"You forgot something." Olivia's voice rang out from behind him. Fin turned around slowly, hesitating ever so slightly. She flicked a photograph at him, and he caught it between his fingertips. He stared down at the image of Claire Rinato and forced himself to harden the expression on his face.
"Yeah, so what?" He shrugged, nonchalantly, not really expecting a response, but instinctively clutching the photo tighter. He would never admit it to anyone else, but he had kept it for the last six years, taped to the underside of his desk drawer. It was a constant reminder that what he did every day made a difference in a world filled with depraved indifference. How the hell she knew it had been there was another story.
"You ever hear back from her?" Olivia's words were casual, her eyes boring into his back, willing him to turn around.
Exhaling slowly, he turned toward her. "Couple times," he answered casually. "She's clean now, has a good job, a nice place to live."
"So you still keep in touch."
He leaned up against the locker door, noticing for the first time how the squad room had cleared out for the night. "I hear from her now and then," he admitted quietly.
"You know, she probably wouldn't still be around if it weren't for you. Most people would have given up." Brushing aside a stack of paperwork, Olivia perched on the edge of her desk. She tucked one foot underneath her and braced herself against her desk chair with the other.
"Yeah," he admitted quietly. "I know."
Olivia stared straight ahead, her eyes never meeting his. "I'm sure she's glad you didn't give up on her."
There was a moment of silence as the words sank in. "What's that supposed to mean?" Fin's eyes narrowed suspiciously, his eyes searching for hers. She shifted slightly, avoiding his gaze.
"Just wondering how it's working out for you," Olivia finally answered.
"How what's working out for me?" Fin's voice was gruff.
"Running." As the single word rolled off her tongue, Olivia watched his reaction carefully. She could read Elliot in an instant, could tell by his every movement how each word would affect him. She knew when to push, when to hold back. But she was dealing with Fin, and she knew if she sent him over the edge, there was no going back.
His shoulders stiffened instantly, and he stood upright. Crossing over beside her, he glared down at her. "You accusin' me of running from my problems?" he snapped.
"You denying it?" Olivia shot back, drawing herself up a little straighter and throwing back her shoulders defiantly.
He avoided her question. "Who the hell do you think I'm runnin' from?"
"Who the hell do you think you're letting down?"
He stared back at her in silence, the expression on his face clearly showing the internal struggle he was so desperate to hide. She felt the familiar rush of satisfaction as his defensive walls began to crumble.
"Nobody," he admitted softly. "There's nobody left to let down."
She allowed herself to really look at him for the first time and was startled to see the torn, pained expression in his eyes. "Fin, you're a good partner. What happened with Chester isn't your fault."
"Yeah, and everyone else?" he scoffed.
She furrowed her brow. "What do you mean everyone else?" As soon as the words left her mouth, it hit her. She leaned back, stunned. "This isn't just about Chester, is it?" Her voice was quiet, contemplative.
He shook his head. "You know my partner in narcotics took a bullet that was meant for me. It's why I came to SVU. I didn't want to let him down again."
"I'm sorry. I didn't realize…"
"Nah, it's cool." He shrugged it off casually.
She turned toward him, her eyes searching his for a response she wasn't sure she was ready to hear. "Fin, does this have anything to do with what happened…" Olivia bit her bottom lip and fought to control the slight tremble in her voice. "What happened in the basement wasn't your fault, Fin."
The expression that crossed his face was pained. "Cragen trusted me to take care of you. That bastard tried to rape you while I stood in line waiting for a damn TB shot."
The memory of that night was still vivid in her head, and fresh tears sprang to her eyes. Olivia lowered her eyes, afraid that he might be able to see right through them to a truth she wasn't quite ready to admit. "But you did make it in time, Fin."
"No, Olivia. I didn't." He closed his eyes, listening to the sound of her shallow breathing quicken ever so slightly. It was all the answer he needed. When he opened his eyes again, she had drawn her feet up underneath her, resting her chin lightly on her knees.
"Look, Fin." She hesitated, lifting her head ever so slightly. "I'm fine. Nothing happened."
"The expression on your face says otherwise." His voice was soft, void of accusation--simply stating what she was desperate to deny.
Olivia raised a tear-stained face to meet his questioning eyes. "I just need to work. I need to do my job."
Fin nodded, staring straight ahead. He silently accepted her words as an acknowledgement for those he knew she would never be able to voice out loud. "You ever gonna tell him?"
Olvia was quiet for a long time before she finally spoke. "I'm not sure I can."
Despite everything that had taken place between them this week, Fin knew Elliot all too well. For once, he understood what Olivia never could, and it scared the hell out of him. Because it meant that a relationship and partnership that he thought could survive anything could still be shaken.
"You know he'd be there for you." You know it's tearing him up inside that you won't trust him with the truth, he finished silently. Tearing him up so much that he had pushed away Fin, wanting so much to believe that Chester's inability to confide in Fin was different from Olivia's inability to trust him with the truth of her attack. But silently acknowledging that it wasn't.
"I know," she admitted quietly.
"You up for a drink?"
Slowly, she raised her eyes, finally daring to meet his. "That depends," she cracked with a small smile. "You coming back on Monday?"
He helped her to her feet. "You buyin'?"
"Sure," she agreed with a light-hearted smile.
He started toward the door. "Then you've got a deal."