A/N: What ARE You thankful for?
DISCLAIMER: Dick Wolf own SVU and the characters; TStabler© owns the story you're about to read.
The room is quiet. Too quiet.
She checks her watch and assumes that her best friend is sitting at the head of his table, carving into a big, golden turkey right now. She smiles briefly, picturing his children laughing and fighting over the dark meat.
Then reality hits. Flashes of a firing gun, the woman next to her falling to the floor, Elliot pulling her into his arms, it all comes back. She wipes away the tears running down her cheeks and she sniffles as she lifts the beer bottle to her lips.
"Thanksgiving," she mumbles with a scoff. "Thanks for nothing." She twists her body into a ball on her couch, and just as her eyes close, there's a knock on her front door. An insistent one.
She shakes her head, not in the mood to deal with anyone right now, and she drops the bottle to the coffee table. She moves toward the door and looks through the peephole; her hand trembles as she turns the knob. It opens just a bit and her red eyes widen. "What are you doing here?"
"You shouldn't be alone," the man at the door says. He works his hand into the crack of the door, pushing it open further. "Not now."
She shakes her head again. "I'm always alone during these stupid holidays, El. Why does tonight matter?"
His eyes turn up at her and he steps into her apartment. "Liv," he whispers, reaching for her hand, "You know why."
At his touch, she breaks. The unfelt pain, the unshed tears, the unimagined guilt she feels over her friend's death pours out of her. She lets him pull her into him and she falls, burying her head in his chest as she starts to cry, but stops.
"Liv, I know I should have…" he runs his fingers through her hair. "I should have called, but I had to see you. I'll leave if you want me to."
She breathes him in for a minute. "I don't wanna be alone tonight," she sheepishly admits. "I just didn't want to impose on..."
His lips stop hers from moving, the soft moans that escape her hit him somewhere deep. "I don't wanna be alone tonight either," he tells her.
"Alone?" she questions, her eyes now narrow but still filled with tears. "I thought you had the kids…"
"Christmas," he interjects, brushing his thumb over her lips. "Kathy has tonight, I have Christmas. New Year's…well…that's still up in the air." He leans closer to her. "Even if I was with the kids, Liv, I'd be here. I'd drag you back home with me, kicking and screaming, if I had to."
She laughs and she sniffles, and she pulls out of his hold. "You want a beer?" she asks.
He nods and sits on her couch, and he takes a deep breath. "How ya holdin' up?" he asks, knowing he won't get an honest answer.
The refrigerator door slams, she stalks back to the couch and hands him a bottle that matches hers, and she sits. "Oh," she sighs, grabbing her beer off the table, "Ya know. Watched one of my best friends die, did nothing to save her, spent all day in court listening to the man who killed her gloat about it. I'm just peachy."
"Liv," he whispers, "Don't do that to yourself. I told you when it happened, there's nothing any of us could have done. Alex just…she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. You both were." He took her hand, peeling it off of the amber glass, and he linked his fingers with hers. "It could have been you," he said, his voice breaking. "I'm so thankful it wasn't you,"
She looks at him and sees the tears drip slowly. It's only two, only out of one eye, but he's crying. She shakes her head. "It wouldn't have mattered."
He gasps. "Are you out of your mind?" he asks. "You matter! To me, you fucking matter, Olivia, and if that gunman had aimed for you and not Alex, I'd…I would have…" he bites his lip. "I never wanna know what it's like to live on this earth without you."
She tilts her head. "What?"
"Liv, I…" he chokes, and he blinks. "I know you don't believe this, at least you didn't last week, but I love you. Not just love…but real, honest-to-God, I-would-kill-and-die-for-you, can't-live-without-you love." He chuckles in spite of the seriousness of his words. "I don't know when it happened, so don't ask. I only know that it physically hurts when I'm not with you, and when Cragen called Saturday and told me shots were fired at the courthouse…the way he sounded…"
She takes a breath as he speaks, his words echoing in her ears, in her heart. "You thought it was me?"
He nods and he sobs once. "I've never been so scared in my life," he confesses. "When I got down there and saw you standing outside by the ambulance, I…lost it." He looks at her. "That's why I grabbed you like that, hugged you the way I did, and why…"
"You kissed me," she says softly. "Is that why you…you took me home? Why you were so demanding we spent that night together? Because you thought you almost lost me?"
He nods again, and he takes the chance and looks at her. "I swore to myself that night, that I would not let a single moment go by without telling you, without showing you how much I loved you. Fuck, that night is burned into my memory, and I know we should have talked about it…done something about it, but…"
She interrupts him. "It wasn't a good time, ya know? Alex's funeral, the trial, I…" she pauses. "I know why you wanted to wait."
"Honey," he says, his eyes slipping shut. "I had to wait. But I just couldn't wait beyond tonight. I need you tonight, Liv."
She nods at him and scoots closer, and her breath catches in her throat as he wraps an arm around her shoulders. "Thanksgiving," she whispers to him.
"Yeah," he says. "A day that we are all supposed to be happy, thank God…" he stops, and for her benefit, he adds, "Or whoever…for the gifts we have been given, the things in life that we are blessed with, and damn it, I could write a list seven miles long, but the only thing that I'm truly thanking God for right now is you. That you're here with me, and that you weren't…"
She feels the pain that she can hear in his cry, as his voice gives out. "El," she whispers, shaking, her fingers gently swiping at his tears. "El, I'm here, okay? I'm fine. I'm right here."
He nods and pulls her into his arms, keeping her pressed to his chest as he allows himself to cry, not out of sadness for Alex, but gratitude for Olivia. "Thank God, you are," he says into her ear.
She needs to lighten the mood, she needs to make the night special for them both because the week has been shitty enough without having an emotional meltdown on Thanksgiving. "So," she mumbles against his chest. "What else are you thankful for, besides the fact that I'm not dead?"
He chuckles and backs up, and he smiles at her. "My children," he says with a nod. "I'm thankful I have a job that I love, a warm bed to sleep in, a roof over my head, and food on the table every night. I'm a lucky son of a bitch, Liv, because there are so many ways…things could be so much worse." He kisses her cheek. "What about you?"
She searches his eyes for a moment, then she grins. "I am thankful," she says as she stands, "That I have a man in my life who gets me. Understands me. Loves me, in spite of all my faults, because I have so many faults, Elliot."
He shakes his head as he's pulled to his feet by her. "You don't," he declares.
"I do," she says, leading him backward toward the bedroom. "I'm thankful that I wake up every morning, and I get to go to work by his side, and I am thankful that I get to come home and dream about him."
"You can do more than dream," he tells her, a small smirk on his face.
"And," she says with a deep breath, "I am thankful that, a week ago, he did what I never could, what I never would have had the courage to do, on a night when we both needed to know we weren't alone." She shuts the door behind her.
He pulls her toward him again, his hands slip up her shirt and slide over her the smooth skin of her back "You're not alone," he tells her, kissing her once. "You will never be alone again, Liv."
"Thank God for that," she laughs, her lips meeting his in a kiss that makes her palms sweat. She is so lost in his mouth, in his arms, that she doesn't notice he's pulling her toward the bed, and she doesn't notice his fingers pulling off her clothes. She only notices how hot she feels, how hard her heart is pounding, and how she never wants it to end.
He pulls away from her, though, and he looks down at her. His fingertips graze her flesh, ever so lightly. Every inch of her body, and his eyes fill with more tears that will never fall. "You have no idea how scared I…"
"Yes, I do," she says, peering up at him, her nudity not a concern now. "Every single time you were shot…hurt…I…I know, El." She takes a breath as his hands cup her breasts. Her eyes close and she moans.
He closes his eyes, too, and bends his head, kissing her as his hands play at her nipples, toying with them. "I love you," he whispers. "And right now, more than anything else, I am so fucking thankful that you love me."
She nudged his nose with hers, finds his mouth with her lips again, and she smiles. "Happy Thanksgiving, El," she says, and as she watches him strip away his own clothes, her eyes flicker.
"Yeah," he pants, tossing his shirt to the floor beside the bed, "It is."
A/N: Happy Thanksgiving!