It's been five days since NBC aired a promo for the next big crossover between "Law & Order: SVU" and "Law & Order: Organized Crime," and all we — and many other fans — can think about is a very important one-second moment from that video.
Yes, at long last, Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) hold hands in the car in the last few seconds of the teaser as Benson says, "Whatever happens, we're going to take it one step at a time."
Whether you want Benson and Stabler to become romantically involved or not, the moment is arguably a big first for the two regardless.
For the first 12 seasons of "SVU" before Stabler's abrupt departure, the partners on the force endured more traumatic and personal events than most couples. Their closeness was put to the test in the season seven episode "Fault" when Stabler chose to save an injured Benson instead of going after an abducted child. Later in the episode, Benson also chose to not shoot an armed suspect who was holding Stabler at gunpoint. At the end of the episode, the two had an intense, emotional discussion about what went down and eventually Benson opted for a new partner, without first telling Stabler, and in the subsequent episode she explained to him she did so because "it was just too complicated."
Also complicated was Stabler's marriage to his wife, Kathy Stabler. Kathy even filed for divorce at one point during the series, and many fans saw that as a chance for Stabler to finally end up with Benson until he found out Kathy was pregnant again.
Spoiler alert: When Stabler returned to the SVU-niverse earlier this year, Kathy died of injuries that resulted from a car bombing.
After over 20 years of tension and extreme ups and downs, could now finally be the time Benson and Stabler take the next step and become a couple? Both are currently single and working their way back into each other's lives, both professionally and at home.
"SVU" showrunner Warren Leight recently tweeted he and one of the show's executive producers had dinner with Hargitay, Meloni and "OC" showrunner Ilene Chaiken and discussed the future of Benson and Stabler's relationship.
Chaiken later talked about the dinner with TVLine and said, "It wasn’t just us asking Mariska and Chris, it was all of us talking and imagining these two people and just trying to dig deep and be real about it. And I love hearing from the fans and I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t have a little look to see how they responded to Warren."
Some of those fans were also thrilled by the handhold in the crossover promo because after years of living off of crumbs of little moments between Benson and Stabler — mostly intense stares — they finally got to see the two show a bit more physical affection toward one another. (Yes, just trading in one crumb for another, but we'll take it!)
"Hi just to reiterate there are hands being held at the end of this promo and I will be there until Dec 9..." one fan tweeted.
"Stabler and benson holding hands in the promo," another shared, along with an edited meme of Queer Eye's Antoni Porowski with the text "Two middle-aged cops holding hands is something that can actually be so personal."
"The way this .02 second clip of a hand hold has me in an absolute CHOKEHOLD," one person tweeted.
Someone else summed it up best, tweeting, "I really don’t think I’ve EVER been so excited about a HAND-HOLD!!!! That’s the power of #EO #Bensler for you! December 9th feels like a lifetime away."
Whether the handhold moment will be as exciting as it seems remains to be seen, as an earlier promo showing Stabler knocking on Benson's apartment door and sharing a close moment near the couch also got fans in a tizzy. After the episode aired, viewers realized Stabler was not in the best state since he had been drugged while undercover and went to Benson's apartment for help. In that honest state of mind, he also revealed Kathy was actually the one who wrote the letter he gave to Benson after his return in April, which ended up being a shocking moment for both Benson and the fans since all along it was assumed he wrote it.
After finding out most of the letter implied what Benson and Stabler were to each other wasn't real, Benson and the fans learned that Stabler did, however, write the letter's crucial last line himself: "In a parallel universe, it will always be you and I."
Fingers crossed that the parallel universe is now!
"Law & Order: SVU" and "Law & Order: Organized Crime" will return for a crossover event Thursday, Dec. 9, on NBC.