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Why am I doing this?
Olivia watched as a pair of joggers passed on either side of her. Terrific. The guy to her left had at least 20 years and 50 pounds on her.
This is great for the ego.
Olivia wasn't in bad shape; she knew that. She worked out when she could, sometimes with a five-minute warmup on the treadmill, and she could outrun Elliot when they were chasing asswipes down the streets of Manhattan. But that usually lasted maybe two, three blocks. Not 3.1 miles.
Why am I doing this?
She huffed around the corner with dozens of other runners.
Because you're whipped.
A leisurely walk down the hall . . .
An infatuated cop who had deluded herself into thinking that any day now, any minute now, she would actually ask this woman out. . . .
A smile, an enthused, "Wanna Race for the Cure with me this Saturday?" . . .
An answering smile and a nod . . .
And then this. The harsh reality.
"If you don't want to go tomorrow, Liv, I won't hold you to it. There's always someone to talk to. It's a great place to meet other women . . . ."
With those words, of course, Alex had guaranteed that Detective Benson would be pinning a number to her t-shirt the next morning. She didn't know which emotion was the most annoying: The twinge of irrational jealousy at the thought of Alex, alone, surrounded by younger, more athletic women, or the fact that she had signed up for this damned thing just because she was desperate for an excuse to spend time with Alex. She was lucky that Alex hadn't suggested some Rules of Procedure seminar somewhere. She would have just nodded away, "Sure, Alex. Anything you want, Alex." Geez. The things we do for love.
To distract herself from unproductive thoughts, she turned her attention again to the square signs on the back of many runners' shirts. 'In memory of Ann Turpin'. 'Carol Estrada, 1968-2003'. 'We miss you, Mom.' A lump rose in Olivia's throat.
What the? Alex? "What are you doing here?" The last time she'd seen that blonde pony tail, it had been skillfully weaving through pockets of slower runners, leaving them and Olivia in the dust after Olivia had insisted that she not wait for her. The last thing she needed was Alex, impatiently holding herself back, listening to all that huffing and puffing.
"I came back to keep you company."
Wait a minute . . . "You mean you've already been to the finish line and back?"
"Yeah!" Alex smiled broadly at her. She liked running, obviously.
OK. That did it. Whatever was left of Olivia's ego was now officially deflated. "Where is the damn finish line?" she growled.
"Past that other row of buildings." Alex was now jogging in step beside her. "Less than a mile."
"A mile!" A freaking mile?
"I said less than a mile," Alex corrected. "You're doing great!"
Shut up, Alex. Alex-on-Endorphins seemed . . . almost . . . cheery. Disgustingly cheery. Where's my arrogant, sarcastic ADA? I want her back. Olivia held her tongue. It wouldn't make much sense to sign up for this thing in order to get closer to Alex, only to bite the other woman's head off. She settled for a skeptical, "Uh huh."
"No, really. I'm impressed, especially for your first 5k."
Was she telling the truth, or just trying to talk her fading companion across the finish line? "Listen, Alex," she said. "Our cars are just down that street." She gestured vaguely in the direction of a parking lot several blocks away. "We paid our money, you got your time in. I'm good if you are."
"No!" Alex's outburst surprised her. "You have to finish!"
"Look, I know you runner types get obsessed about this stuff"
"You're almost there," Alex insisted. "This can be your baseline."
Her baseline? That suggested some intention to ever run another 5k. Sorry, Alex, but Oh, man, is that water? Olivia hadn't even tried to grab a cup at the half-way station; the horde around the table had seemed impassable.
Alex must have noticed the covetous glance; she quickly handed her bottle over to the detective. "Here."
A few gulps of semi-cold liquid, and a splash across her face and chest for good measure, helped Olivia's mood, although she still felt old next to her younger, more energetic friend. At least Alex had the decency to be sweating a little. There was a soft sheen on her throat . . . and the front of her shirt was clinging in places . . . .
"Do you want to get something to eat after this?"
"I don't think you're going to want to be around me," Olivia replied.
"I'm hot and sweaty and dripping wet."
"So why wouldn't I want to be around you?" Alex hopped up on the curb to make her way around a jogger who was losing steam.
There were so many things she could say right now, Olivia decided, most of them unwise. She stalled for time by taking another sip of water, then casually looked around again at her fellow runners. She wasn't really doing that badly; hell, there were more people behind her than in front of her, right? A zealous race volunteer yelled encouragement at the runners as they passed the 2.5-mile marker.
She could hear Alex saying something else, but she was momentarily distracted. Funny thing about crowds, she thought; you always think you see someone you know, and it never is. In the first mile, for example, there'd been that woman who looked exactly like Petrovsky from behind, but of course it wasn't. And now this guy, up ahead on the left, looked like Mark Huntsman.
A lot like Mark Huntsman.
A lot like a six-time rapist who skipped bail last fall, then disappeared somewhere within the boroughs as only a person with money can.
This is silly. Why would a serial rapist be running in a charity race . . . with all these women . . . . Old habits die hard . . . .
The man in question was jogging with two young women, maybe in their early twenties, if that, both of them laughing at something he said. Chiding herself for her paranoia, Olivia nonetheless found herself moving nearer to him. Was that a scar on the side of his neck? Right where Chris Gardner had managed to slice Mark Huntsman with a pair of scissors before he beat her unconscious?
With a deep breath you can do this Olivia picked up her pace, edging closer until she was only a few feet away to his side. At that moment, fate intervened: As the group of runners rounded another corner, the man's gaze fell upon her. Recognition crossed his face.
That's right, you bastard. You know me.
Abruptly, he veered sharply to his left and away from the pack.
"Freeze!" Olivia yelled. She didn't have the energy for a longer warning. And of course she didn't have her cell phone on her, or her gun. Goddamn it the fucker was making a run for it.
Tossing the water bottle aside, she took out after him into the park across the street. This was no good. Huntsman, with his longer legs, obviously hadn't been cruising at full capacity while trotting along with his two admirers. Not surprising. He had other objectives for this race.
Pushing herself harder, ignoring the protest of her overtaxed lungs, Olivia maintained her ground. No way was she going to catch him, though. She didn't see any park police, either. Damn it! Maybe a phone booth . . . .
Suddenly, from her left, a figure sped past her.
No! Alex! She had no spare oxygen to shout the words. Did she know who this was? Huntsman had nearly beaten those women to death with his bare hands.
In a matter of seconds, Olivia saw a collision of bodies up ahead of her, the slender blonde attorney knocking Huntsman to the ground and hitting the deck herself. Huntsman tried to get up, but Alex clung to him, tangling her legs in his. He leaned over her and drew back a fist.
"Hey!" With a final burst of energy, Olivia rushed toward the pair on the ground.
Her shout drew Huntsman's attention just long enough for Olivia to land on him. Knowing that he had size on her, Olivia didn't give him a chance to get his bearings. A hard palm smashed into the bridge of his nose, followed by a knee to the groin to knock the wind out of him. Without handcuffs, she had no choice; she had to incapacitate him. Her fist slammed into his face, again and again. Finally, she sensed no more movement.
Kneeling on the grass a few feet away, the ADA watched the bloody scene. "Please tell me that's a perp," she said when her detective stopped pounding into him.
Olivia grabbed short brown hair and yanked his face off the ground to show her. "Mark Huntsman," she said, still catching her breath.
"Oh, my God."
"Go find a phone," the detective panted. "Get some unis here before this guy wakes up."
Leaning back on her elbows, Olivia watched Alex unsnap a pocket on her shorts and draw out a key, tucking it back inside as she headed out at a fast clip does she have any other speed? for the car park where they had arranged to meet that morning. At the time, it seemed like a good idea to park some distance away from the event to avoid post-race congestion. Unfortunately, though, Olivia now realized with a groan, it would mean an extra six blocks on her poor legs when this was all over.
She kept a close eye on Huntsman, although he hadn't yet stirred. He wasn't dead (she'd checked after a few motionless minutes), but he didn't seem likely to resist arrest any more. Too bad. Olivia remembered how upset Alex was when he skipped bail, frustrated that she hadn't been able to talk Judge Seligman into remand.
From a distance, Olivia supposed, she and Huntsman probably looked like a happy couple partaking of the fresh air. If it had been Alex lying beside her, warming her skin in the sun, enjoying the greenery and the chirping of birds, it would have been a perfect moment. A day in the park with Alex. Olivia indulged in her fantasy for a while.
Huntsman was still out of it when she saw a familiar figure hurrying through the park toward her, now with a shiny cell phone clipped to the waist band of her shorts. At almost the same moment, sirens announced the arrival of a squad car, followed soon after by an ambulance creeping along the turf.
Efficient med techs had Huntsman loaded into the bus within minutes, stopping for a brief chat with the ADA while Olivia relaxed on the grass. She'd been able to clean up a bit thanks to the EMTs, but her t-shirt still had a few splotches of red. Olivia was glad that she'd thought to shove another shirt into the back seat before she left home, although she had expected the problem to be sweat, not blood.
"You're taking him to General?" she heard the attorney say. "We'll meet you there." Then Alex was tugging at Olivia's arm, drawing her upright. "Come on." A few yards away, she started into a jog. "Let's finish."
Yeah, right. "I think it's a little late for that," Olivia laughed.
"No, it's not. They still have walkers coming in. You have to finish this," Alex insisted.
"I have to get to General and deal with Huntsman."
"We can't talk to him until his lawyer gets there, anyway," Alex pointed out. "Liv, please. Just run this last little bit with me." She hit Olivia full on with the Cabot eyes. "Please."
As always, there was something about that mesmerizing blue that kept Olivia from rolling her own eyes, or commenting about a certain person's obsessive compulsive tendencies. Instead, she just shook her head, and began to move her legs in a slow jog. "God, you runners are freaks."
Fifteen minutes later, she drained the last drop of ice cold water from the small bottle plucked out of a barrel by the woman who accepted her ankle timer. Alex was over checking their results, a rather ridiculous concept in her case, but Olivia didn't mind the additional respite before they headed to their cars. At least they didn't have to worry about traffic; most of the runners had left long ago.
The walk itself turned out to be pleasant, Olivia had to admit, a little teasing, a little window shopping supplemented by witty narrative from the ADA. Alex was in a good mood. Running really does agree with her. Olivia found herself smiling along with the attorney.
When they reached their destination, Olivia tossed the race giveaways into the passenger side of her car and grabbed her cell phone from the console. 5 missed calls? In less than two hours? Good grief. Reaching into the back seat, she pulled out the clean t-shirt. "Anyone looking?" she asked.
"Hm? Oh. No, I don't think so." Alex took a couple of steps toward her, then turned to provide some cover. When Olivia's "much better" signaled that she was done changing, Alex suddenly spun around to face her. "OK," she announced. "This is it."
Uh . . . "This is . . . what?" Olivia replied.
"You didn't really want to run this race, did you?"
The detective searched for words that wouldn't offend her friend.
"But you did anyway," Alex continued, not waiting for a response. "Because I wanted you to."
Olivia shrugged. "It wasn't so bad," she offered.
"That's what I thought," Alex said, recognizing Olivia's statement for the confirmation that it was. "You're always there for me, Liv. I told myself that, if you ran this race and were still speaking to me afterward, I would ask you out."
"This hardly counts," Olivia muttered. 'Running' a 5k in an hour and 22 minutes? At Alex's stricken expression, Olivia realized what she had said. And what Alex had said. Oh, my God "No, it counts!" she said quickly. "It counts! It's my baseline." Alex seemed to be waiting for something more, and she added, "Yes. God, yes, I would love to go out with you. As soon as possible."
Suave, Benson. But the smirk on Alex's face was affectionate, not mocking. "As soon as possible?" she repeated. "OK by me. If we didn't have a rapist to talk at, it could be right now as far as I'm concerned. What are you doing after the hospital?"
"Whatever you're doing."
Alex's smile was dazzling. "I should wait until after our date, but I just can't," she said. With only a slight hesitation, she leaned forward and kissed Olivia, who slumped against the side of her car. Not having to concentrate on remaining upright allowed her to focus entirely on this wonderful feeling.
Emboldened by what was happening between them, Olivia wrapped her arms around Alex's back, pressing their bodies together, letting her hands wander. Finally, the kiss ended, and Alex nestled her face into Olivia's neck. She seemed almost relieved. Guess she doesn't mind the sweat.
"Now that you've chased down a perp, I suppose I have to go argue something in court for you," Olivia joked to ease the tension a bit.
She felt Alex smile into her throat. "That's right," the attorney declared. "Why don't you take that motion to suppress next week, the one with the 'gas leak' that you and Elliot smelled in that all-electric apartment."
"Um, no thanks."
The shrill ring of Alex's cell phone broke into their conversation. When it appeared that the attorney did not intend to let go in order to answer it, Olivia slid her hand around Alex's waist to the phone, unclipping it and holding out the display so that the ADA could at least see who was calling.
Alex grabbed it. "It's Elliot," she said, quickly unfolding the device. "Cabot."
Elliot was calling Alex? That made Olivia wonder about those missed calls on her phone. Was something up with her partner?
Whatever Elliot said, it raised both of the attorney's eyebrows. "What are you talking about? . . . She's with me; we're just heading to the hospital. . . . How bad is what? . . . Yes, I called in a no, an ambulance for the suspect. . . . She's fine, Elliot; she's right here." Alex clamped her hand over the phone before handing it to the detective. "Tell your partner that you're alive."
"Are you telling people that I'm dead, Elliot?" Olivia asked.
"Hey, talk to Cragen," Elliot replied. "He called me; said he'd heard from dispatch that Cabot called in an officer needs assistance for you, asking for a bus."
"You should have seen it," Olivia said proudly. "Alex collared our perp for us."
"The crusading ADA herself."
Alex rolled her eyes.
"Then why the bus?" Elliot sounded confused.
"Well, I helped."
"That's my girl," he praised. "You both OK?"
"Fine," Olivia confirmed. "You won't have to leave whatever fun you're having."
"Uh, yeah." Elliot lowered his voice. "You sure you're OK?"
Olivia recognized that tone. Her partner had been roped into something he wasn't exactly enjoying. "Spring cleaning?" she guessed.
"Mall with Kath and the girls," he replied. "Shopping. Then to see the Olson twins movie."
Oh poor guy. Maybe she could help them both out . . . . "Actually, Elliot, I am a little worried about Alex," Olivia said. "She hit the ground pretty hard. I'd really like to check her out."
The blonde's expression at that remark was worth seeing.
"Need some help?" her partner asked hopefully.
"Yeah, if it won't get you in trouble," she replied. "I'll see to Alex; you go to General and watch Mark Huntsman eat through a straw."
"Huntsman?" Elliot exclaimed. "I gotta hear this story."
"First thing Monday morning," Olivia promised. "Right now there's something I need to do as soon as possible." She smiled at Alex. "Thanks, partner." With the click of a button, she and Alex were alone again. "Looks like I just got the day off," she said. "Can I interest you in lunch, then maybe some frisbee in the park?"
"I don't own a frisbee."
Olivia grinned. "Me neither. But I'm sure we can get one somewhere."
"What happened to, 'I'm so tired, I just want to go back to bed'?" Alex asked fondly.
"I guess you're just a human energy bar, Miss Cabot," Olivia replied, drawing the other woman near again. "But I am still thinking about bed."
"Does this mean you're going to chase me around the living room when we get back to my place after dinner?"
Back to her place? That answered one question. "I might," Olivia murmured. "I do need a baseline, you know." Her hands drifted down to Alex's hips. "Say, from your front door to the bedroom . . . ."
"You're on. Winner takes all."
Now that was one race Olivia was looking forward to.
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