Summary: Cassandra goes missing during Spring Break in New York. Sam goes AWOL to get her daughter back - with the help of SVU Detective Olivia Benson and the rest of the squad, and that's only the beginning
Olivia and Sam put the Harley in Olivia's rarely used underground parking spot and took the stairs to go up to her fifth story apartment, even though the elevator was in perfect working order. The first things Sam noticed about Olivia's apartment was that it had a homey feel to it and that it was meticulously clean with not even a single speck of dust anywhere in sight. Had Sam been a betting person she would have wagered a month's pay that there also would not be any dust under or behind the furniture. With a smile she observed what obviously was Olivia's daily routine.
The dark haired woman first got rid of her shoes. She wriggled her toes as if she wanted to be sure that they were still attached and in perfect working order, only then did she get out of her leather jacket and put it away. She then walked over to a safe what was embedded in a wall at chest height. A framed picture was leaning against the wall right under it with the motif hidden from view. Sam guessed that Olivia simply didn't see any need to bother with putting it back in place every time she used the safe. She put her service weapon and the holster in the safe and closed the door.
"Do you want mine in there as well, Olivia?" Sam asked.
"No, Sam, thanks for the offer, but it's not necessary. I do this more out of habit than out of necessity. Would you like something to drink?"
"No, thank you, not at the moment. Just do what you usually do when you come home after a long day at work, Olivia. I'll try to stay out of your way."
"Are you sure that you don't want something to drink?" Sam nodded. "Alright, then... Do you want to take a shower or need to use the bathroom?" Sam shock her head in the negative. "Well, you're an easy guest to have. Make yourself comfortable. The TV remote is on the couch table. I'll be back in a few minutes. I need a shower."
Sam put her saddlebags to the right of the couch and then decided that she could as well change into something less confining than her leather pants. So, she dug a pair of sweatpants, thick socks and a long-sleeved black T-shirt out of her bag. A minute later she booted the laptop and checked for new data. When she checked the BAU files a blinking icon alerted her that someone was trying to identify and locate her unauthorized access. It was easily blocked but the fact that there even was a trace told her that whoever was responsible for their computers was damned good at what they were doing.
Sam accessed the files about the serial killer they unimaginatively had nick-named 'the slicer'. It now was protected by a second level of encryption she simply bypassed. Trying to decode it would have automatically triggered an alert and a sniffer program. The elegant way the trap had been set up let Sam to think that their computer tech was a woman; men usually tried to prove their superiority, but this little program was not playing around. Sam made a mental note to be more careful the next time she wanted to hack into the BAU database. She sighed, under other circumstances this measuring of skills could really have been fun.
The CSU database told her that Melinda had put a rush order on any evidence having to do with their case. That meant that the DNA results from the bloody patch Olivia had found should be available by early afternoon tomorrow.
Melinda, meeting her again after all this time had been a surprise. Melinda had been a god-sent in the weeks after her capture. Sam had trusted her with her nightmares, the one recurring nightmare of her being raped again and again by the Iraqi commander and his men, of her cries for mercy going unheard, of the moment she did no longer try to fight back but just let them do it...
Sam took a deep breath. She had not thought about this particular mission in years, not since she had told Janet about it in the middle of their second year with Stargate Command. She might never have talked about it, if not for that idiot Mackenzie, their resident shrink. Frustrated by the wide-spread refusal of SG-team members to go and talk to him after traumatic missions, he had taken it upon himself to go through their personal files in search for what he had called 'risk indicators'.
Reading about the botched up mission in Iraq had been all the ammunition he needed to try to get her barred from active field duty, pending a thorough psych evaluation. He had argued that the trauma of her capture and rape all those years ago was a latent danger for any off-world mission, as if she were a pack of C-4 only waiting for the right trigger to explode. The bastard had even had the gall to bring it up in the conference room, in front of everyone, her team, General Hammond, Janet, Major Davis.
At least she had had the satisfaction of General Hammond and Colonel O'Neill ripping into him at the mere suggestion. It had felt good to hear O'Neill say that he trusted her with his life in every situation and that if Mackenzie wanted to treat someone for PTSD he should start with the special ops specialists who crash-landed the mission with their sloppy intel in the first place and had to be rescued by a just out of flight school, wet behind the ears Air Force Lieutenant. The blow to their ego must have been tremendous. Unfortunately, the next night the old nightmare had returned with a vengeance and Janet had gotten her to talk about it. Janet had understood, not the least because of her experiences in Bosnia where treating victims of rape and abuse had been an everyday occurrence.
Sam was pulled out of her musings by the sound of a glass being put in front of her, "You look like you could use this. You just were miles away."
Olivia had changed into a pair of shorts and a slightly oversized T-shirt. Her hair was still damp from the shower and her brown eyes showed concern. Sam looked at the tumbler with the amber liquid, her nose identified old scotch and for the fraction of a heartbeat she longed to feel the gentle burn it would create going done.
"Thank you, Olivia, that's very kind of you, but I don't drink."
"Is there an Air Force regulation against single malt?" Olivia asked.
Sam laughed, "If such a regulation existed most of the officers would rather transfer out to join the Navy than stay. No, I once made a promise and in the last years to keep that promise I found it easier to stay away from any kind of alcohol. I'm not sure I could stop if I even took one sip."
Sam was surprised that she was this honest with Olivia. Technically she was still a stranger, they hadn't know each other for more than half a day, but she was a stranger who had opened her home to her and though it was illogical she trusted the detective.
Olivia poured the liquid back into the bottle with practiced ease and put the bottle back into the kitchen cabinet, "I know what you're talking about, Sam, there are days when I feel the same way. Even after all these years most cases follow me home and some of them are so heart-wrenching that I want nothing more than to crawl into a bottle and never come out again."
"You really understand," Sam said with a certain surprise tinting her voice.
"My mother was an alcoholic. I couldn't save her from herself but I learned enough how to avoid joining her. On days I'm honest with myself I admit that I'm a borderline alcoholic myself. Da... Captain Cragen is keeping an eye on me when things get especially tough. I hope you have someone too."
"Borderline alcoholic, I think that's a good description. Yes, I have someone who keeps an eye on me as much as he can, my godfather. The promise I made was to him. I promised him that I never again would drink to dull my senses or my feelings, and I already broke it once. I'll do my best to let it never happen again," Sam answered.
"You don't have to tell me, Sam, if it hurts you too much," Olivia said empathically.
"You don't have to listen if you don't want to, Olivia. I know we're still practically strangers to each other," Sam voiced her earlier thoughts, "but not only did you take me into your home, you also allowed me to see beyond your professional mask, you deserve my trust and honesty. And to my surprise I find that I'd like to tell you."
"And I'd like to hear it. You are right, by any outward appearances we are strangers but to me it feels like strangers who have known each other their whole life." Olivia had taken a seat next to Sam on the couch.
"I don't know how to tell this without it sounding like your average sob-story." Olivia's brown eyes, so similar and yet so different from Janet's let her continue. "My mother died in a car accident when I was fourteen. My older brother, Mark, went off to College the day after her funeral. My father sent me to a military grief councilor who was only used to deal with distraught wives whose husbands had died for their country. His words did nothing to help me and I still have not a good track record with psychologists. My father was abroad on one mission or the other, and no one cared when I started to drink.
"I continued to have straight As in class but I lost my place on all of the sports' teams because I was continuously late for practice or didn't show up at all. The police caught me on my fifteenth birthday driving my father's jeep. I had no driver's license and was dead drunk. My father was unavailable; so, they called my godfather. Uncle George bailed me out but instead of reading me the riot act he listened. He took time off, brought me home to his family and sobered me up.
"When I went to College the next year I promised him not to drink when I had problems or was feeling depressed. I still went out for a beer with the guys or had some wine for dinner etcetera, but I kept my promise, until Janet was killed. It was so easy to fall back into the habit, it would have been frightening had I really thought about it. Uncle George was in Washington. He didn't know what I was up to in Colorado Springs, but Cassie saw it. One day when I was once again running late she told me that she would move out and live with Daniel if I didn't stop it. She told me that Janet would never allow me to drown myself in self-pity. Cassie saved me; she reminded me of my promise and I haven't touched a drop of booze since."
"Wow!" Olivia said, "that took a lot of strength. I promise, we'll do everything in our power to get your daughter back." To change the topic she added, "Did you just say that you were sixteen when you went to College? What are you Einstein?"
"Well, as I recall Melinda told you that I once was an overachiever," Sam answered with a smile, thankful to move the conversation to something less painful.
The two women spent another hour talking about New York and other mostly neutral topics. They both seemed to have an innate sense when something threatened to hit too close to home for the other and then quickly brought up something else. Then Olivia dug out some sheets, a pillow and a blanket for Sam and they called it a night.
Samantha had half expected to find herself back in her old nightmare about her capture during the Gulf War, instead her mind once again repeated the same dream she had had every night since Janet's death. Actually, it was more like an endless series of dreams mixed with memories; dreams about making love to Janet, about holding her in her arms, crying in her arms after a crappy mission, Janet kissing the tears away and allowing her to be weak without censure. They were dreams as vivid as reality and this night was no exception.
Sam was lying on her stomach in front of a roaring fire place in Jack O'Neill's cabin. She was naked and the heat from the burning hickory logs began to seep into her tense muscles. No, it was Janet who was slowly massaging the tension out of her body. Janet was straddling her thighs and touching her in all the right places.
They had arrived close to two hours earlier and Sam had immediately fled to the back of the house and started to reduce big chunks of wood to nothing more than kindling. Her shoulders and arms were burning from the rare workout, but it had done nothing to get her more relaxed.
Janet had finally called her in and led her to the small bathroom with the surprisingly big shower stall. She had undressed her and washed her and dried her with one of the big fluffy towels they had brought with them. She then had led her to the mountain of cushions and blankets she had arranged in front of the fireplace and made her lie down. All without a single word.
Janet found all the knots in her back and shoulders. The tension ebbed out of Sam's body but her mind still refused to join in, but then Janet's ministrations stopped being solely therapeutic. It started with a tingling that slowly expanded from the base of her skull along her spine down to her buttocks.
Janet's hands seemed to be everywhere at once, and though she still was only touching her back it soon felt as if her whole body was on fire. As if drawn inside of herself Sam's thoughts turned away from her anger over the last mission to yet another misogynistic planet. For a short while she marveled over her beloved's ever increasing skill but then she closed her eyes and simply let go.
Sam felt Janet's fingertips at her waist, light touches like the wings of a butterfly. They wandered upwards to the side of her breasts. Sam moaned and tried to press her torso upwards by getting on her elbows to allow Janet better access. Janet removed her hands completely and only when Sam was back down on the pillows with her hands safely tucked under her head did the hands return.
Sam moaned again and was rewarded with a slightly firmer touch. So, she no longer tried to get up but gave herself completely over to Janet's loving care. Janet's hands traveled down her back again and found their way on her firm buttocks. They only stroked them for a few fleeting moments, then she felt how Janet raised herself off of her.
"It's time to turn around, my Sam. Keep your eyes closed. I want you to do nothing but enjoy."
Sam obeyed but she opened her eyes and found Janet's brown orbs. "I need to see you, Jan. I need to see you and to touch you to know that it's real. I need to feel that you're more than just a dream."
"I'm yours, Sam, tell me what you want and we'll make it happen, love."
"I need to feel that I'm yours. I need to feel that it's you," Sam whispered.
Janet lowered herself onto her lover's lean body. She balanced most of her weight on her arms but made sure to press one of her thighs between Sam's legs and against her centre.
"Please, Janet, take me, I need to feel you inside of me. Take me, I'm yours."
"Mine, all mine." Janet repeated over and over when she first kissed Sam's forehead, her eyes, her mouth. Her tongue had only to touch Sam's lips for them to open and let her in. Sometimes their kisses were fights for dominance, this time Sam was almost shy in finding the invading tongue. They kissed until they had to come up for air and when Sam found Janet's eyes she saw the always cherished golden speckles in the brown orbs which heralded her beloved's arousal.
Sam's heart began to beat faster and Janet's thigh pressed harder against her throbbing clit. She knew she was wet and she knew she needed more. Her hands left their mattress of pillows and cushions and found Janet's hips, pulling her closer. She let them run over Janet's back and pressed down, but Janet resisted.
"Please, love, I need more. I need all of you."
Janet complied and for long moments just lay still. "Put your hands on my ass and don't move them. Spread your legs for me."
Their eyes were locked with each other when suddenly Sam no longer felt Janet's smooth thigh pressed against her but Janet's own centre, the dark brown curls with which she loved to play. She felt Janet's wetness.
"Do you know how much you turn me on, Sammy, with your beautiful blue eyes turning dark with need? It makes me want to tease you 'til you beg for mercy."
The expression in Janet's eyes told Sam that her own had widened in alarm. She enjoyed being teased by her beloved. It was a game they sometimes even played on the base and on those days she couldn't wait to get home and get her woman to herself. This day, however, she was too far gone. She was ready to beg now, and Janet knew it.
She put a finger on Sam's lips and began to rock first her hips and then her whole body forwards and back. The movement let her hard nipples slide along the soft underside of Sam's breasts while Sam's nipples rubbed against her upper chest. Janet put some of her weight on her left arm to free the other. Her right hand caressed Sam's face and neck with deliberately light touches that contrasted to her weight still resting on Sam's body.
Janet knew that Sam was close and the abandon she saw in the by now very dark blue eyes let her own light up in response.
"You're so beautiful, my love, my life," Sam whispered. "Please let me make us come."
"Do it, love."
Sam's eyes never left Janet's when she closed her hands more firmly around Janet's buttocks and began to guide the smaller woman's movements.
"Yes, that's my girl." She heard Janet say, "Go on; show me what you want. Show me how much you enjoy yourself."
Sam's hands guided Janet's hips. They pressed her down. Their clits touched. Janet ducked her head down and found Sam's slightly opened mouth. Their hearts were beating a mile a minute. Their tongues played and breathing became more difficult with every heartbeat until they were forced to break the kiss.
Their clits touched again and this time it was enough to bring them both to a forceful orgasm, but despite its vehemence they were very quiet. The sound of the brightly burning logs in the fireplace easily drowned out their moans.
Sam held Janet in place on top of her until their breathing had returned to a more normal rhythm. She then pushed herself in a sitting position and pulled Janet with her until they were facing the fireplace and Janet was securely cradled in her arms.
"Thank you, my love, you always know what I need. I love you. I'm sorry that I was such a grouch earlier."
"I love you too, my beautiful grouch, and as long as you let me love you, we'll always be okay."
And suddenly the scenery changed.
Janet was still in her arms but they no longer were in front of Jack's fireplace snuggled in a multitude of blankets and cushions but on the hard ground in the middle of a battlefield with the SG troops in full retreat.
"Please don't leave me, Jan, I need you. Cassie needs you."
There was no blood, staff wounds cauterized immediately but it had been a clear shot from less than twenty feet away, a fatal shot. Sam could see the pain in Janet's eyes.
She moved her lips and Sam had to bend down to hear her, "Love you, Sammy. Take care of Cassie."
"Noooo!!" Sam cried.
And just like every time she had this kind of dream Sam woke up covered in sweat, her heart beating in her throat. The difference was that this time she had had an audience. The room suddenly was flooded with light and Olivia was standing in the door with a .22 pointed in the room. Sam's hand automatically reached for her own weapon but became aware of where she was just in time.
"Are you alright, Sam?" She asked.
"Sorry, Olivia, just a bad dream. I'm sorry I woke you."
"You didn't, Sam. I couldn't sleep. Do you want to talk about it?" Olivia asked.
"Not really. I'm sorry, I'm such a nuisance. You need your sleep," Sam said.
Olivia put the small gun on the couch table and sat down next to Sam on the couch, close enough to offer comfort but not close enough to touch, "I rarely get more than three or four hours of sleep. I'm not a stranger to nightmares, Sam. I was told it helped to talk."
"But you never tried it yourself, right?" Sam asked. "I doubt that telling you will change anything, but I somehow have the feeling that I owe it to you. In principle it's always the same dream. It starts with Janet and me making love and ends with her dying in my arms."
Sam spoke with the same matter-of-fact voice she also had used to talk about the serial rapist-murderer who probably held her daughter captive. However, that was not what really hit Olivia. She had pegged it as a coping mechanism the first time she had heard this particular inflection in Sam's voice. What hit her was the similarity to her own dreams.
"Most nights I dream about Alex and me making love and then suddenly she is lying on the wet pavement after being gunned down by a hit-man. I feel her blood seeping through my fingers and see the light going out in her eyes. The dreams started the night the doctor at the hospital told us that she had died on the table, but they didn't stop when I saw her a few days later very much alive. I knew she was alive and safe in witness protection but it didn't change anything, the dream still repeats itself," Olivia said softly.
"What do you usually do when your night gets cut short by one of those dreams?" Sam asked.
"I clean my apartment, go to the gym or go for a run."
"Well, the apartment looks clean to me, at least as clean as it can be with a houseguest. It's a bit late for the gym and early for a run."
"I usually use the gym at the precinct. It's open twenty-four hours a day. The problem is that my colleagues would know, so, I don't use it very often. However, in New York it's never too late or too early for a run. You up for one?" Olivia asked.
"Best offer I had in some time."
Ten minutes later they were ready to go. Olivia set the pace and led them first to a small park close to her apartment which they rounded two times to complete their warm-up. Sam enjoyed the plethora of lights they were jogging past and soon pushed Olivia to go faster, and by the time they reached Central Park they were running full out and enjoying themselves. The sun was just coming up when they finished their first round of the reservoir and they slowed down to buy a coffee and enjoy the sun rise. They took a cab back to Olivia's apartment where they showered and changed.
Sam and Olivia arrived at the one-six at half past seven. There was no sign of Munch, Fin or Elliot but Captain Cragen was already in his office. He was on the telephone but he waved them to come in and sit down.
"Alright, John, I want you and Fin to go home and catch a few winks of sleep. You've been on this all night. Be back by this afternoon. If something comes up earlier we'll call you."
"So, I guess they didn't find anything, Cap?"
"Not as of yet, Olivia. Last night they checked the case files and notes of every detective at organized crime and gang activities they could get their hands on, without luck. All they got is a list of bars and other joints. A few guys from the gang unit volunteered to check it out with them this evening."
"Count us in, Captain. That way we'll have two more teams," Olivia said.
"Leaving you out never even crossed my mind, Olivia," Cragen answered.
Olivia sensed how Sam's body language changed from relaxed but attentive to tense and nervous, "What is it, Sam? Do you have a better idea?"
"No, I'm thinking about the next step, Olivia. Provided we find the group who attacked Cassie and her friends, what would be your SOP?"
"To take them in for questioning and confront them with the testimony Cassie's friends gave. We then would have to get one of them here for a line-up," Olivia answered. "Our other option would be to put a tail on them and wait until we catch them for something else."
Olivia fell silent for a moment. "You're right, Sam, both options are liable to take too much time. You want to bait them, right? Confront those homophobic pricks with the one thing to which they'll probably react violently; a couple of dykes on a bike. It's a good idea. What do you think, Captain?"
"Colonel Carter, is this really what you wanted to propose?" Cragen asked.
"Yes Sir. As soon as the man with the tattoo and his gang are located, Olivia and I can go in. Best case scenario, they accept us and we get them to talk, worst case scenario, they attack us, we get them for assault and probably sexual harassment and have a bargaining ship concerning Cassie. I know it's not exactly by the book, Captain Cragen, and I can understand if you don't want the SVU or one of its officers involved, Sir."
"Call me, Don, Colonel, and like it or not but we are involved and since you now are a temporary agent of the NYPD I can't let you go off on your own. I know you didn't take an oath but the piece of paper you carry with you, gives you the same rights as a regular detective, and that means that I hold you to the same obligations."
"I understand, Sir, Don. Please call me Sam. I accept your experience in the matter. I'm sorry if I overstepped my bounds," Sam said, a bit surprised at herself that she accepted the older man's authority this easily.
"Sam it is, and I didn't dismiss the idea, I just said that I will not let you go alone and I was about to say that it might need a bit more thought. For instance, what makes you think that these homophobes would rather talk to two apparently lesbian women than to, say, a man and his girl?"
"It was the first option I considered, Captain," Sam said, "and there is a chance that with a more traditional couple they would become comfortable enough to confide in them but it would take time. I count on baser human instincts, the need to brag and the desire to dominate."
"Alright, Sam, Olivia, you have a go, but I want you to speak to the guys from the gang unit when they come over later this afternoon to help you prepare. If you don't get anything substantial this night we will take them in for questioning. You will be in contact with Elliot and the guys the whole time, and Olivia, that's not negotiable."
"Yes Captain," Olivia and Sam answered simultaneously.
"Alright, get out of my office. This will be a long night, so take the day off and relax, or if you have energy to spend SWAT One is at the gym, they already asked for you. Sam, could you excuse us for a moment?" Cragen asked, Sam nodded and left the office. "How are you, Olivia?"
"I'm fine, Don."
"Olivia, this is me you're talking to," he insisted. "I saw Alex' signature on the permission slip faxed over from the DA's office."
"Seeing Alex again hurt, more than I would have thought possible, but talking to her, even about a case, was the best time I have had in years. It turned out that the message I got about her needing space didn't come from Alex. Sam found surveillance software on her cell phone and computer. She has a trace going to find out where it comes from."
"Is Alex in any kind of danger, Liv?" Don asked.
"She found listening devices in her apartment and spent the night at her mother's in the Hamptons. The better part of the programs were to keep her from contacting any of us. However, at the moment, I don't think that she is in acute danger."
"Let me know if you need any help, Liv. Alex is still one of our own."
"Thank you, Don."
"No need, Olivia, and now go and kick some SWAT butt. Sam looks as if she could need some relief of tension as well."
Olivia grinned, "The guys won't know what hit them. Sam and I went running this morning. We covered the distance from my apartment to the reservoir in Central Park and she was barely winded."
"If I have the time I'll come by to enjoy the show," Cragen said with a smile.
Next: Baiting The Line