in interrogation. "Do your fucking job," he hissed at the thing, flipping it open. He took the shiny diamond out of its shell, and he slid the rose through the ring before putting it in the narrow-topped vase. The ring hit the lip of the glass, winking at him, letting him know this was going to go as he'd planned.
He lifted the whole try into his hands and he walked slowly and carefully toward her bedroom. He balanced the food on his hip as he turned her doorknob, and when he walked into the room he gasped.
She was sound asleep, a smile on her face as the sunlight hit her skin just barely through the partly opened curtains. The quilt was draped over her body, but she wasn't tucked in, and her arms were wrapped tightly around what had become his pillow on most nights.
She was cuddling with him, even when he wasn't there. He smiled softly and walked over to his side of the bed, placed the tray on the mattress beside him, and leaned over.
He kissed her cheek softly, and he didn't pull away fully, swiping his lips over her skin. "Liv," he whispered.
She let out a quiet moan of protest, clearly enjoying the dream she was having.
He kissed her again with a soft laugh. "Come on sleepyhead, you've already slept later than you have in years," he whispered, placing his lips delicately over hers.
Her eyes fluttered opened, and she squinted at him. "What are you…oh, shit!" She sat up quickly and looked for the clock. "Nine-thirty! Damn it, Elliot, why didn't you call me sooner?"
"Calm down," he said, resting his hands on her shoulders. "You're not late, baby. It's okay."
She looked confused. "How am I not…"
"You're not going to work today," he interrupted. "I'm not either." He kissed her, calming her down, and he lifted the tray over her chest. "Happy Valentine's Day."
She took a moment to look at the food and then at him. "You did this, because it's Valentine's Day?"
He nodded with a smile. "We have the whole day to ourselves, I thought maybe we'd snuggle up on the couch, watch a movie, I could help you pack, it'd be a…"
"Wait, pack?" she asked, furrowing her brow as she lifted up the fork. "Why would I need to pack?"
He took the fork out of her hand, cut the corner of a slice of the French toast, and jabbed it. He held it to her lips and smiled when she ate it. "Because you're moving in with me and the kids."
"I am?" she said, chewing.
He nodded, his fingers moving to the rose. He flicked it, making the ring clink against the lip of the vase, and he said, "Yeah. You are."
She chuckled as she shook her head and looked down at the flower. "El, this was so sweet of you. And that rose is really…"
He smirked, knowing she saw the ring. He studied her face, saw the hands move slowly over the petals and down the stem, gliding over the diamond. "Liv," he whispered, reaching for the flower.
"Yeah?" she whispered in return, moving her eyes to meet his.
He let the ring slide down the stem of the rose into his hand, and he held the ring out to her. "You knew this was coming, you just didn't know when. I'm asking you now, today, to marry me. Make every single dream and fantasy I have ever had come true, and marry me."
She let her fingers slip over his, feeling the ring beneath her skin, and she swallowed hard. "El, I…you should have warned me about this, I can't…I'm in my pajamas, I look like death, I…"
"You look beautiful," he said, gripping her hand in his. "Baby, just answer the question. Will you marry me?"
She chuckled and she leaned over the French toast to kiss him. "Yes," she whispered against his lips.
"Yes?" he asked, as if he hadn't heard her. "You...you said yes!"
She laughed and kissed him again, then let him push the ring over her knuckle on her shaking finger. "I said yes," she assured.
He kissed her and laughed against her lips. The word spilling from her voice was the most beautiful sound he'd ever heard. "I love you," he told her, pecking her lightly with fast kisses.
She looked up and smiled, the corners of her eyes crinkling a bit as her lips curled. "I love you, too." She kissed him again and whispered, "Happy Valentine's Day, El."
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, kissing her once again. "Thank you, beautiful."
A/N: And a BIG Valentine's Day THANK YOU to my BEAUTIFUL readers and reviewers! Without you, I'd be NOTHING! Love you all. Review here or on Twitter: TMG212