The Equation Of Me
by tahlia

"Well, this isn't good."

It's generic and it's impersonal and it's redundant, because rarely do they get to do good things. (At least, that's how it feels when you're killing time between the doorbell and the family members gasping for breath-- "oh, no, please, no, she's okay, right?" and "no, ma'am, your daughter was strangled" or "the doctors at the ER worked as hard as they could," and sometimes, occasionally, "there's another woman" or "she wanted independence" and "technically, ma'am, because your son is eighteen years old...") And it rolls off someone's lips and they shake their heads, like it wasn't living in the back of their heads all along, a lingering possibility and a nagging doubt. It's their cynicism and their pessimism, imperceptibly seeping into their front of cautious optimism.

Samantha examines the carpet in the hallway, tracing the geometric pattern with her toe as she waits for the elevator. Danny said, "Well, this isn't good," and they all piled into the cars, blaring their sirens to cut through traffic, hiding their eyes from the world behind dark sunglasses, and that little boy's body was waiting under a stiff white sheet, and somehow she ended up here. The doors open and a couple in nice clothes scoots out; they smile at her, and it reminds her of home, so she knows they must be tourists. It's almost strange, and it hits her in the elevator as it starts to move that not everyone here is making a home in between maid-washed sheets and room-service breakfast.

In a week, she'll need the case file to remember that little boy's name; in a month, his photo will barely jog her memory. They all have names, and they run together in her mind; a never-ending stream, common and unknown: Ashley, Linda, Julian, Julia, Mark, Sarah, Christian...

(Their faces linger, and sometimes she sees them in her sleep, and this is what wakes her up in the middle of night, despite the things she's told Jack.)

She knocks on his door, but somehow she managed to beat him here, so she leans against the wall, beating her fingers against the textured wallpaper in time with the names in her head, waiting. After twenty minutes (or maybe it's more, she's lost track of time) he appears around the corner. When he sees her, his face changes; she can't decide if it means he's happy to see her.

"I gave you a key," he says.

She manages to find her voice. "Didn't want to use it."

He stares at her, and maybe the corners of his mouth turn up a little bit. He kisses her, softly at first and then little rougher, hungrier; right here in the open hallway. They've become bolder like that, more daring like that, less willing to give a shit like that. He looks at her again, contemplating a hundred different things to say, and then he lets them both in.

She sits on the bed, bouncing once. "You're late."

Their fifteen-minute rule (intervals, he says goodbye, she says goodbye; trying not to let anticipation seep into casual conversation) has been maligning lately. Jack loosens his tie, and says, "O'Bannon and I were...saying goodbye."

O'Bannon. Phil O'Bannon was a good man, still is, but he also loves his wife and after last year, his wife can't go to work and make trades in the financial distract without looking up and seeing her colleagues falling from hundreds of stories up. He loves her that much.

Samantha shrugs out of her suit jacket. "Yeah. Good guy."

He stands in front of her, like maybe he's going to put his hand on her shoulders; he doesn't, just stands there. "He knows, you know, about..." His hands gesture, filling in the rest.

It actually makes her laugh, despite the weight of it all. She leans back and looks at Jack: "I think the whole unit knows."

He moves a little, startled. She can't miss the way his thumb is rubbing against his wedding ring. "Really?"

The humor falls out her face. "I don't know. Maybe. Vivian--"

In one fluid movement, Jack grabs her hands, pulls her up on her feet, and kisses her again; to silence her, maybe, or to just silence himself. After a moment, her hands are free, but his are roaming: one moves to the small of her back, making concentric circles against her skin, and the other one quickly entwines with hers again, squeezing (hanging on). He does this, because the conversation always goes to the time when Marie asked Vivian if her husband was acting differently lately.

His forehead, resting against her, taking deep breaths; her voice is a whisper. "When's the new guy starting?"

He kisses the back of her hand. "Next week."

She leans her head back, exposing her neck, and he kisses the skin there, too. Somehow, she manages to ask: "Name?"

"Fitzgerald," he says, to the arteries pressing against her skin. "Martin Fitzgerald."

Samantha's fingers grasp his belt loops. "Not--"

"Yeah." His lips on her jaw. "His son."

He finally reaches her mouth and the rest of the words scurry from her then, for she can only concentrate on him and the things he is doing to her with his tongue. It occurs to her as she fingers the buttons on his dress shirt that they've talked about calling this off several times and tonight was supposed to be another of those conversations. (She says, "Your wife," and he says, "I know;" and she says, "Regulations," and he nods in agreement again; and then he kisses her anyway and that's when it all goes to hell.)

She thinks she hears Jack murmuring into her shoulder: "He can't know." Whether it's because Jack is married or because Martin Fitzgerald is the son of a Deputy Director, she can't be sure. What she knows is how this makes her feel, this thing they have, and the strength it takes to hide it.

It is the last time this ever happens.


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