Olivia Benson was currently having a trying day. SVU had caught a kidnapping case earlier in the week. Frantic days were spent trying to find a woman taken from her office by an angry, unhinged estranged husband by gunpoint. They had found her body yesterday, not soon enough to save her. She had been tortured, cuts, bruises, and burns. Fin saw the small, circular burns on the woman’s body and his eyes looked immediately to Liv, asking a question. It’s fine, she had dismissed, looking away. And Fin, God love him, had taken her surface answer. He was not one to coddle after all these years. The scene was handled. The ex-husband was caught. The evidence was plentiful. Not that it would do that poor woman any good now, but it was over.
Now it was the next evening and Olivia leaned heavily on the wall of the elevator as it ascended to the floor of her apartment. She was beyond exhausted, physically, mentally, emotionally, and any other “-allys” there might be. Noah was still away at dance camp for another weekend and Olivia was glad, albeit with a small twinge of guilt. She hadn’t been able to do much more than text him these last few days and hoped she’d be able to talk on the phone with him tomorrow, if she didn’t accidentally sleep the whole day. Add mom guilt to the list of emotions she was feeling.
Turning the key in her door, she froze for a moment. Was that music playing inside? Slowly she pushed the door open, and saw indeed it was music, playing on her tv speakers. Walking in slowly, she peered around the corner, through the living room, into the kitchen, to find Elliot, back turned, dancing in her kitchen.
“Elliot,” she said exasperated. “What are you doing here?”
Elliot swung around from his place at the stove, smiling widely. “Liv! Great, you are home! This is almost done!”
Goddammit. Olivia remembered now. They had plans for tonight. Tentative plans she thought. Nothing set in stone. She and Elliot had brunch the weekend previously. He’d learned Noah was out of town through this weekend. How about dinner Friday night? he had asked. That might work. Olivia had replied. But then this shitshow of a week had happened and she hadn’t given a single other thought to it. Goddammit she thought again.
Well, she’d just have to make due now. Eat dinner and gently but firmly push him out the door so she could sleep for the next 24 hours.
“When I didn’t hear from you, Fin mentioned you guys caught a bad case this week. Figured a quiet night in might be better than out,” Elliot said as he pulled something in a casserole dish from the oven. Looked like lasagna and it smelled heavenly.
“Yeah,” Olivia dropped heavily to one of the bar stools across from him. “I’m pretty exhausted, Elliot. I don’t think I’m going to be very good company tonight. I’m sorry I missed your texts. We’ve been working nonstop.”
“I understand,” Elliot answered easily. He was grating fresh Parmesan over the lasagna now. “I’m only here to feed you and tuck you platonically into bed.” He looked over his should to grin at her. “Why don’t you go take a hot shower, get into some comfy clothes, and then come eat. I just have to let this lasagna sit and finish dessert.”
“You made dessert too?” Olivia asked laughing, his joy contagious. She felt herself breathing a little deeper, a little easier when he looked at her like he was. Happy. This could work tonight. It had been too long since she’d eaten a real meal. And he wasn’t going to push for more than that. She’d eat, he’d leave, she’d sleep. They would both be happy.
“Alright, Stabler,” she relented with small smile. “I’ll be back out in 20.”
“Take your time!” He waved his hand dismissively, turning to the refrigerator.
30 minutes later, Olivia was showered, dressed in an oversized shirt and soft leggings, and sitting next to Elliot at the bar as they tucked in to his homemade lasagna. He’d poured her a glass of wine and she had to admit it was a pretty perfect way to end a terrible week.
“So, uh, you are a pretty good cook these days, huh?” Olivia said, reaching for her glass of wine.
“You haven’t even seen dessert yet. I’ve got a presentation and everything!”
Olivia barked out a laugh. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Olivia and Elliot worked on finishing their main course, Elliot regaling her with recent stories about his mom, his kids, and his grandkids. Olivia listening intently, nodding and smiling, enjoying the light, happy conversation. She was glad to listen to him talk, no expectation of her responding more than one or two words at a time. No questions for her from him. It was easy and effortless. The lasagna was delicious. The wine paired perfectly. Olivia felt a weight easing off her chest, her heart less heavy. Elliot’s smile grew wider, his eyes twinkling. Olivia could tell he was pretty pleased with himself, bringing her this comfort, putting a smile on her face. She’d allow it. He’d somehow turned her terrible mood into something she could probably name as happiness on a night she felt it was impossible. He, among all others, was the only one who ever could.
“Ready for dessert?” Elliot asked, as he picked up their empty plates.
“Yes,” Olivia smiled easily.
As Elliot brought two small dishes over to the counter where they’d been sitting, Olivia got up to grab more wine. As she rounded back around to her seat, she heard a sharp hiss, there was a strong whiff of gas, a sight of flame. Olivia stumbled backwards, dropping the half-empty bottle of wine. The bottle didn’t break but rolled acrossed the floor, spilling red wine in a circular trail.
“Oh, Liv, Jesus,” Elliot exclaimed quickly, placing the small blowtorch in his hand on the counter, before snatching up the bottle and looking for some towels to clean up. Tossing one on the floor, he looked up to find Olivia, hands on her knees, staring downwards, breathing noisily.
“Liv?” he asked tentatively. “You ok? Did I scare you? The bottle didn’t break. You want me to pour you another glass?”
Olivia’s shoulders shook and a shaky sob escaped her mouth. She quickly covered her hand over her mouth to hold back another. Suddenly she stood, turning her back to him.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I gotta-“ Olivia darted suddenly down the hall. Elliot heard a door click behind her and he was left, desperately confused, standing in the kitchen over the half-finished creme brûlée.