It's been four weeks. Twenty-eight days. Six hundred and seventy-two hours.
What the hell was he thinking?
Well, a part of him knows exactly what he was thinking: how could he keep doing this job when he had violated every principle he believed in? Most notably that very basic one about not murdering a victim?
He wonders how Olivia's doing in his absence. He had no idea he would miss her this much. Who would've figured? She'd annoyed the hell out of him daily, for so many years.
He didn't think at all about how she'd feel about all this. In retrospect, from her perspective, it was probably a bit of a bombshell. It just seemed so obvious at the time: so many cases had nearly brought him to the brink; at some point, one of them was bound to break him. He'd figured she would've understood that.
Apparently not. She's called at least twice a day since he quit; that is, since the moment when he estimates Cragen must have told her the news. How narcissistic of him, he now thinks ruefully, to picture the moment of their conversation. To picture how her face must have looked when she heard.
It's better for her this way anyway. She needs to move on. She was too dependent on him emotionally. She needs to stand on her own two feet. Tough love. Yeah! Maybe without him she'll actually have a shot at meeting someone. Someone who isn't frightened away by the icy glare of her territorial partner.
A crack of a smile eclipses the morose frown that's occupied real estate on his face for days. On second thought, he still stands by all of his menacing stares. Any guy who was intimidated by that certainly didn't deserve Olivia.
Her calls stopped yesterday.
She must've gotten busy. Caught a case.
Yeah. That's what he tells himself.
Hell, it's only been a month.
What the fuck, he thinks, suddenly indignant. She gives it the old college try and that's that? That's what twelve years is worth to her? He went through a lot, for Christsakes. He killed a child!
He lies back on the couch, stares at the dull ceiling, contemplates the world. His children aren't speaking to him these days. Neither is his ex-wife.
He glances at the clock. It's six o'clock, on the nose. It's now officially okay to have a beer. Anything earlier, he's decided, and it would mean he's on the road to a problem.
He remembers how it felt in that prison, for three days in solitary. Those flashbacks have come more often since he quit; he knows it's not good for his mental health to spend day after day like this, alone in his little apartment, with nothing to do but wallow.
But dammit, Jenna Fox is dead! Not hurt, not traumatized, dead. He had every right to kill her; hell, an obligation to, but that's no excuse. Surely an exceptional cop would've found another way. If Olivia had been in his position on the floor, she would've found a way. Of this there is no doubt in his mind.
Once upon a time, he possessed that magic touch, that ability to control a situation, to get everyone out safely.
Once upon a time, as in, before he let a child die in a bus terminal.
His reflexes, his judgment, had failed him then too.
It took him years to get over it, but nothing was ever the same.
Two kids dead. Because of a little bad judgment.
As he thinks about Jenna, about the life that no longer is, there's that familiar ice that pierces through his gut. He starts to shiver in his frayed wife-beater. He looks around, daring her ghost to notice. As he cries for her.
When he wakes up, he's shivering fiercely. He stumbles over to the thermostat. Aha, the problem: the AC's set to 65 degrees. He doesn't know how that happened. Turning it up, he traipses to the fridge to grab another beer. The eleven o'clock news is on in two minutes. He doesn't really care about the news, but it's something to fill the silence. He's come to look forward to Janice Huff's soothing voice. She's cute, too.
He points the remote at the TV and, as psychically requested, it's the news. Midtown's going to be clogged tomorrow; President's in town. Gas prices are up. New York's got a new counterterrorism taskforce. Shooting in the Bronx. Liquor store robbery at gunpoint in Astoria. He smiles to himself: not a bit of this affects him. He likes that. He points the remote again, changes the channel to an old episode of Seinfeld, cutting off the pseudo-concerned voice of a field reporter, who's stuck in some godforsaken part of Staten Island, covering a possible hostage situation.
He startles awake again; this time, it's two in the morning. He's slobbered all over his sofa cushion and he mats it down, noting that all the lights are still on and so is the TV. Man, depression really is the cure for insomnia, he thinks sardonically, as he picks up the remote. He blinks, thinking the news should have been over by now, but strangely it's not.
They're still all camped out in that random neighborhood in Staten Island, only now there's more hoopla. More NYPD personnel, a helicopter buzzing around. A yellow banner flowing down the bottom of the screen, underscoring the urgency of the situation.
This is serious, he thinks, smiling gleefully at the idea of not having to be one of the godforsaken freezing his ass off outside that godforsaken building at this godforsaken hour.
He expends a dozen more seconds scanning the crowd, morbidly fascinated, curious to see if he recognizes anyone.
And then he does.
He's about to give a press conference.
His old boss is flanked by Fin on one side, Munch on the other. To Munch's right is someone Elliot doesn't recognize; he's tall and thin, with shiny black hair. Fin, in turn, has an attractive, fit-looking blonde by his side.
Olivia got out of this one tonight, he thinks, grinning at the flash visual of his lovely ex-partner, cozy in her bed.
Then Cragen begins to explain the situation.
And Elliot's so frantic to flee the apartment he forgets to turn off the TV, again.