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Friends Sometimes Do

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It started with a statement, in a neutral Police Precinct in Fort Lee, New Jersey. He looked at her, with those worried blue eyes, frantic and searching her own for some small sliver of truth with her dark ones.

“I want to find balance here, in this.” She feels temporarily taken aback. “Whatever this is.”

Whatever this is.

She turns over these three words in her mind, and she’d like to find balance in whatever this is as well. She’d accused him of being on a one-way street during the trial. She’d called him out, told him he needed to find out what she’d been through, what had happened to her in the last ten years.

He’d tried to test the water with her relationships.

She understood, it was a safe place for him to toe the line.

“How about…” she took a minute, searching her mind for the definition she was looking for. “We call it a friendship.” She could work with that label. a friendship. “How’s that for now?”

The look on his face was…breathtaking. He was breathtaking, with his three-piece suits, bright blue eyes, and muscles that seemed to have filled out from nowhere compared to the man who used to be her partner. Not that he was ever a small man without muscles, but…he was better with age.

“Hey, my friend, Olivia.” He began and she short-circuited, right there, looking up at him, listening as he invited her and her son. Her son, to his place for a family Christmas get-together. Adding a please in there. Manners. He seemed to have found manners in the decade he was gone.

“Wow.” She was stuck floating on a cloud somewhere until she found her words. “Okay. I…” she hadn’t had a chance to talk to Noah about the importance of the man in front of her yet, she hadn’t introduced them yet, and maybe it would be easier to introduce them with the rest of his family around – because there were more than enough of them to limit the amount of time they would spend together.

She couldn’t quite decide if he really was here now for good or not. Not just yet. He’d just come out of being undercover, who was to say he wouldn’t go back under and leave Noah asking questions about her friend, Elliot. “I just need to think about it, okay? But I’ll let you know.”

God, how did that come out? She sounds like a teenager again. Get it together, Benson.

“Can I let you know?”

He’s looking down at her, his eyes reminding her of sapphires, or her son’s own eyes. Bright blue and clear. She can still read this man like the book she keeps on her nightstand and has memorized from cover to cover.

“Just come.”

She swallows. Her legs feeling like Jell-O beneath her body.

I think I just did.

This is how it all starts, with a simple definition that will never quite live up to the actuality of their situation.


They’d held hands a couple of times now.

Each time, it left Elliot feeling a little thrown off his axis. The first time she had done so, was only a couple of weeks after Kathy’s death. She’d been leaving Organized Crime and had reached out for his hand, dragging it with her until their fingers slid over one another as she left. He almost believed he’d been dreaming it.

She’d held his hand in the dark corner of the restaurant after most of everyone had left the night of Fin’s Not-Marriage party. Her hand warm between his fingers, as they glanced out over the water, watching the reflection of the moon upon the gentle waves of the river. It was a moment of quiet calm, and he couldn’t believe it was real.

It had taken his breath away, that she was reaching for him and holding him as though she’d always done it.

When his son had called him, after they’d all been looking for Eli for a couple of hours, he’d called Olivia and the only words he’d gotten out of his mouth were “Liv, it’s Eli.” He hadn’t even gotten the request out of his mouth to ask her to come along with him before she was offering. Then, she reached for his hand on the way, their fingers stroking one another in a quiet, comforting manner.

He didn’t understand why she kept doing this, because she’d made it perfectly clear that they were calling this thing a friendship. For now. He wondered how it was her hand could slip so effortlessly into his.

He must’ve asked this out loud, without meaning to – because she just turned her face toward his while they drove through the city streets on their way to lunch and smiled as she proudly proclaimed, “Friends hold hands, Elliot.”

He wasn’t sure, but he’d have to take her word on it, because…maybe they do, hold hands.


A few days later, after the hand-holding question was raised he’d decided to surprise her with a cup of coffee that he’d found at an Authentic Italian Café that was pretty damn close to the coffee he’d gotten used to drinking in Rome. Thinking about the way she took her coffee now, he chuckled as he ordered her a cup, he would get her to drink it his way if he had to die trying.

So when he brought the cup in and sat it down on her desk, she looked up at him – it was still early in the morning, and she knew how out-of-the-way he had gone just to bring her this cup of coffee. She also knew it wasn’t how she took her coffee anymore, and he was trying to get her to try it. To convert her coffee habit back to his own. So, as she eyed him while taking a sip, not giving anything away with her expression, she internally told herself that it wasn’t that great.

As he left the office, looking slightly dejected, Fin walked in and looked at her, brow raised.

“He’s kinda out of his neighborhood, isn’t he?” Fin asks, looking at the address on the side of the coffee cup.

“It’s just coffee.” She doesn’t even look up, as her Sergeant walks out of the office.

“Friends bring each other coffee, Fin.” She smirked, putting her glasses back on her face. She glances down at the cup.

It was a good cup of coffee. She pulls out her phone and texts Elliot.

>> The cup of coffee is OKAY.

She takes another sip.

Friends bring each other coffee. She tells herself again.

Friends drive way the hell out of the way to bring each other coffee.

The cup is gone in six swigs. She wants another. She’ll never admit it to him that it’s a really good cup of coffee. He doesn’t need any more ego boosting. His ego is already too large as it is.


A few days later, she’s sitting in the warmth of the SUV while Fin is standing alongside the truck on the sidewalk, she’s sipping the iced coffee he’s handed her through the window and staring at her phone screen. He’s waiting on their breakfast sandwiches, at the cart that he knows is her favorite even though it’s out of the way.

“Still think you’re nuts for wantin’ an iced coffee in this cold weather.” He mumbles, as she laughs, taking a drink just as her phone rings.

She answers the call and glances to the side at Fin while she’s talking, “Friday is fine, El. No, the movie you picked sounds fine. I think the boys are going to love it. I’m sure.” Fin pushes off the vehicle because the guy is calling their order number, their sandwiches were ready.

A minute later, Fin gets back into the vehicle with their warm sandwiches wrapped in foil as she’s finishing up the phone call. “Hey, I gotta go. No, my sandwich is ready.” A pause, “Yeah, that very cart. You remember the one – extra potato.” She grabs the sandwich out of Fin’s hand, unwrapping it. “I’ll talk to you later.”

She hangs up and takes a bite of the sandwich, looking to the side at her Sergeant who has a shit-eating grin on his face. “The movies, with the boys?”

“Friends can go to the movies, Fin.” she laughs, taking a sip of her iced coffee and then going back in for another bite of her sandwich.

“Yeah, okay.” He begins unwrapping his own sandwich. “Friends. If you say so.”

She narrows her eyes at him, taking another sip of her coffee. “Friends take their kids to go to the movies.” She reiterates.

Friends do go to the movies. Friends go to the movies with their kids.


They go to the movies on Friday, Noah and Eli both excited for the Spiderman movie. The boys sit a row in front of them, sharing a large tub of popcorn. They sit the row behind them, in the reclining seats that the theater has. Elliot’s hand rests on the armrest between them, and she interlaces their hands while watching in the darkness. A few times she feels him staring at her, so she turns her head and catches him.

He stares at her a lot more now. Because there’s nothing stopping him from staring at his friend. Her breath catches mid-way through the film when he begins stroking her arm with his other hand, their popcorn empty and soda needing a refill, but neither of them want to move, so she puts the cup in the tub and places it at their feet, raising the armrest between the two of them, opening up their seat to be a couch instead – and she moves closer to him.

“The theater is cold,” She whispers in his ear, “You are warm, and I’m going to take advantage of that, because you’re my friend.”

He smiles a little larger as she burrows into his side.

Friends go to the movies and cuddle because the theater is cold.

Friends go to the movies and share popcorn.

Friends go to the movies in the middle of a pandemic and share a soda.

Friends just do these things.


The next night he comes over for dinner, mumbles something about how Eli is going out with some of the kids from the Boys’ and Girls’ Soccer teams at school to see a movie. Not the same movie he’d just seen, but a different one. Agreed that he’d text Elliot when he got back home, not to worry – and Elliot agreed as long as Kathleen was available to hang out with Bernie while Eli was gone.

After Noah had gone to bed, she came back to the couch, looked through HBO and found a movie to watch in the TCM section. Halfway through the movie, Elliot looks down and sees her face smashed against his arm and he quietly chuckles, wrapping his arm around her. She moves in her sleep and wraps her fist in his shirt, a smile gracing her lips.

He pulls the throw out from under them and covers them over. He knows he’s going to regret this position in the morning, but for now, he’ll let the Captain catch up on her rare slumber. She deserves that. Plus, he loves the smell of her shampoo, it’s the same one that used to plague his senses while he was half-a-world away from her.

It blows his mind that his friend, if that’s what she wants to call it, Olivia, is comfortable enough to throw her leg over his in her stretched out sleepy state. A small moan escapes her lips and he prays for the strength to just hold her. To hold her and not embarrass himself, or mortify and scare her off.

Friends can cuddle and get cozy on the couch.


The moment happens suddenly. It’s been a long few days, and she’s not gotten the opportunity to talk to him as much as she’d like to because the case they’ve been working. So, as she stops by the dry cleaner’s on her way home, she is shocked to discover that one of his suit jackets must’ve gotten thrown in with her blazers when he’d been at her place a couple of days ago – the random mid-winter heat wave had resulted in them not needing a jacket or blazer – and they’d gotten dinner and he’d left from the pizza place, having received a call from his Sergeant.

So, she stopped by his place to drop it off. He’d been grateful that she’d even bothered to bring it over, and told her she really hadn’t needed to do it, but she felt like it was just what a good friend would do.

Pick up someone else’s dry cleaning if it got mixed in with their own.

Friends could bring one another their dry cleaning if it got mixed in.

As she’s leaving, she looks at him, standing there holding her door open and she doesn’t know what comes over her, but she feels magnetically drawn to the man in front of her. Things have been good. Really good lately.

Really, really good.

He reaches out and tucks the errant strand of hair behind her ear that had managed to fall out of her ponytail. As his fingers brush the sensitive skin of her ear, she inhales sharply, becoming aware of his proximity and her body reacts. Her tongue darts out between her lips and she wets it in an almost imperceptible manner. His fingers have slid behind her head, resting in the place that he’d always held while they had small moments in the Squad Car all those years ago.

She feels the pull. She feels her heart beating wildly in her chest and she begins to wonder why ribs are cages if hearts are wild things that operate on their own accord. As her eyes dart from his eyes to his lips she pulls him closer to her, and he pulls her to him. Their lips meet softly against one another.

Gently. Quietly. Timidly.

Friends kiss, sometimes.

That’s what she tells herself as she drives home, touching her bottom lip that he’d pulled between his teeth the second time their faces had moved toward one another. His lips had just been on hers.

Friends sometimes kiss. This is normal. Friends kiss.


Two nights later, he brings them all Chinese for dinner. They watch movies and Noah tells them about his day, about his dance classes and about the solo he’s received for his next recital. He watches how she smiles while listening to her son talk and he couldn’t be more proud of her if he tried.

She’s an excellent mother, and friends are allowed to think this about their best friends.

After Noah is in bed, she asks if he can stay for a while longer.

They still haven’t addressed their impromptu kiss the other day, and he doubts she’s going to bring it up. It’s fine, he thinks, because he doesn’t want to mess with whatever this is. This friendship that seems to be something else.

His heart is full though, as he looks at her watching the classic film to the right of him. He’s staring at her a lot lately, and he knows she’s noticed as well. His breath catches in his throat as she smiles at the romance playing out on the screen in front of them, but he’s smiling because she’s beautiful, wearing the over-sized threadbare sweatshirt that falls off of one shoulder, the gray leggings that are cropped and her ridiculous fuzzy navy socks that match her sweatshirt. He can see the strap of a thin tank top underneath.

She’s beautiful, with her naked face and laugh lines on her cheeks. When she turns to meet his eyes, her lips part and she strikes with the speed of a cheetah. Before he even can comprehend what’s happening, she’s laying beneath him on the couch, his hand is under her sweatshirt and over her tank top, and he’s got a hand full of a soft breast underneath his palm. Her lips are on his neck, and their hips are grinding against one another as he’s kissing her cheeks, listening to her soft moans.

She grips his hip tightly as she squeezes, her leg wrapped around his – when she looks up and meets his eyes she looks slightly terrified and like the most beautiful creature he’s ever seen on earth. If he died here, he would die happy. His lips meet with hers as their tongues twist and slide over one another while his other hand squeezes her thighs.

She’s too much.

This is not enough.

Friends make out and grind against one another on the couch because they can trust each other.

She’s thinking about how his lips feel trailing down her jaw and neck, how his hand feels heavy against her and how this – this is getting to be quite dangerous but she doesn’t think she can go without this. She bites his ear and digs her fingers into his back underneath his shirt and can’t believe she’s going to – oh.

Friends help each other out, right?

As much as she’d like to keep doing this all night, and maybe without clothes. She’s not ready for that with benefits part of friendship…just yet. So, he rolls off of her and she drapes her leg around his own, their faces inches apart while he smiles like a teenager who’s just been making out on the couch while his parents were in the next room.

She’s breathless when she looks into the depths of his eyes.

Friends don’t need to talk about things out loud when they can communicate like we can.

She thinks.


It’s a month later when the vase of her favorite flowers shows up at the Precinct. She tells the delivery guy to set it on the side, between the photos.

She’s been smiling a lot more, her happiness contagious. Her wardrobe gaining color. Her skin glowing a lot more. Amanda walks in to hand her a file when she sees the large vase and it’s hard to conceal her smile.

“So, you and Stabler, that’s a thing now?” She asks, because who wouldn’t think that, seeing all the places he seems to be that she is. Seeing all the little pieces of him that have shown up almost everywhere.

Her lock screen is a photo of Noah, Eli, Elliot and herself at the movies. There’s a photograph on the side next to the vase of the entire Stabler family and her and Noah from Christmas. An old black and white photograph of the original squad sits on the shelf in the corner. She’s wearing a necklace that Amanda recalled seeing when she first got there.

“We’re friends, Amanda.” Olivia doesn’t look up from the folder, reading the paperwork in front of her. She’s sharper, everyone has noticed. Wittier. More like the Olivia Benson that walked into the precinct back when she was just a Uni. Fin is seated at the chair in front of her desk, playing with his phone, checking on something in his e-mails when he shakes his head.

“Nah, you guys are datin’.” he pauses, a grin on his face, “Friends don’t look at each other like you two look at one another. Never have.”

Olivia narrows her eyes as she assigns Amanda to take Velasco to re-interview one of their victims. When she looks up at Fin, he’s just staring at the vase of flowers and the necklace peeking out of her shirt.

“What?” She asks, and he just shakes his head, pressing his lips together before getting up to walk out.

Later that evening, she’s laying in front of him on the couch, watching another movie with the throw over their bodies and he’s holding onto her securely with his left arm while his right arm is propping her up his hands running through her brown locks gingerly. He’s smiling into her hair, and she’s relishing in the warmth of his body next to her own.

“What are we?” She asks, breaking the delicate silence. He adjusts so that his arm is no longer holding her, but his hand is on her cheek, his eyes searching her own depths with a sincerity and seriousness that takes her breath away.

“You decide, Liv. It isn't up to me to define this.” He leans down, kissing her gently, stroking her face quietly. She smiles as he pulls back and as she looks up into his blue eyes, it all makes perfect sense to her.

Sometimes, friends fall in love.