Sometimes the things I say

In moments of disarray

Succumbing to the games we play

To make sure that it's real

The squad room was bustling by the time Olivia walked over to her desk. The power had gone out at her building and Elliot had called her to see where she was. After a brief shower, she'd thrown on her clothes and headed out the door to what was already a great start to her day. She had a feeling her whole day was going to be that way.

The previous day had been spent looking all over the city for a child molester that had multiple people on the inside telling him where the cops were looking. It was like a cat and mouse game, and the only they seemed to be catching was their tails. After hitting a brick wall, they had finally stopped for the day at eleven o'clock and headed back to finish paperwork that had been neglected. Not to mention they'd been working so many days straight they couldn't remember the last day off they'd had. It reminded her of when she was a kid.

Growing up, Olivia didn't have many friends. Her mother wouldn't allow her the luxury of having guests over. That didn't bother Serena Benson's little problem child, though. To her, Olivia was just in the way and having a friend over meant she had just one more obstacle to her vodka. Olivia had the little time she had with her few friends at their homes. One rare spring break week, she had been fortunate enough to spend the time with a friend in third grade. The two girls spent all week together and by the third day, they were at each other's throats. So much time together for two kids had been enough to make them irritable. Her situation with Elliot was no different.

The previous week, Olivia and Elliot had been their usual selves. As the days progressed, though, things had gone downhill. Rude comments and snide remarks were followed by glares and angry looks. If they didn't get a decent night's rest and a couple days off, who knows what would happen? They were great partners and good friends. Things were slowly getting back on track after their brief separation, but the hard cases still got to them. Rather than vent their pent-up frustration, they held it in and it came out all at once. On more than one occasion, the squad room had been privy to such arguments. It was usually a few digs at each other's character. Words that didn't need to be said that came from nowhere were voiced. They didn't usually mean the things they said in these heated moments, but they weren't the kind of people who could handle stress. They had no one but themselves to talk to about what they were feeling and often times they were dealing with their own issues to go to each other.

Everyone knew it was coming. Fin and Munch had seen the start of it and had tried to deflect the anger onto other things. The gym could only work for so long, though, and when they'd gone out onto the streets, God help anyone who crossed them.

Olivia noticed Elliot sitting in his chair with his suit jacket on and a cup of coffee. He was tapping his foot and looking at his wrist watch, she imagined, for at least the tenth time since he'd called her forty-five minutes ago. She mumbled an apology and saw a mere nod before he got up. She didn't want to risk getting a cup of coffee, although the caffeine would be just what she needed to calm her nerves. She'd just have to deal. She didn't want to make things worse on what was already a shitty day. She followed him out of the precinct a few steps behind. His posture was stiff and she could tell he was tense. Her being late didn't help things. She wondered if something was going on in his personal life. It could be just the case, but she couldn't be sure. Lately it seemed that anything could be chalked up to a case here or there.

Olivia had let her mind wander and realized Elliot was already in the car and ready to go. She jogged up to the car and got in before latching her seat belt. She rolled down the window a crack to let the hot air escape. It was only nine thirty and the head index was already eighty-five. She pulled her hair behind her ear and huffed. She'd never gotten used to the sweltering heat. The glass and granite buildings of the city only made it worse. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Elliot flipping the knobs of the air conditioner; her silent cue to roll the window back up.

"Where to first? I was thinking we'd stop by and check out the old warehouse where the perp was last seen. Maybe he's hiding out there." She scanned her notes as he drove. She didn't have time in the precinct and she felt as if she was studying for a test. She hated not being prepared.

"You think he'd still be there? He's been ten steps ahead of us this whole time. Nah, I think he'd be long gone." He tapped his fingers on the steering wheel and looked over at Olivia. She seemed more tired than usual. He'd be willing to bet a month's salary that she'd gotten next to no sleep the night before.

He felt bad for acting so childish these last few days. He'd been angry with her and wasn't even sure why. He'd seen his kids over the weekend after work and it had done wonders for his mood. He couldn't pinpoint why he was lashing out at Olivia. They both were picking at each other, though. Her comments were mainly in defense against what he'd been dishing out. Sometimes he couldn't help it. His emotions were all over the place. It wasn't her fault he didn't know how to deal with them. He'd blamed her for her apartment losing electricity. He should have let her off the hook but he hadn't said a word. Like so many things between them often left unsaid, he failed to utter the words that would make it okay. He'd just assumed it went away. If only the hurtful things he said could be erased by the words of comfort he always seemed to lose the moment they reached the tip of his tongue. He hated that she was so defensive in his presence and he kicked himself for making her feel that way. They kept going round-and-round and neither he nor she knew how to make it stop. The game would go on and on until someone ended it.

"Well, I thought it would be worth a shot. I just hate to see another little girl fall prey to this guy while we're out on what seems to be a wild goose chase. All of these so-called leads are pointless without a definite location. We've got three witnesses that swear they saw him the night the Jeffries girl was molested. Two more the following night with the Haddock girl and another last night. All these people and not one can say 'hey here's where he can be found'. If you ask me, something is fishy." She closed the file folder and let out a long breath before glancing over. He was chewing on his bottom lip.

"You're right. Let's check it out. Worth a shot." He saw her smile briefly and wished she did it more often. If all it took was him agreeing to what she had to say, then he had no problem with that. It felt nice to be getting along. It felt comfortable.

"What is this? I am right? Wish I could get that in writing." She chuckled and shook her head, happy with the thought that they could toss back playful banter again. She was about to tell him she was going to mark her calendar when he slammed on the breaks. She immediately threw her hands out, making contact with the dashboard.

"Shit! Son of a" He swore under his breath and willed his heart to calm down. His hands were clutching the steering wheel so hard his fingers were white. He panted as he got his bearings once again. There were far too many idiot taxi drivers in the city. He hadn't seen one driver that didn't think he or she owned the road. He was tempted to pull the driver over when he realized he'd completely forgotten about Olivia. Before he even turned to her, he knew something was amiss. She slowly met his gaze with wide eyes. She was scared shitless. He'd seen her frightened before but this time was different. He saw something else in her eyes, too. Pain. He'd seen it before she looked away.

Olivia groaned and turned her wrist. The momentum of the car and the sudden stop was so great it sent her flying forward. She wasn't fast enough to grab the dashboard. Her wrist had twisted in an awkward angle, sending a sharp pain through her hand and up her arm. She grimaced and tried to hide her expression. She looked down at her wrist and was surprised it wasn't swollen yet. She shrugged her shoulders and leaned back in her seat with her eyes closed. That was a close call.

"Hey. You okay?" He saw her open her eyes partially and nod. She was flexing her fingers and periodically would grimace. He didn't have to be a genius to realize what had happened. She hadn't had any time to prepare herself, so when the car abruptly stopped she had jerked forward into the dashboard with only her hands to stop her foreword movement. He saw her nod slightly again and wondered who she was trying to convince more; him or her. Her wrist, from what he could see, appeared to be okay. He'd let her slide for the time being. He'd be willing to be within an hour she'd be needing something for it. He made a mental note to check the glove box for the bottle of Tylenol he usually kept in there. A car honked behind him and he stuck his arm out to wave, indicating he had every intention of continuing on their way.

He'd been keeping an eye on her the whole ride there. Every now and then, he'd glance over. He looked over again and was concerned when she didn't mind. If it were any other day, she'd be biting his head off for being too worried. It wasn't any other day, though. Something was up and he was determined to find out what it was. If they could just get past whatever was causing them to have a lack of communication. The long days weren't helping things. Luckily, he'd had a cup of coffee to start the day. He suddenly felt bad for not allowing Olivia a few moments to do the same. It wasn't as if they knew where the perp was, and a few minutes wouldn't have hurt anything. He cleared his throat and saw her turn her head to face him. So she wasn't sleeping.

"Oh, hey. Sorry. I guess I dozed off. Did you say something?" She stretched and couldn't hide the wince as she straightened her arms out. Her wrist was still bothering her. She grabbed the file that had fallen to the floorboard of the file and began to pick up the papers.

"No problem. I didn't say anything. I was actually going to ask you if you wouldn't mind stopping for a cup of coffee. I had some at the house but I'd love something that doesn't have a consistency of mud." He flashed her a smile and saw her grin slightly. He resisted the urge to bend down and help her.

"Sounds good. I could use something to help me wake up. The neighbors were exceptionally loud last night." She bit her lip a moment, debating whether to ask him or not he had anything to help her wrist. She had a slight headache on top of it all from lack of sleep and anything decent to eat. If they were going to be stuck in a car all day, she'd better take something. The unintentional nap she'd taken didn't seem to do anything to help her. If anything, she felt even more exhausted. All she wanted was to crash in the crib for a few hours. That'd have to wait, though.

"I remember those days. Why didn't you tell them to knock it off?" He had half a mind to do it himself if she didn't. He had a feeling she didn't want to cause trouble but eventually she'd get tired of it and do it.

"I should. I don't know them that well, though. I don't want to act like a jerk. I'll give it a week and see how it goes. Maybe they'll get it out of their system." She doubted that would happen. There were three nineteen year-olds living in a one-bedroom apartment. It was probably the only way they could afford it. They were young, she'd give them that, but they were still causing problems for their neighbors. Surely, the ones on the other side were tired of their constant partying as well.

"If it were me I'd be over there with my piece. Ya know, give 'em a reason to turn down the damn music." He shook his head. He sure didn't miss living in an apartment.

"I can see you now, Rambo. You know when it comes to kids you get soft. Don't deny it, Stabler." She chuckled and turned the vent to face her more. She hadn't realized how warm it was in the car. The air conditioner couldn't keep up with the sweltering city heat.

"True. You got me there, but still…I'd help you out if you want." He pulled the car off to the side next to the Starbucks. It seemed to be the only thing going right so far that day that he'd find an open spot. Maybe his luck was improving.

"Thanks. I'll let you know. What do you want me to get you?" She started to get out of the car before his hand found its way onto her shoulder.

"I got this one. You stay put. Don't let the cold air out." He undid his seatbelt and stepped out of the car and tried to hurry. The line wasn't too long, he thought.

She turned the dials and tried to find a good station. She looked over the dash to see if he was coming before she opened the glove box. Eureka! She found heaven in a bottle. There was only one in there, but she relished the idea of having something to take the edge off of her aching wrist and throbbing head. She undid the cap and palmed the remaining capsule while making a mental note to replenish his supply. She quickly replaced the cap and tossed the bottle back in before slamming the door. She didn't know why she couldn't just tell him she wanted some. She was being more macho than usual and she didn't know why. She saw him fumbling with the door and came to his rescue.

"Thanks. Here's yours." He handed her the cup before putting his into the holder and getting into the car. He latched his seat belt and glanced in the mirror before merging onto the street once again. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her pop something into her mouth. Good. She wasn't beyond taking something, even if she didn't ask. He wished she didn't have to hide it from him, though. Did she really feel like it made her appear weak? He always thought she was so strong.

They arrived at the warehouse and surveyed the building before getting out of the car. Windows were broken out and the door had been latched haphazardly by what was assumed to be the previous owners. It stood vacant, making it the perfect location for rapists, junkies, and all the like. Elliot moved from the car first and held the door open as she stepped inside. Their guns drawn, they stood in the doorway to let their eyes adjust to the harsh lighting.

Elliot squinted, willing his eyes to work properly. He wasn't sure who or what was inside and he didn't want to be vulnerable. He waited as Olivia took in her surroundings. The door slammed and he cringed at his stupidity. If someone was inside, he'd just given away that they weren't alone. His breath caught in his chest and he saw Olivia stand still. He didn't have to be near her to tell she was breathing heavily.

The air was thick and made it hard for Olivia to breathe. It felt like a Sauna and she wished she'd worn something lighter. In her haste to get ready for the day, she'd slipped on the first thing she'd seen. She now donned a heavy long-sleeve shirt and black pants. She didn't know why they were even in her closet. She chalked it up to never having any time to rotate her clothing. She heard the door slam shut behind her and whipped her head around to see Elliot cursing himself silently. She turned her head back to see if anyone was coming. She couldn't hear a sound other than her heart pounding in her chest. She took a few calming breaths and moved forward to check out the building from the inside.

Off to the right, there was what looked to be an office with a "do not disturb" sign hanging from the door knob. The window along the wall was dirty, but they could see sparse furniture among the few items inside. On the ground below the window were candy bar wrappers and a few pop cans. It was hard to tell how long they'd been there. They had the potential to be evidence, but it was too soon to tell. They made their way around the outside of the office.

"What kind of warehouse is this? I can't tell from what's left in here. I thought it would be dirtier than this, El." She heard something hit one of the pillars holding the building up and realized she'd kicked a nail. She'd have to be careful.

"Careful, Liv. You don't want one of those through your foot." He bent down and noticed the nail was rust-free. It hadn't been exposed to any moisture. He scratched his forehead and looked around. "I think it was some sort of holding point for paper goods. Household items, things of that nature. Kind of like the middle man of a supply chain. I forget the name but something like Paper Trail or something stupid like that." He pulled at the collar of his shirt. Thankfully, he'd left his jacket in the car. If he was hot, he knew she had to be feeling the same oppressing heat.

"Ugh. If anyone has been or is staying here, they'd have to be crazy. I can hardly stand to be here and it's only been...six minutes? Geez." She pulled on her shirt a few times in an attempt to get some air circulating through her clothes before giving up. The sooner they got through the building, the sooner they could leave. She made her way around the room looking for any signs that anyone had been there recently.

"Heat makes people do crazy things. Not to mention if this guy's on the run he'll be desperate. He's been tipped off. He knows we're looking for him and it's a matter of time before we find his sorry ass. He may be ahead of us but people also do irrational things out of desperation. He could be slipping. I'll check out the office." The door was slightly ajar and he kicked it open with his foot. The building didn't have electricity but he could see enough. Thank heaven for small favors. One of the windows directly above the office had been broken out and let just enough light into the room for him to see uninhibited. He glanced out the window of the office and saw standing in the center of the warehouse, staring up at something. He followed her gaze up to a room upstairs that he hadn't seen before. He saw her make her way to a staircase and resumed his work.

The office was, for the most part, clean. The previous occupants had kept it presentable. File cabinets lined one wall, along with a poster that had yet to be taken down. The heat had made the tape on the back come loose from three of its four sides. He held up one side enough to see what it said, and chuckled. 'Who say a paper cut had to be painful?' The poster had a drawing of a stack of dollar bills on a scale. On the other side of the scale was another stack of bills, only shorter in height. The bottom of the poster had a number on it next to a company logo. He'd been right about the name. He released his hold on the poster and watched the remaining piece of tape give way. The poster floated to the floor and landed next to a chair. It was then that he'd noticed it. If it hadn't been for the stupid poster, he'd never would have seen it. He crouched down and examined the object. Bingo.

Olivia came down the stairs holding her wrist. She had a theory that anytime anyone injured themselves, wherever they were hurt, they were bound to do even more damage to the injured body part. She'd definitely need more drugs now. She made her way to the office and saw Elliot coming out with a plastic bottle in his hand.

"Check this out." He held up the bottle with his thumb and middle finger so that she could read what it said. When the meaning didn't register on Olivia's face, he held it out to her to take.

She shrugged and took the bottle. She was about to give it back and ask for a hint when it donned on her. The date. Milk bottles were always stamped with a date to sell by. Unlike a lot of products, milk was sold in a smaller time frame. The bottle had to have been there within the past week. It could be the break they needed. She gave the bottle back and flexed her fingers. She accidentally knocked the cap off and he bent down to pick it up.

"My thoughts exactly. Told ya'. He's getting sloppy. He's feelin' the heat." He saw her moving her wrist around and frowned. She quickly dropped her hands before he could look up. He'd already seen it, though.

"Let's send the guys out here to take a look. I didn't see anything upstairs. Just a couple of tables. Looked like it was a break room at some point. Nothing substantial. How'd you find it?" She gave up on trying alleviating the ache that had become part of her day. She saw him shake his head and laugh.

"Tell ya' later. Let's just say I got lucky. Let's blow this popsicle stand. Wow, that sounded weird all things considered. You, my friend, are going to go sit in the nice, air conditioned car. Two blocks away is a gas station where I will go inside and get you something to take for your wrist and don't argue with me, Liv. I know it's bothering you and I also know you took my last pain reliever before you hid the evidence back in the glove box. I know your tricks; I use 'em all the time. Come on." He grinned but immediately wiped the expression off his face when he saws her scowl.

"Yeah well if someone could drive I wouldn't need any. Ever think of that?" She huffed and walked ahead of him toward the door. She resisted the urge to let the spring on the door send it flying into his face. She held it with her foot and let it go a moment later when she heard him approaching.

"Whoa, what was that?" He jogged to catch up with her retreating form. He know how she prided herself on being strong and he knew better than to pester her. If he'd just let her be, she'd come to him when the time was right. He kicked a rock and sent it flying across the parking lot. Damnit his stupid mouth.

"Nothing, damnit." She let out a ragged breath and stood next to the car, waiting for him to unlock it so that she could get in. They'd forgotten to crack the windows. Just great. She toed the gravel beneath her feet, not wanting to look at his hurt expression. She didn't mean to get snappy. Sometimes the urge just hit her and she couldn't check herself. She heard the door click and lifted the handle, feeling a jolt of pain go up her arm. She hissed and hoped he didn't hear her as she pulled the door open all the way and got inside before fumbling with the seatbelt. She looked up and noticed his attention was on the road ahead. She felt like a heel.

Elliot heard her sharp intake of breath and stopped himself from looking over. He was the one who had gotten them into this mess. He wasn't about to make her feel worse. He bit back the question nagging at him. She clearly wasn't okay and wasn't ready to admit it. He was her partner, after all. He knew the answer already. Next question.

She stared out the window as the cars along the side of the road passed in a blur. Just as he'd said, two blocks down the road was a gas station.

Elliot hurried inside and picked out a bottle of extra strength pain reliever and two bottles of water. He juggled them in his arms while he gave the counter clerk the exact change. He nudged the door open with his hip and walked back to the car. He couldn't see past the glare on the front windshield but he knew she hadn't moved since he'd gone in. He got inside and did his lap belt before putting the bottles of water into the cup holders.

"Here." He opened the box and twisted the cap before taking out the ball of cotton and placing it in the box. He tossed the box in the back and shook out two capsules. He replaced the cap and put the bottle in the glove box next to the empty one. He hoped she couldn't see his smirk. He couldn't help himself. It was cute in a way. She'd always been the one to take the last of something and leave the empty container sitting there until he threw it away. Unlike all the times before, this time she'd done it to hide her so-called weak moment from him. He saw her turn in her seat and placed the pills in her hand before unscrewing the cap of her water.

"Thanks." She popped the pills in her mouth and took the bottle he was holding out to her. She downed a third of the water before handing it back. She cautiously looked at him, unsure of what she would see in his eyes. She smiled slightly, seeing that he bore no hard feelings. She watched him put the car into gear and pull onto the street. It would be easier to say the words if he wasn't looking at her. She chewed on her lower lip and hesitated before speaking. "Hey, Elliot. Um…good catch back there." She didn't want to elaborate on what she meant. It was hard for her to talk about certain things, especially her own well-being. She hoped he caught her double meaning.

"Well, they don't call me a detective for nothing." Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her stifle a laugh, not yet ready to admit she was wrong in snapping at him. It was her own way of apologizing, he knew. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel and thought about how they'd come to the point where they hardly had to speak at all. He knew what she meant before she even said the words. She could have come out and thanked him for noticing that she needed him. To the lay person, she was congratulating him on his fine detective skills. Any normal person would take it as a pat on the back on a job well done in finding an empty milk bottle that had been kicked aside. In her own subtle way; her own strong way she was telling him how much she appreciated him noticing that she was too stubborn to ask for help. He held the wheel with one hand and pushed two buttons on the console to let the hot air escape.

The day wasn't even half over. The perp may be ahead of them, but they were gaining ground. When the results came back, they'd find out if he'd been in that warehouse. They had more to go on than they did less than twenty-four hours ago. The car was quiet on the way back to the station. Neither wanted to break the silence. They both still needed time to cool off. It that was even possible. They knew they were okay but they also knew not to push their luck.

"Alright, what have we got?" Cragen eyed his detectives carefully. It was one of those days. He could always tell when something was amiss and for a while he had a feeling it was coming. Both Olivia and Elliot were looking away from him as if expecting a reprimand. He had no doubts they needed to work it out between themselves and let it go for the time being. He just hoped he wouldn't regret it. He waited for them to speak. Elliot glanced at Olivia and seeing she wasn't in the mood, started.

"Uh…sorry. Lost track of my thoughts. We got a tip the perp had been seen near an abandoned factory, hence the crew being there now. It's the only lead we have that has panned out to anything. All of our so-called witnesses don't know where he went. Ten bucks says they remember and just can't say." Cragen nodded in agreement.

"Makes sense. We have to remember who we're dealing with here. Guy's on the run, he probably knows people in the business. Friend of a friend sort of thing. Tread carefully with this one. Something tells me he doesn't have as many connections, though, since he's still in the city. He could have been long gone by now, but I'd be willing to bet once he knows we're getting close it'll go to hell in a hand basket. He's only been at this, as far as we know, for a little over a year. The only other lead we've had was over six months ago and that one turned up nothing. We also need to remember we're dealing with traumatized victims and their parents. I don't need to tell you this, but time is of the essence. The guy hasn't escalated to kidnapping, but it's only a matter of time. If we stay on him we'll be that much closer to preventing him from that happening." He took a sip of his coffee and thought a moment. They were gaining ground, he thought. Once the lab results came back along with any prints or evidence, he'd be able to direct the case in another direction. Hopefully, that lead to where the perp would be. He knew it was a lot to ask.

"So, what now? We just sit and wait? I don't like it. He could be out there with another little girl as we speak and all we have is a milk bottle. Right, he could have been there. He most likely was there. The warehouse hasn't been vacant very long so the evidence inside is probably from him. That doesn't tell us anything, though. It just says he was there. Do we have anything on this guy?" She went to cross her arms and thought better of it and held her wrist as she leaned forward.

"Olivia, I know you're frustrated but it's all we have right now. You know how it goes. Yeah, we're going to wait. I'm not going to send you two out there again until we have something solid telling us where he's going. There are plenty of abandoned warehouses and vacant buildings in the city. Find out why he chose that one. Do what you have to do. Link this guy to a general area and I'll be more than happy to give you the go-ahead to move on it." He watched her fumble with the door before yanking it over. He hard a muffled curse before the door shut behind her once again. He braced himself for the slam and when it didn't come, he was surprised. He knew she wasn't happy with the idea, but the brass was on him about wasting the city's money. He hated politics but he didn't have a choice.

"What should I do? I know we have to let the evidence speak but who knows when that will be? Want me to talk to Huang? Maybe get a profile for this guy? I know we don't have much to go with. Maybe once we have a location we can get with the other precinct and find out who or what this guy is targeting." Elliot stood, stretching. He glanced back through the glass and saw Olivia sitting at her desk. She was talking heatedly on the phone to some poor, unsuspecting person on the other end. God be with whomever it was.

"Do it. Talk to Huang. For kicks, talk to the precinct over there and get a list of any offenders in the area. See if there are any schools nearby. Parks, daycares, anything that this guy might be targeting. The other victims were either at the park or leaving school. So, check on that first. The victims are all spread out but maybe we can get something out of the location of the warehouse. Now, tell me what's going on with your partner." He cleared his throat, getting Elliot's attention.

"Cap, I don't know. She said she didn't get much sleep last night. Noisy neighbors. I'm staying out of her way. If she wants to talk, she'll talk. Whatever is going on won't affect our work." He looked Cragen in the eyes, letting him know he meant every word. He'd talk to Huang on the phone and work from his desk where he could keep an eye on her. He opened the door to leave when Cragen started to speak again.

"See that it doesn't. Oh, and Elliot, have her hand looked at." He saw Elliot raise his eyebrows and hesitate before leaving. Olivia would fight him tooth and nail but she was too pigheaded to admit when she wasn't 100. He shook his head and watched the door close. He didn't envy Elliot for that job.

Elliot let the door shut behind him and approached their desks. He saw Olivia was still on the phone and looking angrier as the seconds passed. She was making sweeping motions with her hands and pointing every which way, all signs that she wasn't happy. He sat down and dialed the familiar number while he took out a notepad and pen. He heard it ring a few times before the Doctor picked up. After briefing him on the case, he jotted notes, all the while stealing glances across the desk. Had he not been looking, her slamming the phone down might have startled him. He glared at her and held up his hands in mock surrender as he cradled the receiver between his neck and shoulder. Once he hung up, he could feel the temperature drop and his angry partner's temper, surprisingly, did nothing to heat up the room.

"So?" She tore off the paper in front of her, bit by bit, until the bottom half was gone.

"So…what?" He knew what she was getting at but she was being pissy and he wanted her to know he wasn't going to play that game.

"Elliot, you know what I'm talking about. What did Cragen do? Order you to babysit me? Should I be made to sit in the corner for not using my inside voice?" She huffed and threw the last piece of paper on the desk next to the others before sweeping them away onto the floor.

"You know how hard it is to talk to you when you're like this? I can't say anything right. You jump down my throat. If you must know, I asked him what the game plan was. He asked if everything was alright with you. I told him you hadn't gotten much sleep that you were fine which, after your little tantrum I'm not sure that you are. Why are you getting so worked up over this case, Liv? How is it any different than the ones before?" With each word, he leaned in closer, looking her in the eye.

"My little tantrum? Excuse me if I don't want to just wait around while this asshole takes another child! Jesus, Elliot, when did it become a crime to want to do my job? You know, I knew you would do this. I knew you'd saunter in there and the minute I left you'd turn into this macho man and tell him how I'm just being this emotional female cop!" She balled up her fist and pounded it on the desk before letting out a curse.

"Alright, that's enough, damnit. I tried to play nice. I'm sorry for this morning but this is ridiculous. I'm sorry we got off on the wrong foot this morning. I was angry that you were late and I took it out on you, wrongly. It wasn't your fault. But I am not to blame for the rest of the day, Liv. It's always the same anymore. Two steps forward, five steps back. When are we going to just work? Just work without petty arguments and childish behavior?" He threw up his hands and sat back in his chair. Leaning back, he placed his hands behind his head and studied her.

"You're right. Okay, I was mad at you for acting like I can't make a freaking mistake but I dropped it. But, Elliot, I don't know what's going on anymore. I feel like you treat me like the bad guy and if I had even a clue as to what I could do to fix it, I would. Do you think I enjoy this? I just…I hate feeling so powerless to stop the inevitable. That's what it is, isn't it? We just sit around and wait for a victim when we don't have any evidence. We just sit here and let some child, some…some….little kid become a victim and for what? Because we couldn't put the pieces of the puzzle together? I can't do that, Elliot. I can't be the one who let a kid get raped or worse because I didn't try my damndest to prevent it. I can't and I won't. So, screw you and screw Cragen if you think I would and screw the damn politics. You know where they can stick their budget? Up their godforsaken, holier than thou asses. I'll follow up these so-called leads and on my off-time I will be looking for that bastard and God help him when I find him." She abruptly rose from her chair and stood. She walked out of the squad room and out the door, leaving Elliot to sort through what she'd just said.

"Shit!" He patted his pockets and jumped up to follow her outside. Smiling to himself, he pulled out a wadded Kleenex he'd left in his pant pocket and held it up as he neared the car.

"Fine. Laugh all you want. I forget you had the keys." She mumbled and kicked an invisible rock with her foot. She hated it when he got the last laugh. She was so pissed off she had to get out of there. She was so tired. Tired of seeing all the little faces in her dreams and their parents' angry expressions. She was tired of getting close and losing a victim through her fingertips at the very last second. She was tired of it all and lately she didn't know how to get a grip on anything. She was losing herself and it scared her because she was dragging Elliot down with her. What she'd just said in the room caught up with her and she gasped. She hadn't said anything hurtful, really. She was just frustrated. He knew that, right?

"Surrender. See my white flag? I surrender. I'll go wherever you want to go." He unlocked the door and hit the locks, letting her in. He looked over and she was still standing there. He sighed. She was more pissed than he thought. He didn't take offense to anything she'd said. He knew she had a lot of pent up emotion and it was only a matter of time before she let it out. Thankfully he'd been the only one in the room at the time. He patted the seat next to him and told her to get in.

"I'm trying to think of the most expensive place I know. After the day I've had, you're buying. Lucky for you all I don't know any because I can't afford any. You choose." She got in and shut the door.

"Don't kill the messenger, but we have to make a stop first." He bit his lip, not wanting to tell her where.

"Oh, Elliot I know it already quit being a scared little boy. Did you think I was going to pounce on you? Just drive." She shook her head and laughed at his expression.

"Wh…how'd you know? And more importantly, why aren't you mad?" He glanced at her, shocked.

"I'm a woman. Women's intuition. Oh, and before you two talk about me, in the future, you should close the door." She grinned slightly. The look on his face was priceless.

"If I knew you'd be that easy to convince I'd have tolasked you earlier." He glanced back at the road and let out a sigh of relief. Sometimes they both just needed to vent.

"Nice save." She chuckled and stared out the window as a small portion of the weight on her shoulders lifted.

"The drug store or lunch?" Elliot turned to his partner, taking in her now-in-a-cast wrist. He still couldn't believe he'd caused it, and he doubted he'd ever hear the end of it. Guilt overwhelmed him, making him feel like a complete ass. He'd been onto her all day and making matters worse, he'd caused a fracture in her wrist. He wasn't earning any brownie points in the friend category and lately he wasn't sure that he was in the partner category, either. Strike two, Elliot. What else was there? Nah, he wouldn't go there. Not that he didn't want to. Occasionally.

"Lunch, then drug store. Not that I'll need to take anything. I think I'll just sleep it off." She shrugged and watched him drive. She'd let him off the hook. He was never on it to begin with. They'd just hit a rough patch and hell if she knew how to get out of it.

"Liv, you sleep off a headache. Not a broken wrist. If we can't chase any leads, we may as well milk our lunch time. What do you say?" He gave her a cheesy grin raised his eyebrows.

"Fine. I hate sitting around. I'd rather be out here." She let out a long sigh.

"The last thing I want to do is have the phone glued to my ear all day but I still have to get in touch with the precinct near the warehouse and see if they know anything about our perp. Cragen's orders." He drove to the diner and parked.

"You know, I think there's a drug store near the warehouse. Wouldn't hurt to just, you know, ask around after we get my drugs." She definitely was using her wrist to her advantage. She felt bad, but only a little. After all, it was sort of his idea.

"Cragen would love that. We'll just tell him they called it into the wrong one. And hide the bag so he doesn't know exactly where the 'right one' is, okay?" He laughed and the two drove in silence.

An hour later, Olivia and Elliot had eaten and had picked up her medication. The only thing left to do was make a quick trip to the precinct that happened to be in the neighborhood of the drug store, and head back. As Elliot pulled into the lot, he hesitated before finally giving in. If it turned out to be useful, they'd be able to justify their little jaunt.

"Nice digs. Want to transfer here?" He looked around, surveying the mismatched desks and chairs.

"No, thanks. I'll never complain about the 1-6 again." She caught herself as she started to trip on a piece of cracked tile.

"Oh, sorry about that, ma'am. I knew I forgot something. I was supposed to get someone to fix that, like yesterday." The desk sergeant looked to be a few days over thirty.

"Detective Benson. This is my partner, Detective Stabler. We're here to speak to someone in the sex crimes division." She flashed her badge and replaced it.

"That would be Detective Jackson. He's around the corner about two desks to your right. You can't miss him." He whispered the last sentence, not wanting to get into trouble.

"Okay, thanks." Olivia led the way. She wasn't sure how she'd be able to know who the infamous detective was, but she didn't like the way the sergeant acted.

"Who do you think he is, Liv? That guy over there sporting the 'whose-ass-should-i-kick-now' face?" He stepped in time with Olivia.

"Detective Jackson? We're here from the 16th. Special Victims Unit. Is there somewhere we can talk?" She looked around, hoping to find an interrogation room of sorts.

"Depends." His response was muffled behind a newspaper dated two days ago.

"On?" She was growing impatient. Her wrist hurt and she was grouchy.

"On what you have to tell me." He smirked and put down his paper before trailing his eyes over her small frame. He liked what he saw, clearly.

"Look, buddy, all we want to do is ask you some questions. Why the third degree?" Elliot came around beside the man's desk and looked him in the eye. It was the equivalent of 'back off'.

"Because I get a half hour in my shitty day to myself and maybe I don't want to cater to a couple know-it-all's, that's why. You're not going to leave unless you get what you came here for so just go in the office over there and I'll be right there. Satisfied?" He huffed and folded his paper.

"More than you'll ever know." She walked off, rolling her eyes.

"Nice guy. I think he likes you." He heard her snort a response.

"What's so important you came over here? Why not just pick up the phone? You do have one of those at the 1-6?" He sat down and gestured slightly for the two opposing chairs crammed against the wall.

"We were in the neighborhood. You know anything about the old warehouse on the corner? My partner and I were there this morning looking around. We have reason to believe that our perp has been there. We're trying to nail him before he splits. Oh, yeah, and there are kids involved. That may spark your interest." Elliot tried to gauge the man's reaction. His eyes were on Olivia, not once moving.

"Unless you want a sexual harassment suit brought against you, I suggest you find something more interesting to look at." She'd had enough with this bozo.

"Nothing else I care to look at. Look around, detective. There hasn't been a female here in over six years. We work all day, go home to our wives in the wee hours in the morning. We haven't had a good lay in months. So, yeah, I find you interesting. What's wrong? You don't get enough attention at your precinct? You have to flaunt your shit in here? Let me tell you something, your petty little suit wouldn't get farther than the door. So, I suggest you shut your pretty little mouth before I do it for you. Oh, wait, looks like someone already did." He sneered and leaned in, within a few inches of her face. He could see her face go flush. He enjoyed seeing her squirm. Just for kicks, he ran his finger down the buttons of her shirt. He could feel her flinch and back into the wall.

"Back the fuck off, asshole." Elliot was up in a flash, pulling the detective from his partner. He was breathing heavy. He couldn't believe the balls on the detective. He'd just sat there and let it happen. What kind of man was he? Letting that bastard even get near her like that. He pushed Jackson against the wall and pointed to the door. Once Olivia was out, he shut the door.

Once the door was shut, Olivia let out a sigh of relief. She was still reeling from what had just happened. She could hear Elliot telling Jackson off. A part of her was angry for Elliot stepping in, but she was more scared than anything. The moment she felt uneasy, she should have walked out. She couldn't understand why she didn't. She was broken from her thoughts when the door slammed back open.

"Let's go." Instead of walking ahead, Elliot motioned for Olivia to go first and followed her out of the squad room and into the parking lot . He grabbed her gently by her good wrist and turned her around.

"Thanks. I don't know what happened. I should have just walked out. I can still feel him on me." She shuddered at the mental image of him touching her.

"Jesus, I'm the one who should be sorry. That asshole was staring at you the whole time. I should have done something sooner. It shouldn't have even gotten to that point. Are you okay?" He detected something in her posture. She was tense, and rightly so. She'd just about gotten groped by another detective.

"I'm fine. Just a little shaken up. God, look at me." She stared down at her hands. Even the one encased in a cast was trembling.

"Come here." He slipped his arm around her as they walked to the car. The tension left them and was replaced by a sick feeling of repulsion.

"Did you get anything out of him? Spare me any nauseating details, please. Did he give you anything on the warehouse or the perp?" She should have felt odd about his gesture, but she found it to be comforting.

"He didn't know much. I got a few names he's tied to other child molestations in the area. Other than that, nada. Nothing has been reported at any of the schools or parks nearby, either. Looks like our guy isn't from here. Either that, or he's not a practicing pervert.

"Great. Guess we should head back. Thanks again for in there. And for even going in. I'm sorry I dragged you out here." She moved to let him unlock her and squeezed his hand gently before the hand on her shoulder fell away. She missed the contact already. It had been the only connection to him she'd had lately.

"I was the one driving. I could have just headed back. I think we're both emotional, hot, and on edge. Come on. I'll help you call around." He smiled at her, warmly. Maybe they were headed in the right direction after all. In spite of the relief that they were on better terms, he couldn't help but wonder how long it would last. He hated that he even thought that way. He pushed the thought aside and enjoyed the moment for what it was.