DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf. CSI Miami and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The room is beginning to spin, the colors and light sliding, running like spilled oil paint, thick and streaked.
How could I have been so stupid? No, that’s not fair, I know exactly how I could have been so stupid. I let my guard down. Hell, I tore my guard down. And now I’m paying the consequences.
The world tilts on its axis and the blurry present is replaced by sharp, painful past. Alexx had suggested time off. Eric had suggested time off, hell even Horatio had suggested I step back. Natalia alone had been quiet, her dark eyes holding a soft weight that I both loved, and hated her for. I wish I could have been pissed at them for their suggestions, but every time I forced myself to walk through those too-bright corridors, I found myself tensing, my shoulders going tight, preparing for an attack I knew wasn’t coming. It was making me want to run. It was making me hate myself.
In the end though, it wasn’t the fear or the anger that got to me, it was the pitying looks. Maybe it was all in my head, but my head wasn’t a quiet place anymore: too crowded with memory…with…shame.
So I took their advice. I took leave, and headed somewhere I’d always wanted to visit: a place that was as far away from Miami and its slow, thick heat and ever present sun as I could get.
I went to New York City to get away, to lose myself and to take my mind off the crime and the…accident. I went to New York to escape…and I wound up right in the middle of a murder investigation.
Two nights into my “vacation,” I force myself out of my hotel room to a club and while I’m there, I get rufied. The irony is staggering….to bad I’m in no shape to appreciate it.
“Hey sweetheart, you look tired, why don’t I take you home.”
I can trace in my mind the series of moves it would take to disable and cuff him. I have the sense memory of what it would feel like: the shock in my arms and body as I take him down.
I can’t make any of it happen.
My body is deaf to my commands, no matter how some tiny part of my mind screams at it. The thick air of the club isn’t helping. I can barely breathe. I can tell he’s taking me outside and I concentrate on drawing breath, trying to clear my head. Thank god I only sipped. At least I wasn’t that far gone.
The sharp, almost bitter cold bites my skin and burns my lungs, unused to the edge of near winter in this northern city.
I can feel my focus slowly returning, and I’m getting some control over my limbs, but now I feel fear begin to creep in. We’re leaving the more populated club area and headed toward a side street. I can calculate my chances slipping away, each second reducing the mathematical ratio of my survival, the calculation of which I have never applied to me…and aren’t going to now.
I make my move…and chaos erupts around me.
Lights pierce the dark around us and angry shouts fill the air. My captor turns, holding me as a shield, his voice thundering in my ear as he shouts back.
Hostage situation, that struggling rational piece of my mind supplies. I know what usually happens now, I’ve seen it from behind a gun many a time. The perp holding me is panicking – the police are getting itchy trigger fingers – and I’m stuck in the middle.
And out of the first bloom of true panic, I feel anger. I came to New York on vacation, and no sonofabitch perp is going to ruin that.
That anger, as petty and irrational as it is, clears my head that last tiny bit and I move. I’m weak and sloppy, but the surprise is enough. I dive to the side and I hear shots sear the air above my head. The pavement is burning rough as I hit it, but I barely feel the sting. That will come later. Things are clearing, bit by bit, so I know that my assailant is dead.
“Ma’am, ma’am can you hear me?” A gentle hand is touching my throat, feeling for a pulse. Her voice is rough though, such a stark contrast to the soft whisper of her fingers. The sound is rough, still carrying the serrated edge of adrenaline. It’s an edge I know all too well.
I struggle to focus.
Brunette, elegant cheekbones, with deep, expressive eyes. Like Natalia, my weak mind supplies idly, only not.
Snarling at myself, I take a deep breath and try to speak…unsuccessfully.
The eyes above me are filled with concern and her hands are gently searching my body for injury. “I need a bus over here!” she calls.
“CSI Calleigh Duquesne,” I finally manage. It’s weak, but only slightly slurred.
I find myself instantly her sole focus. “What’s that? Ma’am are you ok?”
“CSI level 3 Calleigh Duquesne,” this time it’s pretty coherent. I know this because I see the shock in her eyes.
“Calleigh? Are you injured?”
Her rough voice does interesting things to my name, and interesting things to a body I am so not in control of now.
“I’ve been drugged,” although that ought to be damned obvious.
She nods and some of my frustration must have come through because her mouth quirks. “My name is Olivia Benson, I’m a detective with the one six. EMT’s are on their way alright?” Thankfully she’s stopped acting like I’m a helpless victim. Her hands cradle my head and she finally explains what the hell is going on.
“We had undercover operatives in that club trying to bait this bastard. Just our luck he picks the one cop that’s not one of ours.”
I want to ask her about the operation, about the case, but at that moment, the paramedics move in and she is pushed away. For some reason I can’t explain, that pains me and I twist my head, trying to find her warm eyes again. One of the medics holds my head and straps a neck brace on, talking to me like I don’t know what the hell is happening. It pisses me off.
Before I can say anything though, they strap me to the board, and my brain shuts down. The memories come rushing back at a speed far faster and more terrible than light, and every animal instinct I have comes crashing back to me.
I will not be held down! I will not be helpless! No!
“Calleigh! Calleigh listen to me, look at me. Breathe. Just breathe ok.”
Her hand’s grip is fierce and her voice is soothing, pushing back the terror and I cling to both; too busy fighting my demons to be ashamed. Somewhere distant, I hear her say she’s riding with us, but all I know is that her hand doesn’t leave mine. The ambulance ride is bright and cold and rough, but her touch never wavers. By the time we get to the hospital, I’ve managed to regain some shred of my control. It helps that the drugs have mostly lost their hold over me. In their place though, I can feel exhaustion reaching up to snatch at me and I fight it. Olivia is still there, but as they take me to emergency, I know she’ll have to leave. Darkness is wearing at the edges of my awareness but she’s oddly clear in my vision.
The last thing I’m aware of is her low voice promising to be there when I wake up.
The first thing I’m conscious of, is knowing that I’m in a hospital. There’s no mistaking that damn smell. With sense, comes memory, and a roil of emotion. Anger at myself, shame for being so careless, anger at my reaction to the EMT’s, anger at the perp who tried to assault me…
“Calleigh? Hey, come on wake up.”
That voice. Olivia Benson. I should be surprised, but I’m honestly not. Somehow, I knew she would be here.
The light in the room is dim, and I can tell its still night out when I finally win the struggle to open my eyes. My sight is rewarded with the image of the New York detective. She looks tired, but her eyes are warm. Normally I would hate this. I would hate myself for wanting someone here when I woke up, for the weakness it implies, but something about her… Maybe because she is a stranger, but I can sense her concern is genuine. Whatever the reason, I’m tired of fighting myself.
Before I can try to speak, she hands me a glass of ice water and I struggle to sit up and drink. It might be stale hospital water, but right now, it’s the best damn thing in the world. My watcher says nothing. “Thank you,” I manage. My head is clear, and although I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck, I can tell its just exhaustion and bruises – nothing serious.
She just nods in return, taking the cup back and then she tells me about the undercover sting they were running. I listen with only half a mind as the dark wisps of memory reach up to tug at me again: newer, sharper memories of that bar somehow un-blurred by the drugs, and older memories – the ones I was trying to escape when I went there.
“You’re a long way from Miami.” The not-question interrupts my slide back into darkness. She’s asking without asking, being careful, respecting my privacy as another cop. I turn and look at her for a moment. There is nothing in her eyes but warmth and genuine concern, and something in me that I didn’t even know had tensed eases.
I haven’t told anyone about Simmons. I escaped before he could do any lasting damage; that was all that mattered. He resisted arrest and was killed. He can’t ever hurt me again. I know this.
I haven’t told the department shrink what really happened. I told Horatio it was nothing. I lied to Alexx and Eric and Ryan. Natalia I’ve avoided because I don’t think I can lie to her. No one knows what happened on that boat. No one knows that I choked, that I let the panic take me over. And now it’s happened again. For that one moment with the EMT’s, I was back there, trapped and caged and loosing the fight against mindless, animal reaction.
“Calleigh, hey, come back.” And just like it did in the alley, Olivia’s voice grounds me, cuts through my memories and pulls me away from the edge.
“Wherever you just went, it didn’t look pleasant.”
She moves closer, and I feel intense gratitude that there is no pity in her eyes. “What happened?”
Two words, spoken gently by a near stranger in a cold, sterile room in a cold, strange city, but her hand is warm where it touches mine, and for the first time in weeks, I feel no urge to run. My eyes slip closed, but I don’t fall into the past this time. This time, I watch from a distance as those hours replay in my mind. This time I feel the urge to speak.
Through it all, Olivia is quiet.
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