DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and its characters are the property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story references a few episodes across all 11 seasons particularly 'Loss',' Ghost', 'Infiltrated' and 'Fault'. Time lines are based on show air dates. There is no mention of L&O:Trial by Jury as in my world, Alex never went there. This is the first part in an ongoing trilogy.
THANKS: To everyone on my Yahoo Group, vivalab, for their support - you guys rock!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Chapter 13: In Sickness and in Hell
Olivia lay restlessly on her back, the hole in her side frustrating her more than the actual physical pain it induced. The throbbing in her head had subsided and the fogginess had begun to fade. After everything she had gone through in the last few hours, she was stunned that it was still light outside. She felt as though she hadn't stopped for days. She heard Alex's raised voice in defiance outside and lifted her head to look out the open doors of the ambulance. She snorted at the familiar, 'I'm not backing down.' pose frequently favored by the ADA.
'Poor El,' she mused as she listened to Alex insist on accompanying her to the hospital.
She smiled at memories of heated discussions over cases, over suspects, over warrants, over dinner. She thought about lingering looks, stolen glances, accidental touches and the feelings she struggled to suppress the night Alex went into Witness Protection. She had regretted not having the courage to tell her how much she cared for her. She had deliberately blocked out the intimidating presence of the hovering Agent Hammond and stepped into Alex's personal space to ask, "How long?" Alex had sombrely shrugged and swallowed hard. Olivia had seen the pain in her eyes and the unspoken regret at what could have been and what might never be.
She thought about how Alex must have felt when she came out of WPP. How Alex had called her, tried looking for her only to be told she was gone. She felt a deep ache in her chest at the lost time that would never be recovered. If they hadn't been pushed together in this current mess, they would still be oblivious to each others feelings.
'Everything happens for a reason,' she thought as she watched the rumpled, blood stained figure climb up the two steps, sit down and sigh wearily on the small bench adjacent to the gurney.
Olivia tilted her head to the left to get a better view. She watched as Alex removed her glasses, rubbed her eyes then brushed the same hand through her long blonde hair before re-settling the frames on her face. She smiled as Alex attempted to smooth out her creased and dirty slacks.
Once Alex was settled she looked over at Olivia, puzzled at the smile gracing her features, "What are you smiling at?"
"Me?" she asked in confusion as she leaned a little closer.
"You." Olivia's smile morphed smoothly into a familiar lop sided grin.
"Well, you, owe me a new suit and blouse Detective," she teased, indicating the once creamy white silk blouse now stained with patches of dark red.
Olivia took in the figure beside her, she indicated for Alex to come even closer with a subtle shift of her head. Alex leaned directly over Olivia. She placed one hand on her left shoulder and the other on the rail of the gurney on the other side. The move brought them face to face, inches apart.
"And new underwear," whispered Olivia.
Alex frowned at her in confusion until she noticed the, not so subtle glance cast down her open blouse. She followed the heated gaze downwards. Three buttons undone on her blouse exposed her silk camisole which was clearly saturated with Olivia's blood. Alex was aware Olivia had a clear view down the gap in her cami and blushed hard as realization set in. She leaned in further and watched Olivia's face start to flush. She moved her hand from the gurney rail and brought it up to rest against Olivia's face, she placed her other hand on the opposite cheek and cupped Olivia's face gently. She absorbed the warmth and refused to break the eye contact.
"We have a lot to talk about," she whispered softly, her eyes moving to the full lips of the Detective. She subconsciously licked her lower lip, leaving her mouth glistening and inviting.
Olivia had never seen anything so erotic in her entire life. She felt her heart begin to race and warmth spread throughout her battered body. The hands on her face moved slightly to gently caress the hyper sensitive flesh below her ears. The sensation was electrifyingly intimate. She stole another glance down the front of her blouse and closed her eyes in an effort to control her soaring libido.
Warm lips covered her own.
A gentle pressure, tentative at first as they gently brushed against each other in small lingering kisses until Olivia could stand it no more. She lifted her right hand to the base of Alex's neck. She pulled her in, parting the lips that enveloped her own and deepened the kiss. Alex moaned into Olivia's mouth and felt herself sag into the warm body beneath her.
At the sound of a throat clearing Alex pulled back slightly, she waited a few seconds before she opened her eyes wanting to fully savor the moment and her new favorite flavor, Olivia Benson.
Olivia watched her as she pulled away and sat back on the bench. She wished for Connors to be caught so that they could have another... 'talk'...without an audience.
The paramedic smiled shyly as he handed Alex her long forgotten briefcase and placed a Kevlar Vest beside her on the bench. She looked at him questioningly.
"One of the 'men in black' asked me to give you this," he said indicating the briefcase. He pointed to the Kevlar, "and the Detective told me not to move until you agreed to put this on."
She shook her head as he leaned past her to the small door that led to the drivers cab and rapped lightly twice, indicating for them to move. He checked the temporary dressings that had been applied to Olivia and moved back to replenish his the supply station.
Alex leaned forward and lifted Olivia's bloody left hand, carefully examining each finger. After a few seconds she spoke softly, "This one's my favourite," lifting Olivia's index finger, after much scrutiny of each digit.
Olivia frowned in confusion, "Why?" she asked quietly.
"Because this trigger finger saved my life, " she whispered as she kissed the tip before moving her lips and placing an open mouthed kiss on her palm.
Olivia groaned at the sensations the act induced causing the paramedic to turn around.
"Are you in pain Detective?" he asked with concern.
She shot Alex a glare as she released her hand, "No, just moved the wrong way," she lied, hoping he believed her.
He moved over and checked her pulse, "Your heart rate is elevated, do you feel faint?"
Olivia blushed furiously, growling out an embarrassed, "No!"
Alex busied herself with her briefcase, ignoring the murderous glares being cast her way, 'Cabot 2 Benson 0' she smirked.
The vehicle began to slow down, Alex nervously looked at Olivia, trying not to panic. The paramedic sensed this and explained it was probably traffic lights.
"We've only just started moving, there aren't any traffic lights at the plaza," replied an increasingly worried Alex.
As they rolled to a gentle stop, an explosion in front lifted the ambulance into the air, propelling it backwards. It landed heavily, bouncing from side to side, threatening to topple over. After a few seconds it stopped.
Olivia was catapulted from her gurney and landed heavily on the floor beside a shaken Alex.
The paramedic had struck the supply shelves and was bleeding profusely from a deep laceration in his forehead. Olivia shakily got to her feet buttoning the bottom half of her shirt and touched the shoulder of the wounded man asking if he was okay. He looked at her and nodded his head affirmatively.
"Put the vest on, " she instructed Alex.
Alex grabbed the vest and fastened it, she looked expectantly at Olivia.
"What about Peter?" asked the paramedic, referring to his partner driving the ambulance.
Olivia carefully opened the cabin door and flinched at the sight of the driver lying dead across the front seat. His head had fatally struck the wheel and the back wall of the cabin. Olivia noted the sickening angle his head lay at and knew his neck was broken. She looked out the windscreen at the carnage before her.
A chunk of twisted metal that was clearly once a black SUV was upturned on the road up ahead. Its two remaining wheels spinning in mid air. Three more vehicles were haphazardly strewn across the road.
Two armed figures in black with masks were running towards the SUV.
Without turning Olivia spoke, "We need to get out of here..." she paused as the two men stopped at the SUV and opened fire.
Chapter 14: Game On
Alex frantically removed files form her briefcase and looked to the bleeding paramedic, "Her injuries, give me what I need to keep her alive," she knew it was overly dramatic but she could tell by Olivia's unblinking stare and the sound of gunfire that they wouldn't be going to a hospital anytime soon.
He started throwing medical supplies into her briefcase.
Olivia watched as the men checked inside the upturned SUV, she turned away and pointed to the rear door. She spoke to the paramedic, "I'm going to open that door and we're going to run for the nearest cover we can find okay?"
He nodded, too frightened to speak. Olivia squeezed past them both, "I'm gonna have a look and then we're gonna go. Alex?" she said motioning for her to join her at the doors.
Alex draped the briefcase over her head, settling it across the Kevlar. She wanted to be able to run freely without it hampering her efforts. She moved in behind Olivia and brushed her hand against Olivia's wounded side, "Are you okay?" she asked, her voice laced with concern. She felt Olivia flinch reflexively at the pain the gentle contact caused.
"I will be. Once I've dealt with this prick, " she stated matter of factly and opened the door carefully.
Olivia looked out the open door and saw a black SUV up ahead to her right. It was sitting upright apparently undamaged, she judged the distance at around 30 yards and decided that would provide their cover. Alex saw the direction she was looking in, "Luker told Elliot there were two teams, one in front and one in back. That's one of ours, " she said.
"Good, cos I need a real gun, " replied Olivia. As per procedure in an officer involved shooting, her weapon had been taken from her as evidence. Once the ballistics were checked and everything entered into evidence she would get her Glock back. She turned to Alex, "Lift up my right trouser leg."
"Liv, this is hardl-"
Olivia cut her off, "My ankle holster is at the top of my boot, my Jetfire's in there," she explained, referring to her Beretta 950 pistol.
Alex bent and lifted the material, exposing the securely fitted ankle holster and snub nosed gun. As she lowered the material she stroked the smooth flesh tenderly.
Olivia smiled at her and took the weapon, she checked the chamber, '9 bullets,' she thought and stepped down gingerly trying her best to ignore the pulling sensation of the tape on her wounds. She scanned the area around them and motioned for Alex to come out. Alex waited beside Olivia for the paramedic to exit.
"We're going to run directly to the black SUV, try to stay within the line of sight of the ambulance, it'll give us some cover," she instructed.
The paramedic nodded his head emphatically, the vigorous motion causing the blood at his forehead to splash onto his shirt.
Elliot shook his head to clear the ringing from his ears. He got to his knees testing his balance and pushed himself off the ground. He stood and turned, saw the smoke from up ahead and started running. As he raced across the plaza he saw the familiar sight of his Captain talking with Lieutenant Goldie. He ignored them and picked up his pace, at the sound of his name being bellowed above the ruckus he stopped.
He ran over to the two men, "They're just up ahead, we need to get them," he said urgently.
Cragen held out an 8" x 10" crystal clear photograph, "Sean Connors, taken two days ago at the Mexican border."
Elliot was confused, the last clear image they'd received was from June 2007, the Feds hadn't been able to get a clear image of Connors from the satellite footage.
Cragen saw the look that crossed Elliot's face, "Just came in, Feds have a task force investigating a Colombian drugs cartel that has recently expressed an unhealthy interest in the Middle Eastern arms trade. Mr Connors has apparently been their adviser, " clarified the Captain.
Eliot had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, "Who sent it?" queried Elliot.
Cragen glanced down at his feet briefly and then looked at Elliot, "Agent Dean Porter."
Elliot clenched his jaw tightly at the mention of the FBI Agents name.
"We've sent the image to Olivia and Alex's cellphones and tried calling them both. Both phones are ringing out, probably dead, " he cringed at his own thoughtless choice of words. "I know things didn't end well the last time we worked wit-"
Elliot cut him off, "We didn't work with him, he used us, he was an accessory in a double homicide and walked away," he spat out. He turned and was about to start running in the direction of the ambulance when Cragen ordered him to stop.
"Goldie's in charge here Elliot," he said more for the benefit of the listening Tact Team Leader than his own Detective, "he's lost contact with the protective detail round there," he nodded his head in the direction of the smoke, "and a Tact Team is on approach," he advised.
Elliot looked over at Goldie, "Then one more won't hurt, will it," he stated and ran off.
Olivia watched as two men in black exited the SUV, weapons drawn. She kept her eyes fixed on them as they started moving towards the ambulance. "You're sure these are good guys?" she said as light-heartedly a she could muster.
Alex paused, "I hope so, their guns are bigger than yours," she commented as she took in the deadly assault weapons aimed in their direction.
"Size isn't everything Counselor," deadpanned Olivia.
The paramedic beside them was breathing heavily and muttering something unintelligible over and over again. He wrung his hands together and kept looking at the men in black with guns, "We're gonna die, oh my God, we're gonna die, they're gonna kill us, " he puffed out.
Alex touched his arm in an attempt to ground him, "They're the good guys, trust me," she said, hoping to calm him down.
The paramedic looked at her and blew out a breath, "Okay, they're the good guys, " he repeated in an effort to convince himself. Alex patted his arm and removed her hand.
Gunfire exploded around them, the two men approaching were firing at something behind the ambulance in rapid bursts.
"NOW!" shouted Olivia as she pushed Alex in front of her to shield her from the rear. They started running towards the SUV, Olivia watched in horror as the paramedic ran to his left, "Right, I said right!" she shouted to him but it was too late. Se watched as a hail of bullets landed squarely on his back and his body crumpled to the ground. 'Shit', her mind screamed as she urged Alex on faster, every stride was ripping her side open and she could feel the medical tape loosening.
Shots fired around them, each passing bullet getting closer. The two agents had repositioned themselves on either side of an abandoned car and were shouting something at the fast approaching Olivia and Alex. The agent up ahead on her right side was firing with one hand and pointing frantically with his other. Olivia looked behind her, never slowing her pace.
A black SUV was weaving through the chaos and heading straight towards them.
She heard the scrape of metal as the SUV squeezed past the ambulance, accelerated, swerved in front of them and screeched to a halt, rear door flying open.
Alex stopped abruptly causing Olivia to collide with her, Olivia's momentum causing them both to fall to the ground in front of the open door.
"Get in!" a man's voice ordered.
Chapter 15: A Matter of Trust
Olivia readjusted her position to cover Alex, providing as much protection as her body would allow. She raised her right hand into the SUV, her aim directly pointing at the unseen driver's head.
"Olivia, get in."
"Porter?" asked a confused Olivia.
"You can thank me later, just get in before you get us all killed," Agent Dean Porter drolly instructed.
Olivia got to her knees, no easy task considering the discomfort she was in and helped Alex to crawl into the back of the vehicle, keeping as low as possible. She instructed Alex to keep her head down and covered the ADA's upper body with her own as Porter threw the car in gear and sped off.
The two masked gunmen opened fire as the SUV approached them, Porter headed straight for one of the masked men and gunned the engine. The man stood his ground firing a constant burst at the SUV but nothing seemed to penetrate the car's exterior. He flung himself to his right, the car clipping his side mid motion and he howled in pain before landing on the ground.
The other gunman ran over to him, firing his gun in the direction of the Tact Team agents who were fast approaching. "How bad are you hurt?" he demanded.
"Broke my leg and some ribs I think, help us up Sean," asked the man with an Irish lilt to his voice.
Connors looked down at the man then at the advancing agents, "Sorry Cousin."
Patrick Connors pulled off his woolen mask to look his Cousin straight in the eyes, "You can't leave me Sean, we're family for Christ's sake," he pleaded.
"Which is why you know I have to do this," reasoned Connors as he spun his hand with the weapon and fired. He heard the thud as his cousin's body fell fully onto the ground. He stole a glance at the agents, turned and ran in the direction of his vehicle, weaving his way in and out of cars for cover.
The two agents reached Patrick Connors, kicked his weapon out of range and checked for a pulse. The blood from the bullet hole in his head flowed freely, Agent Luker radioed for medical support. As he finished he was joined by the response team and a familiar figure, "Detective Stabler."
Elliot nodded his head at the ESU agent in response then looked at the bleeding gunman on the ground, "Who's he?" he panted, "It isn't Connors," he stated, as he bent down for a closer look at his face.
"No idea, but we didn't take him down," he paused at the look n Elliot's face, "his partner did."
Elliot's eyes widened, "Connors?" he asked.
Luker shrugged, "Who else would take him out. Somebody sure as Hell didn't want him talking to anyone."
"What about Benson and Cabot?" he asked having noted the open doors revealing an empty ambulance as he had raced past. "The black SUV that sped off, is that one of yours?" he asked hopefully. He had turned the corner in time to see the vehicle swerve, stop and drive off at high speed.
Luker pointed to the mangled SUV in front of him, "No Detective. That was one of ours." he said sombrely.
"Then who's in the black SUV?"
Luker looked him straight in the eye, "I have no idea."
The back of the SUV was quiet as Olivia held Alex down protectively. Her mind was racing, 'Porter? Dean Porter? That son of a bitch,' she thought. The last case hey had worked together had been an emotional roller coaster for the Detective.
She had trusted Porter, she had no reason not to. She had known him for three years, he'd been her handler when she was deep cover with the Eco Activists and he'd gotten federal charges against her dropped for aiding her fugitive half brother, Simon. On their last case together he had covered up a double homicide and made it look like a sex crime, bugged their phones and tampered with evidence and walked away.
He had also saved her life as Manuel Rojaz held a gun to her head.
After a few minutes, Olivia raised her head, "What are you doing here?" she asked bluntly.
"I'd have thought that was obvious, even for you Olivia," he replied, his tone even.
"Where are we going?" she asked, her suspicions growing. After everything that she had discovered about him she didn't know what to believe anymore.
Porter glanced in the rear view mirror and looked at her, "I'll tell you when we get there," he held her gaze before turning back to the road.
Olivia brought her Jetfire pistol up and pressed it against Porter's temple. Alex sat up and watched in confusion, she had no idea who this man was but apparently, Olivia did not trust him.
"You would shoot me Olivia, after everything we've been through together?" he asked without turning.
"Especially after everything we've been through," she said without missing a beat.
"Jesus Christ Benson, I just hauled your ass form another fire and you wanna play a game of trust?" he said angrily. When she didn't respond or move the pistol he spoke again, "I'm taking you and Cabot somewhere safe. Satisfied?" he demanded.
Olivia removed the pistol from his head and sat back before speaking, "Why didn't you take us back to the ESU Command Post? Why haven't you contacted anyone with our location, " she asked.
"Olivia, I know we've had some rough times recently but trust me, if you want to keep her alive," he took a hand off the wheel to point his thumb backwards to Alex, "you'll just shut up for once and let me concentrate on driving," he barked. He was disappointed with himself for letting Olivia Benson, once again, rattle his usually cool demeanour.
Alarm bells were ringing that he didn't want to contact ESU and she opted for another approach, "I need to call the Captain, let him know we're okay and on the move."
Porter didn't respond.
"Porter, if you don't make contact with ESU or my Captain, I swear to God I'll put a bullet in you," she said with no hint of humor.
Alex felt the icy tension in the car drop another 10 degrees and felt compelled to intervene. "Agent Porter, you have no idea what happened in the DA's building, it's essential we update ESU with our status and location," she paused as she decided to go for broke, "Detective Benson was shot and is currently bleeding all over the back seat, she also has a serious concussion which is making her more..." she paused looking for the right word... "direct than usual." She looked sideways at Olivia, who was staring at her mouthing the word 'direct' at her.
Porter glanced back briefly at Alex, "Miss Cabot, I'm sorry we've not been formally introduced but believe me, my only concern here is to get you both to safety. Someone at ESU is feeding intel back to Conn-"
"Yeah, David Brennan. We know already, he's dead," Olivia interrupted.
Porter nodded his head, "Someone other than Brennan has been relaying all communications to Connors. We're trying to figure out who it is but until then we need to stay off the airwaves," he paused, "How badly are you hurt?" he said, softening hi stone.
"On a scale of what?"Olivia replied curtly, ignoring the question. If he wasn't on their side she didn't want him knowing she had a gaping bullet wound in her side. "At least let me call my partner," she reasoned.
Porter reached into his pocket and held his cellphone behind his head. Olivia took it and pressed familiar numbers urgently, it rang twice before being answered, "Elliot? It's Liv. Don't say anything, can you move to where nobody can overhear you?" she said hurriedly into the phone.
"Yeah Kathy, hold on a sec," he said as he covered the mouthpiece and turned to Cragen and Goldie, I'll just be a minute," he informed them and walked away to a quiet spot on the busy plaza.
"Jesus Liv, what's with the cloak and dagger routine? Where are you? Are you okay? Is Alex okay?" he asked relief washing over him at the sound of her voice.
"Yeah, we're okay. We hitched a ride with a Fed, you might know him; tall, dark and duplicitous, " she said meeting Porter's glare in the mirror.
"How d'you guess?" she asked, not surprised he knew who she was alluding to.
"He sent the Cap'n a picture of Connors taken 2 days ago at the Mexican border, he's gun running for the Colombians apparently. Connors shot his partner, he's alive but only just. He put a bullet in his head Liv. We're running his prints through AFIS, maybe we'll get lucky," Elliot said optimistically.
Olivia listened intently as Elliot brought her up to speed and then informed him that someone other than Brennan was feeding Connors vital information. "We're heading to a safe house, somewhere Upstate, I'll contact you once we get there," she said as they passed a sign marked Albany.
"Okay, I'll let the Cap'n know what's happening and keep it on the down-low. Stay in touch Liv, be safe," he finished.
Olivia ended the call and handed the phone back to Porter. She turned to Alex, "You okay?" she asked gently.
Alex smiled and nodded her head. She reached discretely for Olivia's hand, craving the physical contact. They intertwined their fingers and took strength from the comforting connection.
Porter broke the moment, "We'll be on the road for another couple of hours, you might wanna get some rest, it's getting dark out," he advised.
Olivia squeezed Alex's hand, "You get some rest, I'll keep watch, " she said.
"How about you get some rest and I'll keep watch?" replied Alex. She was intrigued at the apparent connection Olivia and Porter had, there was a history there, a personal history and it made her feel uneasy, 'and jealous,' she thought.
Elliot interrupted the conversation between Captain Cragen and Lieutenant Goldie , informing his Captain he had to speak to him privately regarding an urgent family matter. Cragen looked at Elliot, knew instantly it was a ruse and followed him out of earshot of the ESU Leader. Goldie watched them intently as they walked away.
Elliot quickly shared the details of the phone conversation with Captain Cragen.
Cragen absorbed everything Elliot told him, he shoved his hands in his pockets and looked directly at the Detective, "Then we have a problem."
Elliot looked blankly at him.
"FBI satellite imaging got a hit on Connors this morning, on a bench at Riverside Park....he was sitting next to Agent Porter."
Chapter 16: If It Walks Like a Duck
"What?!" Elliot snapped. He wanted to shout but was aware of the approaching form of Lieutenant Goldie. He spoke hurriedly, "Cap'n, I think we can trust Goldie, I was with him all afternoon, he's by the book, he was pissed that someone in his unit went rogue. We tell him there's another one, he'll find them." Elliot said confidently.
Captain Cragen nodded his head, "I hope you're right Elliot, for Olivia and Alex's sake," he said and turned to face the questioning stare of the Tactical Team Leader.
"Something I should know?" Goldie asked.
Elliot spent a few minutes relaying the conversation he'd had with Olivia. When he reached the part about another rogue agent in Goldie's team, he braced himself for his reaction. Cragen took up the conversation when Elliot finished, telling him they needed to find their 'mole'. Goldie was silent the whole time but Elliot could see the muscles in his thick neck straining.
Goldie listened to both men and took a deep breath before speaking. "Did it occur to either of you Porter is telling Benson this to cover for himself?" he asked calmly. "What do we know? A hit is issued on ADA Cabot. Two men are apprehended, the third is identified as Sean Connors, know 'gun for hire'. Cabot is held captive by David Brennan, a rogue agent on my team, Benson kills him. En route to hospital the convoy is attacked, Benson and Cabot disappear in an unidentified black SUV. Porter conveniently sends a photo of Connors taken two days ago, when FBI reported they couldn't get a clear image from satellite pictures." He paused to let what he was saying sink in. "We then receive priority intel, images of Porter and Connors together at Riverside Park this morning. Porter misses his 13:00 flight from JFK to Mexico City and fails to report his location to his SAC. He signs out an assault vehicle from the Bureau's compound at 15:00," he stopped and turned to Cragen, "D'you see where I'm going with this?" he finished, raising his eyebrows.
Nobody commented then Goldie spoke again, "Your partner, " he motioned to Elliot, "said Porter was raking them Upstate. Why would he move them out of the City, with plenty of safe houses and protective detail available within a 30 mile radius? Why would he drive them somewhere remote, with no back up? Why would he fail to report his location?... There is no other 'mole' in my Unit, Porter just wants us to think that."
There was no mistaking the matching looks of panic that crossed Cragen and Elliot 's faces, despite the rapidly descending dusk.
They had been driving for about an hour.
Alex had her head on Olivia's shoulder and was dozing lightly. Olivia had reluctantly resisted the urge to wrap her arm around Alex's shoulder, opting for the more discrete gesture of holding her hand. She had her eyes closed but wasn't sleeping, she had been taking note of road signs as they whizzed past. She didn't know what to make of Porter, her cop brain was confused that he had been hesitant to make contact with anyone and confirm their status. His reasoning was plausible but not without question. Porter's cellphone ringing broke her form her thoughts as she focused on what he was saying.
"Yes?" Porter answered in greeting.
A pause followed, then Porter spoke again, lowering his tone, "That's unfortunate," he paused, listening to the response, "I had nothing to do with that, how could I?"
Olivia's senses were instantly alerted as she tried to work out who Porter was talking to. His informal greeting indicated that it wasn't Bureau on the other end of the phone. 'If it's not the Bureau, then who?' She thought worriedly. She felt Alex stir beside her and remove her head.
"No. You listen to me. This is the only way, I'll be in touch when we get there, we're 40 minutes out," he finished and closed the phone.
Olivia leaned between the seats dividing the front and rear of the car, "Who was that?" she demanded.
Alex straightened out the kinks in her back and rubbed her neck to restore circulation. The pillow of Olivia's shoulder had been comfortable despite the awkward angle.
Porter glanced behind him briefly , then back to the quiet road ahead of him, "My SAC. Wanted me to take you both to another safe house, we're nearly at this one, I said no. They've also identified Connors' Cousin as one of the masked gunmen that attacked your detail," he informed her.
Olivia was staring at him, she watched closely as his head remained focused on the road as she asked, "His prints were on AFIS?" she asked. Elliot had told her they were running them through the system.
"Patrick Connors. Died at the scene," he confirmed.
Alex snorted, "How many Connors' are there? Are they the gun wielding, Irish version of the Walton's?" she asked sarcastically.
Olivia sat back and rubbed Alex's knee tenderly before deciding to challenge Porter, "You always speak to your boss like he's one of the bad guys?"
Porter hesitated before responding, the delay not lost on the Detective.
"Is it so hard for you to trust me Olivia?" he ground out between clenched teeth. "Did it ever occur to you that maybe I'm risking my life to protect yours?" he said angrily.
Olivia moved her hand from Alex's knee, reached for her left hand and turned it upwards. Alex smiled at the gesture in the darkened back seat until she felt Olivia's finger writing on her open palm. She concentrated on the shapes the Detective was making with the tip of her index finger.
Alex's eyes widened in understanding at the message Olivia had given her and she swiftly reversed the positions of their hands to spell out her response.
Alex finished and looked at Olivia's face expectantly. Olivia saw an illuminated Diner's sign up ahead, "Porter, we haven't eaten since breakfast and we're starving. I also need to use the restroom and check the dressings covering the holes in my side," she said as she nudged Alex.
"Food sounds good, 'm starving and need to freshen up. Clearly nobody is following us, we're miles form the City," Alex added convincingly.
"We're only 30 minutes away, can't it wait?," he asked.
"No," they both replied in unison.
For a minute Olivia thought he was going to drive past the turn off but she saw him hit the signal and move into the busy parking lot. He put the SUV in park and turned to the back seat, " You're not exactly dressed for dining, " he said referring to Alex's blood stained blouse and Olivia's ripped shirt and bloody appearance. "Why don't I get the food and you both wait here?" he asked.
"I need to use the bathroom, "Alex paused and motioned to Olivia, "And check her dressings," she replied.
Olivia could see Porter considering his options. If he was genuine in his actions and really was just trying to protect them, he couldn't possibly object to their request she reasoned.
"I've got two windbreakers in the trunk, you can put them on," he finally said as he exited the vehicle. He returned quickly with two blue windbreakers with FBI printed on the front and back in bold yellow print. He leaned into the open driver's side and passed them into the back seat.
"Nothing says discrete like FBI printed on your front and back," quipped Olivia. She was pleased that they were wearing the jackets as nobody would question their dishevelled and bloody appearance. She also knew people would remember their distinctive appearance. She reached for the door handle and was stopped by Porter who asked them to wait until he had checked out the Diner and surrounding area. She watched as he removed the keys from the ignition and felt her stomach drop. Once he was away from the car she turned to Alex.
"He wasn't talking to the FBI, " she said.
Alex watched him enter the Diner before responding, "How can you be sure?"
"Even if I'm doing laundry or waiting in line at the grocery store and Cragen calls, I always address him professionally. Porter said that was his boss on the phone, but he answered it with a, 'yes'."
"That doesn't mean he wasn't talking to his SAC, Liv. They might have worked together a long time, maybe they're old College roommates?" she asked doubtfully.
"He spoke to him like a piece of shit Alex. Cragen would have my ass in a sling if I even looked at him the wrong way down a phone line," Olivia exaggerated in order to make her point. "He sounded like he was giving the orders, not the other way around," she said.
"So what do we do?" asked Alex.
"Stall him, He said we'd be there in 30 minutes. I need to call Elliot and let him know where we are, if we're in there," she pointed to the Diner, "I've got a better chance of making that call without Porter listening," she said.
Alex nodded her head, "How are you going to manage that?"
"You're gonna distract him," she stated as she spotted Porter exit the Diner and head towards them.
Porter opened the rear door and Olivia slipped out, mindful of her side. Alex slid across the back seat and followed her out. They stood in front of Porter and looked at him expectantly.
"16 tables, 10 occupied. 1 visible entrance/exit. Restrooms are left of the counter, beside the kitchen door." he informed them.
"Anything else?" asked Olivia.
"Yeah. Today's special is meatballs," he said flatly and started walking towards the entrance.
Alex and Olivia followed closely behind, taking note of their surroundings as they walked. Olivia saw a sign for 'Blue Mountain Wild Forest' and racked her brain for their location.
"Where the Hell are we?" Alex asked quietly as she entered the Diner behind Porter.
Olivia placed her hand gently at the small of Alex's back as she followed her into the building, "Welcome to the Boondocks counselor," she said and closed the door behind her.
Goldie, Cragen and Elliot were inside the Command Post watching the grainy video footage of Porter and Connors in Riverside Park. The meeting had lasted less than 10 minutes, long enough for all three men to agree that it was not a random act, it was a deliberate meet.
Agent Thomson interrupted their viewing and handed Goldie a piece of paper, "LUDS form Detective Stabler's cellphone Sir," he said by way of apology. "The call received by Detective Stabler was from an unregistered number. It's not Government issue," he clarified. "We managed to trace it through the provider and we were able to obtain the call logs, " he said.
Elliot was about to urge him to get to the point, he was desperate for anything that would lead him to Olivia and Alex but Goldie beat him to it.
"Out with it Thomson, we don't have all day!" Goldie barked.
"We're tracing a call Porter received an hour ago but we've identified a three minute call he made at 13:1-"
Goldie cut him of, "Dammit man, spare me the details, WHO DID HE CALL?"
Thomson swallowed hard, "Agent Brennan, Sir."
Chapter 17: Call it Fowl
Porter pointed to a booth at the far side of the Diner. The seats were away from the window and to Olivia's delight, had no clear view of the bathroom door. She looked casually around hoping to see a payphone. She felt Alex tug her arm and looked at her, Alex motioned to a payphone at the far end of the long counter. Olivia saw the cardboard sign saying, 'out of order' and sighed. 'Dammit,' she thought. She also didn't miss the curious glances being cast in the trio's direction.
As they took their seats Porter sat with his back to the wall, giving him an unobstructed view of the Diner's only entrance. Olivia and Alex sat opposite him. A waitress sidled up to the table and placed a menu in front of each of them.
"Evening folks, what can I get the FBI tonight? Special's meatballs, my favorite," a woman with blonde hair in her 50's said cheerily.
Olivia noted the red and blue stripey uniform the waitress was wearing, a white apron covered her front. She'd obviously just started her shift as the white apron looked pristine clean, she noticed her name badge and gave her a smile as she casually hid her bloody left hand under the table.
"Hi Susan, can you just bring us some coffee while we decide what we're having to eat please. Just drove up from Manhattan and we are starving," Olivia said, giving the waitress her best smile.
"Shucks honey, call me Suzy, everybody else does," she said returning the smile.
"Nice to meet you Suzy, I'm Olivia and these are my colleagues Alex and Dean," she said introducing everyone. Olivia could feel Porter's glare burning into her but she kept her eyes on the waitress.
"You folks up here on a case?" Suzy asked excitedly.
"No such luck, boring conference, I'm afraid," said Olivia.
"Oh well, nothing exciting ever happens round here anyways. I'll go get your coffee, you folks take your time," she said and walked away.
"What the Hell was that?" asked Porter, keeping his voice low.
Olivia turned and pretended to watch Suzy behind the counter, she was actually watching the area leading to the bathroom. Without turning she addressed Porter, "We just rode into hicks-ville, screaming authority and drawing attention to ourselves. I'm trying to prevent the natives from getting restless," she smoothly lied, hoping he believed her. As she was about to turn back to face him she noticed two women in their 20's heading in the direction of the bathroom.
She turned back to face him as Suzy arrived with their coffee and a plate of fresh gingerbread.
"Homemade gingerbread, made them myself, " announced Suzy proudly.
Olivia lifted a slice and took a bite. She swallowed before turning to Alex, "Alex, you have got to try these," she turned back to Suzy, ignoring Porter, "Suzy, this is delicious, Alex try it," she said enthusiastically.
Alex looked at the waitress as she took a bite from the slice in Olivia's hand, "Wow, that is fantastic Suzy, we'll need to take some back to Manhattan," she said before adding, "I'm just going to freshen up before I order, been a long drive, " she smiled.
"Bathroom's just down there honey, take your time with your order. I'm here til dawn," she said.
"That sounds like a good idea Alex, think I'll freshen up too. Excuse us Dean, won't be a minute, " Olivia smiled sweetly and rose from the booth, Alex behind her as Suzy headed back to her station.
As Olivia and Alex made their way to the bathroom, Dean Porter's eyes never left their retreating forms, "Dammit," he cursed quietly.
The two women Olivia had spotted earlier were standing in front of the single mirror, applying make up from a cluttered pile that was strewn across the vanity counter. They were talking to each other excitedly. Once they noticed Olivia and Alex in their FBI jackets thy ceased all movement and chatter.
"Evening ladies," Olivia said authoritatively.
"Evening," the two girls chorused and looked questioningly at them.
Olivia instantly spotted the cellphone on the counter, "Can I buy your phone?" she asked.
"No way lady, this is my baby, got all my numbers and special messaged from my man Harvey in it. I'd die without it," answered the curly haired brunette.
Olivia took a step closer, left hand in her pocket, "What if I told you I could have all your messages moved to another number so you wouldn't lose anything?" asked Olivia.
"Really? I dunno, Michelle forgot her phone, we might need it later... " she paused as Michelle nudged her, "How much?" she asked.
Olivia mentally counted the cash in the wallet in her pocket, "$150, " she replied.
Michelle whispered to her friend, "Anna, take it, you got another one at home and she can move everything to it. We could go into town and have some real fun with real people for a change," Michelle encouraged.
Alex stepped closer to Olivia and addressed Anna, "Call it $200, what do you say?"
Anna beamed, "I say.....show me the money, " and held out her hand.
Olivia moved to reach into her back pocket but a hand on her arm stopped her, "I got it Liv, " she said softly and reached into her briefcase. She retrieved her wallet and counted out the money. As she was handing it to Anna she paused and lifted her hand away, "There's another $50 if you agree to stand outside the door and let us know if anyone's about to come in.
"Like undercover cops?" asked Anna excitedly.
Olivia was impressed at the idea Alex had suggested and added, "Yeah, you two just act casually outside the door, having a chat and if anyone comes over, one of you can come in. Think you can manage that?" Olivia asked.
"Duh! We're in here all the time, piece of cake," Anna said taking the money from Alex's hand. She handed over the phone. She and Michelle hurriedly replaced their items in their respective bags and left the bathroom to take up their 'undercover' positions.
Alex handed Olivia the cellphone as she removed the briefcase from her shoulders. She searched through the bag for gauze, medical tape, antiseptic ointment and the skin adhesive the paramedic had given her. Olivia watched as she lay the items on the vanity counter. Alex turned to her and unzipped her jacket, Olivia placed the cellphone on the counter as she felt the sleeves being tugged down her arms. Once Olivia was free of the windbreaker, Alex lifted her shirt to look at her wounds. Olivia winced in pain, the shirt had stuck to her bloody skin and despite Alex's gentlest efforts it still sent jolts of pain crashing through her. She closed her eyes to block out the ripping sensation. A new sensation made her eyes fly open.
Warm, wet lips were kissing a path up the center of her stomach. A hot tongue licked a line from the top of her trousers to her naval and she giggled, "Alex, as much as I love you doing that, this isn't the time sweetie," she said softly trying to stop her stomach muscles from tightening in response to the sensual act.
Alex stood up and smiled, "I was distracting you from the obvious pain you were in as I removed the gauze," she said tenderly, looking into deep brown eyes, "Did it work?" she asked.
"Is the gauze off?"
"Then it worked, " Olivia said smiling and leaned in for a kiss.
Porter sat at the table reflecting on his day. Definitely not one of his best he decided. He looked in the general direction of the bathroom but couldn't see the door. He could make out two women talking animatedly at the end of the counter near the bathroom and concentrated instead on the Diner's door. He didn't know how badly Olivia was hurt but he knew they needed to clean up. He also knew their cellphones were dead and the payphone was out of order so he decided to drink his coffee and enjoy the homemade gingerbread.
They weren't going anywhere.
As Alex cleaned her wounds with warm water, Olivia dialed Elliot's number.
"Liv, thank God, where are you?" a relieved Elliot Stabler asked.
Olivia smiled into the phone, "Half naked in a bathroom with Alex Cabot on her knees," she replied.
"Good to know Detective, is Alex okay?" asked the voice of Captain Cragen.
Olivia gawped at the phone and ignored the swat to her ass. "Erm, Captain? She's fine. We're with Porter in Sam's Diner, off Route 30. I think we're in Hamilton," she said, trying to ignore the rising heat on her face.
Elliot's voice came back through the handset, "Lieutenant Goldie's here too Liv, " he said clarifying that she was on loudspeaker, "Porter met with Connors this morning, he's gone off the grid. He's made no contact with his SAC and he called Brennan, the agent you killed, this afterno-"
She cut him off, "What?! He took a call in the car and said it was his SAC, I didn't believe him, sonofabitch. He spoke to Brennan? Why?" she asked, her mind racing at the possibilities.
"We're trying to figure it out Liv, any idea where you're headed?" Elliot asked.
She winced slightly as Alex applied the antiseptic to her side, she looked down and mouthed 'OW' as Alex looked up at her. Alex placed a kiss below the entrance wound and looked up again. Olivia smiled down at her as she answered Elliot, "I saw a sign for the Blue Mountain Wild Forest, does the FBI have any safe houses in that area?" she asked. She heard the familiar authoritative tones of Retriever instructing someone to check.
Lieutenant Goldie's voice boomed in her ear, "Glad you're okay Yankee. No safe houses in that area, are you armed?" he asked bluntly.
"Got my Jetfire, 8 bullet clip and 1 in the chamber," she replied.
"Good, then put a bullet in that bastard's he-"
Cragen's voice cut in, "I know it doesn't look good for Porter, but we're still investigating things at this end," he paused, "Whose cellphone are you on?" he asked.
A shocked Olivia was busy processing what she'd just heard, the sound of her name being repeated brought her back to the present and she answered Cragen's question, "I just got it, Porter doesn't know about it."
"Good, keep it hat way. We'll track your signal. A team will be en route by chopper as soon as we end this call, " advised Goldie.
"Porter said the gunman at the scene was Connors' Cousin, that true?" she asked, doubting everything Dean Porter had told her.
Elliot's voice floated into her ear, "Patrick Connors. Died at the scene," he confirmed.
"Okay. I need to go, I don't want him to get suspicious and I need to preserve the battery." she stated.
"I'm sending you the latest photo of Connors. Stay safe Olivia," Captain Cragen said and released the call.
Olivia sat the phone behind her on the vanity and blew out a shaky breath.
Alex stood up to face her, "That good? " she asked, smoothing Olivia's hair away from her face.
Olivia shook her head, "Porter met Connors this morning, he called Brennan this afternoon and he's not contacted his boss all day. He's off the grid and they're looking for him," she said in disbelief. She proceeded to tell Alex of the plan to track their whereabouts and of the chopper that was en route. She had hoped against hope that Porter was still one of the good guys but the mounting evidence suggested otherwise.
Alex placed both hands on Olivia's shoulders and placed a kiss on the Detective's mouth. Olivia responded and kissed her back. Alex pulled away and looked into her eyes, "We're in a busy diner, Suzy loves you and is being very attentive and we're wearing FBI jackets. We can stall Porter here until the chopper arrives," she reasoned.
Olivia wished it were that simple.
Chapter 18: Tick Tock
"Just do it." Olivia said through gritted teeth.
"Any last requests?"
"Just one," the Detective rasped out.
"Remember to ask Suzy for some gingerbread for the road, that was the best thing I've tasted all day."
"Really?" Alex said and curled a hand around the Detective's neck, pulled their bodies together causing Olivia to moan at the sensation of her bare flesh meeting the silk of Alex's blouse. Alex hungrily devoured the mouth beneath hers, parting the lips and invading Olivia's mouth with wild abandon. She sucked Olivia's tongue into her hot mouth and caressed it with her own. After a lengthy couple of minutes, she pulled away and looked into the chocolate orbs and raised a single, questioning eyebrow.
"Okay, the second best thing I've tasted all day," Olivia amended and licked her lips.
Alex held up the skin adhesive, checking the instructions again, she took a deep breath and sank to her knees in front of Olivia. Olivia placed her hands on her shoulders, steadying herself for the pending pain and unavoidable discomfort.
"I've pictured this y'know...." Olivia started, but trailed off.
Alex snorted, "Being chased by Liam Connors' brother across the country? Having a gaping hole in your side? Or sitting in a Diner in the backwoods with a dirty FBI agent?"
Olivia moved one of her hands to Alex's head and ran her fingers through the silky blonde hair, "No, having your hands on me," she admitted shyly.
Alex smiled at the confession, "Well, once this mess is over...what say I treat you to a Cabot cabin weekend in the Catskills, where I can guarantee nobody will interrupt us?" she asked, without lifting her head.
"I like the sound of that.... Okay, quit stalling, you've got me distracted enough," she took in a deep breath and braced herself, "Hit me with the superglue."
Alex carefully applied the adhesive to both wounds as quickly as she could. She placed gauze over each wound and secured them with medical tape before standing, "All done," she announced to a relieved Detective. They both stood, faced the vanity mirror and admired the handiwork of the ADA before washing up. Olivia was relieved to finally get a chance to wash all the dried blood off. She was also pleased the matted hair at the back of her head just looked like she had used too much product, Alex had washed the area gently and smoothed the strands down as best she could.
Alex repacked her briefcase and helped Olivia put the windbreaker back on, as she zipped it up Olivia commented, "We've been in here 15 minutes, I'm surprised Porter hasn't come looking for us."
Alex looked in the mirror and finger brushed her own hair, "Are you kidding? He wouldn't dare run the risk of causing a scene, not after the performance you put in at the table," she answered smiling at Olivia's reflection.
Olivia raised a finger and pointed it at her chest, "Me? I was just being friendly...and making sure Suzy doesn't forget us in a hurry," she replied.
"Well, she definitely got that message, Miss Olivia from Manhattan," Alex mocked.
Before Olivia could reply, the bathroom door opened and Anna walked in.
"There's a really hot but creepy guy at the end o the counter. Dark hair, tanned skin. He keeps looking over at us. I think he's gonna come over. He FBI too?" she asked
"Yeah, he's with us," Olivia replied and turned to Alex, "we'd better get back." She patted Anna's arm and thanked her again for the cellphone and told her she'd be in touch. As they were about to exit the bathroom, Alex stopped her.
"What?" asked a confused Olivia.
"I want to see his face again, make sure I'll know him if I see him, " she answered, referring to the photograph Captain Cragen had sent Olivia.
Olivia reached into her pocket and pulled out the phone, scrolled through the menu and showed Alex the image of Sean Connors. "It' okay if you forget what he looks like Alex...cos I won't. I promise, " she said and squeezed Alex's hand in reassurance.
Dean Porter looked at his watch for the 30th time, 'What the Hell is taking them so long?' he asked himself, again. He had finished his coffee 10 minutes ago and was resisting the urge to charge into the bathroom. Suzy hadn't helped either, hovering and smiling at him. The last thing he needed was a scene in a busy diner.
His eyes kept going back to the 2 women at the end of the counter. Every instinct in his body coupled with all his years in the field told him they were watching him. He ignored them, turned his attention to the patrons as they came and went and watched the parking lot through the brightly lit windows.
He saw Alex first, followed closely by Olivia as they turned the corner at the counter. Alex slid into the booth and Olivia sat down next to her. He glared at both of them.
"Nearly 20 minutes in a bathroom? We're supposed to be at the safe house in 10 minutes, order food to go and let's move," he snapped.
"Olivia, we don't have time for this, I already told y-" he growled angrily but quietly.
Olivia moved her hands that had been neatly folded in front of her and placed them underneath the table before addressing him, "We were in there cleaning up, it was occupied and we had to wait 5 minutes. Now...Alex and I are starving and we're going to have something to eat. I appreciate you've got us this far but, we're not leaving," she replied through a forced smile.
Porter looked at her in disbelief, "Have you lost your mind? Have you lost so much blood that you can't think clearly?"
Olivia held his gaze, "We're in a public place, over 100 miles away from Manhattan. Why the rush, Dean?" she was on the brink of confronting him, her unseen hand gripped the Jetfire tighter. The urge to pull the trigger was overwhelming, a hand on her thigh distracted her. She felt the hand squeeze gently and rub soothing circles through the material. She removed her finger from the trigger and placed it along the side.
Alex could feel the tension rolling off the Detective in waves and knew Olivia felt betrayed by this man. Olivia slowly relaxed under the gentle ministrations and sat back in the seat. Alex let out the breath she had been holding and lifted the menu with her free hand.
"Well, I'm having meatballs," Alex announced, ensuring Porter knew she wasn't going anywhere.
Olivia broke away from Porter's angry glare, leaned closer to Alex and looked over her shoulder at the menu in her hand, not wanting the ADA to stop the calming caress. "Hmm, meatballs sounds good to me," she agreed and turned to catch Suzy's attention.
Suzy noticed her straight away and rushed over, "You ready to order Olivia?" she asked brightly.
Olivia smiled up at her, "Two meatballs please Suzy, Dean what have you decided on?" Olivia asked sweetly.
Porter glared at her but smiled, "I'll just have another coffee thanks."
Suzy smiled at them and took their menu's, "Coming right up, won't be too long," she said and hurried of to place the order.
They were served their meals quickly and enjoyed the tasty meatballs and freshly baked bread. Porter spent the entire time looking at his watch. His coffee cup had been refilled twice already and he was desperate to leave the diner. They were now 45 minutes over schedule and he began to feel anxious.
He glared over at an oblivious Alex and Olivia who were engaged in a conversation with Suzy about the secret ingredient in her homemade gingerbread.
The phone vibrating in his pocket distracted him, he ignored it. It rang again and he ignored it again. He knew it wouldn't go to voicemail as he hadn't activated that particular function on this 'throw-away' phone. He felt the phone vibrate again, different this time, indicating a new text message. He was suddenly aware of Olivia watching him, a knowing look on her face.
"Maybe it's your boss," she said flatly as Suzy walked away.
He should have been surprised she'd heard the vibrating phone but he wasn't. Nothing Olivia Benson did surprised him anymore.
He removed the phone from his pocket under the watchful gaze of the Detective and the ADA. He opened the text message and visibly paled as he read it.
'Did you know you've got a flat tire?'
Porter's eyes instantly flew to the window, searching the darkened lot for his SUV. It only took seconds to locate the car and his eyes widened as he spotted the figure leaning against the hood.
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