A/N: The muse wants me to torture and maim and I refuse to do so. While we reach an agreement, this something other jumped from and center. The title is self-explanatory, so mayhaps you'd like to take your time to read this…
X xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx X
"Pick up the phone, pick up the phone… come on, come on… pick up the phone, please…."
Voice mail picked up. Again. Third time in a row. Disgusted, Flack closed the phone and threw it on the dash while he continued driving like a mad man with a mission, blue lights crossing his face, his expression unreadable save for the cold blue rage in his eyes. "Officer presumed down" dispatch had said, and she wasn't answering her phone. He wished he could tell for sure if she wasn't answering the phone at all or just not answering his calls. Either way, he was screwed, and he deserved every second of agony, stuck in a traffic that did not seem to care for wailing sirens or remorseful souls.
He was a bastard, had behaved like a bastard and deserved to suffer like a bastard. He wished he could blame Ivan Medina for the whole thing, or blame her for that matter, but deep down he knew the only person to blame for this mess was himself.
He just hoped it wasn't too late to say he was sorry.
Three days ago his life had been as perfect as any other cop in a big city with a high crime index and a low police budget. But he was happy with the way things were, as happy as a man coming to an empty apartment after working 14 hours straight and having nothing but junk food to eat all day long could be. Nothing some ESPN sports, a couple of cold beers and fresh hot pizza wouldn't cure.
Andrea Medina, a blind date and a black dress had set his world upside down.
Ivan Medina had wanted to press charges against him for police brutality and harassment. She had told him to back off, that he was doing race profiling and doing it all wrong, that evidence did not support his gut feeling this time around, but Flack had simply known the man had beaten his wife to death… and that he was going to get away with murder because there hadn't found anything to connect him to Andrea's death. The man was guilty, Flack could almost smell it on him, and had tried to push him to see if Medina would break under pressure. The only thing that had broken, however, had been his composure, and she had to ask a couple of uniforms to restrain him and remove him from the room.
Publicly, Ivan Medina was given this huge apology, the old "given the circumstances we had to rule you out as a suspect" typical bullshit line. Privately, Gerrard had ripped Flack a new one. She had been gracious enough not to say a single word, but her eyes told a different story, the "I-told-you-so" loud and clear in them. And beyond that, disappointment: the man she looked up to had fallen from grace and she was having a hard time coming to terms with it. To Flack, it brought more anger, and remorse was quickly shoved away to make room for the fuel needed to keep his righteous fury going.
He remembered she had been a tad giddy when she finally confided she had been set up on a blind date with a paramedic who had recently moved in next door to her best friend. Candidly, she had confessed not having had a date in the past five or six months, and had asked him for advice on what to wear to an "expo-and-dinner" date. He'd joked saying the guy would probably be more interested in what she wasn't wearing and she had taken offense. In the end, he'd told her to wear a dress, even if it was just for the sake of doing something out of the routine.
Everything had gone wrong that day; too many crime scenes, too little time, the usual shit. And instead of going home at 6 to shower and change and primp herself for her date, she was rushing to the precincts stalls to get ready and running late as it was. He'd wished her good luck before turning back to paperwork backlogged a couple of months and the last thing he had expected was to see her again before the next day, so he was surprised when she came rushing in to retrieve her keys from the desk.
She was wearing a dress. She was wearing a black dress that barely grazed her knees and a neckline that plunged on this side of tasteful and was probably illegal in a couple of southern states. She had endured the catcalls and wolf whistles and Levy's sexist comment on how she ought to dress like that for interrogation and life would be so much easier for all of them. She left then, leaving behind the sound of her chuckle and the flipped bird sent Levy's way. Marion Franks had commented she had looked good enough to consider going butch to get a piece of that, and Flack agreed with her. Truth was, he wouldn't mind not just having a piece, but all of her, and the knowledge was so lighting striking that paperwork was still stacked up to the same height even though he had not left the precinct until after ten.
Andrea Medina's murder scene was enough to make a couple of cops green around the gills and for her to cast her sight aside whenever possible. It had also spur his knight-in-shinning-armor complex, angered that he hadn't been on time to save the damsel in distress in this fairy tale with an unhappily never after ending. He had quickly put together two and two, traditional Latino family, abused wife, silent walls built around the whole thing, husband did it… and his math had not added up. Something had been missing, something other than several of her vital organs, and he couldn't find it, the CSIs couldn't find it, not even Adam's tech toys could find it. And he still felt enraged over the whole thing… the husband had done it (IF the husband had done it, a small voice in his head said, a small voice that sounded a lot like her) and he had been forced to apologize to him! He was going to be limited to desk duty as soon as the Medina case was closed, grounded for a couple of days until he showed enough regret and was considered "safe" for the rest of the world to set him on the loose.
So he had a bad temper. He was Irish with a dash of Italian there, so sue him. He was a cop dealing with scum day in and day out and every other day in between, he was entitled to his temper. Most cops did not survive the job without one, it was temper and adrenaline and Lord knew what else pumping through their veins that made them come back home not too worse for the wear after facing the wrong side of a gun while on duty. Cases like this, cases where the weaker member of the family ended up dead, always angered him, and he took that feeling with him until he'd found the guilty party, and then he made such guilty party know, in no uncertain terms, that he was pissed off and it was their fault. And he made an effort not to pour all the rage unto them. He let go of it later, much later, when he got around to hitting a punching bag, hitting the court with the boys, hitting the booze, hitting the sack with a perfect stranger… or simply hitting the wall until his fingers bled and he felt as if all the fury inside him dripped out alongside his blood.
He'd slipped. Simple as that. He'd promised himself he was not going to mention the way she looked the previous night, and those were exactly the first words that tumbled out of his mouth as soon as he saw her. He used his best poker face when she told him the date had tanked so he wouldn't show he was somewhat relieved to hear that. She mentioned she was done with dating for good; he simply asked her out, surprising both of them.
It had been a mistake. He was man enough to recognize that, but he'd admit it only to himself. He shouldn't had gone the racial route when interviewing Ivan Medina, and he should have known when to leave good enough alone. But he wanted the man to be guilty, he wanted to give some sort of justice to Andrea Medina, he wanted out of that place where he couldn't see beyond his anger.
They had gone back to the crime scene twice already and they found as much as they had found the first time they'd done so: nothing. It seemed as though Andrea Medina had been struck dead by a higher power who left no trace of itself behind, and it irked him beyond measure, firstly because he didn't believe that was possible, and secondly, because if it was, he believed there were other people out there that deserved to be struck like that way more than a poor Hispanic woman trapped inside a violent marriage.
Frustration had lent more fuel to the anger already boiling inside him. When the beat boys came back empty handed once more, he was in dire need of an outlet before he self-combusted. She had read the whole story in his stance, and had tried to offer some consolation just by placing her hand on his back. He'd spun around as if stabbed, batting her hand away. She apologized for startling him, which in turn infuriated him more; he needed confrontation.
She offered words of solace, thus offering herself as the sacrificial lamb to be slaughtered on the altar of his enraged impotence.
What he's said to her, he didn't dare remember. She just looked at him with her eyes open wide and a nervous flutter of eyelashes and told him to stop making fun of her. It took him several moments to finally convince her he seriously meant it, that he was interested. She smiled, a smile that lit up her whole face, and had lowered her eyes in a gesture he found adorable and coquettish at the same time and he wondered for the fiftieth millionth time already how come he hadn't notice just how good she made him feel. It took almost of his will not to bring his hand up to her face.
Nonetheless she had seen the intention and had flinched. The minuscule part of his rationale that had yet to succumb to his temper felt like punching himself for letting her think he'd actually hit her, but was quickly silenced by yet another layer of annoyance, for how dare she think he'd do it? She had just said, in that little gesture, that he was no better than Ivan Medina or any other abusive male out there.
And since he'd never hurt her physically, he did the next worst thing possible in his book: he insulted her by questioning her work, asking if flirting with the suspects worked better than his own style… or if it had helped with the higher-ups when she'd taken her detective exam.
He'd expected to feel the sting of her slap on his cheek, or even the burn of her punch in his stomach, but instead he got the silence treatment, the disappointed look in her face, the shine of tears brimming in her eyes, and all that was a thousand times worse. She moved to walk past him, and he called after her, not with apologies but with more taunts about her not being tough enough to take it like a true cop. As he watched her walk away from the crime scene, from the car, from him, he realized he had finally become his father's son, and he felt all the anger just wash away from him. He'd looked up, wanting to apologize, but she'd disappeared from his sight.
His and everybody else's, for that matter, for no one had seen her again after that.
Flack barely avoided being totaled between a garbage truck and a brick wall, and he winced at the scrapping sound coming from the wounded bender but kept on going for another eternity until he finally reached the abandoned bodega where reports of a female officer being injured had been received.
He was out of the car, barely throwing the shift on park, not wasting time with Kevlar and leaving the door open and the key on the ignition. He saw the paramedics waiting by, and he heard the sound of gunfire in a rapid staccato beat, exclamation points every time fire was exchanged. He moved behind a patrol, cursing not having brought his Kevlar with him, too late to go back to retrieve it. He was about to ask what the hell was going on when a rain of shattered glass and bullets surrounded them, forcing him and the other police officer to crawl under the patrol car, guns drawn, waiting for a moment to look for better shelter and better angles and better intel on what was happening.
Then he heard them. Louder, somber, more ominous. Two shots. He knew enough about weapons to realize those last two had been shot with a different gun. And he waited for something, but nothing other than the sound of silence was to be heard. When it became clear that nothing else would be heard, he crawled from underneath the car and joined the others who were headed for the door. He could see Danny and he could hear Mac and he could feel Levy's gaze burning on his back, but from her… from her he was getting nothing at all.
X xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx X
A/N: Somewhere during the Jurassic area of my days in junior high, you could buy books called "Choose your own adventure", where you could read the story with whatever ending you wanted just by making choices ("you want Elder to find Molly, turn to page 17; you want Molly to find Elder, go to page 3"). In this case, you'll have to tell who you want her to be, and if you want her to live or die, and I'll give you the ending you want…