What would you trade
And what would you hold onto
If you could go back to before you knew
Lisa Miller, Trade
The apartment door had barely shut behind them and they were pressed against each other, eyes closed, mouthing blindly until their lips met and held for a long moment. Their tongues tangled together, smothering all the words about how wrong this was.
Ray felt a wall behind him and backed up against it, tightening his grip and dragging Gardino's lanky body hard up against him. He slid one hand into a mess of red curls, tugged them free of the hair clip, and broke the seal of their mouths long enough to moan her name.
They were all at Kennedy's bar and Lieutenant Petrelli was paying the tab, because they'd wrapped up the Mykonos Trading case but good; dotted the i's and crossed the t's, and even the weasel from the State's Attorney's Office was happy for once, bragging about being one hundred percent sure of a conviction. Ray sure as hell hoped so, because that was two months of his life he'd never get back.
Nursing a second beer - the first one hadn't even touched the sides on the way down - Ray worked his way out of the crowd of smug, self-congratulatory assholes who were riding on his hard work - his and Gardino's, because they were partners, a one-two punch. It'd been him and Gardino who'd broken open the Marchant connection. He'd known there was something queer about that guy from the start, and Gardino had gone along with him, trusting him like she always did, even when the Lieu had told them to back off, if not in so many words. They'd cleaned up two scumbag operators for the price of one, and now the Lieu was talking commendations rather than reprimands, in public at least.
And where the hell was Gardino anyway? He clinked his ring against the bottle impatiently. If he had to put up with the bullshit, he was damned if he was going to do it on his own. It wasn't like her to miss out on a post-bust celebration. She took the social side of being a cop seriously, like she had something to prove.
Gardino tugged Ray's t-shirt off over his head, and stumbled backwards. Ray took advantage of the moment to press her up against the opposite wall; there was so little furniture in the apartment, there was nothing to stop them. He tugged apart her half-opened blouse and leaned in to mouth her nipple through the lace of her bra. Gardino gasped, and raked a hand down his back. Ray tried to slide a knee between her thighs, but her skirt was too tight, so he reached down to pull it up and out of the way, only to run into Gardino's fingers jerking the zip desperately.
"Fucking thing's stuck," she said.
"Let me." And he worked it down, tugging the fabric until the skirt fell to the floor. He slid his hand back up her thigh, lifting it, urging her to wrap her leg over his hip, grinding against her. The heat pouring off her was incredible.
"Oh God. Fuck, Ray."
"Yeah," he said. "Yeah, I know."
Just like the left hand always knew what the right hand was doing, he swung around and spotted a familiar figure propped against the payphone. And what was wrong with this picture? Gardino was dressed up, in a tight black shirt and plaid skirt, black boots, dark lipstick, hair up, looking like she was ready to take on the town. But something clued him in that things were not right. He knew his partner.
Like he knew her cocky walk when she hung up and came over was a cover for defeat, like when a lead didn't pan out, or the Cubs lost. Or when a date stood her up again.
Gardino sauntered up to where Ray was leaning against the bar, and snagged a matchbook to light her cigarette. She offered Ray another, but he'd smoked so many during the debrief that his lungs felt like an ashtray.
"Don't know why you bother with lights when they're all gonna kill you anyway," he ragged on her, like he always did.
Smacking his arm, she reached for a beer. Henderson bumbled up, the big ape, and draped an arm round her shoulder, leaning forward between the two of them. Probably so he could try and perv down her shirt.
"Looking good there, Louie. Got a hot date? Or I can show you a great place to go cha-cha!"
Ray tensed, ready to smack the shit out of the asshole if he tried anything, but Gardino calmly blew smoke in his face and said, "Fuck off, Marky."
And maybe it seeped back through Henderson's stupid, drunk brain that the last time he'd got fresh with her, she'd kneed him hard in the balls. Whatever, he dropped his arm hurriedly and moved around Ray, muttering, "Can't take a joke?"
"When it's funny," She clinked her bottle against Ray's before taking a long swallow.
They kissed messily, mouths missing half the time, teeth clicking, not caring. Gardino slid her leg down and eased a hand between them, pushing Ray away a little so she could unfasten the button on his jeans. The heel of her palm pressed hard against his cock, making him groan and push into her hand.
"Hold still, hold still," she muttered into his cheek, using her other hand to tug down the zipper. The relief Ray felt was only momentary, as she reached in to squeeze him through his briefs. Jesus! Shit, she knew what to do with her hands, which surprised Ray, but then he'd never let himself think about Gardino and sex together until now.
Lieutenant Petrelli stood on a bar stool so he could be seen over the heads of a room full of six-foot-tall cops, yelled for everyone to be quiet, and the speeches started. Ray tuned them out; all some version of "you've all done very well, much to my surprise."
The thing this time, though, was that Ray was pretty surprised too, because he'd ended up in a tight spot. But his partner had come through, saved his cover and saved his ass, and you didn't say thank you for that, but Jesus he'd been glad Gardino was there, and he didn't have to rely on some shit for brains like Mark Henderson.
Afterwards the Lieu came up and said a simple, "Good work", which meant more than all the bullshit. But what he said next threw Ray for a loop.
"I'll be sorry to lose such a good team." He handed Gardino an envelope.
She looked anywhere but at Ray, muttering, "Thank you, sir," and shoved the damn envelope into her purse, and what the fuck was going on?
The Lieu left before Ray could ask, and Gardino looked like she was trying to give him the slip, which was not partners. He said so, grabbing the envelope out of her bag and ripping it open, scanning the single page.
"Fuck, Gardino - where'd this come from? A fucking transfer?"
"I didn't think it would come through. I've been trying for promotion for so long…" She trailed off, sounding miserable, and looked away.
"And what? You have to go to Major Crimes to get promoted?" He tried for calm and reasonable - they were in a public bar - but his voice was pitched just below a yell. And he hadn't even gotten to the question of, oh, I don't know, maybe telling your fucking partner what you were doing.
"Yeah, I do," she spat back. Gardino could always give back as good as she got. "I know you don't realize it, but I'm a woman, and the only way I'm going to get promoted is to give the Commissioner a blow job, or get my name on some high profile cases."
And the fucking kicker was that it was true. But something was on fire inside him, and he clenched the edge of the bar, trying to keep from hurling his bottle straight into the mirror in front of him.
His hands grabbed at her waist, muttering, "C'mon, c'mon." If it'd been Stella, he would have scooped her up and carried her to the bedroom, but Gardino's blend of clumsy and pushy meant she stumbled forward, one foot still stuck in her skirt, and crashed into him. She toed off her boots, and walked backwards into the living room, dragging him with her hand hooked in his open jeans to the ratty couch against one wall.
Gardino flopped backward onto the couch, and he fell with her, letting out an "Oof!" Her hands were busy pushing his jeans down his thighs, her breath hot in his ear, and while he wanted out of the damn things as well, he also wanted to get some of the initiative back. Kneeling up, he leaned in to bite her collarbone, and then ran his tongue down between her breasts, making her moan. Ray eased her blouse off her shoulders and, as she lifted up, pushed her bra straps far enough down her arms so he could nudge one of the cups down and tease her broad, dark nipple to a peak before sucking it into his mouth.
The rest of the night they just stood there, not knowing what to say to each other for the first time since they met in Evidence and Procedure class years ago, when they pulled out identical pairs of stupid glasses. But everyone came up and talked to them, so the fact that they weren't talking to each other went unnoticed. At least, Ray hoped so. And once the free beers dried up, it seemed like everyone wanted to buy them another, and another.
Finally, Ray'd had enough; enough beer, enough of people talking crap. He turned to find Gardino shrugging into her coat - in sync as always. They walked out of the bar together. All the shout had gone out of him now, and Ray wanted to make some sort of peace.
"Hey," he said quietly. "See you home?"
"What the fuck for? I live just down the street." Gardino was not one to accept a chivalrous gesture, and he didn't even mean it like that, didn't think she needed his protection.
"Yeah, but you know…" He just didn't want the night to be over, not with things like this between them.
"If someone tries to mug me, I'll shoot him. Save your white knight act for Stella." The bitter note in her voice stung him. He was trying to smooth things over; what the hell did she want from him?
"You've got no idea, have you?" she said, shortly, when he said it aloud, "because you've got no clue what you want, yourself."
Gardino clutched at the back of his head and pressed his mouth harder against her breast; he tried to peel off her panties, putting his thumb through the pantyhose as he tugged them down. She lifted her hips, and Ray shook his head free, so he could sit up and pull the damn things off. Ray looked down at her; one knee bent, the other foot braced on the floor, lips swollen. Her tits heaved with every harsh breath, and yeah she was a real redhead, not that he'd ever thought otherwise. He tried to move backwards and got tangled in his jeans, so he pulled them off and then leaned down to bury his face in her pussy. Christ! So wet, and the smell - different from Stella - strong and musky in a way that made his dick throb. He used his fingers to part her pussy lips, licking and sucking at her clit, listening to her moan and riding out every buck of her hips.
Ray slid two fingers inside her, and rubbed them out and in again, in time with his licking; Gardino's cries became more frantic, as she tightened her legs around his shoulders and her whole body shuddered. He lapped up the sweet honey taste of her orgasm, before she pushed him away, panting. Jesus, the sound and taste of her - he was so fucking turned on.
The street was shiny with rain and reflected neon; the whole scene looked straight out of a movie, as Gardino stalked away from him.
"What do you mean?" he called out after her.
"You stupid bastard," she spun round. "Do you want to know why I really put in for that transfer? Because I'm not gonna sit around waiting for Stella to decide she wants a fancier model."
She was right in his face, panting harshly. Ray reached out and gripped her shoulders, as everything they'd never said spewed out on to the street, neon arrows pointing it out for everyone to see at last. The amazing connection between them, in the end, was down-to-the-bone lust.
Gardino's arms came up between his in a textbook defensive move, knocking him back.
"Just don't, Ray. I don't want your sympathy." Her face looked gaunt in the red darkness as she turned away, but he was pretty damn sure sympathy wasn't what he was feeling. He strode down the street after her, pissed beyond belief, gripped with fear of what this would do to them.
"Christ, I wanna fuck you so bad." Ray sat up and stared down at her, sprawled on the couch looking debauched and so fucking sexy, and how come he never knew she could be like this?
"Yeah." Gardino's voice was hoarse. "Yeah, do it. C'mon, do it." She leaned up on one elbow to reach out and stroke his cock, hooking a leg round his hip, and tugged him forward.
"You got any condoms?" The words were hard to form, when all he could think about was being inside her.
"Doesn't matter. It's all right." She urged him forwards, and he knew he should argue, but he was so used to trusting her, and he couldn't fight it anymore, the tide swept over him and he fell forward and eased into her, leaning down to mash their lips together. He pulled up short at her grunt, but she folded a knee up and he was deep inside, lost in the rhythm, pumping.
Too soon, too soon, his orgasm was building, was there. "Fuck," he ground out. "Louisa - oh fuck!" He slumped over her, and pressed his forehead into the crook of her neck, screwing up his eyes as she clutched him to her.
They stood at the entrance to her building, both of them shuffling their feet. Ray was trying to stay calm, working out how to say what he needed to say, when Gardino put a hand on his arm. It felt like a thousand volts jolted through him, blasting everything to smithereens.
"Come on up."
There was no misunderstanding the invitation. And suddenly he felt like the last thing he wanted to do was to turn and walk away from their partnership. He wanted to hang onto it for as long as he could, even though he knew in the back of his mind that this would wreck them completely. If they were going to be broken, he wanted them well and truly smashed.
Ray didn't see Louisa again. Stella was away at a conference, and he spent his week off alone at home, trying to avoid jerking off, in case his standard Stella-fantasy morphed into something he was just not ready to deal with.
Four years later, he got a call to say that Detective First Class Louisa Gardino had been killed by a car bomb. A mob boss was arrested in connection with the blast, and Gardino hadn't even been the target.
Somehow, Ray stayed dry-eyed through the funeral. When he got home that night, having avoided the public wake, just getting quietly shitfaced on his own at Kennedy's, he told Stella he wanted a divorce.