DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are
property of NBC and Dick Wolf. Cold Case belongs to Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FANDOMS: Law & Order:SVU / Cold Case.
Regret. Do the Job long enough and it's inevitable. But this wasn't some unsolvable John Doe homicide or sex crime. A happy ending was looming, it just didn't include her.
Hazed by the anesthesia and cast in unnatural hues, Lilly squinted into the florescent glare and recognized her so-called regret for what it was: Envy.
Awash in self-pity, she paled. Her stomach churned, waves of post-op nausea gripping her gut and tightening her throat. There was little consolation to be found in the room's noxious pink walls. Perhaps meant to soothe patients and visitors alike, the paint aggravated the ill-will brewing within.
The painkillers were wearing off and she was alone. A far cry from the hero the morning news proclaimed her to be. Her head rolled to the side, the stiff, sterile pillow crinkling against her hair. Throwing back the gloomy grey blanket, Lilly paused at the sight of her swaddled thigh. Mortality seeped through the bandagedefiant against its sterile confines. The illusion of immortality, the façade of invincibility fled as she prodded the wound. Synapses fired, neurons flared and Lilly Rush gasped, trembling as the white hot agony crippled her once more. Of the hundreds, maybe even thousand fired, one bullet had felled her. Sobering as the notion was, pride bubbled still. She did it. They did it. We won.
Lilly held her breath. Now what? She gathered the blanket to her shoulders, hiding her woundthe fallacy of the Job written in crimson shades of hertheir victory, her failure, the underwritten betrayal and her thoughts drifted once again to Olivia.
Why'd she do it? It was just a case, nothing special. And each time she bought into the lie, she tripped on the consequences. If Olivia hadn't accompanied the file, pressing hard for a resolution, would she have pursued it even after everyone told her to stop? She would have gone the distance for any case, but putting her badge on the line for one was a stretch, even for Lilly. No, it was time to admit the real reason she chased this case to the brink.
Olivia had been reluctant to leave the tangle of limbs despite the confusion she felt when she woke. Alex had threaded herself around Olivia, an impossible coil of arms and legs heavy with sleep. It would have been suffocating were it not for the anxiety that was squashed between their bodies when Alex had invaded her bed. And wanting to avoid waking her at all costs, Olivia suffered through the rogue spring that jutted into her back, the shoulder to fingertip numbness, even a three-coffee-capacity bladder. Through it all, she waited. Patient from the pinks of pre-dawn to the yellow blare of mid-morning and only then did Olivia slip away.
She drifted quietly through her morning routine, drawing it out, stalling in the shower still, Alex didn't stir. Sitting in front of the smudged mirror Olivia watched her. Her features were not so changed by time that she was unrecognizable, but the worry of her exile had left her marked just the same. Her once-full cheeks were gaunt, her body frail with fatigue. This Alex was a literal shadow of her former self and, Olivia supposed, so was their relationship.
She'd done the impossible. When everyone had given themselves over to complacencyto 'wait and see'Olivia pressed harder. Now, with her eye on the prize she felt more conflicted than ever. Doubt not once crossing her mind during her great quest had unexpectedly reared up and knocked the wind out of her. She couldn't stop being a cop and though it was her job, she couldn't bear to treat Alex as a victim. She was supposed to be beating on Olivia's chest: Say something! I can't stand it when you look at me like that. Walking away when things got too real, sending her away when they didn't. It was supposed to be messy but not like this.
Her stomach rumbled. She not only felt the pull of hunger twist inside, but that of guilt. She had to see Lilly, after everything that happened, a hospital visit was the least she could do. Olivia picked at the what ifs like stray threads on her quilt of confusion. If she had crossed paths with Lilly earlier, if they hadn't found Alex, if she'd spent that drunken night in Lilly's bed instead of on her couch where would she be? Where would they be?
Alex shifted, the first time in hours and sighed. The delicate hum bound by a whoosh of aira sound so familiar yet foreign for so longtempered Olivia's emotional upheaval. So, it's come to this.
Twenty four hours ago she chased the ghost of a chance and now her phantom was sleeping it off. Soon, she'd tell her story, things would be clearer, and Olivia's patience would be rewarded. In that moment, Olivia gave herself over to the notion that this wasn't her decision to make. It was as it always had been: Alex's. And that, as it always had, made her antsy.
Olivia scratched a message onto motel stationary, placed a chaste kiss on Alex's forehead, the note on her pillow and slinked into the light of day.
14. Stockholm Syndrome
A squeaky meal cart stalled outside her room. Lilly watched the sliver of light grow obtuse as the orderly crept in. "Morning," he mumbled. Sliding the plate onto her table, he removed its dome cover unceremoniously.
Lilly gagged as the malodor of eggs and butter wafted towards her. She squeezed her eyes shut.
"They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day."
When Lilly opened her eyes the orderly was gone and in his place an equally unwelcome substitute stood. "Hi Kite."
"I saw the news. Everyone's talking."
"Been awhile since I was gossip-worthy." His grimace was proof-positive their dirty laundry was still hanging in his closet, too. "Why are you here, Kite?"
"I wanted to see how you were."
She couldn't say for certain if it was the stench of eggs or the past that was making her nauseous now. "I'm still workin' the Job."
Three quick, crisp taps upon her open door and Olivia was poking her head into the fray. "OhI didn't mean to disturb anything " she jerked a thumb at the hallway. "I can come back."
"No" Lilly said too quickly. "Stay. Please."
"Detective Benson, come to survey the damage?" Kite added coolly, his only contribution to their 'should I stay or should I go?' tug o' war.
Olivia's body stiffened. Her casual lean transmuted into textbook perfect posture. Chin up, chest out, hips and shoulders squarethe Academy would be proud. She eyed him then, intentional stillness more fearsome and unnerving than an all-out assault. Two confident strides and a long moment later she was encroaching on the attorney's personal space. "I'm sorry have we met?" Her words were polite enough; the delivery however, was imbued with careful hostility.
"Your picture's in the papers." Smirking, he emphasized the plurality for effect.
When Kite was neglected to introduce himself, Lilly did him one better. "Don't be an ass, Kite."
"I guess that's my cue." Cellophane crackled as he set a bouquet of flowers onto the visitor table. "Thought they might cheer you up," he lifted his hands in surrender, "if you needed cheering up." Failing to illicit pity, he let his arms clap to his sides and backed out of the room. "Take care of yourself, Lilly."
"Well that was awkward." Rocking back on her heels, Olivia jammed her hands into her pockets. "A lawyer, huh? I know how that goes."
She bit the inside of her cheek to keep from smiling, but her eyes broadcast her amusement just the same. "It's ancient history."
"I know all about that, too." Suddenly self-conscious, she added: "You look a little green. Feelin' okay?"
"Yeah. Kite has that effect on people." Lilly's eyes traversed the room, drifting from the cheap bouquet teetering at the table's edge, across the pastel wall to the room's extra-wide threshold before returning to Olivia.
"I noticed. " Olivia's lopsided smile faded.
"Could you" Lilly motioned at the plate which she'd pushed as far away from her face as she could manage. Despite the distance, her stomach made ominous overtures still.
"Ohyeah." She lurched forward and scooped up the reprobated breakfast.
"Thanks." Exterminating that smell was tantamount to slaying a dragon before it wiped out the village. Her gag reflex swooned: My hero!
Olivia's stomach gurgled. "Do you mind ?" she pointed at the meal.
"Go 'head." Lilly couldn't bite back the smile this time as Olivia assaulted her breakfast. "Just keep it away from me."
"So how are they treating you?" She stood restlessly beside the table, shifting her weight from left foot to right foot and back again. The anxiety so palpable in the awkward ballet spiked Lilly's blood pressure as she watched.
"I wouldn't exactly call this the penthouse, but it's a private room. That's something, right?"
Olivia popped greenish-yellow lumps of scrambled eggs into her mouth like popcorn. "You gotta get a chest wound to get your own room in Manhattan."
At that, Lilly laughed. "Good to know."
Olivia's face rippled with emotion, like a freight train flitting pastpain, joy, regret, sadness, embarrassment, sorrow, compassion. Exhaling, Olivia cleansed her emotional palate.
Here it comes.
Settling into the guest chair, Olivia slathered the toast with jam. "I just wanted to apologize if I gave you the wrong impression." The words fell so nonchalantly between strawberry jam and whole wheat toast that Lilly struggled to make sense of them. "I owe you so much. I never meant for thisfor you to get hurt." Olivia let her words stew in the silence before continuing. "If things were different a different time, a different place, I dunno "
"It's okay. Really." No more, please. "This," she pointed at her leg, "is part of the job. The rest of that " Lilly trailed off wrestling with what needed to be said, what Olivia needed to hear. Let's not make this harder than it has to be. "She must be something else."
Olivia pushed away from the remnants of Lilly's breakfast. "She is." It wasn't so much a smile as it was a glow that touched every feature from the tips of her ears, to the corners of her mouth, to the light in her dark eyes.
"Stabler," her partner gruffed.
"ElliotIt's me." She squeezed the phone between her shoulder and ear as she juggled her car keys.
"Holy shit, Liv. What happened?"
"Long story" She wrenched open the car door and set the take out boxes on the passenger seat.
"I've heard the stories; now tell me you're okay."
Olivia settled into the driver's seat. "I'm good, I think."
"You think? You're in a whole lotta trouble not to know for sure, partner."
"It's complicated." She drummed her fingers on the gearshift. "I don't know what to think anymore."
"She doesn't want to come back, does she?"
Her forehead rolled against the steering wheel. "I dunno. I haven't asked."
"That might be a good place to start."
"It's on my to-do list, right after appealing my suspension."
"They suspended you already?"
"Not yet, but it's coming."
"But you got her back."
"I think so."
"Don't make it all for nothing, Liv."
"I gotta go. I just I thought I should call."
"Liv?" he said quickly.
She closed her eyes pausing to listen to his stillness amid the squad room's bustle before flipping her phone shut.
She'd been a cop for too long. Reading people was second nature. In the interrogation room tactics only went so far; if she couldn't predict what they wanted to tell her than she couldn't work the angle to get it out. In door-to-door canvassing spotting shifty eyes and agitated ticks was the best defense. And in follow-up interviews with victims and their families a sympathetic nod and a retreating gaze for some, tears that never fall for othersselfless tendernessis the only offense.
So when Olivia pressed her lips against Lilly's cheek (still smelling of the strawberries and eggs from breakfast,) and squeezed her hand, Lilly smiled because it was the only acceptable response. "Pick me", "Stay", and "Don't go" were all a chin-quiver away, still she smiled as the hand slipped away. And with one last toss of her head and flash of teeth, Olivia was gliding out of her room.
She didn't cry or mourn the aleatory promise of what might have been. Long ago Lilly had accepted her lot in life. Even when she'd tried relationships they were always with co-workers. And as such they were characterized by ineffable exchanges of free time and space; not really fulfilling or adequately diminishing the loneliness.
And as much as she wanted to fault Olivia for her choices, she couldn't. There was a marked familiarity in the woman that had ransacked her life in the hunt for yet another woman. A dog-eared page in her diary, mirroring both bad and goodher independence, fear of intimacy, overwhelming compassion, that distant, sad and lonely look in her eyes because, even knowing all she did, she was still too emotionally crippled to do anything about it.
When the orderly cleared her half-eaten breakfast, she missed it.
Even as Olivia's ancillary partner she couldn't be pissed about getting shot. There was numb joy in being alone, coming to terms with rejection and maintaining the status quo.
"Rest easy, your cats have been fed," the voice boomed. Nick Vera waddled into the room. "And that three-legged bastard bit me."
"How's our girl?" Will Jeffries' smile brightened the room and lifted her mood instantaneously.
She couldn't contain the ear-to-ear grin that stretched the corners of her mouth and slivered her eyes in response. "I'm good."
"Brought 'cha lunch," Vera plopped down next to her bed and set a greasy cardboard box of fries in her hand before she could protest. He rooted through the paper bag noisily as his partner took charge of the pleasantries.
Jeffries patted her hand. "How're you holding up?"
"Wishing my cold case stayed off the heat."
"I can't believe you didn't call us." Vera stabbed a straw into the soft drink lid and set it in front of Lilly. "Didja get to keep the bullet at least?"
He slapped a massive foil-wrapped hoagie onto the table. "What?"
She laughed. "I didn't ask."
"Boss finally got a hold of Christina, should be here by nightfall."
Lilly nodded somberly wishing she'd chosen her partner as her emergency contact. It was one thing for a cop to concede to the fatal flaw of the Jobthe illusion of indomitabilitybut it was an entirely different thing for a relation to recognize it. The superhero façade was a delicate beast and as macho as she played at there was a certain shame in being injured. Moreover, she had little faith in her ability to say "This? It's nothingjust a flesh wound" convincingly when Christina fawned over her wounded sister. The stone that felled Goliath. The bullet that stopped Lilly Rush when nothing else could.
"You should eat, Rush. You look like hell," Vera muttered between mouthfuls. Jeffries just shook his head. "What now?"
"I missed you guys."
She exhaled. Staring at the chipped room numbersthe way the three hung a little low, crooked beside perpendicular onesshe readied herself.
She waited ten seconds between the click of the deadbolt and turning the knob. Whether it was to let Alex adjust to her impending presence or her to Alex's she couldn't say, but when the door finally creaked open she was holding her breath again.
The room was still dark and Alex hadn't moved. She may not have been able to pinpoint the emotion she felt when she opened the door but she knew the surge of adrenaline she felt now was relief.
Standing in the doorway she stared at her imposing shadow cast across the dingy carpet. She was surprised when it moved finally as she crossed to the vanity and released the paper bag she carried.
Waffling, wobbling in the moment, Olivia wavered before the decision was made. She leaned against the door, putting all of her weight into shutting out the light once again.
To Be Continued
Return to Law & Order Fiction Return to Cold Case Fiction
Return to Main Page