Elliot was pulled from his nap on the couch by a quick succession of knocks on his front door. He looked at the clock on his TV that read 7 PM and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. What a rough week, he thought, and it's just Thursday, he had all of Friday to get through too. And he was on call this weekend. Just thinking about it made him grumpy. He loved his job, he really did. Maybe he was just a little too jaded now, too apt to see that crime never stopped. There was no pause on the horrors one human could inflict on another. He was exhausted down to his bones.
There was another knock and he called out, "Yea, I'm coming." He could smell the leftovers of his dinner - chop suey and orange chicken courtesy of the restaurant just down the street. His living room was a mess - laundry on a chair waiting to be folded and half empty glasses of water or soda or beer, His suit jacket was hanging off the sofa edge instead of being hung on a hanger.
Three years and he still hadn't got the hang of living alone - he knew how to do laundry, he knew how to vacuum and clean up the dirty dishes but he never seemed to do it as often as needed or he would begin and stop halfway through. Maybe it was time for him to admit that he needed to hire a maid to come in a few times a week.
"Elliot, it's me," came a voice from the other side of the door. Liv.
At the sound of Olivia's voice he panicked at being found in a mess like this but couldn't help but also be excited by his ever present desire to see her.
When he opened the door he took in the sight of her. She was dressed casually in jeans and a sweatshirt and she was holding a six pack in her hands. She wore no makeup and her hair was tied up in a loose ponytail - he was filled with the bittersweet longing he always felt for her.
He opened the door for her to come in and embarrassed said, "Please ignore the mess. It's . . . been a long day."
Olivia scanned his apartment with raised eyebrows and said, "It looks like it's been a long week."
He could feel the tips of his ears turn red in his embarrassment. "Just give me a minute," he said grabbing his laundry and taking it into his bedroom where he dropped the pile on the bed.
When he walked back into the living room Olivia was sitting on his couch with an open beer and eating the rest of his orange chicken.
"Are you hungry?" he asked, "I can order you something."
She shook her head and said around a mouthful of Chinese food, "This is fine - you were done eating, right?"
He nodded his head, "Yea, I just woke up from a nap."
She sighed and leaned against the back of his couch. "I'm not trying to impose, but I just really need a friend to commiserate with me."
That perked him up. He started picking up the dirty dishes scattered around and took them to his kitchen. "Something wrong?" he called out. "You doing ok? Bad day at work?" He knew better than most that a rough day at her job was enough to send anyone through the ringer.
"Nathan and I broke up," she called out to him.
Nathan, her boyfriend of a year. He liked Nathan. He was insanely jealous of him, but he did like him.
"What happened?" he asked as he stepped back into his living room. "I thought things were going well."
She took a drink of her beer and shrugged her shoulders. "They were going well and then they weren't. It's no big deal," she hedged.
He decided to let her get away with it. A year had been long enough for Elliot to get used to the idea of Liv being with someone else, but he was still obnoxiously happy that things didn't work out between them. Luckily he had the presence of mind to not show his happiness.
He sat down on the other side of his couch and grabbed one of her beers. He hated the brand of beer she drank but it was her party so he took a drink of it anyways.
"I just didn't feel like being alone right now. I figured you could keep me company."
He smiled at that. Ever since Elliot's sudden appearance back in her life things had been off between them. Ten years was a long time and their new lives didn't click together anymore. Their routine of friendship mixed with unrequited love had been left in the wind. That she was comfortable coming to him with a problem - even if it was just as a distraction - gave him hope for their future.
"You came to the right place," he smiled at her as he sat and rested his arm along the back of the couch. "How can I distract you."
She studied him thoughtfully for a moment before putting his leftovers back on his coffee table.
She shrugged and said, "I'm the one with a newly failed relationship don't make me make choices right now." She picked up his fortune cookie and snapped it open. She read the fortune and burst into laughter. "Love, because it is the only true adventure," she read before crumpling the paper and chucking it on the table.
He went tense for a moment and had to force himself to relax. What she thought of as a joke fortune he wanted to believe was an omen.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"God, no. That's the last thing I want to do."
Elliot nodded his head, grateful that he was going to be spared the details. Ever since her relationship with Nathan had started he had had to endure many conversations about him. Liv was still wary of bringing up anything to do with Elliot's feelings for her, but in a year of dating there were too many occasions for her boyfriend to come up. And he had done what he promised, he treated her like a friend, but he knew that his confession would forever be right between them - until he either got over it or she decided to give him a shot.
"Movie? I saw some Monty Python available on Netflix?"
"That is perfect," she said, tilting her head back and taking a swig of beer.
And to Elliot the whole night was perfect. He put aside his own wants and desires and just let himself be. It felt as if a door between them had slowly opened and he joyfully walked in.
He had to acknowledge that being friends with Olivia wasn't a consolation prize anymore. Yes, he loved her, but he could put that love to good use as a friend. He could step up and be what she needed him to be.
And so, for once, Elliot sat back with his disgusting beer and put his feet up and enjoyed the moment.