Writer's note: I originally had this short posted with my OTH fanfics before moving it over here.
As always, I own nothing. This is just something that I wrote for my ship.
I Never Left
An Elani FanFic
Six years, three months, four days, and 15 hours.
Giving him a ride home was the least that they could do.
He didn't go inside; there was no need. She wasn't home. She was alive and it was Saturday.
He knew where she would be.
The cold spring air pushed at him from the front, and the sun warmed his back, the wind loud in his ears, as his bike ate up the road beneath him.
He had tried to call, but he couldn't hold the phone in his hands he had been so nervous, so impatient; texting was out of the question. He wasn't telling his wife that he was alive in a damn text message.
His ears started to ring and he shook his head hard, waiting for it to go away as it always did. He'd been shot, beaten, stabbed, drugged, starved; fucking tortured. Then, his own people...
Nope. The stopped that train of thought.
He was going home.
Fuck everything else.
The cars, the people milling about; it wasn't something that he actively noticed. This was the Mayor's mansion. He didn't register the people who stopped at the sight of him. He didn't hear his name being called as he walked the hallways, because what he did take immediate notice of, not that much later on, were the smiling faces, the laughing, the crying, all while looking their absolute best.
Rows and rows of people.
A man and a woman stood at the head of all of it; smiling into each other's faces as they stood before the Mayor hand in hand.
"If anyone has a reason why these two should not be wed..."
He looked between the two holding hands in front of him and started to understand.
What the fuck was this?
A dog barked.
"Let them speak now..."
Yeah, that sounded like a damned good idea.
"Or forever hold their-"
"I have a reason." Eli's voice sounded from behind the witnesses and well-wishers.
"Oh, shit!" He heard someone exclaim.
"That's my wife."
The smile slid slowly from Lani's face, the color drained, as she watched her daughter run toward a ghost.
She watched as he knelt down and caught her child to his chest and stood, looking at her little girl in wonder; this fingertips touching the hair her godmother had been curled earlier.
His name fell from her lips silently; flowers dropped from her fingers.
"My God..." Her father spoke from behind her. Lani looked back at him like she almost didn't know where she was, but he had no words for her.
The murmurs and the whispers grew louder as Eli walked down the aisle with their daughter in his arms; his dog beside him as his booted feet crushed flower petals she had walked through what felt like a lifetime ago.
His eyes never left her.
Confusion, pain, relief, anger; it was as if those impossibly dark eyes didn't know which emotion to settle on. Lani felt Brady move to stand next to her. Eli's gaze moved to the other man briefly and it was like ice; winter in spring.
He dismissed the man looking back at her in pained confusion. He set their daughter own and Ree slipped one tiny hand first in his then in hers.
Brady Kiriakis looked between them then cleared his throat. What was probably half of the town; were quiet behind them. "Eli-"
He sank his hand into his wife's hair; and Lani followed, pressing her hand to his chest. Then Eli kissed his wife the way that he had dreamed of kissing her every night until exhaustion stole him while he had been away from her.
Away from them.
She didn't pull away, or slap him, but fist the front of his shirt in her hand and kiss him back while the crowd reacted around was a dream.
This was a dream, Lani thought. Valarie had been talking about her father non-stop for weeks. it was normal. She asked about him every day, and Lani never shied away from talking about him. Ever. She was her little girl's only connection to the man she had never known. Last week she had thrown a fit because she couldn't take her daddy-his picture- to school with her. Letting her tuck the frame into bed with her the night before hadn't been enough.
She would wake up any minute, Lani knew. She would wake up to her daughter in bed next to her doing her best to steal every bit of the covers, and Murtaugh snoring at the side of her bed, waiting for her to trip over his big body when she got up.
She would wake up any minute now.
Eli brushed his thumb over her lip and Lani's eyes slid open. Dazed, she looked into those dark, dark, eyes with those ridiculously long lashes Valarie had inherited...
"I think we need to-"
"Eli.."His name whispered from between Lani's lips.
This was a dream.
This was a dream.
It had to be...
Eli caught Lani before she could hit the ground, sweeping her up like she weighed nothing.
"My wife-" Brady started.
"You haven't got a wife," Eli informed him. He looked to his daughter. "Baby, you go with Grandpa."
He had a child.
He had a daughter. Ree looked at him like she didn't want to go, but she went; staring back at him over her shoulder with his eyes, his mother's eyes, like she expected him to disappear, while Abe stared at him with an emotion that he couldn't name.
Lani came to whimpering, crying softly, touching his face, saying his name over and over. She absolutely could not believe what she was seeing.
Eli carried her into the living room an laid her gently on the couch. Lani stared back at him tears wet on her face.
"How?" Her voice croaked. "How? This is not real!" She sobbed out. "I just want to wake up. God, please wake me up..."
Brady tried to push him out of the way and Eli shot and elbow under the other man's chin. It was a defense mechanism that knocked the taller man on his ass. Eli hadn't heard him come up beside him.
"That's my wife." He went on and the two men stood, invaded each others' space. Brady yielded stepping back, holding his hands up, his jaw worked in irritation.
"Where did you come from?" The taller man shot. "How'd you get here?"
"Hell. And I crawled.
"We thought that you were dead!"
Lani's breaths started to hitch behind them and Eli went to her before she could call him.
He hadn't been expecting her to slap the shit out of him though. Her chest heaving with sobs, face ravaged. She could slap him again if that was what it took for her to believe.
Shit still hurt though.
"Where were you?!" She cried. Then her face was buried in his chest asking the question over and over again, beating at his shoulder weakly with her fist.
One that bore another man's ring.
"I love her."
"You've been gone for six years. Six!" Brady shot. "You didn't think that life would move on? She thought you dead. Now you're going to, what? Pick up where you left off? What about V-"
Eli shook his head. "Uh-uh."
"What do you-"
"I spent years in the vilest, rotgut places being tortured by the most horrendous motherfuckers breathing free air," Eli told him. "Every breath that I took was to get back to that woman. Every shot endured, every cut carved into my body, every piece of burned flesh healed over wasn't so that I could come home just to walk away from the other piece of me."
"What about what she wants?" Brady asked. "What are you going to do if what she want-"
"Is me?" Eli finished. "What are you going to do, Kiriakis, if what Lani wants; who she wants, is me?"