Chapter 23: Smile, so I can hear you.

"Five Feds. " Cragen said looking at the report files. The New York Times, USA Today and Post sat open on the dining table. Headlines blared for the continued ability of the Federal Bomber eluding law enforcement.

"Your squad might as well move to the DC hospital." The Chief of Detective's chuckled.

"I take the injury of each one of my officers. Going forward, there will be no more sacrifice from my team."

"Not many more to sacrifice."

"Not a laughing matter, sir."

"No of course not. One PP supports you and your team. Whatever you need, let me know." The Chief said, already distracted by his secretary.

"Appreciate that Stan." The hollow tone of the line disconnecting left Cragen only to shut his eyes. "Why do we bother."

"Why do we bother what?"

"Why do we bother to even try to keep doing our jobs?" He motioned for Liz to join him at the table. "Can I get you a drink?"

"Bourbon. But the wagon tells me a diet Coke." She dropped her purse in the chair next to her. Don motioned for the waiter. "Probably should add a salad and bowl of clam chowder."

"So you want to settle in then." Don said with a smile. She soaked it in.

"That's the first real smile I have had all day."

"Its the first I have had in months." Don said.

"What can I do you for?" The waitress asked. Don gave a stunned look. Liz now smiled and took the lead.

"Miss, " She moved her head so that she could get a better look at the name of the brass name badge. Liz then reached into her purse and pulled out her own. She laid it open on the table. "Sugarman. You might want to reapproach your ordering taking. Or are you trying to get yourself arrested for solicitation?" Liz gazed at the stunned woman.

"I huh, I just wanted to know what he, you both would like to to order." Her eyes were glued to the the judge's badge.

"Relax." Cragen smiled at the stupefied woman. "She loves to show her muscle, but it is just show."

"Yeah, I just need a good..." Liz smiled. "I'll have the chowder and a caesar salad."

"No you don't." The waitress replied. She reached and pulled the menu from Liz's hands. Turning to Cregan he surrender his willingly. "I'll I have something out to you in a bit and I don't disappoint."

The septic smell of the room began to fill his nostrils. The smell of death. He remembered it from when he was a boy. Watching his father die slowly in the bedroom at the top of the stairs. His father's pain. He carries it with him. He allows the pain to surface when he is faced with the horrors of life. Dark, dank smell of death.

His fresh, starched white shirt. His armor. He keeps extras nearby in case the day is particularly cruel. His black tie noosed around his neck. It no longer felt tight. The bandage that covered his "flesh wound" scraped agains his black rimmed glasses. Another thing he and the beauty shared. Hers the glass of justice, his the imaginary shield from the world.

His leg damaged. Bird legs. Thin, long scrawny sticks that held him upright. Finn so graciously points out is physical condition or lack there of regularly. A flaw in their relationship. HE would never point out Finn's lack of intellect.

The flowers that were scattered around the room in various uplifting vases were beginning to show their age. Unlike the beauty that laid peacefully in the bed. She would remain forever young and forever beautiful. His love of watching her walk into their squad room was only over shadowed by his desire to match intellectual whits. He relished in the occasional win. It meant she would try again.

He knew he could never have her. She was out of his league and also tied to another. He found solace in that. He believed in love. The love she had was true and genuine.

'Pasty.' She tried moving her tongue to wet her mouth. 'Tube. So, I am incubated?' Assessment.' She sent triggers to her feet. 'Numb, jello.' Her arms and fingers next. 'Numb and prickly.' Her mind stats to smile. 'Pizza. I smell pizza.'

"Elliot, what did the doctor say?" Kathy wished she could cleanse her husband of the pain. His beard was full, his cloths ill fitting. He hadn't eaten in days, or at least well. There was signs of sleep. The pulled out chair with the blankets thrown violently indicated sleep was not good.

"He said she should be coming out of this. I don't understand. She should be awake. She should be talking to me right now.' Running his hand through his hair erratically tugging at it, he paced the room.

"You need sleep."

"I need her to wake up."

"She will. These things take time. They don't happen overnight. Some times..."

"I know sometimes they don't wake up." He grabbed the railings on the bed. He began to shake it. "Why won't you wake up?' He shouted.

Tearing a chunk of bread from the fresh loaf, Liz submerged it in the remnants of the dark pink vodka sauce.

"Don't want to miss a drop of that." She said taking a bit from the now soaked bread. Cregan did not answer. His plate was clean as if nothing was ever placed on it. His mind full.

"Another club soda?" The waitress asked. He shook his head no. He pulled back from the table to make room for her to take his plate. Liz, mouth still full of bread, sheepishly did the same. A quick drink of water, and she was able to speak again.

"It's going to be okay."

"Really?!" Cregan said wiping his mouth and placing his napkin where his plate had been.

"Faith, Don. Faith."

"Will faith bring back Alex's arm?" A tear welled in the corner of his right eye. Liz shook her head no. "Will it bring Olivia back?"

"Maybe." She saw the waitress approach from the corner of her eye. She waved her off. "I know how you feel. You feel like you let her down. Them down. We had nothing to do with this Don. It just happened."

"She's my daughter, Liz." Cregan let the tears fall. His resolve no longer intact. "It's a stronger bond then anything biological."

"I know Don." She reached for his hand. "I have the same connection with Alex. They are fighters. They have been through more hell then anyone we know. And they are still fighting." She gave his hand another squeeze. "Lets get back to the hospital. See where we are." She pulled her wallet from her bag. She took out two hundred dollar bills and laid them on the table. She stood and waited for Cregan. He stood and extended his arm. She smiled and took it.

"Thank you." They said in unison as they walked past the waitress. She smiled politely. She motioned to the bus boy who stood just to the left of the door. He moved and opened the door for the couple. Once out, he locked the door behind them.

"been awhile since I closed a place down." Liz said with a smile.

Cragen looked at his watch. "At nine on a friday night. A bit unusual won't you say?"

"Food was good." She turned to look back at the restaurant. "But we were the only ones there.'" She saw the waitress move behind the counter. She had taken off her apron and was moving quickly towards the kitchen.

The couple walked briskly towards the corner. As if rehearsed they turned left and rested against the wall of the adjacent building.

"Justice Department."

"This is Captain Donald Cregan of the NYPD badge number." He rubbed his hand over his bald head trying to calm himself. "I have a possible sighting of the bomber,"