Life and Love are far more complicated than we can possibly understand. For one young cop, a journey of self-discovery will teach them that true strength was inside them all along.
Olivia smiled and clipped the radio back to the bandolier across her chest. She’d managed to get firmly under Sanderson’s skin. She wasn’t sure it was a good idea, but she’d felt so out of control that she needed to claw something back to give her the confidence to continue. She needed to unsettle him if she was going to stand any chance alone against this army. Men that were off balance made irrational decisions, clear-headed men made smart ones. She didn’t need him to be smart.
What was more important was what he didn’t say. When she suggested he didn’t have men to spare to come after her he hadn’t corrected her. He was stretched thin now and on the back foot. His threat to kill hostages was relatively empty. Now she had to make it entirely flaccid.
She dialed the command center.
“What are you playing at?” The Sheriff barked into the phone.
“Oh, you heard that?” Olivia asked innocently.
“Yes, I damn well heard that, you’re putting people in danger Dalton.”
“They’re already in danger Ma’am, at least now we know enough to do something about it.”
Olivia could hear cogs turning on the other end of the phone. “We’ve identified four rooms we know are holding groups of hostages. I spoke to our EOD guys a few minutes ago. The traps can be disarmed by simply cutting the wire without moving the firing pin. If you can get our guys inside, we can hopefully snatch most of them before they realize what’s going on. If you’re up to it that is?”
Olivia touched her bleeding lip carefully and winced. “Yeah, I can do that.”
After hanging up the phone, Olivia sat silently for a moment. How the hell in her life had she ended up here? How had that shy skinny boy from a year ago found themselves where she was today? She glanced down at her ruined dress and felt a pang of sadness. Tonight was meant to be magical. A chance for her to spend time with Richard and get to know the circles he moved in. Now she was here all by herself. She was in pain and she was tired. Would it all be over soon?
She pulled herself to her feet and lent against the desk for a moment to steady herself. She had a job to do now and she could bring this hell to an end.
Olivia hurried down the stairwell as quietly as she could manage. She was relatively sure the corridors would be clear but it never paid to be reckless. She held the rifle low, ready to use it if she had to, she had a clear objective now and it was time to do her part to make it happen. She wasn’t foolish enough to think she could do this by herself. She might have joked about John McClane but she wasn’t any kind of hero.
Exiting the stairwell on the ground floor she swept the corner with her weapon before entering the long back hallway. They’d identified a service door on the rear of the building and would be waiting for her outside.
Olivia reached the door and checked to see if the coast was clear. Satisfied she was alone, she set her rifle on the ground and crouched by the device attached to the back of the door. She took out her knife and did her best to stabilize the pin on the blasting cap with her fingers. With a deep breath she brought the blade up to the thin line as it glinted in the moonlight. The knife was sharp, but it wasn’t sharp enough. As she applied pressure the wire began to bend against the edge. Olivia grimaced and withdrew the blade.
Steeling herself, she moved her fingers to more firmly grasp the pin and hold it in place. There was a slight tremble in her hand as she brought the knife back up to the wire and began to slide it slowly against the wire. The pin wobbled slightly in her fingers as the tension changed. She felt the first warm prickles of sweat along her hairline as the world seemed to close in around her to this one single task.
“Steady girl,” she whispered to herself, “steady.”
The wire twisted against the blade and began to fray. Her fingers holding the pin were now slick with sweat and she could feel it twisting against her grasp. Withdrawing the blade, she wiped her hands on her dress and started again. She drew the blade against the wire as gently and softly as she could manage and after three more passes, the wire snapped and fell clear.
Olivia released the breath she’d been holding and withdrew her hands slowly as if waiting for the explosion to come. The pin was intact and the wire was cut. She slowly turned the door handle and pushed. The door swung outward slowly and she came face to face with a rifle flashlight.
The weapon swung away and her eyes adjusted enough for her to see again. There were two Swat operators in front of her.
“About time,” she muttered wiping her hands on her dress. “I think I have more respect for the bomb guys now.”
The men moved past her and into the corridor, silently taking up positions facing in both directions. One of the EOD techs moved up and secured the device on the door with tape before withdrawing back outside. She really envied him now.
“Are you ok?” The team leader asked, pulling down his face covering.
Olivia nodded and tugged at her dress sheepishly. She felt suddenly quite silly dressed as she was amongst her colleagues dressed in combat gear.
“Dalton?” the man asked uncertainly.
Olivia flushed and looked away. “Yeah,” she admitted quietly.
The man shrugged and reached into his pack and pulled out a ballistic vest. “Put this on.”
Olivia took off the bandolier she’d been wearing and slipped the vest over her head before fastening it around her torso. She quickly transferred the magazines and radio to the pouches and joined the others in the corridor.
“Third floor, West wing, room eighteen, which way?” the man asked in a whisper.
Olivia pointed down the corridor to her right and fell in behind the team. She felt suddenly far safer with these guys, although she realized she would soon be answering questions earlier than she’d expected. She pushed it to the back of her mind. Now was not the time to concern herself with that nonsense. Until this was over, she didn’t matter.
She guided the team up to the third floor and watched them take position outside the door to the first room that they’d identified. With quick quiet communication, the men kicked the door open and rushed into the room. She heard a flurry of suppressed gunshots from their submachine guns followed by two heavy thumps. There was a ripple of voices and screams that were quickly quietened as hushed orders were given to the hostages inside. A few moments later the team members began to filter back out into the hallway to join her.
“Room one secure.” the leader announced impassionately over his radio. He gave Olivia a curt nod and gestured onward.
Olivia quietly let the men through the silent corridors towards the second and third locations where any resistance was similarly put down by the team’s brutal efficiency. Olivia was in awe of the swat team. These men worked so smoothly and ruthlessly that she felt utterly unworthy standing beside them. Her ruined dress and generally disheveled appearance also made her feel quite vulnerable and self-conscious now she was around other people again. She hadn’t even worried about it earlier. Now she felt like a silly little girl trying to act like an adult.
They arrived on the fifth floor as Olivia guided the team towards the final group of hostages. With the group she had already freed upstairs, this would leave only the seven that were held in the rotunda with Sanderson and his cronies.
One of the operators turned toward Olivia and grinned in the darkness. “The new look suits you, Dalton.”
Olivia squinted at him in the darkness before her eyes went wide. Rory Parker had been one of the department’s training officers when she had first joined and she knew he’d transferred to the swat team the year before. She also knew he was extremely gay. “It’s Olivia now, and no you can’t have the dress.” she fired back quietly. Parker smirked and nodded. The little exchange relieved some of the tension she felt.
The team lined up beside the final door while one of the men fed a fiber optic camera under the bottom next to the carpet. The man indicated positions with his hand. The point man nodded and booted the door. His colleagues flowed past him into the room and shouted orders and screams followed. No gunshots rang out. Olivia moved inside and moved over to kneel down in front of one of the now cuffed and prone terrorists.
She grabbed his jaw and turned his head to face her. “How many of you are there in total?” she growled.
The man spat and cursed at her. “Fuck you bitch.”
Olivia’s face was thunder. She must have made quite a frightful visage after the evening’s festivities but she didn’t care. “Your friends are all dead or under arrest. It’s over now. You can go down with them or you can tell me the fucking truth. Your bullshit ideology doesn’t matter anymore, you failed”
The man glared at her for a moment before seeming to slump in his bonds. “Fifteen,” he admitted sadly.
“I knew you were fucking cowards.” she spat letting the man’s head fall to the floor.
Olivia counted. She’d dealt with five, and this made thirteen. That left only two remaining, Sanderson and one of his men in the rotunda.
“Who are you?”
Olivia snapped around as she heard the scared voice call out to her. A young woman in a pretty dress with wide terrified eyes was staring at her.
Olivia shrugged and sighed. “Nobody important.” she offered quietly. “Nobody at all.”
Parker stepped up beside her and gave her a playful nudge with his elbow. He turned to the hostages and spoke. “This woman has been in here all night alone working to get you all home safe. We’ve had a pool going on her.”
Olivia looked at him with surprise. “A pool?”
“Sure, on how many you’d get.”
“You were at the party?” a man in the back asked uncertainly, regarding her disheveled dress and police armor.
The team leader grinned. “Yeah, she got five of them before we even got here and disarmed a bomb too.”
He turned to his men and gestured for them to prepare to move out. “Folks, stay here and wait for uniformed officers. Please keep your heads down and stay quiet, this will be over shortly.”
Olivia turned to the team leader and touched his arm. “Last two are in the Rotunda with the HVTs.”
The man nodded and cursed in Spanish. “That’s a big open space, no good sightlines.”
Olivia pondered the situation for a moment and had a thought. “I’ve got an idea for the last group, it’s a little unconventional though.”
The radio crackled with a familiar voice. “Are you there Mister Sanderson?”
Mike was pacing in frustration in front of his hostages as time ticked towards zero hour.
“What do you want?”
“I want to give myself up, I’m not willing to risk anyone’s lives.” Olivia admitted more demurely than her earlier teasing tone, trying to inject a little fear into her words.
Sanderson smiled like a crocodile. “Good decision little girl, I was about to put a bullet in some of these assholes if you hadn’t.”
“Where should I go?”
“Come down to the rotunda, first floor. You can’t miss it,” Sanderson ordered. “I don’t want to see any weapons.”
Olivia agreed and ended the transmission. He didn’t need to know she was already on the ground floor only a few dozen meters away. Putting away the radio, she stepped into a nearby bathroom and took off her vest and rifle, leaving them leaning carefully against the wall.
She took in her appearance in the darkened mirror. Her makeup was ruined and her dress was a bloody ripped mess. She was still had her modesty at least, but it was certainly beyond dry cleaning.
Running some water she washed her face and tried to tidy her appearance. It felt extremely vain she realized, but if she was going to die, she wanted to do so with some dignity. A few moments later she appraised her appearance. She looked a lot plainer than her once beautiful makeup had made her look but she felt reasonably human.
Rationalizing she’d stalled long enough, Olivia steeled her nerves and left the bathroom. She walked purposefully along the quiet corridors, now confident she was alone. This night was nearly over and she would either walk out alive or die here, but it would be over.
She allowed the door to close loudly behind her to make sure Sanderson knew she was there before she stepped out into the wide hallway. The broad columned passage led toward the rotunda at the center of the grand building. Olivia stepped out into the open and walked slowly forward with her hands raised. She felt like she was a prisoner walking to her execution chamber.
“I’m here,” she called with more certainty than she felt, her voice echoing off the marble surfaces.
A man was standing over a group of kneeling hostages, his rifle trained casually in their direction.
“Come forward slowly.” another voice called sharply.
Sanderson stepped out from behind a column with the governor in the crook of his arm, a pistol leveled at his head. “No funny business or I blow his brains out.”
Olivia waved her empty hands. “I’m not armed,” she called in a level tone. “I just want to talk.”
“You’re in no position to talk to me bitch. You’ve got nothing I want.”
“It’s not too late to end this peacefully,” she called stepping into the well-lit interior of the rotunda.
Sanderson laughed and pointed the pistol at her. “There will be no peace as long as traitors like this work to destroy our nation. I’m a soldier in a war nobody wants to acknowledge.”
“The gays and immigrants are destroying the state right?” Olivia asked, keen to keep him talking. “Isn’t that a little trite? It’s pretty hard to run a conspiracy while you’re working three jobs and getting your ass kicked.”
Sanderson shook his head. “The liberal elite and trying to destroy American values and replace us with people they think are better than us… people they can control.”
“And you think killing is the answer?” she challenged.
Sanderson seemed satisfied she was unarmed and shoved the Governor away. The man stumbled and fell. He glared at her with undisguised hatred and waved the pistol at her.
“I got thrown out of the Army because I was too patriotic, I wasn’t going to bow to their bullshit sensitivity crap. These fucking assholes brainwashed my kid and made him a fucking faggot. They’re taking everything of our lives and turning it into their idea of a liberal paradise. It’s a damn invasion.” he yelled, his face turning red.
“Your son is gay?”
Sanderson spat. “They brainwashed my baby boy, they ruined a true American man and convinced him he was some sissy faggot. They’re doing it to all our kids, it’s population control.”
Olivia smiled and shook her head. “You’re really that narrow-minded aren’t you?”
Sanderson looked at her with hatred in his eyes.
Olivia stepped forward until she was only meters from him. “I feel sorry for your son. He can’t help who he is. He certainly can’t help who his family is, he doesn’t deserve a father like you. I was afraid I’d get a similar response, but I was far luckier in the end.”
A look of confusion and hatred flashed across Sanderson’s features. “You’re a dyke?”
Olivia shook her head. “No, but I have a lot in common with your boy. I had to come out to my family recently. It was a little different but they accepted me for who I was eventually. It wasn’t perfect but they’re trying their best and it means the world to me. I feel blessed that they were open-minded enough to think about their child first and worry about my hopes and dreams. All my childhood they tried to toughen me up and make me become someone that I wasn’t meant to be. They made a mistake; It took me a long time to realize they were only human and I forgave them.”
“I don’t care what some dyke cunt thinks.” Sanderson spat.
Olivia shook her head and smiled ruefully. “No, I like men actually.”
Sanderson looked confused. “What the fuck are you on about?”
Olivia looked around the room and shrugged lowering her hands. “I was born a…” Olivia had been about to try to reason with the man. Nothing in his eyes conveyed even a moment of doubt over his convictions.
“Oh whatever, doesn’t matter, Surrender now, you’re done.”
Sanderson looked at her as though she was an alien. She could see him trying to process her words. Olivia raised her hands and pointed her hands at both men and formed her fingers into guns.
“Put the guns down and you can live. It’s more than you deserve.”
Sanderson laughed out loud. “What? You going to shoot me?”
Olivia nodded and glanced at the other man who was now paying her rapt attention. “Yes actually.”
Mike Sanderson stared at the creature in front of him and spat on the floor. “You’re a freak and you’ll burn in hell,” he yelled and raised the pistol.
Olivia shrugged and fired her finger guns.
Both men crumpled to the ground as bullets struck their bodies.
Olivia raised both barrels to her lips and blew away imaginary smoke.
The hostages stared at her in confusion. Nothing that had happened made sense.
Ropes dropped around the perimeter of the rotunda and black-clad men slid deftly down from the balcony above. Both terrorists were secured and the hostages were cut free.
Olivia turned to the team leader and extended a hand. “Your timing was impeccable.”
The man shook her hand and grinned. “That was quite some performance.”
Olivia shrugged and inclined her head, “I suppose I’m quite used to the stage.”
The man’s darker features took a more serious expression. “Look, I don’t know everything that’s going on with you, but for what it’s worth, we got you ok?”
Olivia smiled at the man and touched his arm.
The Governor came over to her as he rubbed his recently freed wrists. “Who exactly are you?” he asked cautiously. “Were you the one they kept talking about?”
Olivia nodded. “I’m just a girl that was in the right place at the wrong time.”
The team leader shook his head and put his arm around Olivia’s shoulders. “Sir, this is Deputy Dalton, she saved all your lives.”
Officers started to fill the building as bomb technicians defused the door traps. People flooded around them in a surreal bustle of activity. The Governor extended his hand to Olivia.
“If you did half as much as I think, you have my most sincere gratitude. You’re an incredible woman.”
Olivia shook her head and looked away. “I just wanted to live sir.”
City Hall became a hive of activity as the Emergency Services descended on the building in the aftermath of the incident. Hostages were transferred to medical care and the surviving suspects were taken away by the police for processing. Once quiet hallways had become choked with people and noise as the authorities began the difficult process of unraveling the evening’s events and creating a timeline to answer questions that would surely be asked in the coming months.
Much to her protest, Olivia had been checked over by paramedics on the orders of one of the sergeants handling the scene on the ground. They had eventually released her with only minor injuries. She had been desperate to find Richard when she was able to get out of the building but found the task frustratingly difficult. Nobody she spoke to as she moved through the crowd of hostages seemed to have seen him or knew where he was.
Olivia slumped down on the edge of a flowerbed on the front steps of the grand building and rested her head in her hands. She was more tired than she realized. The night had been long; it was just after two in the morning and the place was busier than daytime. Fear she realized, used more of one's energy than any physical exertion ever could. Her body shook as she cried. The sum total of her emotions washing over her like wave breaking against the shore. The events of the evening had taken her to a breaking point. One she hadn’t known existed beyond her old limits. A part of her knew that Harry wouldn’t have made it this far, but Harry was gone now for good.
She felt an arm wrap around her shoulders from the side and looked up startled. The Sheriff was sitting beside her.
She wiped her eyes and sat up more straight. “Sorry Ma’am.”
Reilly shook her head. “Sometimes we need to let it all out, it rots our brains if we keep it in. Crying is cathartic,” Reilly explained kindly. “You don’t feel brave, but you are. Bravery isn’t trying to be strong, or intending to do something heroic. It’s doing the right thing, even when you’re terrified.”
“I’m sorry I caused such a pain,” Olivia offered weakly.
Reilly smiled and patted the girl’s shoulder. “You’re ok. Truth be told, I’d have done the exact same thing if I were in your shoes, only I’d have caused a far bigger mess.”
The sheriff chuckled, “sure would. Now you don’t go telling people any of that ok?”
“Enough of that kid, it’s Kate.”
Olivia nodded. “I still can’t believe I did this. I’m not even back yet.”
Reilly laughed. “I always had the same problem before I became Sheriff. I’d get up to all sorts of shit when I wasn’t meant to.”
She looked off into the distance and smiled almost whistfully, remembering old times. Her expression turned more serious and she turned to look at Olivia.
“You were a very different person in there tonight.” she observed. “You’re not the young green cop that I visited in hospital anymore.”
Olivia shook her head. “No, I’m not.”
“You did yourself some favors tonight. Nobody’s going to say a word against you now.”
“That wasn’t why I did it.” Olivia protested.
“I didn’t say you did, and they all know it.”
Olivia looked at the older woman and smiled her thanks.
Reilly paused as her radio chirped in her ear. She listened for a moment and smiled. “I think Anderson found someone you were looking for.” she grinned.
“Richard?” Olivia asked hopefully, her heart quickening, “he’s ok?”
The Sheriff smiled. “Yeah, he’s fine, They’re at the command post, go on.”
Olivia took off running. The Sheriff smiled as she ran through the crowd. She remembered that feeling, it felt like a lifetime ago.
Olivia dodged and weaved and ducked past the hoard of bodies clogging the area outside City Hall. It seemed like everyone had to be there at that moment doing absolutely nothing but get in her way. She didn’t care about her dress or her hair or anything beside reaching the man she’d left behind in that conference room.
Olivia spotted Anderson stood beside a man that looked a lot like Richard. He was facing away from her, talking to her partner. She saw Anderson notice her and point to the man, he turned and she recognised his face.
Olivia ran on, desperate to reach him, it felt like a thousand years had passed since she had last been with him. Richard opened his arms and she lept at him, wrapping her arms around his neck. She wrapped her legs around his waist and clung to him like a liferaft. He kissd her with such passion she thought her heart would stop beating. Her head was light and she felt dizzy, she was glad she wasn’t standing.
After what felt like an eternity, Richard pulled back smiling and brushed her hair from her eyes. Olivia stared dumbly at him, a silly grin on her lips.
“Hi yourself.” Richard laughed.
Olivia could hear clapping. She glanced around for the first time seeing the world outside of her and Richard. Officers and fire fighters were clapping and smiling. It seemed like everyone had stopped and were enjoying their moment. Olivia detangled herself from Richard and brushed her hair behind her ears and stood nervously, flushing at the attention she was receiving. She didn’t let go of Richard’s hand the entire time.
People just stood, what they were doing forgotten, and clapped. Olivia had no way of knowing that what she had done inside had become widely known by her colleagues. Some didn’t know who she was, many did, but they knew she had been the one that had made the difference there that night.
“I think I need to go give a statement.” Olivia muttered to Anderson, shrinking under the attention.
Anderson shook her head. “Sheriff’s waved that off, She’ll send someone over tomorrow. She figures you need some rest, wanna go home?”
Olivia glanced at Richard and smiled. “Yes, I think I do.”
Extracting themselves from the crowd of onlookers, Olivia was able to dodge a lot of the attention directed her way by her colleagues and the media. Anderson led the two of them to a cruiser and drove them away from the madness that had overtaken downtown.
It was just before three when they were dropped off at their apartment. Neither had said a word as they rode the elevator up to their floor and entered the familiar surroundings of their home. Richard simply held Olivia’s hand and led her to the bedroom.
Olivia glanced up at the handsome man before her. Her body trembled more than it ever had in her life. She wasn’t sure if it was residual fear or fresh desire. Richard reached behind her and slowly unzipped her tattered and bloody dress. The dress fell to the floor, forgotten.
Richard stroked Olivia’s cheek gently, his fingers tracing the edge of her bruised lip. His eyes were full of love and sorrow.
“I thought I would lose you.” Richard whispered, his hands caressing her bare arms. “I Didin’t know if life would be worth living.”
Olivia stared into his eyes as she unbuttoned his shirt. Her heart was beating so hard she thought it would break free from her chest. Her breath was short and heavy, she ran her hand up his chest and felt his own heart beating.
“I did it for you.” she whispered. “I would face an an army for us.”
“You already did.” Richard smiled. Without further word, he lifted her up and carried her to the bed.
Olivia sat behind the wheel of her truck in the parking lot for thirty long minutes unable to leave the vehicle. She’d been offered further time off after the events of the previous Friday, but she’d turned it down. She knew it was time enough to face the music, it was now or never. Somehow the theory had all been well and good until she arrived at the station parking lot.
She knew that a lot of her colleagues were aware of who she was now, it wasn’t the introduction she would have wanted but it was done. She stared at her hands on the wheel in front of her and gripped it tighter until her knuckles changed color. What was she afraid of? Why was this so hard?
She knew that from the moment she walked through those doors her life would resume where it had left off so long ago. She’d started along this path long before that fateful summer day, but for some reason, it had all felt so reversible then. Like it was something she could slide in or out of at will. She knew it wasn’t, but the truth was that life wasn’t rational in the slightest. The last six months had almost felt like a dream; someone else's life that she had gotten to experience for a brief while. It had been a break from her miserable life where she could be anyone. Returning to work meant the dream was over. Just what would the real world bring her?
There was a soft knock on the driver's window that stirred her from her thoughts. Kelly Anderson grinned back at her from behind the glass. Olivia shook her head and hopped down from the cab with a sigh.
“Contemplating your existence?” The redhead observed handing her a coffee cup. “I figured you’d need one of these.”
Olivia shouldered her bag and took the cup with a nod, “It feels super real now.”
Her partner looked her up and down with a raised eyebrow. Even dressed down in jeans and a teeshirt, Olivia didn’t look remotely like Harry once had.
“Blondie, it’s been real the entire time and you’ve handled it like a pro. Most of them know already thanks to your antics on Friday, so what’s the deal?”
Olivia sipped the coffee to buy herself time before she answered. “I just don’t want them to hate me,” she admitted quietly.
“Nobody’s going to hate you, honey,” a voice added from over her shoulder. Olivia turned and smiled weakly at Abigail.
Kelly shook her head and put her arm around her friend and began guiding them toward the station. She could feel the nervous tension in the girl’s body the entire time. Olivia was acting like it was her final walk to the execution chamber, each foot placed deliberately in front of the other.
They rounded the corner and made their way toward the front steps, Olivia focusing most of her attention on her coffee cup unable to look up. Two blacked-out SUVs were parked in the visitor bays at the front of the building. As they approached, the doors opened and a large group of men in blue utility uniforms disembarked and approached the group.
Olivia looked up uncertainly at the men blocking their path. She recognized the patch on their sleeves, they belonged to the city’s Swat team. She glanced at their faces and recognized the men she’d been with at City Hall.
The Latino team leader grinned and gestured at his men, “we thought you’d like some backup for your first day back at work.”
Olivia glared at Kelly who held her hands up in protest. “Not my idea Blondie.”
The leader extended his hand, “Alex Sanchez. Look, the boys and I respect what you did Friday. What you did took a lot of guts and you were pretty kickass in there. Anderson filled us in on what today means to you and we all wanted to walk in with you. For support, you know?”
“Why?” Olivia frowned looking around the group. “I’m a nobody, I’m certainly not a hero. I know I’m going to face a ton of crap for simply existing and I want to keep my head down and get the worst over today ok?”
Parker laughed, “Do you really think you can keep your head down looking like that?” Olivia blushed and looked away.
One of the guys she didn’t know by name spoke up and elbowed Parker, “Hey we all consider you our unofficial mascot after the City Hall job, even Parker’s considered changing sides.”
“Not a chance at all of that ever happening, even for her.” Taylor snickered elbowing Parker. “This guy is almost too gay to function.”
“Don’t make fun of me.” Olivia winced.
Abigail shook her head and smiled gently, “We’re not honey, we’re just trying to make you feel better.”
“Come on,” Kelly tugged at Olivia’s arm. “Let’s go, we’ve got your back.”
Olivia ascended the steps with her honor guard in tow. As much as she protested, she was glad she wasn’t doing this alone. The group entered the lobby and made their way through to the squad room. It didn’t take long for people to notice her presence.
The clapping started quickly and grew to a crescendo as it seemed as though most of the station had crammed into the open-plan space. Everywhere she looked, people were smiling at her and clapping.
Olivia stood frozen in the center of the crowd. She didn’t know what to do or think. She’d played through so many scenarios in her mind and this hadn’t been on the list at all. Her entire plan had been to try to not draw attention and hope she was able to slowly become a part of the furniture. If people found out or made the connection, she’d hoped they might know her better by then. She hadn’t planned to be the focus of attention, and certainly not an apparently positive one.
“Decided to finally join us for work huh?”
Olivia turned to see the Sheriff had appeared nearby, a sly grin on her lips. “Back to work everyone, the show’s over. You’ve all got things to do and if you don't, I’ll find you some.”
As the grass grows, night falls, and waves crash against the shore, the prospect of more work elicits a rapid response from employees around the world. Before long, hurried normality returned to the squad room.
Reilly turned to the group and folded her arms. “Now the appreciation party is over, I expect you wish you’d taken the time I offered you.”
Olivia shook her head, “No Ma’am. It’s been long enough, I just want to get back to work.”
The Sheriff nodded and her expression softened. “It’s good to have you back. Perhaps this was a good idea. I think your shenanigans at city hall may have overridden any drama about your change of appearance.”
She looked at the Swat team members and rolled her eyes. “I’m sure she appreciates your support, but I’m well aware you have better things to be doing. You hang around much longer and I’ll go find some pom poms for you.”
Sanchez gave the Sheriff a nod and led his men back out to their SUVs. As each man passed, they clasped Olivia’s shoulder. The Sheriff watched with an amused expression on her face. “I think you’ve got some hardcore fans there. Those guys are hard to impress.”
Olivia nodded, “They’re good people.”
“You lot get off and get in uniform, you’ve got patrol briefing in fifteen minutes.” The Sheriff chided shaking her head. “I swear I feel like a school teacher here sometimes,” she muttered as she walked away to look for someone making a mistake.
“Yes, Miss.” Anderson chuckled as she steered Olivia away before the Sheriff could react. The three women made their way through the hallways toward the locker rooms to change into their duty uniforms. Arriving, Olivia froze for a moment, a sudden wave of uncertainty hitting her as she stared at the door to the once-forbidden place.
Anderson looked at her sideways, “What?”
“Should I?” Olivia asked uncertainly glancing at the door. “I mean, is it ok?”
“You want to change with the guys?” Taylor smirked. “I mean I’m sure they’d be ok with it.”
Olivia shook her head. “No I mean… is it ok?”
Anderson finally understood and shook her head, “yeah of course it’s ok. Get in there dumbass,” she added shoving her in the back.
Olivia crossed the threshold and entered the women's locker room with a bump. It was identical to the men’s for the most part, although it did smell far better she noted. There really was no difference beyond that. A couple of women from her shift were in the latter stages of changing and didn’t pay her much attention beyond a glance toward the newcomers.
“Your locker’s here.” Kelly gestured towards a row identical to the men’s lockers. “Sarge assigned it last night.”
Olivia dumped her bag on the bench and glanced around uncertainly.
“Get on with it Blondie, you don’t have much I don’t.” the redhead leered suggestively.
Olivia shrugged and pulled her shirt off and began to unbutton her jeans. She paused shyly, before shrugging and pushing them down.
“God damn,” Kelly grinned in a similar state of undress. “I’m actually jealous.”
Olivia smiled slightly and started to pull on her uniform. Kelly had given her one of her spare vests the night before. She was glad, as it fitted her new shape far better than her old one ever had. Finally fastening her duty belt, she turned toward one of the mirrors on the end wall of the locker room and regarded herself.
Her blonde hair wasn’t long enough to put up yet, but she wore it neatly behind her ears out of the way. There were small simple studs in her ears, and her makeup was light and within regulation. For the first time in her life, she felt right in the uniform. She smiled at her reflection in the glass and knew it was real.
“Not bad at all Liv,” Taylor remarked from over her shoulder, “not bad at all.”
“Come on Blondie, we’re going to be late.” Kelly chided, slapping her backside. “Let’s go.”
To say Olivia felt awkward walking into the briefing room was an understatement. That entire morning had been an exercise in self-control to prevent her from running screaming from the building. No matter what she told herself, or how people reacted, she was tensed to receive a poor response at any moment. The only thing that flashed through her mind was the anger on her brother Mark’s face, his words, and his hatred.
She followed the others through to the briefing room. It reminded her a lot of a classroom in many ways, there were desks, chairs and a board at the front. High school certainly hadn’t been kind to her, it was almost fitting that she was here again. Taylor took her seat a little further back with the other training officers for the shift, and Olivia followed Kelly to a seat roughly half way up the room.
Olivia tried to keep her head down and her eyes toward the front of the room to avoid directly engaging anyone. She had noticed some looks directed her way, though she couldn’t tell if people simply didn’t recognize her yet, or had already caught on. Unlike high school, she knew adults would keep most of their thoughts to themselves within earshot.
“Dalton right?” a voice asked as Olivia heard a chair being pulled out beside her. Glancing over she saw one of the women from the locker room, Hernandez, taking a seat alongside them. She nodded.
“You change shift?” she asked brightly, “Surprised you’re working after Friday.”
“Um, no,” Olivia muttered quietly. “I just want to get back to work, been off too long already.”
The woman frowned, unsure what she meant before the penny dropped. “Oh, you’re the one that got hurt in that robbery right? I coulda sworn you were a guy.”
Olivia cringed and nodded slightly, unable to meet the woman’s gaze.
“Ah,” Hernandez chuckled, “I see.”
Kelly chose that moment to step in, she’d noticed the conversation around the room had quietened once Hernandez had spoken. “Yeah she’s joined the better team, problem?”
“Wait that was a dude I was beating off to all weekend?” One of the guys at the back of the room laughed, “Man, fuck!” a ripple of chuckles spread around the room and Olivia hung her head.
Hernandez turned and raised an eyebrow at the deputy, “MacDonald, you’ll beat yourself raw to anything that looks like her, once you can shave your palms of course.”
The room broke into rawcus laughter. Hernandez squeezed Olivia’s shoulder, “Ignore the boys, they’re assholes. They wouldn’t joke if they actually didn’t like you. I don’t think anyone can say anything bad after City Hall. Plus we can chalk that one up as a win for the ladies so we good.” she added conspiratorially.
Olivia let herself relax, “Thanks I guess, I just want to get on with the job, you know? I don’t want to make a fuss.”
The woman nodded, “Yeah all good, bit weird for some but this is LA, shit happens. Just don’t go perving in the locker room ok?”
Kelly snorted, “She’s bagging a sexy lawyer man, she’s not on your team Hernandez.”
The latina raised an eyebrow and smirked.
Their conversation was interrupted by the entry of the watch commander. Lieutenant Wilcox ignored the bustle of conversation and took the podium at the front of the room. “Alright calm down.” he barked silencing them all. “We picked up seven burglaries from night shift and two muggings, that’s going to be you Willard and Carter, I want Heston, Martins and Adams on the burglaries, Anderson and Dalton, you two are on area three today, Wilson and Mar…” The older man trailed off and looked at his notes before looking up at the room again searching around. “Dalton?”
Olivia flushed bright red, “Sir?”
“I…” Wilcox muttered to himself for a moment, “Ah yes, you’re…”
“She’s the badass bitch that saved the Governor on Friday,” Kelly called out.
The Lieutenant seemed to put two and two together, “Ah yes, thank you.” he coughed frowning at his notes.
As Wilcox continued with his briefing, Olivia glanced around the room. She knew that they knew, but nobody was making a scene; she could be thankful for that atleast. As old man Wilcox prattled on about a new outreach program she relaxed and watched her colleagues. Regardless of what they said, she was here and she had the support of the department. She could handle some flack, hell it was part of being a cop. She had her friends, and she knew that a lot of people respected her after what she’d done. She just hoped that it would be enough to override their other feelings with regard to her gender. With her friends around her she could cope, and that would hopefully be enough. She would prove herself to her doubters, and she would show them she was a great cop. She knew who she was, and she knew the people that mattered in her life did too. They’d get used to her, and if they didn’t, that was their problem.
Olivia Evelyn Dalton was just another Deputy Sheriff working the streets of Los Angeles. In their car, it was just her and Kelly. They laughed, they cried, and they chased bad guys. Olivia was home.
Sunset was falling as the waves crashed against the shore of Venice Beach. Amber light glinted off the water as Olivia paddled hard through the waves toward deeper water. Surfing was a glorious escape from the pressures of daily life in Los Angeles. Out here was about as close as she could get to her native Montana; a wild lonely beautiful place that she missed dearly. Out on the waves she was alone in nature’s grasp even as she looked inland towards the city's concrete sprawl. Turning on her board, she dug hard as the wave rose behind her. Catching its leading edge, she stood with practiced ease as her board began to dip as the wave swelled around her.
The ride was always exhilarating, the natural power of the ocean harnessed briefly as she raced towards the shore. Like life, it was fleeting and over before you really knew it. Olivia stood in the shallows after the wave deposited her on the shore. She pushed her hair out of her face and straightening her bikini top. Glancing at the sun she calculated she had at least one more wave before she had to head back to real life.
Slinging the board ahead of her, she began to paddle back out towards deeper water. Surfing was something she had picked up when she first got to LA for college. She was fresh from the mountains and valleys of Montana and the ocean provided one of the few escapes from the noise and vibrance of college life.
She sat astride her board taking in the wild beauty of the ocean. A lot had changed since she first left the mountains of home. That shy uncertain kid that had been the butt of so many jokes and ass kickings hadn’t known who they were. They’d moved away from a darkness that had been there all along and they’d tried to fit into a different, but still unfitting shoe. She didn’t understand why she’d made the choices she had, but she was certain of one thing. Her life was only just beginning. The darkness was gone now and instead, it was filled with the light of possibility. She had absolutely no idea what she would face in the future, but she was sure she would enjoy the ride.
“Just can’t face going back in huh?” a familiar voice called from a short distance away.
Olivia opened her eyes and glanced back over her shoulder. A man was paddling out to catch one last wave too. She smiled, “hey baby”
The man paddled his board over to her and sat facing her. “Hi yourself.”
Olivia took Richard’s head in her hands and kissed him deeply, tasting the salt on his lips. Her heart lept, and her spirit sang.
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