A/N: Day One
DISCLAIMER: Dick Wolf owns SVU and the characters; TStabler© owns the story you're about to read.
I used to think it was just a hypothetical question. Something psychiatrists ask to gauge the level of crazy you're on. You wake up in a white room with no doors or windows, what do you do? I never had an answer to that. Until now.
"We have security footage of them entering the hospital, but not leaving," Cragen says, looking around at the crowded squad room. His heart was racing and his hands were shaking, but his voice was level and calm. "The doctor they were there to say says he never saw them. Detective Benson was checked out by a nurse, then left alone in the exam room, with her partner. When the doctor went in, ten minutes later, they were gone."
"This doesn't make sense," Munch complains, scratching his unshaven chin. "How did..."
Cragen interrupts him. "That's what we're trying to find out. They took Tuesday off, yesterday I just assumed something was still wrong. Kathy called us at two o'clock today, worried that she hadn't heard from either of them. Which means, they've already been gone more than forty-eight hours. You know the timeline of cases like this. Don't make me tell you what we could be facing." He clears his throat. "Munch, Fin...go through every one of their cases. Find someone with a grudge and a way in and out of that hospital. Morales, you and your team upstairs get me every tape from every camera at Mercy General and find them, they've gotta be there somewhere. The rest of you, canvas every vacant lot, alley, abandoned building. Call every friend, relative, hospital and..." he doesn't want to say it. He doesn't even want to think it. "And morgue...in the entire state. I want them found. Now!"
The cops scatter, the murmuring starts, and the search for two of New York's finest begins. Cragen holds in the urge to cry as he turns to the white-board behind him and stares at the eight-by-ten photos of Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson, and he shakes his head. "We don't get to pick the vic," he reminds himself quietly as he shuffles into his office to make several phone calls of his own.
"What time is it, El?" she asks groggily, rolling over in the surprisingly clean and comfortable bed. "Fuck that," she moans. "What day is it?"
"Don't know," he garbles back, rubbing his eyes. "Bastard took my watch and my cell phone, remember? And since we can't see the sun rise or set, I have no fucking idea how long we've even been here," he gripes, rolling over, too, meeting her in the middle. Nose-to-nose, they stay for a moment. Eyes closed. Breathing slowly but together. "Lights are on," he mutters. "Must be after seven."
She whimpers and moves closer to him, mumbling something under her breath about being somewhere between too cold and too hot.
He chuckles and wraps an arm around her, a leg around her, and he kisses her softly. "Good morning," he says quietly. "Or...afternoon? Who the fuck knows."
Their eyes are forced open when a loud banging is heard from the top of the stairs. Their captor's alerting them to the food and clothes left on the landing.
Elliot is the first to move, disentangling himself from his lover and throwing the blanket off of his boxer-clad body. "I don't know why he bothers giving us clean clothes," he complains, heading up the cold metal steps. "We don't get to fucking leave this room to get the old ones dirty!"
She scoffs and her still-sleepy eyes are pulled toward the ceiling. She stares at the rotating lens of the black camera that seems to follow her every move. "He wants us in costume for his sick, twisted movie."
He returns to the bed with a pile of clothes under his arm and a tray of food. "At least we're giving him one hell of a show," he says with a wink, sitting beside her. He jabs a piece of fresh melon with the only fork the sick freak has given them, and feeds it to her with a warm smile on his face.
She shakes her head as she chews, and with her mouth full, she speaks as she looks back up at the camera. "Why is he being so..."
"Nice?" he finishes, popping a strawberry into his mouth. "No idea. But thank God he is. This could be a lot worse."
She sighs and looks around. "Where are we, El?"
He drops the fork onto the plate. "I don't know, honey," he says. He watches her lift a grape to her lips, he brushes her hair back. "Is it gonna bother you if I take shower?"
She raises an eyebrow.
"Well, he didn't give us any kind of privacy over there," he argues, justifying his question. His head turns toward the spigot in the corner of the room. A makeshift shower with no curtain, tiny hotel shampoos and conditioners and two bars of soap. One with an E carved into it, the other an O, making it known that the man who'd taken them wanted them to smell distinctly masculine and feminine, respectively.
She's staring at the small bathroom-esque space, too, and she says, "I've seen you naked. Shit, I love seeing you naked. By all means, go get naked."
He laughs as he watched her chomp into a slice of toast, burnt as it is, and says, "Get naked with me."
She swallows the dry, unbuttered bread, and tilts her head as she unsheathes herself from the bedcovers. "For being kidnapped," she begins, "This isn't so bad. Kind of like a bad motel. Until he comes down here and hacks us into pieces."
He lifts the cotton nightgown over her head and leans into her. "I'm gonna get us out of here," he whispers. "I swear. I don't know how but...maybe I can catch him opening that fucking door in the middle of the night."
She sighs again, something that's becoming a bad habit, and reaches toward the pull-string on the spigot. She gasps when the cold water hits her, but it warms to a comfortable heat fast. She tugs on his boxers and then on his hand, bringing him under the water with her. "I just wish I knew if...I didn't get those test results back before we...before he..."
"Yeah," he says, dropping a kiss to her shoulder. "That's the only thing that's been on my mind since we woke up in this...prison." He kisses her neck, the water running off of her skin, into his mouth. He doesn't mind. "That and...my kids. I just wanna know they're safe."
"Me, too," she says reaching for the soap with the O dug out. She sniffs it, the lavender filling her lungs. She drops it, though, when his mouth finds her neck again.
He whispers against her slick skin. "We're safe," he tells her. "I'm not gonna let him hurt you."
Her eyes are closed, her mouth is pressed shut. She moans as his tongue laps at the droplets coating the tops of her breasts. The mechanical whir of the camera lens rotating cuts through the air and she stiffens. "El," she breathes.
"I know," he tells her, the tip of his tongue swooping over one of her nipples. "He's watching."
Morales bursts into the squad room, a tiny black chip in his hands. "I think I found them!" he yells, getting everyone's attention. He storms over to Elliot's vacant desk and jams the chip into a slot near the top of the computer's tower.
Cragen runs to stand directly behind him and leers over his shoulder. "Show me," he commands.
"Look," Morales says. A video plays on the monitor as he speaks. "This is them walking into the hospital. I've got footage that follows them into the elevator, then down a hallway, into an exam room. See? Nurse goes in, ten minutes later nurse walks out. After that, Olivia's doctor goes in. He comes right out, confused." He turns to face Cragen. "I just got off the phone with him. The room was empty when he walked in."
"Holy shit," Fin spits, pointing at the screen. "Who the fuck took 'em? David Copperfield?"
"No," Morales says with a hard glare. "Just someone who knew that that exam room was connected to the main storage closet, with a second door leading back out into the hallway." He pauses and bites his lip. "The only part of that floor the cameras don't catch is that door."
Cragen narrows his eyes. "So someone got into the room through the closet, and took them out of it the same way, knowing he wouldn't be seen?"
"No camera anywhere else caught a single glimpse of them after that moment," Morales says. "That's the only explanation."
"Hey!" Munch shouts then, pointing excitedly to the computer. "Go back...just before the doctor walks into the room." He waits while Morales clicks a few keys. Then he watches. "Right there! Stop it!"
Fin scoffs. "That's an orderly rollin' a dead guy down the hall. That ain't Liv, man."
Munch taps the computer monitor and says, "Really? A dead guy with two right hands?"
Morales zoomed in, revealing a clear image of two hands peeking out of the white sheet on the right side of the stretcher. A woman's, flopped limply over a man's. "That's...that is Stabler's watch, right?" the technician asks, trying to refine the image.
Cragen gives an unhappy grunt. "And that's Benson's ring," he almost whispers.
"Fuck," Fin hisses. "He knocked 'em out and threw 'em on a stretcher, covered 'em with a sheet...are you tellin' me it's that easy to sneak unconscious people out of a hospital?"
"Apparently," Munch jibes. "Is there any way you can get a clear shot of his face?" he asks, hopeful, looking at the techie.
Morales shakes his head. "He's facing away from the lens, John. I can get you a good frame of the bad haircut, but that's it."
Cragen slaps a hand down on Morales' shoulder. "I know I'm overworking you, but can you..."
"Follow the stretcher," Morales interrupts, ejecting the video card from the drive and getting out of Elliot's chair. "I'm on it," he nods, leaving the room faster than he entered it.
Cragen looks at his oldest charge and dearest friend. "Good eye, there, John," he says, heading back toward the white-board. He doesn't make it far.
"Captain Cragen?" a voice calls from the doorway.
Cragen stops mid-step and turns. "Yeah?"
A man in a brown uniform walks toward him, handing him a cardboard box. "Sign, please?"
"We have a mailroom, ya know," Cragen gripes, scrawling his name on the electronic pad.
"I was told to personally deliver this to you," the man says. "Good day." He tips his hat slightly, then eyes the white-board for a moment. With a smirk, he leaves, heading to finish his rounds.
Cragen moves toward Elliot's desk again, dropping the box on the slick metal surface. He whips the letter opener out of Elliot's pen-holder, stabs through the packing tape, and slices the package open. With each lifting flap, his heart hammers faster. "Oh, my God," he breathes.
"What?" It's Munch. His voice is low, afraid. His palms sweat as he nears his captain.
Cragen doesn't speak. He can't. He's too transfixed by the box. He slowly pulls out two guns, two badges, two cell phones, a watch, a diamond ring, and two pictures. He lays each item solemnly on Olivia's cleared desk and takes a step back. "Log it," he orders gently. "All of it."
Fin is the first to move, and the first thing he touches is the first photograph. "I'm just gonna tell myself they're only kissin' because they're panickin' here," he says, staring at the image of his two friends locked together. "Timestamp on this is yesterday, nine-forty-five."
"So they're okay," Munch breathes.
Cragen bites his lip. "At least, they were yesterday." He fingers the diamond ring and swallows the lump in his throat.
Fin places the picture of Olivia and Elliot down on the desk before moving a shaky hand to the second picture. "I'm...I...they're just sleepin' in this one, right?"
"I hope so, Fin," Cragen says, his weathered finger tracing the numbers on Olivia's shining badge. "I fucking hope so."
Dried, dressed, and sated, they lay in the bed. They stare at the white ceiling, their eyes unblinking. Their hands are clasped, his left in her right, and the only sound heard is the deep breathing of the pair.
Until the chains rattle. Until the lock turns. Until the door screeches against the tiles.
Elliot shoots up, he runs as fast as he can, but the heavy steel slams again before he even makes it to the bottom of the staircase. "Mother fucker!" he yells, bounding up the steps fast. "What the fuck do you want from us, huh?" He pounds on the grey slab, doing more damage to his hands than the door.
"Elliot!" she yells from the ground below him. "Stop it." She envelopes herself in her arms, due to the cold and the fear. "It's pointless. What...what did he leave up there?"
He bends and picks up the folded paper and stack of books, then turns to her. He closes his eyes and dejectedly slumps down the stairs, and takes her into his arms. "I thought I could...I'm so sorry."
"It's okay," she whispers, pressing into him further. She leads him back to their bed, the only furniture in the room, and she sits, makes him sit. She takes the books from him and leafs through them. "What does the note say?"
"The rules," he says, reading the typed letter. "Again. And a warning. 'Stabler. At no time are you permitted to ever harm her in any way. I'm watching you." He shakes his head and looks at her. "He doesn't know me very well. I'm never gonna hurt you, you know that."
She nods as she slides back toward the headboard and flips open a new copy of Last Exit to Brooklyn."I wonder how he knows all this shit, El," she states. "Clothing sizes, allergies, favorite books. He knows what kind of soap we use, he knows..." she stops and shakes her head as she scuttles close to him again, having just thoroughly frightened herself.
He kisses her forehead. "I don't know," he says, looping his arms around her. He watches her as she reads, and it's only a moment before the lights go out. Leaving them in complete darkness.
"El?" she whispers, her voice almost cold.
He grips her, then fumbles for their blankets. Blindly, he gets them nestled into the bed. "Must be ten o'clock," he tells her. "He turns the lights off at ten. One of his..."
"Rules," she completes, her hand snaking up his tee shirt, finding his peaked nipples in the dark. "I know. He's got us scheduled, like..."
"Pets," Elliot snaps.
She skims her fingertips back down his chest. "I was gonna say lab rats."
"That, too," he says, kissing her eye, misjudging the position of her face in the dark. They share a laugh and find each other's mouth. They hear a thud, and they know Olivia's book has dropped to the floor.
He pulls her close and covers her, a second blanket, and he shudders a bit. "I'm terrified but..."
"Thank God we're together," she says. "That's where you were going, right?"
"I'd be going crazy if he'd just taken you," he whispers. "If I didn't know where you were, if you were dead or alive, I'd...yeah. Thank God we're together."
She feels his single teardrop hit her shoulder, and she finds his lips again. It's her way of finding Heaven while trapped in Hell.
Because although they're safe, comfortable, together, and cared for, that's exactly what they are.
Trapped. Taken. Ripped from the life they had only begun to share beyond the four stark white walls that now bind them only to each other, and the man watching them from the top of the stairs.
A/N: As always, read and review if you'd like. Thanks.