A/N: Okay, here's the next chapter. Not sure I completely love it but I wanted to get it up before I go away for the weekend. Let me know what you think either here or on twitter, Dimonkey17. Thanks for reading :)
Once back inside their apartment building, Brian and Olivia made their way to the elevator, not wanting to climb the four flights of steps after all they had already done that day. Along the way, they stopped and grabbed their mail from their mailbox—mostly Christmas cards, a few circulars already advertising after Christmas specials, and a cable bill. As they waited for the elevator Brian shifted his bag of purchases from one hand to the other, an action that did not go unnoticed by Olivia.
"If that bag's getting too heavy for you, I can take a turn carrying it," she suggested, a tiny smirk appearing on her lips.
"Nice try. But I can manage just fine, thank you," Brian chided. "You'll know soon enough what's in here."
"Can't blame a girl for trying." Her tone remained light and teasing but there was a weariness displayed in her eyes that hadn't been there earlier.
Just then the elevator dinged, signaling that the door was about to open. They exchanged pleasantries with the young couple that stepped off the elevator before they stepped inside. As the door slid closed again Brian leaned back against the wall of the elevator and pulled Olivia back against his body, resting his chin on her shoulder and his free hand across her stomach. He could tell she was tired and wasn't at all surprised to see her close her eyes and stifle a yawn, as she relaxed into his embrace.
A minute later when the door opened on their floor, Olivia's eyes were still closed and Brian had to give her a slight nudge to indicate that they had reached their destination. "Come on babe. We're home," he murmured in her ear.
Reluctantly she pushed herself out of Brian's embrace, with a small groan, and spanned the short distance from the elevator to their apartment door where she leaned against the wall waiting for Brian to unlock the door. As Brian struggled with the lock, using his backup key, since Amanda still had his regular key, he kept one eye on Olivia, assessing her condition. Maybe he had packed too much into one day. When he had come up with the idea on his way home from his undercover gig to complete her bucket list in two days, he had had no idea that she would be almost four months pregnant. He wanted more than anything to make all her dreams come true, but maybe he was going to have to modify his plans. He couldn't risk her health or the health of their unborn child.
When they stepped inside the apartment, Brian set his purchases down and helped Olivia shrug out of her coat. "Maybe you should lie down for a little while," Brian suggested as he hung their coats on the coat rack.
"I'll be okay," she responded, turning her head in an attempt to hide the fact that she was yawning again. She had noticed the worried expression on his face and she didn't want him to decide to alter his plans just because she was a little sleepy.
She turned back to face him. A trace of her usual fire had crept back into her eyes. "I'm up for whatever you have planned. I think somebody just kept me up too late last night," she teased.
"I don't seem to remember you complaining about it then. In fact if I recall correctly round three was your idea," Brian replied with a smirk, the memory of last night events running through his mind. He could feel himself growing hard and all of a sudden all he could think about was having hot, passionate sex with his wife on the floor of their apartment.
Easy Brian, he told himself as he took a deep breath in an attempt to calm himself down. There isn't time for this now. Later tonight, after you've checked some more things off her bucket list. Then you can have all the sex you want. If she's not completely exhausted by that point.
As if she was reading his mind, Olivia responded, her voice low and sultry, "Don't worry, I'll take a little power nap before dinner and I'll have no problem staying awake tonight. You know, in case we want to try to break last night's record."
Startled by his own transparency, Brian coughed a few times to hide the flush he could feel spreading across his cheeks. He wasn't sure why it surprised him that she could practically read his thoughts and interpret every nuance. She knew him better than anyone, the same way he knew her inside and out. When he had finally recovered, he grinned at her and said, "I will take that challenge."
Olivia smiled at him sweetly. "I figured you would. So do you want me to take that bag back to the bedroom for you? I need to get something anyway."
Brian just shook his head and laughed at her attempt to be sneaky. "You don't give up easy, do you?"
"You should know that. I convinced you to give me a second chance after I broke your heart thirteen years prior."
"Liv, there was no convincing necessary. You held my heart that whole time. I was just waiting to cross paths with you again and hoping when I did you'd be willing to give me another chance," Brian told her earnestly, before pulling her into his arms and kissing the top of her head.
The stood that way for a moment before Brian finally released her. "I'm going to go put this stuff away—somewhere that you will not think to look. So don't even try. Why don't you go have a seat on the couch and I'll be back in a minute?"
Olivia reluctantly agreed and headed down the short hallway to the living room. "Hey, didn't you promise me another sur-…"
She stopped abruptly next to the armchair and took in the sight in front of her. The couch and coffee table had been pushed closer to the kitchen and the television had shifted toward the chair. In the corner stood the Christmas tree that they had picked out just a few hours earlier, already upright in a stand; the top of the tree mere millimeters from their ceiling. In front of the tree sat several boxes of lights and ornaments, waiting to fulfill their purpose.
But that wasn't the only change. While they were gone their entire apartment had acquired subtle Christmas touches. There were little white lights hanging around the windows. A snow globe and a nativity scene were displayed on the coffee table. An assortment of music boxes that played various Christmas tunes and a couple ceramic Santas decorated their bookshelves. Red and green placemats adorned their dining room table. And there was even a sprig of mistletoe hanging in the hallway leading to their bedroom.
Brian, who was now standing right beside her, said with a laugh, "Guess it's good we didn't go any taller on that tree."
Olivia, still dazed by the transformation of their apartment, tried unsuccessfully to form a coherent sentence. "How did you…. Where did this…. But you were with…."
After letting her stammer for a few more moments Brian finally broke in. "I guess Santa's not the only one with elves." He laughed at his own joke as Olivia, still completely baffled, continued to survey the apartment.
"No seriously, how'd you do it?"
"I can't reveal my accomplices yet. You'll find out eventually, I promise. But for now it's just another one of my secrets."
Olivia rolled her eyes before replying with a chuckle, "You know, I guess it doesn't even matter how you did it. All that matters is that you did and I love you for it. It's absolutely perfect Bri."
As she spoke a few tears escaped from her eyes. She paused for a moment, trying to regain her composure. Brian reached up and brushed the tears away with his thumbs before wrapping his arms around her waist and waiting for her to continue.
"My mom never decorated our house when I was a kid. She didn't even put a wreath on the door or let me hang a stocking above our fireplace. She was too busy drinking herself into oblivion to care that we were the only house on the block without lights and a tree. And all the years I lived alone I never really decorated either. What was the point? Then this year I thought I'd finally get to decorate since I was married and had someone to share the Christmas festivities with. But then you weren't here and I guess I didn't really feel like doing it alone, so I just kept putting it off until it was December 23rd and the apartment was still completely bare. So this, the tree, all the decorations, this means the world to me. Thank you so much Bri."
Olivia leaned in and placed a quick kiss on Brian's lips before wrapping her arms around his neck and resting her head comfortably against his shoulder.
"Anything for you babe," Brian murmured into her silky hair. "I'd give you the moon if I could."
"I don't need the moon Brian, just you," Olivia replied with a contented sigh.
"Well that's good. Because you've got me and I'm not going anywhere."
The two stood wrapped in one another's arms, lost in the moment, until Olivia finally pulled back. "So are we gonna decorate this tree, or what?" she asked with the excitement of a child.
Brian couldn't help but laugh at her enthusiasm. "Well that was the idea. You go start sorting through the boxes while I put this stuff away. And I'll help you wrap the lights around the tree when I get back."
"Ok. While you're in the bedroom can you grab the cardboard box that's on the top shelf of my closet?"
Brian nodded and headed off in the direction of the bedroom. Olivia, meanwhile, kneeled down next to the first box and eagerly pulled the lid off.
Inside the box she found several different types of lights—white lights, colored lights, twinkling lights, big bulbs, small bulbs. There was even a string of lights with bulbs shaped like snowflakes. Olivia decided on colored lights and pulled out several strands that looked like they matched. Placing them on the coffee table for Brian, she moved onto the next box.
This box contained the ornaments. Olivia slowly took them out one by one, examining them as she went. There were candy canes and gingerbread men, reindeer and Santas, and even a few angels and shepherds. Some of the ornaments looked as though they had been bought at vacation sites—a flip flop, a miniature replica of the Gateway Arch, and a baseball with the San Francisco Giants logo on it. There was also a sizeable collection of simple balls, in every color imaginable. Olivia's personal favorite though had to be an ornament that most likely had been made by Brian as a child. It had been sculpted out of clay into the shape of a star and in the center was pasted the most adorable picture of Brian she had ever seen—his hair was standing straight up, his huge grin showed off his missing two front teeth, and he was sporting Batman pajamas, one size too small.
She was still laughing at the picture when Brian returned carrying her box under one arm and a small bag in his other hand. "So did you find the lights?"
Olivia unable to catch her breath to answer him just pointed toward the coffee table.
"What are you laughing about?" he asked, coming up behind her. He set the box and bag on the floor and peered over her shoulder.
"I am going to kill her," Brian exclaimed when he saw what Olivia was holding. "I cannot believe my mom put that ornament in here. I thought I convinced her to get rid of that old thing."
"But Bri, you look so cute."
Brian raised his eyebrows at her. "Are you kidding me? I look like I stuck my finger in an electric socket."
"You do not. You just have a little bed head. I mean this is pretty much what you look like now first thing in the morning. Except you have all your teeth. And you seem to have gotten past your super hero obsession," Olivia joked with him before bursting into another fit of giggles.
"I do not," Brian protested. "Now give me that." He lunged toward her in an attempt to grab the bothersome ornament but she was too quick for him and pulled it out of his reach just in time.
"Oh no, this guy is going front and center."
"Are you sure about that?" Brian continued to try to swipe the ornament away from her moving hand. When that tactic didn't work he switched to tickling her in an attempt to get her to release her grip on it.
She finally dropped the ornament back into the box. "Okay, you win. But you should be glad you had a mom who kept stuff like that. That box I had you bring out. Those are the few Christmas ornaments I own. And there are no awkward looking Olivia Benson ornaments in there. Just a few ornaments I picked up one year to decorate this table top artificial tree I had on my desk at work. So yeah you're embarrassed by it now, but one day it will hang on our tree next to our own child's handmade ornaments. And the two of you can joke about how goofy you looked and how annoying it is that you have sentimental moms who kept those ornaments. But me, I'll never share a moment like that with our son or daughter."
The frown on Olivia's face broke Brian's heart. How he wished he could travel back in time and change Olivia's childhood—replace her sad memories with reminiscences of family togetherness and joyful holidays. But since he didn't own a time machine, instead he gathered her in his arms and just held her for a few moments, rubbing soothing circles on her back.
"I'm sorry Liv."
"You have nothing to be sorry for Bri. It's not your fault my childhood was more 'Nightmare on Elm Street' than 'Miracle on 34th Street'."
"No it's not. But I'm still sorry for everything you went through."
"You know what they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger," she replied, her words laced with bitterness. She paused a moment and when she continued her tone had softened. "But I survived. And although it took me more than forty years to get to my happily ever after, I'm there now and that's all that matters."
Brian gave her a wistful smile. He was always amazed how she refused to let herself wallow in despair and could always find the positives in any situation. "I think I may have something that will make you feel a little better."
He reached behind himself to grab the bag that he had set on the coffee table and handed it to Olivia. "Go ahead, open it," he urged.
Olivia carefully opened the bag and slowly pulled out a small box. Inside the box was an ornament shaped like two intertwined wedding rings that read "Our First Christmas 2014" in fancy script. There was a spot in the middle of the ornament to insert a picture. As she stared down at the ornament, her eyes started to cloud over with tears.
"Hey don't cry. This was supposed to cheer you up," Brian soothed as he cupped her face in his hands and looked deep into her eyes. "I thought we could start our own tradition of adding a new ornament to the tree every year so I picked up this one while we were shopping today. I know it's not the same as having a geeky childhood picture on the tree but at least there will be a picture of you on the tree. I left it empty so you could pick the picture. I wasn't sure if you'd want to use a wedding photo or one of the selfies we took today."
"They're happy tears Bri," Olivia sniffled. "I love it. And I know exactly which picture I'm going to put in it—the one from ice skating today, where you're kissing me on the cheek. Can we print it out now?"
"Sure thing. How about you dry your tears and go print the picture while I string up the lights? Then we'll hang the ornaments together."
Brian was pretty efficient at hanging lights and by the time Olivia returned with the picture inserted into the ornament, he was ready for her help. Together they put up all the ornaments in both boxes, laughing as Olivia tried repeatedly to squeeze around to the back of the tree, the huge size of the tree and her widening midsection making it nearly impossible. She eventually gave up and let Brian hang the ornaments in the back as well as the ones on the top branches that she was too short to reach.
An hour later they stood back and surveyed the finished product. To get the full effect Brian had turned off all their other lights and pulled the shades, bathing the room in the soft glow of the twinkle lights.
"Well what do you think babe?" Brian looped his arm around Olivia's waist and pulled her close to his side. She in turn rested her head in the crook of his arm.
"It's exactly how I envisioned it," Olivia replied with a contented sigh. The blinking lights on the tree, while brilliant, were nothing in comparison to the glow emanating from Olivia's face, Brian took notice.
As promised, Brian's ornament was right in front, hanging a branch below their new ornament, which now displayed the freshly printed picture from today's adventure. They didn't have quite enough ornaments to cover the entire tree since Olivia had picked such a gigantic tree so they had filled in the bare spots with tinsel. The final touch had been the star on top. It had been a tight fit, but they had only had to trim a little off the top to get it to fit.
"So what's the next surprise," Olivia asked as she peered up at Brian.
Brian let out a small chuckle before responding. "What makes you think there's another surprise?"
"Just a feeling I have."
"Well your feeling is correct. But first there is something I've been waiting to do since we got home. Come with me for a minute."
Olivia gave him a puzzled look before following Brian toward the back hallway. They came to a stop just below the mistletoe.
"I think it's best we test this stuff out. Make sure it works," Brian suggested, a teasing glint in his eye.
"I like the way you think," Olivia replied, her voice deepening.
Brian wrapped his arms around Olivia's midsection and pulled her close. He leaned down and placed a soft sensual kiss on her lips, his hands tracing her hips and the small of her back. The kiss slowly began to grow in urgency and her tongue begged entrance into his warm mouth. Brian let out a soft moan as he parted his lips slightly, granting her access. Their tongues intertwined passionately, each one fighting for dominance.
His hands had now moved all the way up her back and were tangled in her soft hair. As the desire escalated Brian, as forcefully as he could without hurting Olivia or the baby, pushed her small body up against the wall. Removing his hands from her hair he reached down and took her hands in his and braced them against the wall above her head. His body was now flush against hers and a burning fire consumed them as they continued to release all their pent up sexual energy from two months spent apart.
Moments later when the finally separated, both gasping for air, Olivia looked at Brian, her eyes dark with desire and murmured, "I think it works just fine."