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law and order svu benson stabler mariska hargitay christopher meloni nbc

It's no secret by now that fans of the very, very long-running NBC hit Law & Order: SVU have been wishing, hoping and praying for something very special to happen for almost a decade: the return of Christopher Meloni as Elliot Stabler. Meloni left the role he originated in 2011, after 12 seasons on the drama, and while dedicated fans have remained fiercely loyal to the show (and Mariska Hargitay's portrayal of Olivia Benson), they've never gotten over Meloni's departure. We've known for a few months now that he's finally coming back, and we just got our first look at Hargitay and Meloni reuniting before they work together on SVU again.

While Christopher Meloni was ready to do other things when he decided to leave SVU and Stabler behind almost a decade ago, viewers who have stayed in the know will already be well aware that he and Mariska Hargitay have remained friends off screen during his absence from record-breaking police procedural. The two have posted pictures on social media of their get-togethers before, and now we've got another such post on Hargitay's Instagram, but, of course, this one is in anticipation of them finally being able to hit the squad room together after a long break. Take a look!

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It’s on.

A post shared by Mariska Hargitay (@therealmariskahargitay) on

Ohmygodohmygodohmygod! It! Is! Oooooooooon! Alright, I know you might think that response is excessive, but, come on. It's been almost a full decade since these two have been on camera as their characters and it's actually happening soon! I simply refuse to believe that I'm the only fan who's getting some slight heart palpitations thinking about Olivia Benson seeing Elliot Stabler again for what seems to be the first time since 2011. This is big, y'all. It's like there's been a shift in the Force or something.

All of the excitement surrounding Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay being able to reunite as their characters has a lot to do not only with how long it's been, but the mysteries surrounding why Stabler will be back in our lives and how he left. The Season 12 finale saw Stabler have to shoot and kill a young woman who opened fire in the SVU squad room.

Seeing as how Stabler already had several strikes on his record, he would have had to have his entire career reviewed by internal affairs, submit to a psych evaluation and take anger management classes to keep his job. But, he instead decided to retire from the police force, and Stabler was written out of the show off camera in the Season 13 premiere, meaning that fans never got a real chance to say goodbye to the character, and we never saw Benson get to say her goodbyes, either.

Now, this fall will bring Meloni back in the new spinoff Law & Order: Organized Crime, which will see Stabler come back to the force after a mysterious personal tragedy to head up a mob task force. We've been told that Stabler is going to be trying "to find absolution and rebuild his life," while also coming to terms with a police force that's undergoing its own reckoning right now, so, if nothing else, it does sound like Stabler is going to need all the old friends he can get.

Of course, we've been told that Meloni's return will also be marked by an appearance in the Season 22 premiere of Law & Order: SVU, and I don't think there's a single fan who can look at that photo above and not have some renewed hope for any hint of a whisper of a tiny bit of the chemistry that we saw from partners and best buds Benson and Stabler for 12 seasons. And, when I say "chemistry," I mean that a lot of people want these two to get horizontal, you guys. Yup. They want it really, really bad.

Law & Order: SVU and Law and Order: Organized Crime have yet to have premiere dates announced, but, hopefully, the coming weeks will see them added to the fall schedule. In the meantime, be sure to check out what you can watch right now, with our guide to summer TV!