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How We Heal

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The silence in the car is permeating, hanging down on them like a wet curtain. Olivia stares straight ahead as he drives, not looking at him but not looking out the window either. Not looking at anything, really, except the picture she has told him she can’t get out of her mind.

Everything he wants to say to her, has been wanting to say since she came out of that room, the expression on her face telling him and Rollins and Finn and everyone else waiting everything they needed to know, sits on the tip of his tongue, but he can’t bring himself to open his mouth and let it out.

I’m sorry isn’t right. It’s not your fault doesn’t seem like enough. There was nothing you could do is too trite, because he knows she thinks otherwise. I’m glad it wasn’t you is too selfish, even if it’s the most true thing he can think.

So he keeps quiet, lets the silence hang all around them, lets it remain there as he parks and they climb the stairs to her empty apartment — he has never been more thankful Noah is with his babysitter — keeps letting it remain as he pushes the door open and they walk slowly inside.

It has been less than twenty-four hours since they left her apartment in their usual morning rush, trading quick kisses and see you laters and have a good days, but it somehow seems like a lifetime ago. Everything feels different now, like who they were this morning is not who they are right now.

Maybe who they were is gone forever, taken away like Dodds was taken from them. It feels wrong to think that, but yet this whole situation is wrong.

They only make it a few feet into her apartment, before she turns and meets his eyes. Really meets them. And the words he has been wanting to say since they left the hospital slip even further away as they both recognize the need in the other.

So they do what they do best. She throws her arms around him, and he pulls her against his chest. And then her lips are on his, or maybe his are on hers — he isn’t really sure if he starts it or she starts it or they both lean in at the same time — but it doesn’t matter because their lips are together and then they are falling as one on to the carpet in the living room and they can’t even be bothered to move to the bedroom or even to the couch because the only thing he can think — and he suspects she feels the same — is that he needs her and she needs him and they need this, together, to remind them that they are alive.

Because it so easily could have been her in that house and he knows it and he knows she thinks it should have been her and not Dodds because she is the lieutenant and that is her duty. And somewhere in the back of his mind he knows the threat on his life is growing more real by the day, knows that what was a guy in an elevator this morning could be a guy with a rifle tomorrow and security detail or not — he knows the security detail is in place, saw them behind him as he drove them home — isn’t going to keep him alive, but at the same time the thought of telling her exactly how much the threats have him shaken is the last thing he wants to do because he can’t — can’t —put that on her now, on today of all todays, and he can’t even begin to think of what it would do to her if something happens to him. Or what it would do to him if something happens to her.

So his fingers find the zipper on her skirt and yank it down easily and her fingers find the button to his pants, and neither one of them can move fast enough. His pants are shoved down and her skirt is shoved up and there is no time for foreplay or going slow because he needs her and she needs him, so he gets straight to the point, slipping inside her probably faster than he ever has, but she is more than ready for him and she wants this as much as he does and their motions are jerky and rough and hard and fast, and she is scratching his back through the shirt and the jacket he still has on and he is gripping her hips like he can’t bear to let go, and they are both grunting and moaning and maybe there are tears — he’s really not sure if his vision is blurring because of that or because of something else — but then it is over and they are clinging to each other, gasping and panting, and there are definitely tears now.

His cling to his lashes and he can’t be bothered to hide them, even if he can’t remember the last time he has cried and had at one point actually thought this job had wiped the ability to cry out of his body forever.

Her tears are more prominent, more heartbreaking, like a punch to his gut as he watches them stream down her cheeks as she shakes and sobs and her fingers struggle to find purchase on his body and pull him close to her.

But that’s how they lay for hours, clinging to each other, half naked, in the middle of her living room, as the sounds of the city — of people living their lives — seem to echo all around them. He can hear cars roaring past down below, can hear sirens screaming to get to someone — and he hopes desperately that those someones will have a better outcome than they had today — can hear a few shouts of children playing a game of baseball.

They are sounds they hear every day. All of it is normal, all of it is a reminder that life goes on no matter what happens.

But not for them, not at this moment. So they just lay there, together, the only sounds inside the apartment their ragged breathing. Even their phones remains quiet — no texts, no calls, no nothing — until darkness begins to fall and it is time to go pick up Noah.

So they get up, get dressed and head back out, to pretend to the world they are all right. He isn’t sure if he is glad or not they can still pretend.

•••

She goes back to work the next morning. Because she has to, she says, and he doesn’t know a way to argue with that. The whole department can’t very well take a day off, no matter how horrible the circumstances that have befallen them, so he nods, kisses her gently and goes into the office as well, because he thinks it’s probably safer than staying at home.

He meets her for lunch at a small café downtown — security detail at the next table over — where they sit in silence and pick at their food. He wants to break the tension, wants to talk to her how they always talk, but once again the words won’t come. How is everyone doing? seems too obvious; he knows how they are all doing. How are you doing? seems too insensitive; he can see how she’s doing and she’ll only lie in response. Come home with me and just be with me and we’ll go away and deal with this is a fantasy and will only make the reality that much harder.

So they eat, if picking at food can be called eating. And pay. And head out together, walking side by side but not touching, not saying a word. Until the afternoon, when she finds him in his office, and suddenly, it doesn’t matter that they are at work and that they are supposed to be professionals and that this is really, really not appropriate at all and that they have always said they will never ever even once consider something like this, even when they were first dating and could barely take their hands off each other.

But in this moment it is all they have ever wanted, all they can think about, the only thing that, once again, makes them feel alive and like they are breathing and not drowning in grief or fear or what ifs or despair that it could have been her, that maybe it should have been her or been someone else and how it isn’t fair and never will be and maybe the next time it will be one of them and they will never get this chance again.

So he loves her and she loves him, right there in his office, him in his desk chair, her in his lap, and they breath each other’s air and hold each other close and he stays in her long after they are done even though the sounds of people passing in the hallway seem louder than they should and he can’t remember if he locked the door or if they were quiet and he knows any second someone could come in, but they don’t move, and they lean their foreheads against each other, feeling each other’s breath and the warmth of each other’s skin and he knows he needs her and she needs him and even though they have both lost so many people so many times, this somehow seems different, seems worse, seems so unfair.

“I just keep reliving it,” she whispers, some time later, her head still pressed to his, forehead to forehead, her words a faint whisper floating on the air between them. It is the first time she has said it out loud although he has known it since she had called him on the way to the hospital and told him what had happened.

“I know,” he answers, because it’s true and because there is nothing else to say, really. Nothing is going to make her feel better. Nothing is going to change what happened.

“If I had only …”

“No.” He presses a finger to her lips, lifts his head so they are eye to eye. “You know that doesn’t lead anywhere good.”

She reaches up, grasps his finger with her hand, holds on to it like it it’s a lifeline.

“It’s going to get better, right?”

“It always does.”

“And until it does?”

“We have each other.”

He isn’t sure if that is the answer she wants, if that is the answer she needs. It will get better sounds too emphatic. It’s going to be fine is too flippant. We just wait is too hopeless.

“I love you,” he adds because he does and he means it and there is no better time to tell her because he wants her to know, just in case. He needs her to know.

“I love you too.” And he knows she does but it’s nice to hear it anyway, a comfort in a time where nothing else is comforting.

A clock on the wall makes a sound and it’s getting late, so she slips off his lap and adjust her clothes and he does the same.

The funeral is tomorrow and he’s not sure how that’s going to go. There is a blinking light on his phone and he knows it’s an update on the man who was threatening him, and he knows that’s a reality he is going to have to face soon, just like she is going to have to face the reality of a new detective joining the squad. Both are situations that neither one of them want to think about, but they have both been in plenty of situations they haven’t wanted to think about, and the only thing to do is press through.

So he walks her to the door and she puts her hand on the knob to open it, but before she can, he holds out an arm to stop her.

“We’ll be okay,” he says, and it sounds so trite, but for a second she smiles at him and then she leans over and presses a quick kiss to his cheek, just like she did the morning before everything went wrong.

“I know,” she says, and then she opens the door and slips out, her words echoing in his head, and for a the few seconds he watches her walk away, he believes her.