Head Above Water
by cgb

He dreams he is drowning. He dreams he is being tossed by waves, turning somersaults in the surf, not knowing which was is up. Kathy told him water in dreams is significant and in the dream he tries to remember the common theories: water is the womb, water is emotion, water is desire...

Water is choking him. When he opens his mouth he breathes it in. It fills his lungs, pushes out the air and replaces it with water, adding to his already sinking weight. He sinks deeper and deeper until all around him is dark. He feels a hand on his shoulder, holding him downÖ


He wakes up. He is bent over his desk, head resting on his hands. He opens his eyes and blinks away blurred vision. "Olivia?"

The hand on his shoulder lifts. "You sleep here now?"

He turns and she's there behind him, hands in the pockets of her jacket. She's wearing jeans, ripped at the knee and a grey NYPD t-shirt - casual attire. He's notices his own jeans and sneakers and remembers it's night and they're not on the job.

The station is empty. The street noise registers as a low hum accompanied by the occasional car horn. "God - what time is it?"

"Just after midnight." Olivia takes off her coat, hangs it over the back of the chair opposite and sits on the desk.

"What are you doing here?"

"What are you doing here?"

"Kathleen called. She was looking for you." She waits for him to respond. He scratches his neck, the stubble pricking his fingers. In his head he counts days since he last shaved. "Did you guys have a fight?"

Something about the ocean lingers in his mind. He can still feel the weight of the water on him, a crushing load. He had a fight with his wife. He's always having a fight with his wife.

"I think she'd be happier if I quit being a cop and went into business with her brother." Kathy's brother installs security systems. Kathy suggested his police knowledge would be an asset to the business and he thinks she's probably right. Security is where cops go to retire.

"She thinks we're having an affair."

He blinks, startled. "She said that?"

"No." Olivia taps the desk, as if punctuating her answer. "But she thinks it."

"No she doesn't." That's not entirely true. His wife often accuses him of having a less than professional relationship with Olivia but he'd be surprised to learn she was serious. He sees it as a warning, a reminder of where his priorities should lie.

"She calls my apartment like she expects you to be there, and she didn't believe me when I told her I didn't know where you were. I donít like having to defend our partnership to your wife."

"Shit." He rubs his face with his hand, tries to rub the dream away along with his wife, his work and his irate partner. "She doesnít mean it, Olivia. She's just upset."

Olivia nods. That much is evident. She taps her hand on the desk again and they both stare at her fingers. Anything for a distraction. "So - are you sleeping here tonight?" Sleep happened without him thinking about it. They fought, Kathy screamed and Dicky started to wail. He thought leaving would keep the peace. "Yeah - why not?" There's a bed in the holding cell and coffee in the pot - all the comforts of home. "The lab sent some tests in from the Netherfield case - I was gonna take a look at those, maybe have some coffee - you want some?"

Olivia frowns. "Elliot - go home. The Netherfield test results can wait 'til tomorrow. You know itís not healthy to overload on sex crimes."

Netherfield is a teacher accused of assaulting five children between the ages of 8 - 10. Two blocks over and his kids could have gone to Netherfield's school. He leans back in his chair. "You know what - spare me the lecture tonight, Olivia. You're the last person who should be handing out advice on how not to get involved."

She gives him a hard look, eyes narrowed. "Maybe so. But most of us don't need an IA Inquiry to tell us when we've gone too far."

It's a low blow but he takes it unflinchingly. "Then what does it take to get through to you? A harassment suit? A murder accusation?" An equally low blow. They know how to hurt each other.

She stares, her face unreadable.

He waits.

Eventually she says. "You have a family, Elliot. The only obligations I have are to myself."

He stands up quickly, throws the chair back so that it hits the desk behind him, startling Olivia. Her grip instinctively tightens on the desk.

"Don't tell me about obligations!" He holds his finger out in front of him. "Don't lecture me on what I owe my family, Olivia. You don't belong there!" He turns and heads for the mens' room, knocking against his chair on the way. He pushes it aside, roughly, so that if falls to the ground with an ostentatious clatter. He feels a vein pounding in his head and presses his palm against it, wills the tension out of his forehead into his hand.

In the bathroom he runs the cold water while he leans against the sink, hands on either side of the basin. He hears the door open and close behind him and sees Olivia in the mirror. He wonders why he thought she wouldn't follow him.

She crosses her arms in front of her, a hand on each elbow, defensive. "You want to tell me what this is about?"

"Just forget about it, all right." He looks away from the mirror and speaks into the sink. His voice is tense, held tightly as if in a vice.

"That's not going to happen."

He spins and moves across the room toward her, grabs her by the shoulders and pins her up against the wall. "What the fuck do you want from me!"

Her eyes widen. Her lips part but no words come out, as if she is shocked into silence. He's got her up against the wall like an uncooperative perp. They're inches apart - eye-level. His thigh holds her in place, keeps her legs from folding underneath her. He doesn't believe he has this effect on her but it's a standard interrogation tactic, designed to threaten without leaving bruises.

Their proximity reminds him that interrogation is strangely intimate. Such contact is potentially volatile, destined to ignite. The feel of her body against his is similarly combustible. He is close enough to lean slightly forward and press his mouth to hers. He feels her ragged breath against his face, harbinger of a kiss.

He lets himself imagine the rest: hands inside each other's clothing, fumbling with the clasps of belts and zips, her legs wrapped around his waste, his mouth on her shoulder, her neck, her breasts, the feeling of being inside her.

His thoughts arouse him. Blood rushes to his groin and he remembers they're close enough for her to feel his arousal. He lets go of her shoulders and takes a step back.

She stays against the wall, breathing heavy. "Jesus - ElliotÖ"

He turns away and walks the full length of the room. "I'm sorry." He can barely hear himself.

"You're sorry? What the fuck has gotten into you?"

If he'd stayed at home tonight he would have slept on the couch. He sleeps fitfully when he's angry and the uneven support of the couch doesn't help. He spends so much time being angry these days. "I don't know - this job..." The job, Netherfield, his wife, his children, his partner... He turns around suddenly. "Are you okay?"

She straightens herself, rubs the back of her head as if checking for damage. "I'm okay. Just don'tÖ" She shakes her head, looks into the corner of the room. Her t-shirt is half tucked, half untucked into her jeans. "Don't do that again."

He thinks he hears movement outside and feels the need for propriety. "We should go."

Outside she puts her coat on again letting it hang so that it barely covers her shoulders. The sleeves are too long, hiding her hands. "Are you going home?"

"Yeah." He nods. "Iím going home." The anger in him has dissipated and he is tired, ready to sleep in whichever bed he's assigned.

"I'll drive."

"I have my car."

"Elliot..." She meets his eyes. "I'm driving."


He's not inclined to profundity, which is why his dreams are never more than images that consume his sleep. Kathy is the wise one in their relationship, the one whose depth of understanding transcends the limits of language. Kathy knows a partnership is more than the face of it. Any partnership.

The porch light is on when they pull to a stop in the street outside his house. Kathy expects him. He releases his seatbelt, thanks Olivia for the ride and tries to smile reassuringly.

It's overly presumptuous. She doesn't smile back. "Listen," she says. "Why don't you take a day off tomorrow? We can cover you - Munch and Fin are having a slow week."

He looks out the window for a moment and then turns back to her. "Maybe I will. I'll call you tomorrow." He puts a hand to the door. Pauses. "You know I'd never hurt you, right? You know I couldn't do that?"

He searches her eyes for a hint of understanding, a sign she knows what it is he wants to say. She is, as always, an enigma. "I know." She nods. "It's okay."

He gets out of the car, closes the door behind him.


In the morning he finds her in the squad room reading, file open on her desk. She looks up as he arrives, hands him the pages without speaking.

Netherfield's blood-type is a match.


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