She Didn't Realize it Was Cold Today
She walked down the empty side street, her hands in her pocket to shield them from the cold. It didn't really make a difference anyway; she had been wandering the streets of Lower Manhattan for a few hours now, until she was outside of city limits and reached a residential neighborhood. It was much too cold outside, even with all of the proper protective attire on. She wished she had bought those thick gloves she was tempted to get at the store the other day, but had opted for the cheap double-pair instead. Dumb move.
The snow had been falling since late last night and was beginning to pile up. She had seen a few snowplow trucks when she first began her walk, but there haven't been any within the last hour. Hardly anyone was out driving anyway. The streets were icy and the news told people of the roads. They were warned not to drive, so no one did.
In these brisk cold, negative temperatures, they were also warned to stay inside. Advice she surely didn't heed. She didn't care; she needed to get out of the house. She had walked pretty far from her home, though. It was going to take awhile to get back.
She frowned. Forget that; she was probably going to freeze to death.
Why had she decided to go so far? She didn't have to stay out of the house that long.
But she was too upset. She couldn't take it anymore.
It had been four months since he left the team. Four months since she had last talked to him.
She wanted to see him. That was all she wanted. Or maybe to ask him why he had left. No, she shook her head. She just wanted to see him. That would just be enough.
Her new partner replaced him. Sure, he was an okay partner, he had her back, he was there for her, blah, blah…
But he wasn't like him. Nowhere close. Because after all these years…
She was in love with him. And when he left the team, she didn't know what to do.
She wanted to call him, but she figured that maybe he would call her first. To talk to her about…whatever. Possibly to explain his decision to leave, but if not, then just to talk. She wouldn't mind that.
But he never called. He never called anyone on the team.
Then she decided she would try to call him. Then every time she reached for the phone, she thought about how he didn't call her. Her mind kept telling her that maybe he would call, he just hadn't gotten around to it. Maybe he needed a break or some time to himself. Yeah, that was it.
But…he never called. At all. Did he ever take this much time off? It wasn't like him.
She sighed, her breath visible in the freezing cold. She couldn't feel her fingers. She could barely feel her feet. She took another step…
She fell to the ground. Her feet were so numb she couldn't walk. Great.
She struggled to get up, but then felt it was useless. Even if she did get back to her feet, she'd just fall over again. What was she going to do now?
That was when she heard the last thing she expected to hear while going on this walk…
Her eyes widened as she instantly recognized the voice that called her by her nickname. She consciously didn't believe what she was hearing; she thought that maybe her ears were so numb that everything sounded distorted.
There it went again. It sounded real, but she was hoping that she wasn't going crazy now. She did not want to see a therapist for this.
But then she felt something on her arms. Someone was grabbing her arms, trying to lift her up. She turned her head to face her helper. She thought her heart had stopped.
"Olivia?" She was sure that she heard him this time. His face was so close to hers, as he had paused trying to help her up to stare at her. Well, question her. "What are you doing? It's, like, a negative fifteen-degree wind chill out here. Why are you out here?"
She couldn't answer. She thought she was dreaming for a moment before quickly realizing that she was nearly freezing to death. Unless she fell asleep in the street awhile ago and couldn't wake up, she definitely wasn't dreaming.
"Liv, are you okay? You're…" he grabbed her hands, then jolted at how cold she felt. Then he touched her face and she felt his hands warm her cheeks. Or maybe that had been her blushing at the gesture. "You're freezing, Liv! You have to get somewhere warm, now!"
She opened her mouth to speak, but her voice was raspy from disuse. "…El…Elliot…"
Suddenly, his face began to blur. Was she crying? No, it was her vision. She was getting tired…
"Liv? Hey, stay awake…! Liv…!" Now his voice was getting distant, although she was sure he was still holding onto her. Her eyelids were getting heavy…
She opened her eyes. She blinked a few times and wiped her eyes to make sure she was seeing her surroundings correctly. The place seemed oddly familiar…
She nearly fell off the couch she didn't realize she was laying on. Elliot's house? How did she get here?
…A blanket? She grabbed the thick red blanket that was covering her and gave it an odd look.
"Liv, you're awake."
His voice startled her so much, she did fall off the couch this time. She was at his house so she should have figured she would see him eventually. It didn't cross her mind fast enough.
He ran to her side and kneeled down next to her. "Are you okay?"
"U-um…" she wasn't sure what to say. She was still shocked to see him, to be talking to him.
"Here, let me help you," he reached for her hand and helped her back onto the couch. He sat down next to her. "Are you all right?"
"Y-yeah…" she finally managed to say.
When she didn't say anything else, he asked her another question. "Do you want to talk?"
She stared at him for a moment before nodding. "Yes…" she looked around the familiar house and realized it was really quiet. "Where is everybody?"
"The kids each went to friends' houses last night. I called them and asked if they could stay for a bit longer until the roads were safe to drive on," he explained. "So it's just me. And, I guess, now you, too."
Her heart jumped. It was just the two of them. On the job it had always been the two of them, but they were always busy with their work so there wasn't much time to actually spend with one another. Not that he would have wanted to; she never really knew.
But now they were together. After four months of not seeing or speaking to one another.
"What were you doing out in the cold like that?" he asked first. "You were pretty far away from your house. Did you…walk all the way over there?"
"Eh…?" she made a face. She wasn't sure how to answer that. She had only meant to take a short walk, but then she kept going and went too far… "W-well, I just wanted some air and…then I walked too far without thinking about it. And that's how I ended up there."
"You must have been walking for hours! Did you realize how cold it was outside? I'm sure you must have noticed that, your whole body was freezing. Did you ever plan on going back home?"
She couldn't answer that last question, either. Of course she wanted to turn around several times when her hands started to sting from the cold, but something kept telling her to bear the cold and keep walking. Did she have a destination in mind? Not particularly. But after awhile, she noticed that the path she was taking was familiar…
It had been the way to his house.
"I-I noticed it was cold, yes," she answered one question. "As for going back home…"
He stared at her, waiting for an answer.
"That doesn't matter!" she retorted suddenly. "What about you? Why were you outside?"
"I was only two blocks from my house," he said. "I wanted to take a short walk. I wasn't planning on being out all day. Freezing to death wasn't on my list of thing to do today."
She made a face. "It wasn't on my to-do list, either!"
"It's fine," he nodded his head. "I carried you to my house so you could warm up. I made you some hot chocolate, too, but I wasn't expecting you to sleep for an hour…"
"Carried…?" That was the only word in that sentence she heard. And then the words sleep and hour finally registered. "I slept for an hour?"
"Your body must have begun breaking down after losing body temperature," he explained. "That's why you suddenly got tired. I rushed you home as soon as possible so I could return your temperature back to normal. I didn't want to rush you to the hospital unless it was really necessary."
"O-oh…" she scratched her forehead. "Thank you."
"No problem," he smiled.
It was silent for a moment. She took a deep breath before speaking. "Ell…"
"I miss you."
He glimpsed at her expression for a moment before turning away. "…I'm sorry."
"I…somewhat understand your decision to leave, but you never called! Any of us! Fin was suddenly worried that you just up and moved away!"
"I wasn't going to do that," he said, "but I was worried about calling because…I wasn't too sure what to say to you guys. I turned in my papers to Cragen and ducked out of the office before I could see any of you. I really wanted to see everyone before I left, but…I was just too worried about how it would be saying goodbye to you guys. So I just…left."
"You didn't have to say goodbye for good!" she clenched her fists. "You could have just—!"
"I'm sorry," he said sincerely. She paused. "I really am."
She puffed her cheeks. "You better be."
"…Is there something else you want to tell me?"
She gave him an odd look. "What do you mean?"
"…I don't think you were just aimlessly walking through the city, Liv."
She flinched. Did he realize she was actually making her way over to his house? But until about a few hours into her walk, she didn't even know she was instinctively walking to his house.
…Was there something else she wanted to tell him?
Before getting to talk to him now, back when she wanted to make those phone calls to him…there was something she wanted to tell him. Not just that she was a little upset with him or that she missed him, but…
She loved him.
"U-um…" she stuttered. "W-well…"
"I a-also wanted to t-tell you that I, um… That I—!"
Suddenly he threw his arms around her and pulled her into a tight embrace. She paused for a moment before she even realized what was going on. Then she blushed. "E-Elliot?"
"Olivia…" It wasn't often that he called her by her full name. Only in the most serious moments… Was this a serious moment? Her brain scrambled to comprehend what was going on.
"I love you."
…Now her brain wasn't processing anything at all. Does not compute to its fullest.
"W-w-wha-?" she was blushing insanely. Did he just say what she was about to?
He pulled her out of the hug and held her shoulders, staring right into her eyes. "I love you, Olivia."
She must have had a really dumb look on her face. She didn't know what to say.
He continued. "Actually…that's most of the reason I decided to take off. I needed some time to…think about all of it."
She still didn't respond.
"I want to return, though," he said. "I'm just not sure if my feelings for you will hinder my ability to do my job."
"I don't think so," she responded a little too quickly.
"I-I mean, because…I've loved you for years, and it's never…hindered me."
Now he had the dumb look on his face. "Huh?"
She nodded. "Yes."
"Why do you keep saying 'huh'?"
"…C-cause it's a 'huh' worthy moment…"
"I've loved you for awhile. And when you left, I felt lost. I never worried about confessing to you because I thought that if you were always my partner and never left my side, I didn't need to worry about it. But…then you left…"
He looked upset. "I'm sorry…"
She felt a tear roll down her cheek, but then quickly wiped it and smiled. "But now that I know this, I don't need to worry about it anymore."
His smile reflected hers. "I guess so."
"So you'll come back?"
"M-maybe," he scratched his cheek sheepishly. "Cragen may wonder about my decision…"
"Don't worry about that," she shook her head. "We'll all be glad to have you back."
"Maybe after Christmas," he said.
He rolled his eyes. "So…"
"Now that we've confessed all of our feelings and you almost froze to death and whatnot…"
"Yeah, now that we got that out of the way, I'm blaming that on you."
"Me? Anyway…" He leaned in close to her. "Hey."
"I love you, Liv."
"I love you, too, Ell."
Then his lips touched hers softly.
Sure, she had traveled for hours and miles to get to this point and almost froze to death…
But this definitely made up for it. It was almost like she never even went outside.