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Collateral Damage, Part 2: Unforgivable Means

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-21-

 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

 

Olivia missed Munch. His retirement was inevitable, but that didn't mean she had to be happy about it. She wasn't opposed to change, but she'd had her fill lately. John's departure meant she was the senior detective in the 1-6 now, and second-in-command to Cragen, who probably wasn't all that far off from retirement himself. Practically speaking, the new role wasn't a huge difference. But the real impact wasn't simply a matter of new responsibilities or more paperwork. The mood in the bullpen was just not the same.

 

There was no budget for another detective, and that was okay. Most of Liv's career, there had been four of them. If they added anyone now, she'd be the one who found herself chained to a desk more often than not, and she definitely wasn't ready for that. Munch's departure moved her up the line, and reminded her how quickly time was passing, and she didn't like it. The probies in their new uniforms looked like babies to her, like they were on a nursery school field trip, all dressed up like NYPD officers. It was disconcerting, to say the least.

 

They were still hunting someone the newspapers snidely referred to as the Retail Rapist, and the brass at 1PP were not at all happy about their lack of progress. The trail was growing ever colder on their other guy—nothing new in St. Louis, nothing new in Manhattan, nothing new anywhere. They were still working the case, and working it as often as they could, but none of it made a damn bit of sense. The duty belt had led them to investigate hundreds of guys who had either been turned down from the police academies, or who had washed out during training. It had amounted to exactly nothing, and in another of their marathon sessions of shooting-the-shit, Liv had wondered aloud if it was designed to throw them off the scent.

 

“I don't think so, partner,” Nick said.

 

“Why not, Nick? The guy's obviously light-years ahead of us. It's such an obvious clue, and he would know it would lead us down some very obvious roads.”

 

“Roads we've wasted a hell of a lot of time on,” Fin added.

 

“Right,” Olivia agreed. “It's a brilliant diversion, really.”

 

“I think it means something,” Nick replied. “I don't know what. Obviously, it doesn't mean what we thought, but I just feel like there's something to it.”

 

“Well, my boss doesn't really care what we think,” Cragen said. “Feelings aren't getting the job done, folks. Every time there's a slow news day, some reporter wants to report that there's nothing to report. The Chief of D's is convinced the details will get out and the city will be in a frenzy, assuming there's a cop raping and killing women in his free time.”

 

“We ain't sure that's wrong,” Fin said.

 

“Then that's what we need to focus on, for now,” Olivia ventured. “We aren't getting anything new, so let's go back through the old stuff and finish clearing current officers. We've taken care of a bunch of them already—let's see who's still in the grey and move them into one category or the other, cleared or not.”

 

“That's a tall order,” Amanda said.

 

“The whole thing's a tall order,” Cragen agreed. “But Liv is right. We can't keep the signature under wraps forever. Let's clear everyone we can clear so we can at least avoid some of the media frenzy that's going to ensue when that information leaks. I've got so many people riding my ass, OSHA's gonna make me install seatbelts and airbags soon. Do what we can do—we can't find the guy, but we can eliminate a few more.” He retreated to his office, leaving the four detectives standing around their desks.

 

“Eliminate all of the members of the NYPD,” Amanda laughed. “Why not? I wasn't doing anything else this afternoon?”

 

“You heard the man,” Olivia said. “If we take one piece of hay from the haystack at a time, it'll only be 10 years or so before we find the needle. Let's move, gang.”

 




Alex picked Olivia up at the precinct at 6:30 that night, later than she'd planned but with just enough time to make their 7:00 dinner reservation. She hoped.

 

“Hey, babe,” Olivia said as she slid into the passenger seat. She gave Alex a quick kiss and buckled up.

 

“Sorry I'm running late,” Alex said. “One thing after another. Then one of the ADA's came by right after Laurie left, so there was no one to deflect her. Another heart-to heart about the meaning of justice. I thought moving to the big office would deter her, but no such luck.”

 

Olivia laughed. “That's right in your wheelhouse, honey,” she argued. “Why the exasperation?”

 

“Three times a week?” Alex asked. “I have that conversation with her more often than you and I...”

She trailed off. She'd been busy, and hadn't been home nearly enough lately. The weekend was so close she could taste it, and all she really wanted to do was go home and drink a glass of wine and take Olivia to bed. But they'd planned this dinner with Bill two weeks before, and Alex already felt like she never saw him. She wasn't about to cancel now.

 

And even though Alex hadn't finished the sentence, Olivia knew where she'd been headed. They'd tried to make love two nights before, but Alex was too tired to even keep her eyes open.

 

It certainly wasn't for lack of desire. There was so much going on lately, like a cacophony in her head, and she hated it. Work was exhausting, and she was filled with dread anytime she paused to take a breath. She needed a connection, needed Olivia to come for her, to remind her what love felt like. She made a split-second decision as they passed  Prince Street. She called her uncle just as she whipped a hard left onto Houston. Olivia's surprise was visible, but she didn't say anything as the sound of Bill's booming baritone filled the car.

 

“Let me guess, Ace,” he chuckled. “One of you is hung up at work and I'm being hung out to dry.”

 

“No, actually, it's not all that bad. We're just running late. I've got Olivia but we have to make a quick stop by the apartment. Probably going to be about 15 minutes behind. Can you forgive us?”

 

“Absolutely,” he said. “I'll be enjoying a lovely Scotch on a tab that I will have the restaurant give to you when you arrive.”

 

“You're worth it,” Alex laughed. “Thanks, and I'm sorry.”

 

“I'm teasing you, Alex. Be safe and I'll see you soon.”

 

Olivia looked at her inquiringly as the call disconnected. “What's at the house?”

 

“You. And me,” Alex said. “Or, we will be. I need you, Liv, and I don't want to wait.”

 

This turn of events was unusual, but not unwelcome. Alex had been preoccupied and under an enormous amount of stress since the election. Since the campaign began, really, once Olivia thought about it, but everything had seemed to ramp up just before the election. Once Reilly withdrew, Alex’s victory was all but certain, and something in her seemed to change right around that time. Liv didn’t know what it was, and Alex seemed reluctant to analyze it, or even acknowledge that something was weighing on her. It might have been the workload, or the mantle of power and responsibility--it didn’t matter, though. When Alex was stressed, she was distant, and this little detour to the house was a very good sign, indeed.

 

The elevator ride was filled with anticipation--they maintained their decorum, barely, but only because of the elevators security had installed in the building’s lifts and hallways. There hadn’t been any discussion, but the tacit understanding was that some basic surveillance might be in order now that the 14th floor housed the new District Attorney and her wife.

 

The two women in question tumbled through their front door and were frantically--and selectively--removing one another’s clothes before the lock clicked behind them.  By the time they’d traversed the 25 or so feet to the couch, Alex’s blouse was off and her shoes were kicked across the room. Olivia was kicking off her own pants, which were around her ankles, as she worked to open the front clasp on Alex’s bra, having already slid the straps over her shoulders and onto her upper arms.

 

The sex was fast, and frenzied. Olivia ended up on her back on the couch, Alex kneeling between her knees, working her clit with a warm tongue while filling her with three fingers. With her hand entwined in Alex’s hair, she came in just a few moments, her orgasm contracting around the hand inside her. She neither wanted nor needed a long recovery period--she was eager to get Alex off, and tried to pull her wife up, thinking only of how wet she must be, and how much she enjoyed their kisses while the taste of her was still on Alex’s tongue.

 

But something shifted. Alex slipped her fingers free and stood, gently resisting the tug of Olivia’s hand. She leaned over and offered only a quick kiss. Olivia took Alex’s hand and wrapped her own mouth around the three fingers that were still wet and sticky from their skilled explorations. She licked the fingers clean, looking up at Alex with longing. Alex smiled, but as Olivia reached a hand up to pull her closer, she took a half-step back. It was only a few inches, but it was noticeable.

 

The confusion on Olivia’s face was unmistakable, as well. It was like a switch had gone off, and it was perfectly clear that Alex was not interested in any reciprocation. She tried to cover, tracing Olivia’s jaw and placing one finger under the strong chin before speaking.

 

“Baby, I’m sorry, we really can’t keep Uncle Bill waiting,” she said. “That was lovely, but I probably should have just waited until after dinner.”

 

“No, I’m glad you didn’t,” Olivia said. “That was amazing, Alex. But I’d like to…”

 

Alex cut her off. “Not right now, okay?” she said. “When we get home.” She smiled gamely, but her wife didn’t return the expression.

 

“Sure, whatever you want.” Olivia’s words were assentive, but there was doubt laced in every syllable. She didn’t know what had just happened, but she knew that Alex was paying lip service to the idea that they’d make love later. It wasn’t going to happen, and she was sure of that, but she didn’t know why. There was something in Alex’s demeanor that was different, and the change was unsettling to say the least.

 

They gathered up their discarded clothing and dressed in silence, making their way back down to the car and toward the restaurant. Olivia had expected that it would be hard to keep her mind on dinner and conversation with Bill this evening, and she had been right, but her distraction wasn’t for the reasons she’d expected. The evening was filled with small talk and good food, and Olivia didn’t really mind--it took her thoughts away from whatever the hell was going on in Alex’s head. It’s always a lot easier to find reasons to postpone conversations you’d rather not have.