Lie To Me Fan Fiction / Law And Order - Series Fan Fiction ❯ The Meaning of Family: Kinship ❯ Chapter 6: Change Blindness: The Start ( Chapter 6 )
The Making of Family: Kinship
Chapter 6: Change Blindness: The start
After a relaxing weekend with his sister Monday came way too soon but it was like a new start. The first thing he let go of was dressing more professional and of his usual casual preppy look for the time being. He instead chose to be comfortable in a long sleeve button up green flannel shirt and pants. He then purposely took his time to enjoy being outside while strolling to work though still managed to get there five minutes early. By the time the others showed up he was fully immersed in gathering and setting up the equipment that would be needed that day to record and track the Musso murder trial.
Frustratingly, things would have seemed normal if Lightman would stop giving him once overs as if he surprised to see Eli there, making Eli uncomfortable. This annoyed Eli as it was Lightman who texted him instructions last night on the case and what they would be taking for the DA's office as if nothing had happened. He had expected either it to be ignored or exaggerated not both and had to take a breath to steady himself before giving Lightman a slightly forced smile and asking if Anna was already at the courthouse in preparation for the ambush.
Fortunately, the rest of the morning went on pretty much like normal as everyone gathered to watch and analyze Mrs. Musso walk into the courthouse with Zoe of all people. Why was he not surprised that Lightman had chosen to leave that part out? Despite Lightman, Eli was quite pleased with getting a chance to study the jury. Ria on the other hand was not. Ria couldn't be blamed though considering she was a natural which meant hands on. While Eli was and would always be a researcher. The data he was gathering had potential to progress a few different side projects he was working on. A perfect distraction to dive into his job and limited his interaction with Lightman as he was still nearby.
The freedom he felt from his new perspective and working on a case he enjoyed gave him confidence to be more openly flirty and playful with Ria. Which felt more intense and intimate than the the early days when Ria first joined. He also learned some interesting detail about Ria and the knowledge that the most satisfying marriages supposedly were when the man was five years older than the wife. Something to file away for later in case he found himself in the position of considering marrying a younger woman. A fact he sadly thought lowered his chances with her.
Despite his newfound fun Eli couldn't help but notice Lightman's behavior seemed to go even colder. He kept giving Eli studied looks and doing non-verbal things like making Eli move so he could close his study door to keep Eli from looking inside even though he had been in there hundreds of time before.
Lightman of course also put on a pretty entertaining show in the courtroom because Lightman would always be the most entertaining anywhere Zoe was concerned. One of the fringe benefits Eli would always cherish was Lightman's effect on people, ex-wife or not. Oh and they got to prove a woman's innocent and tick off the DA's office in the process. All in a day's work at the Lightman group, he so love his job.
Their next case was helping a soldier who was having trouble readjusting to civilian life with PTSD. One of the bonuses of this case was Foster got to play with her pet VR project. Eli did not mind assisting her on the project. The technology was interesting and he had a big hand in helping her spend the DOP grant to build it. It was so much easier to work with her now that they had been truthful about the past. He could admit part of him going against her and losing their clients retirement money was from resentment of her coming in and becoming his boss while negating what he said or did in Lightman's eyes. At least the part that kept him from coming to her and explaining his concerns about the situation. He had even taken the time to buy Foster a smoothie and finish talking things over with her to clear the air of what had been between them resulting over his mistake and her handling of the Doyle situation.
So things were going good for him. Better, in fact, than he had originally hoped when it came to Foster and Ria. In all the years he had worked with them he never felt closer to either. Lightman on the other hand was exceeding his expectations in the other direction. He knew Lightman would be difficult but he was not prepared for the turn things had taken. Instead of his usual straight out belittling ways he had taken to watching Eli at awkward moments and pretty much avoiding Eli at others. It finally came to a bit of a head though during a case where they were trying to get a reading off a quadriplegic cop in order to help the police figure out what happen to him.
Clara Musso, the widow they had proven didn't kill her husband, was following Lightman around like a seductive little puppy. She did this in hopes of learning in a few days something most people either spent years studying or was born with, usually a combination of both. At first she tagged along with them to the interview but then made herself useful in getting the wife and daughter to leave. Assignments like these were always hard on him. Filming and analyzing someone he knew was going to be dead soon, seeing the guys wife and kid balancing on the edge of grief and despair, it was heartbreaking.
The 'line up' went as well as expected, with only eye dilation to go on as a sign of recognition of the juvenile suspects. Both Lightman and Eli knew that the real answers would come from the review of the tape that would focus on the others in the room. When they were done Eli packed up the equipment and followed Lightman out of the hospital room.
"Okay, I want you to head back to the office and hand over the recording to Foster for analysis," Lightman told him suddenly out of nowhere as he turned to face Eli.
"Uh why? You're kidding right? I can start as soon as I get there and I'm much faster so it could be ready by the time you and Miss tag along get..." Eli tried to argue
"No you will hand it over to Foster. I want you to start researching lowland gorillas."
"Excuse me? Lowland gorillas? Why would you..." Eli asked completely confused by this demand.
"I hired you to be a researcher not a front line assistant like Foster and Torres and I want you to do the job I pay you for and research lowland gorillas."
Eli couldn't count how many things were wrong with that statement, "Okay for one you don't pay me, remember? For two I'm not seeing the point unless you have suddenly developed an interest in the civil war in the Congo or HIV research."
"Oh you get paid exactly what your worth and when did this turn into the Loker group? I'm your boss and you will do what I tell you exactly as I tell it. Besides how is this any different then from when you did all that research on the monkey kingdom?" Lightman said completely condescending.
Eli just raised his eyebrows and refused to let himself get angry, "Yeah like I did that research just for fun without a specific point and if you're talking about my chimpanzee research, that was a request from you because that Daniel guy challenged you at a conference about the universal-ness of your science. Which by the way I spent six months on and you didn't even bother to read before having me mail my results to Daniels. So forgive me if I don't understand your sudden interest in lowland gorillas. Which by the way I need to understand so I know what I'm looking for."
"Aggression, leadership, mating, the usual suspects and Loker this will be your top priority or you can just stop coming period. Do I make myself clear?" Lightman asked with a stare that left no room for misinterpretation.
"Look if you want want me out of the way so you can play teacher uninterrupted all you gotta do is ask. No need for the fool's errand," Eli said defiantly.
"Excuse me?" Lightman asked indignantly.
"Oh like she isn't the blond flavor of the month. I can see right through you but whatever the joke's on you. You don't want me directing my time on this case fine. As you said you are the boss man but I have no objection adding another layer to my research," Eli answered as he started to walk away.
"Directly to Foster..." Lightman yelled out one last time before rocking on his heels and walking off in the other direction to go find Clara Musso.
"Yeah because Foster is the one who needs to see you acting like this," Eli said more to himself then Lightman's retreating back.
Eli followed Lightman's instructions as soon as he entered the office, well almost to the letter. He took the time to upload the video and set up the programs that Gillian would need to use before heading to the library and pulling any and all source material he could get his hands on about lowland gorillas. Having missed all the excitement of the case and the police's treatment of Emily so Eli had to hear later about how Clara Musso tricked her way into becoming a controlling interest in the Lightman group. Oh how Eli wish he could have seen her out maneuver Lightman but any joy he might have gotten from that fact was quickly overshadowed by the realization that once again an outsider now had more control over Lightman's group then he did.
Afterwards, much to Eli's disbelief, things got even weirder, which was really saying something considering for who and where he worked. He couldn't even bring himself to talk to his sister about it since she was already having a hard time accepting why he continued working with the Lightman Group in the first place and these events would just add gas on that building fire. Eli could only blame himself though for hitting a nerve or something with his comments at the hospital. He really wish he knew which one was the landmine so he could avoid it in the future because Lightman almost seemed possessed in interfering with Eli's work, completely bent on making Eli only research lowland gorillas. Like he was trying to make Eli eat his words. Lightman even went as far as to clear his desk of anything he tried to work on and personally give it to others in the research team.
This got tiresome pretty quick because there was only a couple hours worktops that he could do on a live gorilla study in a single day. Leaving him with nothing to do but stare at the work he knew needed to get done. By the end of the second day Eli was fed up and went into Gillian's office to reduce his hours for the time being as he waited for whatever ego trip Lightman was on to ride it course. He had better thing to do then sit there all day when he had a paying job where finals were coming up fast. Thus the two o'clock sun was greeted by the unusual sight of Eli in a Tee shirt, shorts, and tennis shoes getting off his bike to enter the youth center he worked at.
"Hey Eli! We already have a few students set up in study room C waiting for you. Seems word of you being free to tutor has gotten around but make sure you say hi to DJ first I think he has some news he wants share with you," Debra, a pleasant brunette in her mid-forties, greeted him.
"Really? Okay, I bet it is the results of DJ's last math test he really has a good head with numbers," Eli told her as he grabbed his badge and clip board from her as he headed to the study room.
Eli strolled into the room to find four boys and four girls chatting as they waited, "Okay boys and girls I'm glad to see you all are taking the approaching finals so seriously. I will be with you in a moment so if you are not already set up please do so now. DJ may I have a word?"
Once outside Eli turned and gave the teenager his full attention. DJ was one of his regulars and often came to Eli for tutoring help. His father was in prison for assaulting a guy over a bad drug buy and his mom worked three jobs just to support DJ and pay off the massive debt the deadbeat dad had left behind. Despite all of this DJ was starting to break out of the bad crowd he grew up with and make something of himself. Eli completely understood where the kid was coming from at least emotionally even though his personal situation was a bit different. Eli really wanted to see the kid succeed.
"Debra said you wanted to show me something?"
"Yeah this," the boy said as he handed him a paper with a perfect score on it, "and also this."
Eli gave an impressed whistle as he was handed the test but his eyebrows went up as he looked down at a scholarship brochure, "What's this?"
"A sports scholarship, my coach said I could have good chance at qualifying if my grades are acceptable this semester," DJ told him with a mischievous smile that made Eli weary.
"Okay what's the score. I know your grades completely sucked when you started coming in here."
"I need to score pretty high on all my finals to make it," DJ told him as he pulled out a list of his current grades and what he needed to make on each final to qualify for the scholarship.
"Wow you aren't kidding. Well at least we got math pretty much covered already. It will be hard but it is doable if you are willing to put in the work over the next three weeks," Eli told him as he studied the boy to determine is he was willing to do the work.
"You know I'm willing. What kind of work are we talking about?" DJ asked.
"First you are going to have to start coming in more often... even when I'm not around... for tutoring, any free time you have be through those doors. Also I have some great study tools and methods I will teach you when I'm here that you can use when you are at home. You won't have much of a life but hey that's what summer break is for right?" Eli told him as he patted his shoulder and headed back into the room.
When he got into the room he went over to the first girl, who's name was Jenny, to see what she needed help with, "Okay anyone else struggling with U.S. history, Mrs. Wilson's class?"
Every hand including DJ's went up, "Wow okay Mrs. Wilson. Well that makes it easier. I'll just use the board and work with all of you at the same time. First off does anyone have a book I can borrow?"
"So you are really going to do it?" Elliot said skeptically from the driver side of the car.
"Yes, and why are you saying it like that?" Olivia asked with a little offended huff.
"You have only been talking about it for what two months? I mean come on if you were going to do it you would have done it by now," Elliot told her bluntly.
"You make it sound like I have had opportunity to drive out there. I mean come on El, Washington is at least four hours away on a good day and it's been one thing after another going on here. I mean the last two times we meet halfway I was called back for one urgent reason or another and it's not like I can just go on leave when I have trial dates coming up," Olivia tried to explain.
"Excuses," Elliot said calling her out.
"Really now I don't think..." Olivia started.
"No listen to me. How many times has Eli driven out here?" Elliot lead.
"Four," Olivia replied guiltily.
"Right four, plus he has driven half-way just to hang out for a while. Your younger brother which you have taken to worrying about pushing himself to hard because he works two jobs, already gets my point which is you have to go out of your way to make time for what's important to you. It's not easy and it will at times go against your instinct to only focus on the job...on the vic... but you have to make it happen or you will lose it. I mean look at me I didn't make the time and now I'm stuck in this weird limbo trying to get reacquainted with my own wife," Elliot told her and Olivia was wondering if this was payback for letting him know that she thought his biggest problem with Kathy was that he was a fool.
She knew he had a point though but that was why she was so frustrated by the situation. In the past any relationship she had tried to have was doomed from the start because either they were interested in her job for the wrong reasons or couldn't except cop hours and her being married to the job. Eli though was more important than any temporary boyfriend, he was family, her little brother and she want him to stay around. Also he understood her drive and even went as far to praise her dedication when their time got interrupted. He was very understanding. Probably because his life was just as crazy at times. Still he found time to sync their scheduled and drive out to New York to cook for her and call her after a difficult day just to let her vent and make her laugh.
She needed to show him she had the same drive and desire to make their new sibling relationship flourish. Not that he seemed to mind putting the extra effort in, in fact most of the time he just seemed grateful to be allowed in her life which just made her sad at how little value he seemed to have in himself. Which just brought her to another part of her frustration of not knowing how he was living his daily life and exactly how Lightman was treating him.
"I'm going to make time. Eli is free this weekend and I'm hoping to go but that really depends on where this case is heading doesn't it? I can't control what gets dropped in our laps."
Elliot just shrugged and let it drop as he turned on the street they were head to an found a parking spot. As they were walking towards the townhouse, Melinda meet them and started filling them in on the details. Their victim was only a teenager.
"I'm running a rape kit. Found semen on the comforter. Looks like she's been dead since last night," Melinda informed Olivia and Elliot as they walked to the crime scene.
"Cause of death?" Olivia asked.
"Her tongue occluded her airway," Melinda informed them.
"So she was strangled?" Olivia concluded.
"I'll let you know after the autopsy," Melinda stated.
"Where's the crime scene?" Elliot cut in.
"She was in an upstairs bedroom but no sign of struggle. Lividity matches the position she was found in," Melinda said as she made to break away to her van.
"Okay, well, let's go talk to the parents," Elliot said to Olivia as they started to turn towards a couple waiting to be interviewed.
"Well, good luck finding 'em," Melinda told them.
"Well, then, who are they?" Olivia asked pointing to the couple.
"The homeowners Sheila and Kevin Banks and Zoey. The chihuahua's their only child," she told them as she looked over her notes.
Elliot reached down to unzip the body bag that was still on a stretcher outside the van, "Who's this?"
"No idea. They've never seen her before," Melinda informed them causing Olivia and Elliot to exchange a look. Olivia would not be going to visiting her brother anytime soon.
One week, Eli's new schedule lasted exactly one week. This was a few days short of what he expected because as much as Eli wanted to believe Lightman knew what he was doing in restricting his work and disrupting his lab, maybe trying to get the rest of the research/analysis staff more independent while putting Eli in his place, Eli knew better to bet that Lightman just didn't have a clue what Eli actually did on a daily basis. Sure he worked there on a more volunteer bases since Lightman striped him of his pay but that never changed the fact that Eli was in charge of running the lab and was still the most senior member of the team after Lightman and Foster. Besides, Eli was the only one in the entire office beside Gillian and Ria who could handle Lightman's abuse on a daily basis without having a nervous breakdown, running from the room crying, or quitting. Usually it was a combination of the three which was why the most senior member after him was Mark who had managed to hang on for three whole years.
During that week Eli loved the content feeling he got by being involved and actually making an impact in the kids lives who went to the youth center. Even though it was only their grades he actually found himself questioning why this was not his calling. Olivia even noticed he was happier with the change just by the tone of his voice but much to her dismay he knew he would always be bound by the search of truth and the ability to discern it. The proof of that was how much he was enjoying his lowland gorilla assignment even though it was forced on him. He would only grudgingly admit to that though if Lightman ever asked him but he knew he would always be a nerdy researcher at heart. Besides he found himself just not caring what Lightman was doing and easily just brush it off. No, after finals the place he needed to be most was Lightman's Group even when he walked into chaos that he was walking into now.
"What is going on?" Eli ask though he could venture a guess on why Sara, a recently hired grad-student was crying into Mark's arm as the rest of the staff look on wide mouthed.
"It's the Conner's case. She misread disgust for arousal. It has caused some umm... problems for our client that Foster is trying to iron it out now but Lightman has already been through here," Mark explained as he pulled away to hand the girl a tissue.
"I told him that I needed you to look over some of my findings! I'm not experienced enough to be always right on the finer expression but he told me no," oh no angry tears that was not good, "He said you looking it over wouldn't change anything! Is he blind or just that stupid?"
"Look Sara it's okay. You are still new to this and Lightman..." Eli started as he tried to think of a way to stop the inevitable.
"No Eli it's not okay. Cal Lightman is the most arrogant, egotistical....egotistical....bully I've ever known. I'm leaving and you should go with me," Sara said, no longer crying, as she stood and faced him.
"No Eli I always thought it was a joke how the other researchers hide behind you and let you take the fall for any errors but after this week... it's just not right."
"I thank you for your concern but I'm here because I want to be and if you stay I know you would learn so much. I promise you what happened this morning will not happen again," Eli said a bit pleading.
"I'm sorry but I'm out of here," Sara said with finality before gathering her stuff and leaving.
Eli and Mark just watched her leave before turning to look at the staff and each other. This wasn't a new scene though it had been awhile since someone had quit and stormed out on them. Not counting Heidi and Tina who were receptionists/personal assistant to Lightman no one had quit since before Ria because Eli had made it unofficial policy that those under him should go through him in all manners concerning Lightman so that he could shield them from Lightman's bullying ways as much as possible. There really just wasn't enough qualified people out there to meet their employee turnover an unfiltered Lightman caused.
"Well that was fun. Let's not do this again," Mark said breaking the silence, "I did what I could to proof everyone's work but I'm just not as quick and thorough as you. I don't know how you do it man but I think we would all be grateful if you started again or we are going to lose more staff not to mention my sanity."
Eli could see the agreement on everyone's faces, "Hey you know I would love to but you've seen Lightman determination not to let me do anything that is not lowland gorillas but I will discuss this with Foster."
Eli turned to leave to do just that and headed to Gillian's office. He got there just in time to see a man storm out and down the hall.
"Now if that is not proof of a satisfied customer then I don't know what is," Eli couldn't help quip as he entered her office.
"We lost the account and he is trying to back out of paying us the work we did," Gillian told him tiredly.
"Just send Reynolds to collect. A brooding FBI agent with a gun should do the trick," Gillian rewarded him with a small smile, "Sara's gone."
"I figured she would be when Lightman slithered away and deserted me to sort out this mess," she said as she started to refile folders that had gathered on her desk.
"Hurricane Lightman strikes again but seriously do you think he could at least consider the fact I'm the one who has to train all the new recruits before ripping apart the old?" Eli asked rhetorically as he sat in one of her chairs.
Gillian stopped what she was doing and studied Eli, "I know it is not fair to you but I need you to start coming in more again to charm and motivate the staff."
Eli raised an eyebrow skeptically, "Charm? Hardly, I'm just Lightman's favorite whipping boy that distracts him from terrifying the staff or was until lately."
"Lightman yelling at you instead of the staff isn't the only reason there has been a resemblance of peace when you are here. There also is a lot less mistakes made in the first place. Believe me...this week has been chaos. There has been other near misses that were caught by Ria and me but truthfully I wasn't trying to catch them all which resulted in this mess. Which is a shame because we don't even have any possible replacements for Sara at the moment. Meaning we cannot lose anyone else," Gillian told him.i
"Well I came here actually to suggest a plan that will split the difference. I'll come in more but at odd hours when Lightman is not here to review the others progress in order to lower the mistake ratio a bit. I'll even give extra training to the staff who would want to come in with me but I'm not going to waste time here when I have more important thing I could be doing elsewhere."
"Sounds reasonable and Eli hang in there k?"
"Yeah, now if you excuse me... I have some lowland Gorilla research to do. I finally got the discovery channel guys to stop hogging past research material and give me access to a good amount of tracking video feed. I actually have work Lightman will let me do today."