"I should get ready" Erin murmured as she lifted her head from her husband's chest.
"You don't have to go" He encouraged gently, running a fingertip down her arm. He wondered if he would need to remind her to wear the sling.
"I do. I'm already behind on paperwork. And that's all I'm going to be able to do for the next couple weeks" She sighed, it certainly wasn't the part of the job she had been looking forward to getting back to.
"Okay, but promise you'll take it easy" Kelly requested, the soft, sleepy look fading from his eyes, replaced by seriousness. Holding her while she was hurting wasn't something he wanted to become a regular occurrence.
"I won't have much choice" Erin replied, knowing Hank would be waiting with a disapproving look and a lecture. With that thought she pressed a kiss to her husband's cheek and rolled out of his embrace.
Erin showered quickly, unable to do much with one hand while pain radiated rapidly down her arm from the pressure of gravity alone. She dressed comfortably and eagerly secured the sling into place, supporting the injured joint and relieving the discomfort. Returning to the bathroom she did what she could with her hair and brushed her teeth before being joined by a curious toddler.
"Yeah?" Erin replied, skipping the morning greeting because it was clear the two year old had something on her mind.
"You goin' ta work?" Shay questioned, not bothering to avert her gaze as her mother moved to use the toilet.
"Yes, I am" Erin confirmed with a nod, interested to hear what the toddler would say next.
"You can't let them bad guys hurt you" Shay informed seriously.
"I won't. I'll make sure Jay and Adam and Kevin are there to help me" She assured.
"And 'Tonio, Al and Papa" The toddler added.
"Yeah, the team will keep me safe" Erin confirmed, glad the toddler seemed satisfied by that answer. She supposed Shay was used to it, having seen her both her parents injured at work in the past.
"Why didn't they but?" The toddler pondered after a moment. The team clearly hadn't protected her mother in this instance.
"We didn't know he would be there. We made a mistake and we learned that we need to be more careful" Erin explained, trying to reinforce the idea that mistakes were opportunities to learn. It was a weak attempt at turning her sudden guilt into something meaningful; the two year old shouldn't have become accustomed to her parents getting hurt at work.
"Me do it!" the toddler informed, pushing her mother out of the way so that she could flush the toilet.
"You wanna watch cartoons with me?" Erin asked, keen to spend as much time with her daughter as she could. The upside of spending the next couple of weeks behind a desk was that it gave her time to consider if she had really made the right choice for her family.
"What happened to you?" Platt demanded the moment Erin stepped through the front doors of the district.
"Uh… I was a little too enthusiastic" Erin offered with a shrug. It wasn't even close to the truth and the pain the movement caused seemed like punishment for the lie.
"Good timing I suppose" The desk sergeant commented as Erin continued towards the stairs, not entirely sure what the older woman meant.
Arriving to the bullpen the response from her colleagues was exactly what she had expected. Halstead gave a sympathetic but thankful look while Atwater seemed shocked.
"I wanna see the guy who did that" Kevin commented with a chuckle, assuming it had happened during the attack on the CI. "Seriously though Linds, you okay?"
"Yeah, nothing's broken. Just a little dislocated" She replied, it was nice that they cared but she thought Powell was far more deserving of their concern.
"How long are you out for?" Antonio asked gruffly, sounding almost like Voight as he stepped out of their Sergeant's office.
"About a week" She informed optimistically, knowing she didn't have the patience to let it slow her down much longer than that. "I have an appointment with a physio on Friday."
"Great" The older man contributed enthusiastically. "Probably a good thing the Commander has taken us off active cases then…"
"Where's Voight?" Erin questioned, just realising that the office was empty. Calls from the Commander wouldn't usually be Antonio's responsibility either.
"He was suspended-" Antonio explained gently, he had assumed she knew.
"So what're we doing then?" Atwater questioned, without active cases all they had to do was desk work.
"And for how long?" Jay added.
"Al is working on getting the Voight situation smoothed over. Until then it's just the four of us; catching up on paperwork. When we're done with that we're supposed to look over our unsolved cases, see if anything new has come up." He informed, paraphrasing what the Commander had told him. "You can go home when you're done writing up Monday" Antonio added, talking just to her.
"Of course" Atwater groaned. Halstead was fastidious about his paperwork and Lindsay only had one day worth of reports to catch up on. He had the most work to do.
"I'm up to date, I'll see what I can do with Adam's" Halstead volunteered. If IA was going to be poking around – and any time Hank was investigated that was guaranteed – he wanted to make sure everything was in order.
"Kev, can you stop?" Jay demanded, taking out his frustration on the man flapping his hand around because the one he really wanted to throttle was off honeymooning. Jay didn't understand how Adam could relax knowing there was so much unfinished work waiting for him when he got back.
"I got a cramp" Atwater replied, massaging his aching hand.
"I'm done" Jay concluded, clicking a few times before lounging back in the chair.
"Really?" Erin asked, she was up to proof-reading her own and had no idea how her partner had done weeks worth of reports in the time it had taken her to write one.
"No, not 'done' but if Ruzek's paperwork is the reason Voight goes down I'm sure Voight will handle it" Jay explained. "You know he had fourteen copies of the same unfinished report saved on his desktop!" The detective continued, exasperated.
"We could get lunch?" Erin suggested, they had been working all morning and were due for a break.
"Atwater burger run, and don't forget to ask Platt what she wants" Antonio delegated, making the most of his role as acting sergeant. Other than taking the occasional call in Voight's office he had been working the same as the rest of the team. "You two head downstairs and bring up some of our unsolved case files, we'll see what we're up against."
Erin was glad for the opportunity to stretch her legs, she wasn't used to sitting for so long, but the thought of going back down there made her heart race. Even with her partner leading the way she felt unease building in the pit of her stomach.
Logically she knew she was safe but she was having a hard time convincing her body. Hands shaking as sweat began to build on her already cold skin. She was so focused on fighting the urge to turn and run that she didn't hear him.
"Linds, you okay?"
"Hmm?" She responded, unable to hear him over the thudding of her heart she only knew he had said something because of the way he suddenly stopped to look at her.
"Are you okay?"
She could read his lips and the worry in his knitted eyebrows well enough to know what he had asked but she still couldn't hear his words over the thunderous pounding. Giving him a weak smile, she nodded and moved past him. Forcing herself to put one foot in front of the other, she pushed through the discomfort until she was standing in the open doorway of Powell's office.
Erin had to scan the space thoroughly, making sure there was nowhere big enough for a person to hide, before releasing the breath she had been holding. Then, inhaling shakily, she took in the blood stain that remained on the floor. That was where Powell had lain, beaten and bleeding until she had intervened.
"Huh?" Erin repeated, she had heard that part. Breathing a little easier knowing she had, at the very least, prevented Hayden from dying on that cold hard floor.
"IA are up in arms about the files being unsecured, they came in here and took photos but didn't do anything to 'secure' the files" Jay elaborated, shaking his head at the stupidity of the situation.
Erin nodded in agreement before hefting a stack of files off the shelf. Just because the sense of sheer panic had subsided didn't mean she wanted to spend more time in that room than she had to. Not dropping the files gave her something to concentrate on but the open door of the cage still sent a shiver down her spine as she passed it. She moved swiftly back towards the stairs, towards safety; like running up the stairs after turning off the last light downstairs.
After a delicious and filling lunch Erin took a pumping break, shutting herself in the break room and settling in the comfortable chair. Pulling out her phone she sent her husband a message requesting photos of their day. Seconds later three images arrived: Shay curled up and asleep on the couch, Ember sleeping soundly on Kelly's chest and a goofy photo of him pretending he was also asleep. Zooming in on the little details, Ember's soft, round cheeks, Shay's perfect nose and the turned-up corners of Kelly's mouth kept her occupied.
As much as she would have loved to join them for a family nap on the couch – and Antonio would have let her go home if she asked – her team was already low on numbers. She had wanted to return to work and that meant sticking around even when things were slow. So after placing the bag of breast milk in the freezer and packing up she returned to her desk.
Antonio had distributed the stack of unsolved case files and a quarter of them – almost equal in height to a coffee cup – waited on her desk. The first case was almost four years old, a drugs bust during which they had recovered several kilograms of heroin but never found the people responsible. If the lab could match the heroin to that found in a more recent case she might be able to track them down but otherwise there wasn't anything she could do.
The next file detailed a convenience store robbery gone bad, the store clerk had died of his injuries a few days after the attack. There had been a strong suspect, with a history of holding up gas stations and surveillance footage showing him visiting the store two days prior. His parole officer had provided an alibi though. With no surviving witnesses they had simply run out of leads.
A non-fatal gang related drive-by shooting was the next unsolved case. The car had been found burned out in a warehouse parking lot and identified as one stolen weeks prior. With no fatalities and no way to link the car to the perpetrators there had been no sense of urgency in solving the case.
As she unfolded the next pale yellow file she gasped involuntarily, her eyes flitting from one photograph to the next. She hadn't seen any of the images before but recognised her mother instantly. Erin hadn't forgotten, but she had hardly pushed herself to remember either, only thinking of the unsolved murder in the quiet moments when she wasn't distracted by her daughters.
She remembered Hank telling her Bunny's body had been found in an alley by patrol officers. The crime scene photos showed her mother's lifeless body, lying in the dirty snow, face down. She hadn't known her mother was shot in the back. Had she known the person who killed her? Known she was about to die?
There had been a disturbance, the transcript of a noise complaint stapled between the medical examiner's report and a long list of people Bunny owed money in the file. The neighbour had reported hearing a man and a woman arguing an hour and a half before patrol had arrived. What had taken them so long?
Erin forced herself to look up, shock had become frustration and was fast growing into anger, noticing her partner gazing at her curiously from the other side of the room. She wanted to force a reassuring smile but her face refused to cooperate, her lips scrunching to one side instead. Halstead frowned in response and rose from his seat, crossing the distance before Erin could decide what she wanted to communicate.
"Shit" Jay swore as he looked at the file open before his partner.
"What?" Antonio questioned as he rolled across in his desk chair. "Oh! Sorry Erin, I didn't–"
"No. It's okay. I'm fine. I just… wasn't expecting it" She explained flatly. Still struggling with the same sense of not knowing how to feel she had experienced when Hank had first broken the news.
"We sent copies through to Homicide but Voight wanted us to keep it" Antonio informed.
"Yeah" Erin accepted, Hank had asked for her permission.
"We interviewed all of these guys, they all had solid alibis but they're shady characters so they could have just hired someone" Jay remarked, running his finger down the list of people Bunny had owed money.
"The argument neighbours reported threw us, it had to be someone she knew so the hitman theory was out" Antonio interjected, the case stood out only because Voight had worked them so hard trying to solve it and they had come up short.
"We just didn't get anywhere" Jay conceded apologetically.
"It happens. Bunny knew a lot of people, none of them good" Erin justified, she understood that they had tried. But she hadn't.
"I'll work it if you want" Antonio offered, reaching for the file.
"No" Erin answered immediately, placing her hand on the stack of photos and papers so that he couldn't take it. "I don't think it'll be my top priority" She added more calmly. "But I can see if there's anyone obvious you've missed."
"Okay, if you're sure" Antonio agreed, eyeing her intently for a moment before giving Halstead a warning look.
"Thanks" Erin said, drawing back their attention. She glanced at the file, just for a second, before closing it and stacking it with the others. She knew they would all be watching her carefully.
After opening the next file and scanning it for important details she looked up again, giving a pointed look that had both men retreating back to their desks. She was fine, she thought.
Erin read another five files over the next hour then ran a few searches on her computer, checking up on suspects in case a pattern of behaviour had become apparent. Then she called the lab and waited on hold for twenty minutes while they tracked down the results of their tests on the heroin sample. Leaving them to figure out how to use their new computer system to search for matches she made a couple of notes and tidied her desk.
"I'll see you in the morning" She announced casually as she stood, receiving a nod from Antonio in response. Making her way into the break room she packed the supply of frozen milk that had begun to accumulate, knowing it was only a matter of moments before there were footsteps behind her.
"Yeah?" She replied, turning to look at her partner as he leaned in the doorway.
"You wanna grab a beer?" He offered, the look in his eyes betraying the idea that it was a normal friendly gesture. He was worried.
"I do" She answered honestly. She would love to have a beer, or four, at Molly's and hang out with the guys. "But I'd rather to take my girls to the park."
"Fair" Jay accepted, knowing he would put family first in her position. "Another time then."
"Sure" Erin agreed. Once Hank was back, Hayden was out of the ICU and they had actually solved a case she would consider a night at Molly's.
"I'm always here if you need anything" Jay added carefully, not wanting her to think he was just saying it because he had been put up to it.
"I'm okay, thank you though."
"Have fun" He added with a smile before giving a small wave and returning to his desk.
Shay was giggling gloriously as she chased another little girl around the playground, racing up the ramp before slowing to cross the wobbly bridge and slide down the slide. Ember lay on the picnic blanket with her parents, edging closer to the thick green grass that remained just out of her reach.
Kelly smiled happily as he gazed from one girl to the next, collecting the little white sock Ember had kicked off and slipping it into his pocket. The movement disturbed his wife, her head resting against his thigh, bringing her back to the present.
"What are you thinking?" He questioned, eager to know what was on her mind. She had arrived home in a seemingly great mood, suggesting the afternoon outing to their toddler's delight, but with Shay occupied elsewhere the smile had faded swiftly.
"Today was…difficult" Erin confessed slowly, struggling to put it into words. "I had to go downstairs. To where it happened on Monday" She began, remembering the intense feelings that had surfaced.
"Mentally I felt fine, like logically I knew it was safe. But I thought I was going to be sick, I was shaking and sweating and my heart was beating so fast. I couldn't control my body."
"Hmm" Kelly hummed in acknowledgement, his blue eyes searching her face for any indication of how he should respond.
"What?" Erin asked after a moment, the quizzical expression on his face enough to earn a small smile.
"There's a lot I could say," Kelly started, "but you've got this."
Erin closed her eyes for a second and breathed deeply, hoping to inhale some of the confidence he had in her. She didn't feel worthy of it. She didn't know how to feel about so much of it; Clark's attack on Powell, Hank's suspension, her return to work and subsequent injury, her mother's murder. She hadn't even told him about the way that had resurfaced.
With a sigh she realised that trying to label and rationalise her emotions certainly wasn't helping, she just needed to feel them, to work through them as they arose. "Thank you" She murmured after a moment, already feeling more at peace.