All I Want
Title: All I Want
Summary: Viggo is a detective and Liv is an archivist and neither could have expected this.
Notes: AU with extremely inaccurate police procedure.
It was storming the day everything changed, which fitted Viggo's mood perfectly.
That morning, he'd spent three hours helping to choose the weight of the paper for the invitations to his wedding--the actual weight of the paper, never mind the design--and he'd done so without comment, without argument. He'd feigned interest to stave off another fight that he wasn't taking things--his impending marriage--seriously. He'd finally lost his temper when Penelope, his fiancé, had decided, as they stood on the platform waiting for the next train, that she'd made a mistake and that they needed to go back. He'd refused, calling it a ridiculous waste of time, which it had been, and folded his arms over his chest as Penelope walked away, back to the store, he supposed, and he'd taken the train back to his flat rather than follow.
The train had been delayed and he'd ended up getting off a stop early, walking in the gathering storm as the wind whipped leaves and refuse against his legs and his battered old leather jacket went slick with rain. He was still irritated but let his thoughts turn toward the office, to the paperwork he'd left sitting so that he could help choose the weight of paper for a marriage he had long ago begun to doubt. He stopped, letting the rain continue to pour down on him as he turned his face toward the gray sky. He hated the truth of his thoughts and considered going back to find Penelope, as she likely expected him to do, or doing something about it--what, he didn't know, and it was that indecision that had him pulling his phone from his pocket, an apology already forming in his mind.
He stopped when he noticed he only had one bar of power left and used it as an excuse to click the phone shut. His brother, Walter, would have called him out as a coward if he knew, trying to spur him to action as he had when they were children. It's not an apology she needs, Walter would have said. The thing Viggo hated most was that Walter would be right. Charles wouldn't have any thought on the matter at all, automatically earning him the title of favorite brother. In the end, cold and wet won out and Viggo turned down the alley as a shortcut to his building, his thoughts still with his brothers rather than his impending marriage, thoughts that were chased from his mind as he realized what he was seeing.
At the end of the alley, a woman sat huddled on the ground, the rain soaking through her clothes. An umbrella lay wrong side up against the building opposite, its spine broken and its fabric ripped to shreds. As Viggo watched, the woman pushed herself up, her arms shaking with the effort, and she crossed her hands over her body. When she looked up, her pale features stood out in sharp relief, before her face crumpled against her fears. It was then that Viggo focused enough to realize that they were not alone. A man stood over the woman, reaching for her, his hands curled into fists. In that split second, Viggo thought it wasn't anger that spurred the man but he didn't bother to parse out what that might mean.
Viggo shouted over the sound of the rain and the traffic behind him. The man turned to face Viggo, irritation curling his lip before he grabbed the woman's purse from where it lay in a puddle and took off down the alley. Viggo gave chase, reaching again for his mobile and dialing for dispatch, the phone giving a warning for low battery before it rang out.
"Stop!" Viggo yelled, wishing that actually ever worked. He hated foot chases. "Police!"
Viggo reaches out for the man, grabbing the back of his wet jacket, the thin blue windbreaker crumpling in his hand. "Police," he said again, his voice shaking with adrenalin. The man twisted in Viggo's grip, threw down the woman's purse, its contents spilling out, and Viggo saw the man's face clearly--milky, heavily-lidded blue eyes and a dark pink, kidney shaped birthmark on his cheek. He swung on Viggo, a knife sliding into his hand and Viggo's view, and Viggo let him go, taking three quick steps backward. The man made another swipe at Viggo before he turned and ran. For a moment, Viggo considered giving chase but turned to see the woman was still on the ground, bent as if in pain. Turning back, he saw the man round the corner, spill out onto the more crowded cross street and knew that the man would easily disappear into the crowd before Viggo could catch him. He made the decision to let him go and went instead to the woman, bringing his mobile to his ear.
"This is Detective Mortensen, NYPD," he said, trying to control his breathing. "I'm at Westminster and Journey. There's been an assault--shit. My phone died. Are you okay?"
The woman nodded.
"Are you okay?" Viggo asked, kneeling down into a puddle. "Did he hurt you?"
She nodded again then shook her head, bringing her hands up to look at them. Dirt streaked her cheek and rain matted her hair but she looked more stunned than injured.
Viggo nodded, too, and slid his hand around her back and helped her to her feet. "Can you walk? What's your name?"
"Liv," she said, her voice catching. She swallowed hard and forced a smile. "I'm okay."
"Can you walk?"
Liv nodded again and Viggo helped her to her feet, catching her when she swayed a bit, the low heel on her shoe broken off.
"There's a coffee shop just at the end of the alley." Viggo wrapped an arm behind her back, about her waist and offered her his hand. She took it, leaving against him heavily, and he could feel her body quake against his. "Are you okay? Are you sure you can walk?
"Yes. He took my purse."
"Better than your life," Viggo bit out and then immediately regretted his tone when she dipped and swayed. "I'm sorry. You're alright. You're alright. He dropped it just down here. We'll get it."
The woman took a few staggering steps before she found her footing, leaning less though she shivered now, completely soaked from the rain that continued to thunder down. Near the end of the alley, Viggo stopped, making sure she could stand on her own, then knelt down to pick up the contents of her purse. He almost feels as though he should look away as he quickly grabs up the small compact that he felt contained a now broken mirror, a tube of lip stick, a handful of coins, a bus pass, a tattered wallet and a work id badge for the National Archives--Liv Tyler, it said. He tossed everything into the brown handbag now covered in muck, wrapped the broken strap around it once, tucked it beneath his arm, then stood. She leaned against the alley wall, holding her wet coat tight about her body, her hair framing her face in heavy wet strands. Viggo reached out for her and she went to him easily and he collected her tight against his side.
The cafe was thankfully empty except for an older woman with bleached curls and an apron tied tight about her waist. She hung up the phone when they came in and stepped from around the counter, stopping only when Viggo put his hand out.
"Call the police," he said, unsure if his message had gone out before his phone died. "Ask them to send a patrol car, please."
The woman nodded, her hand fluttering to her throat. Viggo led Liv to sit and helped her from her wet coat, hanging it over the back of another chair, and knelt to pull off her ruined shoes. She was wet and chilled through, quiet though shivering as she watched him with wide blue eyes. The knees of her tights were shredded, showing blood and torn skin. He took her hands and saw they were skinned as well. The waitress came over and handed Viggo a towel.
"They'll be here soon," she said, her eyes flitting from Viggo's to Liv's to Liv's stomach and Viggo followed. "I'll bring some coffee."
Viggo nodded her away then took the towel to Liv's hands and arms, looking again at her distended belly as if to confirm what he hadn't noticed before. For a moment, he wasn't sure what to say. The worst of his past experiences crowded into his thoughts before he reached to run the towel over her cheeks then patting her hair, being as gentle as he could.
"You're pregnant?" Viggo asked--to confirm though he knew it was unnecessary.
"Yes," she answered, her arms protectively going around her body as they had in the alley.
"We should call an ambulance."
"I don't need an ambulance. I just, I would like to go home."
"How far along are you?"
"Just over five months."
"Just to be checked out, alright?" Viggo patted her shoulder, trying to sound more in charge of the situation than he suddenly felt, which was strange enough to leave him feeling more than just a little off balance. "Just to be sure. It's been a bit of a shock, yes?"
Liv nodded at him, her eyes suddenly going glassy with unshed tears as her mind seemed to catch up with what had happened. Viggo stood abruptly, requesting the ambulance and another cup of coffee though the first sat untouched.
"Your jacket. It's cut."
Liv touched her fingers to his arm, to the tear across Viggo's shoulder and arm, and Viggo caught her hand. It wasn't something he could think about--the knife, the danger--and he was more than thankful when the bell over the door jangled and two uniformed officers arrived. Viggo stepped aside, meaning to let go, but couldn't quite. He stood quietly beside her and she leaned toward him, answering questions in a quiet voice that did not waver until the officers walked away as the ambulance arrived.
"Is there anyone I can call for you?" Viggo asked.
"Your husband. He'll be worried."
"I'm not married. There's no one to worry."
The answer took Viggo aback for a moment and he looked at her stomach again before he forced his eyes back up to her face. "A friend, maybe?"
Liv shook her head and in the next moment, the small café was filled with more officers, brought there by the reports, and the medics. Viggo stepped back to let them work, watching as they laid Liv out onto a stretcher and began to take her vitals, ask more questions, and attach monitors. She sought out Viggo's eyes through the sudden crowd, looking bewildered and scared, and Viggo had to stop himself from moving forward to go to her. Before he could think too hard about that, she was lifted up and taken away, and Viggo was lost to his own moment of strange panic.
"Where is she being taken?" One of the medics looked at him with some suspicion, a look that Viggo recognized, and remembered belatedly to take his wallet from his back pocket and show his badge.
The medic's eyes flickered to the badge then back to Viggo's face before he nodded. "St. Luke's."
"Is she alright?"
"For the moment but I imagine they'll want to keep her overnight to make sure the baby is safe."
"Right." Viggo nodded, putting away his wallet as he watched the medic load Liv into the ambulance and he was left suddenly alone in the cafe, the officers again stepping outside as they gave him sidelong glances, waiting for him to take charge. His own nerves caught up to him then, the adrenaline from the chase long gone and leaving him cold and suddenly aware that he was soaked through as well.
Viggo collapsed into the chair and ran the discarded towel over his close cropped hair. The waitress sat a fresh cup of coffee at his elbow but he barely noticed. He thought this should be old hat to him by now. Picking up his jacket from where it had been thrown over the table top, he fingered the gouge in the leather that the attacker's knife had left. If he hadn't come just at that moment, he wondered, what would that knife have been used for. Liv's face, pale yet still so very lovely, came to his mind. If he had to guess, he would have put her into her early thirties. Unmarried, she'd said, but pregnant. He wondered about the father, about circumstances he has no business wondering about.
This had always been the hardest task of his job, putting aside the personal lives of those he served so that he would be able to serve them best. It was easier some times over others. There had been too many times in the past that Penelope had criticized him for mentally bringing home his work--for torturing (her word, not his) himself with the mental images of what he had seen, of the faces of victims. He had argued that it was what made him a good officer and what had made him a better detective. He still cared, unlike some of the men and women with whom he worked, though certainly not all. He had never been comfortable with the graveyard humor. It had never been just a job.
No, that Liv's face would stay with him for days or even weeks would be no surprise. What surprised him was the emotion he felt behind it, that he had never felt before toward another victim. He'd almost demanded to go along in the ambulance but bit back the words, feeling himself more protective than had ever before. There'd been relief to discover that she was unmarried, a relief he now felt to be wildly inappropriate.
Viggo forced his thoughts back onto his jacket, onto the attacker and what that knife would have done to his sinew and muscle had his reflexes been a bit slower. He knew he needed to report it and would. He knew he couldn't take the lead here. The case had to belong to someone else. But now he made a mental list as he picked up the rapidly cooling cup of coffee and took a sip. Home for a shower and to shave. He hadn't forgotten that he's meant to meet Penelope at her parents for dinner and to review seating arrangements for the reception. He needed to charge his phone. Needed to check his messages and maybe his emails if he had time.
After a moment, his list was gone, his hand resting loosely around the cup in his hand as he stared into the fire, replaying the scene in the alley and letting his mind be overcome with worry and working through the strands of panic and fear. She was safe, Liv, she would be alright though perhaps be a little less confirmed in her belief in the goodness of people. He had seen that happen though he'd be lying if he said he didn't feel a bit sorrier to see it in this case.
Standing, Viggo tossed a handful of coins onto the table for disturbing the quiet of the cafe and for the coffee. He gave the waitress a grim smile and nod on the way out the door. Outside, he left his information with the first officer who had been on the scene, a young man who looked a little bewildered to find his witness, victim, and suspect gone before the detective could arrive. For a moment he fought with himself about where his feet were headed before he trudged back to his flat, more miserable in the rain now than before.
It was at the hospital alone later that night that Liv finally gave in to her tears. She had been poked and prodded, assured that both she and the baby were fine, though they've admitted her overnight just to be sure. For a long while, she watched the blip on the baby's heart monitor, trying to determine the secret rhythm of the child's life. Ever since she had discovered she was pregnant, Liv had questioned her desire or willingness to be a mother. It was never something she consciously thought about before but then she'd been given no choice about it and then the decisions had consumed her.
Now that the real danger of losing the baby had been upon her, she knew that she hadn't made a mistake. She still questioned her ability and desire to raise the child on her own but to carry the child was no longer in question. Laying there in the hospital, her own body bruised and sore, the gown uncomfortable, the rough sheet rubbing against the places where her skin was skinned raw, she was comforted by the sound of the baby's heart monitor as it beeped steadily. She felt, somehow, that she wasn't alone and that maybe things would be alright. A knock at the door brought her from her thoughts. She stiffened as she leaned forward, expecting another doctor or nurse but was surprised by who she saw. "Detective Mortensen."
"Viggo, please. May I come in?" Viggo waited until Liv nodded before he stepped inside the room, rubbed his hand across his neck. "How are you?"
"I'm fine. Sore. Come in, please." Liv sat up and smoothed her hair back from where it hung heavy across her shoulders, dropped her hands when she caught herself at it. "I didn't get a chance to thank you."
Viggo shrugged her thanks off, moved a few steps closer to the bed before he stopped and jammed his hands into his pocket. "Are you sure there isn't any one I can call for you?" "No, thank you though. There's no one to call."
"They're in Maine. I don't want to worry them." Liv spread her hands over the blanket covering her belly, awkward and self-conscious. That Viggo seemed honestly concerned about her warmed her even as she sought to reassure him and herself while she was at it. "I'll call one of my coworkers in the morning but I don't want to disturb her tonight."
"I hate to think of you here alone tonight."
"I'll be okay."
"You said your family is in Maine. Is that where you're from?"
"Yeah, but it's just my sister and her husband there now."
"How did you end up here?"
"I had been working in a library there and decided I needed a change. Of course, this isn't exactly what I had in mind." Liv rubbed her hand over her belly again as she looked around the room, at the monitors she was connected to. She remembered the uncertainty she'd felt even just applying for the position at the National Archives, her excitement when she had found out she'd been contracted to come to New York City for a year and a half--packing up her old life, which had grown stifling in its sameness--and driving down on her own. Liv looked at Viggo, her eyes glassy with tears, and she was suddenly deeply embarrassed. "I'm sorry. You've been very kind. Thank you."
Viggo shook his head and waved his hand, again waving away her thanks. "Will you be alright here?"
"I think so."
"Would it be alright if I came back to tomorrow? To check on you?"
"You don't have to."
"I'd like to."
Liv nodded, blinking back tears again at his kindness. She reached her hand out to him and he took it, squeezed her fingers between his own as he came closer. "Thank you, detective."
"Viggo." Liv repeated, smiling at the sound of his name--at the strange comfort she took in saying it. "I don't know how to repay you."
"I was just in the right place at the right time." Viggo shrugged his shoulder, the old axiom feeling strange on his lips. He didn't believe in fate or destiny but right now he could certainly understand the temptation. It felt right holding her hand. The strange surge of protectiveness towards her felt right. Everything about her, actually, spoke to him and he was awed by that feeling and let himself be. "I'll come back in the morning to see how you get on." On impulse, he bent and pressed his lips to the top of Liv's head, breathing in the scent of her shampoo and of rain and Liv closed her eyes, leaning into him.
"Rest well," he said and she nodded her head, keeping her eyes closed until the door shut quietly behind him.
For a long time, Liv sat quietly, her eyes closed. She felt chilled now that he had left the room, and lamented her timing in everything that's happened over the last year. She wished that she had taken the chance to come here years ago, even with the bad that had happened. She wished that she hadn't lived so fearfully for so long and hoped that she didn't fall into that fear again. Most of all, she wished that she had met Viggo under any other circumstances, at any other time. She didn't doubt that he was a kind and good man, the sort of person she could trust immediately, but once the emotion of the situation wore off, and he saw her for what she was--pregnant and alone, then he would be gone and she wouldn't blame him. But it didn't stop it from hurting, the loss of something that she knew had never been to begin with, and she turned her face into her pillow and mourned for the life that she would never have.
It was late when Viggo finally made his way home to find the light flashing on his answering machine. He didn't bother to listen to the messages, knowing whose voice would play out to his silent flat. He took the mobile from his pocket and noticed two missed calls there. He thought of Liv's words, this isn't exactly what I had in mind. He knew the feeling. He had entered the service young, right after university, with little thought to what the life would entail. He enjoyed the challenges but he knew he had become hardened, taciturn, or, as his fiancé Penelope had said, bad company. The job weighed heavily on him sometimes, he knew this, and couldn't explain to Penelope why he couldn't leave it at the office and why sometimes he didn't want to.
Viggo retrieved a bottle of beer and sat on his couch, picking up the remote and flipping through the channels before he found the news and pressed mute. His thoughts were still with Liv, of the fear and confusion on her face, of the things she had said and some of the things that she hadn't. He mostly worried about her being alone. He found that he was often at a loss to answer the question that most victims ask of him, why did this happen to me. He knew that sometimes there was no answer to give and other times the answer was so convoluted that it offered no comfort at all. He wondered how he would answer Liv if she asked the question.
He continued to ignore the blinking on the answering machine, hearing the conversation and not feeling up to it tonight. The argument of earlier would be forgotten though not forgiven. The never ending and ever changing details of a wedding that he honestly could not express any excitement over would glide past him as if a river--the underlying recriminations for things that he didn't even recognize or wouldn't change if he did though he thought that maybe missing tonight may be deemed less forgivable. Another failure on his part.
Viggo finally clicked off the television and tossed the remote control onto the table. Standing, he saw his ruined jacket where he'd left it when he had come in and crossed the room to pick it up. He remembered how Liv had looked at it, her eyes big with fear as she realized what had happened. Penelope hated the jacket he'd had for years and he couldn't help thinking that she would probably be happy to see it gone, no matter the cause. The thought that things could have ended so much worse for both Liv and Viggo made it hard, though, for him to care.
The next day Viggo still found it hard to concentrate, split between his concern for Liv, his guilt over Penelope, and his determination to find the man who took a swipe at him. He'd found the detective assigned to Liv's case, found that he had already been to see her in the hospital. He gave his statement, and asked more questions than he answered. Finally, Viggo gave himself permission to leave his desk for an early lunch to return to the hospital.
He knocked lightly on the door to Liv's hospital room and found her sitting up in bed, speaking with a woman. Liv turned at the sound of the knock, her face lighting up when she saw it was him and he hated himself for a moment as he compared Liv with Penelope and found that he couldn't remember a time when Penelope had ever looked at him like that.
"Viggo," Liv said warmly, holding her hand out to him. He crossed the room and took her hand, squeezing her fingers between his own. "Miranda, this is Detective Mortensen, the man who saved my life."
Viggo waved his hand then held the same hand out to who he assumed was the coworker Liv said she would call.
"Right place at the right time, so I heard," Miranda said.
Her smile was a bit more guarded, a little less welcoming, and Viggo supposed he could understand it. Instead of focusing on it too much, Viggo turned in time to watch as Liv's cheeks turned rosy and he nodded in answer that felt a little less like he was defending himself when he saw Liv. "I'm glad I was able to be there. To help."
Viggo caught the way Miranda's eyes flickered first to Liv's face and then to his own, some estimation taking place, before she turned the conversation back to where it was before Viggo entered, something about their work, he supposed, and arrangements being made for time off that Liv insisted she didn't need or want. Before Liv could convince her friend, a nurse bustled into the room, surprised to find visitors where she hadn't expected them.
"I'll come back after work, Liv. Rest," she commanded with mock seriousness then offered her own hug and kiss. "Would you mind walking me out, Detective Mortensen?"
It was less a question than another command but Viggo nodded, resigned. "I'll be back up," he said to Liv, squeezing her hand again before he bent down on another impulse to press his lips to her forehead under Miranda's watchful, suspicious gaze and Liv's surprised if accepting one and he wondered to himself for a second time why he did that.
He then followed Miranda out of the room, the nurse pushing the door closed behind them. They walked in silence to the end of the corridor, Miranda pushing the button to call the elevator. Viggo kept quiet, recognizing from his mother the look of a woman preparing herself for battle.
"Does she seem well?" Viggo asked when the door to the elevator closed around them. "Like herself?"
"She does, yes, but it's been a long time since she's been herself, I'm afraid."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that she's vulnerable right now and I'm not sure that I approve of your behavior towards her."
"She doesn't need someone taking advantage of her, especially someone who she's developed some sort of hero complex towards."
"Could you possibly communicate in full sentences, Detective?"
"Full sentences. I'm not even sure what you're implying to know how to respond to it."
The elevator stopped, the doors opening, and a nurse wheeling a patient in a wheelchair got on. They all rode in silence to the ground floor. Viggo held the door open until everyone was off, then followed Miranda as her heels clicked on the marble floor and they were outside of the hospital. She rounded on him then, shaking her finger at him as if to an errant child.
"You've no idea what that girl's been through."
"I was there. I'm well aware." Viggo didn't step back from Miranda, but held his ground, lowering his voice. "And she's not a child."
"She's naive, taking people at face value, and we both know, I think, especially in your line of work, that not everyone has the best intentions, yeah? I don't want to see her getting hurt." "I'm not going to hurt her."
"Maybe not on purpose, then." Miranda crossed her arms over her chest, looking away from him. The wind blew her hair around her face and she batted at it impatiently. "Look, when this wears off--"
"When this feeling of being invincible wears off. When you hang up your cape and go back to your everyday life, she's still going to be where she is right now: alone and pregnant."
"Wow. Do you think maybe you're projecting a bit?"
"I did my job yesterday. It's not about being a hero, I stopped a robbery in progress and I helped your friend. I'm not asking for congratulations or a pat on the back. I didn't come here looking for anything from Liv except to know she's okay."
"I saw the way you looked at her." Miranda shook her head and began digging through her purse, coming up with a cigarette and lighter. "Worse, I saw the way she looked at you."
"You're reading too much into it."
"She spoke highly of you. It was the most animated I've seen her in weeks, actually. I think." Miranda stopped and met Viggo's eyes steadily, weighing her decision to say anything before she nodded once and adjusted the strap of her handbag on her shoulder. "It was luck, I think, that you were there when it happened. That it was you. And I'm sorry that I don't sound more grateful to you for saving her life. I am. She told me he had a knife."
"And that he slashed at you."
Viggo nodded once. He had been trying not to think of that since it happened.
"I'm not a very spiritual person but it seems as though maybe it could have been worse had you not stumbled upon the situation as it was happening. I mean besides the fact that you obviously stopped her from being seriously injured."
"Did she say anything about it--the attack, I mean--other than--"
"No. She spoke of you. Liv is never one to dwell on the negative, at least not with us. With me. She's smart and she does her job well and she's a lovely person." Miranda took a hard drag on her cigarette, then pushed her hair back out of her face and turned to exhale. "She keeps things inside, not wanting to be a bother, I think. I wonder sometimes. I worry. There has to be a breaking point, I guess, and I'd rather it not happen to her."
"I think that maybe I was there for a reason, too." Viggo crossed his arms over his chest, not meeting her eyes. They were words that had been gnawing at the edges of his thoughts since he'd left the cafe yesterday and it was something of relief to say them out loud. "I'm not going to hurt her."
Back inside the hospital, Viggo stopped at the tiny gift shop and bought a small bouquet of flowers, ignoring both the buzz of his phone and the voice in his head that asked him what he was doing. Back upstairs, Viggo waited in the hall for the nurse to come out, her smile more sympathetic this time. It struck him suddenly that she probably thought he was the father of Liv's baby. He couldn't quite work up how to feel about that and she was around the corner before he could work anything out. He knocked again at Liv's door before pushing it open slightly, finding Liv alone. She smiled at him again, obviously happy to see him and he found himself happy to see her as well.
"You mustn't mind Miranda. She means well."
"I could tell. She's a bit protective."
"They call her Mama Bear at work. She hates it."
Viggo laughed at that description, thought it apt. He took another step inside the room and held out the bouquet of flowers, which she took with joy though they were a bit wilted, and he remembered the last time he'd given Penelope flowers. She'd been on the phone with the florist within minutes complaining about the quality and crowing with delight when they'd agreed to refund his card and a send a new bouquet to her flat. Pushing those thoughts away, he helped Liv arrange the flowers in a plastic cup he filled with water from the sink and then sat on the edge of her bed, resisting the urge to take her hand again. "How are you?"
"I'm fine. I'll be able to go home tomorrow morning."
"And the baby?"
"Good. They say she's fine. Or him," she whispered. "I don't know which, actually. I didn't want to know because I wasn't sure I was going to keep her."
"Have you changed your mind?"
"I'm not sure. I'm a bit of a mess."
"You look fine to me."
Liv shook her head no, her lips a grim flat line. "I'm a bit of a mess."
"Please don't say that."
"I want to thank you, Viggo. You've been really kind."
"You've an aversion to being thanked."
"It was my job."
"Thank you for doing your job." Viggo smiled at that and nodded. "But this isn't your job now, is it?"
Viggo looked up to meet Liv's eyes and shook his head no, unable to tell even that small lie.
"I'm a bit of a mess," she said again, squeezing his hand when he would speak. "I don't mean that as a statement on my worth as a human. I just mean I can barely keep myself together most days and you seem like a really nice guy."
Liv leaned her head back against her pillows and closed her eyes. Viggo did reach for her hand then and she didn't pull away.
"I wish I would have met you a year ago," she said, laughing a bit though there's little humor in it. "Maybe sitting at the security desk at the archives. Something safe, I guess. Something before this happened." She pulled her hand away from his and rubbed it over her belly.
"So, thank you, Viggo. And as much as I hate to say this, I need to ask you to save me one more time and be the one who walks away."
For a moment, Viggo sat there, a bit stunned. He hadn't expected this and certainly hadn't expected it to be easy, but once he realized what she was saying, what her meaning was--once he looked up and saw the tears on her cheeks and knew that it wasn't what she wanted but maybe what she needed--he nodded and covered her hand with his, remembering his promise to Miranda. It wasn't his intention to hurt Liv. He had never believed in love at first sight or destiny or anything else that couldn't be supported with facts but in this case, just this once, he had begun to think maybe it was possible and that everything in his life up that point had been a lie. He nodded to think that he was right before but was surprised to find that it hurt so much.
Viggo thought about Liv a lot in the weeks that followed but hadn't seen her since he'd left her at the hospital. He had done battle with himself over the appropriateness of seeking her out, and his sense of morality--his sense of honor--stopped him. He had been doing his job when he'd protected her and he had to respect her wishes. It wasn't meant to be, they weren't in a fairy tale.
Still, the grim reality for him afterwards was that he was in a relationship that seemed ever closer to marriage even as the gap between him and Penelope grew. Before he'd met Liv, he couldn't remember ever having given it so much thought. He hadn't cared. It hadn't seemed to matter particularly. Now there was a new reality and as he threw himself into his work, taking whatever overtime he could grab and whatever case came his way until it'd been days since he'd seen Penelope, either, and he was stretched between guilt and relief when he thought of it.
Sometimes he would think, call her, you loved her once but then he thought that maybe he hadn't at all. That maybe he was more in love with the idea of being in love, with having a connection to someone who was so forceful, so independent, so completely independent of him, and now that he'd met Liv, he knew it hadn't been what he wanted at all. It wasn't that he needed someone to rescue--to save--and he suspected that she didn't need or want that either. He didn't know what he wanted.
Frowning, Viggo leaned back in his chair, his eyes no longer seeing the report he had been working on, his concentration shot. Liv had needed him, if only just for that moment, and that had been the difference. He'd been able to make decisions that mattered. She'd leaned against him, trusted him, and he'd had liked the feeling. But it was inappropriate, he thought, and probably not even real. She'd been vulnerable and had he done anything other than respecting her wishes would have been unconscionable. If he acted on his desire now, it would be no better. He would be preying on her fears, offering her something that perhaps neither would feel later on--when the emergency was over, is what Miranda called it. It was better to leave her be. Better to return to the job at hand, to the life he'd constructed whether he'd meant to or not, and to the woman he'd offered marriage to.
There were days when he could accept that and every other reality that he'd come to know and accept as truth. When he was able to slide back into the roles he'd worn like a mantle. And when those thoughts didn't feel comfortable there was the work to wade through, to lose himself to. Of course, it was on the train home one night that he ran into Liv again and knew that everything he'd been telling himself was a lie.
It was already dark, the wind blowing scattered snow across frozen streets, when he'd finally left his office. The cold and bleak December had brought enough horror across his desk that day that Liv was pushed well from his thoughts. As he stood on the platform, he felt the buzz of his phone vibrating on his hip and ignored it, a new habit that was frustrating everyone from his commander to Penelope to his brothers. The train was crowded and he had to stand, leaning his head against his arm and closing his eyes against the sound of so many others talking to each other and on their phones.
There were delays on the line, the announcements said. What was usually a fifteen minute ride turned into nearly forty-five as they stopped and started, the lights flickering in the tunnels. At each stop, it seemed as if more people got on than off and he considered at every station to get off and walk the rest of the way home. He stayed, though, the decision to do even that too much at the end of one of the worst weeks he'd had in a long time.
His phone vibrated against his waist again and again he ignored it, closing his eyes against the feeling as he thought that if he got off at this stop, he would toss it into the East River on his way home. When he opened his eyes, he saw Liv first, as she entered the crowded carriage.
She was lovely, he noticed, and then let himself be honest that he'd noticed it before. He thought her beautiful. Her hair was caught back into a pony tail tonight but he could remember how it fell below her shoulders and felt soft, silky, tumbling in dark waves. Her navy coat was tugged tight over her growing tummy, the buttons straining, and she sagged a bit as she carried a heavy bag on her shoulder and a sack of groceries in her hand. She looked tired to him, disappointed at the lack of seats and frustrated when nobody offered her one. For a moment he thought that he, too, could turn his head and pretend as if he hadn't notice her. She hadn't seen him yet, and they could go on their separate ways. He thought back to what she had said in the hospital and thought that she was right. It would probably be for the best. It would be what she wanted. What were the chances that they would meet again like this? He'd taken this train only very rarely and knew other ways home. She likely wouldn't remember him, he thought, or would rather forget him and the things he may remind her of. The train jerked to a start and Liv swayed with the movement, her grip not good on the strap above her head and too burdened to really make the effort. He moved forward then without thinking, his fears and worries dropping from him like the newspaper in his hand as he crossed the carriage, squeezing past the others, and reached for her. When his hand touched her shoulder, she looked up, wary and slightly fearful. Viggo felt overwhelmed by a desire to protect her, to gather her in his arms and hold her safe. He resisted the temptation but only just, especially when the fear left her face and she smiled.
"Are you well," he said and she nodded. He imagined that the look on her face was saying so much more, words she seemed to bite back, and Viggo nodded, too. He reached for the bag on her shoulder, lifting it and she let him move it to his own shoulder. He took the sack of groceries, too, and then moved closer to her, to steady her with a hand on her back as he reached for the strap above his head.
"How many stops," he asked, as if this was normal, as if his heart wasn't beating like he'd just ran a race. "Five," she said.
After the first, a seat opened up and Viggo moved her toward it, standing still next to her, his hand now on her shoulder, as he protected her from the jostle of people getting on and off. As the train moved again, he looked down at her, watched as her hand spread over her belly, rubbing gently. He remembered what she had said, what he had repeated to himself a couple of times since, this isn't exactly what I had in mind.
At her stop, he helped her to stand, his hand again on her back, and they stood on the platform, waiting for the crowd to clear before they began to navigate the twists and turns of the underground. Above ground, Liv seemed to breath easier and Viggo gently rubbed her back, holding back questions and concerns that he didn't feel the right to express.
"Thank you again, detective."
"Viggo." She said his name lightly, turning to give him another, shyer smile. He wanted to kiss her and was so shocked by the desire that he had to take a deep breath of his own to keep from doing so.
"You seem to have a knack for coming to my rescue," she said, still smiling.
"I can think of worse hobbies."
"Does it happen often?" Liv dropped her eyes, embarrassed it seemed, and he rubbed her back again. "The whole damsel in distress thing, right? As if you make it a habit. I'm sorry, I'm not saying what I mean."
"I don't." Viggo looked up and down the road, at the people shuffling past. It had gone colder since he'd left his office and he stepped to shield her from the worst of it though snow still whirled around their legs. "Make it a habit, I mean."
He wanted to say more, meant to say more, about how he didn't think it was right but then he couldn't quite get those words to form because while the argument made sense when he was talking about anything or anybody else, it wasn't right for when it came to Liv. He shocked himself again by thinking about how much he'd really like to make it--this, her, them--a habit and then bit back everything in favor of the admonishments in his head: he was engaged, she was pregnant, he knew nothing about her, about her relationship with the child's father. It was inappropriate and he knew it.
"Let me walk you home."
Liv looked at him for a moment, studying him, and he felt exposed in a way he never had before with Penelope--absolutely stripped bare. He stayed steady under her gaze though before she nodded and they turned to walk the three blocks to her building in silence.
Her tiny flat was three flights up, no elevator in sight. She took them slowly and Viggo moved quietly beside her, his hand firm on her back as he continued to carry her bags. She dug for her keys from inside a newish leather handbag and he thought of picking her old one up from the ground, its strap broke, and collecting the contents. He didn't know why the picture remained so vivid to him.
Liv opened the door and stepped inside, searching for the light switch. Viggo stayed outside the door, holding her bag and her groceries. The light suddenly spilled across his shoes and she came back, opening the door a bit wider, and he meant only to hand her the bags but inside when she invited him in. It was tiny but tidy and reminded him strongly of his first apartment when he had been straight out of university and rather proud of his salary and his ability to take care of himself.
"I hadn't meant to stay here long," she said. "I thought it was only temporary, that I would find something better."
"When do you go back?"
"I keep telling myself that I could go back anytime, you know? But I don't want to, even with everything that's happened." Liv shook her head as if telling herself that wasn't what Viggo was asking at all before she tried again. "My contract ends next September, so a while yet."
"When--" Viggo stopped, gently setting the heavy laptop bag onto the floor, leaning it against the leg of the bed, before he held out the bag of groceries. He tried to make his voice sound casual though he felt anything but. "When are you due?"
"March. The end of March."
There was a moment of silence between them before she turned to put away her groceries. He watched as she placed the bananas carefully on the windowsill and the quart of milk into the disturbingly bare refrigerator. She turned and caught the look on his face and laughed, the sound breaking the barriers of tension between them and sounding like music to Viggo, like rain on the window, like whispers or promises.
"I never learned to shop properly here and never had much time to cook. It's not for--" Liv's cheeks flushed red as she searched for the words she wanted then shook her head. "I must seem truly helpless to you."
"Not at all."
"I thought this would be some sort of grand adventure and it's turned into anything but."
"I'm sorry," he said, not sure what compelled him to do so.
"I haven't told my family yet. At first I thought maybe I wouldn't do it. Maybe I would, you know. Just not do it. And then I couldn't. I felt it move inside me and I couldn't do it."
Viggo nodded, suddenly understanding that she wasn't talking about her decision to come to New York, to live and work here--her grand adventure--but about the baby. His eyes went to her stomach, to where her hand rubbed over the bright green material of her sweater stretched tight.
"It sounds so stupid but during the day I can think about it rationally. Or at least how I think a rational adult would think about it. I'll give it up for adoption to some couple who can't have children. I'll give it to some other woman who will give it so much love, who would be such a better mother than me, who doesn't need rescued all the time." Liv shook her head, a sound somewhere between a laugh and a sob escaping her. "But at night, all I can think about is, I don't know. Singing it lullabies. Taking it places and teaching it things. Loving it. Him or her. I'm sorry," she said, swiping a shaky hand over the bridge of her nose. "I don't know why I'm telling you this. It's like when I come within five feet of you, I can't shut up. Hormones." Liv tried to laugh again but there was no humor in it. "You probably want to go home. You probably--"
Viggo took the steps between them and gave into his desire to hold Liv in his arms and she went willingly, burying her face into the soft wool of his coat. He stroked his hand over the back of her head, pressed his lips to her temple when she turned her head and took a shuddering breath.
"I'm right where I want to be, okay?" Liv nodded, her hands curling into fists in his shirt and he nudged his cheek against hers.
"Can I make you some tea," he said, though there were about a thousand other things he wants to say instead. Tea felt safe. Tea made him feel slightly less insane for wanting to carry her off from this place and offering her the life he had already offered to another woman, one he didn't have a quarter of the same feeling for, he realized with a clarity that was both stunning and sickening. Offering a life he didn't feel he currently had the right to give and so he kept quiet.
"I don't even have a kettle." Liv shook her head then turned to face him, leaning her back against the sink, her arms going around her body. "If there's anything I don't want, it's you to feel sorry for me."
"I know I said it before but I really wish we'd met some other way, Viggo. Any other way, at any other time. I wish you hadn't seen me like this."
"Now is what we have, Liv." Viggo said and was surprised by his own answer. This wasn't an end, he knew. There was Penelope and a wedding and a baby and his life and her life and their life, and he knew it. She knew it. It wasn't this simple and he didn't care. He moved closer to her, rubbed his hands over her arms before he cupped her face and tilted his head to kiss her. She let him, her hands closing on his shirt again before one hand slid up and around his neck pulling him closer, bringing him nearer.