Olivia strode into the restaurant, a tight frown on her face. She had always found herself late when she was meeting Rafael, something usually happened to delay her. She would rush into the restaurant offering apologies and he would be sitting there, drink in hand and a smirk on his face. Today was no different.
“Sorry I’m late,” she blustered as she collapsed into her seat.
Rafael lifted a brow. “As per usual.”
“Not all of us, Rafael,” her response was pointed. “Have a watch that ensures we’re always on time.”
She had never been a fan of working with the ChronoGuard; but if she had to choose someone, Rafael Barba would always be her first choice. Though their first meeting had been less than ideal, one tough case and a bottle of wine later he and Olivia were friends. Soon she found herself looking forward to the rare times their jobs crossed paths, and even more so to the dinners they had together.
“You’d hate it,” Rafael chuckled. “You enjoy your work far too much.”
“Enjoy is too strong a word,” Olivia said with a smile. “I like aspects of the job. How are you, Rafael?”
“Tired,” he said before flagging down a waiter and ordering a bottle of wine for the two of them. “We lost another one to the dark side.”
Olivia felt for Rafael. The ChronoGuard was stretched enough as it was without staff turning to Terrorism. She couldn’t help but ask, “who?”
“Mickey D’Angelo,” Rafael sighed. “He was a bit sleezy—” he visibly shuddered. “But he was a decent agent.”
The wine arrived and two glasses were quickly poured. Olivia raised her glass in an attempt to lighten the conversation. “To less sleazy men in the ChronoGuard.”
“Ha ha,” Rafael rolled his eyes before tapping his own glass against Olivia’s. “I’ve been asked to conduct interviews—”
“You seem thrilled,” she laughed.
“One of my finest detectives has been studying at night school and just passed his Chrono exams,” “I know he was thinking of applying—”
A loud crash interrupted them, Olivia shifted her gaze to the doorway only to see Detective Carisi storming through the restaurant. He had a wild look about him, his clothes a complete mess. As he approached the table, Olivia a file in his hand and an excited glint in his eye.
“Sorry to interrupt Lieu,” he was practically beaming. “But I think Rogers is lying. The two pieces of camera footage and the timeline don’t match up.”
Olivia couldn’t help but glance at Rafael who was looking back to her with a sardonic expression on his face. She looked back at Carisi who was practically vibrating with his discovery.
“Carisi,” Olivia felt a smile play on her mouth. “Calm down.”
“Sorry Lieu,” his face flushed red. “I think we’ve got him, we just need a ChronoGuard to confirm my analysis is correct.”
“Well luckily for you,” Rafael sighed in mock annoyance, he reached over and snatched the files from Carisi’s hand. “I’m here.”
Carisi’s eyes grew wide, he rarely crossed paths with anyone in the profession he was so desperate to enter. His expression made Olivia laugh. “This is SSA Rafael Barba.”
“Senior or Supervisory?” Carisi asked eagerly.
Olivia was unsure why that was relevant, but Rafael appeared to be humoring him.
“Supervisory,” Rafael cocked his brow. He pulled a square tablet-like device from his pocket. “Clearly.” He gestured to the ChronoWatch on his wrist, a shiny gold color to indicate he was a supervisor rather than the silver of subordinates.
“Are you still on the field? Or have they shoved you behind a desk?” Carisi continued, overstepping what was deemed polite conversation.
“Thank you, detective,” Olivia interrupted, effectively silencing Carisi. “Rafael, can you see anything?”
Rafael flashed her a look of thanks, head tilted to the side, then he returned his attention to the timeline Carisi had provided. An awkward silence descended as green eyes flickered, quickly sifting through the information before them.
“I believe your detective is right, Olivia,” Rafael finally murmured. “The camera footage has clearly been tampered with, also the man is wearing a taped together potentially dangerous timepiece.” He tapped his finger on his screen and showed Liv a literally taped together square device. His green eyes turned sharp. “Why wasn’t I called in earlier, Lieutenant?”
“That’s my fault, Mr. Barba.” There was a sheepish expression on Carisi’s face. “I know how understaffed the ChronoGuard is and I wanted to be a hundred percent certain before calling them in.”
“That’s admirable, Carisi,” Rafael’s eyes narrowed. “But the law states any suspected time manipulation must be reported immediately.”
“Yeah?” Carisi frowned, his tone harsh. “Last time we reported it took three months for—”
“Carisi,” Olivia interrupted, throwing a glare at her detective. “Time to get back to the precinct and put in an official call to the ChronoGuard, I’ll personally ensure Mr. Barba treats it with priority.”
“Yes, Lieutenant,” Carisi nodded before he turned on his heel and practically fled the restaurant.
“One of your finest?” Rafael cocked his brow. “You want me to interview him?”
“How did you--”
“He was awfully keen,” Rafael continued, a smirk curling onto his face."
“Fine,” Rafael cut her off once more. “But dinner this evening is on you.”
True to his word Rafael had organized an interview with Carisi within the week. Not even minutes later Olivia had received a call from her friend, asking when she would be able to release her detective. By the time the call had ended the reality hit her, in a few short weeks she would be down one detective.
When Carisi announced to the squad that he was soon to be commencing with the ChronoGuard she wholeheartedly congratulated him. The entire squad had gone out to celebrate his new job, even Mike Dodds made a rare appearance and made a toast to Carisi. The alcohol had flowed freely and the evening was full of joy and laughter. All too soon it was Carisi’s last day and the tone had changed from cheerful to bittersweet.
“It took a while, Carisi,” Amanda’s smile was gentle. “But I gotta admit, you grew on me. I’m going to miss you.”
“Yeah,” Fin grinned. “We all are.”
Olivia’s phone rang, causing her to miss the detective’s response. She politely excused herself from the farewell before she answered. “Lieutenant Benson.”
“I'm sorry to bother you,” Olivia was surprised to hear Lisa Munson, the wife of the Corrections Officer they had been investigating, on the phone. Their last confrontation had ended in hostility, Olivia could still feel the sting of the woman’s hand slapping her cheek.
“Um, I'm a little worried,” Lisa continued, her voice shaking. “I'm packing up, but Gary made bail.”
“Okay, okay. He's inside the house now?” Olivia questioned, she kept her tone calm.
“Mmhmm,” Lisa hummed. “Yeah, with the kids. He's all right, but I…”
There was a pang low in Olivia’s gut, she loathed Munson for putting his wife through this. “Right, you want me to send a squad car?”
“No, no, please. It's... it's been embarrassing enough, and…” there was a pause before Lisa continued. “And he's already starting to ask questions that I don't know how to answer.”
“All right, so how about if I come? I'll, uh,” her gaze shifted towards her detectives. “I'll bring one of my guys, and we'll just keep it nice and quiet and calm, and we'll get you and your kids out of there, okay?”
“Thank you,” Olivia could hear the relief in Lisa’s tone before she quickly ended the call.
Olivia turned back to her squad, sad that she had to interrupt the going away party. “Hey, guys, that was Lisa Munson, we need to do a clothes job.”
“She's leaving him?” Amanda’s relief washed over the squad.
“And he made bail?” Mike Dodds questioned.
“Yes,” Olivia nodded. “So she just needs a little support getting her out of there.”
Sonny eagerly rose to his feet. “You want me to go with you?”
“You're packing up,” Amanda stared at him. “It's your last day.”
“I'll do it,” Finn offered.
“You know what?” Mike announced. “I'll go. Guy like that sees a Sergeant and a Lieutenant, he'll listen.”
“You're right,” Olivia said, glad that she had the man at her back. Though his first few weeks with the squad had been a little tense, he was a good sergeant and soon proved his worth as a member of the squad.
Mike grabbed his jacket, a soft smile on his face. “Let's get this over with.”
Everything had happened so quickly.
From the moment the sound of gunshots echoed through the air, all Olivia could hear was the sound of blood rushing through her head. She had vague memories of Munson’s house being stormed, of Mike being strapped to a gurney, of her hands being stained red with his blood.
She had sat at the hospital, alone in a sea of blue, and prayed that Mike would be okay. The instant the doctor gave them the news, she heart stopped beating. She had stayed with William until he was ready to leave. The following week passed in a blur, and all too soon she was standing, trying not to look at the picture of Mike in his uniform.
Olivia could barely remember walking into Forlini’s, nor could she remember ordering the drink in her hand. She was standing with William Dodds, his presence swallowed her. She had never seen the resemblance between father and son, but since Mike’s death, all she could see were glaring similarities. It was Mike’s eyes she saw staring back at her, forcing her to relive the events of that day, reminding Olivia that it should have been her.
Her hand trembled as she raised her glass of wine to her mouth, acutely aware that she had already drank too much, but unable to stop herself. The rich taste of the Cabernet was the only thing keeping her grounded. She smiled at William and hoped that it didn’t look as forced as it felt.
Luckily Dodds barely acknowledged her as he continued to rattle off hollow words to their fellow mourners, trying to voice the pain that she could see written all over him. Olivia allowed him to say his piece, to thank her for everything that she had done for Mike. They both knew he didn’t mean it.
There was a gentle hand on her arm and she found herself being led away from William Dodds and towards an unoccupied table. She glanced up to see Rafael staring back at her, a solemn look on his face. “Raf--”
“I am so sorry, Liv,” He murmured before drawing her into an awkward hug. “I tried to stop it, I tried to save him, but I couldn’t. His death is a fixed point.”
His words sounded like a jumbled mess, she had no idea what he was saying. “Raf--”
“Ed will be here in a moment to look after you,” he continued as pulled away, plucking the empty glass from her hand. “Please don’t blame yourself. It had to happen.” With a flick of his ChronoWatch, he was gone.
Then Ed was by her side, pressing a gentle kiss to her temple and whispering words she couldn’t quite hear. She needed another drink, her gaze immediately drawn to the bar. Rafael was sitting there, beside the familiar figure of detective Carisi. She watched as Rafael leaned in close to Carisi, and whispered something, a soft smile on his face. The bartender placed a couple of shots in front of them, there were a few words between them, and a flash of a smile from Carisi as they clinked their glasses together and drank the amber liquid.
She watched for a moment longer, before she turned to Ed and asked him to take her home. She wanted to spend the evening with Noah, wrapping him in her arms and holding him close and until he fell asleep. Ed pressed a kiss to her temple and asked if she wanted to say goodbye to anyone.
Olivia glanced back over at her friend, who was sitting so close to her detective that their knees were brushing. She shook her head and headed towards the exit. Just maybe something good will come of this, she thought to herself. Rafael had spent far too long living his life alone, and Carisi would be the perfect distraction….
It was only a matter of time.