Disclaimer: Dick Wolf owns everything – I own nothing. Author's note: You do not have to be an L&O:SVU fan to read this - although it might add to the experience! Please review – I'm curious to see what people think......Chapter One
When they ask her to take the test she doesn't really think about it, just signs the consent forms and goes along at the alloted time. She answers their questions, but she doesn't know what they are looking for, does the computer tests, talks to their shrink, lets them take her blood.
She's not really paying attention anyway. She only agreed to take the test because Cragen asked her to and it's a one in a million chance so there wasn't really any risk.
It's the same reason that Fin agreed to take it and the same reason that Munch never will. They talk about it at Maloney's after work, the three veterans of Manhattan SVU, the ones who have stuck it out while everyone else rotates in and out; lasting a month, two months, a year. She's got five years under her belt now, but she's never had a partner that has lasted any longer than two.
She and her two boys have formed a weird little dysfunctional threesome, pulled together by horror and adversity, but she still envies Fin and Munch their partnership a little bit. She's their girl, but they get to call each other partner, and even among straight as they come cops that title has weight.
She would never admit it to them, but she's a little lonely. The desk across from her is empty more often than not and as SVU is a volunteer unit there's always too much work to be done and not enough bodies to do it so she doesn't really have a social life, apart from the drinks with the guys at Maloney's and occasional girly lunches with their A.D.A Casey Novak.
So when they get together to drink and Munch brings the Program up as one of the many and varied ways that the government are trying to fuck with everyone's heads she nearly wants to make a protest, nearly wants to say that it doesn't sound too bad. But Fin gets there first, calling Munch a paranoid windbag with that harsh note in his voice that you have to know him really well to tell is actually affection. Thankfully they both do, so Munch just grumbles slightly back at his partner while she bites back a smile and plays with the label on her beer bottle some more.
But later when she is alone she turns the idea around in her head and to her surprise it doesn't seem as horrific as it could be. It's never going to actually happen to her of course....but if it did maybe she wouldn't be as quick to dismiss it as Munch.
She's curious enough that next day at work she goes on line and googles it. She types in 'bonded' and 'tele-empathic combat link' and contemplates what comes up with an arched eyebrow, her coffee mug slowly cooling in her hand.
It started in the military. Munch maintains that it was some sort of secret ex cold war spy off shoot, or drugs in the water or the CIA. But what everyone agrees on is that it's a little bit scary and a little bit fucked up but whatever it is it really, really seems to work.
And there is nothing else that the powers-that-be like more than results.
She reads the news reports. They're pretty few and far between because the kind of people that agree to do this thing are usually the kind of people that make it their business to stay away from the cameras. But she reads about a few of the more prominent ones, mostly the literally handful of pairs that have made it work as civilians.
The trauma surgeon and the neurosurgeon at Seattle Grace; Grey and Shepherd.
The picture has them leaning against each other half asleep after yet another 17 hour surgery. Another miracle save, another patient no one else would have a hope in hell of keeping alive on that table.
But those two are rare even among those admit to being bonded. They've gone to Stage Three; made the permanent and undo able lifetime commitment and she wonders what they are not saying to each other in front of the cameras, at the arguments they have with each other inside each other's heads.
She studies the picture a bit longer. Grey has her head on Shepherd's shoulder, he's got his lips against her temple. They both look exhausted but there's something in the way she's leaning on him and the way he's touching her, the trust in both sets of body language that hits a nerve somewhere deep down inside and she finds the nails of her free hand digging into her palm as she fights back an entirely irrational stab of envy.
Outside of Shepherd and Grey there is a husband and wife firefighting team in Chicago, two lesbian social workers in New Orleans, rumors of one or two couples in the FBI and most high profile, Congresswomen Joan Delaney and her husband and Chief of staff Robert. But they were military (and probably spec-ops) before they hit civvie street and got elected to office so they almost don't count as civilians.
But it's the final pair on the list that interests her most and it's that same one that has the brass in police forces across the country so excited.
She skims the news article but it's mostly a human interest piece, more fluff than content, all 'Hero cops!', and nothing useful. She's been the subject of a few of those pieces herself, every time she adds another commendation to a file already bulging with them. She's long since ceased paying any attention to what's said unless Munch sticks one on the squad room wall to tease her about it. Fin smirks sometimes and calls her the pinup girl of the whole fucking NYPD, but she just gives him the finger and smirks back while Munch points out to his partner that he's certainly never going to get his ugly mug pinned up on a wall unless it's by a perp. They both agree that Liv is far more photogenic. By this point she has usually rolled her eyes and retreated back to her files.
But despite the op ed nature of the writing she can read between the lines as well as any other cop and there is some actual information amongst all the fluff. And if she can get some useful info from amongst this crap she bets the brass have files of stuff that no one else gets to see.
She looks at the photo above the byline. Two LA cops, armored up in S.W.A.T gear. Nothing unusual about that, except that one of them is a Latino woman and that's pretty rare in S.W.A.T, even now. The other is a Caucasian male and about 8 inches taller and outweighs his partner by a good 20 or 30 pounds. So far not really that unusual. But then you look closer and see the body language, see his hand curled around her shoulder possessively; the way she leans into him just a little and things take on a slightly different perspective.
Helena Rodriguez and John Talbot. The first two cops in the country to agree to being Bonded. The shining success of LAPD's S.W.A.T program. Immaculate arrest records, hostages saved, etc, etc. The article waffles on about heroism and teamwork and love and other shit like that but is irritatingly vague about what she really wants to know.
Like what it is like to always have someone else in your head, to carry around the emotions of a whole 'nother person with you. Do they ever get used to having another person talk inside their heads? What happens when they have a fight? How do they stand it when the other is just pissy and they can't just give them some space because they can't get away? How come they haven't killed each other yet?
'Cause they all know the other stories, the ones that lurk in the undergrowth like the dark side of the silver lining. Those are the ones Munch loves to harp on about, about soldiers driven insane by the pressure of having someone else inside their heads with them, about Bonds that have the opposite effect than intended, ripping existing relationships apart and sowing hate where only affection was before.
Admittedly most of those stories are years old now, from the very beginning of the Program before it went public. Back then, when it was still in the experimental stage they tried to up the numbers too much. It was purely a military thing then and the military brass put pressure on their best guys to agree to it. Some did. And that was when it became clear that it not only wouldn't work when both parties weren't genuinely willing but that it also didn't work if both individuals weren't inherently stable beforehand and didn't possess a particular set of psychological characteristics.
So the U.S military found itself in the weird ass position of acting as a kind of fucked up matchmaker. Every new recruit was now subject to the standard battery of tests on entry, but even amongst those who would be able to hack a Bond numbers of those who did actually enter into one of the three stages of the link were pretty rare. And most of those were in the spec ops community.
Which made sense to her. Spec ops were used to dealing with weird shit anyway and the relationships in their units were closer than most. Of course the flip side of the military's eagerness to utilize this new resource had been the gradual integration of women into all combat units. You couldn't utilize the increased effectiveness of a Bonded pair if you only had one on the ground and statistics had shown over and over again that the most successful pairings were those when the two involved were involved and not just emotionally.
Of course this meant that Hollywood had immediately capitalized on this to produce some truly awful movies. It was a whole new genre – the angst ridden 'bonded' couple. Like some kind of fucked up Romeo and Juliet for the 21st century. Despite the fact that they had no basis in reality. Ordinary civilians just didn't have the option. The ability to create the link was closely guarded and ringed around by sixteen million layers of red tape and necessary sign off's. And as yet there didn't seem to be an available black market, a thing for which cops across the planet were intrinsically grateful.
Perps were bad enough. Perps with psychic bonds were a nightmare none of them wanted to think about.
She looked at the photo of Talbot and Rodriguez again. They were smiling at the camera and they looked good together. But it was the same thing that had struck her with Grey and Shepherd that really got to her. The body language. The way his body so clearly was shielding her back, the way her eyes were sharp even when they were just having a photo taken. They were a unit, a true partnership and she felt her gut stab with that totally irrational stab of envy again. She'd never had that, never admitted to any one outside her own head how much she'd always wanted it. She looked at the two of them for a minute longer and took a sip of now cold coffee.
The sound of her colleague’s voice breaks her reverie and she looks up at Munch's tired face as she closes the page down.
“Dispatch just called in. We've got a rape/homicide down in TriBeCa.”
She was moving even as he was telling her, grabbed her coat from the back of her chair and pushed up from her desk to join him.
Munch rubbed his hand across his eyes. “Yeah. Fin's got court.”
He glanced at her sideways, noting the faint air of abstraction on her face, the slight furrows across her brow. “You good?”
She turned to look at him surprised by the query and smiled a little, bumping his shoulder with her own reassuringly. “I'm good. Come on, old man. Let's see if we can this done before your bedtime.” She quickened her steps, pulling ahead slightly and he chuckled as he followed.
“SuperBenson to the rescue again.”
She flashed him a smirk over her shoulder. “You'd better believe it.”
And as he matched her steps down the precinct corridor she firmly focused on the here and now. Perfect partnerships were a fairytale anyway. And if there was one thing she knew how to do it was live in the real world.
She glanced at Munch, walking in step with her with the ease of long familiarity and felt a flash of warmth. And her real world wasn't half bad. At least in her world princesses didn't wait for the prince to come and save them. Instead they kicked ass and saved themselves.
She didn't think about the test results again for six months.
And by then it was far too late to contemplate the what ifs.