Nothing belongs to me! All belong to Dick Wolf...A/N:
Any chance of a review - pretty please?Chapter 4
Liv was getting to the stage when she couldn’t remember the last time she had showered. The back of her eyes were dry and itching, her head ached and she dreaded to think what her hair looked like.
Admittedly these were not the kind of things that normally went through her head 30 hours into a countdown to find two abducted kids. Normally she didn’t really give a shit what she looked like at work. As long as she was presentable at court and maintained a basic level of hygiene elsewhere she had long ago given up caring.
After all it wasn’t as if the Cap and Munch and Fin hadn’t seen her at her worst; covered in grime and dirt and blood, up for 48 hours straight in ancient raggedy sweats, coughing and sneezing through this year’s cold. Just as she had seen them. Amongst the four of them vanity had long since gone out the window.
But it was just typical that the one time she might have wanted to make a good impression she would have been caught in two day old, wrinkled clothes with her make up long since worn off and her hair completely gone off the reservation.Sonofabitch.
She had wanted to make a good impression on him. Her new partner. And now that was completely shot out of the window.
She glanced up across the desk again. He was bent forward, cradling the receiver in the crook of his neck, while taking notes just he had been the other two or maybe three times she had stared at him in the last 15 minutes. Christ she had to get a hold of herself. She was acting as though she was back at High School sneaking glances at a boy she had a crush on.
Which she didn’t of course. Have a crush on him. Because that would be ridiculous.
It was just that he was so, so……present.
She’d kind of got used to the desk across from her always being empty. Before Dani that desk had been empty for six months. In fact it had been 18 months since she’d last had a permanent partner. That had been Jack Blaine, who had only lasted a year, before the victims got too much for him.
Before that she had been partnered with Helen Glover who had been on her final tour and who was now retired. She had been the best training partner a rookie SVU detective could hope for. She’d been a shoulder for Liv to cry on when her mother had died and sometimes Liv still found herself wistfully wishing that Cragen would have worked a little harder to get her to do a Munch and return after her 20 was up. But she had been determined to retire. She and Tom, her NYFD Sergeant husband had moved to Florida to be closer to their grandkids and although Liv kept in touch it wasn’t the same as having her there day in, day out.
She glanced up again, just catching a glimpse of short dark hair before she tore her eyes away again. She had to stop this. She had to get her mind back into her job. But her eyes kept wandering, fascinated, to the man now occupying the desk across from hers.
The desk that was now his. Her partner’s desk. He was her partner. She really had to get her head around that. He didn’t seem to have a problem with it, but according to the little Cragen had told her he had eleven years in Queens SVU on his jacket. And Queens’ never had the staffing problems their unit suffered from. So he’d probably always had a permanent partner. So if this worked out he would just be continuing a trend. While she had got into the habit of working either as a part of a trio or on her own.
Working as one of two was going to take some getting used to again.
And he didn’t help that he was such a big sonofabitch.
It wasn’t exactly that he was intimidating, because Liv prided herself on not being easily intimidated. It was rather that at 6 ft and broad across the shoulders he was kind of difficult to ignore. He combined blue eyes and classic American Irish coloring with a kind of solidity that was essentially male and sort of distracting. And she wasn’t usually this easily distracted. But he was in her face and in her space. And more to the point he was going to stay there.
So she was just going to have to get over it already.
She was staring at him again. He could feel it on the back of his neck. It wasn’t exactly an uncomfortable feeling, just a bit weird. Maybe if it had been lecherous or any kind of glare he would have resented it. However the one time he had actually caught the edge of her expression as she looked at him the best way to describe what he had seen was bafflement. Combined with a healthy dose of curiosity and a sort of deer-in-the-headlights surprise.
It was actually kind of cute. And also kind of funny.
Not that he was going to mention his observations to her. He had a funny feeling she’d verbally take his head off. And wouldn’t that be a way to start off a partnership.
Cragen had warned him in their brief conversation that she might take a while to get used to him. He mentioned that through no fault of her own she hadn’t really had a permanent partner for almost two years now and had got used to doing a lot of stuff on her own. So she might take a while to get used to acting as part of a duo again.
Well, the best way he knew to get used to something again was through constant exposure. So he was going to stick to her side like glue. And that urge to get as close as possible, well of course it had nothing to do with the length of her legs or sweet curve of her hips or the way that in the short time that he had been here he had seen three separate uni’s and a detective not so subtly check her out. She didn't even seem to have noticed. And he figured it was a bit soon to start glaring at guys for perving on his partner.
He’d have to give that one at least a week.
It must have been past 10pm when he caught her sudden shift in her chair out of his peripheral vision and his head snapped up. The other pair of detectives, Munch and Tutuola, who he’d been briefly introduced to earlier, had found a possible common denominator in the MO and victimology between some old cases in New Jersey and the kidnapping. The four of them had been ripping through the files looking for any possible connection for hours now.
It looked like Benson had found something. Although admittedly he wasn’t sure how her brain was still working as she had now been up for 36 hours straight. Thank god for coffee. He saw her get up from her desk and automatically turn to cross the bullpen to Tutuola and Munch.
He was about to cough or make some noise to remind her that he was there when he saw her check herself and turn to face him.
The faintest hint of a blush was coloring her golden skin as she met his eyes and he could tell she was a little embarrassed at how she had forgotten he was there. He let her off easy. Habits were a bitch to break.
“Hey, you got something?” he queried, leaning back in his chair and stretching his legs out underneath the desk. She tilted her head and bit her full bottom lip and he could almost feel how unsure she was. It was like try to coax some half wild thing to take food from his hand.
He half smiled at her, reassuringly and reached out a hand for the file folder she had gripped in hers. Reluctantly she passed it over to him and came over to hover at his side as she pointed out her discovery.
“This guy here, he was a crossing guard at the school where the original kidnapping took place. Cops at the time thought he might be suspect but they already had a confession so they didn’t go after him. But the file reads like the original perp might have had an accomplice. Like a partnership….”
He rapidly skimmed what she was pointing to. “So the perp that got caught was a dominant and he was – what? A submissive?” He commented.
“Yeah, I mean they never had anything really on him, just that he had a few warnings for stalking teenagers when he was younger, which at the time wasn’t an offence, so he never did any time.”
“Okay, I see where you’re going with this. But what’s the connection?”
She pulled out the most recent file. “Well the current crossing guard at the school that Stephanie and Gillian go to has the same surname and the same address.”
Elliot’s eyebrows shot up wondering how the hell they could have missed that. He scrutinized the photos on the file: Richard Graham the original crossing guard and Thomas Graham the one at the girls’ school. They didn’t look identical but there was enough resemblance to indicate some kind of family connection. Maybe brothers, maybe cousins. It's something anyway - the first link that they've found between the two kidnappings with the same M.O. At the very least they'll be able to question Thomas Graham and eliminate him from the suspect list which would be one less name to focus on.
He was conscious of Benson still hovering quietly at his shoulder. He could smell the faint trace of her perfume and the deeper muskier scent of woman-at-the-end-of -the-day and the combination sent a pulse straight to his groin. He swallowed. He had to get his mind out of the gutter.
He looked up at her and she met his blue eyed gaze steadily. She couldn't read him; too many things could be hidden behind those cerulean eyes. But the corner of his mouth was twitching and he was nodding to her and she let loose an inward sigh of relief.
“This is a good call. I think you've really got something. What's protocol to do with leads here?” he inquired.
“Normally we pass everything by the Cap first. You okay with that?”
“'Course,” he shifted and pushed up from his chair, suddenly so close and so much taller than her that she nearly automatically took a step back to get out of his personal space. But then she stopped. There was no way she was going to start this thing by letting him think that he could intimidate her with his size. She tilted her head back and maintained eye contact. She was Olivia Benson and she stepped back for no-one.
For a second they stood in a classic standoff and then she caught the merest upward quirk of one side of his mouth as he broke eye contact and stood aside to let her lead them into Cragen's office.
Behind her Elliot bit back even harder on the grin that was threatening to break over his face. Still discomforted by his body's immediate reaction to her he hadn't meant to stand so close. But when he had realized that he was looming he couldn't resist the urge to see how she would react.
Whether she would be like 99% of the population and give into the urge to step back or whether she would go toe to toe with him.
He hadn't been disappointed. He had seen the initial impulse to step back flicker over her face but she hadn't acted on it. Instead he had noted how she held his gaze, chin tipping up stubbornly as he leaned closer, a fiery sparkle in her eyes belying the calm expression on her face. There was obviously a temper buried not too deep under that tranquil exterior. In a weird way he was looking forward to making its acquaintance.
He had broken the standoff with good grace. She was exhausted and this was not the time to be playing games. They had two kids to save. He followed her into Cragen's office, covering her back as a good partner was meant to do. But he couldn't help but think that Detective Olivia Benson was getting more and more intriguing with every minute he spent in her company.
As the one most likely not to crash the car through sheer exhaustion Cragen dispatched Elliot with a unit to pick up Thomas Graham from his address for questioning. By then it was 2am and he wasn't in the mood to take no for an answer so it was a good thing that Graham co-operated. Admittedly Elliot didn't exactly tell him that any attendance at the station was strictly voluntary but he figured what the skinny runt didn't know couldn't hurt him.
It was 3am by the time he got back to the precinct, dumped Graham in an interrogation and made his way to the squad room to find Benson's desk empty. He wanted to start questioning Graham but he wasn’t going to start without her. He wanted to see how she worked the room but he also guessed that ditching his partner so early on in their relationship wouldn’t go down well.
Munch and Tutuola weren't anywhere to be found either so he tapped on Cragen's door.
“Cap, Graham's in interrogation one. I was going to start with him, but I can't find Benson. Have you seen her?” He inquired.
Cragen grunted an affirmative. “I ordered her up to the Crib half an hour ago. I wanted her to get 20 minutes before you started on Graham. You'd better go and wake her.”
“Yup,” Cragen smiled slightly, “but be careful how you wake her, Benson’s got killer reflexes.”
He took the warning with a pinch of salt but quickly revised his opinion when a hand on his sleeping partner’s shoulder nearly left him with a broken nose. He back pedaled across the dimly lit room at speed and ignored the subdued chuckles from a few of the other occupied bunks. Obviously his new partner’s reflexes were well known across the precinct. He might have considered being offended except for the fact that Benson was obviously still only half awake; brown eyes hooded and confused.
He waited until she had sat up and swung her legs over the edge of the bunk before informing her that they had Graham downstairs. That seemed to pull her into full alertness and she followed him down the stairs without further comment.
God, she was so embarrassed. Don had finally lost his patience with her excuses and had ordered her to get some sleep but she was sure he hadn't intended for her to almost deck her new partner as a result. Someone should have warned him about waking her up before sending him up to the crib.
It wasn't even a reflex that she could do anything about. Too many years dodging her drunken mother's abusive tantrums had drummed into her subconscious that a hand coming towards her as she came out of sleep was almost guaranteed to be unfriendly.
That, coupled with the unarmed combat training she had been taking since she was 16 had refined the reaction into an automatic defensive/offensive combination. Unless the other person was with her when she fell asleep her body's instinctive reaction was to come up swinging and then get the hell out of dodge if they stayed too close.
Thankfully Stabler had backpedaled so fast that the flight part of her fight/flight reaction hadn't kicked in. Now she just had to face a new partner that she had nearly decked after only knowing him for a few hours. She was going to kill whoever had sent him up to the crib without warning him.
They reached the glass outside the interview room and she rough combed her hair with her fingers in a vain attempt to make it more presentable. She could feel him looking at her and reluctantly raised her eyes to his. She had to say something.
“About upstairs – I'm really sorry. The whole coming up swinging thing. I shouldn't have, it's just not something I can really control. Someone should have warned you.....”
Her brown eyes were wide and apologetic and he found it impossible to hold onto any irritation when faced with the sincerity in her coffee colored gaze.
His lips quirked in the slightest of smiles. “It's okay. Cragen did warn me. I just didn't believe him. You've got a good right hook there, slugger,” he teased gently.
To his amusement she broke eye contact and blushed a little, rose staining that golden skin. “Yeah, but still,” she muttered. “It's no excuse.”
He hastened to reassure her. “It's okay Benson, it really is. I'll just have to be careful when waking you on a stakeout that’s all,” his tone was still teasing and she smiled slightly in response.
“It's okay on stakeouts. It's okay when the same person who's there when I go to sleep wakes me up,” she paused, horrified at what that sounded like even as the words left her mouth. Her eyes met his, fully expected him to take the opening. Every other cop she knows would have. A chance to finally rib ice queen Benson about something sexual would be irresistible.
For a second he was tempted to take advantage of her verbal faux pas. But then he saw the vulnerability in those huge eyes and how tired she looked and sat on his automatic cop asshole tendencies. He wanted this thing to work and if that means giving up a little fun he was willing to make sacrifices.
“Good to know,” he noted, his tone surprisingly gentle for such a big guy. She felt herself relax as he didn't take the opening she inadvertently left for him. His blue eyes broke from hers to check out the perp through the two way mirror and with an inward sigh of relief she refocused on the business in hand, the momentary awkwardness behind them.
“So,” Stabler questioned, “how do you want to do this?”
She smiled at the oblivious perp through the glass, unaware of the edge to her smirk that Stabler noted with interest. She fucking loved this part of her job.
“Let's just say,” she almost purred, “that I've got some ideas.....”
Beside her Elliot twitched as the tone of her voice wrapped directly around his spine and pooled in his dick. He risked a look at her. She was staring at their potential perp through the window, eyes narrow and focused and intent. She was like some huge feline just waiting to pounce and the sight was instantly arousing. Firmly he told his unruly body to behave.
This was really nothing like working with Lake.