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The Final Victim

Chapter Text

“I almost killed him…”

The whisper was quiet, almost as if the other woman had spoken more to herself than anyone else. Her face was turned towards the window of the squad car, her bruised cheekbone hidden in tangled, unwashed strands of hair.

Amanda watched her, too shocked to say anything.

From her place in the backseat, next to Olivia she was as close to a victim as she'd ever been, but a part of mind did not want to accept that every moment between them here was a part of a criminal investigation in which Olivia was no longer a police officer. She wasn't a colleague, a partner, or a part of the NYPD. She was a victim.

Amanda felt a knot in her throat but she felt pretentious for wanting to cry. She wasn't the one who had spent four days in the hands of a rapist and serial killer. She wasn't the one who was forced to watch brutal torture and forced to choke down drink after drink to achieve compliance. She wasn't the one who had possibly been assaulted.

“You would've been more than justified.” Amanda murmured at last, her tone barely rising above a whisper.

Olivia didn't respond.

Her hands twisted in her lap. Her once perfect nails were broken, dirt and grime caked around them. Blood still speckled her arms, chest, and face. His blood.

Amanda wanted to reach out and grab her hand or hug her close, to assure her that everything would be all right, but she was afraid that Olivia wasn't ready to be touched and held.

She knew trauma. She knew the way she would involuntarily pull away, even years after she'd been raped. She knew the loneliness, and yet the utter disgust at human interaction. She knew the way she must hurt; and yet she could do nothing to help her. Not right now.

Olivia's breath shuddered, her brows furrowing at the scene of the beach house in front of them. She lifted one hand, slowly biting at one nail as her eyes glistened.

“We're going to get out of here soon.” Amanda said, pained at the sight of her obvious distress.

They'd spent days searching for her, but all of the fear and anxiety of the unknown could not culminate high enough to match her anger and horror now. Her stomach churned at the thought of what he'd done to her, what he was still doing to her mind.

“Let me see what's taking so long.” Amanda said at last, unable to stand the silence and Olivia's traumatized expression.

She shoved the door open and stepped out onto the beach. The wind from the sea whipped at her hair, carrying the smell of fresh water to her nose. She sucked it in deep, hoping to wash away the scent of sweat, blood, and alcohol.

She marched around the nose of the car, determined to whisk Olivia away from the scene, get her to the hospital and then to a shower. There were long hours ahead of them, but she wanted to stay with her through all of them.

She knew that at some point, Brian would show up. He would try to help with his gruff way and obtrusive attitude, and Amanda cringed at the thought. Even if Brian was Olivia's boyfriend, he wasn't necessarily the best person to be with her right now. He had zero comprehension of what Olivia was going through. She could take care of Olivia far better than Cassidy, the self-centered bastard.

Amanda found the uni who had offered them the backseat of her cruiser.

“Montoya!” She called out to the young officer.

“Yeah?” Montoya turned from rolling out yellow police tape.

“You think you could hand that off to someone else?” Amanda asked, brushing her flyaway hair back behind her ears. “I think we really need to get Benson to the hospital.”

“Sure, sure.” Montoya nodded, eager to be of some help.

Amanda smiled shortly and turned back towards the cruiser. Her smile fell quickly when she saw Olivia several yards from the cruiser, wandering across the sand.

The blanket they'd wrapped her in billowed behind her like some kind of drab cape, her hair rising and falling about her haunted expression. Her head was bent, but Amanda could see exactly where she was headed.

The ambulance was off to the side of the beach house, William Lewis’s barely conscious body inside. They were preparing to leave the scene but not soon enough.

Amanda's heart lurched into her throat at the mere yards that were now between Olivia and her psychotic attacker. For a moment, she was frozen in shock that Olivia was heading straight in the direction of the man she had just escaped before she broke into a jog.

“Olivia!” Amanda called out, her boots pushing into uneven, shifting sand as she ran towards the ever closing gap between Olivia and Lewis.

Olivia barely acknowledged her, her hunched figure determinedly trudging towards the ambulance. Even at this distance, Amanda could see the way her eyes danced with pain from her sullen visage.

“Olivia, wait.” Amanda panted, her heart racing as she reached her.

She darted in front of her, forcing her to a swaying halt.

Her eyes lifted, the blackness of her pupils swallowing Amanda in a dark emptiness that sucked the air straight from her lungs. Her heart squeezed in her chest at the sight of her ashen face and lifeless gaze, as if all she had ever known was this grotesque, torturous existence.

“What are you doing, honey?” She whispered, reaching out to gingerly touch her arms.

Her fingers trembled with the urge to protect her, only stilling when her palms settled over Olivia's flesh.

Olivia flinched ever so slightly, finally blinking. Her gaze locked slowly onto Amanda's, pulling away from what seemed like another dimension.

“I wanted to make sure he was in the ambulance.” She whispered, her voice unnaturally low and raspy. She swallowed thickly before saying haltingly, “Restrained.”

“You don't need to do that.” Amanda said, squeezing her arms softly. “He's not going to hurt anyone anymore...especially not you, okay?”

Olivia barely nodded, her gaze stretching past Amanda as the ambulance began to pull away with a scream of sirens.

“Hey.” She whispered, ducking into Olivia's line of sight. “He's not going anywhere but to prison.”

Olivia's brows furrowed slightly and she finally looked back at Amanda, a veil falling over her dark eyes to mask the terror that still lingered in her gaze.

“I'm sorry. You're right.” She muttered, frowning and shaking her head.

“It's okay.” Amanda said, her heart calming as the other woman returned to safety.

She cast a glance back towards the retreating ambulance before she pulled Olivia close to her with one arm around his waist.

“Come on.” Amanda urged, tugging her in the direction of the cruiser. “Officer Montoya is going to take us to the hospital.”

Olivia followed her lead slowly, her legs trembling with each step. Amanda cast a few short glances at her profile as they walked, her heart racing sickly at the lost look in her eyes.

She was in shock, most likely still inebriated, and it hurt even more to know that when those things wore off, something even worse would come, something not so easy to pull her away from.

~~~~~

The soft beep of machines pulled her from sleep, immediately followed by a dull throb in her skull.

Olivia moaned quietly, becoming aware of the smallest details - the dryness of her mouth, the ache in each limb, the smoothness of sheets against her bare legs, right down to the medicinal smell filling her nostrils.

For a half a second, the world was blank. One merciful moment of nothing.

Lewis….

Olivia jarred upright in the bed, gasping.

Panic was quick to explode in her chest, although a part of her brain logically tried to reason that a hospital was a safe place. She remembered arriving here, but it was like an old, degraded film playing in her mind. Not her real life…

A tug at her arm alerted her of the IV attached to the inside of her elbow and she tried to gather her breath and her racing thoughts as she deduced that it was simply hydrating her rather than keeping her alive.

Glancing at her other arm, she found it wrapped in a brace. She hadn't enough noticed an injury to her arm when she'd been beating Lewis, but now as she stretched out her fingers, she could feel the ache, causing her to gasp softly.

“Hey, it's okay.” Brian's voice drew her attention and she felt his hand touch her arm.

She jarred away, her eyes darting to him quickly. Her heart was still racing and something about the way his hand clasped her brought a feeling of claustrophobia clouding through her chest.

She had thought she would be happy to see him after four days of isolation with Lewis, barely surviving, but now the way he crowded in close to her with groping hands made her skin crawl.

After days under the influence of alcohol, the sudden clarity of thoughts and feelings was disturbingly sharp and as the memories set in, a part of her wondered if she might've preferred to not have woken up sober.

“I'm sorry.” Brian murmured, standing from the chair next to the bed.

“It's fine.” She whispered, staring down at the stark white sheets.

She couldn't meet the grey-blue of his eyes. She could hardly stand the sensation of him looking at her with concern and inquiry. She felt sick at the thought of him asking what had been done to her, what details he might want to wrench from the recesses of her mind.

Clutching her stomach with her uninjured hand, she glanced frantically about the small, dim room.

“Where's Amanda?” The question rose to her lips without her remembering forming the thought.

She remembered the younger detective taking her to the squad car, away from the gruesome scene of the beach house. She remembered her quiet assurance, the way her fingers seemed to ask before touching.

“I'm not sure.” Brian began, his brow furrowing.

“Find her.” Olivia whispered again, a thick knot of tears in her throat. She grasped his arm, meeting his eyes for half a second. “Please…”

He took half a step back, his eyes full of confusion.

“Liv, I'm here.” He finally said, lifting a hand to touch her arm.

His fingers were calloused, gripping her bare flesh too firmly and she jerked away again, tears rising in her eyes.

“Where's Amanda?” She repeated, clenching her teeth against emotion and her hands into fists. Another sharp pain cut through her arm at the action, causing tears to prick her eyes even more sharply.

She could feel her entire body trembling and she grabbed onto the edge of the mattress, squeezing her eyes shut. Images slashed across the black landscape of her vision, jarring her with memories of blood, screams, and the smell of burning flesh. She moaned, releasing the sheets to grasp her pounding forehead.

“No….no….” She moaned, smacking one fist against her temple.

Get out of my head. Get out of my fucking head.

“Liv, Liv, stop!” Brian's voice barely cut through the flashbacks.

Each one hit her like a shard of glass, slicing across her freshly awoken flesh.

She felt Brian grab her arm, trying to wrest her hand away from her head, but the motion triggered an entirely new set of memories.

“Come on, you liked it….Just admit you're getting off on this as much as I am.”

Lewis's voice chortled through her mind like a demented jester, rattling against her throbbing temples. She knew what happened next and, god, how she wanted to look away but her mind wouldn't let her.

He was going to kill her...Hang her in the closet…

A scream pierced the thick layer of her subconscious and she gasped, realizing it was her own voice...Not something out of her imagination…

“Liv…?” Brian's voice struck her ears and she opened her eyes slowly.

She was lying back on the bed and Brian was leaning over her, his fingers clenched tight about her flailing arm.

“Bri….?” She mumbled, panting against encroaching tears.

She felt weakened by her outburst, her brain throbbing, but her heart wouldn't stop racing.

“It's okay.” He murmured, though a horror lay deep in his eyes at her sudden loss of control.

“I...I'm sorry…” She choked out in a raspy whisper, turning her head away from him to hide her face from the way he looked at her, as if she were a stranger, and he, only a good Samaritan.

“It's okay.” He repeated, barely hiding the rigid shock which bled into his tone.

He leaned down and she felt his breath across her temple before the brush of his lips and the scrape of his facial hair. He was tender and gentle despite his uncertainty, but even this kind gesture seemed to humiliate her further. She wrenched her face more sharply away from him, trying to swallow back the tears.

“Amanda…” She whispered, “Please find Amanda…”

He sighed softly, but drew away from her. She almost expected some kind of argument from him but in the next moment she felt his presence fade from the room, followed by the sound of the door shutting. A sense of overwhelming relief washed over her, punctuated by the sting of tears in her eyes.

She rolled onto her side, pressing her eyes shut against the hot flood of tears throbbing against her lids. She grabbed at the sheets, yanking them up against her throat.

She felt naked and violated by the way her mind had just taken over her body, and the fact that Brian had seen it only made it worse. It wasn't his fault but he was never going to understand, and right now she wasn't even sure she wanted him to.

Recovery wasn't at all what she had expected, even after years of trying to understand victims of violent and sexual crimes. She'd even dealt with being assaulted before, but after being so close to death, she felt as if she was still hanging off the edge of a cliff, clawing and fighting to survive. Trying to live seemed harder than just letting go.

Chapter Text

Brian found her in the cafeteria in search of a cup of coffee. She had just finished calming herself with a cigarette in the parking lot and now she needed a healthy dose of caffeine to keep her upright.

There wasn't much to be done in regards to Lewis until all of the crime scenes were processed and Lewis came out of surgery. There was only one crime scene left for her to tend to and it was the most important one - Olivia's body.

She'd just finished pouring a cup of coffee when Brian sauntered across the cafeteria, his shoulders and expression taut. Judging from his tense stance, Amanda knew the conversation was about to be far from pleasant, and she heaved a calming breath, mentally preparing herself.

“Hey, Rollins.” He said, frowning deeply as he approached her.

“Hey, what’s up?” She asked, stirring large teaspoon of sugar into her coffee to avoid eye contact. “Is Olivia all right?”

Her heart jumped up in her throat at the very thought that Olivia might not be okay, although she tried to assure herself that this was as safe as she could ever be. But she couldn't think of another reason for his obvious discomfort.

“She asked for you.” Brian said, shortly, shoving his hands into his pockets and chewing his inner lip.

“Oh…” Amanda said, finally glancing up, caught off guard by his words.

She'd been expecting an update, perhaps more bad news, but she wouldn't lie and say she was unhappy that Olivia wanted her next to her rather than Brian. She didn't know Cassidy well and she had tried to be happy for Olivia's relationship, but she couldn't shake the feeling that Brian was there for himself rather than for her.

Taking a look at Brian's expression, Amanda could imagine that he was feeling dejected.

Boo hoo. She thought. What a fuckin’ tragedy for you.

“You know, it's probably better that I'm with her for the next part.” Amanda said instead, patting his arm as she quickly ducked past him, eager to escape the awkward exchange.

“Why would that be?” Brian asked quickly, before she could make her exit.

Her stomach clenched at his jealous undertones and selfish, egotistical motives. She slowly turned  back to him, fixing him with an even glare.

“Because…” She enunciated precisely, “A rape kit and full body exam isn't exactly something she might want a man there for.”

“I'm her boyfriend, Rollins.” Brian snapped, taking a step towards her and jabbing a thumb at his chest. “I can take care of her.”

“I'm sure you can.” Amanda returned, lifting her chin to meet his eyes. “But this isn't about you. It's about her.”

Brian scoffed and folded his arms, pinning her with a frosty glare. “You act like I don't know what she needs. I've known Liv for fifteen years, okay?”

“You know her so well from one failed one night stand as a wet behind the ears detective?” Amanda spat sharply before she could curb the anger from spilling out of her.

Olivia and Brian's one night stand during Brian's short stint with SVU was something that Olivia had told her during a late night stake out of a pedophile's house. It had been after two am and the conversation had turned to more intimate things. Maybe it was then that Amanda had truly begun to dislike Brian after realizing that even after 15 years he was still out for a sweet fuck and nothing more.

Brian's face reddened at her insult, his jaw clenching sharply. A vein throbbed in his neck but he didn't scare her. She'd known men like him her entire life and the worst had already happened to her. Besides that, she held more rank than a street cop and it wouldn't be in his best interests to test that, having already started his career over nearly twenty years in.

He stepped closer to her until they were nearly nose to nose, the scent of his sharp cologne filling her nostrils, but she stood her ground.

“Just know I'm gonna be taking her home.” He said, his voice low and strained. “Don't think for a second that I don't care about her.”

“I didn't say you didn't.” Amanda said, stiffly, rearing even closer to his face until she could almost feel his gusting, angry breaths. “I just asked you to get your head out of your own ass, officer .”

She enunciated his rank, watching him nearly combust for half a second before she spun around and marched off towards the exit, her fingers trembling around the hot cup of coffee. He was lucky she hadn't tossed it in his ignorant face.

She'd never liked Brian before and she certainly didn't now. He reminded her far too much of her days in Atlanta and the way all the male detectives walked around with chip on their shoulder. It was always going to be all about him, even when his girlfriend was lying in a hospital bed, tortured and beaten. He didn't deserve her and maybe by the end of this, Olivia would realize she didn’t deserve his self centered, self serving attitude. She deserved much, much better.

Amanda took the elevator up to the floor where Olivia's room was and used the silent ride to calm her racing heart. If Brian wasn't Olivia's boyfriend, he wouldn't even be worth the effort in her pinky finger.

She needed all of her attention to go towards Olivia and assisting her through the difficult hours ahead. She needed to create a stress free environment and support system and she couldn't do that if her confrontation with Brian was all over her face. Olivia was intuitive, her attention to small details one of her best qualities as a detective. Amanda knew that wouldn't fail now, even in the darkest of times.

When the doors opened, Amanda sucked in a breath and strode off the elevator. She washed back the knot of anger in her throat with a gulp of coffee, hoping that the bitterness of the drink would overshadow the bitterness of resentment.

When Amanda reached Olivia's room, the nurse was exiting, a small Indian woman in pink scrubs. Amanda released a sigh at her approachable appearance, relieved that it wasn't another man trying to explain to her how to care for her friend.

“Hey,” Amanda said, pulling out her shield to show the nurse as she approached, “What's the update on Detective Benson?”

“She's doing fine.” The nurse smiled, reassuringly. “I gave her something to calm her, but otherwise, her physical condition is improving.”

Amanda's brain immediately snapped to concern at the nurse's implication of sedation, forgetting about Brian and his self involved behavior.

“Wait, what do you mean?” Amanda asked, “I thought she was fine.”

“She's been through a traumatizing experience.” The nurse said softly with a frown. “Anxiety and hyper awareness are going to last for awhile.”

Amanda swallowed hard, slowly shoving her badge back into her pocket.

Maybe a part of her had hoped that Olivia would come out of this the same strong, indefatigable person she'd always been. Maybe she'd hoped the trauma wouldn't degrade her spirit, that nothing would change the woman she cared for and respected so much. Amanda wanted to be there for Olivia's road to recovery, but perhaps facing the reality of just how hard it would be was much more startling than she'd anticipated.

“Is she awake?” She asked, glancing towards the door.

“Yes, it wasn't a large dose. She also requested a shower.” The nurse smiled once more, “So that’s good news.”

“No, we can't do that yet.” Amanda shook her head, “We need to do the rape kit.”

The nurse cleared her throat, glancing back at the room before she lowered her voice.

“She refused the rape kit.”

“Wh-what?” Amanda stuttered for a moment before rubbing one hand over her face with a groan. “She needs to do it. There may be evidence on her body that could go towards the prosecution of a federal crime.”

“Look,” The nurse said, gently but firmly, “I don't know everything she's been through, but she's my patient, and as of right now she's in a good condition to make medical decisions for herself, and I cannot force her to comply to a rape kit.”

“I know that, I know that.” Amanda muttered, anxiously tilting her coffee cup to her lips again.

“Please, tread lightly, Detective.” The nurse said. “I wouldn't advise putting her under any more stress.”

“Right. Thanks.” Amanda said, forcing a smile as the nurse turned to leave.

As soon as she was gone, Amanda blew out a breath and faced the hospital door.

A hundred things could've have laid behind this door, but nothing out of her imagination could be more terrifying than the thought of losing Olivia to this nightmare.

Swallowing back fear, Amanda hesitantly knocked before easing the door open. The room was quiet, insulated from the noises of the hospital corridors with only the soft beep of the monitor to fill the silence.

Amanda eased into the room, shutting the door softly behind her.

Olivia lay on the bed on her back, her face turned away towards the wall. She hardly moved or acknowledged Amanda's entrance.

“Liv.” Amanda murmured, stepping closer to the bed.

The heels of her boots were loud against the tile floor, disturbing the quiet.

Olivia turned at last, her sad, dark eyes filling with relief at the sight of her.

“God, I thought you were Brian or another nurse.” She sighed, pushing herself up slowly on the bed.

The bedding and hospital issued gown seemed starkly clean against her unwashed hair and bruised flesh. Underneath the harsh lights of the room the dark circles around her eyes and the injuries that seemed to dot every inch of her were even more apparent than at the horrifying beach scene. The brace encasing her wrist breathed tangibility into Amanda imagination, forcing her to wonder exactly what painful and coercive force had been used to elicit her compliance. She’d never wondered at such a thing during a disclosure before and this was where Amanda was used to seeing survivors - after the fact, the blood wiped away, the injuries tended to… But it just seemed even more unsettling now that Amanda had witnessed every crime scene as they trailed Lewis all the way to the beach house….now that Olivia was in front of her, truly traumatized.

This, however, wasn't like any other crime Amanda had ever investigated. There were no facts shrouded in mystery nor a question as to what had happened. This was cold, hard reality and Olivia had lived it, an unwilling but unmoving fixture of Lewis’s four day raping and killing streak. She was no longer a police officer and now Amanda wasn't sure that she was either.

Pulling her mind away from the disturbing details and terrifying implications, Amanda murmured, “You should lie down.”

Her fingers brushed the edge of the mattress, yearning to touch her.

“I've already had enough of this place.” Olivia said, glancing down. Her fingers nervously scratched at her neck and she murmured, “I guess my necklace is in evidence.”

“Yes.” Amanda confirmed, softly. “It was a really great clue when we were trying to find you.”

Olivia nodded slowly but hardly replied.

“Um...Brian said you asked for me?” Amanda said, desperately searching across Olivia's face and body for some sign that the other woman was okay.

“Yeah…” Olivia's head tilted as she picked at one nail slowly. “I thought it might feel better…. that you'd understand….you know…”

She looked over at Amanda slowly, wavy strands of hair falling over her shimmering eyes. Her gaze was strained as the unfinished statement hung in the air, begging Amanda to complete it before Olivia had to voice exactly what had happened to her.

“I understand.” Amanda whispered, fervently. “But I think you need to do better than I did after I was assaulted.”

“What do you mean?” Olivia's brows furrowed and she tucked her hair behind her ear nervously.

“The rape kit…” Amanda said, slowly.

Olivia exhaled a bitter scoff, turning her face away with a frown.

“I don't need to do that.” She said, sharply.

“But you -” Amanda began.

“I wasn't raped.” Olivia snapped, her eyes flashing as a flush rose on her cheeks.

Amanda drew back at the sudden defensiveness in her tone.

It was a relief to hear it, but Amanda wasn't sure that what Olivia had gone through didn't necessarily exclude rape. William Lewis’s torture methods were much more complex than the rapists they dealt with on a daily basis. He didn't just rape the body; he took the time to ravage a person's mind and soul, to take with him every sense of self when he was done. Sex was far from being his only weapon and that was fairly evident by the burns and bruises marking Olivia's flesh, and by the empty look in her eyes. Perhaps they wouldn't find semen or tearing, but mental scars wouldn't be something so easily documented.

“Olivia…” Amanda said, slowly, easing onto the edge of the bed. “I've stood by your side a hundred times while you convinced terrified survivors to have the bravery to go through the exam in order to put away their attacker and save more people from being hurt -”

“And in that case, those women were raped.” Olivia cut her off once more through clenched teeth, her voice trembling.

“You don't think there's any evidence on your body that would put another nail in his coffin?” Amanda asked, reaching out to take her hand.

Olivia's fingers lay taut and quivering in her hand and she squeezed her cold flesh.

“He didn't rape me.” Olivia whispered once more. “I just want to take a shower and wash everything away.”

“I know.” Amanda murmured, patting her hand. “After I was raped….I showered two times, sometimes three every day...Just to get rid of what he'd done to me.”

“I know it won't wash away the memories,” Olivia whispered through tears, “But maybe if I can just be clean again….If I can breathe without smelling blood and sweat and alcohol…. Maybe if I can -”

Her voice caught, shattering her trembling tone into nothing and her shoulders shook sharply. Her body folded quickly, her composure disintegrating before Amanda’s eyes as she lifted her hands to her face. The first of her tears wrenched from her lips in a low sob and her shuddering body hunched over, shuddering in emotional devastation.

Amanda moved in quickly, wrapping her arms around Olivia's and pulling her close. Her heart felt as if it was being rent from her chest at the sound of Olivia’s distress. She never thought she would see the strongest person she knew collapsing into her own arms, overcome by a horror that Amanda could never truly imagine.

She wound her arms tightly around Olivia, holding her as close as possible as Olivia wept into her neck, dampening her hair and shirt with tears.

“Shh...It's gonna be okay, sweetheart.” Amanda tried to assure her, although her own voice was taut with emotion.

She stroked her back and hair with hesitant hand. She’d always left the comforting of victims to Olivia while she gathered the useful facts. The most she could offer was the resolute promise of catching the person responsible, but that held no consolation here. She wasn’t even sure that Lewis being dead would make a difference at this point. Whether he lived or died did not erase what had happened, and now all that Amanda had to offer was some paltry sympathy.

Still, she murmured, “It’s okay...you’ll be okay…”

“No...” Olivia moaned into her neck, her voice muffled and mangled with tears. “No...People are dead because of me. He made them suffer because of me .”

“No.” Amanda shook her head, hugging her tighter. “Whatever he did was his own psychotic choice. It could never be your fault.”

“He told me to watch, to never close my eyes.” She gasped, clenching onto Amanda’s arm with an almost painful grasp. “He enjoyed seeing my pain. He -” She cut off once more as another wave sob choked up her throat.

“He would’ve done this with or without you.” Amanda whispered. “And he would’ve gone on doing it if you hadn’t stopped him. You saved so many people, Olivia.”

Olivia didn't answer for a moment, her gasps and sniffles filling the room until she whispered raggedly, as if she had not even comprehended Amanda’s words, “I begged to live….I begged with a gun in my mouth….And now I'd just rather die.”

“No...shh…” Amanda tried to calm her, but her own voice was choked with dread, her throat clamming up with tears.

There was nothing she could possibly say to fix this, and that made Olivia's suicidal ideation even more terrifying. In fact, she couldn't possibly understand how deep this horror went. She'd lived through a trauma that affected her to this day, but she'd never feared so deeply for her life.

Her rapist had been a manipulator, a man who got off on using his position of power to twist sexual favors from subordinates. Lewis was on an entirely different level of psychotic. Chief Patton never would have killed her, but Lewis would've only hesitated in order to inflict more pain and torture.

Amanda wanted to be there for Olivia so much, but the amount of trauma spilling from Olivia’s mouth and to her ears was almost more than she could bear. She’d trained herself to take the details of crimes from a victim and to compartmentalize the facts from the feelings, but here with Olivia she could not escape from the overwhelming sense of horror nor the deluge of emotions. She felt choked by the encroaching doom of helplessness as she realized what little resources she had with which to support or comfort her.

Still she searched her brain for some assurance that would calm her, grasping for some combination of words that would magically rectify Olivia’s state of mind.

“Listen,” She whispered, swallowing back tears, “It’s going to be all right. You’ve already done the bravest thing… You survived.”

She’d said the words a hundred times to survivors, but the go-to assurance rang hollow in her ears in light of Olivia’s despair.

Long moments passed without a response.

At last, Olivia lay quiet and limp against her chest, unmoving for long minutes. All the while, Amanda’s mind raced, wondering what was going through her mind, wondering what she could say to quiet the demons tearing through the other woman’s head, but not a single particle of her being wanted to let Olivia go. The physical comfort could be utterly meaningless, but at least here, she felt as if she was somehow protecting her.

Finally, Olivia sank back and Amanda reluctantly loosened her arms from around her.

“How about that shower?” Amanda asked finally, her voice taut.

She realized that she couldn’t force the issue of the rape kit. She believed Olivia when she told her that Lewis hadn’t assaulted her and there was no sense in pushing her into a useless, invasive ordeal. She’d been through enough.

Olivia’s brow furrowed and she lifted a hand to dash tears from beneath her eyes.

“They’re going to need to document my injuries.” She murmured, huskily. “We should get it over with.”

“Are you sure?” Amanda asked, gently touching her arm.

“Yes.” Olivia nodded. “All I ask is… that you do it.”

Her eyes lifted, glittering with a sharp plea that pierced Amanda’s heart. She returned the grip of Amanda’s hand, her fingers trembling with each squeeze.

“Okay.” Amanda nodded, her heart racing shallowly in her chest at the weight of Olivia’s trust, and she murmured, “I won’t let anyone else see you, I promise.”

“Thank you.” Olivia whispered, her lips attempting to form a half smile.

Amanda returned the soft smile and gave her hand one last squeeze before she rose from the bed.

“Let me get the camera down here.” She said, turning towards the door.

She found it hard to break the contact of their gazes, and she realized quickly how hard it was going to be to leave her for even a moment.

She’d never expected more than a professional relationship with Olivia, but if these last few hours had told her anything, it was that they now had more understanding of each other than anyone else in their lives; and deep down, Amanda didn’t think she’d ever want to take that back.

Chapter Text

The large, CSU camera rested heavily in Amanda's hand as she stood near the foot of Olivia's hospital bed, her eyes nervously glancing up towards the other woman intermittently.

Olivia's back was turned to her, the fingers of her good arm poised at the base of her neck where she tugged at the strings holding the hospital gown together. The large eyehole of the gown already revealed a long strip of olive flesh before the arch of her spine fell into shadow.

Amanda could almost see the tremble in her hand as she struggled to release the tethers of the gown and a part of her wanted to reach out and help her, but it seemed more inappropriate than helpful; not to mention the fact that she felt far from prepared. The longer Olivia took to undress, the longer Amanda could put off the reality of the situation.

When she had left the CSU team just outside the door, she'd been eager to do their job and to be the saving grace that Olivia so desperately needed through the invasive process, but now the  palpability of Olivia's humiliation weighed upon her chest with all the force of a thousand bricks.

The thud of her heart sounded loud against her ears in the silence of the room, and she adjusted her sweating palms around the camera as the gown finally slipped from Olivia's shoulders. She'd already used several precious, distracting moments turning it on and adjusting the controls, and all she could do was look off into a random corner of the room, jaw clenched to ward off the horrendous guilt for having to do this to her.

She hadn't expected this moment to be so suffocating. It didn't feel right to be standing here, invading the last of her dignity, but something held her rooted to the ground, forcing her eyes to view the degrading scene.

Olivia had asked her to do this and she searched for the strength inside of her to view her body as clinically and professionally as possible while being both gentle and caring. There was a line between the two that was more dangerous than she wanted to imagine, but she reminded herself that it was better her than someone else.

“Okay…” Olivia's rigid tone broke the pattern of her thoughts. “I'm ready.”

Amanda lifted her eyes, swallowing against a knot in throat as she gazed at Olivia's naked back. The only scrap of material left on her body was a pair of plain hospital-issued panties and with the gown discarded, Amanda could see the bruises dotting her shoulder blades and spine, punctuated by scrapes and lacerations. She sucked in a low, quavering breath, her stomach surging at the damage that had been done to her soft flesh.

“Okay.” She whispered, her voice trembling barely above an audible tone.

She wrapped her fingers tighter around the camera as she stepped closer to Olivia and lifted the device. Her battered skin came into the screen, appearing pale and stark through the camera's lens.

Amanda hesitated, her finger quivering over the button. Her throat felt tight, unnatural tears stinging her eyes, and she wondered again if maybe this was too much.

“Amanda…” Olivia's voice was soft. “Please...It's okay…”

Amanda bit down on her lip and pressed her eyes shut for a moment, searching for those spaces inside her mind where she could pack away the most horrific sights, far away from her emotions.

She forced her eyes open and clenched the camera in her fingers, stabbing the button sharply. The shutter made a loud clicking noise in the silence and Amanda released a low, ragged breath beneath the cover of the noise.

The bruised plane of Olivia's back stared back at her from the screen, the first piece of evidence gathered from Lewis's last victim. Somehow the image just made the horrifying moment even more real.

“Okay, j-just...Just turn around.” Amanda stuttered, fighting against the urge to throw the camera down and rush from the room before the reality of this moment became even more solidified.

Olivia turned slowly, her arms crossed over her chest, her head lowered. Thick auburn locks covered one side of her face, but Amanda could see the distant look in her eyes. She was imagining someplace else, somewhere far away from this brutally invasive moment, and it cast a sharp pain through Amanda's chest to think that she was inflicting more trauma on top of already open wounds.

Amanda swallowed heavily as she directed the camera at her chest where half a dozen burn marks were seared into her flesh. They'd been treated but only time would make them fade from their gruesome appearance.

Click.

The camera flashed again and Amanda could see Olivia flinch slightly at the light and the sound.

Another strong urge to give up this sickening procedure washed over her, and Amanda lowered her head, pressing her eyes shut against a rush of tears. The camera weighed heavy in her hands, and she lowered it for a moment as she tried to swallow back the bile from her throat.

“Amanda…” Olivia's voice drew her out of her concentration once more.

She looked up at Olivia, meeting her guarded gaze. The sobs that had so recently fallen from her mouth were gone, replaced by sheen of unsettling calm.

“Why would you ask me to do this?” Amanda whispered, feeling the camera shudder in her hands.

“Would you want some stranger taking pictures of you like this?” Olivia asked, a frown and flash of emotion crossing her steeled expression.

Amanda looked away, releasing a ragged breath.

“No.” She whispered at last.

“Then don’t stop.” Olivia said, her voice regaining it’s rigid inflection.

Amanda nodded, clenching her teeth against further urges to emotionally collapse. She couldn't fail Olivia now - not after she'd gone through so much.

Licking her lips, Amanda flexed her perspiring fingers around the camera as she lifted it once more.

She felt like some kind of scavenger, searching for the last bits of Olivia's decency to feast on. She'd already seen the way everyone looked at her, the pity apparent in their gazes, the curiosity that ran just beneath even more startling. The press was no doubt outside the doors, thirsty for details after Olivia's four day captivity in the hands of a monster, ready to deliver a heart wrenching piece to the public on her survival - and Amanda wanted nothing to do with being one of them. Olivia hadn't fought for her life only to have the appalling details played back to her over and over again on the television; and yet Amanda was here to document her injuries as fodder for the prosecution - an ordeal that might be even more harrowing than the horde of reporters outside.

Amanda blinked away the swirling thoughts from her brain, searching for focus as the camera zeroed in on Olivia's wrists clutched close to her chest, saving herself from the prying lens. Amanda's gut clenched at the thought of having to strip that away.

“I'll just need your arms.” She murmured, staring steadily at the camera.

Olivia hesitated for half a second, and Amanda couldn't bring herself to lift her eyes as her hands slid haltingly away from her breasts.

Amanda immediately dropped the camera's focus to her outstretched hands, one clasped in the brace. She bit at her lower lip, fighting back burning tears of commiseration as she pressed a quivering finger to the button. The click and the flash of the camera was loud in the silence as it captured the ligature marks circling Olivia's wrists. Amanda barely swallowed a cry as she inched the camera up to the bruises and burns marring her forearms.

Olivia's hands were shuddering, her body going rigid each time the camera clicked.

Amanda blinked hard against the tears forming in her eyes, clearing her vision in order to properly capture the image. With her head ducked, she managed to angle her arm across one cheek to wipe away the evidence of her weakness.

“Okay, that's enough of your arms.” She whispered, staring at the screen until Olivia gathered her arms back against herself.

Lifting the camera upwards, Amanda hesitated for a moment at the hollow look on Olivia's face. Her gaze was tilted to the right, and a sheen of tears covered her dark, chocolate eyes, though the rest of her expression was stoic.

“I'll just need one of your face...f-for the bruises…” Amanda tried not to stutter, but she couldn't help the uneasy feeling pushing her off balance at every turn.

Olivia's eyes turned towards her, blinking quickly, and Amanda could see her resurrecting the mask of control she'd been wearing up until this moment.

“Okay, go ahead.” She nodded, her voice full of forced calm.

Amanda nodded back, and lifted the heavy camera with trembling muscles. She aimed it at Olivia's face, capturing the bruises and contusions lining her brow, cheekbone and jaw.

She hesitated, swallowing against the knot in her throat.

Despite the camera between them, Olivia seemed to stare straight through her, her eyes trained on her via the lens.

“Do it.” Olivia murmured, staring resolutely into the camera.

Amanda released a pent up breath and quickly punched the button. The shutter clicked loudly, forever memorializing the haunted look of invasion and vulnerability trapped inside her eyes, framed in the shadow of dark purple swelling.

Amanda stared back at the recorded image, and could only imagine how it would be displayed in the courtroom, splayed out for every single juror and officer of the court to see. A part of her wanted to destroy the picture, to protect Olivia from further harm in the hands of the well-intentioned and justice driven. She'd walked into this room determined to convince Olivia towards pursuing legal action, but now the police officer in her had fled, leaving behind the scared young woman who had never even sought justice for herself.

“I think that’s enough.” She whispered, lowering the camera.

As she flipped back through the photos, she wasn’t sure if she was satisfied with quality of the photos or if she simply wanted to escape this unnerving moment.

“Amanda.” Olivia said, softly, catching her attention.

“What?”

“Come on…” She whispered, her brow furrowing, voice low and thick, “You know they never take less than one hundred of these.”

Amanda swallowed against a dry throat, and glanced back down at the camera. She knew Olivia was right, but she wanted this to be over for both of their sakes.

“Why did you ask me?” She asked once more in whisper, barely meeting her gaze. “Why didn’t you ask Brian… or… someone else…?”

“Brian.” Olivia repeated, her tone almost cynical. “Why? Because he’s my boyfriend? Because he’s seen me naked already?”

Amanda bit down hard on her lip against a deluge of tears. She felt like a failure to Olivia, ungrateful to the fact that she’d been entrusted with this procedure above anyone else. Instead of being determined to gather the evidence to nail Lewis, she wanted to hide them from the repercussions of a trial.

“I never had to do this.” Amanda whispered at last, though she wasn’t sure why she wanted to tell Olivia what a coward she had been.

“What do you mean?”

“I didn’t report.” She shrugged, glancing away to hide the tears that wanted to escape her lids. “I never told anyone. I never did a rape kit… I never had to be this brave.”

Olivia was quiet for a moment before she murmured, “That’s why I asked you.”

“Because I’m a coward?” Amanda scoffed, sarcastically.

“Because I knew you’d treat me with the same amount of privacy as you’d afford yourself.” Olivia returned and for a moment, her tone was almost even, almost unshattered by the trauma...almost the same woman she’d always known.

Amanda nodded slowly, trying to imagine Brian standing here instead of her, and she shook her head at the thought. He wouldn’t understand, and he wouldn’t even know where to begin to find the gentility to complete this task. He had no comprehension of the horrors that either of them had lived through. In fact, he was almost always in a position to manipulate and exploit.

Lifting her eyes, Amanda stared steadfastly back into Olivia’s dark, wounded gaze, and she knew she had to be more strong and more brave than she’d ever been.

Hoisting the camera once more, she branded determination into her blood as Olivia’s broken body came into the frame.

Her hands shook, but as the click of the camera resumed, she whispered with all the courage she could conjure,  “I won’t let you down.”

Chapter Text

The room was silent now, a stark contrast to the click and flash of the camera that had gone on for what felt like an eternity, like some kind of absurd double feature. She had no audience but the screaming of her own mind

For every single picture that had been captured Olivia had prayed for the end, for a quiet space away from the click of the camera, but now as an uneasy silence gripped them, she almost wished the concentration of gathering evidence would continue.

She'd taken the camera from Amanda's hands, quietly and without explanation, and she could feel the other detective watching her cryptic movements with a concerned gaze. Olivia didn't look up at her.

Turning away, Olivia bit at her lip as she scrolled through the photos. It seemed strange to see her body here. She was used to seeing stranger's pictures in case files or pinned to the board in the squad room. She was used to taking in the brutality with a professional eye, containing her anger over the horrific acts that she witnessed everyday. She felt all at once disconnected from the photos and at the same time horrifically humiliated by them.

She'd refused the rape kit in order to distance herself from the reality of this aftermath. She'd spent the entire photographing ordeal shutting out the overwhelming fear and shame, telling herself that if she could just avoid the doctors, avoid the procedure, that she could pretend that Lewis hadn't violated her deep inside.

It's pointless. She'd told herself. They won't find anything.

But standing here, flipping through every single picture, she realized a terrifying fact - anyone looking at these would automatically assume that she'd been raped. No other woman had escaped Lewis's torture, and she'd spent two times as long with him as any other victim. Her refusal of the rape kit would only appear as an ashamed detective hiding the fact that she'd been raped, even after years of training on self defense and negotiation.

Gritting her teeth against another wave of tears, she pushed on, taking in each picture until there were no more. She remember the moments when each burn and bruise had been emblazoned on her flesh. She remembered the feel of his hands on her, assaulting her in ways that were only an inkling of what violence he could perform on her weakened body. It took everything within her not to be sucked into the memories. She couldn't collapse again, not so soon.

She breathed out, lowering the camera. Gazing towards the wall, she steeled herself against cowardly fear.

She'd encouraged so many victims to pursue their attackers in court just as Amanda was urging her now, but justice seemed to be a far away idea, almost inconceivable at this point. The rape kit would hardly prove anything aside from the fact that she hadn't been raped…. But maybe that was the reasoning she needed to do what she knew was right. A sharp knife of guilt cut through her stomach at just how selfish her motivations were. She'd always thought of herself as a warrior for the victims, for the ones who couldn't speak - people like Alice Parker or Mrs. Mayer - but all she could think of in this moment was proving that she hadn't been raped.

Opening her eyes, she slowly set the camera on the hospital bed and bent to grab her gown from the floor. She could feel Amanda's eyes digging into the back of her head as she dressed herself, and she loathed the feeling of any gaze on her naked flesh at this moment. She didn't want Amanda to look into her eyes and catch a glimpse of the self centered thoughts.

She tugged the gown over her shoulders, leaving the strings to hang open in the back as she turned back towards Amanda.

“I'll do it.” She managed to say through the tightness gripping her throat.

Amanda's tense gaze shifted into surprise, though she quickly masked it. Stepping towards her, brows furrowed, she asked, “The rape kit?”

Olivia nodded, slowly, clutching the gown to her chest. She couldn't quite meet Amanda's wide, blue eyes. She was afraid that if she truly contemplated the compassion lying inside that deep, cerulean landscape that she would crumple in shame.

“Are you sure?” Amanda asked, gently, though Olivia sensed relief somewhere inside her voice.

“There could be blood or saliva.” She whispered, staring towards the floor, avoiding Amanda's tender advances.

Amanda seemed lost for words for a moment, before she said, “Okay...I'll get the doctor.”

Olivia nodded once more, keeping her gaze pinned to the floor.

She couldn't stand the thought of Amanda thinking anything less of her than she always had. Amanda’s respect for her had always been apparent, and as the only other woman in the squad, Olivia thought she might be crushed if she tainted that bond between them.

Amanda reached past her to take the camera from the bed. She hesitated, turning the camera over in her hands.

“Do you want me to stay with you?” She murmured at last.

Olivia swallowed hard against the knot in her throat, feeling tears sting her eyes. Was she even worthy of Amanda's love and care?

“I think…” She whispered, glancing up at Amanda's wide gaze at last. “I think I need to do this on my own.”

The words sounded hollow even to her own ears, lacking the conviction it would take to convince Amanda to leave her side. She could see the doubt forming in Amanda's eyes before she'd even spoken the entire sentence.

You don't have to prove anything to me, Olivia.” Amanda said, quietly, stepping closer.

“I'm not trying to.” Olivia returned, rushing to defend herself in blatant panic.

“Liv…” Amanda whispered, her tone dropping to an even softer volume at the sight of the tears rising in Olivia's eyes. “God...I know you must be terrified.”

Olivia looked away sharply, clutching her hands tighter to her chest as her heart throbbed dully with the burn of Amanda's compassion. She knew she could hold it together if she could find a way to disconnect from these emotions, but Amanda's kindness wasn't allowing for it.

“I know this must feel like the end of the fucking world.” Amanda continued, her tone wrought with empathy. “You feel like he's taken everything from you, and that you'll never be the same person again.”

Olivia couldn't even find the strength to nod as hot tears gripped her, wrenching her face and throat tight. She dragged the cotton gown up against her mouth, rigidly holding herself back from the tears that wanted to break free. She didn't know how it was possible to feel so numb and yet so overcome by sadness.

Amanda tossed the camera to the bed and reached out to touch her. Her hands were hesitant and soft, skimming over her shoulders and down to her elbows. She shivered, a small whimper filtering through the material bunched at her lips.

Her body felt highly attuned to every single sensation. Her brain screamed that each tiny movement was an attack while her heart ached for a tender, human connection.

She managed not to collapse as Amanda pulled her in, and she pressed her head slowly to the other woman's shoulder. Amanda's arms slid around her, her hands rubbing slowly over back.

“The world may be crashing down,” Amanda whispered, “but it will rise again. You will rise again. You may not ever be the same, but you'll find a way to adapt. You will survive this.”

Amanda's soft tone, and steadfast belief in her pushed the first cry from her lips - a giant wave tearing down the floodgates. She shuddered, swaying against Amanda's frame in utter grief as she sobs ripped from her mouth. Amanda's arms were unfailing, her smaller body willingly taking the brunt of Olivia's collapse.

She held her through the long minutes of agony, murmuring soft assurances. She promised not to leave, taking vows of vigilance that Olivia believed, even through the haze of terror and hopelessness. She'd never trusted anyone to keep such a promise before, but she had one single light at the end of this long, dark tunnel, and she wouldn't let go of her now.

xxxxx

It had been hard to breathe for hours now, but stepping outside of Olivia's hospital room, Amanda suddenly found the sharp blade of emotion thrust through her lungs, expanding her chest suddenly with panic. She'd kept herself strong in front of Olivia, but as the door fell shut behind her, she gasped for a breath, tears rushing promptly to her eyes. She grabbed onto the doorframe for support, clasping a hand over her face,as she tried to steady her breathing, but her heart ached so deeply that she could hardly control it.

She'd forced the worst of her fears beneath lock and key while she'd been in the room with Olivia, but now that she was alone, the force of her devastation hit her. She was scared. She was angry. She was disturbed. An unfathomable sadness ran just beneath every other emotion, and it had been easier to latch on to the anger or the horror rather than to feel the entire weight of despair.

She realized she'd left the CSU camera inside of the room, but she couldn't force herself back inside the room at the moment.

The quiet hall captured the soft gasps that emitted from her throat, echoing them back to her in a dark harmony. Turning towards the wall, she pressed her forehead to the cool surface, and attempted to suck the emotion back down into her chest. Her body wasn't ready to accept the force of calm composure but she couldn't allow herself to break.

The rape kit lay ahead, and she could feel the heavy weight of apprehension. She'd pushed Olivia to go through the procedure in order to gather evidence against Lewis, but after taking the pictures, she felt sick at the idea of stripping away another layer of Olivia's privacy. As insistent as Olivia had been on refusing the rape kit, she now seemed to do just the opposite, and Amanda didn't think she could call herself an officer of the law if she found some way to dissuade her.

She pushed away from the wall with her hands flat against the surface and stared steadily towards the white tile. She breathed through her nose, exhaling slowly out of her mouth as she regained control.

She'd taught herself breathing techniques after her own rape, privately scouring the web for some type of self help to get her through the panic attacks. She'd been far too embarrassed to contact a real therapist or tell anyone at all. No one would have believed her, unlike Olivia who had an entire police department backing her. This was a crime that had the potential for real justice, and maybe if Lewis ended up in prison, she could feel some type of redemption for herself too. She only wished there was another way...

Finally the raspy sound of her breathing faded and her heart slowed. There was a slight tremble in her hands, but she ignored it.

When she turned from the wall, she spotted Brian returning. His head was down, brows drawn, and she supposed she should have some kind of compassion for him, but she didn't.

“Hey, how'd it go?” He asked as he approached.

“She agreed to the rape kit.” Amanda said, glancing back towards the room.

“Wow.” Brian said, brows rising, “That's good,right? I mean...we'll know for sure…”

Amanda frowned, and folded her arms.

“You don't believe her?” She asked, stiffly.

“I do…” Brian said, slowly. “I mean...I should.”

Amanda held back a sigh, and returned, “I thought you wanted to support her.”

“I do. But you know Liv. She won't ask for help. And she definitely doesn't want to admit it when she loses.”

“I wouldn't exactly call being raped ‘losing’.” Amanda scoffed. “This isn't a game.”

Brian narrowed his eyes at her, and snapped. “You know what I mean.”

The next spiteful words were on her tongue when their bickering was interrupted by Olivia's nurse returning. They both quieted as she approached, clipboard in hand.

“Detectives.” She said with a nod.

Her greeting wasn't exactly warm, but Amanda couldn't blame her for being annoyed at their constant inquiries and reasoning. However, Olivia had agreed to the rape kit and Amanda knew it needed to be the highest priority.

“I talked to Olivia and she's agreed to the rape kit.” Amanda said, keeping her eyes on the doctor and away from Brian's perturbed expression.

The nurse’s brows rose as she consulted the clipboard that held Olivia's chart.

“Of her own will?” She asked.

“Of course.” Amanda replied, sharply.

Her own patience was thin. She knew how to talk to a victim. She was an SVU detective after all.

“I'll have to confirm that.” The nurse said with a brisk smile before pulling the door open and disappearing inside the room.

Brian let out a long sigh and paced away, running his fingers through his hair in taut exasperation.

Amanda ignored him. She was more concerned with the upcoming exam, and she could already feel anxiety pushing a knot down into her throat. A few years ago she'd barely managed to make it through her work day imagining the procedure and taking statements from victims, but somewhere along the way she'd found the consolation in her job that she needed in order to push her past what had happened with Patton. She'd thought she'd locked away enough rapists to feel some type of closure, but it seemed as if Olivia's trauma and Lewis's violence had ripped away whatever solace she'd managed to maintain in her job.

If I can't make it through this exam with her what kind of cop am I? She thought, watching the hospital door with an unwavering gaze. What kind of friend am I?

She couldn't believe that Patton had destroyed her more than Lewis had destroyed Olivia, and she couldn't let it be true. The past be damned. Olivia's future was at stake, and it held far more significance than she could ever imagine devoting to herself. Patton would have to stay where he'd always been - far away in the recesses of her brain where she never dared to look. After all this time it almost seemed like he belonged there.

Chapter Text

The exam room was plain and white like every other room in the hospital.

The ceiling was made of perforated tiles that made a dizzying, unending pattern above her head. In front of her, the table awaited, covered in a temporarily pristine sanitary sheet. In a few hours it would be gathered up in the rest of the rape kit, just another piece of the crime scene that was her body.

The temperature inside was even enough, but Olivia’s arms had prickled with goosebumps before she’d even passed the threshold. Her heart was racing in her chest, though the shallow beat seemed far away, especially to her ice cold hands.

The horror and sadness that had gripped her less than an hour ago seemed as if it had been sucked into this empty vacuum of space. A dull hollowness filled her chest where fear and anxiety should have festered.

Amanda was next to her, holding her elbow, but she couldn’t reach back for her. The force field of emptiness around her wouldn’t allow for it, and she didn’t think that she’d want it to.

She knew the details of a rape kit, the steps to complete it, the excruciating and tedious hours it would take to gather the evidence.

She’d studied the procedure during college with an almost morbid fascination. At the time, she’d been obsessed with finding her mother’s rapist, her father; but at the same time she’d also been fixated on mentally punishing herself with vivid re-enactments of her mother’s rape kit procedure and the ensuing police investigation. She’d buried herself deep enough inside her studies to ignore the issues that caused dedication to such horror.

It would be a lie to say she’d never imagined herself here. In fact, somewhere along the line her imaginations of her mother had morphed into herself. She’d convinced herself that it was only theoretical, a way for her to understand the victims, right up until she’d awoken tied to the chair in her apartment.

He’d toyed with her, first burning her mercilessly with taunts and jeers, then touching her almost softly, his hands seeking between her legs with a revolting caress. She knew it had been manipulative, the way he’d battered her in hopes of wearing her down enough to believe that rape might be less painful and terrorizing, but it hadn’t stopped her from imagining that it might be true. Only when she’d broken down, pleading and crying, had he pulled back with a sadistic grin.

You’ve been waiting for me to come along haven’t you?  He’d asked, gazing at her in a strangely affectionate manner. You need me to take away your choice, don’t you? I think you want to be raped. I think you’re obsessed with it.

At that, she’d screamed through the tape, finally finding some ire with which to lash out at him, but he’d only laughed with a cavalier smirk, running his hand through her hair.

Guess what, baby? He'd whispered. It’s not gonna be that easy.

“Olivia?” Amanda’s voice drew her back suddenly from the cacophony of memories to the silent buzz of white-noised apprehension inside the eerily quiet exam room.

She blinked with a quick draw of breath, finding Amanda’s hand squeezing her arm softly. They’d come to a halt just inside the door way, and Olivia could feel her body rigidly attempting to avoid the table with it’s sterilized surface and dooming stirrups. She knew she was terrified, but she couldn’t quite reach the emotion the way her body seemed to remember it. Somewhere between her collapse in Amanda’s arms and this moment her brain had been lobotomized from the horror.

“You okay?” Amanda asked, her brows furrowed.

Her voice seemed muffled by the crackle of her own head space, but Olivia nodded slowly.

She wasn’t sure how long this numbness would last, but she clung to it, knowing that when this veil of detachment passed she would feel the weight of this entire examination in one crushing instant.

“I’m fine.” She murmured, knowing it was a lie.

She took a step forward although her legs were weak beneath her. She managed to make it to the table where Amanda helped her up. The crinkle of the sanitary paper scraped loudly against her ears, and she flinched against the feeling of it folding and crunching beneath her weight. She imagined yanking it off the table and smashing it into a tiny, little ball and hurling it as far away from her as she could.

Amanda's hand slipped from her arm, hesitantly, and Olivia could sense her concern dancing on the tip of her tongue once more. Before she could say anything, however, the door opened and a nurse, carrying the rape kit box, entered.

Olivia curled her fingers around the edges of the table, her throat going tight. The nurse appeared kind enough. Her scrubs were decorated in clouds and baby lambs. She noticed that her nails were manicured in a soft pink as she grabbed a pair of gloves and began to pull them on.

She's young. Olivia thought, studying her bottle blonde hair and perfect matte lipstick, despite the relevance of the fact. Probably half my age…. How many women in her forties does she see…?

She wasn't sure where the train of thought was going, but she immediately reprimanded herself. After fifteen years on the job, she should know that a sexual assault could happen to anyone, no matter their age.

She pulled her gaze away and fixed her eyes on her lap. Her knees were scraped and bruised, blooming purple and blue. She grabbed the edge of the gown and tugged it down over the unsightly image.

“Hi, Olivia.” The nurse said, kindly, “My name's Erica.”

“Hello.” Olivia managed to glanced up at her although it was the last thing she wanted to do.

“Before we get started I want you to know that you are in charge in here, ok?” Erica said, pulling up a stool to sit down in front of her. “If at any time you feel uncomfortable with a certain step we can stop.”

Olivia nodded, almost automatically.

It didn't matter how kind Erica was or how accommodating she made the exam. It didn't matter if Olivia wanted to stop or if she was uncomfortable. She had to make it through this entire process no matter how humiliated or exhausted she was. There would be no backing out. There would be no tears.

“I've spoken with your doctor, and if you'll allow us, I'd recommend doing a drug-facilitated kit because you were extremely intoxicated when you were admitted. That would include taking two samples of blood and one of urine.”

Olivia nodded once more, clenching her fingers around the hem of the gown harder.

“Yes, whatever you need to do.”

Erica paused, glancing over at Amanda.

“You're in charge here, Olivia.” She repeated. “This isn't my rape kit. It's yours.”

“You think I don't know that?” Olivia whispered, sharply, before she could filter the resentment from her voice.

“Olivia…” Amanda murmured, stepping closer.

“It's ok.” Erica said, holding up a hand, seemingly unaffected by Olivia's angry response. “That's ok, Olivia. We can take our time here.”

Olivia hunched over her knees, clenching her teeth together.

The last thing I want is for this to take any longer than it needs to. She thought, though she couldn't speak around the knot in her throat.

“Liv.” Amanda murmured once more, her fingers barely brushing her arm.

The light touch seemed to burn her and she sucked in a breath, fighting the urge to overreact to the innocent contact. If she couldn't even handle Amanda's gentle hands how would she be able to survive this stranger poking and prodding her for the hours to come?

She rocked forward, pressing her lips together against the harsh sting of tears. Her throat was filled with a lump of dread but she managed to stave off the emotion. Seeking out the plane of disassociation, she calmed herself enough to breath.

Amanda’s and Erica's silent stares pushed her to eek out a response, her voice strained from the effort of quieting the terror inside her.

“Do it all. Whatever you can find against him.”

“Okay.” Erica said with an encouraging smile that barely reached through the haze in her brain.

“You're doing good.” Amanda whispered from beside her, but she couldn't look over at her.

Her eyes were focused on the box in Erica's hands. She knew it was only cardboard and plastic but it wasn't the tools that frightened her.

“First, I'll need to ask you a few questions about your recent sexual activity.” Erica said as she began to open the box. “Is that all right?”

Olivia gave a short nod, her fingers blanching with her grip on the hem of her gown.

“All right.” Erica said, clicking her pen open.

Her hand poised against the page where she would write intimate details that she'd never expected to tell anyone else when she'd engaged in them only days before. How naive she'd been, carelessly giving herself to someone who she'd never even think to allow inside this room.

“Within the last five days before the incident did you engage in any sexual activity?”

Olivia stared down at the with page filled with neatly printed text that carefully spelled out her humiliation. She wasn't sure why she was so horrified to say she'd had sex, but maybe it wasn't the previous act so much as her present aversion to such things.

She drew a breath, and nodded.

“Yes, about a day prior to the abduction.”

“Okay, was it vaginal, anal, or oral penetration?”

“V-vaginal.” She stuttered, pressing her eyes shut.

“Did you use protection?”

“Yes.” She whispered, pulling her hands from her knees in order to scrub her hands over her face.

She didn't add that they always used protection at Brian's insistence. She went along willingly because she knew that Brian wasn't ready to be a father. She ignored the fact that they were both at that stage in life where they should’ve already made that decision ten years ago, if not longer.

“Was this intercourse with a single partner?” Erica asked, jarring her from her meandering thoughts.

“Um...yes, I'm sorry.” She replied, haltingly.

“That's ok. Just let me know if you need a break.”

“I'm fine.” Olivia replied, quickly.

She glanced over at Amanda for half a second, their eyes meeting. She'd trusted her more than anyone in the last few hours but it was seemingly impossible to escape the feeling of utter loneliness. She stood alone on this raised platform of scrutiny, stripped of her privacy both physically and emotionally, and even the audience of the kindest soul was an assault to her aching being. Despite the compassion in Amanda's eyes she looked away, strangely ashamed for her witnessing this deeply revealing moment. Unlike their photo session she was completely clothed, but somehow this seemed almost more invasive.

“Okay.” Erica said, jotting down a final note before she looked up. “Now, I'm just going to ask you what you remember about the assault. This is just so I have a better understanding of what to look for.”

Olivia grabbed onto the edges of the table once more, her coldly sweating palms crunching the sanitary paper. Her wrist ached but she ignored the painful sensation. All she could feel was the flush of horror bleeding across her cheeks as she wondered how she could possibly encase the multiple assaults that stretched across four days into a few simple sentences. She hadn't realized it before, but she wasn't ready to speak aloud what had happened.

“Um….” She whispered, her voice trembling. “I-I’m not really sure how to….” The wavering of her tone collapsed completely into a strained silence and she clenched her teeth together, muffling any noises that could escape.

“It's ok.” Amanda murmured next to her.

She felt her hand touch her back, rubbing softly, but she only wanted to hide away from it. She didn't dare look over at her or acknowledge her in any way. She knew she would completely break if she did.

“As I said before we can skip any part that you are uncomfortable with.” Erica said, softly.

Olivia furrowed her brow and squeezed her eyes shut in order to force the tears away.

She'd just told Erica to do whatever she had to do, but the enormous burden of retelling what had happened seemed insurmountable.

“I'm sorry, I can't.” She whispered through clenched teeth at last.

“That's all right, Olivia.” Erica returned. “We don't have to do anything you don't want to do.”

Olivia gave a short nod, feeling both disappointed in herself and relieved that she would not have to recount the details. Amanda patted her back once more, and for the first time since stepping into the room she found some solace in the comfort.

“The next step is really easy.” Erica assured her as she took a small package out of the box. “We're just going to swab the inside of your mouth.” She tore open the plastic, retrieving two, long swabs as she explained, “It’s just going to be really quick along the insides of your cheeks and under your tongue.”

Olivia nodded, though she hated having to lift her head and show her face. She closed her eyes and opened her mouth for the swabs as Erica leaned in. It was most likely going to be the easiest part of the entire exam and she told could at least relish the fact that her mind was no longer being rummaged through, and that her body was yet to be uncovered.

When the swabs were done, Erica took out two tiny slides and transferred the sample onto the glass. They were packaged into bag that read: STEP ONE ORAL.

It was so clinical, so precise and cold. When the lab looked through the microscope and searched for the presence of foreign DNA, she doubted that they'd imagine what had been done to her. They wouldn't know her name, who she was, or why her saliva was a priority to them. Maybe that was better. Maybe it just made her feel even more alone.

“Next, we’re going to do another sample of your saliva, and this one is to ensure that we can identify your DNA in the lab, and rule it out from the suspects.” Erica said as she unwrapped a small white instrument that looked like a tiny brush.

Olivia nodded in affirmation though she felt herself clinging to the last few moments of decency that this exam would afford her. There were few precious minutes left before the hospital gown would be peeled away from her body, each bruise and laceration scraped and swabbed. She could feel the weight of the more physical, intimate steps hanging above her, ready to crush her. Dread clogged her throat, squeezing tight at the thought of the stirrups and the speculum.

She closed her eyes once more as rough bristles scraped along the inside of her cheek. The sensation was far from painful, but nearly any stimulation at this moment was almost more than she could bear. She clutched the edges of the table until the tiny brush and it’s little claws retreated, leaving a patch of burning flesh inside her mouth. She ran her tongue over the area, focusing on soothing the ache rather than the steps that lay ahead.

“Since they’ve already taken the clothes you were admitted in we can skip a couple steps.” Erica continued. “So what I’m going to do now is just a visual investigation of your whole body. I’m looking for maybe dirt or sand, anything that will put together the puzzle pieces. Is that all right?”

Olivia bit at the raw spot on her cheek, staring off towards the floor. The words felt lodged in her throat. She didn’t want to move forward. God, she didn’t even want to continue with this examination, but in her own mind she didn’t have a choice. The cop inside her, and the victim inside her were at war, angrily fighting for dominance in a flurry of emotion that left her feeling weak and exhausted.

Why can’t there be another way? She wondered, pressing her eyes shut against tears. Why can’t they do it without me?

“It’s okay, honey.” Amanda assured her, softly, skimming her hand over her back.

Olivia bit at her lower lip, hanging her head lower against her chest to hide the tears flooding into her eyes. It wasn’t okay. She wasn’t sure it would ever be okay again. She wanted to scream. She wanted to cry. She wanted to beg Amanda to take her away from this awful place with it’s bland walls and medicinal smell; away from strangers looking at her and touching her; away from every single repercussion of the abduction and subsequent assaults.

She uprooted her hand from the table to reach over and grab Amanda. Her quaking fingers grasped for her body, finding purchase on her outstretched hand. Amanda’s hand was warm, almost too warm, but she clenched her fingers around hers.

She didn’t want Amanda to look at her, or watch her be broken down into the humiliating, little pieces of rape kit, but simultaneously needed her here to ground her to reality. She felt as if she were lost in the middle of a tumultuous sea, and Amanda was her buoy, a sign of life outside of these dark waters. If she let go, she'd be swept away, forever lost.

“It’s okay.” Amanda murmured, leaning in closer to her and squeezing her hand. “Just hold on, and it will be over soon.”

Olivia clenched Amanda’s fingers harder, barely aware that her grip was so tight that the blood seeped from Amanda’s flesh. She clutched Amanda's hand to her stomach, hunched over the only lifeline that she had the faith to grab onto.

“Do you need a minute, Olivia?” Erica asked.

Olivia began to shake her head, but Amanda cut her off.

“Yes, please, give us a moment.”

“Okay. I’ll be back soon.” Erica said, rising from the stool.

Olivia wanted to protest. She didn't want to have the chance to break down or to consider changing her mind about the rape kit, but she didn't have the strength to speak out. She barely held onto her quickly spiraling emotions as the door opened and closed, leaving them mercifully alone.

The silence had hardly encapsulated them before Olivia finally took a breath, gasping for air in the same moment as a sob rushed out. With a moan, she sunk into Amanda’s body, burying her face into her chest. She smelled like a day’s worth of sweat, lingering cigarette smoke, and the sea salt from the ocean, but none of that could've mattered, not even the reminder of the beach house. She hid her face in Amanda's arms, the only safe harbor in this midst of this chaos. Amanda pulled her close, murmuring soft assurances to her as her hand rubbed over her back, before coming to rest on her head.

You have to do this. You have to. You have to. She told herself over and over again even as her mind and body begged her to escape this room, this tiny prison of humiliation.

Long moments passed, filled with the soft whimper of Olivia’s cries, and Amanda’s raspy, heavy breaths. Her heart raced in Olivia’s ear, quietly beating out the tone of terror for the both of them. Olivia listened to each thrum of fear, telling herself that Lewis would be laughing at them if he could see them now. He'd be so pleased, seeing the two NYPD officers who had haunted him the most, brought to their knees by their own devices of investigation.

“We can stop if you want.” Amanda finally whispered, her voice rough with barely concealed emotion.

“No…” Olivia whispered, clinging to bare threads of her resolve.

He's laughing at your pain. She told herself. He's laughing at hers.

“I know you want to make sure he goes to prison, but -” Amanda continued, but Olivia cut her off, finally clinging to the dying embers of her determination.

“No, I have to.” Olivia insisted, pulling away from her embrace. “I have to.”

She gazed up into Amanda's shimmering blue eyes, knowing that she'd find a way to understand. Right now, Amanda wanted to protect her, but as much as Olivia wanted to accept Amanda's rise to her defense, she couldn't.

“I have to make sure he never does this to anyone ever again.” Olivia whispered, huskily. “The jurors will need to know what happened to me…. Exactly what happened.”

“I know...” Amanda returned, quietly, though Olivia could sense the regret in her tone.

But it didn’t matter. She had one last chance to be the cop she always claimed to be, to redeem herself of every selfish and unethical move she’d made up until this moment; and if there was one thing she refused to surrender to Lewis it was her career. She would've offered herself up to him a hundred times and more if only to make it back to SVU. This was her life’s work, and if she didn't have that then there would truly be nothing left for her to live for.

Chapter Text

It had been 37 minutes since they had stepped inside the exam room, and each an every second ticked inside Amanda’s brain with a dooming certainty that they were not closer to the end - only the beginning of something much worse. Entire eternities of agony lived on inside each minute, dragging out slowly like just another hand of torture. The clock on the wall with it’s tiny, needled fingers assured her of this fact.

Olivia’s strength was crumbling. She could feel it even without looking at her. The waves of mental exhaustion rolled off of her like an incoming tide, yearning to suck Amanda back in with her. She’d sacrificed her own stability to be inside this room, to be the one that Olivia clung to, and though she was far from regret, her body swayed with shared fatigue.

When Olivia had broken down, crying into her chest, she’d barely been able to withstand the brutality of the grief exuding from her. Their bodies touching felt like a disquieting transfer, Olivia’s pain burrowing beneath her skin and digging down to the core of her beginning.

She’d felt this emptiness before, and for a moment, she’d been frozen. For a second, she’d been back inside that hotel room, dragging herself from the bed. Her head had been bleeding, staining her golden hair with crimson. Her lip, tight and swollen, had been spurting its own fountain of red. Above her, Patton had laughed as he buckled his pants with an arrogant gesture. When he’d noticed her hunched over the floor on hands and knees, clutching her aching lower stomach, he’d grown disgusted.

“Go get yourself together.” He’d muttered with a dismissive wave of his hand.

She’d dragged herself to the bathroom, holding back the bile in the back of her throat until she’d managed to make it to the toilet. All the champagne he’d fed her came back up, leaving her gasping and sobbing in panic.

Her first thoughts hadn’t been of her violation, but what people would think. Her first thought wasn’t of revenge, but of holding onto this secret for the rest of her life.

When she’d filled the hotel tub with water and sank into it’s depths, she’d washed away whatever evidence could’ve been held against him. She’d stayed there for hours, using up every tiny bottle of shampoo and body wash as she scrubbed at her flesh until it was raw. She’d washed his semen from between her legs despite the pain throbbing through her groin. She'd rubbed away the tell tale blood, and if she could've, she would've wiped off the bruises into the waiting drain.

Even then she’d known it was a mistake. She’d never been so foolish as to believe that he wouldn’t do it again or that she was his first. The whispers and lies of her lascivious behavior hadn’t driven her from Atlanta so much as the guilt she harbored for never putting an end to Patton’s abuse. Moreover, she’d couldn’t escape the guilt of her own fear. Fear had kept her from disclosing the incident to anyone, and now the same fear had pushed up the words from her throat - we can stop if you want.

Maybe she wanted to end this exam for her own selfish reasons, but she couldn't curb the instinct to put a stop to this madness, though she wasn’t surprised when Olivia refused. When she looked into her eyes, she knew stopping the exam would’ve been the same mistake as her washing away the evidence of her own rape in that hotel bathroom.

Their moral duty didn’t stop her from feeling ill as she slowly crossed to the door to call Erica back in. Each step reminded her that she walked a very fine line between being a professional police officer and an emotionally compromised one. It was a tight rope she'd balanced on so many times before that she knew the fear of falling before it even hit her.

She drew a breath as she grabbed the cold, metal door handle. She hesitated for as long as she could before she pulled it open slowly, head down. She stepped halfway outside the door, finding Erica quietly pacing.

“Everything okay in here?” Erica asked, softly, as approached. Her expression was even, though inquisitive.

“Yeah, yeah.” Amanda nodded, quickly despite the heaviness pervading her chest. “She wants to continue.”

“I meant are you okay?” Erica said with a frown, stepping in closer, as she lowered her voice. “We have plenty of rape advocates who could be with Olivia right now.”

“Wh-what do you mean?” Amanda drew back, stuttering in a shocked tone.

She realized that wasn't in a prime emotional state at the moment, but she had it under control. At least she thought she had.

She tore her gaze from Erica's and glanced back towards Olivia. She was gripping the edge of the table again, her head lowered. Her long legs dangled to the floor, bruised and scraped. Her throat clenched at such a beautiful, yet morbid picture of agony, and startling reality.

She couldn't let her down. She'd made a promise and she intended to keep it.

“I’m fine.” She whispered, vehemently, despite not looking back at Erica.

“I expect Olivia to be in this state of mind.” Erica said. “But not you.”

“You think I shouldn’t be affected by this?” Amanda replied, quickly, finally looking over at the nurse.

“No.” Erica shook her head, folding her arms. “I mean you shouldn’t be triggered by it.”

Amanda swallowed quickly, her heart slowing for half a second before taking off again. Maybe she shouldn't have been surprised that a nurse who'd performed hundreds of these exams could spot a rape victim so easily, but it still jarred her. No one else had ever even questioned her, or perhaps they hadn't known how to. The only person she'd ever told was Olivia, and she'd blurted it out without thinking. Regret had instantly hit her, but a part of her had been relieved that finally someone else could have an silent understanding of what she'd survived. Now, it was her turn to do the same for Olivia. Erica and her intuition would not dissuade her. Even her own emotional distress couldn't.

“I-I’m fine.” She repeated, sharply. “I’m just worried about my friend.”

Erica eyes narrowed slightly, and Amanda could sense another inquiry on her lips. She turned away to avoid dealing with the inquisitive nurse, and returned to Olivia’s side. Olivia knew about the rape, but she didn’t need to think about that during her own exam. Patton was of no concern, and never could be. It’d been far too long to revisit old wounds now when Olivia’s fresh ones needed to be attended to.

Erica shifted back into a neutral attitude, but Amanda guessed that it was more for Olivia’s benefit rather than hers.

The nurse began to change her gloves as she sat back down on the stool and asked Olivia, “Are you ready to continue?”

Olivia nodded, her movements short and choppy. Her hair had tumbled over her face, hiding her expression from Amanda’s eyes, but Amanda recalled the conviction in her dark, hazel gaze when she’d insisted they go forward with the rape kit. She clung to the sparks of resolve that she'd witnessed, hoping that that too would in some way transfer to her.

“All right, I’m going to have you stand up, and I’ll start doing the visual exam.” Erica said.

Olivia nodded once more and began to slide down from the table. Amanda could see the quiver in her limbs and she reached out to take her elbow. Olivia’s trembling hand caught her own once more as she planted her feet on the floor, swaying slightly.

“I’ve got you.” Amanda murmured, holding her steady as Olivia’s fingers gripped hers tight.

Olivia glanced up at her through strands of hair, her brown eyes dull and hollow with a resolve to make it through this ordeal. Amanda's throat tightened once more at the vacant, yet pained expression. She'd seen it far too many times, staring in the mirror for months on end, just waiting for the memories to finally fade from her mind. She wanted to hold her close and tell her it would get better soon, but she knew the truth. It would never get better - only more bearable with time after the wounds had healed into white lined reminders of trauma that lay quiet, yet volatile beneath layers and layers of scar tissue.

She grasped Olivia's hands, gritting her teeth against the surge of pain that went through her.

She hadn't thought of Patton nor of that fateful night in a very long time, and the unearthing of such horrific memories seemed to shock her, almost as if she were seeing it for the first time in her mind. She wasn't that person anymore, that weak, naive girl who'd been willing to do almost anything to save her sister, the one who had trusted the wrong man. She'd told herself this so many times that she'd imagined that the rape had truly happened to someone else, even if they were some disconnected, former remnant of herself. Staring back into Olivia's eyes, however, she was reminded that no matter how hard she tried to forget that she'd always be that woman, crawling pathetically from the bed of violence and force to the waters of shame and regret.

Her fingers clenched harder around Olivia's fingers and she turned her face away, hiding the tears that rose sharply and eagerly to her eyes as if they had been waiting there all this time. She swallowed hard, pushing hard knots of emotion back down into her throat. She couldn't let Olivia see this blatant breakdown.

There was no reason to hold a candle in remembrance of that night. What would a vigil and the shedding of tears do when the consequences of the rape had already been cemented into her brain and every fiber of her being? There was no point crying for what had been lost when Olivia could yet be saved.

The knot in her throat sharpened as she took another glance at Olivia's gaze, filled with a distant nothingness. Her eyes were fixed away from her, off in an indeterminate direction. Her grip on Amanda's hands was robotic, an involuntary measure to hold herself up beneath this daunting task.

If it had been Amanda's choice she would've stopped the exam completely. She'd taken on the responsibility of urging Olivia to do the rape kit and now she had no control over the situation. She knew this was the right course of action, but her desire to protect Olivia almost overwhelmed her moral instincts.

The realization that she cared so much startled her. She'd been set on self preservation since the night Patton had taken away her ability to trust anyone, even her baby sister. She'd only allowed herself to fantasize of a day where someone broke through that wall of fear and anger, but she'd never imagined it would be someone who sat across from her every day. The concept had always been a distant, vague idea, strung along by the hopeful, yet naive yearnings of her heart, and now it was nearly too terrifying to entertain. She crushed it, forcing the confusing puzzle of emotion back down into her chest with the rest of her feelings.

It would be in her best interests to remain as a neutral, professional figure here, but how could she take on the cloak of her former role as impartial colleague ever again when she stood here at Olivia's side, damaging boundaries and scrubbing away lines in the sand with each and every second? If only she could bring some sense of comfort to Olivia she thought she might not be so frightened by sudden possessiveness and protectiveness… If only some sense of normalcy would return then maybe she could move on from this moment unchanged….

Looking up into her eyes, Amanda desperately searched for the light of vigor and strength she'd seen only minutes ago, but the dullness of Olivia's gaze sent sharp spikes of fear through her stomach, sending a chill through the warmth that had gathered in her stomach. She'd gone through panic, fear, anger, anguish, then panic again in the last few hours - so many emotions that her head was dizzy with the force of them colliding between her temples. She was watching Olivia's spirit being sucked from her with every step of the exam, and with it Amanda's own determination to leave this room untarnished.

Exhaustion tugged at the corners of her consciousness, reminding her that the past 36 hours had consisted of the the search for Olivia and her subsequent rescue. She'd pushed herself through up until this point on pure adrenaline, but this room with it's bright lights and heavy implications, had begun to feed on the last of her strength.

A dozen flurried thoughts ran through her brain, thrumming along the idea of dragging them both away from this torture chamber, driving them far away until the lights of New York City were but a memory in the rear view mirror. If they could only travel beyond the responsibility that weighed upon them then maybe she could escape the idea that she could've spared Olivia from this pain. She could've led them blissfully from the duty of the rape kit. She could've let Lewis go in the park, and never looked back….

Could've... should've….would’ve…

She could hear Erica explaining that the next step would be a UV blacklight search for any fluids that might be on Olivia's body, but her head was humming with the static of her own thoughts. Her movements were stiff as Olivia let go of her hands in order to loosen the hospital gown. Their gazes met for a second, stuttering to connect as they both drifted through the spaces between reality and disassociation. Olivia’s brows furrowed slightly before her chin ducked away, and she turned slowly towards the table. She grabbed onto the edge and her hair tumbled over her face as gazed towards the floor.

Amanda’s heart clenched in her chest as she wondered Olivia had seen the emotion pooling in her eyes, or if she was simply trying to make it through this. She wanted to reach out to her again as the absence of her hands in hers marked a swath of loneliness through Amanda’s chest. She held herself back from touching her as the gown slipped past her shoulders, baring the length of her back once more. Amanda clenched her hands at her sides to keep them from expressing her anguish. She’d only so recently captured her naked, bruised flesh in the eye of the camera and experiencing the product of Lewis’s violence again so soon churned her stomach into a sickened tidal wave. She could only imagine the thoughts that must be going through Olivia’s head at having such invasive scrutiny thrust upon her again and again.

She lowered her eyes, and barely kept herself from turning away.

She was almost grateful when the lights went out with only the blacklight to illuminate the room. In the darkness she could hide her fear and regret, even if she drifted between the monsters that the shadows held. Wasn't she one of them for leading Olivia here, like a lamb to the slaughter?

Chapter Text

The darkness swallowed her whole, a blessed relief from the overwhelming sensations of lights, of voices, hands touching her. She grasped the table, her eyes closed sharply enough to cause dancing spots and patterns behind the veil of her lids.

She was breathing, but it was a forced routine. Each inhale and exhale was carefully timed, the seconds in between meticulously accounted for. She had a tenuous hold on the control over her body, and what reactions she could direct, she micromanaged. The consistent thudding of her heart, however, would not be tamed. She tried desperately to calm the hammering of it against her ribs, but every time Erica spoke, she felt the muscle clench sharply in apprehension.

She’d tried justifying the necessity of the rape kit over and over again in her head, but the constant reassurances were growing worn. She’d used her last burst of energy to convince Amanda to let Erica back into the room, and now her brain was drifting as it would into the minefield of her memories as if searching for some reason to go on. She tossed aside the heart wrenching moments of finding Alice Parker, or the victory of seeing Lewis arrested. None of that would make a difference now…

She leaned heavily on the table as Erica began to explain that she’d be swabbing for DNA wherever the UV detected the fluorescent glow. Olivia nodded, but she didn’t listen to the rest of Erica’s assurances. She knew the details and what every step would hold.

She squeezed her eyes shut harder, and a blossom of red spilled across her vision. The soft hue of it reminded her of the curtains in the beach house, or maybe just the blood jetting across Lewis's face. She'd heard the sickening crunch as sections of his skull collapsed beneath the force of the metal bed post, but even when she'd looked down to find him unrecognizable beyond his wounds, she hadn't stopped. It wasn't her conscience that had put an end to her rampage of violence against him, only a deep exhaustion that had taken hold of her, physically withholding her from continuing. Maybe if she hadn't been so weak he would be dead.

She sucked in a sharp breath as Erica's voice shattered her replay of the beach house.

“You can go ahead and turn around now, Olivia.”

In the darkness she allowed herself to shudder. It wouldn't last forever.

She uncurled her fingers from around the table and turned slowly. The blacklight washed across her body, illuminating her shades of purple and shifting blue, searching for that fluorescent marker. The gown clung to her body, just below her shoulders and she could already sense Lewis's saliva coming to life beneath the rays, radiating from her neck and chest.

She closed her eyes as Erica leaned in with the swab poised, her eyes shadowed in concentration behind her glasses. She tried to breath as the moistened swab dabbed against her neck, directly over her pulse, but she couldn’t stop the shudder that seized her at her core.

“You and me… we’re gonna have one wild ride, baby.” Lewis’s voice whispered through her mind, a clear memory of the moments before he’d forced the vodka to her lips. The burning liquid had spilled down her chin in thick gushes as she’d coughed and gagged against the alcoholic taste. With his fist in her hair, he licked it from her jaw, eagerly lapping at her neck, torturously slow.

“Why are you fighting me on this?” He’d demanded when she continuously attempted to spit the vodka back into his face. “A woman like you oughta be grateful I’m liquoring you up first.”

“Woman like me? You wouldn’t even know what it’s like to fuck a ‘woman like me.’” She’d hissed, just angry enough to be stupid. He’d already hit her, burned her, touched her in places that made her sick. She’d had enough fight to spit at him again, the only attack she could leverage against him with her arms and feet bound to the chair, but it hadn’t made a difference.

“Oh, but I will.” He smiled, a leering grin that churned her stomach.

Then he’d torn her shirt away from her breast and bit her nipple. It wasn’t so much the pain of it that had forced the scream from her throat, but rather that she’d pushed him to an even more invasive, deeply horrifying assault than before.

Now, as she haltingly slid the gown from her chest to reveal the glowing patches of his teeth marks and saliva, she wondered why she’d even fought. He was right after all. She should’ve been grateful for some kind of dulling effect, some sedative that would ease the sharp,vivid edges of her memories.

She’d witnessed so many depraved acts throughout the four days, but she loathed the recollections of her own apartment the most, her own personal space that he had invaded. The first pieces of her had been stolen there, in a place she’d always expected to be safe. She’d stood in her own four walls, vacant of any defense, a prisoner to Lewis’s show of her own assault. She’d watched helplessly just as she watched now, only Lewis had eaten up the sections of her soul rather than putting them into little, labeled boxes.

“I’m going to turn on the lights now, Olivia.” Erica’s voice whispered through the hum of her thoughts and she nodded, slowly gathering the gown up against herself.

When the bright, white lights flicked back on she flinched. She pressed her eyes shut, turning her face away from the light, wishing the cover of darkness could’ve continued just a little while longer.

“If you’re ready we’re on to a really simple step.” Erica said, returning to sit down in front of her as she reached for the box again. “This is where we’re going to do the nail scraping. It’s not going to hurt or anything like that.”

Olivia nodded as she pulled herself back up onto the table. She felt weak, her legs swaying beneath her, and the entire ordeal compacted with the memories of Lewis seemed to be sucking every ounce of strength from her body. If she could’ve, she would’ve laid down and slept for however long it took for this to be over, but such a simple, sweet escape would not be afforded to her. The exam in front of her and the devil in her head would never allow her such a luxury. Amanda had promised it would all be over soon, but those soothing words were a reassurance that she couldn’t quite believe.

It didn’t matter whether they were scraping her nails or whether they were prying her body open for cervical samples. It was all the same, a continuous, neverending scrutiny of her being which left her feeling molested of every will she had to continue; nor would this be the end. Her statement to the police, followed by an entourage of reporters outside the precinct would ensue. Even months from now, she’d sit on a stand and strip herself once more for the persecution of cross-examination. Her four days of torment were but the tiny drop at the center of a thousand ripples in this vast, tumultuous ocean that had become her existence.

And so she held out her hand, and she felt every drag of the little wooden pick beneath her nail. She opened her eyes and watched as the coagulated blood fell onto the sheet of paper in thick chunks. She felt some satisfaction in knowing that at least some pieces of him were inside this rape kit with hers, and if he could ever feel the weight of that, she hoped that it crushed him.

Erica gathered up the samples in the sheet and folded into a bag that was marked: STEP 8: FINGERNAIL SCRAPING.

“You're doing great, Olivia.” She said with a smile, as she took out a small comb. “Next I'm going to take some hair samples from your head and pubic area. If you want, you can do the brushing.”

Olivia stared down at the tiny comb being extended to her. Her breaths rasped against her ears, but she felt frozen. Her hands were numb and heavy despite at her brain screaming at her to just take the brush.

“Olivia?” Amanda's voice skittered across her ears, startling her.

She blinked quickly, jarring herself from her immobilized state to take the comb with a trembling hand. The plastic teeth were cold and biting and she clenched her fingers about them, finding some motivation in the pinpricks of pain. Despite the heaviness in her limbs, she managed to lift the brush and run it through the knotted, unwashed strands dangling against her cheek. She could barely get the comb through the section of hair due the tangled mess of dirt, blood, and alcohol that had mingled into her scalp over the past four days. She grimaced as she managed to yank the teeth of the comb through. She drew her hand back as several strands danced towards her lap, pulled straight from the root. The pain of it barely overshadowed her emotional disconnect from the situation and Erica had to stop her as she reached up to take on another section.

“That's good, Olivia.” She assured her, tentatively removing the comb from her hand. “I just need a few.”

Olivia watched numbly as Erica gathered up the fallen locks and put them inside a bag that read STEP NINE: HEAD HAIR...just another piece of her that she'd never get back.

She swallowed against the swirling of her belly as she considered the ensuing steps. Her body was rigid against the final steps of the exam which were sure to be the most harrowing and invasive. The part of her that screamed for relief whispered in her ear that she could stop this. They'd most likely gathered as much evidence as they were going to find. The pelvic exam was going to be a useless, yet painful pillaging of her already ravaged body. If she could simply open her mouth, she could be out of this room in mere minutes, but one thing stood in her way - her pride; her vigilance of her bodily autonomy; her vow to never allow someone close enough to do the harm to her that had been done to her mother and thousands of others just like her. She had to make absolutely certain that Lewis could never make a claim of such violation. She had to prove that he hadn't taken from her the last of her dignity.

“For the next step, I'm going to have you do the same thing.” Erica said gently. “Detective Rollins and I will turn away until you're done, okay?”

Olivia nodded, struggling to heave a breath strong enough into her lungs to make her feel like she wasn't suffocating beneath the iron fingers of her own fear. She took the comb again, though nothing within her wanted to perform the action.

She knew Erica was trying to extend to her as much privacy as could be afforded, but a part of her wished she could simply lay back and give up. Enduring the final steps of the exam in a disassociated headspace seemed more inviting than thrusting herself into the gathering of her own evidence, but neither was fair. She shouldn't be here, and yet the culmination of all of her fears was a commencement she'd never truly expected to avoid. Perhaps she'd even expected to end up here sooner rather than later.

Lifting her head, she gazed at Erica's turned back, the sweet lambs prancing across her scrubs. Her eyes drifted towards Amanda who was angled away, one arm tightly crossed while her other hand covered her mouth. If she'd been able to say anything she would've told Amanda to leave her. Whatever happened inside of this room was a horror that would stay with her forever. Why did it have to stay with Amanda as well?

Amanda glanced over at her, a quick flick of her shimmering blue eyes. At her pained gaze, Olivia lowered her head, her stomach aching. She'd made so many people suffer for Lewis's obsession with her and it made her sick that Amanda was now just another victim of his demented games.

When she looked back up Amanda was turned away completely, her shoulders stiff. Olivia clenched her jaw as pain shored up against the wall she'd built against this procedure. It made her nauseous to feel anything in this moment, and she averted her eyes to the brush in her hand.

She slowly slid down from the table and reached beneath the gown to remove the underwear the hospital had given her. She closed her eyes against the wash of humiliation despite Amanda’s and Erica's turned backs. They couldn't see her now, but the pelvic exam was only minutes away and the apprehension twisted in her gut with an insistence she couldn't ignore.

Her fingers trembled as she pulled the gown up enough to retrieve the required sample. She hated the feeling of the brush tugging through her hair. She hated that she had any at all in this moment. She thought of shaving it all away or maybe waxing until even her pores could not remember the sensation of the tiny, soft tendrils.

Swallowing back bile, she managed to gather enough of her hair to make a good sample and let the gown fall back down to her knees.

“Done.” She whispered, staring at the brush and her quaking fingers clutching the short hairs.

Erica turned back towards her and took both from her hands with a quiet affirmation. Olivia resisted the retch which formed in her throat and lapsed back against the table. Her body wanted to collapse in exhaustion and the tears constantly pushed at her lids. She tried desperately to desensitize herself to this room, but each minute held it's own device of torture, a new way to humiliate her.

“You're doing good, Olivia, we're almost done.” Erica assured her. “You can get back onto the table.”

Olivia nodded, though the motion made her head spin. She grasped at the edge of the table, finding herself nearly too weak to pull herself up.

“Let me help you.” Amanda murmured, suddenly close.

Her hand gripped Olivia's elbow and the smaller detective used nearly all of her strength to heave Olivia's swaying frame back up into a sitting position. 

“There.” Amanda whispered, patting her arm. “It'll be over soon, right?” Her voice trailed into a question, leaving Olivia to wonder if the two of them could even scrape up enough determination to form even some hint of hope.

“Now, the next part is probably going to be a little uncomfortable, but I promise I will make it as quick and painless as possible.” Erica said, sliding in closer on her stool.

“Whatever you need to do.” Olivia whispered, staring down at the tilting tiles beneath her feet.

“I'm going to have you lie back and put your feet in the stirrups.” Erica said, gently, after a moment of hesitation.

Olivia nodded, eager to lay down so that the other women could not see her face nor the tears forming in her eyes. She sank back, her eyes closing as the brightness of the lights over head seared her aching vision. Amanda's hand hovered at her elbow and Olivia reached up to grab onto her hand.

“I've got you.” Amanda whispered once more, a steady promise which she had yet to break.

It was more than anyone had ever done for her, and as much as she hated Amanda's pain, she selfishly garnered the abundance of her pathos.

She kept her eyes squeezed shut as she shifted her feet up into the stirrups, leaving her thighs to gape open in disturbing vulnerability. She bit at her lower lip hard as she resisted the urge to tear her legs from the degrading position and run from the room. She'd done everything possible to escape Lewis's invasion of her body and willingly lying here on her back seemed an unforgivable treachery to her own mind; and yet for the very fact that she had struggled and fought and survived she had to do this. Despite the pathways of her mind not yet being ready to accept this fate, sheer willpower and the barest threads of logic forced her to remain here, willingly or unwillingly.

“I’m going to lay this sheet over your now and then I’m going to take three swabs - vulvar, vaginal, and cervical.” Erica explained as she unfolded another sanitary sheet to lay over her legs, the barest shield of privacy that could be afforded to her. She felt the sheet settle over her legs with a scratchy whisper and clenched her fingers harder around Amanda’s.

She almost wanted to scream at Erica to stop explaining each step, although she knew it was for her own benefit. Unlike other victims, however, she knew exactly what was going to happen. She didn’t need this gentle warning. She just needed it to be over.

She heaved a breath as the silence stretched. She could hear Erica opening the packaging of swabs and she had to bite down hard to hold back the sob that welled in her throat. She could feel the tears flooding against her lids, seeking escape from behind her tightly closed eyes, but she couldn’t let them.

“It’s okay.” Amanda murmured above her, holding onto Olivia’s hands with both of hers.

Olivia dragged her hand closer to her body, desperately clinging to the warmth radiating from the other woman. She closed her mind around the texture of her flesh, the bite of their nails in each other’s skin - anything to distract from reality.

“The first swab will just be the outside, very quick.” Erica assured her as she shifted closer. “Nothing will hurt.”

Olivia swallowed down a knot of tears in her throat, but she couldn’t speak. She couldn’t even move. She didn’t know how to tell the kind nurse that she didn’t fear pain - she’d endured far worse in the past four days than she’d ever feel again - but rather the excruciating twisting of her mind.

“Just hold onto my hand.” Amanda whispered, leaning in closer to her.

Olivia barely nodded though she kept her eyes screwed shut as the nurse moved in for the first swab. She breathed shallow breaths through her nose, and her feet curled rigidly against the stirrups at the sensation of the cotton dragging against her flesh. She turned her face sharply away from Amanda’s as a tear managed to break free from beneath her lids. There was no pain physically, but her entire being seemed to ache more and more with each passing second.

“Okay, that’s it for that one. You did good.” Erica said, kindly.

“You’re almost there, Liv.” Amanda whispered, encouragingly, rubbing the back of her hand and squeezing, but even the sound of her voice failed to rally any sense of hope inside her.

“For the next two swabs I’m going to use the speculum so I need you to relax.” Erica explained. “I know that’s hard to do right now, but I don’t want to hurt you, okay?”

Olivia nodded, trying to let out a breath and release her tightly clenched muscles but the exhale exited on the tone of a low, wavering moan. Her chest shuddered with the chance to release all of her pent of sobs, but she immediately latched her mouth shut again.

“Liv, you okay?” Amanda asked, her voice sharp with concern.

“Just do it.” She moaned through clenched teeth.

“Do you need another break, Olivia?” Erica inquired, softly.

“No.” Olivia snapped quickly, reaching up to rub her free hand over her face. “No, just do it.”


The other women were silent for a moment and Olivia could imagine their exchanged glances, but she refused to stop.

Finally, Erica said, calmly, “All right, like I said, just relax and I will make this as quick as possible.”

Olivia breathed a short lived sigh of relief, and tried to force her body to accept what was going to happen. When she tried to release the tension, her body quivered with fear, ready to shatter in a million tiny shards. She could hardly control the twitches and shivers that seized her arms and legs, right to the core of stomach. Though she tried to breath evenly, her inhales rushed in panicked blasts through her lips followed by the shuddering, halting inhale.

When Erica’s gloved hand touched her she nearly cried out. She buttoned her lips together and squeezed her eyes shut so tightly that colors burst across her vision in dizzying patterns. The cold smooth surface of the speculum followed, pushing into her in one motion. She choked on a cry, and grabbed at her face, covering as much of her tear-stained visage as possible. She clenched her teeth down in expectation of tool’s jaw opening inside her, and wrenched her fingers down tighter on Amanda’s. She heard her grimace above her, but she didn’t pull her hand away from Olivia’s crushing grip.

“It’ll all be over soon.” Amanda’s voice floated to her ears, though the sound seemed far away; perhaps, she’d even just imagined it.

She couldn’t focus on anything anymore besides the device shoved inside her, the naked defenselessness that wrote panic through her every vein. All she could remember was every time he had touched her, every act of torture he had thrust upon her that had led up to this very moment. She thought she had escaped him in that beach house, but instead, he was here with her, watching over her as the last of her dignity was ripped to shreds and placed into fifteen little boxes - each one their own dark coffin to the decaying pieces of her soul.

He’d told her that he would change her life. He’d promised, but it wasn’t until she was here, in a place that promised safety and justice, that she finally believed him.

Chapter Text

The hallways outside of the exam room were loud and bustling, filled with nurses and doctors rushing by, their brows knit with stress, hands filled with clipboards of charts. It was a relief to finally leave the room, but stepping into the hall was another kind of hell. Anyone of them could've accidentally brushed up against her. They all had the capability of staring at her.

Her arm ached from the needle puncture. They'd drawn two samples, and she'd watched with heavy lids as the blood filled the capsules only because it was some kind of distraction from the discomfort of the rest of her body. Aches, burning scrapes, invaded places of her all screamed at her from below. Exhaustion crackled insistently in her brain, causing her motions to be sluggish.

She had lost track of the time, but they'd been in the exam room for at least two hours, perhaps longer. She felt raw from the scrutiny, like an old wound continuously being reopened. She wondered when that feeling would end or if she would ever heal.

Amanda was at her side, holding her arm as they walked her back to her hospital room. Erica had left with the rape kit box in her hand, and an assurance that the evidence inside would end in a conviction for Lewis. The sentiment was heartfelt but that was all it was - a shallow sympathy for what she'd just endured.

“Do you want me to stay with you?” Amanda asked as they reached the room. “We can finally get you a shower.”

Olivia was already shaking her head. “No...no, it's okay.”

“Liv…” Amanda began, softly.

“I just...want to be alone.” She whispered.

They had reached the bed and she grabbed onto the railing, clutching the cold metal tightly. Amanda's hand hovered at her side with fearful hesitance.

“I just want everyone to stop looking at me.” She said in raspy, hushed tone.

“I don't want to leave you…” Amanda murmured, and Olivia could sense the tears wrapped up behind layers of steeled courage, but as much as her concern touched her, she felt like a leech, feeding on Amanda's strength of will.

“You should go home.” Olivia said, glancing over at her. “You've been here for hours.”

“That's not important.” Amanda insisted, her blue eyes wide with alarm.

“I'm going to the bathroom.” Olivia murmured, unlatching her hands from the rail and moving past Amanda.

Amanda had suffered enough with her throughout the rape kit and putting her through anymore would be the peak of selfishness. There was nothing Amanda could do for her now. There was nothing anyone could do.

“Liv…” Amanda stuttered after her, her tone caught somewhere between shock and pleading.

Olivia closed her eyes against her imploring voice as she grabbed the door handle to the bathroom. She wrenched it open and pushed inside, eager to find some space in which no one expected anything of her. She slammed the door and leaned against it, breathing heavily. Silence rang against her ears, and she opened her eyes to stare up at the ceiling.

Quiet.

Nothingness.

Only her thoughts pervading every second of her existence. Only every single memory of Lewis and the rape kit. Her mind burgeoned to bursting point with the seconds of grief and trauma which had been vividly captured and stored inside her brain. Her temples ached with the pounding recalletions. She felt like fissure in the ground, just before an earthquake, ready to break apart at the slightest shudder.

She groaned, lifting her hands to her head. Tears of anger and horror and sadness rushed to her eyes, filling her chest with a tidal wave of emotion. Her voice echoed sharply against the bathroom walls as the sobs she'd locked inside her chest throughout the exam finally flooded to her mouth.

She wanted to scream. She wanted to break the mirror in front of her, and tear down every brick this building. She wished her gun was back in her hands, pointed straight at Lewis's head. She wished that she was standing over him again, holding him at her mercy with that metal rail.

She could still hear the sound of his bones breaking in her ears. She’d imagined it with every click of the camera throughout Amanda's pictures of her. She'd thought of it when the scraping and swabbing became unbearable. She'd given him a beating for every step of the rape kit and more, but it would never be enough - not until she'd made him think that existing wasn’t worth anything after all of the pain she’d forced upon his body. She'd hoped to take even that from him at the end of that unyielding metal bar.

She'd never been angry that someone wasn't dead before; and she didn't just want to see the life drain from him. She wanted to be the one hurting him, killing him. She was desperate to be a murderer, and that thought pushed sharp pain through her lungs, stealing her very breath.

Had it really only taken four days for him to scoop the humanity from her chest?

Sobbing, Olivia sank down, her knees failing her at the thought of losing herself to this man, this monster. He was slowly but surely plucking away everything she had to live for, but she couldn't even take his life without betraying herself, whatever pieces were left from his pillaging. No, she couldn't even wound him without him taking pleasure in her collapse.

Standing over him, wielding the metal bar, she'd felt simultaneously like the most powerful and weakest person in the world. She'd had no mercy, no humanity, nothing which resembled her former self. She'd been a better person when she'd been under Lewis's control, willing to sacrifice herself for the greater good.

Her lids fluttered closed again against the rise of tears, and she gave way to the onslaught of horrific memories burned into her mind. Maybe if she could remember enduring the torture of innocent people, if she could remember what she was fighting for, then she could find a way to reconcile her reprehensible actions.

She could remember him tying her to a chair in the Mayers’s bedroom. The sun had been going down, and it slanted sharply through the curtain into her aching eyes. He’d left her alone for several minutes, but she’d been so inebriated that she couldn’t find the strength to attempt an escape - even when she could hear the Mayers screaming from other parts of the house…. Even when he’d dragged the poor woman into the room, stripped of her clothing and sobbing. God, he’d been brutal, but she’d begged through the tape, using what was left of her voice to bargain with him to just let them go… to take her instead. He’d laughed, snorted another line of coke...kissed her with the promise that he’d do everything he’d said he would, and that she’d like it….

Knock! Knock! Knock!

The sudden pounding on the door jarred her and she gasped.

“Liv?!” Brian's voice reached through the door, sharp and panicked.

She heard the door knob turning and felt her body jostling as he tried to open it with her slumped against it.

“Liv, let me in!” He cried from the other side.

He pushed on the door hard and her weakened body slumped to the side. She felt her cheek hit the cold tile, but the shock of impact was a far away rattle. She stared across the tile floor, listening to the echoey sound of her heartbeat and the buzz of reality just beyond the peripheral of her brain. If she closed her eyes she could see the beach house, she could feel the suffocating heat rolling off of the sand just outside.

“Liv?” Brian's voice barely punctured her distorted reality as he fell to his knees in front of her.

He grabbed her arms, pulling her upright, but her head flopped and dangled against her chest like a broken rag doll. The room was swirling in front of her, and she felt as if she was drifting away. Brian’s horrified expression seemed to be at the end of a very long tunnel, and her reality was light years from this bathroom. When she closed her eyes, she could feel the cuffs around her wrists, the metal bedframe and hard mattress beneath her body.

“Liv!” Brian's voice reached the pitch of panic, but to her ears, the sound was muffled.

It could've been anyone's screams. There were a dozen mouths inside her head, stretched open to release the screech of suffering and abject agony. They were all screaming because of her, but she was Lewis's target. She deserved to scream. She'd offered herself to him so many times that she'd lost count, but maybe there was one final chance, here inside this beach house, to convince him.

“I think you’ll want to keep me around.” She mumbled, closing her eyes as a tear spilled down her cheek. “I know what you like.”

Her mind's eye yawned open to Lewis's expression of amusement. He'd been so close she could smell his sweat, the scent of drugs and alcohol, blood and sex. Bile had risen in her throat, but she'd known it was her final chance.

“I know how to get you off.” She murmured. “Kentucky… Alabama…I know details that you might not even remember.”

“What?!” Brian's confused, horrified tone barely shattered the veil of her memories.

He shook her, his fingers gripping her arms so tightly that they could've bruised, but in her mind she could only see Lewis’s sneering face staring back her, his lips twisted in a sickening smile. He had her here, exactly where he wanted her- stripped of her dignity, playing the very last card she had in her deck. She might be just as weak as Alice Parker had been when he’d raped and tortured her for 18 hours…

Brian grabbed her face, trying to pull her gaze to his, but her head lolled in his hands as she slipped away into the blackened minefield of memories exploding in her mind. She couldn't feel Brian's hands nor hear his voice. All she could feel was Lewis's body next to her own, aroused at the sound of her manipulation, her final play at survival.

“Olivia?” A second voice, a soft, Georgian accent, rattled at the cage of her subconscious.

“What the fuck is happening?” Brian's demand swam in the background.

“Get the doctor.” Amanda returned, before Olivia felt her next to her, grasping her face and shoulder. “Olivia? It’s Amanda. You’re okay, you’re safe.”

Olivia’s eyes fluttered open at the sound of Amanda’s voice, and the feeling of her hands upon her suddenly came into sharp focus, stealing her breath away. The light on the ceiling was bright, searing her eyes with unrelenting beams. Her whole body seemed to throb with the thudding of her heartbeat in her ears.

Confusion muddled her brain as she blinked against the harsh light of the bathroom, taking in the plain walls, the sink, the toilet… There was no beach house. Lewis wasn't here.

She shifted her gaze towards Amanda's wide, distressed one, feeling horror and shame well inside her chest.

“Amanda?” She whimpered, reaching up with a trembling, weak hand to grasp clumsily at her arm.

“Yes, I’m here.” Amanda returned, her tone breathless with a quavering fear that was barely hidden.

“I'm sorry…” She whispered, choking on a breath as tears clogged her airways.

“No, I'm sorry.” Amanda breathed, tears gathering at her lids.

She pulled Olivia into her chest, holding her tight. Olivia sank into her arms, sucked of the final bits of strength that she'd had left.

The room blurred and tilted in her vision and she closed her eyes. This didn’t feel real. The only thing that felt real was Lewis’s voice in her head, his taunting tone singing to her horrors of brutal torture and humiliation; and maybe this was all that would ever feel real again.

xxxxx

“What the hell did they do to her, Rollins?” Brian's voice was low, confused murmur against the hospital walls, and she wondered if he even expected an answer.

Amanda was leaned against the wall outside of Olivia's room, her arms crossed tightly over her churching stomach. Brian paced anxiously across from her, and the sound of his boots hitting the floor grated on her nerves. She needed another smoke, but she couldn't leave, especially not now.

“Lewis or the doctors?” She finally returned, her voice raspy.

Brian's footsteps came to a stop and she heard him emit a low sigh.

“I never once thought that she might be in danger.” He whispered. “When she didn't pick up, I figured… she's lost in the case…she has her head in a file….”

“No one thought he would do this.” Amanda returned. 

The last thing she wanted to hear was Brian's own self pity. Maybe in a way she blamed him for never checking up on his own girlfriend after two days of radio silence, though she could as easily blame the entire squad. She could just as easily blame herself. With her head lowered, she wondered again if she hadn't been in the park that day if none of this would've happened. If she hadn't been so relentless about uncovering the mystery of William Lewis, maybe he wouldn't have kidnapped Olivia, and this horrible nightmare wouldn't even have been a possibility. At the very least she shouldn't have pushed Olivia into doing the rape kit….

The sound of the door opening drew her attention and she pushed off the wall as Olivia's doctor exited, her brows drawn.

“Doc, is she all right?” Brian asked, rushing over.

“She's calm now.” The doctor replied. “I gave her something small just to take down her blood pressure….but it is extremely worrying that she's showing such strong signs of PTSD already.”

Amanda swallowed, finding her throat dry. She knew that Olivia had a long road ahead of her, but watching a medical professional be distressed over her mental state made the entire situation seem much more dire.

“What can we do?” She asked, quietly.

“She needs rest, a less stressful environment… A therapist.” The doctor said with a frown.

“She's already got a shrink.” Brian breathed, running his hands through his hair as he turned away. His voice was thin and strained, his shoulders taut.

“Can we see her?” Amanda asked.

“If she wants, but like I said, do not put her under anymore stress.”

“She's a rape victim.” Brian snapped, spinning around. “What in the hell are we supposed to do about that stress?”

The doctor cleared her throat, perturbed by Brian's outburst, but clearly, she was a professional.

“Sir, that's just going to take a lot of time.” She advised.

“Yeah, and I suppose tomorrow you'll be on to the next patient.” Brian groused, pacing away once more.

Amanda pursed her lips and stared towards the floor. If she thought lashing out might change something, she might let her own emotions get the better of her; but she already knew this helpless feeling. She'd lived through the hell of recovery and to this day there were things she couldn't escape. Brian, on the other hand, had left SVU for a reason.

“Thanks for your time.” Amanda murmured to the doctor, stepping around her towards the door.

“I'll be back to check on her soon.” The doctor said with a short smile before she strode off down the hall, her white coat flapping behind her.

“Hey, don't you think it's time you went home?” Brian asked when they were alone.

“I'm not leaving her, Cassidy.” She replied, grabbing the doorhandle.

“I can take it from here.” Brian insisted, his fingers reaching for her shoulder.

“Don't touch me, okay, Cassidy?” She snapped, turning towards him.

Her patience was thin, her ability to cope worn down to almost nothing. She'd left Olivia alone for five minutes and they'd barely been able to pull her out of a vivid flashback. She wasn't going home simply because Brian thought he was more capable of supporting Olivia than she was. She couldn't simply burst out that she too had been raped. She couldn't make him magically understand that the road that Olivia walked was one that very few could comprehend - and that he was not one of them.

“Look.” She breathed into his shocked expression, “You may not realize this, but this isn't going away. If you can’t handle this right now… then, I’m sorry… You’re not gonna make it through the next month or two months or however long it will take for her to recover… And even then…”

“What?” He snapped, his eyes flaring in anger.“You think I don’t love her enough to stay with her through this?”

“Olivia is going to be messed up for awhile, okay?” Amanda hissed, “You have got to get yourself under control if you’re going to be of any help to her. Jumping in doctor's faces and running off everyone who isn't you isn't going to help her.”

He scoffed a laugh and threw up his hands. “Well, I guess you're just the expert on my girlfriend and my relationship now.”

“You feel threatened because I care so much.” She returned, savagely, narrowing her eyes at him. “Well, guess what? Olivia needs people in her life right now who will care more about her than their own pathetic feelings.”

She spun back around and shoved the door open before he could protest further than indignant sputters. She slammed the door shut behind her and leaned against it. Her heart was racing in her chest with righteous anger, but when she gazed across the room at Olivia's frame curled up in the bed, her thoughts of Brian began to disintegrate.

She sighed, her breath exiting in a trembling stream as she stared at Olivia's back. The blankets were wrapped tightly around her body, and even from this distance she could see the clench and shiver of her frame, the remnants of the flashback.

She pushed slowly away from the door and quietly approached her. Her chest was tight with the ache of compassion for her, but even her unique understanding had it's limits.

“Hey, Liv.” She murmured as she reached the bedside. 

Olivia sniffed softly, but hardly move from the fetal position.

“Do you want company or….” She hesitated, despite her insistence to Brian just moments ago.

For a long moment Olivia didn't answer and she felt her heart slowly falling. For an inexplicable reason she could not tear herself from the other woman's side. Maybe she felt responsible. Maybe she protected her out of duty. Maybe she pitied her…. But what words could describe the overwhelming sense of protectiveness that filled her, the desire to shield her at any cost? These feelings terrified her, and yet she couldn't look away, not even for a second.

Finally, Olivia reached back, groping for her hand. Amanda quickly clasped hers in return, her chest swelling with relief.

“Don't go.” Olivia whispered, pulling her hand taut against her side.

She could feel the warmth of her skin through the thin cotton and she wanted to grab onto her, hold her until she could convince herself that nothing bad would happen if she let go.

“I won't go.” She murmured, sinking in closer to her.

Olivia pulled her arm around her waist, clutching Amanda's hand to her stomach. Amanda willingly followed her lead, and slid into the bed next to her. Olivia breathed in a soft, trembling tone as Amanda laid down behind her and pressed her face into Olivia's hair.

“I'm scared, Amanda…” She whispered.

“I know…” Amanda murmured in return, pulling her closer until their bodies were touching, sharing heat.

“I'm afraid of waking up and looking in the mirror and not recognizing myself.” She continued, her voice wrought with tears.

“I won't let that happen.” Amanda breathed, passionately, hugging her tightly. “He can't take your spirit….I believe in you…”

Olivia quieted before whispering, “What if he already has?”

“No.” Amanda insisted, lifting her head to catch as much of Olivia's profile as possible. “If he had you wouldn't have made it through the rape kit. You wouldn't have agreed to it at all.”

“Maybe.” She returned, her tone hollow.

“Listen…” Amanda said, searching anxiously for words. “I know it may not seem like it right now but he's already lost. Hurting you is gonna be his final mistake.”

Olivia didn't answer and her silence rang dully in Amanda's ear as loudly as if Olivia had verbally disagreed. Amanda clenched her arm around Olivia's waist as she laid her head back down, but her heart beat out a fearful cadence in her chest.

She had to believe that Olivia could overcome everything Lewis had put her through, but few things were certain. She was only sure of one thing and even that she was afraid to name. With Brian just outside the door she doubted she even wanted to try.

Chapter Text

The dream was subtle and cunning, seeping into her mind as some kind of twisted reality that she couldn't quite sort out.

She could feel the ache in her body from being in the trunk of the car for hours and the suffocating heat inside wrapped about her. She felt heavy, her limbs moving slow and uncoordinated as if she were wading through a swimming pool. The blackness surrounding her, however, told her differently. This was no leisurely swim.

Something was covering her face.

She tried to open her eyes, but, god, she was so tired. Her head felt like it wanted to float away from her shoulders with inebriation. She was sweating and disoriented and she needed to get out, away from whatever was holding her down.  Her hands fumbled at the material obscuring her vision, and when her fingers skimmed over satin she could feel the print of the roses hand stitched into the material.

These were her bedsheets.

This was Lewis's car. Her prison.

If she listened closely she could hear him humming to the sound of the radio.

Terror jolted her, spiking her heart rate in half a second. She tried to scream, her arms batting harder at the sheets.

She could remember him wrapping her in the sheets that she had once adored - hand picked from her mother's belongings the day after her funeral. Now she screamed at the very sensation of the velvety material and the tiny flowers embossed on the fabric scratching at her flesh, unrelenting.

Her breathing rasped in her ears, billowing against the sheets and then sucking them back in as she tried to inhale. She was going to suffocate.

Thrashing harder, she clawed at the bedsheets, until finally, a sharp light to her eyes stunned her.

“Liv?” A voice demanded.

Sweet air filled her lung and her lids fluttered as the terrifying images slowly slipped from her mind. The fingers of fear dragged across her skull, desperately trying to ground inside the dark, confusing underworld, but she could feel another set of hands on her, these soft and convincing.

Amanda.

She reached out for the other woman as she blinked against the weight of the dream. Her lids felt heavy, but she managed to drag them open. The hospital room came into focus above her, and she panted, trying to hold onto the reality of this room. She wasn't in the trunk of the car and her mother's sheets were no doubt in evidence. She was in the hospital and Amanda was next to her shaking her.

“Liv?” Amanda asked once, her tone sharp with distress.

Her breathing was harsh, haltingly, and trembling as she tried to assure herself that Lewis was far away from her, unable to hurt her. The visceral elements of the dream, however, caused her heart to continue pounding with adrenaline.

“Liv…?”

“I... I'm fine..” She whispered, raspily, though it came out sounding more like a question than a statement.

She could remember Amanda crawling into bed with her, the two of them falling silent in the wake of her flashback in the bathroom. A chill had taken her body, but with Amanda's warmth and steady arms, she managed to find some kind of peace. Of course, Lewis had found some way to interrupt that solace as well.

“Are you sure?” Amanda asked, sitting up in the bed as Olivia rolled onto her back.

“Yes.” She whispered, lifting both hands to rub them over her face and hair.

She stared up at the ceiling tiles and the panels of bright, LED lights, trying to convince her heart to slow down.

Amanda reached out and gently touched her arm, and her fingers were warm and calming on her flesh. Olivia breathed out and closed her eyes, concentrating on the tiniest sensation to drag her from the cold grip of the nightmare.

“Was it a dream?” Amanda asked, quietly.

Olivia nodded slowly, wincing against the vivid bits of the dream that remained.

“I was in the trunk again.” She murmured. “Wrapped in my mother's sheets.”

Amanda was quiet for a moment before she inquired, “Your mother?”

“Yes, she had these hand stitched bedsheets I always adored….and when she...she passed I kept them.” Olivia returned, swallowing against a knot in her throat.

Her mother had been dead for over ten years now, and she rarely cried about it anymore. The acceptance had come, and with it some relief that at least she'd finally found freedom, if only by the hand of God.

“I’m sorry…” Amanda whispered, squeezing her arm.

“She was an alcoholic.” Olivia whispered with a sigh. “A rape victim….my mother.”

Amanda squeezed her arm once more in silent support though Olivia sensed she wasn't sure what to respond with. It typically wasn't a conversation she started because uncomfortable silence was the usual reaction. It wasn't Amanda's fault. There simply wasn't much more that could be said about the facts as devastating as they were.

“Look, how about we get you a shower?” Amanda suggested at last. “Captain Cragen called while you were asleep. One PP wants your statement sooner rather than later.”

Olivia's stomach clenched at Amanda's words. She knew that the moment was coming when she would have to sit down and explain exactly what had happened in detail, but she wasn't prepared. She'd hardly been ready to tell Erica what had happened to her, much less explain to the top brass how Lewis had come to be handcuffed to a bed and beaten nearly to death. She'd vowed not to let Lewis take her career from her, but she wondered if her own actions might lead her to that end. If One PP knew the truth she might never carry her shield again.

“Liv?” Amanda asked. “You okay?”

Olivia blinked harshly against the fog of panicked thoughts in her brain. Right now, no one knew exactly what had happened except for her and Lewis, and it was doubtful he'd be able to provide many details in his current condition.

“I'm fine.” She murmured, automatically, while inside she was swallowing her panic.

He's the perp. She told herself. They'll believe me first... I feared for my life. I did what I had to do to survive….

They were the words she'd seen cops recite on TV and in press conferences, words that absolved what horrific acts had transpired in the heat of the moment. She'd watched men who'd been on the job 20 years solemnly say it when a black child lay dead in the street, a toy gun clutched in his hand; and though Lewis was far from innocent it didn't stop her from feeling sick at such a despicable fall from grace. She'd done her fair share of twisting the truth in order to obtain justice, but what excuse did she have here besides the utter hatred for another human life? There was no flag flying for justice when she'd taken Lewis's life into her hands as judge, jury, and executioner; and she could not reconcile her guilt for her actions with her darkest desire to see him rot in the deepest pits of hell.

“Olivia…” Amanda tone was a gentle inquiry, and Olivia blinked away the thoughts from her brain.

No one knew what had happened, even Amanda, and right now it was better that way. Despite her urge to spill this guilt from her lips, whether in search of penance or of absolution, she kept her mouth shut against the words. She'd already dragged Amanda through the worst of the situation. She couldn't also involve her in her lies.

“Yes, I'm fine.” She repeated, pushing herself up in the bed.

She winced as her ribs ached, and the soreness of the past four days clenched her entire body in a painful fist. She panted, grabbing at her side where the worst of the pain emanated.

“Are you all right?” Amanda asked, moving in quickly with a concerned, blue gaze.

“Yes.” Olivia breathed through gritted teeth as the pulsing pain slowly began to ebb away.

“Let me help you.” Amanda murmured, sliding down from the bed and offering her hands.

“Thank you.” She managed as she grabbed Amanda's hands and slipped to the floor next to her.

Her legs felt weak beneath her and she swayed as her body tried to find its equilibrium. She closed her eyes against the tilting of the room and the buzz in her ears at the rushing of her blood.

“I've got you.” Amanda murmured.

Olivia nodded, holding tighter to Amanda's hands. Inexplicable tears stung her eyes at Amanda's kindness, and though Amanda had been with her since the beach house, she was still surprised at her steadfast presence. She'd always admired Amanda's unflagging determination and strength, though they'd never been anything but co workers before this situation. She thought now that that had been a mistake.

Amanda slid her arm around her waist and directed them towards the bathroom. Olivia leaned on her heavily as they made their way slowly across the room. Despite the rest she'd gotten, she still felt weak and exhausted. The hospital food had done little to appease her malnourished body. She wondered if she'd collapse all over again, and when this drained feeling would leave her. She imagined breaking down in front of the officer who would take her statement and grimaced at the horrifying outcome.

“Here we are.” Amanda said as they reached the bathroom and she pushed the door open.

She reached past Olivia and turned the light on, illuminating the small space. Olivia squinted against the brightness, gazing at the room ahead of her with apprehension. She clutched Amanda harder, swallowing heavily at the thought of being alone inside this space again.

“Do you think you can handle it?” Amanda asked slowly.

“I….” Olivia frowned, grabbing at the door frame to keep herself upright. “I'm not sure...I just feel so…”

“It's okay.” Amanda assured her, quickly. “I don't mind helping you.”

Olivia glanced over at Amanda's wide blue eyes, and furrowed brow, her heart slowing with relief.

“Are you sure?” She still asked. “You've already done so much…”

“Never enough for you.” Amanda returned, softly, her tone low with a conviction that startled her.

Her throat grew tight, her lids burning once more from the tears that rose. She clutched Amanda's shoulder and whispered once more, “Thank you.”

A short, rare smile graced Amanda's lips and she nodded towards the shower. “Come on. You'll feel better after this.”

Amanda guided her inside, and kicked the door shut behind them.

“Hold onto the counter and I'll get this off you.” She suggested, slipping her arm from around her.

Olivia nodded and held onto the sink as Amanda gently parted her hair from her neck. Her fingers were soft and warm against her flesh as she tugged the knot open, releasing the gown. She closed her eyes, relishing in the fact that Amanda's presence could chase away the fear and self doubt that consumed her. For at least this moment she could ignore the upcoming interview about Lewis.

“My mother drank too.” Amanda's quiet, thoughtful tone interrupted her thoughts. “I didn't think much of it as a child. It seemed normal. She'd put it in her sweet tea and call it her 'special recipe’.”

She seemed to laugh for a second before she released a soft sigh. Olivia lifted her head, glancing back into the mirror at Amanda's expression behind her. Her brows were drawn as she fiddled with the gown strings.

“Me being the parent of the house was always my responsibility.” She shook her head with an incredulous scoff. “After my dad left there were other men, but they never stuck around. If they did….they were looking and at me or my sister.”

Olivia gazed back at her, her heart clenching. Amanda had never spoken about her family before to her and especially not in front of the squad; but the pain and shame of being a child of an alcoholic was one she knew all too intimately.

“So I understand.” Amanda said with a shrug, meeting her eyes. “You hate them so much, but they brought you into this world, they're your mother…. It's hard to reconcile.”

Olivia looked away to hide the tears pricking her eyes. She hadn't expected them to ever bond over anything besides the job, but it seemed like they had more in common than she'd previously thought; and the comfort of that fact made this situation more bearable in some way.

“I'll get the water running.” Amanda said, patting her back as she turned towards the shower.

Olivia slid the gown and her panties off, shivering with the cold. She'd spent the past four days sweltering in the trunks of cars or in the sauna like beach house, and she'd spent every minute wishing for some kind of relief. It was strange now that all she could want was some warmth away from the frigid hospital environment.

The sound of the rushing water prickled her skin with anticipation. She was eager to wash away the physical reminders of what she had endured. She could hardly stand the remnants of blood, sand, and sweat that remained with her even now.

She swayed towards the shower, one arm wrapped around her chest and the other protecting her groin. She was grateful to see the small bench inside to assist her weakened legs.

Amanda stood to the side to allow her in, but took her elbow to help her step over the ledge.

The warmth of the water rose in billows of steam around her and she closed her eyes as she stepped into the downpour. A shudder overtook her as the water cascaded over her chest and body with a cleansing touch. She wanted to stand here forever or at least until her flesh couldn't remember the smell of captivity.

“Do you want me to stay?” Amanda asked, quietly.

Olivia sighed as she turned her back to the water and tilted her head back beneath the stream. Her scalp vibrated with the pounding sensation of the water, and she felt a smile a touch her lips for the first time she could remember in a week.

“Don't go anywhere.” She murmured, rubbing her hands up over her face and into her hairline.

She knew this feeling wouldn't last, but she would float through these clouds of contentment for as long as she could - and if anyone deserved to be there with her it was Amanda.

xxxxx

Olivia’s shower was long, and the heat of the water swarmed in thick clouds from beyond the opaque doors, but Amanda didn’t mind. She took off her jacket and sat on the toilet though she kept a careful eye on Olivia’s figure through the glass. She’d seen the tremble in her legs, and she was ready to jump up and catch her at any moment should she fall.

When Olivia emerged an hour later, however, Amanda was pleased to see that some of the color had returned to her face, and that she looked much healthier without the dirt and blood all over her body.

She jumped up with a towel and held it up for Olivia to step into. She smelled fresh and clean and her skin glistened softly with the remaining water as she accepted the towel.

“How do you feel?” Amanda asked, softly, as she wrapped the towel around her body.

“Better than before.” Olivia returned. “I know it's just water….but it feels good to wash everything away.”

“Good.” Amanda murmured, rubbing her shoulders through the towel, before reaching up to remove some wet strands of hair from her cheek.

Her thumb trailed across her cheek, a whisper of a caress, but to Amanda, it was as close as she'd ever felt to Olivia - or maybe to anyone. No one else had ever trusted her so implicitly, and despite her own lack of vulnerability, she somehow felt just as naked standing her. Somehow, that didn't frightened her though she knew it should.

Olivia glanced up at her, her brown eyes wide, fringed by long, wet lashes. There was a question in her gaze as Amanda's fingers lingered against her cheekbone. Amanda drew her hand back suddenly as it occurred to her that the intention of her touch wasn't exactly appropriate, especially when Olivia was barely covered in a towel.

“Sorry.” She muttered, glancing away as a flush overtook her face.

Why should you be embarrassed? She questioned herself, almost sarcastically. She's your friend, isn't she?

Olivia's eyes followed her with an intensity that left her chest tight and aching for air. She cleared her throat as her discomfort peaked, and she turned around to grab her jacket from the bathroom counter, but her hands felt jittery from the awkward moment.

“We should get you back to bed.” She commented, rushing towards the door.

“Amanda.” Olivia's voice stopped her, and she felt her touch her arm.

“Yes?” She asked, turning slowly to glance at Olivia's fingers grasping her arm then up at her wide, dark gaze.

“I wanted to thank you.” She said, quietly.

“You've already done that.” Amanda replied with an anxious chuckle. “You don't have to do it again.”

“I'm serious.” Olivia said without flinching as she stepped closer. “I don't know what would've happened if you hadn't been there.”

Amanda swallowed, finding her throat and mouth dry, her heart rushing restlessly in her chest. Her shoulder was pressed to the door and with Olivia in front her she felt as if the thought behind her expression were achingly exposed. Anxiety clung to her chest as she wondered what Olivia could read from the quick fluttering of her lids and bloom of color on her face.

“You're my friend.” She replied in a whisper, her voice barely emitting. “You would've done the same for me.”

“But I wouldn't have wanted anyone else.” She murmured, stepping closer to clasp Amanda's hand in her own.

“I just want to help.” Amanda managed despite the distraction of Olivia's fingers winding through hers.

“Still…” Olivia said, softly, with a squeeze of her hand.

“Come on.” Amanda repeated, ducking her head. “We should get you dressed and back to bed.”

Olivia nodded though she was slow to release Amanda's hand. Amanda had folded the gown on the bathroom counter and she was handing it to Olivia when her cell phone rang from her back pocket. She pulled it out to see Nick's name displayed on the screen.

“It's Amaro.” She told Olivia. “I'll be back, okay?”

Olivia nodded once more and Amanda gave her a brief, reassuring smile before she turned and slipped out of the bathroom to take the call.

In all honestly, she was somewhat relieved by the distraction. The claustrophobic feeling of the bathroom and her own inner walls of fear had slowly been closing in since Olivia had stepped out of the shower, and maybe even before that. She was shaken by the intense and confusing emotions that had suddenly boycotted her entire body. She wondered if she was simply delirious from lack of sleep and the disturbing events of Lewis's capture; but she couldn't shake the sense that these feelings were much deeper than one simple explanation.

She sighed as the bathroom door closed behind her and hit the answer button.

“Hey, Nick.” She greeted him, attempting to keep the strain from her tone.

“Hey, Cragen and I are headed over to the hospital. We stopped by Liv's apartment and got her some clothes, but the place is still a crime scene.”

“Okay, I just got her out of the shower.” Amanda said, pacing across the room and rubbing her forehead. “She got some rest, but she's still pretty out of it.”

“I can't blame her.” Nick returned, tightly. “We haven't heard anything about Lewis's condition yet.”

“Yet they already want her statement.” Amanda replied, tilting her head back with a sigh.

“You know One PP.”

“Yes, I do.”

“Well, we're almost there so you can go home and get some rest.”

Amanda's pacing came to an abrupt halt at the thought of leaving Olivia's side. She hadn't even considered going anywhere since they'd found Olivia in the beach house. Somewhere in her mind she'd realized that she couldn't stay by her forever but she wasn't sure she was ready to leave her despite her relief only minutes ago.

“I don't need to go home.” She said. “I want to stay with her.”

“Amanda.” Nick said, using her first name in a way she knew he was about to lecture her. “You've been there all night. We can take it from here.”

“Thanks for the concern, Nick, but home is the last place I want to be.”

“Well, if I don't make you go... Cragen will.” Nick replied.

Amanda clenched her teeth and sighed through her nose, biting back bitter, childish words that leapt to her lips. She appreciated a chivalrous man, but Nick had always treated her as more of a woman than a detective, and if there was one thing she hated, it was to be underestimated and condescended to.

“I’ll see you when you get here.” She finally spit out, before she snatched the phone from her ear and ended the call.

She may be confused about her feelings, but she wasn't confused about where her duty lay. Somehow she couldn't imagine Olivia trusting Nick the way she had trusted Amanda throughout this ordeal, and leaving her side now seemed like a let down.

The bathroom door opened behind her, and Olivia emerged, dressed in the hospital gown once more.

“Everything okay?” She asked, clutching the doorframe.

“Yeah, Amaro and the captain will be here soon. They're bringing you a change of clothes too.” Amanda said, stepping closer to her to escort her to the bed.

“For my statement…?” Olivia said, her tone flat and low.

“Yes.” Amanda returned, quietly, taking her elbow. “Nick wants me to go home, but I'll stay with you if you want.”

“You should go.” Olivia murmured, shaking her head. “You've already gone above and beyond.”

“We'll just cross that bridge when we get there.” Amanda replied, unwilling to allow Olivia's own guilt and anxiety tear her away.

Olivia seemed to accept her reply as Amanda tugged her towards the bed. She complied without much prodding, and as Amanda helped her onto the bed, Olivia clutched her hand to keep her close. Amanda took it as a silent agreement, reaffirming her determination. She'd made promises of duty and of diligence, and she'd be damned if she let terrors of the mind or the detriment of the world around them shatter that vow.

Chapter Text

The world outside passed in a dichotomy of slow motion and blurred landscape, rising and falling with from one structure to the next. She could focus on one single building beyond the squad car’s window, but in the next second it was ripped from her sight.

It seemed strange to breathe the city air or to walk outside of the hospital of her volition. Her legs carrying her steadily beneath her seemed more of a dream than reality. It seemed so long since she’d walked anywhere without feeling the woozy effects of alcohol, or even more debilitating, trauma and flashbacks. It seemed a miracle that she hadn’t stumbled on her way to the car.

Now, the freedom to watch the sun rising above the skyline put a knot in her throat. During her four days with Lewis, he’d kept her bound and gagged on the floor of the car, a tarp over her head. When he did let her out, he’d always roughly grabbed her, dragging her by her arms and hair. The rise and fall of the sun had passed without her notice.

She set her eyes now on the glowing rays that peeked between buildings and above the high rise apartments in the distance. She didn’t want to focus on what would come next - her statement. In her mind, she imagined it as more of a confession. She’d already wondered how much they would believe of what she told them.

She flinched when she felt a brush of fingers against her hand though she quickly had to remind herself that Amanda was next to her. She glanced over at Amanda’s hand which had stretched across the seat between them in quiet reassurance. Captain Cragen and Amaro were in the front with Nick behind the wheel, and Olivia was grateful that Amanda wasn’t voicing her concerns aloud. Nick was always loyal and supportive, but she didn't think she could stand another person asking if she was okay.

No, she wasn't okay. She was drifting somewhere between a burning pit of hatred towards Lewis and the high rise cliff of suicidal fantasies. Amanda seemed to be the only one who understood that that fact wouldn't - and couldn't - change overnight.

She slowly clenched her fingers around Amanda's tighter though she barely lifted her eyes. Amanda gave her hand a squeeze, but Olivia didn't even feel her eyes on her, for which she was grateful. The next few hours would be another grueling process of examination and questioning. If she hadn't already felt violated by the rape kit she knew that the interview by the One PP officer would take what was left of her privacy.

She closed her eyes as the sun reached high enough to impart warmth upon her face through the window, and focused on what strength she could muster from the gentle rays until the Towne car reached the precinct.

She felt the car roll to a stop and with it, her stomach. Fear clutched her in cold hands as she glanced through the windshield at the familiar, brick walls of the 16th.

She hadn't felt such anxiety toward the Special Victims Unit since her first day here. Then she'd been a young cop, still holding to simplistic ideals of wrong and right, justice and injustice. Her black and white view of the good guys and the bad guys had quickly diminished once she'd stepped into the grey space of SVU. Maybe she'd thought she had something to prove fifteen years ago, but she didn't think she would find her place so quickly again now. This time, she had no naive outlooks nor fiery passion to bolster her trembling feet through the doors.

She focused her eyes back inside the car as Cragen turned to look at her. His dark eyes and deep lined expression belayed his concern, and though she hadn't expected any less from him - the only father figure she'd ever had - she wished he wouldn't treat her any differently.

“We thought it'd be easier here.” He said, quietly, hesitant at the terror that was no doubt bleeding into her expression.

She struggled to speak for a moment as she watched two detectives leave the building together, unaware of the crisis inside the squad car mere yards from them. She wondered at their exchanging of words, and wished for a moment that her worries were as straightforward as their caseload.

“Liv?” Nick asked when she didn't respond.

She blinked, clearing her throat from the lump of fear as she glanced back at her partner.

“Yes.” She said at last, though the short word was forced from her lips.

“One step at a time, okay?” Amanda intervened, touching her arm, softly. “Let's just get inside.”

Olivia nodded, relieved when Amaro and Cragen exchanged glances but turned their faces away from her. She released a shaky exhale as she heard their doors opening and the rush of midsummer, New York smog rushed into the car. She knew she couldn't linger too long, and she forced herself to grab the door handle and push it outward. Clutching the frame of the window, she pulled herself out of the seat. Her legs quavered, begging to collapse beneath her, but she had to be strong.

Amanda was at her side in the next moment, gently grasping her elbow as Olivia stared up at the brick face of the Special Victims Unit.

They thought it would be easier for her in this familiar place she had called home for a dozen years and more with more devotion than her own four walls...but it couldn't be easier when everything she'd known and everyone who had known her had shifted into stone-like recreations, cold and foreign. They were frozen behind barriers of pity, fear, and misunderstanding. Walking into the graveyard of her old life, the before him life, wasn't something that would loosen the rock of dread in her throat nor make this horror any less comfortable to swallow.

When Amanda urged her forward, Olivia uncurled each finger from the car door with mindful commands. Her entire being wanted to turn and run from that moment, but it couldn't be a possibility. She'd had every chance to run when she'd stood over him with the metal rail, believing she'd killed the man who had taken so much from her and from so many others; but just as she did then, she scrounged through the deepest part of her soul for the strength to continue.

The moment of calm she'd experienced inside the car, lapsing in the sunlight, was gone. She'd known it wouldn't last, but she couldn't help but glance back at the horizon wistfully one last time. When she gazed back in front of her, Cragen and Amaro were entering ahead of them. She ducked her head as she and Amanda passed through the doors, hoping that no more statued colleagues would appear to haunt her with sympathy crumbling from their lids.

The ride up the elevator was silent and tense, each floor number lighting up with omens of dread. Olivia leaned against the back wall, her jaw clenched as the dinging noises sounded dully against her ears, rattling around inside her brain. She felt Amanda touch her arm, then search for her hand. She numbly reached back, and squeezed her eyes shut for the remainder of the ride.

When the doors slid open she heard the bustling of the the squad room, the chatter and the ringing of phones morphing into a cacophony of mayhem which shoved a panic into her chest. Her heart fluttered, racing anxiously at the thought of walking through them, only to escape into the clutches of the OnePP officer.

“Right this way.” Cragen said, watching her closely as he motioned towards his office.

For a moment, Olivia couldn't move from her place in the elevator. She felt frozen by the nightmarish scenarios that played out in her mind. Her downfall lay just beyond these doors, and she was helpless to stop it. Furthermore, she had to participate in willingly tearing down her career in the name of justice.

“Liv, it's ok.” Amanda spoke beside her, squeezing her hand.

Olivia's gaze floated towards hers and when she looked into Amanda's wide, compassionate, blue eyes, she wanted to crumble. She wished she could collapse into her arms, but with the squad room just outside, she had no choice but to swallow back the emotion raging behind her tightly locked jaw. Drawing a trembling breath through her nose, she derived what strength she could from Amanda's bold grasp and understanding gaze.

When she pinned her eyes back ahead, she bolstered her courage, and pushed out of the elevator.

She knew what she had to do. She knew what she had to say. She just had to be strong enough to make it through the next few hours.

“Where to?” She asked Cragen. Her voice trembled beneath faulty layers of strength, but she met his eyes with what determination she could muster.

He seemed startled at first by her sudden resolve, but she was relieved that he didn’t linger. Perhaps her facade of bravery had allayed his fear that his most prized detective was now damaged goods enough for him to take a step a back. Even if it was a lie, she was grateful.

He gestured towards his office once more and she shouldered ahead of them, head lowered. She pinned her gaze to the door, blocking out what she could of the curious gazes emanating from the squad room and from the three detectives behind her. She could hear the chatter quieting as she passed through, and her stomach clenched as she heard her name being whispered amongst them. They hadn’t even rallied together to save her - only to make a spectacle of her suffering.

Clenching her jaw against a wave of humiliated tears, she strode towards the relative safety of the Captain’s office. The reprieve would be a short-lived, but at least she wouldn’t be some bizarre comedy of horrors in the privacy of these four walls.

When they reached the office, Cragen moved ahead of her to open the door for her.

“We have your union representative on the way.” He said as they stepped inside the quiet space.

She was relieved to be free of the dozens of stares, but Cragen’s words brought a fresh panic to her chest. She turned, quickly, to Cragen, shaking her head.

“I’m not going to need them.” She said, clutching her hands in front of her.

She tried not to rush the words from her lips so quickly that they wouldn’t believe her, but their faces immediately sprouted with bewilderment.

“Liv…” Amanda said with a frown, stepping forward. “It’d probably be best to have some counsel.”

Their gazes met for half a second, and she felt her heart clench in remembrance of the intimate moment they’d shared in the hospital bathroom. She wished that she could be as open with her about what had happened in the beach house as she could be about her mother, but it simply wasn’t possible.

“No.” She repeated, glancing away from Amanda’s confused and disquieted gaze. “I already know what I’m going to say.”

“What you’re going to say….” Nick repeated, carefully.

She glanced up at him, finally meeting her partner’s eyes, steadily, for the first time since he’d arrived at the hospital with her change of clothes in one hand and his concern in the other. She and Nick had been through dozens of rocky hardships since his arrival at SVU, and she’d always been proud of the honesty between them - but Nick could not be a part of this, just as Amanda and Cragen couldn’t be.  No one could.

“Yes,” She whispered, sharply, lifting her chin, “…. the truth.”

xxxxxx

“She'll be ok.”

Amaro’s reassurance did little to calm Amanda's pulse, and nothing to drag her eyes from the Captain's office. She was no longer on the clock, but she hadn't found the strength to leave the building yet although Cragen and Amaro had made several attempts to persuade her. She couldn’t shake the strange feeling that Olivia’s attitude just minutes ago had given her. She’d watched her walls go up, as tangible as steel bars, and brick and mortar. It’d hurt to stand on the other side for the first time since they’d found her. She’d wondered for a second if she really should just go home, but after the initial burn of rejection, she told herself that she was being selfish. Olivia had a long road ahead of her which would often include secluding herself from people who cared about her, and Amanda couldn’t so easily give in to those traumatized instincts.

Ignoring her own feelings was a skill she’d learned to manage well over the years, but sitting here on the other side of the door, impatience and fear crowding her chest, was a torture she couldn’t shrug off quite so easily.

“She refused the union rep.” Amanda murmured, settling her chin on her tightly clasped hands.

“That means she's not worried about her job.” Amaro replied. “Which means we shouldn't worry either.”

“Right.” Amanda replied, quickly, resisting the urge to roll her eyes.

Amaro dealt with facts and cold hard truth. What trauma he did carry inside himself never manifested in anything more than bouts of anger and two day long shifts chasing rapists. He reasoned logically when it didn't involve his own temper. She didn't expect him to deduce that Olivia had stepped inside that room alone in order to minimize the impact that her lies would have on the rest the squad. Even if he did, he would foolishly ignore all the warning signs in order to believe the best about his partner.

“What does that mean?” Amaro asked.

“Come on, Nick.” Amanda replied, finally looking over at him. “Liv knows how to handcuff someone so they can't escape. Unless Lewis is Houdini….”

“He’s managed to evade us all these years.” Amaro pointed out.

“Sure, with his wits.” Amanda said, gazing back over at the Captain's office. In a quieter tone, she whispered, “We all know we would've done the same thing to him given the chance.”

“Right this way.” Cragen’s voice interrupted their conversation, and they both glanced over to see Cragen leading a short, but fit  African American woman towards his office. Her dress blues were crisp, and every curl on her head was perfectly in place. A black, leather bag hung on her shoulder, no doubt carrying all the equipment needed to handle such a high profile case.

Amanda and Nick watched them walk all the way from the entrance of the squad room to the office, silent until they disappeared inside.

“Yeah, this is definitely going to make her feel comfortable to talk about what happened.” Nick muttered, slouching back in his chair.

“At least they didn’t send a man.” Amanda returned, sarcastically.

“Rollins.” Cragen’s voice interrupted once more as he exited the office, and Amanda glanced over to see him motioning to her.

She shot a look in Amaro's direction and he shrugged as if to tell her she should've listened to him from the beginning. She ignored him and shoved up from the desk. When she reached Cragen he turned and lead her to the bunk room, the only other private room since his office was taken.

“I'm off the clock so don't worry about that.” She said as he shut the door behind them.

“I don't care about your OT, Rollins.” He said with a frown.

“Then what?” Amanda asked. “You've not sent anyone else home.”

“Everyone else has already followed orders.” Cragen returned. “Look… I appreciate all you've done for Olivia, but you need to look after yourself.”

“I can watch my own back, thank you very much.” Amanda snapped, quickly, before she could stop herself.

She sighed out, and turned away to run her fingers through her tangled hair as Cragen's brows rose.

Staring at the brick wall, she said more softly, “ I'm sorry… I just really feel like she needs me.”

Cragen was silent for a moment before she heard one of the beds squeak as he took a seat.

“May 1974.” He said. “I'm partnered with a young lady fresh from the academy. It's supposed to be temporary. I guess they thought I'd be a good teacher for her….Anyways, we haven't been on the job more than a week together and we get a call on a DV situation. When we get there, this big guy is beating up on his girlfriend so naturally I jump out to stop him. He makes a run for it. I make the mistake of leaving my partner at the scene and chasing the perp…. What I didn't know was that there was another man inside the house and when she took the girlfriend inside he came out, high on LSD or something like that. He beat her up… destroyed her right eye, broke her arm…. She never came back to work….”

Amanda turned towards him, jaw clenched. She had a feeling that she knew where Cragen was taking the moral of the story, but she didn't need him to coddle her.

“What's the point of this story?” She asked instead.

“The point is,” Cragen returned, “I got so messed up about it that I nearly went back on my sobriety.”

“And you don't want the same thing to happen to me.” Amanda finished, folding her arms. “I'm fine, Captain. Really.”

“Are you?” Cragen asked, brow furrowing.

She opened her mouth to snap a quick reply but he held up a hand as he rose from the bed.

“I'm asking you to give yourself a break, Amanda.” He said. “Not abandon Olivia.”

Amanda sighed, chewing her inner lip. She glanced over at the bunks and tossed a hand in their direction.

“I'll take a nap here.” She suggested. “But you wake me the minute she's out of there.”

“Deal.” Cragen said, a short smile.

He patted her arm as he passed her before leaving her alone in the bunk room. She sank to one of the mattresses and rubbed her hands over her face. She heaved a long breath before she laid back, and stared up at the bottom of the top bunk.

All she could think of was Olivia, and all she could imagine was how badly the interview could affect her. A dozen horrific scenarios played through her brain, leaving her stomach to churn. She’d promised the captain she would rest, but maybe sleep wouldn’t come so easily as nightmares would.

Chapter Text

“Detective Benson, how did you manage to escape?”

“Can you give us any details about what happened inside your four day capture?”

“Do you have any comment to the Mayer family?”

“Did the NYPD do enough to find you?”

“Are you going back to work any time soon?”

“You deal with rape every day...How will you cope after this?”

“Liv, why are you watching this?” Brian's voice cut through the clamor of the five o’ clock news playing across the television, jarring Olivia from the loudly buzzing thoughts inside her mind.

She hadn't even realized he'd stepped inside the room. When she looked over at him, the movement left her feeling shaky and unbalanced.

It had been less than 24 hours since the footage on the TV had been taken of her leaving the precinct; two days since her rescue from the beach house. The passage of time hardly seemed real or tangible.

“I...I don't know.” She shrugged, at last, reaching for the remote just as she watched herself ducking into the unmarked squad car with Brian.

She wondered if she even looked credible to viewers across the country. The detective who had taken her statement certainly seemed to have had her doubts, and why shouldn’t she? It was hardly believable that beating a man nearly to death had been easier and more logical than holding a gun on him and calling for help. Nausea had rocked through her as she'd told herself over and over that no one would believe a criminal, the most degenerate of humanity, over her, a dedicated detective of the prestigious NYPD. Wasn't this was crooked cops and politicians told themselves when they glanced down upon their victims? She hadn't believed herself capable of these things only days ago, and yet she prayed so fervently to be believed.

The camera swung back to the front of the building where Captain Cragen was exiting, his expression drawn. The horde of reporters immediately converged upon him, thrusting microphones into the edges of the frame, vying for his attention and comments. She swallowed hard as he gave a carefully worded statement.

“Detective Benson is a brave hero, but also the victim of a very traumatic set of events. We'd ask you all to give her the space she needs, and -”

“Come on, turn it off.” Brian suggested, leaning over the back of the couch to take the remote from her hand.

The TV went black in the middle of Cragen's praises as he switched off the power.

Olivia clenched her jaw, still staring at the darkened screen. Hero or victim. Neither settled well in her mind or heart.

“Liv?” Brian prodded, quietly.

She could feel his eyes boring into the back of her head with sharp edged concern and she angled her face away from his prying gaze.

“I’m fine.” She murmured.

“I didn't ask if you were.” Brian said, slowly, rounding the couch to sit down next to her.

She glanced over at him for half a second as she pulled her legs up onto the couch and tucked them to her chest.

“You were thinking it.” She said at last.

He didn't say anything for a moment and she could see him shifting uncomfortably, scrubbing his hand over his face as he searched for words. He didn't know what to say to her and their awkward interactions since he'd taken her from the precinct were grating on her final shreds of mental stability.

She almost wished she’d chosen to go to the hotel room, provided by the NYPD, instead of Brian's apartment. Despite having been in this relationship for nearly a year, she'd rarely been here. Brian often suggested her place, staying the night before taking off for work the next morning. While it was relieving that Brian's apartment was unfamiliar and disconnected from memories, she felt a type of obligation to act the same as she always had towards Brian.

They'd never needed each other's support for anything, and they'd both trusted that the other could be content without worry or concern. They operated as two separate units, strong on their own, but compatible enough to co-exist. Weakness was never something she'd displayed to anyone, and Brian wasn't an exception, no matter how many times he'd been in her bed. In fact, their physical relationship seemed to alienate him from her even further in this twisted aftermath.

“I want to help you, Liv, I do.” Brian said at last. “But you gotta tell me what you want. What do you need me to do?”

Steeling her eyes to a small stain on the rug, she shook her head, lips pursed.

She couldn't even begin to explain what she wanted, much less what she needed. Her very existence was an irritation to her ever suffering, circling brain. She was full of memories that were so vivid that she hardly needed to concentrate on recollection in order to harshly experience them all over again. Immediately afterward came the self-doubt, the questioning of her own humanity - the fact that she had lowered herself to a level she’d always sworn she’d never see the bottom of; the fact that now she was entrenched in lies as she clung to her job, the only thing that had never failed her.

No, there was no room inside of her for any other emotions, least of all love, and even if she could reach out to Brian as she once had, she wasn't sure she would.

“Liv?” Brian repeated, reaching out to touch her once more.

She tore her arm away from his touch before she could stop herself, shocked by the unexpected, physical contact. She choked back the soft gasp that filled her throat as she clutched her arm to her chest, rubbing at the flesh he'd managed to touch. She felt like she was burning there, her heart racing at the thought of rough, insistent fingers scraping over her skin.

“I- I'm sorry….” Brian stuttered, holding his hands up, but she could hear the pain in his tone at her quick rejection of his comfort.

She clasped her trembling hands over her face, holding in the burning tears which lay eagerly beneath her lids. She sucked in deep breaths, trying to reign in the rampant emotion before it could escape her clutches. Her heart thundered against her ribs, pounding out a quick rhythm of panic in her ears.

It's just Brian. It's just Brian. She told told herself over and over until the adrenaline released it's hold on her throat.

“No, I'm sorry.” She murmured, her voice muffled in her palms.

“It's all right.” He returned, but his tone was strained, and uneasy.

Things were far from 'all right.’

She dragged her palms down her cheeks, taking with her whatever moisture had managed to escape her eyes. She curled her hands into fists over the fallen tears, and stared down at the carpet once more, trying desperately to conjure some response which would alleviate the strained silence.

The unsettling quiet beat on for a few more, unbearable seconds before Brian's phone began to ring, mercifully breaking the silence. She could feel his eyes still on her as he grabbed his cell from his pocket and rose from the couch. She didn't breath until he was stepping away, his low baritone mumbling in response to the caller.

She lifted her eyes and stared at her distraught expression in the sheer black reflection of the television. It seemed strange to see the calm, safe setting of the living room surrounding her rather than that of the beach house, painted in the blood like shadows of red, sunlit curtains.

She sat stiffly on the couch, seemingly unable to tear her eyes from her own haunted gaze until Brian returned.

“I gotta go. There's been an accident in the Lincoln Tunnel and they need all hands on deck.” He said, his tone holding an apology that she didn't want to hear.

“Okay.” She whispered, finally glancing away from the television, and off towards the wall.

“Should I call someone?” He asked, quietly, after a moment.

“No, Bri, I'm okay.” She said, looking down at her lap, and brushing away imaginary lint from her thigh as a distraction.

He paused for half a second, before adding, softly, “I've never had to ask you if you're sure about something before.”

“Brian…” She sighed, closing her eyes in a cringe against his concern. “Please, just go do your job.”

“All right.” He said, but his tone was uncertain. “I'll be back here ASAP though, okay?”

“Okay.” She repeated, forcing herself to meet his eyes if only to reassure him enough for him to leave.

“Okay…” Brian echoed, leaning down to gently kiss her forehead.

She reminded herself to breath and to relax for as long as the contact had to last, though it seemed like endless minutes. Finally, he pulled back, gazing at her one last time with a prying eye.

“Don't ask.” She whispered, holding up a hand to stop his concerned inquires that she knew lay just behind his lips.

“All right.” He backed off, showing her his palms in surrender. “But I'll have my cell on.”

She nodded, holding on to the last bits of her self control as he turned and left the room. As soon as he disappeared from her view, she sunk down in the couch and covered her face in her hands.

She felt both numb and all at once overcome by emotion. Her eyes stung with tears, welling up sharply in guilt. She should be thankful for Brian's gentle concern and care, but she couldn't find the place in her heart where she had connected with him before.

In fact, she hadn't thought of him during her captivity since the moment she'd heard his voicemail in which he abandoned their dinner plans yet again. Perhaps, she felt like he had abandoned her all together, despite knowing that if he had come home during Lewis's invasion of her apartment that he might not have made it out alive.

No, she hadn't thought of him. She'd thought of someone else who she would've rather have left in the past.

The sound of the door slamming upon Brian's departure startled her, and she cursed the surge of her heartbeat in her chest. She felt caged inside her own body, and when she looked up at her reflection in the TV screen once more, the unfamiliar skin and bone seemed to be even more of a prison.

She rose sharply from the couch, her hands clenched into fists at her side, as the overwhelming urge to hack out some escape through these fleshy walls engulfed her.

Tearing her gaze from the TV screen, she charged towards the bathroom. Her mind was racing, tears wrenching her expression taut, as she shut the door behind her. She could hear every chug of her heartbeat fluttering quick and shallow in her chest.

Her intentions were bold and apparent in her mind’s eye, but even the truth of this new low couldn't stop her from screaming into the silence of her own private torture. The tethers of her tenuous control were snapping one by one, and with the assurance of unending pain ahead of her, she determined to slash away the last of her hesitation.

Escape wouldn’t mean freedom this time, but she had to try.

Breaking from the door, she frantically yanked open the drawers and cabinets. She was suddenly desperate, her hands quaking and clumsy as pathetic sobs welled in her throat. Panic shored up in her chest as the object of her search evaded her for what seemed like minutes. She flung open the medicine cabinet, her frenzied search leaving bottles of pain reliever, boxes of tissues and bandaids, and a dozen other random objects strewn across the bathroom before she switched back to the cabinets.

Her breath was raspy and loud in her ears as she came to a halt. A whimper slipped from her lips as her trembling hands hovered over the scissors lying in drawer to the left of the sink. She stared at them for a long moment, her cries quieting and wavering into nearly nothing. At last, she wrapped her fingers about the handle, straightening, as she lifted them in front of her face.

Beyond her, she could see her reflection and the bathroom lights glinting off the scissor’s blades and the tears upon her cheeks.

Her hair fell in long waves about her shoulders and she could remember well how he'd grabbed it, yanking her head about whenever he would kiss her neck and jaw, his saliva wet and hot against her flesh. Her stomach twisted at just the thought and it didn't take much to even feel the ghost sensation again along her pulse.

She moaned as a wave of nausea claimed stomach. Grabbing onto the counter, she bent over the sink, panting heavily. For a terrifying moment, she thought she might vomit, and she clenched her eyes shut for several long, excruciating second. Finally, she opened her eyes and glanced over at the scissors clenched in her right hand. Grinding her teeth, she swallowed back bile from her throat.

Yes, he’d hurt her in ways she’d never imagined she would suffer; but things would be different now. She was going to make sure that no one would ever have the opportunity to hurt her ever again...

Squeezing the handles tighter, she lifted her head, finding her haunted expression mere inches away from her in the mirror. Her eyes were dark, smudges of grey filling the soft flesh around her lids while tears clung to her lashes and cheeks.

Letting out a wavering breath, she straightened. Ignoring the sickness that still sat in the pit of her stomach, she grabbed a chunk of her hair and wielded the scissors. They were quaking in her hand, and her scalp burned with the force of her own fingers, but she poised the steel blades on either side of the separated hair, clenching her fingers harder to still the tremble running through her limbs.

The last time she'd cut her hair she'd been trying to change something about herself in hopes that the rest of her body would follow. As her hair grew back around her neck and shoulders, she had thought that it represented her personal growth.

God, how wrong she had been.

She felt no attachment to the long, soft locks which had only served as another weakness for Lewis to exploit.

She bit at her lower lip, choking back the tears in order to maintain her solid hold on the scissors. She took a breath through her nose and closed her eyes for half a second as she clinched the scissor handles together.

Schick!

The sound of steel severing hair filled her ears and she opened her eyes as the handful of brown locks collapsed into her palm, leaving the remaining connected strands to fall against her jaw. She opened her fingers, and the hair slipped from her palm, dancing towards the floor.

She couldn’t be terrified at the calm that warmed her veins at the vicious delight of mutilating her once cherished locks. It was too relieving to deny.

She glanced up at her reflection again and grabbed another chunk of hair, her movements more determined now. She didn't hesitate this time as she trapped the section between the blades and chopped in one ragged motion. She didn’t look away this time as she sawed her hair from her head, but she hardly even noticed the tears slipping down her cheeks.

Schick. Schick. Schick.

She cut over over and over, savagely hacking portion after portion of hair. It wasn't even and it wasn't pretty but she didn't care. She would've only been more relieved if there were nerve endings inside each lock to feel the unremorseful cutting.

Finally, she stood still as strands of hair floated around her, finding their final beds upon the counter and floor, clinging for life upon her shoulders.

She lowered the scissors and looked into the mirror, searching for any stray piece that she could find to continue the bizarre respite from her aching mind, but gazing at what she'd done on herself, the buzz of temporary relief faded into the harsh clamor of reality.

Brian’s expression of shock and horror upon finding her like this flashed in front of her eyes. What would he think of her? What would her therapist think of this hack job? The squad?....Amanda?

The very thought of the sweet detective, who’d protected her through every excruciating moment at the hospital, nearly hammered the strength from her knees. The scissors slipped from her fingers as tight emotion gripped her chest, and she could hear them hit the rug with a dull thud.

They'd all think her unstable, broken and shattered by Lewis's torture, and how could they be wrong?

Clasping her hands to her face, she fought back the deluge of sobs, but her defenses had already suffered too many storms today for her to resist. A low cry trembled from her lips as she scraped her hands over scalp and through the shorn ends of the hair that barely fell to her chin.

I knew it. Lewis's voice laughed inside her head. You don't have it in you.

And maybe he was right. She hadn't had the strength to kill him and she didn't have the strength to fight through this recovery.

I wish you were dead . The thought ran through her mind but she wasn't sure whether it was meant for Lewis...or for herself.

xxxxx

It had been less than 24 hours since Amanda had seen Olivia. She’d watched Olivia leave with Brian, completely uncertain as to how he would handle caring for his traumatized girlfriend on his own. Olivia had been far from mentally stable, and sending her off with Brian had been her last desire, but Olivia was still a grown woman. It had been her choice, but despite knowing that she had no say in the matter, Amanda could not quash the disgruntled feeling inside her.

Now, every moment was filled with thoughts of her. Fear for Olivia’s state of mind shadowed even the most logical reasoning she could tell herself.

She’d hardly been able to sleep. Every time she closed her all she could only remember every small, horrifying detail of the beach house and the ensuing ordeal at the hospital. It was hard to rest when memories of brutality and torture haunted her every thought; but she knew without a doubt that Olivia was living with even more terrifying memories inside her head.

Work was a welcome distraction, but as a quiet, uneventful evening came to a close, Amanda found herself gazing across the room at Olivia’s empty desk. A pang of regret went through her as she remembered heading out for drinks with Fin that fateful evening, oblivious to the fact that while she and her partner were unwinding Olivia would be violently assaulted and abducted. She wished more than anything that she could go back in time and drag Olivia out with them against all of her objections - anything to keep her from walking into her apartment alone.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Amaro's voice rattled her train of thought, bringing her to the present.

The other detective sat across from her at his own desk, though it appeared that both of them were more contemplative than productive. It had gone unsaid, but Amanda knew they’d both felt the weight of Olivia’s absence at SVU.

“Just thinking about Liv.” She shrugged, glancing over at Olivia's desk again.

Nick’s brow furrowed and he began to play with a pen, dancing it back and forth across his fingers.

“She'll be okay.” He said, but she could see the doubt behind his gaze.

Nick was never one to give up and she doubted that he'd want to imagine an SVU without Olivia as his partner. As strong as a bond as partners was Amanda couldn't help but to think the friendship that she and Olivia had forged in the past few days might be stronger. They were two women who had survived the unimaginable, and understanding that trauma was something Nick would never be able to give Olivia.

They were both solemnly quiet for several moments before the opening of the squad room doors alerted them. Brian strode into the room dressed in a full formal NYPD uniform, hat clutched in his fist. His brow was furrowed, and Amanda rose from her desk, expecting bad news.

“Hey, what's up?” She asked as he approached.

“I got held up at this Lincoln Tunnel thing.” He said, making a sharp, irritated motion back towards the door. “Now, they think there was suspicious activity, and they want me down there for the cameras because I was a first responding officer.”

“Okay…?” Amanda replied, confused as to why he was here telling her this.

“Liv is alone.” He finally said, a guilty tone in his voice and exuding from his rigid mannerisms.

“For how long?” Amanda asked, immediately stepping out from behind the desk as concern gripped her.

They both knew that Olivia was a big girl who could take care of herself, but they'd both seen her emotional collapse at the hospital. For once, she and Brian were on the same page, and she thanked God he'd actually come here. They could hate each other all they pleased, but they had one thing in common, and that was their concern for Olivia's well being.

“A couple hours.” He muttered, turning away to scrub his hands over his face. “I don't have time to get back up to there, and I couldn't stay even if I did. This fucking press conference is in twenty minutes.”

“I'll go.” Amanda said, immediately reaching to unholster her service weapon. “Nick, you got this?”

“I should go with you.” Nick frowned, sitting forward.

“Somebody has to hold down the fort.” Amanda said. “Besides, I've got a good support system going on with her.”

“She's my partner…”

“Liv did ask for her at the hospital.” Brian added, though his tone belied his irritation over that fact more than his support of it.

“Liv doesn't need anymore men trying to save the world for her, ok.” Amanda said, striding to her locker to secure her weapon.

Neither of them replied, but she could sense their shared look of annoyance. Slamming her locker shut, she ignored their arrogance. Damn their egos and their feelings. They both wanted to swoop in and magically save Olivia, but it would never be that simple.

“Brian, you got a key?” Amanda asked as she turned back towards him.

“Yeah, right here.” He said, pulling his key ring out. “You know Liv is capable of opening a door, right?”

“You're the one who's asking me to go check on her.” Amanda replied, sharply, holding out her palm. “Give me the key.”

Brian sighed, but unclipped the key from the ring and dropped it into her hand.

“Thank you.” He said, though his tone was flat.

“You're welcome.” She returned, allowing her own sarcasm to bleed into the edges of the sentiment.

Shoving the key into her pocket, she shouldered past him.

Her next thought wasn't spared for Brian and his annoyance, but for Olivia. She was the only important one in this equation, and Amanda would be damned if she let her slip away again.

Chapter Text

The bathroom had fallen quiet minutes ago. A deafening silence pervaded every inch of the small apartment, turning the bathroom into a tiny sensory deprivation tank. She wasn't sure of the time that had passed, nor could she find the strength to move. She was frozen there on the floor, her bottom aching from sitting on the hard tile. The tears had dried on her face, and now as she gazed at the piles of hair littering the counter and floor, her mind drifted.

Her head lolled back against the wall, and she closed her eyes as flashes of memories passed through her mind, a horrific slideshow of violence. Despite the drugs and the alcohol she'd been given, the moments of clarity were as crisp and clear as a summer day. How could she forget when she'd forced her own eyes open to witness his unending brutality?

Her mind slowed to sluggish crawl as she recalled the beach house once more. She drew in a sharp breath, her fingers clutching the bathroom rug. The pain was deep and aching in her chest, as vivid as if she were truly back inside those minutes of torture.

You don't get to talk about him….

She grimaced, clenching her teeth over the foaming saliva of tears.

Lewis hadn't needed to touch her to cause her all the pain in the world. He'd finally found her breaking point, the rawest wound which he could prod until she screamed. He'd tried so many things - physical torture, manipulation, degradation, and humiliation. He'd tried guilting her, asking what her team would think of her now. He'd tried calling her vile names, followed by the most poisonous of kisses, but she'd fought back with every ounce of her being...But it wasn't until he was on the floor, bleeding and bound, that he'd reached to the deepest of her hauntings. She could only wonder what would've happened if he'd found it sooner…

She'd paced the floor, gun in hand, debilitated by the memories of a person she'd trusted with her life - only to be let down time and again; yet she knew none of this would've happened had he remained by her side. That realization had only driven the wedge of pain sharper into her heart. Perhaps it had driven her to do what she had done more than Lewis’s taunting.

He'd never be there for her again. He wouldn't even be there to save her in this moment or in the wake of this tragedy. She'd wondered if he even cared.

Her eyes dragged open to the sound of her own gasping cries. Her chest was heaving, stomach turning. She was sick with her own weakness, with the fact that she ached even now, three years later. She burned with anger towards Lewis, the one person who’d finally managed to make her face her feelings towards the shadow of the only man she'd ever loved.

She groaned out, curses forming on her lips as she bent forward. Clutching at her shorn hair, she panted heavily until the scream rose upon her tongue, welling up against her clenched jaw until she couldn't swallow it back anymore.

“Die…” She groaned, her voice emitting garbled and mutilated, barely recognizable; but the only response was Lewis laughing inside her mind.

“Die!” She screamed louder, bolting up from the floor, her limbs shaking and tingling with fear and adrenaline.

The thought that she could find him and kill him entered her mind like a stray bullet, wild and dangerous. She stood in the middle of the bathroom, trembling, hands clenched into fists, mind spinning. She didn't dare to look into the mirror.

Disjointed plans of ending Lewis's life galloped through her mind, one after another. Illogical and impossible as they were, she ignored every warning.

Bolting from the bathroom, she ran down the hall to Brian's bedroom. Her mind was set on destruction as she entered the room, glancing about with a wild gaze.

Brian always kept a weapon nearby. Like her, he trusted no one. There had to be something inside this room.

She darted towards the bed, and threw back the covers, her hand shaking as she grabbed the pillow. She patted it down before tossing it aside. Panting loudly, she heaved the mattress up to look underneath. Releasing a sound of frustration, she threw the mattress down and spun towards the nightstand. She ripped open the drawer, scattering the contents across the floor. A dull thud stopped her cold, and she turned slowly towards the mess she'd made on the floor. Dropping to her knees, she rifled through the clutter until she found the gun, glinting enticingly beneath the soft, yellow light of the bedroom.

It was a small revolver, barely the length of her hand, but when her fingers wrapped around the handle, a shudder went through her.

She lifted it in front of her, clasping both hands over the butt. Asserting her finger to the trigger, she lined up the sights.

The full length mirror hanging on the back of the bedroom door came into focus in front of her hand and she whimpered at the sight of her staring down the muzzle of a gun at herself. Her hands wavered as she noticed the uneven, jagged ends of her hair dangling around her jaw. Her eyes were bloodshot, face flushed with tears.

Insane. She thought. I look insane.

She sank back on her heels as emotion clutched her once more. There was no possible way that she could exact her revenge on Lewis, especially in this state. There was no way to heal the shattering of her heart; no way to be whole again.

She tumbled back against the bedframe as the strength bled from her bones. The gun was suddenly a weight in her hand, dragging her down into the depths of darkness.

A whimper slipped from her lips and she clasped one hand over her face, if only to hide her own tears from her reflection.

Come on, baby, Lewis smirked inside her mind, Just end it. Don't let this go to trial.

“Die…” She whispered, dragging her hand back to stare down at the gun.

Lifting it slowly upwards, she stared at the empty, black hole at the end. Sniffing against tears, she lifted her other quaking hand to assist in opening the chamber. She shivered at the sight of the bullets inside, fully loaded.

She did have the power to end it all.

In the darkness of her own mind, she whimpered, once more, “Just fucking die….”

xxxxxx

What little defense Amanda had erected against her rising anxiety had quickly disintegrated with each step closer to Brian’s apartment. The subway ride to the Upper West Side had taken far too long, hankered by the Lincoln Tunnel accident nearby, and by her own mounting concern. There’d been far too many people taking their commute home after the workday, and Amanda had stood as close to the door as possible, gripping the overhead rail. She’d tried to ignore the packed subway, and nauseating rocking of the car, but imagining the worse possible scenarios was even more gut wrenching.

When the subway finally came to her stop, Amanda stepped quickly off the train, nearly jogging to stay ahead of the crowd. She ran up the stairs two at a time, and emerged onto 86th and Broadway, not far from the apartment. The two block walk left her impatient and breathless with concern.

Something deep in her stomach twisted with apprehension, warning bells ringing in her ears. She wasn’t sure exactly what she was expecting to discover inside the apartment, but she couldn’t find the peace of mind to believe that she’d find Olivia mentally stable. Remembering the aftermath of the rape kit, it seemed almost impossible. She knew well what had happened the last time Olivia had been left alone.

Amanda pulled out her phone to confirm the address from the text Brian had sent her as she jogged up the front steps of the building. Her heart was racing shallowly in her chest, and her hands were cold with anxious perspiration as she punched in the code to the front gate.

Upon stepping inside, she frantically glanced up and down the hall at the numbered doors before heading towards the steps.

162. 162. 162.

Her mind repeated, her lips following along in a harsh whisper as she reached the top.

It occurred to her that it might have been more effective to take the elevator, and damned her mind for tripping over itself in its worry, but that insidious seed of premonition wouldn't allow her to clear her head for even a second.

Cursing under her breath, she found elevator and jabbed the button. She bit her inner lip impatiently until the doors opened and she could step inside and find the floor she needed. Once the car began to move she sank back against the wall with a long sigh.

A couple of hours….Anything could have happened. What was he thinking?

She squeezed her eyes shut against vivid images of possible, horrific scenarios, unable to relax until the ding of the elevator alerted her that she'd reached her destination. She pushed away from the wall and strode out into the hall. Up ahead she could spot 162, the numbers seeming to screech at her from their place upon the door.

She grabbed the key from her pocket and marched to the apartment's entrance. Grabbing the knob with near shaking fingers, she jammed the key into the lock and wrenched it open. She slowed as she stepped inside the unfamiliar space, finding her heart knocking loud in her ears against the dooming quiet.

It was achingly, hollowly silent, as if it had been long abandoned of any single human presence.The click of the door latching behind her was loud in her ears, and the rustling of her own breath seemed almost invasive. The apprehension that had clutched her for her entire trek here rose in an even higher wave to engulf her.

“Olivia?” Her voice emitted in a raspy whisper, skittering across the walls.

She stepped forward, her wide eyes darting across the empty living room and kitchen. Brian’s clutter dominated the space, but there was no evidence of Olivia which terrified her even more. She didn’t know the layout well, but she plunged forward, finding no one in the outer rooms. She slowed her search when she noticed a light spilling from a room down a hallway to her right.

“Olivia?” She called out once more, a tremble overlaying her tone.

She swallowed against the dryness of her tongue as she moved towards the room. The sink and mirror came into view, and she frowned, not imagining that the door would be open if Olivia were inside the bathroom.

“Liv?” She whispered, despite her confusion as she came to stand in the doorway.

Her gaze fell over the deserted room where here she finally found a sign of the other woman, though not what she had expected. Dark, chestnut hair littered the bathroom counter and floor in thick, uneven clumps. A pair of scissors lay discarded haphazardly on the floor just under the edge of the cabinet.

Amanda clutched at the door frame, her mind turning over and over at the scene, her stomach doing much the same.

This hadn't been a light hearted experiment, nor an eager transformation. This hadn't been some kind of soul searching or reimagining of herself. This hadn't even been kind.

God, Olivia, what have you done…?

Amanda tore her hands from their death grip on the doorframe, and looked back towards the hall in the direction of the last unsearched space in the apartment.

Swallowing against fear, she squeezed her hands into trembling fists and took the first step towards the bedroom. She held onto the last bits of hope that Olivia was unharmed before the short space fled beneath her feet, leaving her to stand in the open threshold.

Olivia…

The syllables wouldn't quite slip from her lips, even on the barest of volumes. Horror left her dangling somewhere between shocked immobility and desperate pleading.

She'd trained her entire life for these situations. Hell, she'd seen her father stare hopelessly into the bottom of a bottle when the last of his cash was drowned in uncontrollable gambling. She'd talked victims off the edges of buildings and away from the barrel of a gun, but she wasn't prepared to see it here. No, she'd never expected to see that dead and empty gaze in the eyes of someone like her…

But there she sat.

Her head was lowered, shorn strands of hair dangling over her watery, vacant expression. She was slumped against the bedframe, one arm languishing across her bent knee. In her ashen fingers dangled a snub-nosed revolver, it's tiny frame holding all the threat that Amanda had prayed she'd never face.

Silence ticked like a time bomb in Amanda's ears, and though fear burnt through her veins with the urge for her to fucking do something, she felt rooted to her place in the doorway, a helpless spectator to this heart wrenching collapse.

“I could've shot him.” Olivia's husky tone shattered the unnerving silence.

She lifted her head, her dark eyes gazing back at Amanda, empty and broken. Her fingers clenched about the gun handle, and she held it up in front of her face, brow furrowing.

“I had the gun on his fucking face. I could've done it. He could be dead…” Her tone dipped, her lips twisting against the emotion that shimmered in her eyes. “Right now.”

She thumbed the hammer, her fingers visibly quivering, eyes narrowed upon the barrel of the gun.

"Olivia…” Amanda finally whispered, her voice emitting on the tremble of of a terrified, barely audible whisper.

She finally took a step forward, her limbs feeling weighed down with the force of Olivia's despair and regret. Fear clenched her lungs, holding oxygen captive as she watched Olivia hang in the balance, right above this crushing abyss of hopelessness.

Olivia lifted her eyes to hers, a single tear escaping from her eyes and trailing to the corner of her mouth.

“I would kill him right now if I could.” She whispered, her tone gravelly.

Amanda swallowed hard against the barren dryness of her throat as she took another hesitant step forward, both hands extended.

“I know.” She whispered.

It shook her to her core that she was so terrified of what Olivia might do. She'd never questioned this woman for a second, this brave person she'd always held such respect and admiration for. She'd never imagined a day would come where she'd approach her with anything other than trust.

“I want to hurt him too.” Amanda continued. “But it doesn't change anything. You know that.”

“It could.” Olivia murmured in reply, barely a whisper.

She stared back at the gun, her thumb dragging against the hammer once more. Amanda could see it slowly cocking, ready to twist a bullet into place. One more squeeze, just one more tiny action, and they both could be horribly injured.

“Listen.” Amanda whispered, desperate to steer Olivia away from this line of thinking. “You hurt him. For everyone he's hurt, you took a piece of him, and you took away his power to do it any more. You did enough.”

Olivia grimaced at her words, a short, hoarse laugh emitting from her throat.

“He wanted me to kill him.” She returned sharply. “And I thought… No, I can't let him have what he wants...that's too easy. I want him to suffer. But he knew once I held that gun on him that I wouldn't be able to stop thinking about it.”

“Thinking about what?” Amanda whispered, though she had a sinking feeling that she already knew.

“Killing him.” Olivia returned, her voice twisting with something that Amanda could make out as guilt. “He knew it would consume me just like it consumed him.”

“You're not a killer, Olivia.” Amanda whispered, taking another step forward and dropping to her knees in front of the other woman. “You're not like him at all.”

“It wouldn't ever be enough….” Olivia whispered, as if she'd hardly heard her, “The things he did… The things he made me do… I want to do more than end his life…”

She clenched her jaw against tears which rose sharply in her eyes, and Amanda could see her fingers flexing around the gun once more, weilding it higher.

“That's more than justifiable.” She insisted though her throat was closing over with fear at the intention in Olivia's eyes. “No one could endure what you have and want anything different.”

“I don’t want to live like this.” She whispered in a shattered tone, her trembling fingers clenching around the revolver with intention.

“Wait, wait.” Amanda begged in horror as she watched Olivia wrench the hammer back.

Olivia’s vacant gaze met Amanda’s slowly and her lips tightened over a tremor as another tear slipped from the corner of her eye, racing towards her jaw. The gun wavered in her hand, arching higher with deadly premonition.

For a moment, Amanda felt frozen with terror, with disbelief; but then their gaze locked. Olivia’s expression crumbled, like a landslide finally giving way beneath the force of gravity.

“I want to die.” She sobbed, gasping over panicked tears, “Jesus, please, just let me die.”

“No!” Amanda cried out, lunging forward at last to grab Olivia’s arm as the she lifted the gun towards her head.

Olivia pulled back, sharply, wrenching away from Amanda’s grasp as she dragged the barrel tight against her temple. Tears spilt down her cheeks in thick rivulets, and a choked sob emitted from her lips as her finger trembled sharply over the trigger.

“Olivia, stop, please!” Amanda begged, grabbing Olivia’s arm, despite the threat of the bullet lying in wait just inside the barrel.

All of her courses on negotiation, and all of her field experience fled from her mind in the wake of absolute panic. Everything within her screamed at her not to let this happen even as nightmarish images of the bullet exploding filled her mind. In her desperation, she was ready to wrestle the gun from Olivia’s hand with all force necessary, but Olivia’s grip was shockingly strong and determined.

She tilted her head back against the bed, moaning and whimpering, as she cradled the revolver to her head as if it were her final lifeline - or rather, her final comfort.

“Olivia, please….” Amanda whispered, her voice breaking as she sank down on her heels between Olivia’s thighs, desperately clawing at arm.

“He’s in my head all the time.” Olivia whispered, her voice thick and twisted with tears, “I just want it to end.”

“I know, I know, and I’m so sorry…” Amanda whispered as emotion engulfed her chest, seizing her throat. “But please…. please…. I’m begging you…”

She sank down further against Olivia, laying her head against her chest as tears burned her lids, spilling over onto her cheeks. Her fingers quavered around Olivia’s arm, clinging to the hope that she would listen, and find the strength to carry on.

Olivia's chest heaved beneath her forehead, rocking them both with desperate sobs; and Amanda knew that she was close enough to be harmed should the gun go off, but she didn't care. All she could think about what dragging Olivia away from this cliff before she could jump.

“Please, listen, this isn’t your only choice.” Amanda whispered, passionately, “This is not the end of you. There is more to you than this.”

Olivia moaned, her arm taut against Amanda's hold, ready to take back the control over the situation; but Amanda tightened her fingers, hard enough to bruise. This couldn’t be the end. She wouldn’t let it be. Lewis had already taken so much, and destroyed so many, and if Olivia truly was to be his final victim, Amanda refused to let him have the last laugh.

Anger raged through her chest, and she claimed it, welding it into a forceful burst of determination. Lifting her head, she grabbed Olivia's face with her free hand and shook her.

“No, he doesn’t get to win here.” She demanded, “Give me the gun, Liv. Please.”

Olivia's stared back at her through watery gaze, her face twisted in agony, but she hardly moved.

“You're not a bad person.” Amanda insisted, harshly,  “This man hurt you. He hurt so many people, and you had every good, fucking reason to do what you did.”

“I joined SVU to help people.” Olivia cried, her voice trailing into a whine.

“You have, and you will.” Amanda insisted. “There's people who deserve your help, and William Lewis is not one of them.”

She slid her hand further up Olivia's arm until she was clutching her wrist, ready to wrench the gun away as soon as she loosened her grip.

“Let me have the gun, Olivia.” She whispered. “I know who you are, and so do you. You are not a murderer, and you're not a failure.”

Olivia sobbed loudly in response, hunching even further down, but her hand finally lapsed down against Amanda's, releasing the weapon. Amanda immediately grabbed it, relief rushing through her chest as she tried to steady her trembling hands to disarm the gun.  Her vision was blurred with tears as she managed to flick the safety on and toss it away behind her.

Turning back towards Olivia, she grabbed the other woman's trembling frame and pulled her close to her chest. She wrapped her arms around her as tightly as she could, choking over the relief that she was safe and unharmed.

“It's okay.” She whispered in a trembling tone, stroking her hand over Olivia's chopped tendrils of hair. “I promise…. Everything will be okay.”

Olivia was a collapsed, weak mess beneath her, shuddering and sobbing, and Amanda rocked her gently, whispering assurance after assurance, praying that at least one would make it through the darkened spaces of Olivia's mind.

Minutes passed, each one drawing out painfully long, but Amanda refused to let go, even as she felt Olivia's tears soaking the front of her shirt. She stayed huddled over her, kissing the top of her head and murmuring softly until Olivia's cries quieted.

Finally, when silence fell and Amanda's hands ceased to shake with fear, the anger emerged once more- the burning rage at Lewis for pushing her to this edge. Her hands trembled anew against Olivia's soft flesh and hair, aching to have his already broken body beneath the fires of her own scorn. She knew it would change nothing, just as she had told Olivia, but just for these moments, she imagined what she could do to him if she could.

This was one out of the a hundred wrongs she'd seen in the world, but none other had ever shaken her so. Deep down in her soul, she loathed William Lewis as much as she loathed her own attacker, if not more so. No, this wasn't just another rape. This wasn't just another woman broken by the violence of men more twisted than she could imagine. This wasn't just any crime.

No, this was personal.

Chapter Text

The soft hum of a familiar, southern lilt crept across the edges of Olivia's consciousness, a welcome lull from sleep rather than the usual jolt of nightmare. Her lids fluttered against the rays of golden, sinking sun that drifted through the bedroom window, and for a peaceful moment she felt nothing but the warmth of the blankets around her body.

“She's fine now.” Amanda's voice drifted to her ears once more, dragging her further away from the solace of sleep and towards the reminder of the reality of her life in the past week.

The gentle content that had smothered her in the cocoon of her bed quickly fled in the face of her memories of the hours before. Her chest clutched at the dark and hazy memory of holding on to Brian's personal weapon as if it were her only choice. The blackness of that despair hedged at the edges of her mind, bleeding back into the compromised spaces of her soul, and she clenching her eyes shut again, wishing she could simply will it all away.

She briefly wondered where Amanda had put Brian’s revolver until she heard her voice again.

“She needs emotional support.” Amanda's tone was sharp and strained. “A gun won't help her conquer what's in her head.”

Her throat clenched as she remembered the other woman on her knees in front of her, begging and reasoning, crying and pleading. An intense wave of guilt washed over her, and she swallowed against the knot that had formed in her esophagus. Her selfishness for Amanda’s emotional support obviously hadn’t ended once they left the hospital, and Olivia quietly berated herself for being so weak that she couldn’t control herself.

Knowing that Amanda must be speaking with Brian only made her feel even more ashamed. He already didn't understand. How would he comprehend the idea of her sitting on the floor and sobbing with a gun to her head?

She tried to breathe out steadily, blinking against a rush of tears. She prayed the phone call would be over soon, and that Amanda would return. The other woman's arms had rocked her to sleep and now she felt achingly empty without her.

Rolling back onto her side, she pulled her knees against her chest, and tried to zone out the rest of the conversation that was happening just outside the door. The minutes passed, long and burdensome, before she finally felt the bed shifting beside her. Amanda touched her side, her fingers soft and hesitant.

“Olivia?”

“Yes?” She whispered, raspily, quickly smudging her hand over her face to hide the evidence of the tears that had already fallen upon her awakening.

“That was Brian.” Amanda murmured. “He said he's sorry for having to leave.”

“He has a job to do.”

Amanda was quiet, but Olivia felt her shift into a reclined position next to her. She rolled onto her back so that their shoulders were touching, but she couldn't bring herself to look over at her.

“Did you tell him about…?” Olivia's voice trailed off as she reached up to touch her hair.

“No.” Amanda said, softly. “I thought we could get it fixed at a salon, you know?… He doesn't have to know.”

Olivia nodded, her throat tightening at Amanda's consideration, and non judgmental tone.

“What about….” Her voice dipped as she recalled their impasse on the floor with the gun.

“I’m sorry.” Amanda returned, gently. “He had to know you aren’t well.”

Olivia nodded, slowly, biting at her lower lip to stop the tears from welling in her eyes once more. She hadn’t spared a thought for what anyone might think when she’d felt hopeless enough to consider holding a gun to her head, but now a voracious shame encroached upon her with a wide, hungry mouth. She could hardly look at Amanda, much less even think of Brian’s reaction.

“Listen.” Amanda said, sitting up from the bed in order to look at her. “I suggested you stay the night at my place. It doesn’t seem as if he’ll be able to get away.”

Olivia glanced away despite Amanda’s seeking gaze. Everything within her yearned to reach out and accept Amanda’s kind offers and gentle care, but the humiliation over the previous events held her grounded alone in the dark.

“Liv.” Amanda whispered, reaching out to touch her arm. “Let me help you…. I don’t think any less of you, and I’m definitely not scared off.”

Olivia clenched her jaw against tears, staring rigidly at the wall until Amanda grabbed her hand and squeezed. She glanced over at Amanda’s deep, blue eyes and creased brow,  finally nodding.

“Okay.” She whispered. “Thank you.”

“Whatever you need.” Amanda insisted, clutching clasping her hand tightly between both of hers. “I've got your back, Liv.”

Olivia pursed her lips against the swell of tears, squeezing Amanda's fingers back. She couldn’t fathom what she had done to deserve Amanda’s unwavering dedication, but what she saw in Amanda’s cerulean gaze somehow fought back against the darkness which sought to encompass her heart.

“Thank you.” She managed once more, her tone trembling.

“You’re more than welcome.” Amanda murmured, lying back down beside her once more.

Olivia closed her eyes as Amanda’s arm wrapped around her and the warmth of her body pressed against her with gentle relief.

“Whenever you’re ready.” Amanda whispered. “I’ll take you away from here.”

Olivia’s heart clenched with warmth, and she reached up to hold onto Amanda’s arm in silent affirmation. They weren't looking at each other, but she didn't think they needed to. There was an undercurrent of understanding that ran deeper than eye contact, and she was beginning to feel it deep in her heart - a warmth that could transcend the cold winter that had stolen it's way to her very core. It was the first hint of hope that she'd truly latched onto, and with her fingers wrapped around Amanda's, she prayed she'd have the strength to hold on.

xxxxx

It wasn’t a loud sound or some type of uncomfortable sensation that awoke Amanda at just past 1 am, but rather a cool, gentle breeze which disturbed her slumber. She'd trained herself long ago to be attuned to every small shift of the world around her sleeping body, and the even slightest change in temperature was enough to rouse her.

Although the summer night was far from cold, an inexplicable shiver washed over Amanda's body, causing her to jolt awake in apprehension. In the darkness, she sat up quickly in the bed, immediately feeling next to her for Olivia's body.

When they'd arrived at her apartment, Amanda had offered to take the couch, however, Olivia had seemed hesitant to be alone, and Amanda had been more than willing to stay next to her. She didn't want to repeat her mistake of leaving Olivia to her own devices once more. She'd be no better than Brian if something happened to the other woman on her watch. Therefore, her heart fluttered shallowly in her chest with sinking dread when she found the mattress empty next to her, the sheets cold.

“Liv?” Her voice was a rasp in the dark as she glanced about her room.

Her eyes had just begun to adjust to the darkness when Olivia's voice echoed back to her, low and hollow.

“I’m here.”

Amanda found her figure in the shadows, drawn towards the sound of her voice and the source of the breeze. She froze as her eyes came to rest upon Olivia’s figure at the bedroom window. The pane was open, allowing the breeze and the smog of New York City to drift into the room.

Amanda swallowed against apprehension, her heart knocking harder at her chest as she slipped from the bed. When she stepped closer she could see that Olivia was sitting on the sill, her legs dangling  out against the side of the building.

A slice of fear cut through Amanda's chest at the thought that they were six stories above the ground,  and busy street was far below.

“What are you doing?” She asked, her tone barely a whisper as she hovered closer.

Olivia’s tone, however, was low, almost even when she stated, stoically, “Don't worry. I'm fine.”

She tilted her head back, her shorn hair barely reaching her bare shoulder blades. A plume of smoke billowed above her head, and Amanda balked at the sight of the cigarette dangling from her fingertips. She’d never seen Olivia partake in smoking. In fact, the older detective had often gently urged her to give up the habit. While her concerns had previously been irritating, Amanda now found herself on the other side of the equation. Her bad habit appeared self destructive on Olivia, whose vices were seemingly non-existent.

“I hope you don’t mind.” Olivia murmured, barely glancing back at her. “I found them on the dresser.”

Her eyes were dark as she glanced at Amanda through the uneven strands of hair. The street lights glinted against the shimmering of tears in her eyes and Amanda felt her whole abdomen clutch at the sight.

“Of course not.” Amanda whispered, barely hiding her choked tone as she tried desperately to remain calm; but after Olivia's thwarted attempt at Brian's apartment, she could hardly trust that this encounter would end differently.

“I couldn't sleep.” Olivia murmured, turning her eyes back towards the skyline.

Amanda finally uprooted her feet from the floor and hesitantly approached her. Terror and adrenaline were a strange mix of nausea in her stomach, but she managed to ward off the effects aside from a slight tremble in her fingers.

“Since we're both up why don't I join you?” She suggested, pushing the past the fear that was tightening her throat.

She was finally close enough that she could see Olivia's profile, illuminated from the street lights down below. The shadows fell long and haunting across her features, displaying the ridges of her brows, nose, and jaw in gaunt, dark grey. She lifted the cigarette to her lips once more, and sucked with an nearly indiscernible tremble.

“Sure.” She replied, the utterance emitting huskily upon a stream of smoke.

Amanda watched her closely as she clutched the window sill and climbed on next to her. She glanced down at the street below as her bare feet dangled against the brick. Heights didn't typically frighten her, but the possibility of death here wasn't a mere phobia, and her stomach swirled at the sight of the space between them and the ground.

Tearing her eyes from the frightening image, she forced herself to remain calm. Reaching over, she took the pack from Olivia's hand and shook out a cigarette. Her fingers fumbled for a moment, trembling as she managed to coerce one from the box.

“What's keeping you up?” She asked in a barely even tone as she placed the cigarette between her lips.

Olivia shrugged, nearly too quickly to be believable, as she handed the lighter to Amanda. She took it, watching Olivia closely as she leaned her head against the window frame, staring distantly out at the skyline.

Amanda thumbed the lighter, clenching her lips hard over the cigarette to hold back a curse as her quivering fingers failed her once more. Finally, the lighter clicked loudly in the silence and the flame rushed to ignite the tip. Nicotine smoldered, swirling into Amanda's lungs with a calming caress. She welcomed the familiar comfort, but it was barely a solution to the pounding of her heart.

A long silence passed, and though Amanda's mind rushed at the unknown thoughts twirling through Olivia's mind, she remained quiet until Olivia spoke.

“Therapy.” She murmured at last. “I remember how much it hurt in the beginning.”

Amanda breathed out, grateful that she hadn't said something akin to murdering Lewis or flinging herself from this ledge. It was a small favor, one that Amanda knew might not last forever.

She nodded slowly, turning the words over in her head before replying, “This is the beginning all over again.”

Olivia's brows furrowed, her eyes softly glimmering with the reflection of the skyline. She lifted the cigarette and took another drag while Amanda remained fixated on her every move. Her eyes followed Olivia's long fingers as she tapped the ashes out against the edge of the sill. The grey flakes danced past their feet, disintegrating into the night; and Amanda tried not to watch their descent to the ground below.

“I always knew that my mother's drinking wasn't my fault,” Olivia murmured at last, “but I also couldn't help but to think that her life would've been better without me.”

Amanda finally glanced away, taking a sharp inhale of nicotine to smooth over the racing of her heart and the pain of Olivia's words.

The story of Olivia's mother was some kind of unspoken knowledge among the squad, but it wasn't until the past few days that Amanda had heard it straight from Olivia's mouth. Now she felt almost guilty for her previous curiosity to the private horror show that had been her conception. She was unworthy yet grateful to be the one sitting here at her side, as uncomfortable as it was.

“I've dealt with feeling guilt in regards to my mother my entire life” Olivia continued, her tone barely maintaining its even inflection, “But this shame…”

She broke off, her gaze dropping sharply. Her hair slanted across her cheekbone, hiding her expression from Amanda's eyes. She drew a sharp breath, grabbing at the edge of the sill as her shoulders tightened.

“This isn't your fault.” Amanda whispered, her heart clenching as she reached out to touch her arm.

“No?” Olivia demanded in a tremble, her watery gaze snapping towards hers. “I walked into that apartment, right into his hands just as he wanted. He subdued me in a matter of seconds ….When I've spent years professionally and personally ensuring that I had the skill set to thwart a home invasion or kidnapping. I was compromised, and he knew it.”

Amanda listened to the steady stream of self blame, aching for the woman next to her. She remembered so well those feelings, the shame which haunted her even to this day. The guilt never truly left her, and it put a knot in her throat that she could not assure Olivia otherwise.

“I know.” Amanda murmured, glancing away.

They were both quiet for a moment aside from the tiny crackling of the cigarettes. Amanda bit at her lower lip, scrounging for something to say. She wasn't sure if Olivia was necessarily suicidal in this moment, but she almost wasn't mentally stable either. She felt alone, and Amanda couldn't blame her.

Finally, she cleared her throat, and murmured, “The man that raped me…. I knew him. I wasn't naive. I knew what he was capable of… At the very least, I'd heard rumors.”

She felt Olivia's gaze flick over to her and hold. Closing her eyes she pushed forward despite the pain of speaking such a degrading experience - something she'd never had the courage to do before. She'd never had a good enough reason, but maybe if it could make Olivia feel less alone in this aftermath it would be worth it.

“I knew, but I was desperate. My sister was in trouble, and I couldn't let her be charged. It would've killed my mother...and me…. Anyways… I thought I could get a favor out of him, and that no one would get hurt if I just did what he wanted.”

She paused, feeling tears prick at her eyes, and the iron fist of dread and horror clutching her throat. She clenched her jaw against it, pushing the emotion away from the forefront of her mind in order to continue.

“I walked into that room of my own volition.” She murmured at last, glancing over at Olivia. “I laid down on the bed, and let him get on top of me.”

Olivia's brows were drawn, her lips trembling. Amanda had stood by her side when she'd taken victim statements a hundred times and watched that same look fill her eyes, but she wasn't here for sympathy.

“What I'm saying is…. I played a part in my own rape, but I've had to learn that what came after I laid down wasn't my fault. And what Lewis did to you…..” She shook her head, reaching for Olivia's hand once more, “You're the last person to blame for it.”

Olivia glanced away quickly, but Amanda could already see the shudder in her shoulders. She was silent for several long, excruciating seconds, until the quiver quieted across her being.

“He hit me.” Olivia whispered at last, lifting her trembling hand in a fist in front of her. “In the face. Knocked me out. When I woke up I was bound to the chair, and he was at the stove.”

Amanda clutched the window frame, her stomach lurching sickly at the images that passed through her brain. She'd been to the apartment, mere hours after Lewis had taken Olivia. She'd seen the wreckage of his torture, the remnants of her pain. She barely even needed to close her eyes to imagine exactly what had happened next. She wasn’t even sure that she was strong enough to sit here and take this disclosure - the first that Olivia had ever truly given since her escape. Still, she remained next to her, willing to take this barrage of horror, if only to ease her suffering.

“He turned around as if he could sense I was awake.” She murmured, her tone twisting with horrific contemplation. “He smiled, and said, ‘Well, hello, beautiful. I must have hit you pretty hard because that was quite the beauty sleep.’” She stopped, scoffing, with a shake of her head. “I could tell he was drunk or high. Or both. Bloodshot eyes, flushed appearance…. That look in his eyes.....I started screaming because I knew what what was going to happen to me.”

Amanda pushed her hand closer to Olivia’s, and their fingers tangled together tightly. She could hardly look over at her, her stomach turning at the vivid descriptions.

“That was when he duct taped my mouth. He said, ‘If you can’t behave on your own, I’ll just have to -’” Her voice cut off, dipping sharply into a soft, pained cry.

She ducked her face away, ripping her hand from Amanda’s to cover her mouth, muffling the short, halting sobs which welled up on her lips.

“Olivia….” Amanda whispered, her tone distraught as she slid closer to her, wrapping her arm around her waist.

“He said I'll have to teach you not to say no anymore.” Olivia uttered, her voice twisting with disgust and horror, mutilated by tears, “He t-took the key fr-from the stove and -”

Amanda's whole being twisted inside as Olivia cut off and a forceful wave of emotion crashed through her chest. She was here to be strong for her, but she could hardly contain the burgeoning tears. She pressed her forehead to Olivia’s temple, clenching her teeth against a sob as she listened to Olivia choke over shuddering cries.

“I’m so sorry.” She whispered, pressing her face into Olivia’s soft, brutalized hair and squeezing her harder.

“I fought.” Olivia cried, sucking in a trembling breath, the words tumbling over each other as they left her tongue, “ I screamed. I did everything possible I could think of to escape. I bargained. I pleaded. I offered myself to him if he'd just stop hurting me…”

She collapsed into another deluge of emotion, hunching over as the memories engulfed her. The cigarette slipped from her fingers, twirling towards the dark depths below, as she curled her hands into fists on her knees. When she began to sway, Amanda tossed her own cigarette towards the fading night to wrap both her arms around her, holding her securely from the threat of falling. Olivia’s frame shuddered against her and she turned her face into Amanda’s chest, clutching at her waist.

Amanda couldn't speak. Somewhere between her own confession and Olivia’s recollection, her throat became tied up in a knot of anguish and horror. Just beneath the vile shock lay the kindling rage, the thoughts of a hatred so strong that it terrified her.

“He could've raped me.” Olivia whimpered at last. “He could've done a million things to my body, but he didn't even take my clothes off…. He said he knew I'd been waiting for this my entire life and that it wouldn't be so easy….That I'd have to work for it…”

Amanda clutched her harder, pressing her eyes shut against burning tears of commiseration. She pressed her mouth to the back of Olivia's head, muffling a choked cry that wanted to leap from her throat.

“He raped and tortured Alice Parker for 18 hours.” Olivia whispered. “How long would I have lasted?”

“Don't say that.” Amanda finally breathed, vehemently.

She pulled back, holding Olivia’s weak body by her arms as she tried to direct Olivia’s face to hers, whispering, “You survived four days of hell with him. You're strong , Olivia. You're brave, and he won't break you.”

The positive affirmations seemed to have little effect on her as she remained slumped down in Amanda's arms. The words seemed hollow and useless even to her own ears, knowing that this torment was far from over, and might never be. No matter what happened to Lewis, Olivia would have to live the memories and the effects of those four days for the rest of her life. Now, all Amanda could do was hold her, and hope that she wouldn't collapse into the night just like the fleeting, dying embers of their cigarettes.

“None of this is your fault.” Amanda murmured, at last. “Not a single part of it. You have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Olivia didn't speak, but her fingers clenched against Amanda's waist. Amanda gathered her closer and cradled her head to her chest, leaving small kisses against her crown. She held her until the spaces between the shivers wracking her body stretched out into nothing, and the tears dried upon their haunted faces.

In the silence, Amanda looked out to the city, across the thousand of lights, and imagined where Lewis was at this very moment. She hoped he was in pain. She hoped that he suffered this night, for the eighteen hours that he'd raped Alice Parker, for the four days of mental torture that he'd subjected Olivia to, and for every single life he'd taken. She wished upon him all of the grief of the entire world and more.

You don't get to take her soul. She thought, vehemently. You had her to yourself for four days…Now, there's me. And I'm not so easy to get around. Try it now, you fucking bastard. Just try it.

Chapter Text

I just managed to get away and I wanted to say i'm sorry I'm gonna b home asap

Brian's text stared back at her from the screen, and though she had already read it three times, she read it again, hoping to find some emotion attached to it. She took in the apology with a tightening throat before tossing her phone to the side table.

He hasn't even apologized for abandoning me. The thought crossed her mind before she could stop it, and she groaned out a breath, rubbing both hands over her face.

"Hey, you okay?" Amanda's voice drew her attention, and she lifted her head to see the other woman re-entering the room, a look of concern on her face.

She'd suggested tea after they'd quietly left the windowsill, as if they had both just silently agreed not to discuss the danger of it. She knew that Amanda understood, especially after listening to her own painful description of her assault, but that didn't stop her from feeling ashamed all over again at how many times Amanda had yanked her back from the brink of despair. It seemed as if the past two days had been a constant loop of Olivia losing her grip on reality only to come to with Amanda hovering above her. She wasn't sure whether she grateful or simply embarrassed.

"I'm fine. It was just…." She motioned towards the discarded phone, trying to find some unrevealing way to describe her conflicted feelings towards Brian.

"Did he call?" Amanda asked as she reached the bed, the steaming mug of tea in hand.

Her tone was neutral, but Olivia had known Amanda long enough to sense the distrust in her gaze. Amanda and Brian had hardly been acquaintances before this week, and although Amanda had seemed interested in her happiness with him, Olivia had always come to the conclusion that Amanda didn't quite like him. Before, that hadn't mattered; they were only co-workers, and Amanda's opinion had held little weight in regards to her personal life. Now, Olivia was ignoring his texts in exchange for Amanda's company. It was perhaps the strangest turn events since the abduction, but one she was yet to question.

As Amanda settled down on the bed beside her, Olivia took the offered cup, and gazed down into the honey liquid, murmuring, "He texted."

Amanda nodded, but didn't inquire further, and for that Olivia was grateful. She didn't want to think about Brian or anything for that matter. Her brain ached from thinking, from judging herself over and over again in her mind. She couldn't afford to begin questioning her relationship.

"Thank you." She said, glancing over at Amanda. "For the tea."

"Of course." Amanda nodded, dipping her head.

Olivia directed her gaze back to the cup, and blew across the tea in silence.

These moments of sanity were almost uncomfortable, as if her body didn't know what to do without the heart-stopping adrenaline pushing her towards the fight or flight instincts of survival. She'd become accustomed to awakening with a jolt, knowing that Lewis was close. It had only taken four days for her to immediately sleep in the fetal position, legs clenched tightly together, abdomen protected. Every waking moment had been spent attempting to devise some way of escape or new way to manipulate him. Her head had been full of unexecuted plans during her time in the trunk and the beach house, and even now they seemed to take precedence in her mind although all threat to her life had been extinguished. Her muscles ached from constantly being taut in anticipation of attack, and when she awoke now, her jaw throbbed from the involuntary grinding and clenching.

Even now, sipping calming chamomile tea, her mind drifted to escape plans, more efficient ways of defeating Lewis and fleeing from this aftermath. When Amanda spoke her name once more, she blinked quickly out of the heavy, foggy zone of survival.

"Yes?" She replied, automatically, lifting her head.

Amanda was watching her, her brow furrowed with underlying anxiety, and Olivia couldn't blame her. Despite the relief and comfort of collapsing into someone who knew a fraction of her pain, she still wished in some ways that she could take back the words she'd spoken. They still seemed to echo in her head as if finally saying what Lewis had done had cemented it into reality. Looking back into Amanda's eyes, she knew that her mind also ached with the memories of her confession. She would never forget. It ached to be so open and vulnerable, but when Amanda gazed at her in a such a way, she wished she could wrench her own chest open, let the other woman crawl inside to explore every rib and organ. It was a terrifying balance between the safety and trust, and the harder she tried to maintain it, the harder it became. 

"You should get some more sleep after this." Amanda suggested, shattering her train of thought. "Brian can wait."

She nodded, grateful for even the thought of ignoring her trouble. She before gazed back down across the rippling, golden waves in the glass, hoping for such calm in her own body.

Yes, sleep did sound nice, anything to take her away from the terror of her feelings both above and below; but Lewis's abduction had sent her spiraling into a horrific dreamland every night since her rescue. No matter how calm she felt upon dozing off, she always awoke with a jolt. Her ride in the trunk of the Lincoln wrapped in her mother's sheets haunted her often. In one dream, she felt the prognostic sensation of Lewis cutting the tape away from her legs over and over again, knowing he only intended to force them open. In another, she watched the curtains of the beach house floating gently in the breeze, all the while knowing that if she but turned her head, she would witness a bloodbath. Even when blackness encroached upon her vision, she would hear him humming to the radio in her mind. The flashes and bits of visceral images stayed with her, foreboding things much more sinister than her brain could fathom to conjure, and yet she screamed in terror at the slightest memory.

Yes, she wanted to sleep more than anything, but even from behind prison walls, Lewis wouldn't let her rest.

xxxx

The teacup and its contents had grown still and cold on the bedside table when Amanda was awoken abruptly by Olivia's arm suddenly thrashing across her body, followed by a low, strangled cry. She gasped awake, heart racing in her chest as Olivia writhed away from her with a louder moan. Her elbow thrust back, suddenly, landing harshly in Amanda's stomach with a forceful blow.

"Uhggg…" Amanda groaned, involuntarily, clutching at her stomach as she gasped for air. "Liv…."

Panic ate at her chest as she struggled to regain her breath around the debilitating pain from the accidental elbow to her solar plexus. Despite her disorientation, she could make out Olivia's frame, trembling and reacting, yet still in the clutches of sleep.

"No…" Olivia whimpered, shuddering against the mattress, her hands scratching across the sheets as she twisted beneath the force of the nightmare.

"Liv…" Amanda rasped, sitting up on her elbow and grabbing for the other woman.

Olivia's eyes were clenched shut, but her face was wrenched with terror, her body rigid. Her head tossed back and forth against the pillow, and Amanda could see sweat glistening on her forehead.

"Liv, wake up." Amanda, demanded between gasps.

Ignoring the way her stomach ached from the unintentional blow, she pushed herself up from the sheets and grabbed Olivia's flailing arms to shake her. Olivia immediately screamed, bucking harder beneath Amanda's body in a desperate escape attempt from whatever was happening inside her head.

"Liv, wake up!" Amanda ordered louder, shaking her once more.

Olivia sobbed in response, twisting beneath Amanda's hold, her legs kicking back and forth across the sheets.

"Goddamnit…." Amanda hissed, barely able to keep Olivia's wildly clawing hands under control.

She didn't want to hurt her, but she had to force her out of the dream. Finally, she climbed on top of Olivia's body for fear that she would fling herself to the floor in her fear; and hovering over her, she clasped Olivia's face in her hands.

"Olivia, wake up, it's a dream." She insisted, shaking her, "It's just me. I won't hurt you."

Olivia whimpered, and Amanda could feel a tear squeeze from beneath her lid and trail down across her thumb. Her legs kicked weakly one more time, but her lids were beginning to flutter with wakefulness.

"Wake up." Amanda murmured, bending down to press her lips against her feverish forehead. "It's okay….I'm here…"

Olivia finally stilled beneath her, though she quivers wracked her body from the weight of the nightmare. Her hands reached up, slowly, fumbling for Amanda's body as she came fully to reality.

"Amanda?" She whispered in confusion, her voice scratchy from screaming.

"Yes, it's me." Amanda whispered, easing back to look down at Olivia's face.

Her brow was drawn in horror and bewilderment, tears glazing her widened eyes.

"A-Amanda?" She repeated, her fingers slowly clutching the material of her t-shirt as if she couldn't believe that she was real.

"You're okay." Amanda breathed, stroking her thumbs over Olivia's tear stained cheeks. "You were dreaming."

"I…." Olivia began in a choked tone, her eyes darting away. "I'm sorry…"

"No, no, it's okay." Amanda assured her, leaning in once more to kiss her forehead. Stroking her hand over Olivia's hair and jaw, she repeated, "You're okay…"

Olivia's hands clenched down on her sides, pulling her close as she held back haunted sobs. She pressed her face into Amanda's neck, and Amanda sank down into her body, letting the weight of herself ground Olivia into reality. It was difficult not to drown in to the flood of Olivia's sorrow, welling up from beneath her, but she held her chin above the tide, determined to drag them both to safe ground.

It took several long minutes for Olivia to calm to the gentleness of her touch, and even when they were quiet and still, Amanda didn't want to let go. She remained huddled against Olivia's chest, clutching her hair while Olivia's arms held tight about her waist. Finally, when their embrace stretched into what Amanda imagined was an inappropriate amount of time, she drew back, smoothing her palms over Olivia's cheeks, where tears still dried.

Olivia ducked her face away into the cup of her palm, her brow furrowing at the feeling of Amanda's eyes on her. She drew a shuddering breath through her nose, her lips tight against a shudder of emotion.

"I'm sorry." She repeated, her tone choppy.

"No…." Amanda shook her head, directing Olivia's face back in her direction. "I want to be here… for you… forever."

Olivia's eyes darted to hers quickly, fluttering wide at the impassioned statement, and Amanda ducked her head quickly. The words had rushed from her tongue without even the thought of how it appear to Olivia; but the fact of the matter was that it was the truth. Her heart had hardly faltered through the entirety of this ordeal, and for these blurred days, she hadn't questioned their growing attachment, nor the motivation of this burning passion.

"Amanda…" Olivia murmured, "You don't have to sacrifice yourself for me."

"And if I want to?" Amanda returned with hardly a pause, locking her gaze to Olivia's once more.

Olivia's expression was a mix of a myriad of emotions, twisted with confusion, fear, relief, gratefulness, and a hundred more. Her fingers trembled at Amanda's waist, but clenched steadily tighter.

"I would tell you to go." She finally whispered, her tone low, mouth quivering. "I would tell you to run. As far away from me as you can."

Amanda's jaw clenched as she slowly nodded, though more in understanding than agreement. Clasping her hands tighter over Olivia's cheeks, she bent closer to her and whispered, huskily, "No. Never."

Olivia's brow furrowed, and she closed her eyes as tears welled up against her lids.

"I don't deserve this." She burst out, her chest heaving in the release of emotion.

"And I don't deserve the chance to be this close to you, but we're here." Amanda breathed, her own eyes stinging with tears. "If there's a god, maybe he can decide what we do and don't deserve, but that's for the next life, not this this one. And for now, I'm here, and you can't tell me to go because I won't. I won't!"

Olivia collapsed into sobs beneath her, tears spreading from beneath her lids, and Amanda bent down to catch that blessed rain. Her own chest was tight, vision blurred, as she pressed her mouth to the salty streams, catching up the gentle outpouring with a dozen kisses. In her own mind, it was a paltry offering. She wasn't god, but this she did know - Olivia deserved this and much more; and maybe one day Amanda could be the one to give it to her.

xxxxx

Two hours had passed since Olivia's nightmare, but Amanda had yet to close her eyes. Sleep seemed far from her when Olivia appeared much more beautiful beside her than in the dreams that would surely seize her.

She laid awake, curled on her side next to Olivia, watching the her chest rise and fall, her lids flutter. Every so often, she would softly groan in her sleep, and Amanda prayed each time that it wasn't another nightmare emerging from the dark corners of her memories to haunt her.

Her mind raced with thoughts about the woman beside her, and the man who had put her here, but it almost seemed more terrifying to contemplate their interaction after the nightmare than of Lewis. Lewis was something she could focus on with pure, undiluted emotion. There was only one thing she could feel towards him, and that was hate. What she felt towards Olivia, while not life threatening, was much more complex than one simple word.

And so she thought of Lewis.

She'd never been a person of inaction, and certainly never one to let an injustice pass her by without an effort towards rectifying it. She was the one who had sent Frannie after him in the park. She was the one who had first put cuffs on him. She was the one who had worked so hard to uncover his web of lies and good fortune. He'd escaped the long of the law so many time, and it burned her that she hadn't put an end to it. She loathed to return without victory, and even more so when the innocent were caught in the crossfire.

She wished she could look him in the eye one last time, if only to let him know that he was going down because of her.

At half past five am, her restlessness finally pulled her from the sheets. Sitting up at the edge of the bed, she hunched over with her elbows on her knees, staring at the floor.

If she didn't act now, Lewis would go to trial with the preconceived notion that he would wile his way out of a conviction once more. He would go down without her ever laying her eyes on Olivia's handiwork again.

She rose swiftly from the bed, casting one last glance at Olivia's sleeping frame before she grabbed her phone from the bedside table. She eased out of the bedroom and moved quietly down the hall. Flicking on the lamp light, she crossed to her desk and took a seat behind the computer screen.

She opened the browser and typed into the search bar: dr james allen bellevue hospital new york

She sat back as the search results loaded, and grabbed a crushed pack of cigarettes from the table. She tapped one out and lit up as she clicked on the images option. She scrolled through a few rows, a smile lifting her lips, softly.

Blowing out the first rush of nicotine, her blood tingling with adrenaline, she murmured, "There you are."

Chapter Text

"Hello?"

The voice at the other end of the line was groggy with sleep, confusion written into his tone, laced with frustration. It was the third time she had called, and she knew he must have ignored her first two attempts at the sight of a blocked number on his screen. James wasn't stupid, but it was 5:30 in the morning, and most folks treasured the last few hours of sleep before having to drag themselves to work. It didn't matter whether he'd answered the phone out of curiosity or just to shut her up - she had his attention now.

"Morning, James." She replied, taking in another drag of smoke.

She was standing at the open window, breathing out into the warm night air. She watched each cloud evaporate against the backdrop of the city skyline. Across the street, lights were beginning to come on, but there were others like her who'd been crawling across their floors and walls all night.

"Who the fuck is this?" James grumbled.

"Hmmm…." Amanda murmured, tapping out her ashes in a calculated manner. "You'd think a person would remember a cop who could land them in jail at any time."

A few beats of harsh, apprehensive silence prefaced his sudden realization.

"Amanda?!" James demanded, and she could nearly see his pasty skin becoming flushed with indignation. "How the hell did you get my personal cell phone number?"

"Don't worry about that." Amanda returned, narrowing her eyes upon the distant sky. "I won't be calling you again after this."

"What do you want?" James asked once more, this time in a quieter tone.

"Meet me." Amanda proposed, easily, returning the cigarette to her mouth.

She needed the calming nicotine to control the pounding of her heart. Despite her flippant attitude towards James, she was quietly desperate. She couldn't devise another plan. Should this one fail she had no other way into the guarded halls of the Bellevue Prison Ward - at least not one that didn't compromise the case against Lewis or land her in handcuffs.

"What for?" James hissed.

She could hear scuffling in the background, and she imagined that she was pulling him from the warmth of his bed in order to hide their conversation from his sleeping wife.

"I can't say right now." Amanda returned.

"Are you serious?" He demanded. "What am I supposed to tell my wife?"

"She doesn't have to know." Amanda replied, calmly. "In fact, you should be thinking about your job more than your wife."

She could almost hear the string of thoughts going through his mind. She nearly felt a twinge of guilt at holding his gambling addiction above his head when her own barely remained under her control, but she wasn't here to commiserate with him.

"Fine." James sighed at last. "When and where?"

xxxxx

She'd been awake for several minutes now, but she'd hardly moved. She'd come out of a dream that she couldn't quite remember, though not as she'd grown accustomed to. This morning was slow, almost gentle. A single detail that remained through the fog of wakefulness was Amanda's face. She'd been there, and Olivia wondered if that was why she hadn't woken screaming.

She could hear the sounds of the city drifting through the walls and windows, and sense the rising sun. Across the pillow next to her, Amanda's hair was beginning to shimmer, not so unlike the celestial being peeking at the horizon.

Her face was turned away, and perhaps that made it easier for Olivia to reach out her fingers, hesitantly. She touched the golden locks, stroking the very ends which curled gently beneath her hand.

Soft….

She closed her eyes, withdrawing her hand.

These peaceful moments were but a short reprieve. She feared that if she let herself indulge too much that the guilt would consume her even further afterwards. How could she enjoy such trivial things when she'd so recently barely escaped with her life? Did traumatized people enjoy things? Did they wonder at the light touching a golden head? Did their chest ever warm at the kindness of another? Did she belong with survivors at all?

With a low sigh, she rolled on her back, and stared up at the ceiling.

She remembered Amanda's midnight vows, the passion in her tone, and she wanted more than anything accept her devotion - but it also terrified her. No one had ever said anything like that to her before. No one had ever made promises, and it was rare that she believed anyone who approached her with such lofty words.

What did it mean? Did she even deserve it?

She turned her head, gazing at Amanda's sleeping frame once more, and her chest expanded with a desperate flutter. It frightened her even more that her heart hadn't stopped begging for the other woman's love since that night in the hospital. Amanda's had been the only kind and understanding face, and in her fragile state, she'd clung to her - now, she couldn't let go, and she wasn't sure she even wanted to. She didn't want to even begin to contemplate what that meant for her relationship with Brian or why he even came to her mind in contrast to Amanda.

"You're awake?" Amanda sleepy mumble drew her attention and she gasped softly in surprise when she rolled over next to her.

"Oh...y-yeah…" She murmured as Amanda slid close to her, her forehead touching her shoulder.

"It wasn't a bad dream, was it?" Amanda whispered once more, still half asleep.

"No…." Olivia contemplated, glancing over at Amanda's body curled close to hers. "I think it was kind of….good this time…"

Amanda's eyes cracked open, and Olivia found herself staring back into her deep, cerulean eyes. Yesterday's makeup was smudged at her lash lines, giving her a somber appearance, but Olivia was drawn more to the scintillating depths of her blue gaze.

"Really?" Amanda asked. "That's so good, Olivia."

She squeezed her arm with a smile, and before Olivia could stop herself she was reaching back, her fingers curling around Amanda's.

"You were in it." She said, the words bursting from her tongue like some kind of secret that brought her too much joy to keep to herself.

Amanda's eyes widened further, a smile blossoming across her lips. She ducked her chin, with a rough chuckle.

"And that made it good?" She asked in a joking tone though Olivia thought she could hear the hopefulness resonate behind layers of cynicism.

"Well….it couldn't make it bad…"

Amanda laughed, an uneasy cough, and shifted into a sitting position. Olivia doubted that she meant to hurt her, but the withdrawal of Amanda's hand from her arm left a dull pang to spread across her chest.

"I already let Cragen know I'd be in late today." Amanda said, changing topics so quickly that Olivia stared at her for a moment before she processed the words.

"You didn't have to do that." She shrugged, glancing away, strangely hurt by Amanda's behavior.

"Well, I said I'd take you to get your hair cut." Amanda said, rising from the bed. "I'm sure Brian will want you returned soon."

"I can handle myself." Olivia muttered, sitting up and turning her back to Amanda.

Clutching the edge of the bed, she stared silently out the window at the horizon. Behind her, Amanda was quiet for a moment. Finally, Olivia heard her footsteps before she came into her peripheral vision near the end of the bed.

"Liv…." Amanda murmured. "I'm sorry. I didn't sleep much last night."

Olivia nodded slowly, swallowing against the tightness in her throat. She bent her head, staring down at her lap.

"I'm happy you had a nice dream, and I'm happy I was in it." Amanda said, stepping closer.

Sitting at the edge of the bed, Amanda hesitantly offered her hand once more. Olivia cast a stoic glance at her outstretched fingers, though in her heart she didn't hesitate. Clasping Amanda's hand, she forced a smile.

"It's just that…." Amanda began, her voice dipping before she cleared her throat. "Usually when I'm around bad things happen to people….not good things. I mean, look where my pursuit of Lewis went…"

"Amanda." Olivia reprimanded, sharply, looking up at her downturned face quickly. "This isn't your fault."

Amanda shrugged. "Maybe not if you believe in Fate..."

"Do you?" Olivia asked, gazing at her intently.

Amanda finally lifted her face, her brows furrowing slowly as their eyes locked. She seemed caught off guard by the intensity of Olivia's gaze on her, but she had to know. Was this all some sort of extravagant, universal plan or was she simply a tiny fleck of insignificance tossed about by the whims of chance? Staring into Amanda's eyes, she wanted to believe that that the pointlessness of Lewis's violence could mean something more in the end, even if it was only them sitting next to each other, holding hands.

Finally, Amanda murmured, softly, "Only in the one we make for ourselves…. There's only a purpose in horrible things like this if you want there to be one."

"Then maybe I need there to be." Olivia whispered, clutching her hand and glancing away.

"It's just my personal belief." Amanda replied in an apologetic tone. "People tend to look for some kind of reason for bad things happening in order to deal with them and I understand that. I tried to do that for many years especially when I was a kid, and sometimes it worked."

"Then if you were still a child," Olivia whispered, "What would you tell yourself?"

Amanda's brow furrowed, and Olivia wasn't sure whether she was hiding an unspoken truth or if she truly didn't have an answer. She glanced away with a low scoff, and Olivia could hear the way it guarded a tender emotion. Squeezing Amanda's hand harder, she wanted to believe it was meant for her.

"The last time a man assaulted a woman I care about, I shot him." She whispered at last, casting her a wry expression. "Silver linings, Liv…. They aren't really my thing."

Before Olivia could answer, she patted her hand before slipping their fingers apart. She rose from the bed, suggesting they should get dressed, leaving Olivia bereft of her touch and wondering just how far Amanda would go to avenge her.

xxxxxx

Golden rays from the setting sun twinkled across the water just beyond on the pier where Amanda stood, waiting. The squall of a seagull interrupted her thoughtful reverie, and she tilted her head back to watch the bird soar overhead. The lone animal flew in solitude, unprotected.

Perhaps, she was doing the same by being here, but after last evening's events, she felt helplessly drawn to the danger of avenging Olivia's pain in some way. Watching the stylist shear away the uneven ends of Olivia's butchered hair was hardly enough to wipe away the memory of her breakdown. In fact, the silent pain in Olivia's eyes as she sat rigidly in the salon chair had nearly broken the last ounce of strength that Amanda barely possessed after a sleepless night next to the other woman's shivering frame. Maybe she'd saved Olivia from physically harming herself, but her efforts were useless against damage inside her heart.

She'd been loathe to release Olivia back into Brian's care, but as soon as she had turned away from his apartment, her determination had burned through her veins with an insistent fire. For now, Olivia was safe, and she was free to bury herself in this mission of revenge.

She'd never been to Staten Island before, but that was the point. Her meeting with James was something she'd carefully planned. The further from Manhattan and Bellevue they were, the better.

Tugging the black baseball cap down further over her brows, she tossed a quick glance back towards the boardwalk behind her. A group of joggers passed by, their feet rattling the wood in a disjointed rhythm, ushering a small breeze through the humid air. Squinting past them, Amanda noticed a dark sedan pulling up to the meter. When the door opened, James stepped out, glancing about. Even from this distance, she could detect his nervous posture, reminding her she'd made the right choice in meeting in a secluded location.

Folding her arms, she turned towards the road, leaning against the railing as he approached. His face was crinkled against the sunlight as he crossed the boardwalk, coming to stand next to her, several feet away.

"All right. I'm here." He said, staring at the water, defiantly. "What do you want?"

"William Lewis." Amanda stated, plainly, tilting her head to watch his reaction.

It was better to cut right to the real reason for her contacting him. She didn't plan on this going awry but if they did she wanted no record of them being seen together.

His head spun towards her when he heard Lewis's name, eyes wide, mouth agape. He stuttered for a moment, swiping his hand through his thinning hair.

"William Lewis?" He hissed at last, glancing towards two women who were strolling past. "He's a high profile prisoner. What do you want with him?"

"The less you know the better." Amanda replied. "All you need to know is that I need five, maybe ten minutes, in his room. Alone."

"No, no, no." He shook his head, blowing a low breath. "This is not what I signed up for."

"What did you sign up for?" Amanda demanded, stepping closer to him. "I thought it was for whatever the fuck that I want."

"Come on, Amanda." He pleaded, casting her a desperate glance. "This is my career on the line."

"Listen, I'm not going to do anything stupid." Amanda insisted. "I will be in and out. No one even has to know I'm there."

"And if Lewis tells someone?" James asked.

"Wait." Amanda said, holding up a hand as his bitter response halted her coercion. "He's awake?"

James pursed his lips with a sigh, glancing away from her again.

"I can't tell you patient information." He murmured, although by his regretful tone, she knew he already had.

The information did little more than enrage her. Until this moment, she hadn't given much thought to Lewis's physical state. The last time she had seen him, he'd been a bloody mess on a stretcher, barely recognizable. She supposed that memory had suited her hateful thoughts. Considering him making a full recovery was was hardly an outcome she'd entertained during the hours she'd spent with Olivia.

"Olivia beat that bastard within an inch of his life." Amanda ground out at last, motioning with her thumb and forefinger in James's face. "And you're telling me he's not even on his deathbed?"

"He's been through several surgeries, all right." James snapped, holding up a hand to stop her. "He's regained limited consciousness."

"Limited consciousness." Amanda repeated, spitefully, sinking back against the rail as her mind turned over the information. "So can he get up? Walk? Talk?"

"He's confined to a hospital bed and a ventilator." James said with a shake of his head. "He's not going anywhere, thanks to your friend."

"All the better." Amanda sneered, scoffing in disgust. "The son of a bitch should be dead."

"Amanda, I'd really advise against this." James insisted, anxious at her malevolent tone. "He's a dangerous man, and Bellevue is strict about access to maximum security prisoners."

"It's a good thing I have you then." Amanda replied with a short, sarcastic smile, reaching out to clap him on the shoulder.

He flinched, his jaw grinding in irritation as she pushed away from the railing.

"I'll see you tonight." She said, pinning him with a persuasive glare.

"If I get fired, I'll bring you down with me." He replied, but she shrugged off his threat.

"You don't scare me, James." She said, brushing past him. "And neither does William Lewis."

Without a second glance back, she strode off down the boardwalk. She'd seen a coffee shop a few blocks away, and she could use the caffeine. It was going to be a long night.

Chapter Text

Brian's reaction to her new hair style was expected in Olivia's mind, and perhaps normal if it were any other week of the year. He was shocked that she'd altered herself so quickly, separating herself from her former reflection. Even Olivia knew the psychology, but she hated the forced smile, the lie that he liked it. No, he would be horrified if he knew the truth that she'd not only held a gun to her head, but also maimed herself in the process.

As soon as Amanda had dropped her off at Brian's, she'd seen the look on his face, the pity and concern that made her skin crawl. He couldn't ask her if she was okay, and she couldn't tell him either. She hadn't realized how little they spoke of their feelings until now. The things that had haunted them before had been long ago, buried deep, easy to forget. The nightmare that now engulfed them had left them barely hanging on to each other's fingertips.

He'd hugged her. She didn't feel it.

Listening to the sound of her own voice, conjuring some excuse to go hide beneath the sheets in the bed, left her achingly self aware. Every syllable sounded strange, and when he released her, she could feel every muscle and limb straining as she walked numbly towards the bedroom.

Lying down on the bed, she pulled the comforter over her head, and squeezed her eyes shut, blocking out all the sensations that she could. It was so unlike the peace this morning in Amanda's bed, and the realization left a wedge of panic in her chest. Leaving Amanda side was like coming down or sobering up. The soothing effects of her presence wore off quickly, leaving her to face the harsh, cold grasp of reality alone. She was afraid to sleep, but even more afraid to open her eyes.

For several, long, excruciating minutes she stared at the twirling blackness behind her lids, praying for some reprieve from the pounding of her heart, and the sweating of her palms. Every creak in the apartment walls, and every car horn blasting from beyond the walls jolted her body.

What felt like hours seemed to pass until the lines of wakefulness and sleep blurred into a pliable dream, her anxious thoughts turned into a self destructive nightmare. The images of the beach house had haunted her for days, but now the walls fell away, plunging her into a darkened world where she wandered through the empty halls of Mercy Hospital. They stretched on ahead of her, and behind her, to her left and to her right.

She was looking for something...or someone….

"Miss Benson?"

The voice echoed behind her, and she turned, her head swimming with the movement. Squinting through the hazy vision of the dream, she watched a figure appear from the depths of the abysmal hall.

Erica?

She recognized sexual assault nurse whom she'd spent two hours with, collecting evidence from her body and strength from her heart. Even inside the recesses of the dream, she balked at the sight of her, the tangible tightening of her throat clinching in an even more visceral element.

"I wasn't expecting you for two more weeks." Erica said, smiling as she walked closer.

"What's in two weeks?" Olivia heard herself asking, the icy fingers of apprehension slipping through her stomach with paralyzing dread.

A frown crossed the nurse's pretty face, and she tilted her head, slowly.

"You're ultrasound." She said at last, as if baffled by her ignorance. "You're pregnant, Olivia."

The words seemed to echo through her brain, resounding against her temples like clashing symbols. All she could feel was a horrific doom, sucking her chest into an endless vacuum. She'd imagined this moment a hundred times with longing and hopefulness, yet here all she could feel was dread, imagining the never ending cycle of rape and conception that was her life, her mother's life, and now this unborn child's.

Before her dream body could fully go through the motions, she was running, fleeing as fast as she could through the hospital corridors. At any moment, she expected to see a glowing, red exit sign, but with every turn, she became more confused until it felt like circles upon circles passing beneath her feet.

At last, an elevator appeared ahead of her, it's doors slowly yawning open with the promise of escape. With some sense of relief, she sprinted towards the inviting exit, but when she passed through, the floor fell away suddenly, revealing itself as a bottomless pit, plunging her to the darkness below….

She awoke with a start, gasping as she found herself tearing at the bed sheets. Still reeling from the dream, she heard herself choking over the ghost cries of her nightmare.

Her body was covered in a sheen of sweat, the sheets tangled around her legs as she struggled to sit up on the bed. Her heart knocked heavily against her ribs and the blood rushed in her ears as she struggled to ground herself. Pushing her hair away from her perspiring face, she forced herself to lock her eyes on the walls around her.

It was just a dream. Just a dream.

The past week's time had been a diligent teacher in overcoming the aftermath of such a nightmare, but this time, she felt far more shaken. She'd dreamed of blood and of rape, of burning and violation, yet none had yet to unsettle her so. This horror was a deep seated one which went far beyond Lewis's abduction of her. This was a fear that had haunted her more than half her life span.

Kicking at the sheets, she escaped the twisted, constricting fabric, and swung her legs over the side of the bed. She sat there trembling, struggling to even out her breathing as segments of the nightmare flashed through her mind, refusing to release her completely. Her stomach was rolling, and despite knowing that Lewis impregnating her was impossible, she couldn't stop imagining how it might've happened had she not broken free.

Clutching at her forehead, she squeezed her eyes shut over burning tears. She tried to block the depraved images from her head, but the haze of the dream fogged her mind. She could hear her breath rasping from her throat harder and faster with every second while bile stung the back of her tongue. Nauseated and horrified, she shoved up from the bed, stumbling towards the door. Swaying down the hall, she could see the bathroom to the left, and she staggered closer with desperate whimpers.

"Liv?" She heard Brian's concerned voice emanating from the outer room.

She slammed through the bathroom door, crying out in protest. She shoved the door shut behind, her quaking fingers fumbling with the lock. Panting uncontrollably, she dropped to her knees by the toilet, her fingers digging into the rug as the dry heaves bubbled up her trachea. She wretched into the bowl, sobbing as her entire body lurched with the rebellion of her stomach. The acidic taste burned her throat and nose as equally hot tears slipped from beneath her lids.

"Liv, you okay?" Brian demanded from beyond the door.

She could hear the knob jiggling as he attempted to open it, and she was grateful she had locked it. The last thing she wanted in this moment was for someone to touch her or ask why she was sick. She could hardly bear to think of Lewis raping her, much less conceiving a human being inside of her, and telling Brian - the man she had once hoped to have family with - would only exacerbate this pain further.

Another violent regurgitation pushed at the back of her tongue, and she vomited over Brian's distant pleas. She'd barely eaten anything in the past few days, but Amanda had bought her a bagel before the salon which she'd managed to swallow. Now, it was swimming in the toilet water, leaving her feeling weak and dehydrated.

"Liv, at least tell me you're okay!" Brian called out from behind the door, sounding lost and helpless in the face of her distress.

Sinking back on her heels, Olivia grabbed at the toilet paper with a quivering hand and wiped at her mouth. She was breathing raspily, her body perspiring and shaking in the aftermath. She batted the lever, flushing away the contents of her stomach from her sight.

"Olivia." Brian demanded, although she could hear the weary undertone in his voice.

She grabbed the edge of the counter, slowly pulling herself upright on jellied limbs. Cranking the water on, she cupped it straight from the tap to her mouth, attempting to wash away the dreadful taste. Straightening, she ran her moist hands over face, swiping the sweat and tears from her cheeks. She met her expression in the mirror, and she swallowed hard at the stranger staring back her.

"Come on, Liv." Brian coaxed, "Don't make me break down my own door."

Hesitantly glancing away from her haunted expression, she finally turned the lock, allowing the door to swing open. Brian pushed inside, his brow furrowed deeply as he raked his gaze over her appearance.

"What happened?" He asked, reaching out to touch her elbow.

"I, uh…." She murmured, barely meeting his eyes, "I just think I ate something bad. A bagel."

"A bagel." Brian repeated, gently taking both her arms and aligning their bodies.

She wanted to pull away from him, hating his invasive questions and the way his hands seemed to hold her captive. She didn't want to tell him the details of the dream for fear that it would become more visceral than it already was. She didn't want him to hear her deepest fear, knowing that he couldn't assure her that it wouldn't happen. He'd never promise her a child that they would both want and adore.

"I'm fine, Bri." She said, quietly, at last, beginning to pull away from him.

"Are you sure?" He pried, although he released her voluntarily, albeit slowly.

"Yes."

Slipping past him, she headed towards the living room. Her shoes were discarded by the front door, and she began to slide them onto her feet. She heard Brian trailing behind her, his confusion rolling off of him in waves.

"What are you doing?" He asked, his eyes boring into her as she bent down to tug the boot onto her heel.

"I need to go see someone." She replied, straightening to find her wallet on the side table next to the couch.

"I'll go with you." Brian suggested immediately.

"I'd rather you not." She said, finally meeting his eyes.

He gazed back at her for half a second, his expression shifting from careful concern to astonished frustration.

"Do you think I'll let you out of my sight after the last week?" He finally asked, his voice rising. "After last night?!"

His words stung her, reminding her of her breakdown in this very apartment. They were mere yards from where she'd held a gun to her own head and begged to die less than 24 hours ago. She knew how this must look to him, and maybe somewhere in the back of her mind she realized she was heading into a manic state, but she had to see Erica, if only to convince herself that it truly had only been a dream.

"Jesus, Liv," Brian exclaimed softly, before she could form a response. "You won't tell me anything. I'm trying to help you."

The fear was barely hidden in his tone, veiled behind his eyes, and guilt put a knot in her throat. She should be grateful for his efforts as awkward and desperate as they were, but she could not even look him in the eyes. She could hardly begin to tell him the deepest horrors which crawled beneath her skin with every agonizing minute of the day. If his pleas changed anything at all, they moved her from quiet avoidance to outright rejection.

"I'll be fine, Brian." He insisted, ducking her head as she turned to towards the door. "I don't need you to worry about me."

She wrenched open the deadbolt, her fingers trembling and clammy against the cold metal.

"Olivia, hold on." Brian insisted, charging up behind her. "You really have lost your mind if you think you're going anywhere."

Reaching around her, he pressed his hand flat against the door blocking her escape. Her fingers were still taut around the knob, and they struggled for control for only a moment before she sank against the door, her forehead pressed to the unyielding surface. Hot tears pressed at her lids, and although the sense of urgency had yet to leave her, she felt too weak to fight him.

"The last time I thought you'd be fine you ended up in the hands of that maniac." Brian murmured, his voice gritted against emotion.

She bit hard at her lip, swallowing back her disgust with herself. In the past, Brian had adored her strength and independence. They'd been able to spend days apart, only to meet again in flurry of lustful kisses and long hours beneath his sheets. Now, he watched her every move, handling her like some kind of porcelain doll, afraid to shatter her fragile frame; and if she ever told him what Lewis had done to her, he'd certainly never touch her again with the unbridled passion they'd once shared. Perhaps, he would still love her, but things would never be the same. She would never be the same.

Grasping her shoulder, Brian pulled her around, and she sagged against the door, clasping her hands over her face. The panicked sobs hit her, sweeping her away in a high tide of helplessness and confusion.

Of all the things Lewis had taken from her, she hadn't imagined her relationship would be the first to slip from between her fingertips. And even when Brian wrapped his arms around her, the space between them was enough to become lost in. When she looked up, she couldn't recognize a single fragment of her former life.

For all intents and purposes, she might as well have died in that beach house.

xxxxxx

The Bellevue Hospital rose sharply above Amanda's head, shrouded in ivy and the historical character that she didn't have much time to admire. The grandeur of the structure held little significance. It was more reassuring to cling to the logical thought that a man who'd barely escaped death wouldn't have the strength to break out of these old walls.

Standing on the front stoop of his prison, however, was enough to instill a tremor, the effects of darkly mixed breed of fear and anger. The rage was abundant, flowing through her veins with an almost horrifying ease. It was just enough to cloud the doubt that she'd made a wise decision by coming here, yet hardly sufficient to dull the sharp blade of terror at the thought of looking into his eyes again.

Her cavalier attitude at the boardwalk had begun to dwindle slowly the longer she stood here. She'd told herself that she just needed one cigarette to even out the jitters from the caffeine, but one had turned into two, and the daylight was fading quickly into night.

The breeze from the East River clutched her, and she tugged her trench coat higher around her neck as she took one last drag of her cigarette.

The last time she'd seen Lewis his body had been so mangled he'd hardly been recognizable. She wondered how much three days and a hoard of doctors could have healed. When she had contacted James, she hadn't imagined that Lewis would be conscious enough to sense her presence, but she'd come too far to back out now. She'd feared plenty of things in her life, and she had never conquered them by standing on the sidewalk, watching.

She blew smoke from between her lips as she tossed the spent cigarette to the ground. She ground the heel of her boot over the dying embers, hoping the vicious action would also stamp out the doubt that lingered in her mind.

She hadn't contemplated exactly what she wanted from this visit before she'd reached this moment. She'd been running off of vehemence and pure emotion ever since finding Olivia on the very edge of sanity in Brian's apartment. The events in her own home had nearly pushed her over her own cliff of self control.

Maybe, she simply wanted to reassure herself that he was locked away behind these walls, unable to hurt anyone else. Maybe, she just felt helpless and wanted to feel the sense of victory and control she'd experienced upon seeing Lewis rolled out of the beach house on a stretcher. Maybe, now that she knew he'd be able to hear her, she wanted to gloat over his broken frame, scrub his failure hard into his battered face.

From her trench coat's deep pocket, she felt her cell phone vibrate, and she pulled it out before she could contemplate another cigarette. James's number was flashing on her screen, and she grimaced in annoyance with herself. He was most likely wondering where she was at, and she'd be damned if he found her cowering on the sidewalk.

"Hello." She said, pressing the cell to her ear.

"Come in through the main entrance and go to the visitor's check in." James ordered immediately, surprising her with his calm tone. "Tell the desk you want to visit Sam Burely."

"Who's that?" Amanda asked with a frown, glancing up towards the building.

"Someone your precinct arrested years ago." James supplied before quickly moving on. "Once you're in, you'll be taken to a holding room. All visitors of violent prisoners must prove they haven't smuggled weapons into the prisoners. I'll meet you there."

"Fine." Amanda replied. "I'll see you soon."

She hung up the phone, pleased by James's ingenuity. She'd never pegged him as stupid, only reckless when his passions got in the way, and now she was certain she'd chosen the correct person to manipulate. His plan seemed solid enough, and it was more than Amanda had come prepared with.

Squaring her shoulders, Amanda strode towards the front entrance. Upon stepping inside, she followed the signs towards the visitor's desk. Although she was here under the pretense of seeing a prisoner, she kept her head down, and the rim of her baseball cap covering her face.

"I'm here to see Sam Burely." She told the receptionist who appeared as if she needed two or three more coffees in order to make it through her graveyard shift.

Amanda flashed her badge at the woman who gave her the clipboard to sign in, stating in monotone that she should sign her name, her unit, and her reason for the visit. She wrote down a vague but believable enough explanation, and handed the clipboard back to the receptionist.

"Right through the door over there." She waved towards to the left, and Amanda murmured a thank you before she eyed the door.

Once she went through to the other side there wouldn't be any chance to turn back. In mere minutes she'd be in the same room as William Lewis, a murderer and a rapist, the worst of humanity. He was clever and cunning enough to manipulate his injuries in his favor, and while logically, she was certain he wouldn't harm her, it was the idea of he could do that chilled her to the bone. She could face fear with a straight face, but inside, her stomach was twisting unbearably.

Nevertheless, she stepped forward, passing through the door in long, heavy strides, determined to gain some sort of justice from this hasty, dangerous plot.

Once inside, a stoic security guard relieved her of her service weapon, and waved the metal detector over her body. Holding her arms out, she tried to focus on evening her breathing, but her palms were slick with sweat, and she could feel her heart knocking fast and shallow against her ribs.

"Detective Rollins."

She started when she heard her name, her mind snapping out of its hyper focused state. She glanced up to see James striding down the hall towards them. He flashed her a short, unconvincing smile before turning to the guard.

"I'll take her from here."

The guard nodded and stepped back, and Amanda lowered her arms, watching him closely.

"Right this way." James said, gesturing for her to follow him. "Mr. Burely's room is several floors up."

They fell into step together, their feet hitting the floor in tandem as they quickly left the guard behind. Amanda glanced over at James, itching to demand what the plan was, but she'd been undercover enough times to know to keep her mouth shut, especially when cameras were in use. As much as she hated it, she had to trust James.

They stepped into the elevator, and James hit the button for the proper floor. He stepped back and they stood in silence as the elevator rumbled to life, whirring as it shifted gears and began to lift them upwards. Amanda's already uneasy stomach rolled with the motions, and she clenched her teeth against the nauseating feeling. Her heart pounded harder with each second, and she watched the buttons lighting up as they passed each floor.

When the elevator finally dinged, the noise caused her heart to jump. She swallowed a gasp as the doors slide open, revealing a dim, tiled hall. James stepped out first, and she followed after him, curling her hands into fists at her sides.

They headed down the hall for several yards before James slowed next to a set of bathrooms, and motioned for her to step closer.

"There's a pair of scrubs in the trashcan in there." He whispered. "Put them on, then go to room 1142. Use the badge to open the door."

Amanda nodded, swallowing down the loud exhales that wanted to escape her throat.

"Five minutes." James insisted, his brow furrowed. "Then you come back here, put your clothes back on and get out."

She nodded once more, and James slightly shook his head before turning to leave.

"James." Amanda whispered, catching his arm.

He turned, his gaze guarded at her softer tone.

"Thank you." Amanda murmured, "You don't know what you've done for me."

"Well, I didn't have much of a choice, did I?"

"No, but I'm still grateful. Your wife won't know a thing. I swear." She replied, holding up her hand in promise.

James gave her another brief smile, though she doubted it was sincere.

"Don't contact me again, okay?" He said, turning to walk away. "And don't get caught."

"I won't." She called after him as he retreated, clearly ready to walk away from her and her I'll advised plan.

She couldn't blame him. She'd put both his marriage and his career in jeopardy in one day, but she supposed that was all that a man who preferred teenage girls deserved.

Turning back towards the bathroom, she squared her shoulders, and bolstered her strength. She was going to walk straight into the lion's den, and she'd be damned if he saw one single hint of fear in her eyes; but she wouldn't rest until she it in his.

Chapter Text

From beneath the pant legs of the pale blue scrubs, Amanda's work boots clicked against the tile, echoing down the darkened, silent hall. Since James's departure, the maximum security wing had become even more hauntingly quiet, instilling a sense of trepidation into her already churning stomach.

It had been weeks since she'd first come face to face with Lewis and his unsettling smile in the park. In some ways it felt like only yesterday; in other's this nightmare seemed to consume years. She wasn't completely sure of how she would feel upon laying eyes on him again, and nerves bloomed in wild patches in her core.

Clenching her teeth against her quick, shallow exhales, she crept down the hall towards 1142. Her hands squeezed into fists as she drew closer to the heavy, metal door. The paint was an off beige and the numbers affixed to it stared back at her like a taunting dare.

She stood in front of it, wavering between reckless anger and undiluted fear. The only barrier between them now was this door, and though she knew his injuries were extensive some parts of her could not forget the things Olivia has told her and the carnage she had seen. Furthermore, her knowledge of his cunning escapes did nothing to quell the anxiety burgeoning in her chest and throat.

Swallowing thickly, she reached up unclip the badge from the shirt. She ignored the face and name imprinted on it, avoiding the guilt of endangering an innocent person's career and reputation. She hesitated another moment, her hand wavering towards the door, struggling to prepare herself for walking into the devil's lair.

Pressing her eyes shut, she mustered the courage which had come so easily last night when the idea of coming here had been but a seed inside her mind. She'd told James she wasn't afraid of Lewis, but she was grateful he wasn't here now to witness her cowardly hesitation.

Heaving a deep breath, she opened her eyes and swiped the badge before she could second guess herself again. The mechanism beeped loudly inside the empty hall, flashing green as the door unlocked. She reached out with one trembling hand, skimming her fingers over the surface of the door as it swung open slowly.

Beyond her, a dark chasm yawned, holding the source of her torment for all these weeks. Her eyes adjusted slowly as she stood at the threshold, grasping at the threads of her composure. As his figure upon the bed materialized from inside the blackness, she didn't know whether to beat her fists into his face and scream or to sink to the ground where she stood, overwhelmed and terrified.

He was surrounded by machines, the heart monitor, and the IV drip. As she stepped forward, hesitantly, she could see his broken body, bandaged in a mummy-like appearance, thick casts encasing one leg and his arm. The ventilator tube snaked down his throat, and she watched it fill his lungs with the slow rise and fall of his chest. She could hear the beeping of the machines, but it was background noise below the white noise that filled her ears.

She took a step forward, uncertainly, and her heart jolted as the door fell shut heavily behind her. She glanced back for half a second at her point of escape, swallowing hard against a dry throat. In reality, she still had time to change her mind, to run back to the bathroom and discard the stolen scrubs; but in her own mind, there was no turning back now.

Her boots clicked against the tile as she approached the bedside, slowly, putting sparse inches between herself and the predator they'd chased for a week, arriving too late to relieve him of this suffering. At the time, all she'd been able to think of was finding Olivia, but witnessing this aftermath now, she realized that this was the only silver lining she'd ever find.

She hovered next to the bed, rigidly gazing down at his mangled face. The entire left side of his face was covered in gauze, but she could see his right lid twitching. She wondered if he could sense her presence, and whether he was truly asleep or not.

"You remember me, don't you?" She whispered, her voice emitting loud and husky in the chillingly silent room.

The heart monitor beeped beside her, counting out pulsing seconds in which both their hearts raced a little faster. His lid fluttered for half a second, and her heart seized at the possibility of him becoming fully conscious, but with renewed vengeance throbbing inside her, she refused to step back.

"It's Amanda, remember." She breathed. "The one you couldn't fool with your little innocent act. You thought you were gonna wiggle your way out, just like you always do… but not this time."

Clenching her teeth against halting breaths, she stepped closer to the bed until her thighs touched the edge of the mattress. The longer she stared at him, the harder her stomach turned. She could hardly stand the sight of him as Olivia's hollow tone echoed through her mind with grotesque recollections.

She bent down over him, teeth gritted. It was as close as she had been to him since handcuffing him in the park, but even through the medicinal scent of the hospital filling her nostrils, she could somehow still smell his sweat, the burned flesh from his fingers, the rancid odor of his breath.

"You're fucking pathetic. Look at you now. Not worth the money they're spending to keep a worthless sack of shit like you alive." She sneered in a low, husky tone, raking her eyes down his body to where the morphine control button was clutched in his hand.

Snatching it from his grip, she tossed it to the floor where it skittered away beneath the heart monitor. A depraved sense of satisfaction melded a tingling warmth into her veins, as she imagined the pain he'd endure through the night without the comfort of the dulling effects of the medication.

"You're pathetic." She repeated in a hiss as the blood pounded in her ears and surged through her neck and face. "You deserve every broken bone she gave you, and you deserve to suffer through it with your fucking jaw wired shut."

Their noses were bare inches apart when his lids fluttered sharply once more, then suddenly, one dark, brown eye was staring back her. A gasp lodged in her throat, her heart thundering sharply in chest as she froze over top of him, their eyes locked. For one, long, excruciating moment, he didn't even blink.

Then, abruptly, her jerked in the bed, rearing up at her with a guttural growl. A scream launched up her tongue, emitting in a high pitched screech as she stumbled back, clutching her chest. Her heart thundered and tripped over itself as a low noise emitted from beneath his bandages. He couldn't speak, and she couldn't tell if it was a growl of anger or a laugh of amusement.

"Fuck you." She rasped, breathlessly, charging back to the bed. "We've got you now, you motherfucker. You think you're suffering now? Just you fucking wait."

The corners of his eyes crinkled, smile lines forming on either side of the ventilator's mouthpiece, and she knew he'd be laughing if he could open his damn mouth.

"You think this is funny?" She demanded. "It won't be funny when you rot in hell. It won't be funny when they send you to prison and all those fucking beefcakes find out that you rape and kill women and children, people just like their mothers and daughters!"

Another grunted chuckle emitted from his dry, cracking lips, and she could feel the flush of anger bloom across her neck and cheeks.

She knew the limits of her self control, and right now she could see the very edge. Her hands were shaking, clenched into fists, and she knew she wouldn't be able to stop herself if she uncurled her fingers. But with red bleeding into her peripheral and the burn of rage pervading her mind with violent fantasies of ripping away what was left of his life, she decided that she didn't care.

Grabbing the ventilator tube, she squeezed the bendable plastic, crushing the narrow pathway of oxygen to nothing. Her fist trembled, her knuckles blanching white as she held it up in front of his nose.

"You still think it's funny?" She seethed.

His eye narrowed back at her, though the amused twinkle had yet to leave his gaze. Of course, he didn't believe that she would kill him. He was protected inside this secure facility and her own moral duties, and it enraged her even more to know that her tactics were a mere nuisance along his way to another successful acquittal.

"You see this?" Amanda demanded, tapping the badge with on her shirt with her other hand. "I can do anything I want right now. There's no one checking in on us. It's just you and me, and I could do this all night."

His brow furrowed slightly, a flush crawling up his face as she withheld the oxygen. In her peripheral, she could see the heart monitor spiking, and she clenched the tube hard in her perspiring palm as her own pulse danced wildly in her chest. She was so close to seeing the fear she so desperately wanted in his expression; so close to the borderline of losing herself forever.

"She told me what you did to her." She hissed, bending in close to him. "You tortured her for four, fucking days, you monster. Someone needs to hurt you."

She wrenched the tube tighter, shoving her fist into his face as he jerked beneath her, deprived of the life saving effects of the machine. She felt him weakly bat at her arm with his one, uninjured limb, but her fear was lost now beneath an ever rising tide of rage and overwhelming emotion.

She had him exactly where she had wanted - suffering with no means of escape. She could've done anything to him, but as his gaze widened, pupils dilated over blackened irises, the pleasure of torturing him wavered.

He wanted me to kill him. Olivia's voice rang through her head, her anguished tone a bold warning. He knew it would consume me just like it consumed him….

Amanda's eyes stung with tears a she stared down at his helpless figure, weakly twitching as the oxygen bled away from his lungs, tinging his flesh with blue.

She'd begged Olivia to hold on to her humanity in that moment, pleaded with her to give life another chance. She'd told her there was more to her than this….

The heat inside of her veins slowly began to run cold at the thought of giving this man what he wanted. Death would be too easy for him. He would escape this Earth without ever facing what he had done in court while she would rot forever, a prisoner to his worthless corpse.

Breathing out raspily, she slowly unclenched her fingers one by one, eyes pressed shut. She could feel the blood rushing back into her hand and her body tingled with excess adrenaline. Beneath her, she could hear the oxygen spurting back into his lungs, restoring the life to his body.

When she opened her eyes, she shook her head, leaning back slowly. He watched her every move, his chest trembling and expanding with fresh air.

"No…." She whispered, through clenched teeth,

"No….I'm not going to hurt you... or lose my job over you...or get locked up because of you…"

His eyes flickered with something close to smugness, but he wouldn't bait her again. She'd dangled a merciful death in front of his nose, and now she would rip it away.

"You're not worth the effort of killing you." She spat, scornfully. "You think you won? You already made your worst mistake days ago."

At this, she saw the first hint of doubt in gaze, and she smiled.

She leaned back in, slowly, until the ends of her hair were brushing his chest, and she could see every nuance of his blackened eyes.

Narrowing her gaze straight back into his, she said in a low, unwavering tone, "You fucked with Olivia Benson."

xxxxxx

She'd promised Brian she'd rest while he was away, but bending the truth right up to the breaking point had slowly become a fixture in her life for awhile now. She'd stayed tucked in bed for the ten minutes that it had taken Brian to leave the house and travel an acceptable distance away before she'd tossed back the sheets.

The apartment was becoming dim with evening lighting as Olivia darted towards the front door, her heart fluttering in her chest. She slipped her shoes on, and grabbed her wallet which contained her metro card.

The thought of public transit terrified her, but she had no other means of travelling to Mercy Hospital. Brian had taken his car to his precinct, and she would simply have to grit her teeth and bear the vulnerability and the claustrophobic atmosphere of a subway ride.

The hospital, which held so many humiliating memories for her, should have been the last place she wanted to go, but she couldn't remain in Brian's apartment any longer. Her mind hadn't stopped turning since she'd woken from the dream, and her thoughts had only mutated within the past few hours.

She'd convinced herself since escaping the beach house that Lewis hadn't raped her, and she kept telling her that she would know if he had. After the pregnancy nightmare, however, she couldn't seem to grasp reality. She didn't trust her own memories. How many times had she coaxed survivors to remember things they had repressed, only to watch the horror bloom across their faces as they recalled atrocities they would've been much better off without?

As she slipped out the front door, she clung to the thought that this was only for her peace of mind even as she glanced up and down the street for some unseen predator. The people walking down the sidewalk hardly cast her a glance as they rushed home after work or focused on their evening run. She both loathed and envied their fearless afternoons in the sun, their mundane commute to and fro. Meanwhile, she wrestled a devil in her mind, jumping at every nightmare and tragic thought.

At a break between the pedestrians, she jogged out onto the sidewalk. Clutching her wallet tightly in her hand, she kept her gaze alert. Her senses were hyper aware, and every gust of breeze on her face and every distant car horn startled her. Her flesh prickled with goosebumps despite the warm temperature, and although she knew Lewis was locked up, she couldn't stop the urge to glance back behind her.

She broke into a jog once more as she reached the intersection. The crosswalk sign was flashing with the "walk" symbol, and she dashed across the street. As she turned the corner, she could see the stairs leading down to the metro, washing relief across her body.

The crowd grew thicker as she approached, and although she'd lived in the madness of New York City streets her entire life, she felt uncoordinated now. Every person she haltingly ducked past seemed to be staring at her, and she tried not to look into their faces. She swerved around several men and women who were exiting the subway stairs, her heart palpitating, breathing uneven.

She gasped when, suddenly, a shoulder knocked into hers. Swaying into the railing, she glanced back, eyes dancing across the moving hoard, but whoever had touched her, was lost within. Her fingers trembled around the grimy, cold railing as the crowd morphed around her, ignoring her traumatized stance.

The thought of running back to Brian's apartment crossed her mind, wavering at the forefront of her brain for a moment. In fact, all of her fight or flight instincts were screaming at her to do just that, but she knew the relief would be temporary. As soon as she crawled back beneath the covers, she would find herself consumed in much more terrifying way.

With what mental stability she had left, she told herself that the people on the metro had no intention of hurting her. No one was looking at her. No one cared who she was.

Glancing down the stairs, she ordered herself to move. Uncurling her fingers from the railing, she took another step, rigidly, then another and another. When she finally reached the bottom on the stairs, she released a heavy, trembling breath.

The platform lay ahead of her, and she hardly needed to glance at the map to know which train she needed to board. With her shoulders tucked in, she weaved her way closer to the tracks, eager to escape the crowded boarding station. She could hear the whirring of the subway echoing down the tunnel, and she swayed, nervously, biting at her inner cheek.

Her gaze was focused on the blackened mouth of the tunnel when the first strums of a guitar began from behind. Through the din of the crowd, the tune started off slow, and Olivia glanced over her shoulder to see a young girl slouched against one of the pillars.

There were dozens of homeless people or starving artists who pedaled their instruments on the streets and subways of New York City, but Olivia was frozen on her for a moment, her emaciated body and stringy hair. She didn't even try to hide the track marks on her arms as her bony fingers tapped across the strings.

Glancing around the station, Olivia noticed that the soon to be passengers hardly gave the girl a glance. If anything, they purposefully ignored her haunting appearance, and Olivia felt her throat grow tight as she watched the young woman's vacant expression. As a native New Yorker, she'd watched the homeless population grow just as the rest of the people huddled on the platform, and she knew it was easier not to look, but she couldn't look away, not tonight. Not when she felt more kinship with a drug addict than the business men and women boarding the train. They couldn't possibly understand that look inside her eyes, but it was a face Olivia had stared down every day since coming home.

Lost.

Hopeless.

Wondering if you'd ever be the same.

She jolted as a gush of air, the dank smell of the subway tunnels rushed into the station, signaling the train's arrival. The crowd immediately rumbled to life, shuffling towards the doors, but Olivia hesitated, caught somewhere between finding her own abandon and reaching into someone else's.

The strumming of the guitar dwindled away as the crowd moved on with hardly a glance given to her playing. The young woman's gaze flicked upwards, and Olivia flinched as their eyes meet across the platform. A long, excruciating moment passed in which the girl's expression hardly changed. If she was looking for attention, Olivia could hardly discern the pleasure of human contact in her gaze. Slowly, Olivia felt eyes begin to burn at the vacant exchange, deeply unsettled by what she had just witnessed.

A second wave of people suddenly rushed past her, obscuring Olivia's view and shattering their connection. She wavered in her place, although she knew she needed to board in order to make it to Mercy Hospital. She could only catch glimpses of the girl until she disappeared completely into the ever shifting throng. When she was finally able to see the pillar again, the young woman and her guitar were gone.

Olivia hesitated, perturbed by the strange interaction. The girl had might as well have evaporated into the air or never even existed at all, and to her, Olivia must seem the same way.

Finally, she turned back towards the subway, shaking her head against the lonely, hopeless thought. This time, when she strode towards the train, she didn't look back.

Chapter Text

Her lungs were aching, her legs begging for relief, but the pounding of her feet against the cement sidewalk was the only sound she could live with at the moment. She could focus on each slap of her tennis shoe while shoving the image of Lewis's face and the sound of his laughter from her mind, and pretend that what she had just done wouldn't haunt her forever.

After leaving Bellevue, she'd ridden the subway home, staring blankly out the window. With her arms wrapped tightly around her waist, she'd quelled the nausea, but she hadn't been able to halt the constant replay in her head of her time in Lewis's room.

She'd watched him struggle to breathe, and callously relished every single second in which he suffered. Beyond the walls of the hospital, however, she'd hardly dared to glimpse at the flashes of her reflection in the train's window.

She didn't recognize herself. How could she when she'd lived through the aftermath of shooting a man only to play with death a second time? Despite the way she'd felt about Jeff, killing someone always effects a person, just as she had learned in the academy. Maybe, she'd wanted to be an exception for some fucked up reason. Maybe, she had still wanted to be, standing over Lewis's body, threatening to end what miserable existence he still held on to.

But as the miles of railway passed beneath her listless body, all she could think of was Olivia's guilt, her utter disgust at nearly taking a man's life. What would she ever tell her of this night? Olivia's violence had been justified, but what justice was there in torturing his helpless, broken body? No, she wasn't as righteous a person as her gentle Liv. No, she wasn't even sure this feeling was guilt.

Now, she was beyond the calm of cigarettes or a drink or any other vice which would diminish these memories. Instead, she ran. She ran because she knew it would eventually hurt. There was no pleasure in the physical exertion, and soon the pain would distract from this indiscernible feeling crawling beneath her flesh.

She ran, folding into herself, until she sank into a hyper fixated state. The world blurred around her as she focused on the sidewalk in front of her, the jarring of her joints each time her foot hit the ground.

She'd pushed back the initial wave of exhaustion some time ago, and she'd lost count of how many times she'd completed the loop of her route. Each time her body wanted to stop, she ducked her head and pushed on, ignoring every signal screaming across her nerves for her to stop.

It felt like hours before she finally stumbled to a halt on the sidewalk at the corner of Central Park, her legs trembling and threatening to give way from beneath her. Bent over, grasping her knees, she panted heavily, nearly sick with extertion. Staring down at the sidewalk, she tried to slow her raspy breathing and the pounding of her heart, but her lungs burned incessantly, and she finally dropped to the grass, groaning as her leg began to cramp. She stretched it out in front of her, and grabbed at the toe of her shoe. Resting her forehead on her knee, she closed her eyes, listening to the rushing of blood finally slow in her ears, and prayed she'd banned the restless disturbia from her body.

Behind the blackness of her lids, however, Lewis's dark eyes gazed back her at her, glazed over with morphine and mania.

It felt as if being next to him had worked some kind of sickness into her veins, as though his demented glee were an infection. She'd lost herself in a matter of minutes. She could hardly imagine spending four days with him beneath his deranged spell, and the brief thought of it was enough to drive a second wave of panic through her chest.

She'd tried to imagine what Olivia had gone through, perhaps more than she'd ever done for anyone, but knowing facts and details was a sparse comparison to the experience of being alone and vulnerable next to him. Now, she couldn't shake the sickening sensations gripping her in full body shivers. Her skin prickled at every memory and the after effects of her overexertion only exacerbated the severe physical reaction.

Feeling a tear slip from her eye to her nose, she quickly lifted her head, and dashed it away with the back of her hand, but she could feel the panic rushing towards her like an all consuming wave. Drawing on halting breaths, she stared out at the street and the buildings beyond. She tried to focus on anything but the shock and panic riddling her chest, but in a few harsh moments, the emotion exploded in her chest, bubbling up to her lips in a ragged cry. Grabbing at her quaking lips, she moaned into her palm while her shoulders violently began to shudder.

Her chest was the epicenter of an overwhelming sense of helplessness and fear, erupting outwards with devastating convulsions. The full force of each pent up emotion, from each single day of Lewis's reign of terror, overtook her, reducing her to a mess of sobs and tears and breathless floundering.

A second cry ripped from her lips, hardly dispersing into the night before another took it's place, then another and another until she was screaming at the sky with the final shreds of what strength she still possessed. She screamed until her throat ached, and her body sagged with exhaustion, until she was spent on tears.

Falling back into the grass, she slammed her fists into the ground, squeezing her eyes shut as stray rivulets of moisture slipped from beneath her lids. Whimpers of emotions rode upon her heavy, raspy pants until finally they dwindled into nothing. The quiet fell about her, an unsettling buzz to fill the space where she'd just so desperately and passionately wailed.

The force of it left her numb and wasted on the grass, her body humming with both physical and emotional debilitation. Despite her ardent and impetuous endeavors in the previous hours, staring up at the sky, she could hardly remember a moment as lonely and hopeless as this, save for the night of her own rape. Here in the middle of the sleepless city, surrounded by thousands of people, she felt so very far away.

Reaching out a trembling hand towards the stars, she thought they must be closer than any human, or any hope she could possibly have.

xxxxx

There hadn't been a time when Mercy General's ER waiting room wasn't flooded with waiting patients, but tonight's cramped atmosphere seemed especially pronounced. Olivia had walked through this hospital hundreds of times on her way to interview rape victims, however, her presence here was of little significance now. She felt lost amidst New York's downtrodden residents, with no purpose or reason for being there. She had yet to shake the disquieted feeling in her chest since leaving the subway. If anything, it had only grown.

She ducked through the waiting room, towards the main desk, her heart already hammering in her chest. She wasn't even sure if Erica was here or what the nurse could possibly tell her, but at this point, all she could think about was finding her. Otherwise, she would have crumpled with exhaustion and emotional pain by now.

Biting at her lower lip, she approached the receptionist who was speaking firmly on the phone. Her other hand switched between the keyboard and the mouse on her computer, a frown knitting her brow. Olivia hesitated, hovering at the corner of the desk as she tried to form in her mind what words she would use to explain her interruption of such a busy night. She was uninjured, and she was certain a small case of anxiety was hardly enough to be admitted.

"Hold on a moment, honey." The receptionist spoke to her before she could say a word.

Olivia stuttered over a thank you, but she was already being handed an admittance sheet on a clipboard and a pen. She began to utter a halting protest, but the woman had already turned back towards her computer. Olivia glanced down at the clipboard, scanning over a general list of symptoms along with a section for a short medical history. Her eyes caught on the words sexual assault, and she swallowed hard, her fingers clenching around the edges of the clipboard.

Ignoring the sting of tears in her eyes, she stepped slowly away from the desk. She found a seat in the corner, away from the majority of the patients, and sank to the hard, plastic seat. She gazed down at the admittance sheet again before she uncapped the pen. Poising the pen above the paper with a trembling hand, she considered whether she should abandon the ER altogether, and return to Brian's apartment. This pursuit could be useless, moreover, pointless.

She wasn't pregnant. She hadn't been raped. She had no tangible reason for seeing Erica again, beyond her own irrational fears. Perhaps, Lewis hadn't invaded her body, but he had crawled inside her mind, uninvited.

Ignoring her doubts, she breathed a heavy sigh, and began to fill out the form. She hadn't planned on posing as a patient in order to see Erica, but she had been handed an opportunity which was much more subtle than demanding the nurse's personal time.

When she finished, she returned the clipboard, watching the receptionist's face carefully as she glanced over the chart. She quickly looked away as she reached the section where Olivia had checked the sexual assault box. She didn't deserve the sympathetic gaze that it garnered.

"We'll be right with you, honey." The nurse told her, her tone tired and jaded. "Have a seat."

"Thanks." Olivia managed to reply before escaping the desk.

Slipping back to her seat, she slumped into the chair, clasping her hands over her face as the stinging of tears formed into bursts of salty moisture behind her lids. In some ways, she felt relieved to have made it this far while the rest of her agonized in fear and guilt.

It took her several minutes and dozens of repeated, baseless assurances to herself before she could calm the emotion that wanted to engulf her. She hadn't made it this far only to flee the ER in humiliation over yet another breakdown.

She'd blurred out her surroundings, and when footsteps neared her, she jolted.

"Olivia?" Erica's confused tone drew her gaze upwards.

She slid her hands away from her face, quickly, smearing stray tears down her cheeks as she shifted in the chair. She could hardly meet Erica's eyes as the younger woman sat down next her.

"I didn't expect to see you here." She said, softly. "What happened?"

"N-nothing." Olivia said, shaking her head as she straightened her posture and attempted to gather her composure.

"Did he attack you again?" Erica questioned after a moment's hesitation.

Although her tone was gentle, Olivia flinched, pursing her lips hard again the reaction to cry once more.

"No…" She whispered, before attempting to clear her voice of it's choked tone. "No, I lied...on the sheet. I'm sorry."

"Are you sure?" Erica asked, slowly.

"Yes." Olivia replied in a stronger tone, finally meeting Erica's eyes. "He's in critical condition in Bellevue. He can't hurt me."

A frown slowly formed on Erica's brow, and she reached out to touch Olivia's arm.

"Then why are you here?"

Olivia glanced away once more, her expression twisting in emotion. She pulled her arm away, abruptly, and swiped her hand over her face.

"Do you think-" She began, her voice trembling and breaking. "Do you think he...he raped me?"

"We won't know the results until the kit comes back." Erica said, quietly, her tone apologetic.

"B-but...did you see anything?" Olivia whispered, desperately, her eyes darting back to the nurse's.

"Olivia…" Erica said slowly, shaking her head. "You told me that you couldn't remember everything."

"I can't." Olivia whispered, sharply, her teeth clenched against tears. "That's why I'm asking you."

Erica nodded, hesitating for a moment before she said, "I couldn't conclusively determine that you were raped."

"So that's a no?"

"Your pelvic exam did not present with the typical, visual symptoms." Erica replied, her tone hesitant.

"You don't sound certain." Olivia said, attempting to push the panic out of her tone.

"I cannot say with one hundred percent certainty until the rape kit results comes back…"

"But personally?"

"Olivia," Erica murmured, sympathetically. "All I can tell you is that when I walked into that room and saw you for the first time, I knew something unspeakable had happened to you… But I can't confirm that was sexual assault."

"Erica, I get it, you don't want to be sued, but I'm an NYPD detective. I understand the red tape, what you are and aren't allowed to say to vict-"

She cut off sharply, her rambling pleas falling suddenly into silence. She could feel Erica staring at her as she focused on the floor, the chipping tile and glossy wax on top. The glare of tears smudged her peripheral vision, and she clenched her lips hard against a tremble.

She'd spent the last few days hating the sound of the word.

Victim.

It implied trauma. An experience so horrific that that it never left a person. It implied something had happened to her, and she had tried so hard not to label herself as such.

"I… I'm sorry." She whispered, raspily, standing up suddenly from the chair. "I'm sorry to have wasted your time."

"Olivia, wait." Erica implored, jumping up after her.

"I need to go." Olivia whispered, glancing back at Erica's troubled expression for half a second before she turned back towards the exit.

She'd tried so hard not to be a victim, but she was. Lewis was more than just a perpetrator or even a nemesis, now. He was her rapist.

xxxxxxx

The rattling of her keys were loud in the darkened hall of her apartment building. It was just past 3 am, and Amanda could hardly keep herself upright as she fumbled to unlock the door. Muttering a curse, she finally wrangled the key into the correct position and shouldered the door open.

Stumbling inside, she was immediately greeted by Frannie. Her nails clattered frantically across the hardwood, her panting loud and excited. She pranced at Amanda's feet, but she could hardly find the willpower to reach back and pet the happy animal.

Wandering towards the kitchen, she began to yank off her clothes, leaving the sweat lined pants and top scattered in her path. She opened the fridge door and the light clicked on, spilling out across her hot, clammy flesh. She closed her eyes with a soft sigh as the frigid air swept across her half naked body, a soothing caress to her aching muscles.

Frannie whined next to her, nudging Amanda's fingers with her wet nose.

"It's okay…" Amanda murmured to the dog, absentmindedly, as she opened her eyes.

She wondered if she was speaking more to herself than Frannie, although she felt not an ounce of calm at her own reassurances.

Bending to stare at the sparsely stocked shelves, she gazed, vacantly, for a moment before she grabbed the beer from the half torn open eighteen pack.

She let the door fall shut behind her as she meandered back out to the living room. She sank to the cushions with a sigh as she cracked open the can and took a long sip. Frannie leapt up beside her, settling her chin on Amanda's knee and staring at her with large, expectant eyes.

"Good girl…" Amanda said, softly, petting her silky head as she took another drink.

She hadn't bothered to turn on a light, but the darkness didn't concern her as she sat in silent solitude.

She remembered hating the dark as a child, despite her defiant denial to her mother; but that was many years ago now, and within that time she'd seen what the cover night could hold. Sitting here in the aftermath of her own moral turmoil, she wished again for her childlike fear, for the desire of the sun rather than the comfort of darkness; for now she understood what damning details the light of day would tell.

Lying her head back against the couch, she closed her eyes against the hot burn of another rush for tears. Cradling the beer can to her lips, she washed down the thick knot of fear and confusion resting at the back of her tongue. The first warm bursts of the alcohol were beginning to rush towards her head, she clung to the sensation, wishing that it would last forever.

Frannie was half asleep, and the can was nearly empty when the low buzz of her cell phone rattling against the side table startled her. She'd left the device there for the duration of her run, and had hardly thought to check for missed calls or messages. It was far too late - or too early - for anyone to be contacting her.

With a frown, she grabbed it, and lifted it up in front of her bleary gaze. Squinting against the LED, she froze for half a second at the name displayed on the jangling device.

Next to her, Frannie lifted her head with an inquisitive whine, but this time, Amanda could hardly comfort her. Stumbling up from the couch, she stabbed the answer button several times before the touchscreen was able to catch up to her frantic motions.

"Hello." She breathed, clutching at her forehead as a mix of exhaustion and alcohol made her head spin.

Silence crackled over the line in answer to her rushed salutation. A gnawing sense of trepidation began to eat away at Amanda's stomach, and she paced towards the window, her body subconsciously desperate to respond in some way

"Liv?" She finally demanded, breathless. "What's wrong? Are you okay?"

Another long moment of silence rang against her ear, and she was on the verge of flinging another set of inquiries into the speaker when a low, trembling breath interrupted the white noise.

"Liv, talk to me." She whispered, coming to a frozen standstill in the middle of the living room.

Her fingers quivered around the phone, clenching hard on the device as if the woman on the other side of the line was attached.

She had no evidence that Olivia was in harm's way or suffering from another mental break, but the roiling of her gut was all the incentive she needed to switch into protective mode. Aside from instincts, she knew Olivia wouldn't have called her unless she absolutely had to.

"Okay, okay," She whispered into the phone, trying to find the balance of calm for the both of them. "You don't have to talk. Please, just text me where you are, and I will come to you."

A soft whimper followed her gentle command, and Amanda took it as an affirmative.

"Okay, good, I'm going to hang up, okay?"

She heard another whimper reach her ears, and though she was loathe to end the only connection she had to Olivia in this moment, she forced herself to pull the phone from her ear and end the call.

With her heart racing, she darted from the living room, and slammed through her bedroom door. Ripping open her dresser drawer, she grabbed a pair of jeans. She shoved them on her legs, and snatched a hoodie from the closet, tearing it out so viciously that the hanger spun to the floor.

The exhaustion and languid sorrow she'd experienced earlier were gone now, replaced by a burning sense of urgency. Her veins were on fire with it, eating up her heart in rapid fire bursts, as she ran from the bedroom.

She found her shoes discarded by the door, and she was pushing them onto her feet when she felt her phone buzz in her palm. Pushing stray, flailing strands of hair from her face, she anxiously unlocked her phone. The phone display flashed from black to startling white, showcasing Olivia's location to her hungry gaze.

"Okay…." She whispered, huskily, into the dark, silent apartment. "Hold on, Olivia… I'm coming."

Chapter Text

A rainstorm had begun to form at just past four am, clouding the air with intense humidity. Somewhere between Amanda leaving her apartment, and arriving at the small motel a few blocks away from Mercy Hospital, the sky broke open, rushing down upon her old, rumbling pickup in an angry torrent. Her windshield wipers whirred, racing to beat away the rain pelting the glass.

Hunched forward, eyes squinted, Amanda was barely able to see through the downpour as she slowed in front of the hotel. The red, flicking display of the sign above winked at her through the raindrops, assuring her she was at the correct location. She turned into the lot, and the truck bounced over several potholes before she cranked the wheel towards the closest parking spot.

Her heart was racing, quick and shallow, as she killed the engine. The sound of the storm swelled around her in the silence, but the rain was hardly a calming noise against the vehicle.

She'd rushed from her apartment with little thought, intent upon finding Olivia and rushing to her side. Now, as the old hotel rose above her, she hesitated to wonder at the sight she would find inside Olivia's rented room. She hadn't gone home to Brian, instead hiding in an unfamiliar, and perhaps unsafe place, and Amanda's mind turned with the possibilities of what could've happened between dropping her off that morning and finding her here now.

Finally, with apprehension swarming in her belly, she grabbed her badge from the seat beside her. She had no real reason for bringing it, aside from the comfort that it held, a sense of safety to drown her fear.

Shoving the door open, Amanda ducked out into the rain, immediately becoming drenched. She slammed the truck door behind her, and ran towards the building as her hair, shoulders and pant legs soaked up the falling rain. Once she reached the sidewalk and the cover of the overhang, she searched up and down the doors for the room number Olivia had texted her. When she didn't find it, she jogged up the stairs two at a time to the next level.

The sequence of events reminded her far too much of finding Olivia in Brian's apartment, gun in hand. She desperately tried not to catastrophize, reminding herself that she was already emotionally and physically exhausted.

Anything's possible. She told herself, as she strode down the balcony. She could be fine.

The numbers dwindled down towards the correct digits, and forgetting her calculating thoughts, she rushed towards the door. She immediately banged her fist on the door, calling out Olivia's name.

"Olivia! It's Amanda!" She shouted over the pounding of the rain on the roof above her.

If there was a response she couldn't hear it. Discarding formalities, she grabbed the door knob, and twisted, praying it was unlocked. When the door gave way in front of her, she breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that at least one small favor had been sent in her direction.

Stepping in out of the rain, she closed the door behind her, plunging her into silence.

The room was small with minimal, antiquated furniture. A lamp spread flicking, yellow light across the space, and to her right, the bed, and it's paisley patterned comforter, were in pristine condition. There was hardly a sign that Olivia had checked in, and for a moment Amanda questioned whether she'd entered the correct room. She pulled out her phone to confirm from Olivia's text message before shoving it back into her pocket.

"Liv?" She called out into the empty room, her voice sounding loud against the pewter walls.

Her heart beat echoed restlessly in her ears as she listened to the distant storm and the creaking of the walls - but no response, not even a whimper.

"Liv?" She repeated, hesitantly taking another step forward.

A swath of light cutting across the shadowed floor drew her attention to the bathroom on her left, and she stopped, hesitating at the sight of the half open door. Her breath hitched in her throat as she remembered finding Olivia's shorn hair spread across the floor of a different bathroom, and she wondered what she would find sprawled here.

Advancing towards the door, Amanda swallowed hard, her tongue dry against her equally barren palate. Her heart raced with the terrifying uncertainties, but she reached out her hand to swing the door inwards. With a creak of the hinges, the room yawned in front of her, sucking her into this liminal space between heartbreak and reality.

She found Olivia there, her naked figure hunched over in the bathtub. Her knees were pulled up against her chest, head cradled in her arms as the water lapped against cold, pale flesh. She hardly moved, save for a shiver, as Amanda hovered at the threshold, frozen in that moment.

The humidity that had existed in the atmosphere had been sucked away by the ensuing storm, sweeping frigid air straight through the old, frail walls of the hotel. As Amanda vacillated in the doorway, she could almost see the chills washing over Olivia's back and arms, though the discomfort hardly moved her from her huddled position.

"Olivia…" Amanda whispered at last, reaching out a trembling hand as she moved closer.

She could see no physical injuries nor weapons to seduce Olivia toward suicidal thoughts, but the abject vulnerability of her pose and demeanor scratched insistently across Amanda's senses. A week ago, she would have never imagined a scenario such as this, and now Olivia was puddled in front of her, stripped of her dignity, her strength, and her hope. They'd walked through the rape kit, through nightmares and the desire to end it all, but after walking through her own personal fire with Lewis, Amanda barely fought off the fantasy of collapsing with her into the water.

"Liv…" She uttered, her voice raspy, and barely audible.

She sank to the floor on her knees next to the bathtub, close enough to touch her creamy flesh; but she didn't reach out her fingers afraid to shatter her with a careless hand.

A soft moan reached Amanda's ears as Olivia's head slowly turned, her chestnut hair shifting across her tear stained cheeks. Through the strands, her dark eyes met Amanda's, swimming with another gush of emotion, and the emptiness within them shook Amanda to her very core.

It wasn't a foreign feeling, nor something she'd so easily misinterpret after the years she had fought to reclaim her identity; not after feeling like a stranger in her own skin only an hour ago.

"I'm here." Amanda whispered, clutching the edges of the bathtub, wanting nothing more than plunge into the water after her.

Olivia's expression twisted beneath the force of tears, and she reached out one quivering, cold hand, clutching Amanda's fingers hard.

"Yes, I'm here." Amanda repeated, clasping Olivia's hand with both of hers.

She rubbed her chilled flesh, praying that Olivia would feel the contact and find the solid ground of reality once more.

"I went to the hospital." Olivia whispered, hollowly, her voice halting.

Amanda paused from massaging her hand, glancing up Olivia's distraught expression.

Memories of fear and invasion clung to the hospital in her mind, leaving her head swimming, her stomach sick. She couldn't imagine what feelings that place would elicit from Olivia's fragile heart, or why she would ever want to return so soon.

"Why?" Amanda asked, softly, careful to splice any judgement from her tone.

"I-..." Olivia began, her gaze darting away as if she were trying to unravel her own reasoning. "I wanted Erica to tell me if Lewis had raped me or not."

"You told me he didn't." Amanda murmured, her fingers clenching tighter around Olivia's.

Olivia stared at the white tiled backsplash of the shower, chewing anxiously on her lower lip. For a few, long moments, she hardly even acknowledged that Amanda had spoken.

Finally, she whispered, her voice raspy and loud in the silence, "I had a dream I was pregnant."

Amanda sighed, quietly, glancing down at their intertwined fingers.

She'd only just begun to understand Olivia's complicated feelings towards motherhood, and her own were so different. She'd always taken every precaution in order not to have a child, and had the possibility arisen after her rape, she would've terminated the pregnancy without hesitation. For Olivia, however, as a person conceived of rape, and as a woman yearning for a child, it would not be so easy.

"I threw up at the thought of him -" Olivia began, rigidly, before cutting off sharply.

Her fingernails bit into the back of Amanda's, but Amanda ignored the discomfort, stroking Olivia's trembling fingers, slowly. After all, this hesitant caress was her only offer.

She didn't have the words to say in order to comfort Olivia on this topic. She'd rushed here, prepared to be her savior as many times as she had to, but the concept of wanting a child, even one born out of such circumstances, was a thought she'd hardly entertained in her life. The events Olivia had suffered, which had driven her to this convoluted thinking, were even more unconscionable.

"I just felt so alone." Olivia whispered, her gaze flicking back to Amanda's, filled with the desperation for understanding.

"I know, sweetie." Amanda murmured, ducking her head as tears burned her eyes with passionate pity.

"No…" Olivia moaned, her voice rising. "You don't know."

Amanda involuntarily recoiled, taken aback by Olivia's rejection of her soothing. She'd already admitted to herself that for the first time since finding Olivia at the beach house that she was out of her depth, but she felt terrified to be useless. If she could not comfort Olivia, what function did she have in her life?

She stared at Olivia wide eyed and mute as a thick tear streamed down Olivia's cheek. She wrenched her hand from Amanda's grip to wipe it viciously away, only for another to follow.

"No one will ever understand." She insisted, her tone garbled with emotion. "I've wanted to be a mother for more than half of my life. I prayed to God for someone I could trust with my body. With my life. And this is His answer?! A slap in my face?!"

"Olivia…" Amanda whispered, sinking back on her heels and clutching her face as Olivia's sorrow bled into anger.

No, she couldn't understand. There was no possible way to climb inside this feeling and experience the pain of this moment. She couldn't comfort her, so she stayed there, absorbing every emotional blow, blasting from Olivia's mouth on the memory of a prayer.

"He got me where he wanted me, accepting whatever was thrown my way." Olivia breathed, and Amanda wasn't sure whether she meant God or Lewis; and at this point, she wasn't even sure it mattered.

"And I thought," Olivia whispered, the ire seeping from her tone, spiraling towards something much different. "Even if it was his…it'd also be mine."

The unfathomable confession punctured Amanda's faulty composure, sawing away the last strings of her sanity. Every logical part of her screamed at her to ignore impulse, to remain rooted here on the floor, but she was far too exhausted, in her body and mind, to clutch at the reasoning to keep her distance.

Yanking her feet out from under her, she tore at her laces with trembling fingers and kicked her shoes off. Olivia's unfocused gaze followed her harried movements as she shoved up from the floor. She tossed her jacket off, and dug her cellphone from her pocket, carelessly discarding it on the bathroom floor. Then, she was splashing into the tub, sinking into the rolling water in front of Olivia. The waves rose high against the sides of the bath, lapping at their heaving torsos as she grasped Olivia's arms, and pulled her close.

In the somber light of the bathroom, she could see every glittering nuance of Olivia's amber eyes, the tear stained patterns on her soft flesh, and the very tremble of her mouth. She was defenseless and broken, and Amanda could only pray she wouldn't drown them both in her reckless fervor to save her.

Only a day ago, Olivia had begged her to leave her while they lay between the sheets of Amanda's own bed, but she had taken a vow in the same minute's time. Now, Fate had found them here again, and she would not break it, but rather, complete it.

Sliding her hands up over Olivia's bare shoulders, she clasped her cheeks, and tilted to their faces close.

"Listen to me," She whispered, swallowing back tears which would sink her steady promises. "You're going to be a mother one day, and when you are, it will be your choice. Not God's, and not Lewis's. Yours."

Olivia sobbed at her words, grabbing onto Amanda's arms as a lifeline. They both shuddered, rocking in the water's gentle motion, and Amanda pulled Olivia's face to hers without hesitation, laying desperate kisses across her flushed cheeks. The saltiness of Olivia's tears dissolved along her tongue, and brought a sting to her own eyes for each and every drop while Olivia whimpered, and quivered. At first, she lapsed like a ragdoll in Amanda's embrace, gasping the onslaught of devotion until finally she clutched at Amanda's shoulders, weakly dragging herself closer.

Amanda planted her kisses along her cheekbone, her pace slowing as Olivia reciprocation choked her with emotion. She hadn't realized before how much her own need for physical love and affirmation had driven her to plunge into the bathtub until Olivia's embrace enveloped her. Now, she could hardly bear the thought of letting her go.

"There will be someone for you. Someone you can trust. I promise." Amanda whispered, roughly, into Olivia's flesh, an assurance the woman in her arms and perhaps a reminder to herself; although, maybe, she hadn't truly believed that until this moment.

Olivia nodded, haltingly, and Amanda pressed her face into her neck, her heart pounding in her chest because she wanted to whisper another truth, one she'd been afraid to examine to closely within the past week. She'd ignored every swell of emotion, every tingle of gratification, every ounce of fear of being without her, but she couldn't ignore it now.

Digging her nose into Olivia's collar bone, she clenched her teeth against overwrought tears, scared to lift her head and look into the other woman's eyes. She hadn't said it, but perhaps, it would be too clearly written in her gaze.

The heaving of Olivia's chest had begun to calm, much more quickly than Amanda had anticipated, and as they quietly embraced, she felt Olivia slowly stroke her hair. The comforting motion seemed strange and undeserving when Amanda had burst into this bathroom, expecting to be the savior.

She lifted her head, slowly, ashamed to have collapsed into Olivia's chest upon the pretense of sympathy. She'd leapt into the bathtub to alleviate Olivia's loneliness and fear, but instead she'd come face to face with own.

"I'm...sorry…" She whispered, abruptly, barely meeting Olivia's eyes.

She began to extract her arms, but she felt Olivia's grasp tighten. Finally, she hesitantly glanced up at Olivia's face to find her staring intently back at her, a plea hiding behind her dark eyes.

"Don't go." Olivia whispered, her brow furrowing. "I know I told you to go before, but please...don't."

Amanda's heart tripped against her ribs, and she heard her breath rattle in her ears as Olivia's fingers twisted in her hair. She hovered closer beneath Olivia's insistent grip, and their eyes locked on to each other's, sparse inches apart.

"Kiss me again." Olivia whispered, her voice soft and husky in the aftermath of her violent cries.

Olivia's request sent a shocked shudder rippling through her chest, and she knew it was flashing across her face in vivid display. They'd shared hugs and kisses on the cheek before, but the blatant plea held an undercurrent of something much deeper, and the look in Olivia's eyes made her feel as though she'd read her mind.

"Please." Olivia murmured when Amanda stared back at her silently for several moments. "I want you to…"

Amanda took in a shallow, sharp breath at her request, and the rushing of blood in her head over took even the pounding of the rain outside.

It was Olivia who sat naked and vulnerable in front of her, but despite her sopping clothes, Amanda had never felt so raw and open in life. She felt as if Olivia had finally found her moment of weakness and had torn her straight apart. She'd seen Olivia fall to pieces, but now she was falling - falling hard and fast.

Maybe, if she hadn't been so sleep deprived, or so spiritually ravaged, she might have shored up all of these feeling gushing from her, and shoved them back down inside of her. Maybe, if it had been any other night, she would have concealed herself behind the steel plated emotional armour she always carried, but that now seemed to weigh a thousand pounds, and she had left it just beyond the door of this hotel room.

No, she wasn't a savior tonight. She was just another lonely, damaged woman, aching for a connection - the most honest and sincere she'd ever encountered.

She was trembling as she clasped her hands over Olivia's cheeks once more, and she was sure that Olivia could feel it. But for the first time, she didn't care.

She bent in, her breath quaking against Olivia's jaw, and she heard her release a low sigh, one she interpreted as relief. She pressed her lips, slowly, to Olivia's cheekbone, and this time, the warmth of her flesh sent a flush and tremor through her whole being. Digging her fingers into Olivia's hair, she pressed her forehead into Olivia's temple as she grasped for the final shreds of her composure.

"Don't stop." Olivia whispered, arching her cheek into Amanda's face.

"Liv…." Amanda breathed on the note of a whine, squeezing her eyes shut.

All of her senses were filled with Olivia's aura - the smell of her, the softness of her skin, the taste of her tears - and Amanda could hardly bear the overexposure, yet she couldn't imagine living without it ever again.

She felt emotion choking her throat as she gripped Olivia's hair tighter, and dragged her nose against her cheekbone. Her mouth met Olivia jaw, open mouthed, and she felt the other woman quiver beneath her. In response, her body ached, a secret cavern of need stretching open inside of her - and she knew she couldn't stop now, even if she wanted to.

She kissed her again and again, leaving moist patches of saliva along her jawline while Olivia's fingers quivered and clenched along her shoulders and arms, a silent demand that she not cease until their touch starved bodies were sated. Amanda poured herself out to every inch of flesh she could, shaking as her lips found their way across her cheek and nose and to the other side of her face. She found each tear and subtle tremble, taking them upon her lips with devout fervor.

She only slowed, her heart thundering, when her lips reached the corner of her Olivia's mouth. Against Amanda's cheek, Olivia drew an uneven breath, her fingers clenched around Amanda's arms. She clenched her eyes shut, biting down on her inner cheek as she hoped for some fortitude with which to pass over this temptation.

She could feel them both faltering at the edge of this line, their halting breathes mingling together in the electrical air between them, fraught with both anticipation and uncertainty. Several agonizing moments passed, in which Olivia barely moved and Amanda could hardly think of anything outside of this hotel, even consequences that could be as close as the next room.

"Liv…" She groaned at last, a quiet supplication against the gentle curve at the corner of Olivia's mouth.

Rocking into her, she could feel the threads of logic slipping from her fingers. All she could feel in her hands was Olivia's skin and the softness of her hair.

Breathing unsteadily, she pressed her lips there, to that tiny corner of skin, for several long moments in the agonizing interlude between what this moment was and what it could become.

Olivia's body quivered in response, and Amanda heard her draw a trembling inhale. Her own flesh prickled as the sound, and she fought not to clench the tendrils of Olivia's hair too hard between her fingers. Pressing her forehead against Olivia's, she breathed out, a thready exhale on top of Olivia's. She could feel a stray tear welling in the corner of her eye before slipping quickly down her cheek and plunging into the water below.

"Tell me to stop." She whispered, her voice mangled with emotion and a desire she'd barely managed to hide for a week - from herself and from Olivia.

She forced out the words from whatever part of her still recognized that there were some lines that couldn't be crossed, and shouldn't be. The point of no return was right beneath her feet, and the weak command was a paltry effort to return to the safe side.

Olivia's forehead ground against her own in a downward motion, the first acknowledgment that she was aware of the gravity of the situation; but after a few long seconds, she tilted her face towards Amanda's, and her eyes fluttered open against unshed tears. Their eyes locked once more, but there was neither uncertainty nor hesitation in her gaze. Instead, Amanda was swallowed whole by the acute sorrow and the fear, the unending solitude, which had driven them here.

"Liv…" She began to whisper, but Olivia was already shifting towards her.

The bath water sloshed gently around them, and Olivia cradled one quivering, wet hand to her cheek. Then, like a slow, surreal dream, their lips were aligning, and when Olivia's tear stained mouth crushed her own, she could scarcely breathe. And she didn't know if she'd ever be able to again.

Chapter Text

This was instinct, an innately driven impulse to survive. A trail of human carnage lay behind her, wasting away in the bath around her, and Amanda was like a lighthouse upon the shore in her mind. She'd appeared like a beacon, shining across the waters of her distress. Buoyed against her now, she couldn't bear to look back.

She knew, somewhere in the back of her mind, that this moment of weakness would cost her, but she had already made many regretful decisions, and this, the least of them.

Amanda's mouth was the first burst of warmth she'd felt that night and the first in a long string of excruciating days which lay behind her. She clung to that feeling with what little strength remained in her trembling hands, unable to resist when the emptiness of the hospital and of this hotel room had nearly swallowed whole her broken, quaking soul. She was gasping for this tender touch because only minutes ago she'd wanted to slip beneath the water's surface, and breathe in until she couldn't anymore. Now, the taste of her was upon her lips rather than the insipid bath water, and she knew that she would willingly pay the price for whatever happened here tonight.

Consequences be damned. She needed her like she needed oxygen to breathe. She needed her to survive this night and the daunting ones that lay ahead. For days, she'd been afraid to blatantly admit the extent of their sudden connection, and still it was too much to say aloud. What words could not speak into the charged air between them, their bodies now impetuously screamed.

Amanda's fingers were clenched in her hair, and she could feel the tremors rippling across her body. She was rigid at first in shock, though with their mouths poised together, Olivia could sense her slowly crumbling. Her heartbeat slammed against her ribs, an overwhelming rush of emotion to sting her numbed nerve endings. She'd seen the look in Amanda's glistening, blue eyes, a passion that shook her to her core, and with their bodies crushed close, she prayed that she wouldn't pull away. She'd already asked so much of her…

A soft, low moan vibrated in Amanda's chest, a conflicted sound as she broke from her frozen posture, her mouth parting to deepen the kiss. She leaned into her, sucking down on Olivia's lower lip. Olivia gasped a choked breath as Amanda let her flesh slip from between her teeth only to capture it again in a fierce kiss. She felt shattered already beneath Amanda's fervent touch, and when Amanda pushed into her, pressing her against the cold, wet tile, she could hardly draw a breath.

Panting heavily, Amanda switched to quick, heavy kisses across Olivia's throbbing mouth as though she was desperate to impart her touch to every centimeter of flesh that she could. Olivia whimpered, weakly grasping Amanda's waist as her body sang with sudden feeling. Her chest expanded sharply with each kiss, the tender emotion so sweet that it almost turned sharp.

Tears burned behind her fluttering lids as Amanda spread her palm down her cheek and neck, then drew her thumb along her jaw.

She finally paused, dragging her forehead against Olivia's. Their mouths were a scarce inch apart and with a soft groan, Olivia tilted her chin as a silent plea.

"Jesus, wait…" Amanda whispered in a rough, halting tone, her fingers clenching down on her jaw.

Olivia panted, tentatively running her tongue over her throbbing lip. Her head spun with the seesawing of her emotions, and she stared dazed at Amanda's conflicted expression. She knew what she was asking of the woman in front of her, and how selfish it was to pull her even further into her inner turmoil, yet not a single fiber in her whole body could convince her to desist.

"Fuck…" Amanda murmured, almost too quiet to hear.

Her eyes were closed, her mouth and chin trembling with emotion as she sank down in the water between Olivia's thighs. Clenching her teeth against tears, Olivia tilted her head back against the tile, and wrestled with the ache of rejection that she knew would come. She understood that Amanda was struggling to do what was right, and if she'd been on the outside looking in, she would've morally backed her, but she wasn't on the outside. She was here, in the bathtub, in the arms of the only person who gave her some small bit of will to live.

A long, silent minute passed in which the devastation cracked through Olivia's chest bone, chasing away with acidic ferocity the bloom of warmth which had grown there. She focused hard on cigarette smoke stains at the curling edges of the wallpaper, and tried desperately not to cry into Amanda's golden hair.

At last, Amanda sat back, unsteadily holding Olivia's shoulders at arm's length. She hardly met Olivia's gaze, her chest rising and falling unevenly.

"I don't think-" She began, roughly, her voice catching.

She cleared her throat and said in stronger, guarded tone, "Let's get you out of here."

She rose, suddenly, her hands slipping away. The water sloshed around, and began to escape from her clothing in thick rivulets. Olivia watched her, blinking hard against miserable tears as Amanda leaned over the edge of the tub to grab a towel from the rack. When she turned back towards Olivia and held out her hand to help her up, she caught sight the the tears silently slipping down her cheeks.

"Liv…" She whispered, her expression flinching with what Olivia could make out as pity.

Unable to look at her any longer, Olivia clasped her hands over her face, swallowing hard against the knot in her throat. She heard the water splashing around her as Amanda sank back down in front of her. When Amanda's arms wrapped around her shoulders, she finally broke. Her body shuddered with tears, and she choked over a sob as Amanda slowly rubbed her back.

She hushed her, softly, kissing the top of her head in what felt like a useless apology.

"I can't take advantage of you like this." Amanda whispered at last into her hair. "You and I both know that."

Olivia bit her lip, forcing back the tears from her tongue as Amanda massaged her back in a gentle motion.

She'd been a cop for twenty years, a sex crimes detective for fourteen, and she knew better than maybe even Amanda why she had stopped. She knew, but that part of her was beyond her reach. Here in this hotel she wasn't a cop or a detective - only a woman, a victim, and a pathetic excuse for a survivor - and she'd fallen for the oldest coping mechanism in the book of recovery.

No one could save her. She had to save herself. This she knew too, but for the first time in the history of her trauma, she didn't want to.

xxxxx

Bang! Bang! Bang!

The sound of a fist banging on the decrepit hotel door jarred Amanda out of a fitful sleep which had been neither restful nor peaceful. When she opened her dry, aching eyes, the first rays of the morning sun burned her retinas, and she rolled over into a sitting position, groaning as the pounding came again.

"Hold on!" She snapped, tossing the covers back.

She caught a glimpse of Olivia's sleeping figure in the bed next to her, the sheets nearly covering her entire face. Even in her sleep, her brow was slightly furrowed, and Amanda felt a pang of regret and indecision go through her chest.

More than anything she had wanted to scoop Olivia from the bathtub and kiss her until her tears stopped, but she had realized how unfair the entire situation was to both of them. The kiss had evolved out of loneliness and desperation rather than mutual love and respect, and if she had continued, she knew the guilt would eventually follow. Although she knew Olivia, she wasn't unlike any other survivor that Amanda had interacted with. Offering false hopes of love would only lead to more heartache and pain, and that was the last thing that Olivia needed.

Putting aside thoughts of her own feelings, Amanda pushed herself out of the bed, and glanced at the clock on the side table. 6 am. She'd hardly been asleep for two hours, and exhaustion riddled her body. The last thing she wanted to do was get up and answer the door to whoever it might be.

Stumbling towards the door, she cinched the hotel bathrobe tighter around her waist. She'd requested two of them from the front desk after managing to get them both out of the bathtub, and it was not the most comfortable nor the most modest. Holding the lapels together at her neck, she stood on her tiptoes to look through the peephole.

She'd been expected housekeeping or perhaps management, but her stomach dropped when she saw Brian on the other side of the door, his expression etched with concern.

"Fuck." She whispered, twisting the deadbolt open.

She hadn't thought to contact him last night. Once they'd gotten dry and dressed, all she had wanted was to lie down and sleep. She'd been awake for nearly twenty four hours and the day's physical and emotional exertion had zapped her of the last of her energy. Now, she realized that Brian must have come home to an empty apartment, and panicked.

Swinging the door open, she arranged her face to an even expression.

"Brian." She said as they came face to face.

His eyes widened at the sight of her, his brow wrinkling quickly with confusion.

"Amanda?" He exclaimed, shock and indignation riddling his tone. "What the hell? I called you at least twenty fucking times last night."

"God, I know, I'm sorry, I completely didn't even think…."

Her voice trailed away as his gaze slowed upon her. His strained eyes flicked frantically up and down the bathrobe, then towards the inside of the room in search of Olivia. She could practically see the wheels turning in his head as he fit together the pieces of this strange puzzle.

"Where's Liv?" He asked in a quieter tone

"In bed. She's asleep." Amanda murmured, stepping aside to allow him entrance.

He raked his eyes across her body and face again as he slowly stepped past her. She could see the distrust tightening his shoulders as he stepped towards the bed where Olivia slept, unaware. He stood at the end of the bed for a long, silent moment, and although she couldn't see his face, she could feel the animosity rolling off of him in waves.

"You didn't answer me." He finally said in a low tone. "Why didn't you pick up the damn phone?"

"It must have died." She replied, her throat tight, as she closed the door. "I'm really sorry."

"I came home and she was gone, Rollins." He snapped, spinning towards her. "I spent half the night looking for her, and you couldn't answer the fucking phone?"

Amanda clenched her teeth against the urge to retaliate, but she knew it would only make him more suspicious of her behavior and presence here. He'd crossed her mind last night when she'd kissed Olivia, but the possibility of him finding out had been slim. Now, it was staring her in the face, and she struggled to come up with some explanation which would soothe his racing mind.

"Come with me. Now." He ordered, marching towards the bathroom.

She had no desire to go into a small, enclosed space with him, especially the site of their transgression, but casting a glance towards Olivia, she decided she'd rather take the heat than have him question Olivia.

"Fine." She said, her voice emitting in a low, strangled tone.

Pushing away from the door, she followed him into the bathroom. When she stepped inside, he shut the door behind her, and leaned against it, the other hand poised on his hip. He was silent for one, excruciating moment, before he pinned her with an acrimonious glare.

"What is this, Rollins?" He asked.

His voice was quiet enough, but his tone bordered on anger and mistrust. They'd never had the most amiable of relationships, and she sure as hell hadn't given him a reason to trust her judgment now.

She licked her dry lips, glancing towards her and Olivia's clothing littering the bathroom floor. The shirts and pants stared back at her like damning evidence, and she hardly wanted to imagine what their bras and panties lying amongst them meant to Brian.

"Answer me." Brian ground out.

"She called me." Amanda finally replied, tossing a narrowed gaze back at him. "I came here, and she was in the bathtub."

"And somehow you ended up naked as well?!" Brian demanded, his voice rising to a shout.

He slammed the side of his fist into the door with the rushed release of anger, causing her to jump. She could see the veins throbbing in his neck and forehead, and his jaw ground as he stared at her with a burning, demanding gaze.

"Please, tell me this is not what it looks like." He breathed, his expression twisted with disgust.

"I did not sleep with Olivia if that's what you think." She whispered, offering him what truth she could as her stomach turned.

"What I think?" He demanded. "You're unbelievable. First, you try to tell me I don't have what it takes to help her through this, and now you insert yourself into her life! I don't gotta think very hard about that. And if what you just said is not the fucking truth...?"

"It's the truth." She replied, rigidly to his threatening tone. "I promise."

They stared at each other, his hazel green eyes slicing into her as he scrounged for the lie hiding in her gaze. A part of her wanted to burst out the truth of the kiss, spit at him that he didn't have the dedication or understanding it took to be Olivia's partner, not now and perhaps not ever. Half of her even wanted to tell him that it was Olivia, not her, who had initiated the kiss, but she clenched her teeth, prepared to take what verbal lashing came down upon her.

"I'm gonna tell you this once." Brian whispered at last, "Stay the fuck away from my girlfriend."

Amanda's chest flared in anger, and she clenched her hand into fists at her sides, using every bit of strength she had not snap back at him.

"You can't tell her not to see me." She replied in a whisper.

"You know what I mean." He hissed, stabbing a finger at her, "Just stay in your lane. I can handle this."

He shot her one last, threatening look before he grabbed the doorknob and yanked the door open. The handle bounced off the wall before swinging slowly closed again, leaving her alone inside of the bathroom.

She released a low, trembling breath, and reached back to grab the counter as she unsteadily sank back against the cabinets. Her heart was racing so hard that she felt her fingertips tingling, and she tilted her head back, attempting to breathe evenly. She hadn't expected Brian to physically hurt her, but she knew that if he found out what really had happened it would only bring Olivia more stress and anxiety. She couldn't be responsible for Liv losing anyone else in her life, whether she liked him or not.

She couldn't truly be angry at Brian either for the conclusions he had drawn because somewhere in the back of her mind, she knew where the night would've ended had she not found some semblance of self control. She'd rushed headfirst into her and Olivia's relationship, disregarding all the barriers and safeguards she'd built in order to protect herself. Now, in one night she'd not only almost slept with a friend and a victim, but also nearly killed a man for her.

xxxxx

The hotel mattress was hard and lumpy, the sheets worn and scratchy against her bare legs but she hardly noticed. She lay on her side, watching the bathroom door, her heart pounding against her chest.

She could hear Brian's and Amanda's voices inside, hushed but strained. They didn't want to wake her. Neither of them wanted her to hear the spiteful words being exchanged. She didn't need to be in the bathroom with them to know that was the tenor of the conversation.

She knew that it was now that reality should set in. Brian wasn't stupid. He'd spent just as much time as she had in law enforcement, and despite his position now, the detective had never left him. He would chip away at the evidence until the entire night spiraled out in front of him as clear and concise as if he'd been there.

She'd told herself she'd find some excuse tomorrow, but how could she possibly face her behavior now, when Amanda and Brian were just on the other side of the door, debating the nature of their evening here? She had no excuses now, and she hadn't even looked him in the eye.

A wash of panic clenched her chest, and she squeezed her eyes shut. She hadn't thought of Brian, and she tried desperately not to think of him now as she remembered the engulfing sense of safety and love she'd felt when Amanda had sunk into the water next to her. Amanda's stalwart embrace had yet to fail, even on the most horrendous night, when it felt as if the entire world had abandoned her. Glancing into her glittering, cerulean eyes in that desperate moment had broken the last of her defenses.

Maybe, she hadn't needed the coaxing of Amanda's hands on her face and body, but she wanted to blame them for her collapse. God, she needed something to explain how nothing else had mattered when Amanda's mouth had captured her own in the most rapturous kiss she'd ever experienced. The other woman had taken control of her body, painting her lips in slow swipes and long suckles until she was bursting inside, begging for it not to end. The world had consisted of them, and them alone, beyond the grasp of memories of Lewis and the ever present turmoil inside her head. It had been the first time she'd felt since the beach house, and she'd suddenly been reeling with an emotion that wasn't linked to the abduction and subsequent torture. She'd been free.

How could she be guilty for those moments of relief? Yet how could she not?

A shiver washed over her body, and she sucked in a trembling breath between clenched teeth. Alone in the bed, she could already sense the same emptiness encroaching upon her once more, an almost physical, cold ache to chase away the warmth of from her chest.

Suddenly, Brian's voice rose from the other side of the door, causing her heart to leap in her chest. She flinched, squeezing her eyes shut as she heard his fist hit the door. Immediate tears burned behind her lids, and clenched her fingers around sections of the comforter, burying her head beneath the sheets. She was appalled that Amanda was receiving the brunt of his displeasure, and it only made her feel even more guilty knowing that Amanda would rather take it than rightfully blame her.

The exchange lasted for only a few more moments before the sound of the bathroom door opening caused her to jump She dragged the sheets tighter over her head as she heard Brian's heavy footfalls. She sensed him coming to stand next to her, and heard him release a heavy sigh.

She swallowed hard, struggling not to cry. He would know she heard the argument if she lifted her head from the sheets with watery eyes and a runny nose.

"Liv…" She heard him murmur before sinking to the bed next to her.

He touched her shoulder, and she should could feel the tension radiating from his body.

"Come on, I'm gonna take you home." He said in a quiet, rigid tone.

She scrubbed the sheets against her eyes, and slowly began to turn over. She rolled onto her back, and the sheets shifted away from her face. She blinked hard against the light as Brian's face came into view above her.

"I-I'm sorry…" She whispered in a halting tone.

He nodded slowly, his brow furrowed deeply. She reached out and clutched his hand, praying she'd find some warmth within his grasp.

"Let's just get you out of here." Brian replied, his hand slipping from her grasp as he rose from the bed.

Her chest ached at his distant demanor, but she sat up slowly from the bed.

He'd showed no signs of having discovered their kiss, but as he helped her out of the bed, the guilt ate slowly at her stomach. He deserved the truth. If the situation had been flipped and she found herself in Brian's shoes, all she would want was honesty. They'd always been able to give each other that, and if she couldn't now, she feared that maybe this really would be the end.

Chapter Text

In the light of day, the hotel room seemed much less like a safe hideaway and more like a trap. The robe hugging her body seemed like a confession of its own as she sat up in the bed, and the sheets fell away. Brian's hand was on her elbow, assisting her in getting up, and she could feel his fingers tighten at the sight of the low plunging neckline.

"My clothes are in the bathroom." She murmured, pulling away from him. "I'll go put them on."

He released her without a word, and with her head down, she strode quickly towards the bathroom. She slowed as she reached the door which was slightly ajar, allowing her to see a sliver of the room. Just beyond the threshold, Amanda leaned against the counter, her head tilted back. She stared off towards the ceiling, blinking quickly, her expression conflicted and confused.

Olivia cringed with guilt at the sight of her. It was her fault that Amanda was even in this situation, caught between her and Brian. She'd left Brian's apartment in the middle of the night, and called her here, kissed her without considering the consequences. Amanda had sworn not to take advantage of her, but Olivia felt as if she were the one who had taken advantage of Amanda.

Pushing back the tears that were quick to sting her eyes, she lifted her head, and reached out to open the door further.

"Amanda…" She murmured.

Amanda glanced over at her quickly, their eyes locking for a moment with raw emotion, before Amanda ducked her head. Olivia could see the walls coming back up almost as if they were physical brick and mortar, and it hurt more than she had imagined after the intimacy of their night together. Pushing away from the counter, her shoulders taut, Amanda flicked her bangs out of her eyes and met Olivia's gaze once more. Her blue eyes were iced over, her jaw clenched to hide the tremor that would surely take over her mouth.

"Don't worry." She said, her tone flat. "I didn't tell him anything."

"Th-that's not what I came for." Olivia whispered, easing the door shut behind her.

She stood against it for a moment, hesitating to simply take her clothes and leave. Amanda's detached attitude frightened her, almost more than Brian's anger, and she realized that she had little idea of how Amanda handled personal conflicts. She'd known Brian for almost fourteen years, but with Amanda, she had no insight as to how long this frosted exterior would last or if she would ever see behind it again. She'd just begun to understand what she would lose should their relationship crumbled, and it was disconcerting to think that she was more terrified of living without Amanda than without Brian.

"I came to get my clothes." She said at last when Amanda didn't reply and the implications of her silence became too much to contemplate.

Amanda glanced over at the floor where their clothing lay in two piles, haphazardly tossed to the floor in rough moments of distress and passion. Olivia had been at the peak of panic and loneliness last night, but staring at the aftermath, a part of her almost wished to be in the bathtub again, rocking in the water against Amanda's gentle, yet strong, unwavering frame.

"Here." Amanda said, bending to gather Olivia's clothes in a rumpled lump. "I'll let you get dressed."

She held out the pile to Olivia, barely meeting her eyes as she waited for her to take it from her.

Olivia stared at her - her tangled, disheveled, blonde hair, her cheeks flushed with emotion, her shimmering, arctic eyes and soft mouth - a thousand different versions of an apology exploding in her mind. None of them seemed adequate. None of them were enough to say that Amanda had saved her life for what felt like the hundredth time and all she had to offer in return were Brian's threats and her own abysmal tears.

"Amanda…" Olivia whispered, haltingly at last, blinking quickly against insistent tears.

"Just call me if you need anything...okay?" Amanda cut her off, as if she knew what Olivia wanted to say.

She pressed the clothes into Olivia's arms, finally meeting her eyes again. The hints of warmth in her gaze were a small reassurance to Olivia's racing mind, but the interaction hardly lasted long enough for her to hold onto it. In the next moment, Amanda was slipping out the bathroom door, leaving her alone inside the room filled with memories both bitter and sweet.

Tears welled in her eyes as she set her clothes down on the counter, and slowly began to take off the robe. It slipped off her arms, and she flinched at the sight of the marks Lewis had left on her. She hadn't thought of them last night when Amanda had held her, trembling with fiery passion and desire; now she hated the sight her body. With trembling hands, she riffled through the clothing, pulling out each piece and quickly covering herself.

Finally, she glanced up at the mirror, smoothing the shirt over her chest and stomach. Ensuring that the neckline covered the burns, she dashed the tears from beneath her eyes, and tried to gather the strength to face Brian and the world.

xxxxx

An uncomfortable, tense silence filled the car, save for the humming of the wheels on the road and the intermittent clicking of the turn signal.

Olivia sat in the passenger's seat, her hands clutched tightly together as she stared out at the passing landscape. Her throat was knotted with emotion that she refused to spill into the uninviting quiet, and her mind spun with worst case scenarios and manageable courses of action. None of it made sense nor quelled the anxiety rolling in her stomach.

Brian hadn't spoken so much as a word since they had left the hotel.

She knew how it appeared to him. She knew what he must be thinking, and when she looked into his pained expression, she wanted to swear that her actions had been nothing but a desperate, manic attempt to escape the cold hand of loneliness which had gripped her. But as they pulled away from the hotel, she found herself peering into the rearview mirror, hoping for one last glance of Amanda's figure above.

They'd kissed for barely a moment, but in her heart, it felt like more. She'd certainly never had such intense feelings when kissing the man she professed to love. Riding next to him in this punishing, cold silence, she wondered if she ever would.

Sliding her hand over her eyes, she pressed her thumb and forefinger to her tear ducts, masking the tears which wanted to escape. Some part of her wanted to reach out to him with a justifiable explanation because she cared for him, while the other part of her wanted to scream the truth, that sometimes even loving someone isn't enough. The truth that she'd felt unimportant to him for some time now. The truth that she couldn't open her heart to him, and maybe she never had. The truth that she had ignored all of this for the sake of his feelings and her own damn loneliness.

The minutes stretched on, the silence building up to a roaring buzz of white noise in her ears, punctuated by the pounding bass of her heart. She was so engulfed in the racing of her own mind that she did not realize the car had come to a stop.

"Liv." Brian's voice shattered through the cacophony in her head.

"Wh-what?"

She lifted her head quickly, wiping at her cheeks. She was startled to see the parking garage around her and the apartment building in the rearview mirror.

"Oh." She murmured, ducking her head to unlatch her seatbelt.

Next to her, Brian was already exiting the car. He slammed the door shut behind him, and she closed her eyes for half a second, trying ignore the dull ache in her chest at his anger.

She heard Brian open her door for her, and she quickly threw her seatbelt over her shoulder, and slid out of the car. His infuriated pace was far quicker than her slow agonized one, and he was already closing her door and marching towards the apartment by the time she was able to rearrange her expression and lift her head.

She released a low sigh before pushing ahead. She quickened her gait, jogging to catch up to him. He held open the door for her once they reached the building, but his face was rigid and stoic, his eyes focused off into the distance. She passed him, murmuring a thank you, and they began to ascend the stairs. Each step upwards wearied her body and her heart until she felt so heavy with despair that she wanted to collapse.

When they reached Brian's apartment, he unlocked the door, and she followed him inside, her eyes focused on the floor which blurred in front of her. Now that they were alone, without the distraction of driving, she didn't know what he would say or if he would say anything at all. She didn't know how she would ever be able to tell him the thoughts swirling through her mind.

Unable to stand the physical exertion of being upright any longer, she sank to the couch. Leaning her head back against the cushions, she pressed her eyes shut against burning tears, and swallowed back tears.

"Well, I don't know about you," Brian said, stiffly, from behind her, "but I'm going to bed."

She heard his footsteps shuffle towards the bedroom, and she bit down hard on her inner cheek. He didn't even want to try to understand why she had left the apartment and gone to Amanda. She didn't know if he would listen to some version of the truth, but his cold indifference hurt more than perhaps his anger.

"Brian, wait." She burst out, pushing up from the couch.

He paused in the hall, his shoulder tight, hands curled at his sides.

"You won't even try to hear me out?" She asked, wrapping her arms tightly around her quaking midsection.

"Olivia," He said in a low, exasperated tone, "I just spent the entire night wondering where you were, and if you were okay."

"I know that, but-" She began only to be cut off as he spun around, his eyes blazing

"No, I don't think you do." He snapped. "For four days I wondered if you were dead or alive! I wondered what he was doing to you! Raping you? Torturing you? Why the hell would you do this to me of your own accord?"

He stared at her with a questioning glare, but she couldn't come up with a response. She didn't know how to explain to him her state of mind or where to even begin with the train of thought which had led her to the hospital then the hotel - and she doubted he wanted to hear it. All he could see were his own fears, and she realized all over again how little time they'd actually spent communicating their feelings to each other.

Now, he stood over her, demanding she be logical, as if logic had chased her from this apartment. He had no intentions of letting her explain herself, but rather of proving a point.

"Nothing?" Brian asked, his tone indignant and outraged when she stared back at him silently. "You had me all over New York City, losing my mind, and then, I come to find out that you're not only safe, but you've also decided to sleep in someone else's bed? And a woman no less."

Every venomous word stung her until she couldn't take the disgust in his voice any longer.

"Nothing happened, Brian!" She finally burst out, breaking from her frozen stance by the couch, and rushing towards him.

"I don't believe that." He replied, stiffly.

She flinched against burning tears in her eyes, as she slowed two feet from him. It may as well have been miles. She lowered her outstretched hands, her fingers working into fists at her sides.

They'd always trusted each other. She'd trusted him against all odds, when the cards were stacked against him. Furthermore, he'd expected her to, without hesitation. Staring at his guarded expression now, she felt anger flaring in her chest.

"Oh, because you've always been above reproach...right?" She whispered, tilting her head with a watery glare.

She watched his eyes flicker, a flush of color crawling up his cheeks.

"Are you fucking kidding me?" He whispered, his tone biting. "You're bringing that up?"

"Why shouldn't I?" She snapped, her voice rising.

"I sat next to Nick in a squad car listening to you moan to another woman!"

"Oh my God, I told you that wasn't real!" Brian retorted, motioning angrily.

"You asked me to believe you, and I did." She breathed, "And I'm telling you now that nothing happened, Brian, but you won't believe me!"

"That's not the same thing, Liv." He said, astonished, "I was working."

"Why is it not the same? Because I needed someone to care about me? Because I wanted someone to understand the pain I was in?"

"I have asked you over and over and over again to come to me, and all you do is run away!" Brian exclaimed, his tone nearly rising to a shout. "I saw the way you look at her, Olivia! This isn't nothing."

She could see the first gloss of emotion in his eyes and her chest clenched with a pang of guilt, and she paced away, covering her face with her hands. Sinking back down on the couch, she leaned on her knees, swallowing back tears.

She was tired of crying; tired of feeling horrible for the things she'd done just to have a second of peace, and it was clear that Brian had little comprehension of that. He didn't know what to do when they couldn't ignore their problems for a night on the town, or when they couldn't drown them in sweet wine and pleasure. His offers of desire and love making would fall strangely on her ears now, grossly inadequate and abhorrent.

She heard his footsteps draw near, and she opened her eyes to gaze down at shoes through her fingers. He sank down in front of her and she felt him hesitantly take her wrists.

"Just tell me the truth." He said, in a quieter, but insistent tone.

She blinked away the tears from her lashes, ducking her head further into her hands as she whispered, haltingly "I can't tell you what he did to me, Bri."

She felt his fingers squeeze around her wrists as he released an unsteady sigh.

She knew he wanted the truth about the hotel room, but listening to his quiet uncertainty she realized again why she'd found solace in Amanda's arms rather than his. With Brian, she'd always tried to act as if the traumas of her past didn't haunt her every day, and he had done the same, avoiding every deep, excruciating topic with a shrug and a smile. He'd never truly opened up to her, and now she couldn't imagine spilling her every dark and twisted secret to him, much less tell him that the sense of safety she felt with Amanda was more than she'd ever felt with him.

"Liv…" He murmured, slipping his fingers up into her palms and tugging them away from her face.

Her watery eyes met his conflicted ones, and she could hardly stand it.

"I can't tell you the nightmares or the flashbacks. I can't tell you the things he said or way he touched me..." She whispered through tears.

"But you can tell her?" Brian questioned, his whisper sharpening to a painful edge.

The question prodded her heart, piercing into her with the weight of her indiscretion. She lowered her head, staring down at the floor between them as Brian seemed to reel in silence for several long moments.

"Was that it?" He finally asked, his voice guarded and rigid.

"Was what it?" Olivia whispered, glancing up at his dark, veiled expression.

"Talking. Is that all you did?"

Olivia pursed her lips against tears as her stomach twisted at his question. She'd promised herself that she would tell him the truth of the kiss, but those words held much more weight now, in the light of their argument. She couldn't paint it as a moment of weakness in which she'd been swept away in emotional pain, not when, in this very minute, she wanted nothing more than to be in Amanda's arms.

Finally, she ducked her head, unable to look at him any longer. The motion in and of itself was an admission of guilt. They'd known each other far too long to pretend otherwise.

"God," Brian murmured through clenched teeth, his fingers tightened around hers. "I knew there was more…"

She sank down further against her knees, a sob creeping up her throat. Her forehead pressed into their clasped hands, and she shivered, her body screaming to release the emotion pent up inside of her. Instead, choked whimpers pushed up her tongue, escaping her lips in a whine.

"Did you sleep with her?" Brian asked, stiffly, when she failed to answer in words.

She shook her head slowly against his knuckles, her breath shuddering in uneven sniffles and pants as she tried to swallow the emotion back down her throat.

"Did she touch you at all?" Brian questioned.

Olivia squeezed her eyes shut, biting at her lower lip as she tried to force the words up to her tongue. She couldn't say no when her body still burned where Amanda's hands had clenched her naked flesh, not when every fiber of her being had yearned for more and more and more.

"Jesus, Liv," Brian uttered, his tone gutted with desperation. "Just tell me."

"I…" She stuttered in a groan, digging her head into his hands as quick tears fled down her nose and cheeks.

"You what?" Brian coaxed.

"I kissed her…." She whimpered, her voice barely audible.

Brian's hands stiffened in her grasp, and she felt her heart pound harder in chest, her stomach turning.

"That's not nothing, Liv." He whispered, pulling his hands away from her grasp.

He rose quickly from the floor, and she finally lifted her head, clasping her hands over her nose and mouth as sobs rushed up her chest. She watched him pace away again, choking out cries into her palms.

He walked to the window, running his fingers through his hair, his posture tense and unforgiving. For a long moment, he stood with his hands clenched in his hair, a nearly indistinct tremor working it's way through his body. She knew he wanted to turn and fling at her every raging, burning word which ran through his mind, but he would spare her because of Lewis. Knowing this silence spoke his pity, she almost wanted to beg that he burst forth with his anger.

He'd asked the truth of her, and she wanted the same, but neither had gotten what they wanted from each other, and maybe they never would.

Chapter Text

She could take a lot of things. She'd been screamed at plenty of times before, called names that even a crass man like Brian would cringe at. She'd been raped and assaulted, punched in the face more times than she could count, and maybe it would've been easier if Brian had hit her. Maybe, it would have given her something more tangible to be angry at, something simpler to cry over. No one would blame her for shedding a few tears about a broken nose. No one would blame her for it happening.

Pulling away from the hotel with silent tears slipping down her cheeks, however, she knew that the blame for everything that had happened last night rested solely on her shoulders. She'd sworn not to take advantage of Olivia, but reeling in the aftermath of her purposeful confrontation with Lewis, she had. And for a moment, the sweetness of Olivia's mouth had covered the sin of her murderous thoughts in a sugary, yet temporary balm, but the sun had risen now, chasing away the shadows in which they had hidden together.

She could hide the truth of her transgressions from Brian, and even from Olivia, but she couldn't hide them from herself. She had crafted the plan to break into Lewis's room with naught but her conscious to hold her back from taking the life of man who had taken so much. She'd climbed into a bathtub with a naked woman of her own accord, held her and kissed her knowing full well the extent of her committed relationship. She'd had more than enough willpower to stop any number of the ill conceived events that had played out, and she hadn't. She'd let it all happen. Rather, she wished them all into existence, and now they swam through her mind like a taunt, the satisfaction of those memories souring in the bitter light of day.

She could take a lot of things, but in her heart of hearts, she could hardly take this dawn of understanding.

The morning sun spread across New York City ahead, searing her blurry, tear filled eyes as she clenched the wheel tightly in her trembling hands. She drove on autopilot, unable to blank out the image of Lewis's face from her mind, the sound of his laughter. He hadn't planned to destroy them both, but maybe Amanda had done it for him.

Amanda sucked down hard on her lower, fighting not to shatter completely.

She'd been a fool, toying with death as if she were some kind of vengeful vigilante, righting the wrongs that had been done to Olivia. She'd been even more of a fool to think that just as a superhero in a comic book would win the heart of the distressed maiden that she too could win a piece of Olivia's heart.

Olivia wasn't going to leave Brian. She wouldn't destroy the only constant in her life when the rest of it was crumbling around her, but, oh, how Amanda had wanted to be that rock for her to hold onto. It was a naive and selfish fantasy to expect Olivia to exchange a fourteen year relationship and friendship for a five day old one, and yet the realization that it would never happen hurt more than Amanda had ever anticipated.

She'd left the hotel with nothing but the ghost of a fleeting kiss and the gnawing dread of guilt at the inhumanity of her actions. How could she possibly walk into the SVU precinct today, and face anyone with the truth of her midnight indiscretions hiding just behind her eyes?

The traffic slowed for a stop light, and Amanda sank down against the wheel, panting as she tried once more to contain the emotion bursting from inside her. Staring at dashboard, another wave hit her as she thought that she'd never felt so close to another human being as she had last night, and she didn't know if or when that feeling might ever happen again.

Tears slipped down her cheeks, free falling to her lap as she gasped against sudden sobs. She hunched over further, her shoulders shuddering as the last her mental strength dissolved.

Beep!

She jolted at the sound of the car behind her blasting it's horn. She glanced up to see the light blaring green through the shimmering of tears in her eyes. She wiped the back of her hand quickly across her face, struggling to perform basic motor vehicle operations. She cursed as the impatient driver beeped at her again, then sped past her with a squeal of tires.

"Yeah, fuck you too." She snapped at the disappearing car before stomping on the gas.

The truck lurched under her, and she clamped fingers harder around the wheel. Fighting back tears, she managed to navigate the city streets until finally, her apartment building emerged ahead of her. By the time she pulled into her parking space, she had managed to contain the tears slipping from her eyes, and as she slipped down from the truck, she could feel the numbness beginning in her chest. She wandered towards the building, her head down. She blinked away the stray tears clinging to her lashes as she let herself in, and made her way up to her apartment.

The sun was shining through the front window when she entered, and with a scowl, she flipped the blinds closed. She headed to the bedroom, and repeated the same process, plunging the room into a half lit dimness that suited her foul mood.

She kicked off her pants, and collapsed to the bed, too exhausted to do anything else. Sinking into the mattress, she closed her eyes, and reached for the sleep that was so close and yet so far away. It seemed like hours that her brain turned with the night's damning events, but only sparse minutes had passed before her body succumbed to fitful unconsciousness.

She only awoke again when the sound of her phone vibrating with notifications startled her from sleep. The device was still stuffed her hoodie pocket, and she rolled over with a groan, fumbling to retrieve it. Her eyes were bleary and heavy as she lifted it up in front of her face with a frown.

She had already expected confused phone calls from Cragen, Nick, and Fin, and some part of her fully planned on ignoring them, but when she unlocked the screen, a different number flashed in front of her eyes. For several long moments, she stared at the screen, blinking quickly as fog began to clear from her mind.

The photo attachment was dark, but even through the low resolution of Bellevue's security camera, the screenshot clearly resembled her figure just outside of Lewis's door.

She could hear her heart slamming against her ribs as the message below the picture cemented the betrayal into her mind.

Now we both owe each other.

Her stomach turned sharply, and she sat up from the bed so quickly that her head spun. Panicked tears were rushing to her eyes as she stood from the bed, clutching her hair in one hand and her phone in the other. She couldn't stop staring at the damning photo as her breathing rushed raspily in her ears, and a dozen different scenarios played through her mind. None of them ended well.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck!" She whispered, pacing away from the bed.

She felt like even more of a fool now for having trusted James, a chronic cheater and a pedophile. Her grip on his balls had slipped in the midst of her plan of revenge, and now he had her red-handed. His tendencies were but a he said-she said, yet this photo could bring her entire career crashing to the ground.

She startled with a gasp when her phone suddenly began to vibrate in her hand, and an incoming call from Captain Cragen popped up on top of the horrifying picture.

"Fuck." She cursed once more, staring at the jangling device.

He'd already cautioned her once not to become so emotionally involved with Olivia, and if he had any more suspicions she would be done. She'd never been good at lying to him, and he'd never been good at putting up with her bullshit.

She vacillated over answering the call until finally it went to voicemail. She knew how being late to work and not answering the phone would look, but she couldn't handle talking to Cragen at the moment.

Tossing the phone to the bed, she went to the closet, her hands trembling as she flipped through the hangers. All the while her mind churned out several different excuses for her absence, but in her distress, none of them sounded good enough. The truth of her nighttime activities haunted each thought which entered mind.

Finally she managed to choose a presentable outfit for work, and she was buttoning up the faded jean shirt when her phone began to ring again on the bed.

"Damnit." She muttered, snatching it up from the sheets.

She ground her teeth in irritation when she saw Nick's name instead of Cragen's on the screen. The last thing she needed was Olivia's overprotective partner taking things to the next level of extreme. If she didn't answer the call, she could place any bet she wanted on Nick showing up at her apartment in a matter of minutes, and she would win.

Stabbing the answer button, she lifted the phone to her ear, and attempted smooth out the panic from her tone.

"Hello?"

"Amanda, it's Nick." Nick greeted her, and she could already the prying tone in his voice. "You good?"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm sorry I just overslept." She stuttered out, as she strode from the bedroom to the living room where she had discarded her boots.

"You sure?" Nick pressed.

"Yes, I'm sure." She replied, her response coming out far more irritated than she had meant it to.

Balancing the phone between her cheek and shoulder, she bent to tug the boots onto her heels.

"Okay, I'm just checking. We're all on edge after…." Nick's voice trailed away, but she knew what he was hinting at.

Straightening, she closed her eyes against the throb of distant tears. She, perhaps more than anyone, understood, but the rest of the squad could never know any of what had occurred last night.

Opening her eyes, she forced a lighter tone. "I promise I haven't been kidnapped."

She hoped he would take it as a joke rather than a diversion from the much more horrible truth. No, Lewis hadn't taken her, but she had nearly taken him and his life. The fact that she could have emerged from his room a murderer settled in her veins once more, turning her stomach.

"All right, fine." Nick said, stiffly, not a hint of humor in his tone. "Just answer the phone next time, okay?"

"I will." She said, quietly, surrendering to his badgering.

The line clicked in her ear, and she lowered the phone with a low sigh. The screen flipped back to James's messages and she swallowed hard against a knot of emotion in her throat. She had no plan, and Nick's nagging only made the anxiety swell higher in her chest. She wouldn't be able to hide her discomfort from the captain or her fellow officers for long, and she feared that soon every single decision that had lead her here would come crashing down upon her head.

xxxxx

Striding into the squad room in her hasty outfit and messy ponytail, Amanda kept her head down, eyes on her desk. She naively hoped that no one would comment on her late arrival or question her over her disheveled appearance, but when she reached her seat, Fin was already glancing up at her.

"New look?" He asked.

The words were a teasing jab, but she could hear the concern lacing his tone, forcing her to wonder how much he'd perceived or heard from Brian.

"Yeah," She replied, sarcastically. "It's called mind your own business."

Fin's brows rose, but he didn't comment on her attitude or question her further.

Sinking down into her chair, she slid her sunglasses off her nose and tossed them to the desktop. Rubbing her hands over her face, she hoped that someone had had the sense to brew a pot of coffee already, but before she could even consider going to the break room in search of caffeine, she heard the Captain's door open.

"Rollins." Cragen called across the squad room, his stern tone striking fear into her heart.

She flicked her gaze up in Fin's direction as her pulse began to race, quick and heavy, but his expression was inquisitive rather than knowing. He met her eyes as if to silently ask her what she had done this time, and she ducked her head to avoid his questioning gaze.

Pushing up from the desk, she clenched her hands into fists at her side as she quickly closed the space between her desk and Cragen's office. As much as she did not want to have this confrontation, the curious looks in the squad room were unbearable.

Once she stepped inside the room, Cragen closed the door behind, erasing the possibility that this would be a simple conversation. She desperately wanted to believe that he'd address her tardiness and let her be, but the premonition twisting in her stomach wasn't so naive.

Standing awkwardly in the middle of the room, she glanced back at him, nervously biting her lower lip. His gaze was guarded and pensive as he tucked his hands into his pockets and slowly paced towards the desk. She wanted to say something, maybe an apology for being late or for not taking his call, but the words were stuck in her throat, captive to her growing dread.

The silence was excruciating, and all she could hear in her ears was the sound of her heartbeat, relentlessly pounding. Finally, Cragen reached the desk, and sat down in the chair with a creak.

Meeting her eyes, he said, rigidly, "I told you to keep your distance from Olivia."

The words hit her stomach with the full force of culminated trepidation. Her defenses rose, her lips unlocking in an attempt to halt the path she knew this conversation was going.

"Captain, hold on-" She began, taking a step forward.

"No." He cut her off, holding up a hand to silence her. "Cassidy called me last night nearly in tears because he couldn't find her."

"I know, and I never meant for that to happen. I swear." Amanda exclaimed, fear and horror clouding into a thick knot in her throat.

She hadn't had time to think about how Brian had found them in the hotel room, but now it only made sense that he had enlisted Cragen's help. Mortification crawled through her veins as she imagined what Brian might have told the captain of the scene inside the hotel, and slowly nausea began to roll in her stomach.

"What didn't you mean to happen, Amanda?" Cragen snapped, sitting forward. "Neglecting to call anyone when you found her or kissing her?"

The words rang across the room, taking the breath straight from her lungs. For a moment, she couldn't speak, her mind frozen in confusion. She'd sworn to Brian that nothing had happened between her and Olivia, and somehow she had thought they'd be safe from discovery. Now, as each agonizing second ticked away, she realized that Olivia had not tried so hard as she to keep their secret. She'd confessed to Brian and he to the Captain, and now she stood alone, taking the brunt of the consequences.

"A vulnerable, hurting woman." Cragen went on, his voice sharp with disdain. "A victim, and your partner."

"You're only getting one side of this, Captain." She insisted, her voice trembling.

"Then, please." He replied in a steely tone, spreading his hands, "Enlighten me. Explain to me how you thought it this was appropriate."

"She called me." Amanda began, fighting hard not to cry even as stray tears welled at her lids. "She couldn't even speak, Captain. All I could think of was getting to her. And when I did she was distraught, crying about wanting to have a child even if Lewis had -"

She cut off, horrified by even the memory of Olivia's pain and devastation. Scraping her hand over her face and hair, she met Cragen's eyes with her own watery ones, hoping to see some sort of understanding. His brows were knit, concern clouding his features just beneath the layer of protective anger, but he remained silent, as if waiting for her to complete the confession.

"I didn't know what else to do besides hold her." She whispered, wiping quickly at the tears fleeing down her cheeks. "And then she asked me to kiss her…"

"So you're saying it's her fault?" Cragen questioned.

"No, of course not! I'm the one that stopped it," Amanda cried, stabbing her finger at her chest, "and I told her I couldn't take advantage her."

They glared at each other, silence falling heavily between them, and Amanda didn't know whether her desperate overtures had made a difference to Cragen. A part of her was angry that he had taken a personal moment and dragged it inside of the squad room, but after feeling as close as she had to Olivia last night the prospect of losing her completely stunned her into terrified compliance.

Her legs felt weak beneath her, and she sank slowly down into the chair behind her, clutching her forehead.

"You don't believe me." She whispered, staring down at the blurry floorboards.

"No, I do." Cragen said, slowly. "But I'm afraid it wasn't your first bad decision last night."

Cold fear clutched her at his condemnation, her chest tightening to breathlessness. Her mind spun, clinging to any possibility that he didn't mean what she thought he did. He couldn't know...

"Olivia is like a daughter to me, Amanda," Cragen continued at last, sliding back from the desk, and rising slowly.. "She's been through hell so I hope you understand what consequences your actions have in regards to her."

Blinking against lingering, placid tears, she watched him, apprehension filling her chest as he picked up a manila folder, and rounded the desk to stand in front of her. He gazed down her, his expression shadowed in dark disapproval, and she found herself quivering beneath his damning gaze.

"I want you think carefully before you speak." He advised in a low, quiet tone as he flipped open the folder, and extended it to her. "I want you to think about those consequences."

With her stomach churning and her heart racing, she took the folder with a trembling hand. A single sheet of paper lay inside, and on it was printed a list of dates, times, and across from them longitudes and latitudes. She'd seen reports such as this hundreds of times during dozens of missing persons cases, and she could feel her heart palpitating in her chest as her eyes raked over this one now.

"Do you see this?" Cragen asked, tapping his finger next to a highlighted line. "That location is Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital."

"Y-you tracked my phone?" Amanda choked out, breathlessly, staring at the vivid, yellow highlight as panic flooded her senses.

"And Olivia's." Cragen confirmed.

"W-what?" She cried, flinging him a shimmering, panicked gaze as the folder quaked in her hand. "Because Brian thought we were together? Because he can't fucking control his insecurity?!"

"Because he knew you were together, Amanda." Cragen cut in as her voice reached a high pitch of desperation. "This is how he found you at the hotel, but none of that matters as much to me right now as where you were before."

"Y-you can't use this." She whispered through clenched teeth, shoving the folder back into his hands. "You had no fucking right to track my phone."

She began to push up out of the chair, ready to flee from the room in a state of shock, anger, and panic, but Cragen's hand clamped down on her shoulder with an iron grip. Forcing her back into her seat, he leaned down until their faces were bare inches apart.

"I am the captain of this precinct." Cragen ground out. " I will find a good enough reason if I have to, but that's not what I want. You tell me the truth now, and it goes no further than this room."

She wanted to defend herself. She wanted to claim that she'd done nothing more than stand on the front step of Bellevue and curse the man inside, but every explanation would be a lie, and Cragen knew that. It'd taken him less than twenty four hours to discover every unhinged decision she had made last night, and any more pathetic excuses would only be the last nail in her coffin.

James had her pinned in a compromising position, and now so did the captain. All points of escape were blocked, and with this realization came the true and real panic. When each man was done extracting his pound of flesh from her what would be left but a mess of shattered bones and open wounds?

A sob bloomed in her throat, raw and aching to be free of her body, and the small amount of mental strength she had left slipped away from her beneath the tide of emotion. She sagged beneath Cragen's grip, crying out as she buckled under each devastating blow of doom. Clasping her hand over her face, she hid the ruinous tears tracking down her cheeks from his sight, but she couldn't hide her utter despair.

"Amanda, just tell me the truth." Cragen pressed, a hint of compassion finally lacing his tone.

Then, at the smallest kindest she broke, folding into herself as she sobbed into her palm the gruesome and ghastly truth.

"Oh, god….I almost killed him..."

Chapter Text

 The sound of rain beginning to pour down on the rooftop and the low vibration of her cellphone on the nightstand lulled her out of the fitful sleep she'd fallen into, though for a moment her limbs felt too heavy to lift.

She'd been too exhausted, her head pounding from tears, to resist sleeping again despite the strange nightmares she knew would twist her mind. As consciousnesses gripped her, she wasn't sure which was worse - the dreams or the reality of her life.

Her lids fluttered open to the half lit sight of the window where she could see dark clouds rolling in against the sky. It was that strange point in the evening where it could almost be mistaken for early morning, and for a moment she struggled to orient herself with the time of day.

Rolling over towards the side table, she fumbled for her phone, and as she lifted it, the screen came to life, searing her eyes with the sharp LED.

7:32 pm.

Missed call from Amanda Rollins.

She sank back into the bed, her throat tightening. She pressed her eyes shut for a moment as the intense, painful memories of last night and this morning flooded her brain again, spilling like fresh blood across the white canvas of her awakening mind.

She'd barely been able to grapple the hopelessness and guilt that had trapped her, and falling asleep again had been the easiest option. She knew the escape from life wouldn't last forever, but it had lasted long enough to dull the bite of the sharp teeth of her mistakes against her throat. A part of her wished to put her phone back down and close her eyes once more, and maybe, if it had been anyone else calling she might've done just that, but the temptation of hearing her voice again was too strong to ignore.

Sitting up from the bed, she clutched her phone in one hand, and padded towards the door.

She'd heard Brian leave the apartment earlier, but after their argument, she wanted to ensure his absence before calling Amanda back. He'd said nothing of forbidding her from contacting her again, but such jealous behavior had never been a part of their relationship. His eyes, however, had told her enough, and her own actions had spoken for themselves.

Ignoring the thoughts winding through her mind, she eased the door open, and stepped out into the hall. The silence of the apartment hummed back her, the undertones of rain creating a soft harmony.

She slipped down the hallway towards the living room, and finding it empty, she searched the kitchen and bathroom as well. There was no sign of Brian, and she wandered back out to the couch. Sinking to the cushions, she unlocked her phone, and bit her lower lip as she stared at the call back option below Amanda's name.

She hesitated despite the hammering of her heart, and the desperate perspiration that lined her palms.

She'd labeled the kiss a mistake, a simple lapse in judgement. She'd sworn that she'd done it out of loneliness and fear, but in her heart, she wanted nothing more than to be beside her again. After all of the ways she'd been wronged by other people, she knew the conditions of forgiveness and the truthfulness of an apology. Perhaps, she met neither of those two necessities.

Her guilty thoughts were shattered when the phone abruptly began to buzz in her palm again. She started out of her reverie, and swallowed hard when she saw Amanda's name on the screen again. She hesitated for half a second, and her fingers trembled as she finally tapped the green answer button.

"H-hello?" She stuttered into the speaker.

"Okay," Amanda began, her voice holding a low, uneven tone that immediately clenched Olivia's stomach. "I know this is weird, but I'm outside."

"Wh-what?" Olivia questioned, jumping up from the couch.

Rushing to the window, she yanked back the curtain, and peered down at the street below. Her breath caught as she noticed Amanda's pickup truck idling at a meter across the street.

"I'm sorry this is so weird," Amanda rushed to say, "but I really need to talk to you."

"Okay." Olivia acquiesced in confusion, her mind spinning with thoughts and possibilities. "What's wrong?"

"Can you come down?" Amanda asked, ignoring her question.

"I- I guess... I'm just-"

"Okay, I'll see you in a minute." Amanda cut off her second round of questioning before the line clicked, leaving Olivia to listen to quiet of the apartment once more.

Her heart was racing in her chest as she pulled the phone from her ear, and stared at the screen for an uncertain moment. Her mind was turning with the strange call as she turned towards the front door. She quickly shoved her feet into her tennis shoes, hardly bothering to pull them over her heels as she grabbed her jacket and yanked it onto onto her arms. Her mouth felt dry, her stomach turning as she rushed out the front door and towards the elevator.

She knew nothing of Amanda's sudden appearance here, but all of her instincts were screaming. Something was wrong, and she had the distinct, chilling fear that their infant relationship was on the verge of being shattered before it even truly began. After last night, she couldn't pretend that this meeting would have any other meaning.

As the elevator doors opened, she rushed out into the hall, and towards the front entrance. She shouldered around a mother and her young son slowly making their way inside, and broke out onto the sidewalk. The rain immediately began to pepper her shoulders and the top of her head, and she flipped the hood of the jacket up before jogging towards the crosswalk.

She could see Amanda's truck as she waited for the walk symbol, and the growing sense of dread only seemed to grow in her chest with each passing moment. Finally, the light turned, and she darted across the street, and down the adjacent sidewalk. When she reached the truck, Amanda was leaned over to the passenger's side to leverage the door open for her.

The sight of her face, her damp blonde hair, and piercing blue eyes, seized her chest with feelings far too complex to explain, and she tore her gaze away. She focused on climbing up into the truck, and pulling the door shut, trying desperately to hide the tremble in her hands.

She was surprised, however, when Amanda grasped first her arm, and then her face. She pressed into her, their foreheads touching as Olivia's senses became clouded with the lingering scent of cigarettes and rain, the soft and cold of her flesh. A gentle quiver worked its way through her body as Amanda clung to her for a moment, her eyes squeezed shut. Her heartbeat chugged out a heavy rhythm of anticipation, and she slowly reached up to clasp Amanda's jaw. The simple caress rippled across Amanda's body, and she seemed to collapse with it.

Their lips crushed together, a shock of warmth to their rain-soaked flesh, and Olivia's being swelled suddenly. Releasing a low moan, she squeezed her fingers over the back of Amanda's neck, pulling her closer.

She'd just told herself all over again that kissing Amanda the first time had been horrible mistake, but she could not feign to despise it now. She hardly resisted their second embrace as the sensations of Amanda's vibrant touch burned across her every nerve ending, and she found herself pinned beneath undeniable desire.

Amanda moved first, her jaw slackening in a soft offer, and Olivia whimpered once more, unable to resist the slickness of her mouth just at the other side of her teeth. Tilting her head into the kiss, she arched her tongue across Amanda's palate, and the taste of her exploded like an exquisite poison. Amanda pushed into her, her fingers winding into her hair as she returned the lap of her tongue.

The passion in the Amanda's every movement washed chills across Olivia's body. It seemed even more visceral than last night without the clouds of despondency to dull her senses. The taste and texture of her was sharp and palpable, and Olivia clung to each millisecond that she drowned in it.

Desires of pulling her onto her lap and never letting her go quickly followed every kiss, tripping over themselves to form in her mind on their way to finding a reality. She ignored the impossibility of it all for the present pleasure of each soothing caress, and resounding need echoing from inside Amanda's own body until finally their fragile solace shattered from beneath them.

Amanda broke away from her abruptly, panting softly. She grasped Olivia's shoulder, her head lowered as tears blossomed in her eyes.

Olivia stared down at her, quivering in the aftermath of a kiss that she knew in her heart was too good to be true. Amanda had not come here to change her mind - not after swearing she wouldn't take advantage of Olivia; not after the way Brian had found them; not after the way she had looked at Olivia inside that hotel bathroom.

"I'm sorry." Amanda whispered, huskily, at last. "I didn't mean to do that...I just had to one more time…"

The apology cemented into place the warning in Olivia's heart, and the warmth in her chest slowly began to disappear beneath the resurging tide of dread which had accompanied her to the car. She turned her gaze towards the window as her own tears misted her vision. She didn't need to ask anymore questions. She knew the answer hiding inside of Amanda's swimming, cerulean eyes. Lifting a hand, she slowly drew her fingers over her lower lip, dragging away the remnants of Amanda's saliva.

"Whatever you're going to say, Amanda…" She murmured, raspily, "Just say it."

She felt Amanda's eyes on her for a long excruciating moment, but she couldn't return the gaze. She knew too well what was coming, and the pain of having to not only hear, but also see the truth was too much to bear.

"I'm going away." Amanda finally whispered.

"What?" Olivia breathed, involuntarily spinning towards the other woman.

It wasn't what she had expected her to say. She'd expected apologies and explanations, reasonings for why they could no longer be as close as they had been the past five days, but not this.

"I'm going away." Amanda repeated, lifting her watery, blue eyes towards Olivia.

Her forehead was wrinkled in pain, her mouth tight and down turned, but for the first time in almost a week, Olivia could not read the thoughts behind that expression. That barbed visage had somehow become a stranger in a few short days, and seeing it again frightened her in a way she hadn't anticipated.

"Going where?" She whispered, reeling in shock.

"I'm not sure yet." Amanda replied as she began to lean back slowly, her hand slipping away from Olivia's body.

"But why?" Olivia demanded, acutely aware of the tears stinging her eyes.

Amanda's jaw clenched as she sat back into her side of the seat, and she hardly glanced over at Olivia as she seemed to struggle to form a sentence.

"Amanda, you're scaring me." Olivia whispered, reaching over to grab her wrist.

Amanda's chin quivered as she finally flicked her eyes towards Olivia's once more.

"I have to tell you something, Liv." She whispered. "Something you might not like."

Olivia stared at her, her throat spasming with panic. She couldn't speak to order some kind of explanation or even to entertain a plea on the tip of her tongue. Instead her heart beat relentlessly at her ears as Amanda's pause grew unbearable. Finally, she clenched her fingers around Amanda's wrist as though she could squeeze the answer from her.

"What?" She croaked when Amanda seemed to falter.

"I did something." Amanda murmured at last, tears shimmering across her trembling facade of bravery. "I wanted to do more, but I didn't."

"What are you talking about?" Olivia insisted, her stomach turning with sickening dread.

"I went to Bellevue. I extorted a doctor there for access." She finally revealed, her voice low and strangled with emotion. "I saw him, Liv. I saw Lewis."

For a moment, Olivia couldn't speak. She could scarcely move, or even breathe. She felt frozen in this moment, listening to her pulse as she conceptualized every possibility and scenario. A dozen frantic questions sprouted in her mind, but none of them could form on her lips as the shocked riddled her through and through.

"I went to his bedside." Amanda whispered, her expression collapsing as the tears filling her eyes began slip down her cheeks. "I held his life in my hands, and I wanted so badly to take it."

She flung a desperate gaze in Olivia's direction, her hands clenched into fists as thought the beast was before her in this moment. She quaked with the fear and emotion pouring from her, and though the pity grasped Olivia first, the horror followed quickly. She drew back, clasping one hand over her mouth. Grabbing at the truck's dashboard with her other hand, she held onto the tangible support so tightly that the blood seeped from her shivering fingers.

"I looked into his eyes." Amanda breathed. "I saw it, Liv. I saw what I wanted. He was afraid for his life, really fucking afraid."

"No…." Olivia whispered, despair lacing it's way through every rib bone and fiber of her heart.

I'm her mind's eye, she saw Lewis crumpled on the floor of the beach house, blood splashed across his face and coating his teeth. His lashes were painted with it, his lids shimmering with a crimson sparkle as they widened around his wide and horrified eyes. Those moments of terror before unconsciousness had been few, and yet they haunted more than even his smile. It was the only pleasure she'd felt for days upon endless days, and as she had wielded the bedrail high above her head, she'd even enjoyed it. But as soon as it was over, and she'd found herself standing over his motionless body, every single hint of satisfaction had fermented into a self loathing so great that she would not wish it upon anyone, much less this beautiful, gentle woman beside her.

"Jesus, no, Amanda." She groaned, shaking her head a stray tear slipped down cheek. "Why would you do this?"

"I just wanted someone to make him pay for what he did to you!" Amanda cried out. "I wanted to be the one to put that bastard down for good."

"You wanted to kill a man?!" Olivia demanded, tearing her hand from her face in order to grab Amanda's.

Cradling her tear stained cheeks with both palms, she forced Amanda to look at her, their watery gazes clashing as Olivia whispered, "You cannot want that. You cannot destroy yourself for him."

"I know…." Amanda moaned as her eyes squeezed shut, pushing fast tears from beneath her lids. "Oh, god…"

A sob worked its way up to her twisted lips, and she sagged into Olivia's grasp, emotion wracking her body. Grasping Olivia's waist, Amanda wept her anguish upon her breast, a staggering burden that Olivia knew the weight of far too well.

Wrapping her arms around Amanda's shoulders, she cradled the back of her head as Amanda's tears soaked through her shirt, and the violent emotion had it's way with body. She wished that she could offer some words of comfort, but the bleak future of the effect of Lewis's darkness on a person left her speechless, and grasping for even the hope that Amanda would ever completely recover from this.

She watched the clock on Amanda's dashboard click to the next minute and then the next as the implications and causes of Amanda's decision to go to Bellevue came to life in her mind.

She lowered her face into Amanda's hair as she thought to herself that none of this would have happened if she hadn't so weakly and selfishly dispelled her every dark memory and every consequence of tragedy upon Amanda's fragile heart and mind. She'd found in her a confidant, a sister soul of trauma, but maybe she had leaned too heavily upon her. Maybe, Amanda had never processed her own rape until now, and with it all crashing down upon her, she hadn't had the strength to withstand. Maybe, her brokenness was every bit Olivia's fault as it was Lewis's.

She tried hard not to collapse out from under Amanda as her whimpers dwindled into silence, and only the sound of the rain was left to fill the void. In her arms, Amanda slowly shifted, and Olivia bit back tears, quickly blinking the evidence from her eyes as she hesitantly let her go.

Amanda shifted haltingly back into her seat, and clasped her hands over her face for another long second. Olivia watched her every movement, resisting the urges to pull her to her chest again and protect her from every demon which nipped at her heels. But she couldn't protect her. That was a fact that had become quite obvious.

Finally, Amanda's hands slid from her face, and they languished in her lap as she stared past the windshield towards the rainy street.

"I can't do this anymore." She whispered at last, her voice raw.

"Do what?" Olivia whispered, grasping the edge of the leather seat in apprehension.

"This." Amanda murmured, spreading out her hands. "I don't know who I am anymore. I just-...I have to get away."

"What about your job?" Olivia questioned, her voice quavering with unshed tears as she tried desperately to think of some reason for Amanda to stay.

"Oh, that's not going to be a problem." Amanda replied, her voice going rigid as she shrugged, wiping the back of her hand over her cheek. "Cragen has already made it quite clear that I'm not mentally fit right now."

"Cragen? How does he know?"

"He knows a lot more than I wanted him to." Amanda answered, finally casting her glittering gaze. "And maybe he's right. Maybe I need to go get my shit together before I call myself a cop."

"Amanda-" Olivia began, reaching to touch her arm before she could stop herself.

"No, you said it." Amanda contradicted her before she could even protest. "I wanted to kill a man….I can't do this right now. I'm sorry, Olivia!"

"Sorry?" Olivia whispered. "You don't have to be sorry. This isn't your fault."

"We've all made decisions we have to live with." Amanda murmured, as she reached back to grab her seatbelt. "And some we have to pay for. This is one of them.

"Amanda, wait." Olivia pleaded as Amanda sat forward and started the loud, rumbling truck engine.

"You have to go now, Olivia." Amanda whispered, glancing over at her with bloodshot, glimmering eyes. "Please, get out."

"Amanda…" Olivia began, her voice dwindling into a moan. "Please, don't do this."

Grasping the steering wheel with trembling fingers, Amanda set her eyes on the road ahead, her jaw clenched.

"You can't stop me, Liv, now please..." She implored, her voice rough with hidden emotion.

"Just get out of my truck."

Olivia stared at her for a long moment, tears welling in her eyes as her heart palpitated with pain. Every suture that Amanda had administered to the broken pieces of her were ripping from the half healed wounds, and she felt paralyzed by the agony of it. Sucked of every bit of strength, she could scarcely find the willpower to even try to change Amanda's mind.

She had been powerless to stop Lewis from taking her freedom, her dignity, and nearly her life. Now, he was taking something else, something so precious and dear, and she couldn't stop him; no, she couldn't even fight.

In a daze, she grabbed the door handle with a cold, numb hand, and the hinges creaked loudly in the silence. She slid down to the sidewalk as the thunder rumbled overhead, and as she turned to close it behind her, the rain began to come down even harder. Even as the downpour began to soak through her clothing and hair she didn't want to close the door. It seemed too final, and yet she knew she was only delaying the inevitable.

She stared at Amanda's hunched figure, praying she look up and realize she didn't have to do this, but Amanda's gaze did not lift. Gripping the metal door handle, Olivia pinned her eyes to her whitened knuckles as she shored up the strength to end bitter farewell. Finally, she squeezed her eyes shut, and eased the truck's door shut while her tears became lost in the rain.

In a seconds, Amanda was pulling away from the curb, the truck's exhaust giving her one last rush of warmth before the cold enveloped her completely. The sky above her split open with lightning, crashing across her senses, and she lifted her face towards the weeping clouds with the thought that if the sky could cry and rage then so could she, for she hadn't even had a chance to say goodbye.

Chapter Text

Two Weeks Later

She supposed that the environment of Doctor Lindstrom's office was meant to give her a sense of calm and safety with the gentle scent of essential oils, the soft plushness of the chair cushions, and the dim lighting in which she could hide, but calmness never came easy, especially here.

She'd seen him a total of five times in the past two weeks, five hours if one was counting. She'd spent the first two staring at her lap, wondering when the discomfiting silence would end, and she could run from the room. He'd been patient, never pushing her to reveal more than she wanted to, but maybe that was worse. Parts of her wanted to scream out what had happened, rail on about the unfairness of it all because maybe he could answer the questions swirling through her mind.

Why me?

Why now?

After all I've been through why do I have to suffer again?

Why can't I just cease to exist?

Why did she have to leave?

So far, none of them had found a satisfying reply. Neither had Lindstrom's own inquiries. She'd barely managed to recount the sparse details of her past, much less disclose the extent of Lewis's torture. She'd only ever told one person those secrets, and she'd fled fourteen and a half days ago with barely an explanation.

"How are you doing today, Olivia?" Lindstrom asked, drawing her attention from the thoughts which clouded her mind.

She glanced up, forcing a smile

"Fine." She murmured.

A glance towards her watch told her she'd already wasted ten minutes of the sessions by staring off into the oblivion. She'd lost larger chunks of time before, but it was never any less frustrating. She'd always labeled herself as sharp and focused, and the lack of concentration jabbed deeply at her self confidence.

"Fine is what you tell someone you're passing on the street." Lindstrom said with a soft smile. "How do you really feel?"

She shrugged, immediately glancing away. It was usually his first question of the session, and she hated it more than some of the other more invasive ones. Maybe, analyzing her own feelings had never been her strong suit, nor accepting that she wasn't always 'fine'. Her ingrained reaction to feeling that weakness was always deflection, and it came far easier than revealing the truth.

"I'm sure you've seen the news." She murmured, picking at a string on the seam of her jeans. "What's your professional opinion?"

"I don't claim to make accurate deductions about things I know nothing about, Olivia." Lindstrom assured her. "That's why you're here."

"Yeah…." She muttered, glancing off towards the window.

The words were on the back of her tongue, a disclosure that she had hoped would set her free; but so far her expectations were rapidly falling short. She'd walked in here, praying that she could tell him everything, and he'd, by some magic, fix the shattered pieces of her mind and heart, but she hadn't even been able to keep up her side of the bargain. She pressed her eyes shut for a moment, wishing in the back of her mind that Amanda were next to her, holding her hand. Maybe, then she would be able to say the words that Lindstrom wanted to hear.

"I know it's hard for your to understand what's happening inside of you, Olivia." Lindstrom replied, quietly. "So let's just take things slow. Pick out one feeling. One emotion. What is it?"

Olivia sucked in her lower lip, her lids stinging as she contemplated Lindstrom's question. It wasn't hard to grasp the strongest emotion inside of her, but naming it was something she didn't want to do. Saying it out loud made it too real, cementing in her mind what Amanda had done to her, and the dozens of people before her.

She swallowed hard, and opened her eyes, blinking away the blurriness of eager tears. She reached up to quickly dash away the moisture, and cleared her throat as Lindstrom patiently waited for her reply.

"I just feel... betrayed." She whispered at last, gazing down at the swirls in the carpet.

"Betrayed." Lindstrom repeated. "By who?"

She scoffed, shrugging once more as a mirthless smile touched her lips, a shield for her pain.

"Everyone." She whispered, wrapping her finger around the string she'd been playing with, and ripping it from the seam.

"Everyone." Lindstrom echoed, a sympathetic tenor entering his tone. "Who's 'everyone'?"

Olivia breathed out a long sigh, and rubbed her fingers over her eyes once more. The questions never stopped, and Lindstrom's endless supply of them seemed a daunting task in the midst of her own uncertainty.

"I've been an afterthought to everyone since birth." She finally murmured, latching to a story that she had told dozens of times, one that wasn't so fresh. "An afterthought of rape. A consequence that my mother didn't want…."

"Your mother was raped?" Lindstrom clarified gently.

"Yes, when she was in college." Olivia nodded, still hardly meeting his eyes. "She worked in the cafeteria at Hudson University. A man… a vendor for the cafeteria...he met her there, and attacked her one evening in a dark stairwell. She never saw his face..."

"You seem to know the details quite well." Lindstrom commented.

"Yes, I researched it for a very long time. It's one of the reasons I decided to become a cop, but that wasn't until I became a woman myself, and understood the trauma of rape."

"And before that? What did you think?"

"That she hated me, of course. She only kept me because of her Catholic upbringing. Because of victim blaming and the idea that abortion is a sin. Otherwise….we wouldn't be sitting here."

"That's a grim outlook." Lindstrom frowned. "Do you think that would be better for you?"

"Maybe for everyone else." Olivia whispered, wincing against another rise of tears. "Back then...and now."

"Consider this." Lindstrom offered after a moment of silence. "You became a sex crimes detective because you wanted to help people like your mother. Is that correct?"

Olivia nodded, reaching up to smear away the tears seeking to spill from her eyes.

"You think that they deserve compassion and understanding?"

She nodded once more, and her throat knotted because she knew where his reasoning was going. She'd knew all of the assurances and comforting words because she'd said them hundreds of times to rape victims. Somehow she couldn't tell them to herself.

"You're in your mother's place right now, Olivia." Lindstrom added more quietly. "You've suffered an unimaginable tragedy, and no matter the consequences of that on you or on those around you….you deserve the same compassion and understanding you've been trying to give other woman for almost two decades."

"Easier said than done." She murmured, squashing the much more complicated responses to his words. They felt far too large and intimidating to tackle when she already felt so exposed.

"I know." Lindstrom replied, pausing before he suggested, "Let's move on. Who else do you feel betrayed by?"

She blew out a low breath, and nervously tucked her hair behind her ear.

"Most of the men I've dated." She generalized with a motion of her hand. "Many people have claimed to care about me only to reveal their selfish motives later on…"

"And your boyfriend now." Lindstrom interjected. "Where does he fall?"

A choked laugh trembled on her lips, and she lifted her shoulder.

"He...uh…" She struggled, knowing she could not reveal the seed of her doubt in Brian without beginning the story of Lewis. "He, um, hasn't always been the most conventional."

"In what ways?" Lindstrom asked.

"We started off as a one night stand thirteen years ago. We were both new to Special Victims, and I think that's why we hit it off." Olivia explained the way she'd come to think of that night. "It's kind of funny because at the time he wanted more, but I cut him off. I told him I didn't mix business with pleasure. Now…"

She stared at her lap as the end of her sentence lapsed into silence. Lindstrom waited, though she could feel his eyes on her. He wasn't pushing because he sensed this subject was fresh and painful, but in reality, the stagnant state of their relationship had been building for quite some time.

"Now…." Lindstrom finally echoed when she pursed her lips over the truth.

"He wanted a relationship with me back then." She murmured at last. "I'm not so sure about that anymore."

"What makes you say that?"

"He refuses to talk about children or marriage. We don't live together…. Well, we didn't…" She cut off, realizing that the past three weeks had been spent under his roof, though it didn't feel as if they were together in any sense of the word.

"You're living with him now?"

"Yes, for the past three weeks." She stated, avoiding framing it in any context of Lewis's abduction of her.

"And how do you feel about that?" Lindstrom asked, that dread question.

"Before I would've loved it. Now, we barely speak. He goes to work, and comes home with dinner, but I think he does that out of obligation rather than consideration." She mused with a sense of self loathing. "I'm a burden to him. He's uncomfortable with me."

I've let him down. The final confession slipped through her mind, catching at the back of her tongue. I've wanted someone else, and I'm afraid it's the last nail in the coffin…

She closed her eyes once more, her head lowered. Hidden behind the short strands of her hair, she struggled not to mentally break again. Her relationship with Brian was hardly the reason for her being here.

"Many times loved ones are afraid." Lindstrom replied, softly. "They don't know what to do or how to help, and it leads to a disconnect."

"I don't even know if I want him to help me." Olivia replied, sharply. "I've never needed someone to prop me up, especially not him."

"You make an emotional support system sound like a weakness, Olivia." Lindstrom admonished, though his tone remained at gentle as ever. "I want you to try to remember that it's not a weakness to be here, or to allow your family and friends to rally around you. You are not a superhuman, Olivia. You can accept their kindness without guilt."

"Can I?" Olivia repeated, flicking a watery gaze towards Lindstrom.

He knew nothing of Amanda nor of their adulterous kisses. He didn't know the way that sin had widened the cavern between her and Brian, or the way her desires still ate at her brain every day despite her supposed repentance. Every kind word or good deed exchanged between them was an apology, a bandaid holding together their splintering connection. What could come of that except for guilt?

xxxxxx

Olivia arrived home an hour later, struggling with the door lock at she balanced the brown, paper bag in the crook of her other arm.

She'd taken the subway back, and she had stopped off early, wandering past Central Park, then down towards Brian's apartment. As she had passed the bodegas and taquerias, she'd seen the liquor store, the neon OPEN flashing brilliantly behind the barred windows. She wasn't whimsical enough in the moment to call it a sign, only desperate enough.

Lindstrom had suggested letting her guard down throughout the days between their next session. He'd encouraged her to let friends, and Brian help her in any way they could, and to accept their offerings as a sign that they cared for her well being. Maybe, it was supposed to make her value her life, but whatever hopes were wrapped inside the assignment seemed lost beneath a wave of self hated that she couldn't resist indulging.

Arriving home with the liquor in hand, she couldn't feign to have any other intention but wasting that emotion beneath the diligent effects of the alcohol. She couldn't dare to imagine what her former self might think of the disgustingly destructively and pathetic coping mechanism, so like her mother's, and she didn't let it cross her mind now as she shoved the door open.

Stumbling inside the dim apartment, she kicked the door shut behind her with her heel, and leaned against it for a moment, panting softly as her eyes roved across the empty space. She thanked God that Brian wasn't here to see her tumbling slowly down this hill of despair, and sniffing back tears, she pushed herself towards the kitchenette, cradling the bottle to her chest.

She sank down in the chair at the table, and set the paper bag down in front of her. Clutching the neck of the bottle with both hands, she stared at it through a blurry gaze. She trembled, a mixture of fear and pain which burned her nerve endings.

She was afraid of this, of losing herself, losing Brian, Amanda, and everything else that had once mattered to her. She'd spent the entire session detailing how they'd all hurt her, yet now, she couldn't blame them. She could only blame herself.

She sucked in a sharp breath against tears, and lowered chin with gritted teeth. Glaring at the bottle, she dragged the paper bag down, the material crinkling to a crushed ball at the bottom of the glass. The amber liquid gleamed back her, catching slim rays of fading sunlight from the window.

She lifted a shaking hand to the lid, her grip weak at first as she began to twist it off. She grappled for a moment, releasing a raspy exclamation from between her clenched teeth, before the seal finally cracked. She sank back as the lid slipped from her fingers, forgotten as the scent of the alcohol touched her nose.

"Oh…." She choked out, clenching her fingers harder around the neck as she lowered her head, tears rushing to her eyes in a second, involuntary wave.

She pressed her face into her arm, breathing heavily as memories and childhood anger flooded her, but so much of it felt foreign now. She'd never been able to understand, but, oh, how she understood now. She understood more than she had ever wanted, even at her darkest hours of teenagehood, when all she had desired was a peek into her mother's psyche. Enlightenment wasn't anything what she had expected. No, it was much worse.

Whimpering, she lifted her eyes to the bottle, pulling it closer over the wood. The liquid sloshed inside, enchanting her lips towards the rim. Pulling herself up straighter, she lifted the bottle, hesitating as it hovered almost close enough to taste.

She knew what Lindstrom would say. Self medication is not a path to recovery, only a retraction from it, but in the moment, she couldn't bring herself to care for the sound logic.

Squeezing her eyes shut, she pressed the cold glass to her lips, a quick decision before she could falter again. The liquor slipped past her teeth, burning the soft insides of her mouth and throat, but she steeled herself against the discomfort, and swallowed - one gulp, then two, then three. Her head rushed with a buzzing warmth as she finally set the bottle down. She stared down at the table, breathing heavily as her heart raced with the sudden intake of alcohol. She could already feel the flush on her cheeks, and with blind ambitions of drowning the pain, she clutched the bottle once more. She drank until her head began to spin behind her tightly clenched eyes, and she had to take a breath. Slamming the bottle down, she coughed against the sharp, fiery liquor in her throat, uneven cries melding with each choke.

Sinking down against the table, she covered her face with her arm once more, and prayed that the dulling effects would take over quickly now. The next second wouldn't be soon enough.

Several moments has passed when her silent, desperate pleading was shattered by the sudden sound of Brian's key jiggling in the lock. She gasped, sitting up straight as she heard him step inside, then the door slam behind him.

"Liv?" He called out, and she felt her pulse speed up, from fear of discovery rather than the effects of the liquor.

She fumbled for the lid, struggled to screw it back on with uncoordinated movements. Stray tears clung to her cheeks as she attempted to stand up, and the room began to spin around her. She grabbed at the edge of the table, panting as Brian's footsteps grew closer.

He came to a standstill at the entrance of the kitchen, the Chinese takeout clutched in one hand as his eyes fell upon the scene. She stayed next to the table, biting at her lower lip as she tried to find some explanation.

"Liv." He repeated in a low tone, his brow furrowed, gray eyes widened with disbelief as they bounced between her inebriated appearance and the bottle.

"What are you doing?" He whispered at last.

"Nothing." The denial rolled off her tongue as she shifted away from the chair, putting her body between the bottle and Brian's line of sight.

"Nothing." Brian repeated, advancing into the kitchen.

He set the bag of take out down on the counter and tossed his keys next to it as he sauntered towards her. His cloudy gaze and tense shoulders threatened her with the discovery of her drinking, and she clenched teeth against a quiver, gripping the edge of table behind her until it bit into flesh.

He drew near, and he seemed to tower over her as came to stand mere inches from her. She stared up him, tears shimmering in her guarded gaze as his stormy eyes cut into her. The silence between them was tenuous until, finally, he moved to reach around her. Choked with panic, she vainly tried to push in front of his arm in a weak attempt to stop him, releasing a low protest.

"Brian, wait-"

He jostled into her, crowding her out of her place in front of the table as he swiftly grabbed the bottle.

"No, Brian!" She cried out, grabbing at his arm as he swung it out of her reach.

"What is this?" He demanded, taking a step back to avoid her flailing fingers.

"It's nothing!" She insisted, tears choking her.

"The last time you said that it was lie." He snapped, his eyes glittering with something close to betrayal, although she had been sure she was only betraying herself in this moment.

"It's not your concern." She ground out through the emotion that would silence her, and firmly held out her hand in wordless command.

"No?" Brian demanded, "And how is that, Olivia?"

He waved the bottle between them, taunting her with a solace she had come so close to calling hers.

"Huh?" He sneered when she didn't answer him, her eyes following the amber liquid. "When will it be my concern? When you become a drunk just like your mother? When I find you dead at the bottom of a set of stairs?!"

His words sliced into her with a pain and indignation so great that for a moment she could scarcely breathe. Finally, the whole weight of it hit her, and she felt herself trembling because how dare he be so brutal, and yet so honest in that brutality? She didn't want the truth, or a mirror to look at, to see how far she had fallen. She'd only wanted an escape, a way to slip beneath the edges of reality into a kinder, less painful world, but he wouldn't let her.

She stumbled back, clutching her chest as the sharpness of his words went through her chest like knives. She could hear herself panting in her ears, but the air couldn't quite reach her lungs. She grabbed at the table behind her with a numb hand, her unfocused eyes trying to find anything but Brian's horrified expression.

"Jesus, Liv, I'm sorry…" Brian whispered as he watched her begin to crumble before him.

She could feel her legs giving way, and he rushed forward, catching her quickly. She heard the bottle clank against the table, and a part of her wanted to turn and grab it, run from this house before he could stop her, but his arms were unyielding. He crushed her to his chest, his fingers clenched with a quiver in hair as she convulsed with tears in his arms. The horror and shame followed quickly after her dying dreams of drinking herself to unconsciousness, and as oxygen finally reached her airways, she sobbed raggedly into his leather jacket, fighting against the insistence of his comfort.

"Liv, stop it!" He demanded as she pushed against his chest with her balled up hands.

She cried out in frustration and humiliation, wrenching away from his arms, only to be caught once more. Her violent struggles knocked them off balance, and he stumbled back into the counter. His grasp on her faltered, and she shoved his hand from her arm as she began to charge towards the living room.

"Liv!" He called after her as she rushed towards the front door, tears blinding her.

His footsteps fell heavily behind her, quickly over taking her own stumbling ones. He caught her by the arm just as they reached the front door again, and he spun her around, pushing her up against the cold, wood surface. She gasped around tears as he pinned both her arms, and pressed into her, startling her with a kiss. His mouth was not kind, only desperate, raw with the last plea he had for her to stay.

She was frozen against the door, her hands grasping empty air as he ravaged her lips to swollen compliance, igniting the promise of another empty abandon.

It was the first time he had touched her this way since before the abduction, and their last tryst inside her apartment played through mind now with a new realization. Was this all they could do to salve their open wounds? Was this all he could offer her? They had no more intimacy than frantic pleasure beneath the sheets, then and now, but in this moment, she was just wasted enough to cling to that short prospect of bliss, that familiar rhythm of their previous relationship. Thoughts of his hands, rough and unforgiving, filled her body with the idea of something other than endless despair - a chance to feel; a chance to be someone other than the damaged victim she'd become; a chance to put off losing this man she'd tried so desperately to love.

It wouldn't be the oblivion she had hoped for, but with his own body clutched in pleasure he wouldn't be able to stop her now.

Chapter Text

She awoke with a start, gasping softly into the humid, dark room. She was on her back, the sheets twisted around her legs, the mattress hot beneath her back. Brian's arm was pressed up against hers, and she could still feel the sweat joining their flesh.

She swallowed hard, blinking slowly as the fingers of consciousness slowly spread back the cobwebs of sleep. She'd had the dream of Amanda, the same one that had haunted her for the past two weeks. One moment they were kissing, with a slow, sensual tangibility that took away her slumbering breath, but then as she lifted her head, Lewis would appear, watching them with a hideous smirk. His smile still gripped her as she lay there, her heart fluttering, shallowly.

She turned her head, slowly, releasing a tremulous breath as she stared Brian's sleeping face. A knot formed in her throat as she realized that she hadn't escaped anything. Lewis was still inside her head, and Amanda was still laced in every heartbeat and every thought or dream. In the wake of her and Brian's sexual reunification all she could feel was disgust with herself. She felt used and cheap by her own desperate attempts at liberation. Even in the midst of pleasure she had felt numb, and the excitement she'd once experienced during their intimacy failed to come alive even at her most vigorous demand or frantic wish.

As she sat up on the edge of the bed, she could feel the swollen ache in her groin, a lasting reminder that she had screamed at him to be harder, rougher, merciless. Surely, in the light of day, she'd see the marks they both bore of this night - the bruises on her flesh, the scratches across his back.

The distant throb of tears pressured her eyes, and she scraped one hand over her face, attempting to diffuse the panic before it set in. Her inhales were fragile and truncated as she remembered that even as the eventual climax had gripped her, it hadn't been enough.

Jumping up suddenly from the bed, she rushed towards the door, and into the dark hall. Batting at the wall to find her way, she stumbled into the bathroom and slammed the door behind her. She didn't even attempt to find the light switch as she sank back again the wall, her panicked breathing echoing loudly inside the small space. She slid down against the wall, clutching her forehead as she crumpled to the floor.

I just want Amanda…. The thought fled through her mind like a prayer, and she released a low sob, digging her forehead into her knees.

Remembering her soft, pale hands and wide, blue eyes full of empathy brought a sharp inhale to her lungs in the next second, a mixture of relief and regret. It had been so many moments such as these that her angelic presence would find her, wrapping her in safety and understanding, a devotion that Olivia could still not quite believe. Tears clung to her lashes, her breath trembling as she remembered every single exchange that had brought them to this moment, right up to Amanda fleeing from her - just as she promised she wouldn't. Olivia had spent the past two weeks first mourning, then growing bitter over that fact, but she knew she could forget it all if Amanda but appeared beside her, that hesitant, hopeful smile touching her lips as she offered a brighter future.

I have to find her. The determination gripped her, and she could feel her belly quiver with a fire that she hadn't felt since she'd been tied to a metal bed frame, fighting for her life.

Lifting her head, she scrubbed her fingers beneath her eyes, clenching her jaw against the last of the panic. Pressing her fists to the cold floor, she pushed herself upright, swaying in the darkness before she grabbed first the counter, and then the doorknob. Pushing out into the hallway, she nearly broke into a run as she set her sights on the front door. She began to shove her feet into her shoes, her heart racing as she imagined finding Amanda again, telling her that she didn't care what she had done; they'd find some way to heal together….

Light suddenly flooded the room, causing her to jolt out of her wild thoughts. She spun around, fear filling her for a moment at the slightest image of Lewis inside her home again. Instead, Brian stood at the threshold of the living room, leaning one elbow against the wall. His brow was furrowed, eyes narrowed, mouth set in a line.

"Jesus, Brian, you scared me." She whispered, breathlessly.

"Where are you going?" He asked in a low tone, ignoring her frightened expression as he gestured towards the door with a finger.

She swallowed, her heart thudding heavily with new apprehension as his accusatory stare burned into her with each passing second.

When she didn't answer, he released a low sigh, rubbing two fingers over his eyes, before letting his hand drop with a loud smack against his thigh.

"What do I have to do, Liv?" He questioned, frustration glimmering in his eyes. "What would make you want to be here with me?"

"Bri, that's not-" She began, her voice an uneven whisper.

"Stop." He snapped, before she could form the excuse on her tongue. "You were going to do this to me all over again, weren't you?"

"Do what?" She replied, her voice a trembling whisper because she already knew.

"No, Liv, I'm not going to say it for you." He answered through clenched teeth. "I thought maybe if I showed you that things could still be good between us you'd stop running away from me, and let go of this ridiculous crush on Amanda!"

"First of all, it's not a crush." She returned sharply, her voice trembling. "I am not some teenage girl that-"

"Do you even hear yourself?" Brian demanded, his voice rising as he pushed away from the wall. "How exactly would you frame that relationship?"

He paced away from the hallways, towards the window, his shoulders taut with anger. He leaned against the frame with one hand, his jaw working in the moonlight as he stared out at the skyline.

"Why are you even bringing Amanda into this?" She whispered through burgeoning tears, a pitiful defense to his painfully accurate insinuations.

"Where else would you be going in the middle of the night?" He asked, his voice falling to a apathetic whisper. "Because the last time this happened I found you in bed with her."

There was silence for a moment while her chest quivered and his fists trembled. At last, he tilted his head in her direction, digging for an answer with his narrowed gaze.

They stared at each other across from the room, tears shimmering in both of their gazes, and the distinct feeling that this moment could be the end of them filled Olivia's chest suddenly and sharply, taking away even the smallest breath. Every moment they'd spent together, every kiss, every touch, the laughs and tears flashed before her eyes, and she realized with abysmal despair that even the memories of what she'd called happiness did not evoke the same feelings as they once had. Instead, her unhappiness bubbled up inside of her - every single time he'd ignored her feelings, every time he'd found something more important to fill his time with, every time he'd skirted the subject of children, and the marriage proposal she knew would never come. She wanted to scream out every complaint that she had spilled upon Lindstrom's ears, but she couldn't.

"I can't do this right now." She finally managed to whisper, her voice barely holding strong against emotion.

"Christ, Olivia." Brian groaned, scraping one hand over his face and into hair before his eyes hooked into her again. Tell me the truth for once. Do you want to be with me or not?"

"You'd think you'd know the answer to that after tonight." She whispered, choking over the outright question.

The ambiguity of the statement didn't reach her ears until she'd already spoken the words and Brian was glaring at her with a resentment so horrid that she wished to sink through the floorboards and into the ground.

"You'd think." He repeated, spitefully. "You'd think that sleeping with your girlfriend would mean something."

She clenched her jaw as another wave of pain went through her, just another shard of guilt to pierce her heart. She wanted to cry out that she felt as used as he did, just as sad and disappointed in herself that things could not be as they once were; but she swallowed back all the words of commiseration. He didn't want to hear it, and she was too much of a coward in this moment to admit it aloud.

"I'll come back." She murmured, ducking her head as she turned quickly towards the door. "I promise."

"No." Brian breathed, causing her fingers to clench hard around the doorknob. "Don't promise me shit, Olivia."

She pressed her eyes shut as tears burned unrelenting against her lids, but even as the worst of the guilt gutted her through and through, she could not turn back to him with the truth on her tongue. Instead, she wrenched the door open, shaking to escape into the night.

xxxxx

The sun was just beginning to rise, spreading golden light across Atlantic City, and the beach below. The red glowing numbers on the alarm clock next to the bed had read 8:02 am when she had risen.

The high rise hotel would be a glittery sight right now, Amanda mused, if she weren't standing at the glass wall of Room 2113, the mimosa dangling from her fingers as she watched the night disappear.

The five star hotel boasted 24 hour room service, and she had promptly ordered the alcoholic drink before last night's hangover could catch up with her. Any concern she'd had over sobriety had disappeared over the last few days, or was it weeks now? The passage of time had slipped away from her in the conflicting light and dark of the casinos below.

She closed her eyes as the warmth of the sun's natural light washed over her naked flesh with a mesmerizing allure. God, it was tempting, but she'd only be fooling herself, imaging a chance of something better. In a few precious moments the illusion would be shattered, the cold splash of reality landing her back in $60 motels before the day was over. The rational thought that she could simply go home barely flitted across her mind.

She lifted the half empty champagne glass to her lips as she glanced over her shoulder at the king size bed, and the woman sprawled leisurely beneath sheets that barely covered her tan backside.

She'd introduced herself only as Nadine last night when they'd found themselves next to each other at a table where her husband had ignored her for gambling, cigars, and ego stroking from the rest of casino's guests. He owned some sort of investment company, but Amanda did not remember, nor care to recall exactly who he was or why he mattered in the world. She'd had enough of men and their insidious delusions of self serving grandeur. Nadine, on the other hand, had drawn her attention quickly as she pretended to cheer on her husband while loneliness and dejection grew in her gaze.

Amanda might have lost the chance at good stack of cash by leaving the tables early, but she'd been gambling for two weeks. The addiction's affects had begun to wane, no longer washing away the memories of the woman she truly wished were lying

in the bed. Even now, if she swallowed a few more mimosas, she might be able to find a mirage of Olivia in Nadine's graceful pose.

Nadine had been a beautiful, sweet distraction, but Amanda knew this was to be but a one night stand and nothing more. In fact, she'd had no intention of speaking to Nadine ever again after tonight when she'd followed her from the casino's loud, buzzing floor to this hotel across the street. She only lingered here now, hoping to cling to the last bits of bliss before the real world swallowed her whole all over again.

The last of the mimosa drained from the glass to her waiting tongue, and she swallowed slowly, savoring the tanginess of the orange juice below the warmth of the champagne's caress. Reality was just moments away.

Wandering away from the window, she sat the glass on the desk, and slowly began to gather her clothing from the floor.

She could've ordered another, but what would've been the point? Postponing the inevitable had only ever served to hurt her more in the end. It was why she had left New York when she had, why she wouldn't stay here to kiss Nadine good morning. Pretending that she could hold on to her and Olivia's relationship had been a delusion of her own making, and pretending that the woman in her bed meant anything more than what was seen at face value would be an even greater foolishness.

Dressing herself in yesterday's clothes, Amanda raked her eyes over the room one last time, hardly allowing herself to gaze at Nadine's body, and the warmth that she knew it could offer. Turning towards the door, she squared her shoulders and cleared her mind, posing herself with a much simpler question.

Which bars are open this early?

xxxxxx

She'd drawn out the buzz, stringing along the fragility of happiness and carelessness between half a dozen drinks throughout the afternoon, but as the hours waned, she found herself wandering back to the tables, skirting groups of laughing people and whirring machines. She could hear the numbers being called, the dice skittering across felt, and, not for the first time, she wished for New York. Atlantic City seemed like a cartoon version of the gritty, seedy gambling rooms in the sleepless city, but maybe she didn't have the steel guts that she used to. Maybe, here she could be a cartoon of herself, a pitiful, weak version that didn't have the courage it took to do exactly what she wanted; a way to toe the line of danger until she could blur enough to cross without fear.

Meandering past a table of blackjack and then poker, she felt a restlessness crawling through her veins. The shiny, gaudy appeal of this city had begun to fade, and each new minute of lonely, hopeless drifting only wedged the discomfort deeper.

In the past, she'd considered herself fearless, and pressing the button on self destruct had come easier than almost anything. Now, she flirted with legal casinos and bars that took a person's keys after one too many, flying through the safety zone of her vices as though there would be something to go back to in the end.

I'm too sober for this. She thought, clenching her teeth against any urge to collapse into a breakdown.

She couldn't think of her reasons to live right now because they were few, wrapped up inside two tragic, honey eyes and a heart that bore the weight of the world.

Finding her way to the bar, she slipped onto the stool, and dejectedly waited for the bartender to notice her. Atlantic City no longer felt kind, and even last night's temporary bliss already felt cheap and useless in the back of her mind. She'd engaged in many casual encounters, never apologetic, never guilty; but maybe sex hadn't been what she had wanted last night.

She glanced back at the crowd, numbly watching their interactions. There was no raw human connection here. Their faces appeared like clown makeup, fake smiles and laughter that covered the hopeless pursuits of true happiness. She swallowed hard as heavy emotion weighed on her chest with the knowledge that she was never going to find what she wanted here, nor would she escape it.

"What'll it be, sweetheart?" The bartender asked, drawing her attention back from the deep thoughts scorching her brain.

"Whiskey." She replied with an automatic smile that didn't make it's way past her mouth. "On the rocks."

"Sure thing." He replied with a wink.

She barely acknowledged his flirtatious behavior as he poured her drink with a flourish of his hand, and slid if across from her.

"It'll be on the house if you tell me what a pretty girl like you is thinking about." He smiled, widely, leaning on the bar.

"I can pay for my own drinks, thank you." She replied with a scoff as she picked up the drink, and immediately swallowed several, large gulps.

He watched her, his brows rising as she nearly emptied the glass before slamming it back down with a slosh of ice.

"Another then?" He asked, seeming both taken aback and amused by her behavior.

"Only if you'll let me drink in peace." She replied, snidely, the alcohol already loosening her tongue.

He snorted a laugh and refilled the glass, although he didn't move away from her as began to lift the drink once more. His eyes were laughing, and she though he must get off on making the young, female patrons of this establishment uncomfortable when his expression shifted. His gaze darted over her shoulder and she immediately twisted to catch sight of what caught his eyes.

"Looks like you've got some friends." He commented, and her stomach slowly dropped as she watched the two, black-clad security guards advancing towards her.

"What'd you do?"

"I don't know…" She whispered, her heart palpitating in her chest as she tried to remember every evening she'd spent inside this casino or the next, and what she possibly could've done.

"Amanda Rollins?" One of them asked in a gruff tone reached her.

"Yes." She said, slowly setting her drink down as they towered above her.

"You'll need to come with us." The other added, his narrowed dark eyes cutting into her with the implication that she should comply.

"Why?" She asked, breathlessly, standing slowly from the stool, her back pressed to the bar.

"We'll get into that once we're away from the floor." The first guard said with an icy, professional smile. "Wouldn't wanna make a scene."

"I haven't done anything." She whispered, her gaze bouncing between the two of them as the terrifying thought that one of her old bookies had somehow found her in another state.

"Let's not make things harder." The second guard asserted, his gaze holding a threat that she hardly wanted to test; however, she had no desire to go anywhere with the two men not knowing what the results would be.

"I'd be happy to prove that I've been playing fairly." She insisted, attempting to keep an even tone as their bodies seemed to close in around her.

"No worries, Miss Rollins." The first guard smiled unnervingly once more. "This is about other, more personal things."

She froze at his words, her heart slowing for half a moment before pounding hard against her ribs. Suddenly, all she could think of was Nadine, pushed against the door of the dark hotel room, gasping that her husband would kill them both if he knew. Nadine groaning afterwards that she'd be in so much trouble, that her husband had more power than he should; that he'd used it before, and wouldn't hesitate...

"Mr. Defranco would be more than happy to arrange issue with your money if you'd prefer that." The first guard said, his tone dripping with condescension. "Or you could come with us. Your choice."

Amanda swallowed hard, her pulse rushing at a sickening pace in her neck as her brain cycled frantically through her options. Any trouble with the casino would fall back on her job and the NYPD, while complying to their threats left much of her Fate to bleak imagination. She didn't know much of the Mr. Defranco that had been mentioned, but she knew enough for fear for what these two men might do to her in retaliation.

But what about Olivia? The question surfaced in her mind. If I'm arrested for cheating in a casino I'm done for...and I'll never see her again…

Blinking against hot tears of fear, she nodded, haltingly.

"All right." She whispered, his voice trembling. "Let's go."

Chapter Text

Fin's apartment building was an unfamiliar place, and as Olivia jogged up the sidewalk in the dark, she wished -not for the first time since being placed on leave- for her service weapon. In the middle of the night, it was hard to make out which shadows held monsters, and which passing cars were but harmless commuters. Her eyes darted across the street and back at the sidewalk behind her as she rushed up the steps to the front of the building, her heart racing.

She'd called the older detective minutes ago as she sat in the subway, clutching the metal railing next to the door in one hand and her cellphone in the other. Despite the late hour, she hadn't awakened him, and she'd been grateful for his accommodation at such a strange hour. After her fight with Brian she had little emotional strength left to explain herself.

Now, as she squinted through the front doors of the old building, she could see him on the other side, concern etching his features. He pulled the door open, glancing warily out at the street for a moment as he ushered her inside.

"Best not to let you walk up alone." He commented, nodding towards the stairway.

"Thanks." She murmured, quietly relieved by his protective presence as she still softly trembled with vulnerability.

She hooked her arm in his as they began to trek upwards, and although she knew he must be burning with curiosity, he hardly said a word until they reached his apartment. He unlocked the door, and guided her inside first before closing it behind them.

Twisting two sets of deadbolts, he offered, "You want a beer?"

"No, thank you." She declined as she wandered towards his couch, and sank down into the leather.

The main menu of Grand Theft Auto lit the room in sharp, LED colors, edgy music drifting at a low volume from the speakers, and she watched the preview cycle through as Fin took a bottle from the fridge and cracked it open before he joined her on the couch.

"This is about Amanda." He finally said before taking a swig.

He'd never been one to dance around a subject, and although he faced her inquiry head on, his eyes were on the beer bottle as he swirled the neck from his fingertips.

"Cragen told me she opted to take a leave." Olivia said, slowly. "That was two weeks ago."

"Not many choices there." Fin added, casting her a dark gaze with the insinuation that he knew of Amanda's escapades behind Bellevue's walls just as she did.

"She told you." Olivia murmured, leaning forward on her knees.

"In a way." Fin conceded, taking another drink.

"She told me too." Olivia whispered, glancing over at him. "But she didn't tell me where she was going."

She watched his brow furrow in the slightest tell, confirming her gut instinct that Fin knew where to find Amanda. She knew the bond that could grow between partners, the absolute trust and duty to protect. She knew perhaps better than anyone, but it only made her want to dig the information out of him more. She'd sworn her partner to silence over things that were better resolved in the light of day, and watching the conflict on his face set in her veins a distinct fear.

"Tell me now if you know, Fin." She urged as she leaned in closer, clasping his arm in a plea. "The last time we talked...it wasn't good."

He shook his head, his tone dipping, "You won't like it, Liv."

"I don't care right now." She insisted, sudden tears springing to her eyes with the same sense of urgency she had felt in the bathroom in Brian's apartment less than an hour ago. "This is my fault, and I need to find her, and tell her that."

"It's not your fault, Liv." Fin contradicted her, finally meeting her. "Amanda made her own choices."

"Fin." Olivia implored, attempting to even her tone out about the fragile tremble. "Please. She stayed by my side through that first week, through everything. She saved my life, and I just let her go. I'd didn't even try to stop her…"

His expression was creased with conflict, and he released a low sigh as he gazed down at the bottle once more.

"She sends me a text every morning. Just so I know she's okay." He murmured. "I've been telling Cragen she's in Georgia with family, but that's not true…"

"Then where is she?" Olivia whispered, thickly, her throat knotted with apprehension.

His dark eyes flicked towards her, slowly, and she could read the hesitance in his gaze. He wanted nothing more than to protect his partner, but Olivia could not honor that commitment in this moment. She was on the path to sacrificing everything for the other woman, and a scorched path of regret already lay behind her. She had to find Amanda before she burned along with the rest of what had once been her life.

"Fin, I'm begging you." She whispered, clutching his arm harder as his silence reached an unbearable level.

"Atlantic City." He finally said, his voice heavy with defeat.

She stared at him for a moment, wide-eyed, as the implications of Amanda's location settled into her mind. For anyone else it might've been a fantastic vacation, a fun-filled adventure along the Steel Pier, but for Amanda, it meant something much darker, a temptation to the underbelly of an addiction that Olivia had thought was over. As the understanding of just how lost Amanda had become in the last two weeks dawned upon her, the responsibility of the whole situation seized her with an even more vigorous grip.

"I told you that you wouldn't like it." Fin murmured at the sight of her horrified expression.

"Why didn't you stop her?" Olivia demanded, tears growing in her eyes as she imagined Amanda wasting away casino tables and bars full of uncouth men, ready to take advantage of her.

"I don't tell people what to do with their lives, Olivia." Fin responded with a shake of his head. "She was already there when I was able to contact her, and I told her that if she got into trouble she could call me and I'd come get her…. But I can't force her."

Olivia could feel tears growing in her eyes, and she shoved herself up from the couch. Pacing away from him, she pursed her lips against further urges to cry as she wandered to the window, and stared out at the blurry street.

When Amanda's issues with gambling had been discovered last year she'd had little understanding for her colleague. She hadn't been able to grasp why or how a police officer could allow themselves to become enslaved to such an addiction. Now, she regretted every second of disdain, realizing that Amanda's issues were much deeper than a little too much fondness for poker. She'd nearly killed a man, a rapist, when she herself had been so brutally assaulted. She was spiraling and Olivia had been to blinded by her own trauma to realize that she'd been pulling Amanda down with her.

"I have to see her, Fin." She finally said in a raw whisper.

"I promised her I wouldn't even tell you where she is."

"Well, you've already done that." Olivia pointed out with a scoff as she turned back towards him. "Come on, Fin. I owe her this much."

They stared at each other for a long moment before finally he broke the gaze, turning to set the beer bottle down with a clank on the side table.

"All right." He said at last. "But I'm coming with you."

xxxxxx

The light had faded from the sky, and what illumination drifted into the alleyway was bright with the reds and greens and blues of the neon signs beyond.

The guard's fingers were rough, biting into her inner arm. Her every base instinct screamed at her to tear away, and make an escape, but she knew better. She'd seen the guns hiding in threatening shadows beneath their dark suit jackets, and she did not want to gamble with the chance that they wouldn't shoot her down in the street.

As the heavy, metal door slammed behind them, Amanda's heart raced faster, her breath rasping from her lips as the guard let go of her arm with a shove. The gritty concrete was uneven beneath her boots, and she stumbled to get her footing. She caught her balance on a large trash can resting against the opposite wall, panting as she tamped down every urge to retaliate.

"There's no need for that." She spit, tightly, through gritted teeth as she glared back at them.

They exchanged glances, a dark humor resting on their lips at her words. Their amusement sent a sharp rod of horror through her stomach, an impending doom because she knew what men like them enjoyed, and the things that they laughed at. Women like her. Women in pain.

She'd suffered beneath faces of men just like them, and with their lewd smiles came a deluge of memories, flashes of pain and degradation that she'd fought so hard to forget. She would've rather had a gun held to her head, but Patton hadn't needed a gun, and although these men had more than enough ammunition to end her life, she knew what those smile meant. They'd rather use the weapons of their stronger bodies to exact the revenge that their boss had ordered.

Pulling herself upright, she stepped backwards slowly. Her heart hammered against her ribs, a sickening dread twisting her stomach. Her eyes darted up each side of the alleyway, and she prayed for some escape from the situation, but a creeping dread told her there would be no such miracle. It would take an act of God to stop what was about to happen, and God had stopped listening to her prayers long ago.

"What do you want with me?" She whispered, her throat tight as panicked tears stung her eyes.

"Us?" The first guard asked, motioning between them. "Nothing. We're just following orders, sweetheart."

He stepped closer to her, and she trembled, sucking in a quaking gasp as she attempted to distance herself from him once more; but the wall was already at her back, and she could see the second guard palming the butt of his holstered gun.

"Please, don't-" She began to whisper, but he grabbed her face harshly, his fingers surely leaving bruises on the soft flesh of her cheeks.

"Unngg…" She grunted as the rough brick dug into her back and skull.

Panic was an engrained reaction spiking through her mind, a vivid de ja vu, a remind that she'd gone through these motions before. His hand wasn't on her neck yet, but she could already feel her throat closing and she grabbed at his arm despite the numbing tingle that had already spread to her extremities.

"Mr. Defranco, on the other hand…He'd have a word or two for you." She heard him sneer as her nails bit into his flesh in vain.

Her unfocused gaze danced across the alleyway towards the second guard. His gun was unholstered, clasped between two meaty palms, and the sight of the barrel aimed directly at her head pushed desperate tears to her eyes. The promise of death was mere feet from her, and the emotion clutched her as the fleeting thought that she could escape this all passed through her mind. The men she had dared to defy - Lewis, James, Cragen, Cassidy, and now Defranco - would all take their pieces of her life, and what did she have left to fight for but a few blissful moments in a married woman's bed? They'd taken everything - her career, her love, her humanity, and soon her dignity and autonomy.

Her watery gaze shifted back towards the guard in front of her, and she could see the cold indifference in his eyes. He'd carry out his malicious duties without a hint of regret.

Parting her dry, trembling lips, she whispered, venomously, "Tell him she screamed…. Tell him I was the best fuck she ever had."

His eyes widened in surprise for half a second, a moment of weakness when she struck him, her knee slamming into his groin . A cry of pain and anger erupted from his mouth, and she wrenched her body beneath his grip. She broke from the wall, her heart rushing with at a nauseating pace, as she tripped over his legs.

In the back of her mind she prayed she'd hear the gun explode, a quick end to this torture, but she'd barely scrambled up to her feet again when she felt the second guard grab her. He wrenched her around by the arm, and her head spun before his fist even collided with her face. Then there was a sickening crack, flesh against flesh, bone against bone. Her head snapped back with the force of his knuckles against her mouth and jaw, and she gave a guttural cry. Pain washed across her face, radiating through the whole of skull, and white noised buzz filled her ears. The world twirled around her as she numbly felt him grab a portion of her hair at the base of her neck, dragging her like ragdoll. She was defenseless as a second punch to her stomach incapacitated her. Her legs collapsed from beneath her, and she could hear herself choking and wheezing as the air failed to fill her lungs. She clutched at her stomach as the sharp, intense pain of the blow seized her midsection, and he let her fall to the ground.

She lay against the cold, grimy concrete, her body clenched in the fetal position as she tried to breathe through excruciating agony of the assault. She could hardly wrap her mind around a single thought as they loomed above her, watching her tremble and gasp for air.

"J-just...shoot…" She stuttered out, her voice raspy and breathless.

"Shoot you?" The first guard asked. "That's not the endgame, sweetheart."

"F-fuck...you." She rasped through gritted teeth.

"Funny you should say that." He quipped, darkly, as he bent down next to her.

His hand brushed over her cheek, and she flinched.

"I have very specific orders." He went on as his fingers slipped around her arm. "You don't fuck a man's wife without getting fucked over yourself."

"Ngghh…" She groaned in resistance as he yanked her up from the ground.

She stumbled, her body still weak and disoriented, but she knew their intentions. With what strength she had, she screamed, splitting the air of the quiet alleyway.

"Shut up!" The guard demanded as he pushed her up against the wall again.

She writhed beneath him, panicked sobs echoing against the narrow passage. He slapped her sharply, his palm cracking against the left side of the length of her face. She gasped, hunching over as she clutched her ringing ear and throbbing jaw. She squeezed her eyes shut against the dizzying rotations of the earth beneath her, trying to find the willpower to fight one more time.

"Get up." He ordered, grabbing her by the back of the neck.

"Noooo." She moaned, digging her toes into the ground at he dragged her around and slammed her into the lid of large, filthy trash bin that sat against the wall. She flailed beneath him as he held her face down against the reeking plastic, sobbing as the reality of what the planned to do with her encroached upon her mind.

"You city cops think you can get away with anything." The guard laughed in her ear before he spoke to his partner. "Hey, Burke, hold her arms."

"No…." She moaned into the trashcan, kicking her feet as desperate sobs welled up in her throat.

It was a last ditch effort at fight or flight before the immobility would set in. She knew the process. She knew exactly the way that the tingling and the numbness would take over her limbs, the way that the disbelief would take her mind captive and not let go. She'd try to think of another place, but it wouldn't work. She'd feel every excruciating moment until they deemed her punished and put in her place….

The second guard - Burke - put his hands on her, his fingers wrapping tightly around her wrists, twisting them high between her shoulder blades. She cried out in pain, slamming her knees into the trash can. She screamed again, but it was short lived, choked out by the tears and the panic.

It'd only taken them this long to break her after all of the years she'd spent rebuilding what was left of the last man who'd pillaged her body like a prize. At the realization, she sank against the trashcan, sobbing.

"Please…" She cried, raggedly, her voice rising again as the first unnamed man tore her pants down in one, rough yank. "Jesus, p-please, don't do this...god, please, I'll do anything…"

"Shut up, whore." Burke hissed.

She released a loud sob as the other guard took a fistful of her underwear and shredded them beneath his unrelenting fist. Then the familiar humiliation filled her, the most damning, lasting effect of assault that she'd never been able to escape, not even for a second; but now, it was like a fresh, new wave of sea salt on an open wound, burning her with the reminder that she was a victim and always would be.

She turned her head towards the end of the alleyway, and the neon lights glimmered through her tears like a stained glass window. She could watch them flash and wink until this scene had run its course, and she could crawl away from this stage of violence and invasion.

They weren't going to kill her as she had hoped. They were going to leave her here, stripped of every ounce of self worth, and as she stared up at the lights, she wished she could see Olivia one last time. One last beautiful thing before she took what they wouldn't - her last breath.

Chapter Text

The heat of Atlantic City had begun to give way as night approached, a small favor that Olivia was grateful for. Her face and shoulders had taken the brunt of the sun, but she'd hardly given mind to her slowly baking flesh as they'd searched up and down the main strip, through half a dozen casinos, and down the pier.

Amanda's morning text to Fin had failed to arrive hours ago, and although Fin had been determined to help her before, she'd seen his own, true concern become apparent as the hours passed with no contact.

Now, on the brink of evening, Fin had suggested - or rather, ordered - that they find something to eat. Half an hour would likely change nothing, he assured her. Sitting in the booth of a retro diner, waiting for their plates, Olivia could hardly believe that.

She sat against the wall, the photo of Amanda that she'd shoved in irritated tourists faces all afternoon clutched in her hand. It was a printout of her NYPD ID, and the camera had captured her somber expression, her full lips perpetually frowning. Olivia rubbed her thumb over the picture, releasing a trembling sigh.

There was no solid evidence that something had happened to Amanda, but the uncertainty pressed dread into Olivia's stomach. They'd tried GPS tracking which had returned with the unhelpful information that Amanda's phone had been off since yesterday. They'd tried several hotels, and while Amanda's photo seemed familiar to several of the clerks, none of them could confirm that she was currently booked with them.

"How long on the financials?" She murmured to Fin, barely lifting her eyes from the picture.

"It might be another hour." Fin replied.

Olivia gritted her teeth in frustration, finally looking away from Amanda's face. She stared at the window opposite of them, chewing at her lower lip.

"Something's wrong, Fin, I can feel it." She whispered.

"We don't know anything yet." Fin attempted to assure her, but she knew it was simply a measure he was taking to keep their composure in place.

"Here we go!" The waitress interrupted, cheerfully, as she arrived with their orders.

"Thank you." Olivia replied with a forced smile as her food was placed in front of her.

Her stomach was empty aside from the coffee she'd drunk during their two hour drive to New Jersey, but she could hardly think about eating. The anxiety that gripped her left nausea swirling in her belly. The unanswered text that she had sent to Brian while they had been on the road only added to her growing discomfort.

I'm going to be in New Jersey tomorrow. She'd typed carefully. I'm not sure when I'll be back.

The benefit of the doubt that she'd extended to the possibility of his not seeing it had slowly faded as the hours passed. Surely, he'd seen her message when he awoke alone, or perhaps, he'd never slept at all, and the silence was a just bitter warning that she'd gone beyond the point of no return. Either way, she didn't need to be told that she had, nor could she feign to desire a second chance. She'd made her decision, and not a single part of her wished to return to New York.

"You should take a bite, Liv." Fin suggested, softly, and she glanced up to see him watching her carefully.

She released a sigh, and picked up her fork. She pushed the tongs through the pasta before finally taking a bite. The flavor was something she might've enjoyed immensely in any other situation, but in the moment, she simply wanted to swallow it and be done with the meal in order to continue their search.

They ate quietly, periodically exchanging a few words, but Fin's mind seemed to be in much the same place as hers.

She'd managed to get through half of her plate when her phone buzzed on the table next to her, causing her to start. She immediately snatched it up, unrealistically hoping that by some slim chance Amanda's name would be on the screen. Instead, her stomach clenched as she unlocked the screen to see that the notification was from Brian. She slowly set down the fork, and swallowed hard the pasta she'd been chewing.

"Everything okay?" Fin asked as he noticed her expression.

"Yeah...it's just Brian." She replied, an attempt at a carefree tone.

She opened the message thread, her heart racing with apprehension as her eyes landed on the new text.

If you want to go to NJ that's fine. The first message read.

It was filled with stiff indifference, and she knew it was a lie, but it hurt nonetheless. It hurt that their relationship had changed, that it hadn't been strong enough to withstand Lewis's devastation, that even though she cared for him, she didn't love him. Accepting that final truth hurt, perhaps, more than anything.

A second message popped up with a vibration against her palm, and through blurry tears, she read his true reason for replying to her.

But whenever you decide to come back we need to talk without you running away.

She read the message over several times, but it meant the same thing each time. He was done. They were done, and it was only a matter of her returning to New York for him to officially break off the relationship. In some ways, there came relief, in others regret that she hadn't had the courage to respectfully end it months ago. Now, she bore the brunt of the guilt for their lapse in connection, and he might never realize her unhappiness before Lewis ever came into their lives.

"Liv?" Fin repeated as the stared at her phone, tears glistening in her eyes.

"Yeah?" She whispered, quickly lifting a hand to press her fingers against her tear ducts to stem the emotion dripping from them.

"Do I need to be kicking some ass when we get back?" He questioned, causing her to scoff a brittle laugh.

"No, no, I can handle it." She assured him, setting the phone back down as she brushed away the remorseful tears with short smile.

He frowned deeply, but didn't push any further. Uncomfortable with the tenor of the conversation, she quickly changed the subject to their current quest to find Amanda.

"Any possibility of getting those financials sooner?" She asked, taking up her fork again, and nudging her pasta which had grown cold.

"Already asked." Fin replied before taking the last bite of his burger, and pushing the plate back. "They said no can do."

Olivia signed loudly and tossed the fork back down.

"Well, if you're done I'm done. We're wasting time." She suggested, irritation lining her tone.

All she wanted was to find Amanda, and sink into the warmth of her chest. If she closed her eyes, she could almost smell her scent, almost taste her saliva on her tongue. Since breaking down last night, she felt as though all of her desires throughout their two weeks apart that she had spent so much time pushing away had rushed to the surface and spilled over. The aching loneliness, the way she missed her with every fiber of her being, could hardly be encompassed now, much less extinguished. No matter how horribly she felt about Brian, the tug and pull of Amanda was like the moon's effect on the ocean, so natural and irresistible; like nothing she'd ever felt before.

She'd sworn to herself upon entering New Jersey that she wouldn't leave until she found the woman that had so captivated her mind and heart, and she wouldn't break that vow, no matter the obstacles.

Sliding out the booth, she shoved her phone back into her pocket, effectively putting Brian's text out of sight and out of mind.

Fin followed her, and after paying their bill, he escorted her back out onto the sidewalk.

The sun had disappeared entirely from the sky, and the strip was illuminated now by the numerous neon signs and brightly flashing headers. Somehow, the city was louder at night than it had been during daylight, and with a glance up and down the street, Olivia decided it was also much more dangerous.

The thought of Amanda, alone and distraught, struck her with startling clarity. She couldn't shake their last interaction from her mind - Amanda's despair, her confession of visiting Lewis, and of their kiss. She must've felt as though she were losing everything, and Olivia had simply let her go. Rather than risk impaling herself on these unexplainable feelings, she'd opened her fingers and let her slip away. It had been foolish and selfish after all that Amanda had done for her. Now, only God knew what had happened to her or what kind of people she had come across.

"You wanna canvas until the financials get back?" Fin asked, noticing her deep, pensive expression.

"Yeah…" She replied, watching a group of men walk past her.

They cast her quick glances, and she tried not to recoil. They were just passerbys. They most likely didn't mean her any harm…

Most likely.

"Let's stay together for now." Olivia suggested, clearing the tight tone from her throat. "I don't want to miss the financials coming through."

"You got it." Fin agreed easily, though she doubted he had missed the layers of fear and uncertainty hiding in her gaze.

Clenching her hands into fists at her sides, she tried to squash the paranoia. It frustrated her that her ability to discern the intentions of strangers had become lost in a sea of hypervigilance since Lewis's abduction of her, and she wished again for her infallible gut instincts. She could feel that Amanda needed her, and she wanted more than anything to finally be to Amanda what she had been to Olivia, and in doing so, somehow repay her. She couldn't do that if she jumped at every little shadow or premonition of danger, relying on fear instead of courage.

Pulling out the photo of Amanda once more, she stared hard at the sky blue eyes, the ones that hid compassion and kindness behind so many volatile emotions. She'd come across a treasure, one that so many people had overlooked, and she'd also almost let her slip through her fingers.

Lifting her gaze, she narrowed her eyes at the sidewalk ahead.

"Come on." Her voice deepened with determination as she nodded her head towards the pathway up the strip. "I'm gonna find her. With or without the financials."

xxxxx

They'd worked their way up the main drag for well over an hour, and the exhaustion that had tugged at the back of Olivia's mind had begun to stretch across body at an alarming rate. The continued disinterest of the tourists and irritated locals had begun to wear on her determination, and as each one pushed passed her with hardly a glance at the photo of Amanda, she cursed, unbothered that one of them might hear her frustrated expletives.

"Come on, Liv." Fin finally cut in, taking her elbow in order to halt her from storming up the sidewalk. "We've checked all the hospitals. We called all of the precincts, remember?"

"That's not good enough!" She demanded, spinning towards him with indignant tears growing in her eyes.

Desperation had gripped her since that epiphany on the bathroom floor, but the fear and the panic had only grown since they'd reached New Jersey. The sharp mixture of emotions left her overwrought, on the verge of breaking down in the middle of sidewalk.

"She's somewhere, Fin, and she's not okay." Olivia insisted in a rough whisper, sending quick glances to the crowd around them. "I can feel it."

Fin frowned, perplexed by both Olivia's emotions and Amanda's disappearance. She didn't expect him to lash out or break down, but she wished that for one time in his damned life he'd forget his cool, composed exterior if only to make her feel not so alone in her desperation.

"Let's check the casinos one more time." Fin finally suggested, nodding towards one of the larger ones that lay within their sight.

Olivia swallowed back the encroaching tears, and focused her gaze on the building beyond. She'd never had much understanding of gambling or casinos beyond a law enforcement perspective, but now she wished that she could tear down every single one, put away the bookies, destroy any chance of Amanda every becoming trapped in this addiction again; but more than any of that, she wished that Lewis had never touched their lives. He'd left an indelible mark on Olivia's being, and Amanda was on the verge of destroying herself in her attempt to remove it. She wished she could go back, and tell her scars could not so easily be expunged - hers and Amanda's.

"Okay." She whispered, at last with a nod.

"We're gonna find her." Fin assured her, softly, laying a hand on her arm.

She reached up to grasp his fingers for a short moment in a gesture of gratefulness before they headed up the sidewalk again, silent now in their path towards the casino.

The structure loomed over them, the facade decorated in bright lights and a sign that read: The Manchester. Even in a different state they couldn't escape New York, and apparently, neither had Amanda.

Olivia's eyes lifted skyward to the blaringly bright, flashing letters as they reached the entrance, a strange sense of doom filling her at the gaudy display. Her throat tightened in apprehension, goosebumps slowly crawling over the back of skull, and down between her shoulders blades. The sensation of sudden terror wrapped itself around her arms and legs, halting her on the sidewalk, and though for a moment she didn't know why, she saw Amanda's face in her mind, a quick flash of pale flesh painted in blood. She flinched, taking a quick step backwards abruptly just as Fin began to open the door in front of her.

"Amanda…" She gasped, breathlessly, her chest aching with the weight of sharp, sudden premonitions.

"Liv?" Fin's confused tone crackled in the back of her mind, but she ignored his call as she turned back towards the sidewalk, away from the yawning doors of the Manchester.

The crowd around her was buzzing loudly, and the cars on the street whipped past her with a rush of wind and sirens and horns. In the clamor it would've been easy to miss the anguished cry, but it reached Olivia's ears through the roar of voices and the haze of cigarette smoke, cutting out every other sound.

She stood on the sidewalk, frozen, hands clenched at her sides as her ears strained for a second whimper, a confirmation that she had heard what she was convinced she had.

"Liv, what is it?" Fin asked, appearing in her peripheral vision with a puzzled frown.

"Shh!" She insisted, harshly, holding her hand up to halt his protests.

Her eyes darted up and down the sidewalk, and along the buildings as she scrounged for any sign of danger. She knew it was there, in the darkness somewhere, secretly slipping with insidious fingers across her senses. She could scarcely breathe as she stared into the night, waiting on the very edge of her sanity.

"I don't see anything-' Fin began to speak, but it was there, suddenly, chillingly, in the midst of his disbelief.

The scream shattered Olivia's ears, filled with a terror that she knew far too well, and intense fear went through her because she knew that voice. She'd know it anywhere, across any distance. She'd prayed she'd hear it again, though not quite like this.

"What the hell?" Fin cursed as their eyes met, her wide and glistening for a the moments it took to grasp her at her gut instincts.

Then she broke from the sidewalk into a run, the pounding of her heart in her ears taking over every other sound. She could hear Fin behind her, their boots hitting the sidewalk in tandem as they swerved around groups of people and lone joggers, but all she could focus on was the sidewalk in front of her, and the alleyway between the Manchester and the hotel situated next to the casino.

The passage was narrow and dark, but she plunged ahead, grabbing at the rough brick as she rounded the corner. Her body was screaming, pumping with adrenaline, but the sight that met her eyes halted her in her tracks. What breath she had left vacated her lips, leaving her trembling and frozen in the mouth of the alley.

She'd been searching for her for hours, expecting the worst, but she wasn't ready to believe that it was Amanda crushed against the hard brick, two brawny men trapping her beneath their musclebound bodies. But she knew it was her. She knew in the pit of her stomach before the blonde head even turned, connecting blue eyes with hers.

"Jesus, no…" She ground out, and she could feel her body shaking, a volcanic implosion that ruptured in her chest.

"No!" Her voice rose in an uneven swell of desperation down the alleyway, and she shoved away from the brick, flinging herself towards the ghastly scene before her.

Her head was buzzing, panicked breaths rushing in her ears as she hurtled directly into the path of danger. She saw them turn her, their faces flashing from brutal amusement to abrupt surprise.

Time seemed to slow as one of them spun, a gun clutched in his hand, and she fully expected the bullet to explode from the barrel but the possibility of being shot was hardly a blip across the radar of her mind, crowded out by fear and desperation for Amanda.

"Get away!" She screamed, tears fleeing down her cheeks unnoticed.

The second man who'd been poised against Amanda's body released her, tossing her away as though he'd decided she wasn't worth the consequences, and shoved past his cohort. He ran up the alleyway, and his partner abandoned his bravery in turn for cowardice, chasing after him into the dark.

In any other situation, she would've chased after them, following the ingrained training of the NYPD, but she abandoned every instinct she'd ever had as a detective as she watched Amanda's body fold, her pale figure sinking to the ground.

"Amanda, Amanda…" She panted, dropping to her knees next to Amanda's half naked, trembling body.

"NYPD!" She heard Fin shout behind her, his footsteps pounding into the cement as he rushed past her, his service weapon clutched in both hands.

She hovered over Amanda's quivering figure, her quaking hands stretched out over her flesh, but for a moment, she couldn't touch her, afraid that this reality would swoop in far too quickly for her to accept. Her head had begun to spin, and the force of panic had swept nausea through her stomach. All she could think of was what had happened before she had shattered this vile scene, what events had led them here, how long she had suffered.

Clasping her hand over her mouth, she choked over the bile rose in her throat, and her watery gaze danced upwards as she heard Fin grunt a curse. Across the alleyway, he'd caught one of the perpetrators and she flinched as he brought the barrel of his gun across the man's face, once then twice. The crunch of bone and the splitting of flesh seemed dull through the ringing in her head.

Forgotten tears slipped down her cheeks as she stared back down at Amanda's shivering frame. She was locked in the fetal position, in shock, and Olivia's felt the crushing weight of what had happened in this alley settle down upon her chest.

"Oh...no…" She moaned, sinking down to the ground as her body doubled over in an almost physical pain. "God, no…."

Her forehead pressed against Amanda's arm as full-formed sobs ripped through her chest. Her fingers clutched at her breast as agony cut sharply through every inch of her, bearing a white hot anger that she'd felt only once before in her life, moreover, an agony she hadn't even been able to feel for herself.

"She asked us out here, man!" She heard the man complain to Fin as their footsteps scuffled closer. "She wanted it!"

The disgusting falsity finally cut through the haze in her head, and her head snapped up from her bent position as his words ignited across the flames on her chest like gasoline. She felt herself trembling with a rage so deep that she felt sick with it

"You b-bastard!" She growled, shoving up from the ground as Fin was cuffing him.

"Liv!" Fin began to protest as she hurtled towards them, the rage spilling across her face in flushes of red.

"Say that to me face again, you sick bastard." She breathed, stopping mere inches from his chest, close enough to feel his breath.

He stared back at her, his brow knitted, eyes narrowed as he assessed her expression. If he valued his life at all, he'd keep his mouth shut, but she knew how men like him operated. He watched her display of anger like it was a show that he could throw a dollar at.

Finally, his lips twisted in a smirk through the blood that Fin had left there, and he began to chuckle. "Oh, come on, give it a rest. I didn't even get anywhere with the bitch before you interrupted. A damn shame."

She froze at his words, her mind spinning sluggishly.

"Wh-what?" She whispered, unsteadily, taking a slow step backwards.

Her ears buzzed in the sudden silence of the alley, and for a moment she couldn't think past the adrenaline and outrage pumping through her blood. The relief lagged behind her comprehension of his words, but when she was able to wrap her mind around his insinuation, it hit her full force.

"You better not be lying." Fin threatened before dragging him away from Olivia's shocked stance in the middle of the alley.

When he was out of her sight, she sank against the brick wall, clutching her chest as she gasped in relief. Tears clung to her lashes as she leaned her back, and stared at the night sky.

Thank you, Jesus, thank you…. She thought, a prayer that she hadn't sent with unwavering belief in years.

"O...Olivia…..?"

The soft whimper drew her back to the alleyway, and Amanda's cowering figure on the ground, and she pushed away from the wall quickly.

"Amanda, baby?" She whispered, dropping back down next to her.

Amanda's bruised, bloodied face tilted in her direction, her fearful, watery blue eyes meeting Olivia's for the first time in two weeks.

Her expression immediately crumpled, and she began to whisper, "I'm sorry, Olivia, I'm so sorry…"

"Honey, no…" Olivia whispered, her voice clutched with emotion, and she sank down next to her, and gathered her in her arms. "No, you have nothing to be sorry for."

Amanda trembled in her arms, her fingers digging into the fabric of Olivia's shirt as she hid her face in her chest.

"Shhh…" Olivia hushed her, softly, her fingers quivering as she stroked Amanda's hair and back. "You're going to be okay…. I promise."

Pressing a kiss to Amanda's forehead, she could only pray that it was a promise she could keep.

Chapter Text

She was cold.

Sitting against the back bumper of the ambulance, wrapped in the grey fleece blanket the EMT had offered her, she couldn't stop trembling. Her teeth were clenched against the internal shivers that seized her insides, uncontrollably.

She wasn't in pain. They'd given her a pain reliever, cleaned the blood off her face, prodded her to ensure there were no fractures, but she hadn't felt any of that.

Staring down the alley way, she watched Olivia and Fin standing just outside the line of yellow tape that the NJPD had used to mark the scene. Their stances were tense and defensive, feet planted, arms crossed. They watched every movement like steely sentinels, unwavering from their vigil. She could hear Olivia's voice rise and fall as she stepped forward to point out something or another to one of the local cops before returning to Fin's side.

She wasn't going to leave until she made sure that they'd collected everything and photographed every inch of the ground. Amanda knew this, and she knew she should feel grateful. She should be relieved that it wouldn't be like last time…

Should be…

Ducking her head, she pulled the edges of the blanket over her face, and listened to herself breathe into the enclosed space. She smelled of cigarette smoke, alcohol, and a day's worth of city grime. She could smell him too, the heavy cologne clogging her nostrils…

She started suddenly when she felt a hand touch her arm, her heart jumping to a racing throb in her chest before she could process that it was Olivia in front of her. Not that man…

"Amanda, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you." Olivia apologized quickly, her brow furrowed with concern.

"It's okay…" Amanda whispered, blinking quickly against the stinging of her eyes.

"How are you doing?" Olivia asked, softly, her fingers hovering over Amanda's arm.

"I'm…." Amanda frowned, gazing past her. "I'm okay."

"You don't have to say that to me." Olivia murmured, shifting into her line of sight, her deep, brown eyes swirling with empathy and emotion.

Amanda drew a trembling breath as their eyes locked again. She'd hardly been able to hold anyone's gaze, and even beneath Olivia's gentle eyes, it seemed too vulnerable.

She yanked her gaze back to the ground, staring at her boots against the gravel and concrete.

"I don't even know if I want to do this, Liv." She began, shaking her head. "I mean...it was dark. I was drinking… I don't know-"

"Amanda, stop." Olivia halted her uncertain tone. "You and I both know those are not excuses for a man's behavior."

Amanda frowned, biting her lip slowly as tears burned her eyes. How could she explain to Olivia that what had occurred here was directly contingent to a choice that she had made of her own free will? She wasn't even sure she felt worthy of the fact that Olivia had travelled all the way here to save her life.

She'd planned on killing herself had they not intervened. She'd had no will to live through being raped a second time, violently, by two strangers in a dark alley, and although Fin and Olivia had changed the course of the night, she wondered if her life still meant meant anything. Drifting through Atlantic City had seemed dull and hopeless, but how would returning to New York change anything? Yes, Olivia was here, exactly as she had desired, but it would not be the same. She couldn't open her heart to her any longer, broken by her own choices and the cards that life had dealt her. She'd still nearly killed Lewis. James still had the means to blackmail her. Olivia was still someone bound to someone else...

"They're going to need your statement soon." Olivia said quietly, jarring her from the dark thoughts swirling through her mind. "Do you want me to go over it with you?"

Amanda squeezed her eyes shut, sinking further into the blanket.

No, she didn't want to tell Olivia. She didn't want to explain the self-destructive events that had lead them here, nor detail the way they'd attacked her, and she knew that if she couldn't tell Olivia, she wouldn't be able to tell anyone.

"Amanda…" Olivia whispered, easing down next to her. "Do you remember that night in the hospital after you found me at the beach house?"

Amanda swallowed hard, finally lifting her head. She glanced over at Olivia's tense expression, and her heart clenched because she knew Olivia wouldn't speak of that time without good reason. They'd shared so much, and Olivia was willing to go over it again and again if it would make a difference to Amanda's own assault now.

"Yes…" Amanda whispered, huskily. "How could I forget?"

"I didn't want to do the rape kit." Olivia replied, her frown deepening. "I didn't want to consider the possibility. I didn't want to make anything more real than it already was… I was afraid… But do you remember when you started taking the photos of my injuries?"

She nodded, haltingly, pressing her lips together as she tried to swallow the knot in her throat.

"I told you I trusted you because you understood what I had been through, and then you said something…..Something I didn't quite believe yet." Olivia went on, her eyes shimmering softly in the red and blue of the ambulance lights. "You said 'I won't let you down'."

Amanda looked away sharply, biting her lower lip as tears surged in her chest.

But I have let you down! She internally screamed, tilting head back as she tried to blink about the tears.

"Are- are you saying I'll let you down if I don't pursue this?" She asked in a rough, miserable whisper, lifting a hand to quickly dash away the tears slipping impetuously from the corner of her eye.

"No, God, no." Olivia insisted, clasping her shoulders, suddenly.

She pulled Amanda towards her, and cupped her cheek until Amanda's gaze flicked towards her. Her fingers were soft but insistent against her jaw, a touch that bore a strength and understanding, compassion and tenderness.

"I'm saying," Olivia murmured, "I won't let you down."

Amanda immediately glanced downwards, fighting tears once more. She'd spent the past few weeks pouring every single ounce of her time and effort and love into Olivia, but standing on the other side of the equation, she did not feel entitled to Olivia's devotion. It felt misplaced when she had turned her back and run from everything she'd sworn she wouldn't. Even now, with Olivia's concern clearly in place she could not open her mouth and speak the truth. She was going to lie to her, and she'd lie to her for the rest of her life if only Olivia would never know the things she had done here.

"Will you let me hear you?" Olivia asked, quietly, a stark juxtaposition to her internal monologue.

"I-I don't know." She whispered, staring down at her hands as Olivia clasped both of theirs together, firmly.

Tears swam in her eyes, fighting to escape down her cheeks, as she guiltily wondered how she could avoid telling Olivia any of what had happened before they'd taken in her into the alley. She could hardly imagine looking in her soft, amber gaze, and crushing her with the truth that she'd willingly, albeit drunkenly, followed another woman into her room, and flung herself so passionately into a one night stand. Though nothing more than a kiss had happened between her and Olivia, she had no desire to tell her that she'd slept with someone else, much less a married woman. Even the thought of Olivia's disappointment and disapproval heaved upon her chest a one hundred pound weight of despair.

"You can tell me, honey." Olivia whispered, her voice full of compassion and empathy that Amanda felt sick for accepting.

"I don't know who they were." She finally whispered, her throat clenched with dread. "They came up to me in the casino, and said I needed to come with them. I thought they were security, and I told them I hadn't cheated at any of the tables. B-but I think I was wrong…"

"They don't work for the casino?" Olivia asked, listening so intently that Amanda felt crushed with shame over her intention to mislead her with false facts of her assault.

She shrugged, wrestling tears of guilt and horror.

"I guess they followed me, and thought I was an easy target since I was alone." She shrugged, rationalizing the somewhat believable storyline through the emotion clogging her throat.

She wished that Olivia wouldn't ask so many questions, that she wouldn't be so thorough in her search for the escaped perpetrator, and the reasons why he and his cohort had dragged her into the alley.

"So you don't know them at all?" Olivia asked, rubbing her thumbs over the back of Amanda's hands. "Did you see them follow you before tonight?"

"No? I've never seen them before." Amanda murmured, staring hard at Olivia's hands, and her neatly manicured nails.

The vision blurred before her eyes, and she clenched her eyes shut, wishing she could pull her hands away from Olivia's gentle ones and flee from the entire situation. Escaping the consequences of this night seemed a far less painful solution, but she knew better. She'd been here before, and she'd tried to wash away every reminder or thought of Patton, but he'd stayed with her through the sleepless nights and agonizing days, long after she'd passed beyond his thoughts.

"Miss Rollins, Miss Benson?" A man's deep voice shattered their small bubble at the back of the ambulance and Amanda glanced up to see the detective who had arrived at scene approaching. "We'll need to get a thorough statement from both of you. We can go down to the precinct if you'd like."

"Amanda, would that be more comfortable for you?" Olivia asked her, attempting to catch her gaze again.

"Yeah." Amanda whispered, quickly extracting her hands from Olivia's and rising from her seat.

She was eager to flee from Olivia's intense gaze and probing questions, and she knew the detective would not dedicate so much care to her case as Olivia would. She'd give them the details, they'd question the suspect that Fin had caught, but she knew already what he'd say.

She wanted it. It was consensual. She liked it rough. All the words that she had heard before, spit in her face and whispered behind her back.

In a month's time this overworked cop would forget who she even was. But she would never forget. She wouldn't be able to escape this, but maybe she could escape the truth of why. If she had to be ashamed of what they'd done to her, then why did she also have to be ashamed of what she had done to herself?

xxxxx

The digital clock on Fin's dashboard read 3:06AM when Amanda felt the car rumble to a stop, awaking her for the short, fitful slumber she'd unintentionally fallen into. She was slumped against Olivia's shoulder in the backseat, and their fingers had become intertwined in Olivia's lap. For a moment, she could hardly keep her eyes open.

The trip to the Atlantic City PD had stretched on until 2 AM, leaving Amanda exhausted and distraught. They'd gone over her story several times, taken photos of her bruised face and ribs, questioned her on the details until she'd become ill with the lies that she'd repeated over and over again to the detectives. She was sabotaging the investigation before it even began, and she knew what a mistake it was; however, she couldn't stop herself from hiding the shame of what had happened before the alley and inside it's damning brick walls.

When they'd finally been able to leave, Fin had suggested they rent a hotel for the night and drive back to New York in the morning. Amanda had complied, unable to find some other solution. They weren't going to leave her here alone again, and although she knew she didn't want to stay in Atlantic City, a part of her did not want to go back to New York either. The consequences of her actions at Bellevue awaited her as well as Captain Cragen's condemnation. Her humiliation could only be more complete with his knowledge of what she had done with his gracious offer of uncensured time off.

Returning to New York meant facing every reason she had left to begin with. Lewis, James, and most of all Olivia. She'd hovered over Amanda through the ordeal at the NJPD precinct, watching with concern and compassion, and Amanda could hardly bear her kindness. She'd held her hand, and whispered that she wanted to help in any way she could, but it only made Amanda feel worse for lying so blatantly to her.

As they pulled up at the hotel, Olivia shifted, rubbing her arm with her opposite hand.

"Amanda, sweetie, we're here." She murmured, her own voice rough with physical and mental weariness.

Amanda nodded slowly, and sat up, blinking hard against the cobwebs of sleep that had so quickly descended upon her. Olivia seemed hesitant to let go of her hand, but Amanda retracted her fingers into her lap as Fin put the car in park. Olivia glanced over at her, her gaze searching Amanda's for the connection she'd been struggling to make with her for the past several hours, but Amanda could hardly meet her eyes.

Finally, Olivia quietly turned towards the door, and pushed it open. Amanda slid out after her, and she could hear Fin speaking in low tones to Olivia, but she couldn't focus on the words. All she could think of was getting to the hotel bed, and burying herself beneath the covers for as many unconscious hours as she could.

The parking lot was eerily silent as they trekked towards the hotel save for the distant sounds of morning traffic. It was nearly a new day, but in Amanda's mind, she felt trapped inside these past twenty four hours, a constant loop of fear and guilt.

Olivia's hand hovered at her back as they reached the hotel, and Fin held the door open for them. She wanted terribly to turn into her embrace, and hide from the world in the softness of her breast, but she couldn't. She'd made her decision upon leaving New York, and she couldn't change that now.

Fin approached the desk, and began to speak with the clerk while Amanda and Olivia waited quietly behind him. She could feel Olivia's eyes on her, and she stared down at the neutral colored tiles of the hotel's floor, praying the booking process would be quick.

"Actually," Olivia's voice jarred her from her dissociation, and glanced up quickly to see her speaking to the clerk. "Amanda and I can share a room."

"Okay, just two rooms then?" The clerk repeated with a polite smile.

Fin glanced over at her, as if waiting for her to add to the decision, but the words felt choked in her throat. She'd shared her bed with Olivia many times during their week together, but things then had been so very different. Her intentions had been much different….

"I...uh, sure." She stumbled over the words, and her gaze unwittingly found Olivia's.

Her brown eyes held the same unwavering compassion, but Amanda could see the determination winding through each fleck of amber and gold. An interrogation was coming as soon as the door of their shared room shut behind them, and her stomach seized with apprehension. It wasn't as though she'd expected her lies to hold out forever, especially with New York's most intuitive detective, but she had hoped they'd last as long as this night.

"I've got the bill." Fin was saying to which Olivia offered the customary argument.

Amanda turned slowly away from them, wrapping her arms around herself as she shivered with dread. How could she possibly look into Olivia's eyes and admit to essentially selling her body for a place to sleep, for a little fucking company, for some reason to feel anything at all? How could she explain that she'd recklessly and knowingly slept with a married woman? The story of strangers attacking her was much more palatable and simple than a revenge rape executed by a powerful man's lackeys, but now she'd also have to admit to lying...

If she breaks me… She finished the thought with flagging determination.

She'd watched Olivia tear apart a perpetrator's story from the inside out, witnessed the way she was able to draw the truth from a survivor's unwillingly lips. Amanda had spent her entire adult life lying to herself and the world, but within a week of growing so intimately close with Olivia she'd spilled one of her most closely kept secrets. Olivia knew her truth about Patton, and Amanda feared that soon she'd know the truth of this night as well.

"Amanda…" Olivia's soft tone startled her, and she felt her fingers touch her back again before settling against her side. "Come on. Let's get you in bed."

Amanda nodded quickly, following Olivia's lead as she headed towards the elevator. Fin trailed behind them, and they filed into the small space. Fin pressed the button for the second floor as Amanda sank against the wall, still unable to lift her eyes from the floor. Olivia's hand stayed at her back, her fingers squeezing in a gentle caress that caused the lump in Amanda's throat to swell. She didn't deserve the attentiveness or kindness, and her conscience burned with the lies she'd told and her actions which had lead them here.

The elevator dinged sharply as it swayed to a halt at their floor, and Amanda hesitated as the doors began to open.

"I'll be down the hall you ladies need me." Fin offered as he stepped off first.

"Thanks, Fin." Olivia murmured, directing Amanda towards the exit.

Amanda bit her lip, her body trembling softly with dismay as she unsteadily left the protective, public space of the elevator. Soon, they'd be alone, and she was terrified of the honesty that Olivia seemed to magically extract from her.

Trailing down the hallway after Olivia, Amanda tried to stem the silent panic overtaking her body, but she could barely contain her shallow breathing as Olivia unlocked the door to their room with a quick swipe of the key card.

They stepped inside, and the heavy door began to swing shut behind them.

"Liv…." Amanda began to whisper, haltingly, hoping to stop the inquiries before they even started.

But then Olivia turned, the last of the light from the hall falling across her strained expression. Tears were glimmering in the other woman's eyes, and as the door closed heavily, she felt Olivia's hands grasp her arms. She sank back against the wall as Olivia's body pressed into her own, and their foreheads met, leaving bare inches of space between their lips.

"Amanda..." Olivia whispered her name, her voice ragged as her hands slid up her shoulders and to her face.

Clasping Amanda's cheeks, she pressed her lips to hers, a shocking sensation after two weeks of nothing, of barren silence and loneliness. She was frozen beneath Olivia's gentle hands, reeling as the taste of her rushed across her senses, too quickly for her to fight. She could already feel herself crumbling, falling to pieces beneath overwhelming needs and desires, and she wanted so badly to give herself over to the safety of Olivia's embrace.

She could hear Olivia's thready breaths as she pulled back slowly, leaving trembling kisses against her cheek and chin. Amanda wanted more than anything to lift her hands, and hold onto her, bury herself in this moment until all of her mistakes had been lost from her memory, but she couldn't. She'd given up this chance over two weeks ago...

"Liv, I…" She began, her fingers scaling upwards to Olivia's wrists.

She pulled Olivia's hands slowly from her face, squeezing her eyes shut against rapidly rising tears.

"I can't…" She whispered, her voice achingly tight with tears.

"Amanda, listen to me…" Olivia whispered, passionately. "I know you're afraid, and ashamed, and you feel alone, and I understand all of that...but I want you to know you can trust me. You can tell me what happened. What really happened."

"Unggg...god..." Amanda groaned, scraping her hands over her face as emotion quickly rushed to the surface.

She had still hoped in some naive part of her head that her performance had been enough to fool Olivia, but she hadn't been nearly as convincing as she needed to be to slip past Olivia's notice. The churning of her gut hadn't been a simple case of guilt or anxiety, but the distinct realization that Olivia would discover the truth, in some way or another, and sooner rather than later.

It was dark in the room, but it still wasn't enough to hide the shame spreading across her face in quick rushes of red and unchecked tears. She'd fallen to a low that even Olivia could not comprehend, to a place that a woman like Olivia would never even think of.

When she felt Olivia's arms slip around her, the tears rose like a tide in her throat. She slumped down into her chest, sobbing into her hands as Olivia caught her, and held her tight.

"Shhh…" She heard Olivia hum.

Olivia's fingers were in her hair, stroking the back of her head with a slow, soothing motion, but it did nothing to quell the aching self hatred winding through her chest. Her knees quavered beneath her, and she felt herself slipping, nearly collapsing to the floor.

"Whoa, whoa…." Olivia whispered, her arms tightening around her midsection and bearing her up.

If not for the other woman Amanda knew she would not be standing. She might not even be alive, and the realization hit her all over again that she owed Olivia so much, and yet she had so little with which she could repay her.

Digging her face into Olivia's neck, she clenched her arms around her shoulders, and let herself be dragged to the bed. Olivia began to lie her down, but Amanda could not bring herself to let go, even for a moment. They instead tumbled onto the mattress, Olivia bent over her in a protective shield. The scent of her filled Amanda's nostrils and she clung to her harder, afraid that this moment would pass away from her once Olivia knew the truth.

"Shh, it's okay, my sweet girl." Olivia's murmured to her, the tenderness of her voice drawing the urge to break close to the surface.

Amanda trembled, panting haltingly as the panicked hysteria began to slowly decline, even as her desire to spill out every hideous and unbearable secret filled her chest. She'd rarely trusted someone with things so intimate and shameful, and when she had, she'd always ended up alone. She feared most that what had happened in Atlantic City would change Olivia's perception of her forever, and that their time together would become only a bittersweet memory in her mind. She feared losing Olivia, perhaps, more than anything she'd ever feared before.

Truth rested at her tongue, but the terror in her heart would not let it be heard.

Tilting her head back slowly, she loosened her arms just enough to align their faces. In the dark she could barely make out Olivia's features and the glistening of her eyes. Sliding one hand from her back to her cheek, she traced the prominent line of her jaw. She was shaking with every desire to throw herself into Olivia's body, every instinct to latch on to what could soon be taken from her.

Angling Olivia's mouth close to hers, she whispered, in a broken, raspy tone, "Kiss me again...and this time... don't stop."

Chapter Text

The seconds between Amanda's huskily uttered plea and their mouths roughly meeting were short and rushed, filled with the sound of Olivia's breath shuddering from her chest. A part of Amanda expected her to pull back, insist upon Amanda's truthfulness, and she clasped her jaw, coaxing her closer. Olivia hesitated for half a moment, and Amanda could feel the tremble in the other woman's arms as she held herself tenuously above her. Arching her chin upwards, Amanda caught her lower lip, and Olivia released a strained moan. Her fingers curled upwards into Amanda's hair, winding through tangled strands of blonde before she slanted her face against Amanda's, crushing their lips into perfect harmony.

Amanda shivered as the warmth of Olivia's mouth captured her cold, quivering lips, spreading heat from her core outwards. When Olivia's sank against her, her hips pressing into her own a pleasurable pressure, she widened her legs around Olivia's body until they fit together like pieces of a puzzle, sliding and locking into place. She knew that Olivia could feel it too. She was pulling her taut against her, fingers caught in her hair, her tongue slipping past Amanda's teeth with needy insistence.

Amanda's heart rushed in her chest, an undeniable surge of desire and a wash of desperation. It wasn't enough, no, not nearly enough to wipe away the fear which had taken hold of her. They'd found themselves clutched against each other before, violating every barrier of friendship and responsibility, and it still hadn't stopped this chain of events.

A hot flush took over her body as she accepted for the first time the length of her desires. Their fraught embraces and kisses were but the very tip of an iceberg of feelings that rested inside her heart, yearning to break the surface. She could only hope that Olivia felt the same, treading these heady waters above her.

Curling her fingers over the back of Olivia's neck, Amanda angled her mouth over Olivia's, her lips parted as she hungrily pushed her tongue back in return. A shudder raced down Olivia's spine, from Amanda's fingers at the base of her skull down to where her hips seized. Amanda moaned a soft sound at the volatile reaction because she needed more - more of this, of Olivia's hands clutching her, erasing the terror of this night. More of Olivia's mouth caressing her own until she forget every single mistake and regret that haunted her. More of Olivia's hips trembling against her until she was swept away from the consequences of this strange, ill-conceived relationship.

The morning could dawn upon her, Amanda had decided, as long as Olivia was pressed against her. Her will to live burned solely upon this moment where she existed only as the flesh and bone and spirit of the person whom Olivia loved. It was love, wasn't it, those words that wanted to burst so impetuously from her lips in the heat of this passionate union?

I love you. I love you. I love you. It was a continuous loop in her mind as Olivia's mouth took over her laxing one, and she was weak with it. The sudden epiphany left her lasping beneath the other woman as Olivia swayed against her, rocking into her with every ounce of ardor that Amanda felt pulsing through her own veins.

Olivia's fragile breath broke across her chin as she dragged her lips moistly over Amanda's jaw, spreading passion to her throat. Amanda's body clenched and quivered beneath her as she laid her tongue against her throbbing pulse, painting rough circles and lines of desires. Amanda could feel tears in her eyes, choking her airway because she'd never felt so treasured, so worshipped, so wanted.

She moaned out as Olivia's mouth trailed to her collarbone, hesitating for half an unbearable moment before Amanda felt one hand slip from her hair, and pull her shirt away from her shoulder. Her nose sank into Amanda's chest, and Amanda could hear her breathing heavily into the swell of her breast, her movements halting at the edge of an irreversible line.

"Don't stop." Amanda whispered, huskily, blinking away tears in order to gaze down at the top of Olivia's head and her body bent over with involuntary trembles.

"Jesus…" She heard Olivia emit the raspy curse, her tone ending in a groan.

They'd been here before, hunched over in the bathtub of another hotel, and though the similarities were damning, Amanda could not grasp the logic she'd been able to follow that wretched night. She'd stopped herself, afraid of crushing the tender woman in her arms, but she understood now. She understood with a clarity that she'd hoped to never possess again, and now there was a cavern of emptiness and numbness yawning inside her, aching to be filled with her presence; and she could not deny it.

"Please…" She choked out when Olivia remained bent over her, quaking with the restraint that it took to hold herself back.

Reaching down between them, Amanda grasped at the button of her jeans, her heart pounding with the fear of losing this moment. She could not wait another day, another hour, another minute.

"A-Amanda…wait...hold on…" Olivia whispered, grasping at Amanda's trembling hands.

Amanda moaned out a soft cry as Olivia's fingers fumbled with her own for an irrational moment before her emotional endurance gave way.

"Amanda, please." Olivia murmured, dragging her arms upwards before her fingers slipped into Amanda's, and she squeezed, softly.

Between them, her jeans were splayed open, but it wasn't even close enough to what she desired.

"Liv…" She whimpered, squeezing her eyes shut against another rush of tears as Olivia sank down against her once more.

"Shhh…." Olivia murmured, pressing a kiss to her temple. "I need you to slow down."

Amanda swallowed hard, biting at her lip as Olivia's gentle tone washed relief against her ears. She hadn't said 'stop' or 'no', just slow down, a promise to take care of her.

"I don't want to hurt you." Olivia whispered, drawing her thumbs in a slow caress over the back of her hands.

Amanda nodded raggedly, turning her face into Olivia's.

"You won't." She managed to reply, her voice broken and raspy as she searched for Olivia's mouth once more.

She'd already been hurt, tonight and many nights before this one. She knew pain, and it was nothing like what she felt now, safe beneath the weight of Olivia's body.

Olivia turned her head slowly, and their noses bumped, their eyes locking together through the darkness. The smallest bit of light from the window across the room fell across Olivia's glimmering gaze with enough illumination for Amanda to see the emotions written across her face, so visceral that it sent a tremor through her midsection.

"Liv…" She began to whisper, those three words she couldn't stop thinking rising to the tip of her tongue.

Olivia's brows twisted as though she'd read her mind, and she moved in quickly, pressing her mouth to Amanda's before she could say another word. Amanda's eyes slid shut, and she let Olivia capture her lips in another slow, deep kiss, but her heart was fluttering, then pounding with a deep intensity. She'd already seen the anticipation in Olivia's gaze, the reciprocation beginning to form, and her body was coiled tight with it.

They couldn't pretend anymore. They'd both nearly lost everything, a victim to Lewis's demented game and the consequences thereof, and it was here at what felt like the end of the world that she felt the foundations of their friendship giving way. They were crumbling, crashing and burning and maybe too quickly for their own good, but Amanda could not think of anything beyond this moment. She could not think of tomorrow, of when she was forced to finally tell Olivia the truth, of when Olivia was forced to tell Brian the truth… No, she couldn't think of it, or else she would crumble too, into something much more ugly and destructive than this impetuous union.

Squeezing her eyes shut over lingering tears, she let herself lapse beneath Olivia, a silent agreement that she would let herself be taken as Olivia pleased. She wanted to be swept away, wanted to be but mess of tangled, engorged nerve endings, bending and twisting to the woman above her, and Olivia seemed to understand her compliance.

Her hands slipped away from Amanda's, pressing a shiver into her flesh as she skimmed down the soft undersides of her arms. Her mouth went slack beneath Olivia's as she felt her fingers tug at the hem of her shirt, and she arched against her, panting quickly as Olivia's palms spread over her ribcage. It was the first time that Olivia had touched her in a way that was definable only as sensual. There could be no other pretext now as the feeling of her fingers against her naked flesh ignited deep tremors in her stomach. The aftershocks quickly raced across her body, seizing her deep between her legs with undeniable gushes of heat.

A tingle followed after the heady rush as she tilted her head back, gasping for air when Olivia's mouth descended on her neck once more. She clutched her shoulders, her legs clenching around Olivia's thighs as she felt her palms enclose the swells of her breasts through the plush material of her bra. She was gentle, almost too gentle, in her caress, and Amanda whimpered, turning her face into Olivia's hair.

"Fuck…" She whimpered into the soft strands, her body twitching involuntarily to the tune of Olivia's fingertips.

"Slow….remember…." Olivia whispered to her, though her voice was strained with all of the pent up desires that had begun to erupt like the slow, yet sure racing of lava down this mountainous hill.

Her fingers slid down, pressing beneath the edges of the bra, and Amanda trembled, releasing raw vocalizations as she lifted herself just enough for Olivia to smoothly unlatch the clasps. The ease with which she removed the barriers between them left Amanda with an intense feeling of weakness in her legs, and a harsh chugging of her heart in her chest. Her head was spinning, and all she could hang onto was Olivia's touch. She was tethered to this earth only by the strength of Olivia's tendons and muscles, or else she felt as though she'd float away into the sky like a lost balloon.

Olivia leaned back slightly, dragging Amanda's shirt and bra off over her head. The effort of assisting the motion left Amanda breathless, and she sank back into the sheets and pillow, wrapping her arm around Olivia's neck to hold her close. She could barely look into face now - now that she was naked and vulnerable, now that the terrifying reality of Olivia's feelings were but one thought away. She was flying recklessly towards this point of union, desperate for it to happen before the chance was lost. Though she'd sworn not to think of the consequences, the look in Olivia's eyes- the one that said I love you back - played through her mind again and again like a reminder of the weight of her choices.

There'd be no going back from this. They'd be bound forever to this single point in their lives, and whatever else happened afterwards could only be directly affected by this night. There'd be no setting it aside, compartmentalizing it from the fallout of her attack on Lewis, and her decisions before her own assault. She was responsible now for Olivia's heart, and she'd have to explain how she'd uncaringly slept with another woman only last night with the knowledge that they were now irrevocably intertwined.

She blinked quickly, digging her face into Olivia's hair as emotion clogged her throat. Her body was wrought with both pain and pleasure, and she felt tossed to and fro between the two. She clutched Olivia's shoulders tighter, the urge to stop her rising to the surface. She bit her lower lip as Olivia palms covered her breasts once more, and a tremble went through her. Her skin felt on fire, and so did her conscience and her soul and her entire fucking being.

"Olivia…" She whimpered, hardly able to speak through the conflicting emotion wringing her throat.

"What is it, baby?" Olivia asked, her tone breathless, and Amanda could feel the arousal lacing her veins, shivering just beneath the surface of her skin and her voice.

She pressed her eyes shut, vacillating over whether she should burst out the truth of her sins, or whether she should close her mouth and let happen what they both wanted so terribly.

"You can tell me." Olivia whispered, her voice going raspy. "Now, or later. It doesn't matter..."

Her fingers squeezed slowly over Amanda's breasts, her thumbs and forefingers dragging her nipples to hardened points. Amanda groaned, trembling as her back arched into the burning touch, and she knew what Olivia meant to say.

It doesn't matter because I'm going to fuck you either way….

A deep seated heat crashed across her body, and she wanted so badly to trust Olivia's ability to bear any truth. She wanted to throw herself into this night, and let the cards fall where they would tomorrow.

Twining her fingers in Olivia's hair, she stretched her head back, opening her chest to the wash of Olivia's breath across her chest. She could still feel Olivia's fingers clasping her nipples, stroking with aching persistence, and she fought against the every desire to break.

She should tell her the truth. She should…

She cried, a choked sound, when she felt Oliva's mouth hover close to her breast. Her hand moved down beneath the roughly fondled globe of flesh, lifting it slowly to her lips. When the heat of Olivia's mouth enclosed her sensitive nipple, she gagged on another cry, writhing sharply beneath Olivia's guidance. Her fingers clenched harder in the soft, chestnut strands, but she hardly heard a sound from Olivia's mouth, save for the softest moan as she bore down upon her.

Stars were already whirling over Amanda's head, and she could feel the last of her tears slipping down her temples with Olivia's equally tender and intense ministrations. She felt almost helpless beneath her, but not the same unending darkness of the alley and the hours afterwards. It was a weightlessness, and all at once a heaviness that left her breathless and dangling onto whatever nerve ending Olivia wrapped around her long, olive fingers. It was a surrender that she found herself tumbling into as her control and sense of reality slipped away from her.

The universe has ground down to this room, to this bed, to the space between their bodies, and Amanda could feel the axis of her world spinning slowly around the point where they were connected, flesh to flesh.

"Oh, god…" She breathed, squeezing her eyes shut against the terrifying singularity of her desires and emotions.

Olivia's fingers were stroking her opposite nipple, working the flesh to a swollen ache; all the while, her tongue circled and lapped with arousing pantomime, and Amanda could only wonder at what other flesh she could torture so. A dull ache went through her, and her hips surged up against Olivia in a needy thrust.

Her will was lost to the winds of desire, fading beneath a heart stopping pleasure. Denial and a clear conscience were both useless causes now as she frothed with a piercing need at the juncture of her trembling thighs. She could hardly question it, much less stop it.

"Liv, please…" She whimpered, dragging her hips in ragged motions up against the ridges and curves of Olivia's thighs and waist.

"Shh…" Olivia hummed once more, the tone vibrating against Amanda's wet, sensitized flesh.

"I know…" Amanda croaked once more, licking at her dry lips. "I know you said slow, but… fuck…"

Olivia pressed a slow kiss against her breast, and then her chest bone, trailing them down to the dip of her stomach between her ribs. She was still sore there, and a bruise had begun to form where she'd taken the brutal punch, but Olivia was soft, her mouth barely grazing her beaten flesh.

"Ohhh…" Amanda's breath trembled and moaned from her throat, and she wasn't sure how much more of the gentle foreplay she could take.

Easing down against her, Olivia smoothed her hands down Amanda's sides in long, slow strokes, before Amanda felt her fingers catch in the loosened waistband of her pants. Her forehead pressed to Amanda's chest again, and she could feel her breath rushing across her moist, hard nipple as she hesitated for another moment. Amanda bit her lip, knowing she couldn't push her anymore. She had to wait tensely, her body clenching and gushing, until finally, Olivia hooked her fingers hard under the waistband, and the fabric began to slip away from her hips. A gasp of relief filled her lungs, followed by one of buzzing excitement, and she felt her body quaking uncontrollably as she weakly lifted up. The jeans slipped down, and a second rush of vulnerability and arousal filled because she was finally bare before her, stripped down to quivering, insatiable skin, and it felt right and safe, like nothing she'd ever felt before.

She felt that frantic, panicky feeling in her chest again like a clock was ticking, counting down the hours until Olivia was ripped cruelly away from her; like she needed to fit as many kisses and touches into this night as she possibly could before she destroyed it just like she destroyed every good thing that had ever come into her life.

Her legs still felt weak as she kicked at the pants until they were gone from her ankles, and her breathing was coming heavily upon uneven, thready exhales. She arched her legs apart on either side of Olivia once more, her thighs aching as she spread herself open. Although it was dark in the room, she could sense Olivia's visceral reaction to her nakedness, and a moment later, she felt her grasp her arm. Her grip held the slightest tremor as Olivia sank down against her until her legs were splayed out behind them and her head was bent against Amanda's stomach. She laid there for a moment, breathing heavily against Amanda's trembling stomach, and Amanda could feel her breasts pressed against her groin. She wished that she'd been able to tear at least one article of clothing from Olivia's body in order to feel her her more intimately, but it was too late now.

Olivia was sliding down between her legs, and her arms wound beneath her thighs. She cradled her back, slowly tilting Amanda's hips towards her. Amanda grabbed at the sheets on either of her, white hot pleasure already exploding across her mind at simply the feeling of Olivia's hair tickling her inner thighs and her mound. She stared up at the ceiling in the dark, wide-eyed, lips parted as she waited in silent agony.

Her eyes slammed shut, her heels digging into the bed at the slightest touch, the caress of Olivia's mouth against her hip. It already felt like so much, and Amanda could scarcely breath around the arousal and emotion resting in her throat like a knot. She bit down on her lower lip, squelching a moan as Olivia kissed slowly down the crease of her thigh, so close to her throbbing center.

"Liv...Liv…" She panted her name without thinking, without remembering the thought processing into words.

She didn't want slow anymore. She wanted to reach down and twist her fingers into Olivia's soft hair and drag her mouth against her flushed, swollen parts. She felt dizzy with slow, felt panicked and out of control, felt like the minutes were passing too fast to grasp.

She whined, squirming beneath Olivia's mouth as her lips found their way into the soft patch of hair between her legs. Her thighs clenched as Olivia nuzzled down against her, and she could hear her drawing in air through her nostrils.

"Oh, god…" She cursed in a whine once more, wrapping her arms suddenly around her face as she realized that Olivia could smell her, the scent of her arousal and her need for her.

"God…" Olivia's strained tone echoed hers.

Biting her lower lip, Amanda tilted her hips upwards, offering herself as plainly as she could to Olivia's quaking mouth. Olivia's fingers dipped into her back, scraping down her buttocks, and she pulled her close, suddenly. Amanda gasped as she felt Olivia's lips brush against her swollen clit. Even the smallest contact set her body thrumming, and she could barely control the way her hips bucked in response.

"Oh…. Olivia…" She groaned, digging her feet into the bed again as Olivia's fingers clenched tight against her ass.

Cradling her close, her mouth descended again. Pressing down against the hard, sensitive bud, she instilled warm pleasure through her veins for a long, unbearable moment before she opened her mouth, accepting her pulsing clit inside with one, slick motion.

"Oh, Jesus." Amanda cursed once more, her tone strained and guttural as Olivia sucked once, then twice.

Pleasure careened through her veins, racing hotly to their point of contact. Her nerve endings there were already seizing, poised to send her flailing over the edge. She flung her arms out, her fingers catching in the sheets, and she nearly ripped them from the bed as Olivia's tongue extended inside the hot prison of her mouth. She suctioned down again just as her tongue dragged against the screaming, aroused flesh of Amanda's clitoris. She jarred beneath Olivia, and she could feel the climax coming, barreling towards her far more quickly than she thought was possible.

"Olivia….nnggg….." She gasped then groaned, her thighs seizing, body arching

Bright explosions of color burst behind her tightly clenched lids as Olivia suckled her for a long moment, and finally, her hips bucked involuntarily, dislodging Olivia's mouth from her trembling core. She could feel the pleasure quaking just beneath the surface, clenching deep inside of her, and she panted, scraping her hands over her face once more. Her heart was slamming against her ribs as she let her legs relax again.

"Amanda…." Olivia murmured, slipping one hand down her thigh in a slow caress.

"I'm okay…" Amanda rasped, letting her hands fall on either side of her head.

She stared up at the ceiling for a moment, but she could feel Olivia's eyes burning into her. She finally glanced down, and her cheeks flushed at the sight of Olivia's figure between in her legs in the dark. It was an image she hardly dared to entertain even in her mind, even on the loneliest nights, or even the ones where they laid together in bed, but now the secret that had lain dormant between them has imploded, and Amanda wanted nothing to do with stopping it.

"Touch me again." She whispered, huskily, biting her her lower lip as Olivia's dark gaze shimmered.

She felt Olivia's fingers slide beneath her thigh, and she choked over a quick gasp of arousal as she hitched her leg high with a firm grip. With her other leg hooked over Olivia's shoulder, there'd be no escaping the intense, fiery sensations overtaking her throbbing body.

"Just tell me what you need." Olivia murmured, washing shivers down Amanda's spine.

Her head bent, and Amanda could feel her hair shifting against her thighs like titillating tease. She drew an uneven breath, blinking quickly up at the ceiling as Olivia's warm exhale washed over her again, the softest of preludes, and she could barely stop the whimper in her throat.

"I just need…" She groaned, her voice giving out as Olivia's lips enclosed her clit again. "Oh, god, Olivia…"

Her hips arched, but Olivia was slower this time, releasing her flesh with a torturous lick.

"Fuck.. I need more…" Amanda groaned, bearing down into Olivia's grip

The orgasm was wound tightly inside of her, and she could feel the precursors washing over her in irresistible waves, each one stronger than the last. She couldn't stop herself now from reaching down, and tangling her fingers in Olivia's hair, close to her scalp. Olivia released a low, husky sound of arousal as Amanda dragged her mouth against her wet, throbbing body, but she didn't resist. Her fingers tightened over Amanda's flesh, and her jaw widened as she swallowed her once more.

"Oh!" Amanda cried out, her thighs straining against Olivia's grip.

Her eyes rolled back as Olivia's tongue began to circle, leaving hesitance behind them in the wake her desperately worded plea. She ground her hips up into Olivia's mouth, barely able to even whimper now as each second ratcheted the pleasure higher, to the next plane of heady existence.

All she could feel was Olivia's tongue swirling her clit into a mess of pleasured nerves, and though she could hardly stand the intensity of it she kept her knees stretched open, knowing that when it was over it was all she would ever want again. If this was to be their only night together, she had to savor and feel every second, every rush of pleasure, every vivid, exquisite touch.

Below her, she could hear Olivia breathing heavily through her nose as her mouth scrubbed relentlessly, and as Amanda's body began to lock down, she surged against her. The pleasure came faster then, harder with every ounce of Olivia's intentions, and Amanda went rigid. She couldn't even breathe as the stars that filled the ceiling above her began to explode, filling her mind with fireworks and pleasure. She began to shudder, every inch of her body pleading to be ravaged with the force of climax.

Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, fucking Christ. It was all she could think as the most intense pleasure she'd ever felt rolled over her like a tsunami finally hitting land, destroying everything in its path.

She lost control of her limbs, lost control of her mind and her whole fucking body as the orgasm took her, twisted her, and pillaged every numb nerve ending that she thought she'd shut down to protect herself. She cried out raggedly with the pure devastation of the pleasure and the connection she felt to the woman who'd so diligently brought it upon her. She felt raw and open as the spasms rocked her for long, agonizing seconds, and she was shaking uncontrollably when it finally came to an end.

There were tears in her eyes, and though she'd already been acutely annihilated, she was aching for more with a burning fear that this night would come to a close and slip beyond her grasp.

Olivia was sliding up her body, and Amanda grabbed onto her, quaking as she pulled her down against her. Pressing her face into her neck, she struggled to speak her desire because Olivia need to know, needed to hear the desire trampling her mind and body.

"Shh…." Olivia whispered, cradling her close as she kissed her temple. "You're okay. I've got you."

"Liv…" Amanda whimpered, dragging her face against the ridge of Olivia's jaw. "Please…"

Her voice was raw and aching, and she knew that Olivia could hear the yearning because she felt a tremble go through her. Arching into her body, Amanda bit back a moan as she ached hotly between her legs.

It wasn't enough yet, and she wasn't sure that it would ever be, even as the morning sun broke over Atlantic City. Tomorrow her being would pine for Olivia's presence, and the day after that, and the day after that. Her heart was already pierced through with agony at the thought of leaving this bed, and never finding her way back to the only person she'd ever truly loved.

She squeezed her eyes shut against stinging tears because she wanted so badly to say it, to release the zealous words from her tongue; but she swallowed hard, squashing the truth once more from her lips, and whispered instead, rough and husky, "Don't stop...please, don't stop…"

Chapter Text

She'd left logic somewhere at the door, where they'd stumbled inside, and the bindings of their composure had come loose in the space between them. God, she knew it was foolish, and she knew it could all come crashing down on her in the morning light as they faced the consequences, but Amanda was so sweet beneath her, trembling with a need that she could not overlook.

When she'd found her in the alleyway, the world had come to a halt. Every reason she'd had not to open her eyes to what was in her heart had disintegrated into nothing, burnt down to ashes in the face of certain terror. The prospect of Amanda being raped for the second time in her life and the slim chances of her recovery from it had been almost too much to bear. She'd been struggling to survive herself, barely scraping by each day with the memories of what Lewis had done and forced her to watch, but standing at the mouth of the alley, she'd forgotten all of it. Her reason to live was lying in the dirt, bleeding and beaten, violated in a way that Olivia could only imagine, and she'd understood then. All those nights they'd spend together, all the trauma that they'd shared, the stolen glances, the kisses that she knew shouldn't have happened, had all built itself into something much more intense and passionate than she'd ever known.

Her throat had been tight as she'd pressed Amanda against the wall, aching to release everything that had been burgeoning between them for three long weeks, and she hadn't been able to stop herself from dragging her close and kissing her. She'd wanted to tell her how she'd felt, seeing her lying against the cold pavement. How she'd felt for the fourteen, horrible days they'd been apart, so alone and lost. How leaving that hotel room and returning to Brian had been the biggest mistake of her life, but that she knew that now.

She'd wanted to hold her close and protect her, let her know she could tell her everything, every mortifying, terrifying detail. She wouldn't turn away. She wouldn't leave….

And, god, she knew this was reckless too, abandoning honesty in exchange for this desperate indulgence. The hard, gritty bits of what lay between them couldn't hide forever in lustful kisses and passionate nights of their bodies tangling together into one mess of pleasure and sweat, but for tonight it could - and she knew that for now, she was going to let it happen over and over again.

She didn't know what Amanda hid behind her glistening, blue eyes and her trembling, clenched lips, but when Amanda had sobbed beneath her, clinging to her like she was all she had left, her will had shattered. Her fear of pain, and betrayal, of love itself, had given way to Amanda's clinging fingertips, and she hadn't been able to stop herself from unraveling upon her soft, quivering belly.

She'd barely risen from between her thighs, and Amanda's hands were grasping at her, quaking and needy in the wake of the pleasure. She was so small beneath her, so pliable and open to her hands, and the severity of their intimacy wedged emotion deep in Olivia's chest. She knew she should stop, lie her down and wipe the tears from her cheeks, but she was whimpering, begging still.

She'd never felt so close to another human being, and after that night in the bathtub, she'd thought she would never have another moment such as that again. Now, after two weeks of barren, aching loneliness, the sudden of ecstasy of being with her, of needing her and being needed by her, sucked the resistance straight from her veins.

She was acutely aware of every inch of Amanda's naked body beneath her, her soft arms and supple breasts, her quivering belly and her legs curling on either side of her. Her hips were quaking with desire against her, and Olivia pressed her eyes shut against the hot burn kindling in her own groin. Her nose was pressed into Amanda's hair, and she smelled like cigarettes and sun, and her.

God, help me… She felt intoxicated by her.

She dragged her face down into Amanda's neck, burying her face in her flesh because she couldn't stop her hands from roaming down her body. She was soft and reactive, shivering and prickling with goosebumps at the barest touch, and desire was a spear slicing through Olivia's body with unerring precision.

She'd never felt such a pull in her body, so intense that she could almost forget everything else that existed beyond this hotel room. Every single inch of her ached, and she knew, suddenly, with certainty that it would never leave her.

"Oh, god…" She heard Amanda groan, that same whisper-thin tone ragged with pleasure.

Her fingers were trailing down Amanda's stomach, and she could already feel the heat emanating from below. Her jaw burned with salivation, and she swallowed slowly, tasting the remnants of her arousal at the back of her throat. Every single part of her wanted to drop between her legs again, but she knew by the scratchy tone of Amanda's voice and the way her hips arched into her hand that she needed more.

"Liv…" Her voice was raw, torn up with desire. "I need you…"

The whimper brought a sharp ache through her, and she barely raised her voice to assure her, huskily, once more, "Just tell me what you need."

Amanda's throat bobbed with a thick swallow, and she whispered, "In me…"

Oh, god… She bit back the curse at Amanda's raspy tone as intense washes of arousal seized her midsection.

Squeezing her eyes shut, she could imagine the vulnerability, the absolute trust, it had taken for Amanda's desires to culminate to this point, and for a moment she could scarcely believe that she was the one holding her, listening to that quiet instruction; but she was, and she had never wanted one thing as deeply as wanted this intimacy, this closeness, this bond.

Pressing a kiss to Amanda's collarbone, she roughly promised, "I've got you."

Her hand was shaking as she spread her palm down Amanda's stomach. Her fingertips encountered the soft, blonde curls first, and she felt Amanda suck in a deep breath. Her own heart thudded loudly in her ears with fresh uncertainty and sharp anticipation. Despite what she'd just done to Amanda's body, the next act seemed even more invasive and intense.

Do you trust me? The words stuck in her throat because she wasn't even sure she trusted herself. The thought of hurting her was ever present in the back of her mind, and she touched her tenderly, with as much care as she could wind into her fingertips.

Her hand slipped down into the hot alcove between her legs, and she smothered a moan into Amanda's neck as her fingertips grazed her swollen clit. Amanda seized against her, her breath hissing into a moan as she reached further. She was wet, so wet, her engorged folds parting easily beneath her touch.

"Amanda…" She finally groaned into her flesh as she clasped her mound with a trembling grip.

The tips of her fingers were inside of her already, and for a moment, she could barely make another move. The feeling of her so aroused and aching for her left her breathless, head spinning.

"Liv…" Amanda whispered, her voice strained and ragged, as she clenched her arms tighter around her. "F-fuck…."

Her hips quivered and arched towards Olivia's wavering grasp, and in one, slick motion, her fingers became buried inside her. She heard the air leave Amanda's lungs, and her own inhales were fractured and truncated as she hunched over her, trying to think past the hot clench of Amanda's body, trying to fucking move.

She squeezed the fine strands of Amanda's blond hair in one fist, dragging her head back in order to get her lips against her throat again. She focused on the pounding of her pulse beneath her pale flesh, and curled her fingers slowly inside of her, moaning at the softness of her inner passage.

Amanda hitched a breath, arching beneath her in a wanton plea. Her fingers were clutched against Olivia's back, bunching her shirt up until her nails could find bare skin, and Olivia dragged her teeth over Amanda's neck in sharp response.

She thrust into her then, surging between her legs as the intensity of their desires shattered the shocked limbo they'd fallen into. Amanda's feet dug into the bed, and she tilted her hips up, meeting the motion of Olivia's hand, gasping as she took in the length of her fingers to the hilt of her knuckles.

Olivia could hear herself panting heavily, and above her labored exhales, the sound of Amanda's own pleasure. Her short nails dragged up her back again as she clung to her, choking out high pitched whimpers. Every inch of her was trembling, and Olivia had to remind herself.

Slow, slow, slow the fuck down….

Every second of touching her presented a possibility of hurting her, and she could hardly stand the conflicting desires broiling in her chest. She wanted to crush her. She wanted to protect her. She wanted to pin her hips to the bed in frantic pursuit of her climax. She wanted to wrap her in her arms, and heal every wound she possibly could. She wanted the gentle and the fervent, the soft and the hard, and she grappled for the line between the two, lest she be swept away in her own desires.

Sinking down against her, she pressed her forehead to Amanda's chest, and squeezed her eyes shut against blinding urges. Beneath her, Amanda mewled, her hips grinding in pleading circles against her hand, and Olivia moaned, the uncontainable desire bursting through her again.

Trembling with the force of it, she asserted her thumb against the swollen, flushed bud of her clitoris, dragging a slow circle around the sensitive flesh.

"Oh, Jesus…" Amanda gasped above her, her nails finding Olivia's back once more.

Olivia groaned at the soft, pinpricks of pain, and the absolute pleasure of holding her captive upon her hand. Dragging her mouth down, she caught Amanda's nipple in her mouth once, sucking sharply as she scrubbed her fingers deep into her sensitive parts.

Amanda shuddered, her body jerking and arching beneath her, whimpers rising from her throat. She was squeezing Olivia hard, her nails biting, every inch of her wound tight with the pleasure. When one set of fingers tangled into her hair, Olivia didn't resist the rough direction of her mouth being suffocated against her breast. The desperate handling of her body only pushed the emotions more intensely through her veins, singeing her eyes and nose, burning deep into her heart.

It wasn't anything like the way she'd felt last night, pinned beneath Brian's body, trapped yet so out of control. She'd felt like she spinning into the sky, ungrounded and unstable, with no safe landing place in sight. She'd been afraid and ashamed, so fucking ashamed, hiding beneath clothing she'd refused to let him remove. He hadn't seen her scars. There were only a few people who'd seen the things Lewis had done to her, and aside from doctors, the woman beneath her made up every single one of them.

For all of her fear, for all of the things she didn't know, she knew one thing for sure. There was no one else, no other person, that she wanted to spend this night with or share this intimacy with. The rest of her life had gone to hell, slipped away from her into the flames of Lewis's destruction, but there was one thing that he couldn't take away, and she lay beneath Olivia, beautiful, soft and safe.

A safe place to land…

Her breath blasted through nose, heavy as the emotions filled her chest and her eyes. Clinging to Amanda, she she surged into her with the weight of her whole body, and Amanda rose with her, greeting the impact with soft cry.

Olivia's mouth trembled against Amanda's breast, and she was suddenly glad that she couldn't speak because she didn't know the things she would say, words that she wanted so badly to burst out, things that couldn't be taken back. Squeezing her eyes shut, she fit her hand beneath Amanda's neck, focusing steadily on the feeling of her flesh and blood beneath her fingers. She couldn't think of the fleeting, elusive emotions swirling in her heart, couldn't dare to trust it, no matter how much she wanted to.

Holding Amanda's close to her, she abandoned slow, deliberate motions. Bearing down against her, tears slipping from the corners of her tightly clenched eyes, she pumped her fingers into her quaking body. Her arm was already burning, aching with passion, but she ignored each slow sizzle of pain through her muscles, and rubbed her thumb in sharp circles over her clit with each thrust.

Above her, Amanda had lost her voice to ragged moans, her curses ground down to nothing more than overwrought whimpers. She was shaking, sweating and rigid as Olivia felt her tighten down upon her fingers. She gasped when Amanda lurched beneath her suddenly, her cries rising to a strangled scream.

She tore her mouth of Amanda's chest, her wide, wet eyes taking in the length of Amanda's neck as her head rolled back, then her enraptured expression as the orgasm took her a second time.

"Yeah, baby…" She rasped, her tongue feeling thick and useless in her mouth as her own body flushed with pleasure at the sight of Amanda twisting beneath her.

Her pale flesh was splotched with red across her chest, neck, and face, her cherry lips parted to release the sweetest moans that Olivia had ever heard. Against her shining perspiring face, her blonde hair was tossed in stray waves over her high cheekbones, and when her eyes slipped slowly back to Olivia's, the depth of their blue expanse caught her and struck her breathless.

She felt as though her heart was bursting, imploding upon itself because she'd never witnessed something so beautiful, so completely whole that she knew she'd never want again.

Amanda reached up, grasping at Olivia's arm. Her brow furrowed and she bit her lower lip as the final spasms of the climax washed over her. Finally, she lapsed back against the bed, her chest rising and falling sharply. Her fingers quivered against Olivia's arm, and her eyes darted across Olivia's expression, searching. Olivia ducked her head, bending over her soft stomach once more, afraid of what her own gaze would give away in the heat of the moment.

Amanda's hand trailed to the back of her head as Olivia pressed her cheek against her undulating stomach, staring with uncertainty into the dark, her breath trembling. Her fingers were still buried inside Amanda's body, and she feared to pull away, terrified that it would all shatter in front of her.

The moment was frozen perfectly here, the warmth of afterglow burning just brightly enough to overshadow the darkness that crept along the edges. If she glanced over her shoulder, she knew she'd see it, crawling with insidious blackness beneath the door, hear it scratching at the walls like some evil beast. Lying against Amanda's chest, she was safe, cocooned inside this veil of pleasure, but it was a frail shield they'd built. At any second, the demons they'd fled from could demolish the illusion of happiness, stomping the fire between them to cold ashes.

She knew Amanda could feel it too by her echoing silence, and the slow dance of her fingers through her hair. Squeezing her eyes, Olivia suppressed the encroaching dread, praying she could hold on to this small slice heaven in the midst of the darkness, but soon she was trembling, aching with unreleased emotion.

Her search for Amanda had somehow kept her sane over the past few days. She'd felt like a cop again, holding on almost desperately to the fire of determination, but that semblance of control was gone now. All that was left was the two of them, and the reality of what had happened to them - in an alley, in a beach house, in the deepest parts of their souls.

A raw cry reached up her throat, and she pressed her face into Amanda's stomach to muffle the sound, but she felt the other woman tense beneath her.

"Liv?" Her voice was still husky, but sharp with concern.

She sat up quickly, groaning quietly as Olivia's fingers slipped out of her. Grabbing her arms, Amanda pulled her up against her, and Olivia weakly followed her direction. She felt like a waterfall splitting open against rock as she collapsed against the bed. Amanda was on top of her, and her arms were around her, but it didn't stop her from spilling over.

"Liv…" Amanda whispered, cradling her head as she pressed kisses to her temple. "It'll be okay… don't think…"

Olivia whimpered, savoring each burst of warmth from Amanda's lips, clinging to every kiss as she drank the tears trickling from her lids.

Don't think... Don't think…

Reaching up, she grasped Amanda's face with trembling hands and pulled her mouth close. She couldn't open her eyes, but she could feel Amanda's blue ones on her, deep and searing. A quicker wound through her belly, and drew her teeth over her lower lip as final, stray tears slipped down her temples.

Don't think...Don't think…

Tilting her chin up, she pressed her lips against Amanda's, tasting the salt of her sadness between them before the sweetness of Amanda's saliva erased the bitter memory. Her breath was halting and shallow as she let Amanda kiss her deeper, her tongue tracing with a gentle, yet passionate caress along her palate.

Amanda drew back, slowly, releasing her lip with a slow suck. Olivia could hear her breathing, heavy and quick, though her fingers smoothed softly over her hair. It was a measured touch, one that held the restraint that Olivia knew she wanted to toss to the side.

"Let me touch you." Amanda finally whispered, pressing her forehead against Olivia's. "Let me take you away."

Her thumb drew over Olivia's cheek, catching a lingering tear, and Olivia turned her face into the touch. Her heart was racing suddenly in her chest, an impetuous desire that held little apprehension. How quickly she wanted to open herself to the other woman should've startled her, but not a hint of regret could touch her as she nodded slowly into Amanda's palm.

She didn't want to think anymore. She just wanted to feel.

Her arms spread out, fingers grasping the knotted sheets as Amanda slid down her body. Her palms scaled her breasts and ribs, each caress leaving her burning for more. She stared up at the ceiling, scarcely breathing in anticipation as Amanda released the button and zipper of her pants. Each stitch and inch of fabric was suddenly an irritation to her flesh, and the mere undressing of her body was pleasure in and of itself.

She settled down into the mattress, trembling with the vulnerability and crushing pleasure as Amanda tossed her pants and underwear over the side of bed. She heard them hit the floor, and she bit down on her lower lip, arching her feet into the bed.

"Come here." Amanda ordered in a raspy whisper, and Olivia opened her eyes to see her sliding to the edge of the bed.

She patted the mattress, and her cerulean eyes held a beckoning command that Olivia did not dare to question. She felt weak as she pushed herself towards her, and her heart stuttered over itself as Amanda knelt in front of the bed. The image - no, the reality - of her head between her legs caused a flush to rise on Olivia's cheeks and a wave of desire to crash through her body.

Don't think... Don't think… She told herself as Amanda grasped her hips, and pulled her close to the edge of the bed.

She was shaking with exertion, and Amanda's expression of intensity and desire crippled what strength she had left. She let her head fall back to the pillow, panting as Amanda's hair tickled her legs and stomach. Her hands slipped up Olivia's thighs, coming to rest firmly at the back of her knees, and Olivia moaned, her fingers twisting into the sheets as Amanda spread her open.

Her body was throbbing, harder and deeper than she'd ever felt before, and she didn't have to tell herself not think anymore. She couldn't, even if she wanted to. Her entire being was centered on the woman between her legs, and the way she was about to touch her.

The rest of the world was gone. The darkness she'd imagined eating them alive had retreated beneath the all consuming touch of Amanda's hands, and when her mouth descended upon her, all she could see was light - bright white, spinning into a spectrum of a colors behind her tightly closed lids.

Oh, God… She wanted to cry out. Oh, Amanda…

But her tongue was tied up, her throat releasing only spastic vocalisations as her whole body seized beneath Amanda's touch. Amanda fingers clenched around her thighs, and her mouth seemed to bear down upon her, circling and suckling until the motions were indistinctly blurred in Olivia's mind. All she could feel was the pressure and pleasure expanding from her core outwards, so quickly that she could hardly stand the intensity of it.

She arched from the bed as Amanda dragged the pleasure from her body, a ragged cry filling her mouth, and all control slipped from her fingers.

The deliverance of the climax swooped in, drowning out what was left of the nightmares in her head. Then she was screaming - Oh, God! - the first prayer to reach her lips, and the first one she'd believed in since she could remember. This was faith, the way she shattered beneath Amanda's hands, knowing she'd catch every, single, fragmented piece of her.

So she let her break her, again and again, upon the sweet affliction of her mouth until the explosions of pleasure wound into one another, and she could not discern one from the other. She let her smudge every thought from her head, but thoughts of this, until she was a shaking, sobbing mess under her. Then she let her hold her, let her stroke her hair and whisper soft endearments and promises that wouldn't have believed from anyone else; but, god, she believed.

She let her because for the first time since before the beach house, before the torture of her own home, and before Alice Parker, she felt peace- beautiful, enraptured peace.

Chapter Text

She'd been awake for several minutes, lying unmoving in the half lit room with Amanda's back pressed against her, listening to her breath. The slow rhythm of her inhales and exhales kept Olivia grounded there against the sheets instead of floating away into her racing thoughts.

She'd been awoken by the sound of car horns blaring below as two vehicles nearly collided at the crowded intersection, and the sudden screeching had jarred her. She'd always been able to find a peaceful sleep when Amanda was next to her, but her unconscious state at the moment left Olivia half alone and full of uncertainties. She hadn't been able to close her eyes, and find the happy, weightless existence that had allowed her to rest only a few hours ago.

A dozen things crowded her mind - Amanda's assault and the escaped perpetrator, the pieces of the truth Olivia knew she'd left out, her relationship with Brian that was going to find a disgraceful end, and how all of it would impact what had happened in this bed.

It wasn't necessarily regret that gripped her for finding intimacy with Amanda, but the weight of the future was heavy. She wasn't even sure what to call their relationship or how to proceed. She felt out of her depth by even thinking of a serious commitment. They'd bonded quickly, almost too quickly to neutrally evaluate, and now so many things stood in their way.

Olivia glanced over at Amanda's sleeping face once more, watching her lids flutter and her lips parting with slow, even breaths. Her chest clenched once more, and she struggled to grasp the feelings that seemed explode in her heart at even the sight of her. It was both terrifying and wonderful, though she dismally realized for the hundredth time upon awakening that the dread in her mind cast a shadow upon the fleeting warmth of last night's love making.

She knew Amanda was lying to her, and though she also knew that it wasn't uncommon for survivors to omit details, she felt somehow wounded that after all the ways she had trusted Amanda that she could now not trust Olivia the same way.

She'd let her emotions take control of her last night, but she'd come to the conclusion that she could not do so again in the coming days. Amanda had to be honest with her, and she had to find some way to dissect the information without bias if they ever wanted to seek justice.

A low buzz from the floor drew Olivia from her thoughts, and she realized her phone must have still been in the pocket of her jeans when Amanda tossed them over the side of the bed. She immediately wondered if it were Brian calling, and a shard of dread went through her.

She'd barely thought of him last night, though she knew she should've. She'd promised to return to him when the chances of being with Amanda had been slim, and the idea of being alone had terrified her. No matter what had become of her and Brian's romantic relationship, he'd always cared about her. It had been selfish to betray him, and the mere idea of facing him left nausea swirling in her belly.

The repeated vibrations came to a halt as the call went to voicemail, and Olivia stared up at the ceiling, breathing shallowly. She knew she had to leave this bed at some point, but the prospect of rising and going out into the cold darkness of world made her want to curl beneath the covers and hide herself in Amanda's warm body.

She drew a sharp breath when her phone began to buzz again from the floor, startling her.

"Shit." She whispered, sharply, pressing her eyes shut for half a second.

Glancing over at Amanda, she contemplated not answering again, but she knew she was only putting off the inevitable. Leaning over, she pressed a kiss to Amanda's temple before slowly slipping away from her. Amanda stirred for a moment, her brows furrowing in her sleep, before she settled down against the pillow again. Olivia sat up on the edge of the bed, and listened to her breathing even out again as she stared at her crumpled pants on the floor.

Despite her intentions of picking up the phone, it'd gone to voicemail again. A moment later, she heard the ping, notifying her the caller had left a message.

"Damnit." She cursed again, bending down to snatch the pants from the floor.

Fishing in the pocket, she pulled out the device, and unlocked the screen, biting her lip with the damning expectation of seeing Brian's name in the notification. Instead, her stomach dropped when she saw Fin's name instead.

At the crime scene last night, he'd promised her to work as closely with the NJPD as he could.

We're gonna find him, Liv. He'd sworn. Even if we have chase the bastard across the country. I'm gonna get him.

Standing next to him, watching the ambulance lights flash across his expression of dark determination, she hadn't doubted him for a second. Now, she wondered if he'd even slept or if he'd been awake all night, scrounging for any evidence that would lead to an arrest.

Rising quickly from the bed, Olivia slipped quietly across the room, and closed herself inside the bathroom. Her heart was racing in her chest as she opened her voicemail box, and waited impatiently to hear Fin's message.

Liv, I got something for you should see. Call me back, okay?

She pulled the phone from her ear, and stared at the screen for a moment, both dread and anticipation rushing through her. He'd left no clue as to whether the news good or bad, though she prayed it was some sort of lead that could help them find the man that had escaped. Amanda's untruthfulness, however, lingered in the back of her mind, a dark plague haunting her every hope.

I should've made her tell me. She thought, leaning on the counter, and rubbing her fingers against her temple.

She'd barely managed to sleep for three hours, and a headache had begun to form from the lack of rest and the weight of stress. Now, her stomach had begun to ache along with her temples, and she decided suddenly that she needed to get out of this room, and find Fin. Despite her earlier desires to remain in bed with Amanda forever, the dread of the unknown was too much for her to ignore.

Flipping to her contacts, she dialed Fin, and pressed the phone to her ear. Pacing away from the counter, she listened to the phone ring for only two, shrill seconds before he picked up.

"Liv?"

"Yeah, I'm sorry I just woke up." She lied, quickly, turning back towards the sink, and the mirror above it.

She caught sight of herself in the reflection, and she swallowed hard because the guilt was written all over her body and face. There were small patches of red, purpling bruises at her neck and breasts, and her she could see in her eyes and mussed hair the evidence of her adulterous night.

"Liv, you there?" Fin's voice drew her back to the present, and she blinked quickly, ducking her gaze away from the mirror.

"Yeah, I'm sorry. What did you say?"

"I think you should come on downstairs." Fin repeated, searing the apprehension deeper into her chest. "Alone."

"Why?" She whispered, breathlessly, acute fear seizing her body. "What is it?"

The truth. Her mind whispered like a taunt. The thing she wouldn't tell you… The thing you should've thought about before sleeping with her…

"Just come down." Fin insisted. "They got a nice breakfast and coffee here."

She knew his offering of food and caffeine was but to soothe the anxiety racing through her veins, but she accepted it anyways, knowing that she could not be in the same room with Amanda when she learned the truth. She didn't know what evidence Fin held in his hands, but a dark premonition had wound itself through her bloodstream, crowding out the thoughts of warmth and peace from last night.

"I'll be there in a minute." She whispered, her voice husky with the dryness of her mouth and tongue.

She hung up slowly, and her phone clattered to the counter as she grabbed the edge of the sleek marble. She bowed her head, fighting sudden tears of overwhelming alarm.

She'd let herself go last night, let herself be swept away in a tide of eager desire. She'd listened to Amanda's coaxing - don't think - and she hadn't spared a single thought for the future. She'd ignored every possibility of the morning after crushing their tender, blooming hopes of romance, and she knew that it was going to hurt even more now that she'd let some of those seeds sprout and break ground instead of tearing them up them before they could flower.

Was this the price she was going to pay for her infidelity? It was a well deserved punishment, but she had hoped that God knew she'd suffered enough for two lifetimes, and maybe more. She'd prayed that He would understand that whatever she had done had been an attempt to survive and find some scrap of happiness in the dark. Maybe, it was as she had thought, lying in the trunk of Lewis's stolen car, bruised and beaten - God has abandoned me.

She drew a sharp breath, choking back tears as she scraped a hand over her face. She couldn't wake Amanda. She needed to dress herself, and slip from the room before she had to face Amanda in the chilling light of day. She needed the truth - every harsh, brutal bit - before she could hold and kiss her ever again.

Drawing herself up, she wrenched the cold water knob on, and extended her trembling hands beneath the stream. She cupped the icy water to her face, shivering as the shocking cold washed away what was left of her tears.

Reigning in her emotions, she forced her body to straighten from her hunched, devastated posture, and stared at herself in the mirror once more. She was wrecked, dark circles under eyes, red rimming her lashes. Her flesh held a dull pallor, dripping with the remnants of the water she'd splashed on her face.

She wanted to slap herself. Hard.

She held back another curse, and grabbed a hand towel from the counter. She wiped her face and hands dry before she ran her fingers through her hair in an attempt to tame the disheveled locks. She had no comb, and she supposed the half matted appearance would have to do. Hair brushed or not, Fin was no fool, and she barely expected him to be so blind to her feelings for Amanda. She'd only hoped to make this conversation a little less humiliating.

Quietly exiting the bathroom, Olivia silently gathered her clothing and began to pull them on. She could scarcely glance at Amanda's figure in the bed as she buttoned her pants, and found her shoes near the foot of the bed. She swallowed back encroaching tears as she took one of the room card keys, and went to the small desk in the corner of the room. There was a pen and a note pad with the hotel's name monogrammed at the top, and scratched a quick note out.

Going to meet Fin downstairs. Be back soon.

She stared at the words for a moment before she tore it off. Even her handwriting seemed surreal. She shook her head, trying to clear her head as she placed the note on her empty pillow.

She finally glanced at Amanda's slumbering figure, tears growing hot and quick in her eyes. She was sprawled peacefully on her stomach, her blonde hair splayed like golden rays of sunlight across the pillow, and Olivia wished more than anything that she'd never picked up the phone, or perhaps, never even woken up.

She turned away quickly, denying herself the small, hopeful gesture of her kissing her again. She'd certainly given herself enough indulgences last night, and she'd sworn not to give in to such useless luxuries again until she knew the entirety of what Amanda had been hiding.

Striding towards the door, she wiped away her tears, and rose to meet her punishment.

xxxxxx

Fin was waiting at a table in the corner of the hotel's cafe, his expression drawn as he sipped the steaming coffee from a foam cup. Their eyes met from across the room, and he acknowledged her with a nod, his brow smoothing. The stress he'd pushed down for her sake slipped into his shoulders and posture, holding him tense and rigid.

Olivia ducked her head, trying not to let her emotions take over again as she shouldered her way past the tables and other patrons. When she reached Fin's table, she quickly sat down across from him, prepared to question him for the full truth.

She came to a halt when she saw the NJPD case file lying in front of him. This was serious, more serious, perhaps, than she'd imagined upstairs.

"What's this?" She asked, her voice raspy.

Fin regarded her for a moment with a frown his jaw muscles working.

"Here." He said at last, pushing a second cup of coffee on her direction. "Drink this."

"Damnit, Fin." Olivia hissed, sharply, clenching her fist on the table. "I don't want coffee. I want the truth."

"Then you know she wasn't telling it last night." Fin countered, folding his hands together on top of the envelope.

"Fin." Olivia warned, her voice strained as she scraped her hands over her face.

Staring down at the envelope, she drew a few, heavy breaths before she speared her fingers into her hair and glanced up at him.

"I'm not some distraught mother or wife that you need to handle with kid gloves." She whispered, her tone biting.

He stared back at her for a moment, and she could see the concern winding through his dark gaze.

He doesn't want to hurt me. Olivia thought.

The fact that he even felt she needed protection from the truth only sharpened the blade of dread which was pressed with pointed intent against her breast. He didn't want to be the one to plunge it in, but here they were.

"Just tell me." Olivia murmured, scraping her fingers back through her hair and down her neck.

Her nails bit into her flesh as she clenched her fingers over her shoulders, and she clung to the feeling, the smallest reminder of Amanda's hands on her last night. The rest of her had gone numb, save for the crippling dread in chest.

Fin sighed, his lips tightening, but he leaned back and flipped open the file. Olivia swallowed hard as he turned several pages of the offical police report that Amanda had given the NJPD before he uncovered the stack of photos in the back.

"These are from a security camera of a hotel across the street from The Manchester." Fin explained. "The Sentinel. It's a five star hotel. Most of the vacationing millionaires stay here while they're in Atlantic City. They're booked out months in advance, and -"

"So?" Olivia cut him, frustrated and confused by his over explanation of the hotel.

Fin glanced down at the stack of pictures, hesitating for a moment before he thumbed one off the top, and set it down, then another one next to it, and another until there was a series of six photos spread out in front of her, a chronological path towards her every fear.

Her nails dug in harder as she stared down at the stills of the hotel's glamourous lobby. Through the rapidly growing tears in her eyes, she found Amanda immediately inside the photo - and the woman next to her.

No...no…. The denial was quick to sprout in her mind. No… it's not what it looks like… God, please, don't let it be what it looks like…

She tore her hand from her neck, and grabbed the first picture, staring at it as her eyes burned harder, and her stomach churned faster.

Their hands were clasped, and Amanda's expression was giddy, flushed, intoxicated. The woman was smiling, beautiful.

Disgustingly gorgeous.

She felt her hand tremble, the photo wobbling in her grasp. Her throat was tightening as the nausea pushed up her chest, and she knew she didn't need to see the rest of the pictures, but, God, she couldn't not look. Dropping the first picture, she spread her hands over the rest, scraping them towards her as her eyes ate up the rest of the interaction.

They progressed together through the lobby, towards the elevator. Amanda's hands were all over her, grasping her side, her hips, her ass. She pressed the other woman against the wall and kissed her, the final photo catching them in the passionate embrace as the door of the elevator began to open.

Olivia could hear her heart pounding in her ears, and she could feel Fin's eyes burning into her, watching her every reaction. For a long moment, she couldn't move, afraid to vomit on top of the evidence in front of her. She could feel stray tears slipping from her eyes, hitting the table before they could even roll down her cheeks, though for a long time, she couldn't even breathe.

"Who...who is she?" She finally whispered through clenched teeth, her voice barely rising above the emotion clogging her throat.

"Her name is Nadine DeFranco." Fin replied quietly.

"Nadine." Olivia repeated, the syllables ground out with sharp antipathy.

"Yes." Fin replied, softly. "I'm showing you this because her husband is Anthony DeFranco. He owns The Manchester, and he's been on White Collar Crimes watchlist for sometime now for tax evasion."

She was quiet for a long second, pushing down the pain and the outrage, though she hoped that Fin thought she was simply digesting the information he had given her. Anything to make her feel less mortified beneath his pitying gaze.

"What does that have to do with this?" Olivia finally whispered, scraping away the tears with the back of her hand.

Shoving back the photos, she haltingly met Fin's sympathetic gaze, hardly able stand the eye contact. She suddenly felt ridiculous and stupid, and he didn't even know the half of what had happened between her and Amanda last night.

"This is why." Fin pulled out another photo, and set it down in front of her.

Olivia's stomach seized, her blood abruptly running cold. She immediately recognized the man who'd spit in her face last night, who'd claimed Amanda wanted every second of whar they'd planned to do to her while she lay naked and bloody on the cold, alley floor.

"This is...this is the man we arrested last night." She whispered, sickness crawling even further up her throat with growing apprehension.

"Silas Burke." Fin confirmed. "He's been in and out of jail in New Jersey and New York, and guess who keeps bailing him out?"

Olivia's eyes snapped upwards to Fin's as the puzzle pieces slowly began to arrange themselves inside her head, fitting together one by one into a damning picture of last night's events.

"Anthony DeFranco." She breathed, her nails curling into the photo clutched beneath her hand.

"Bingo." Fin replied.

Shaking her head, Olivia glanced back down at the picture of Nadine and Amanda, and questioned, quietly, "What the hell did she get herself into?"

Chapter Text

At first, she wasn't sure what had pulled her from the deep slumber she'd fallen into, and as her eyes fluttered open, she was surprised that she'd slept so well in the first place. The last time she'd been assaulted she hadn't slept for three days, as long as she could manage before her body had finally given up. Last night had been different, much different.

The cobwebs slowly began to recede from her mind, and as her vision cleared she found herself facing the window, her body heavy and stiff. Her immediate, waking thought was of Olivia, of last night, and the emotions and memories rushed into her head so quickly that she was frozen in the overwhelming tide for a moment.

I need to see her. Kiss her. Hug her. The warm, fluttering desires filled her chest, and she began to roll over, eager for her fingers to find Olivia's soft, olive flesh again.

"Liv…" She murmured, groping for her body next to her.

Instead, her fingers met cold, vacant fabric, and a jolt of confusion and fear jarred her eyes open again. This, Olivia's absence, had woken her, and she knew immediately that the peace and contentment escaping from her chest would not soon return.

She sat up slowly, staring at the empty bed next to her before her gaze caught on the slip of paper resting against the pillow. She could see Olivia's writing scrawled across the smooth white, and she hesitated as a thread of unfounded dread wound through her veins.

It could be anything… She tried to assure herself even as her throat tightened with cold apprehension.

Reaching out, she drew the note closer to her.

Going downstairs to meet Fin. Be back soon.

A thousand scenarios ran through her mind as she read and re-read the note. It was so short and blunt, leaving her with a frigid sense of doom while the concept that Olivia needed to meet Fin without her clawed her fleeting optimism to shreds. She tried desperately to calm herself, attempting to come up with simple rationalizations, but in the back of her mind, she knew better.

Perhaps, she'd know even better last night that her lies and omissions could not last forever, but she'd had the slimmest hope - or maybe, just a delusion. Olivia was the most intuitive detective she'd ever known, and Fin the most determined. She was outmatched and outnumbered, and her plan of concealment had lasted a little less than four hours.

Her heart was racing as she tossed back the sheets, and slid out of bed. She was searching for her clothing before she even had a solid plan. All she could think of was finding Olivia, forming some acceptable explanation or stopping the discovery of her sinful nights here altogether before it was too late.

She yanked on her pants and buttoned her shirt with trembling fingers as panic had it's way with her nervous system. She could barely think as she hunted around the bed for her shoes. She cursed under breath as she easily found one before kneeling down and groping under the bed for the other. She was panting as she fell back on her butt and leaned against the mattress, trying to stem the tears in her eyes.

What if it is nothing? She demanded, harshly of herself. Get it together.

Scrubbing her hands over her face, she smeared away the tears that had quickly sprung to her eyes, and grabbed her shoes again. Pushing them onto her bare feet, she shoved herself up from the floor, and rushed towards the door. She had her fingers wrapped around the knob, ready to fling herself out into the cold world again when, suddenly, she heard the faint click of the key card unlocking the door. She froze, staring down at the handle as it slowly turned beneath her lapsing grip.

It's too late… too fucking late….

She stepped back, slowly, her heart racing as the door pushed inward, and Olivia's figure filled the frame. She was pushing the key card into her pocket, and juggling a cup of coffee in her other hand, but Amanda could already see the distress on her features, unmasked in the solitude of the hallway. She glanced up as she shouldered the door open wider, startling at Amanda's unexpected presence.

"Amanda…" She whispered, the low, huskiness of her voice immediately bringing back memory after memory to her Amanda's mind.

"I…." Amanda began to whisper, immediately feeling a second rush of tears in her eyes.

The exchange was simple, but as their eyes locked, Olivia's dark ones latching onto Amanda's wide, blue ones, Amanda knew. Their short, blissful escape had come to end just as she had feared it would. She could see in the shifting hazel and chocolate nuances of Olivia's eyes that she'd discovered her lies, and the shame was already more than she could bear.

Finally, Olivia's brow furrowed, and she stepped forward, slowly. Amanda took another step back, her perspiring hands clenched into fists at her sides as she watched Olivia close the door behind her, the lock latching with finality.

"Amanda, we need to talk." Olivia spoke at last, her tone guarded and even, as she turned to face Amanda.

Her words plunged dread into Amanda's stomach, her every fear falling into perfect place with one single sentence.

"Liv…" Amanda whispered, her throat tight as her eyes followed Olivia path across to the room to where she sank to the seat in front of the desk.

Olivia regarded her across the space, maintaining her unyielding expression as Amanda struggled for words. She wanted to burst out into tearful excuses, but Olivia's unreadable gaze left her feeling bereft of the same safety she'd felt last night in her arms. The woman she'd known so intimately last night had disappeared again beneath layers of detective and justice-seeker. Her disposition now left Amanda feeling like the villian to Olivia's cop, the perpetrator to a crime she'd be all too determined to solve. Olivia deserved her confession, but the loss of their relationship was a punishment that Amanda could not force herself to accept, no matter how guilty she or Olivia found her.

"Come sit down." Olivia murmured at last, motioning to the bed.

Her softness was a trap. They'd hardly spoken to each other, but she'd worked with Olivia long enough to know exactly what this was. She'd watched her do it a hundred times with untruthful suspects or even survivors. Olivia had an unnerving skill of drawing the truth out of a person, no matter how unwilling they may be, and Amanda knew before the conversation even started that she wasn't going to be any different.

"Don't make this harder than it already is, Amanda." Olivia whispered, her head tilting slowly as her narrowed eyes burned into her hotly flushing visage. "For both our sakes."

Amanda swallowed hard, her stomach clenching with dread. The statement felt like the last nail in her coffin, and even if she turned and ran from this room, she wouldn't be able to escape.

The tears encroached upon her quickly as she vacillated by the door for another moment, struggling to string together some set words which would magically disentangle them from this moment, but there was only one way out. She either told Olivia everything and risked losing her, or she refused, and jeopardized without question the connection they'd shared last night.

She could feel the blood rushing in her veins, washing color over her neck and cheeks as she finally lowered her head and walked quietly over to the bed. She sank quickly to the edge, collapsing there without even a glance at Olivia. Balancing her elbows on her knees, she clasped her forehead in her hands, and stared at the floor, praying she wouldn't heard the dreaded words - look at me. She didn't think she could possibly lift her eyes and stare into Olivia's intense, instinctive gaze, as she detailed the events leading up to this moment.

She heard the wheels of the chair roll forward, and Olivia's boots came into her view. She clenched her eyes shut, fighting quick, biting tears as their proximity pressed sharp emotion into her chest.

"Amanda." Olivia murmured, reaching out to touch her arm.

Amanda shivered as Olivia's fingers wrapped softly around her wrist, and her thumb rubbed slowly over her shuddering pulse. It was far too gentle for this brutal moment, far too soft for what she deserved. Biting down on her lower lip, she shrank further away from her as the shame of all that had lead them here began to feast upon her, more voracious than before. She wanted to break down into apologetic sobs, but she held her tears tightly in her throat, grasping to the last threads of silence before the truth came fully into the light.

She felt Olivia grasp her other wrist, urging her back into her. Their foreheads touched lightly, and Amanda barely swallowed a cry. She should be revolting to Olivia, unworthy of her time or love. Why did she still touch her so softly, so unbearably compassionate?

"I'm going to say a name." Olivia murmured at last, the strength in her tone barely hiding a tremble. "You're going to tell me whether you know this person or not. Do you understand?"

Amanda dragged her hands down over her face, moaning as the humiliation drove harder through her chest.

She knows. She knows. She fucking knows. It felt like a ridicule punching her in the stomach over and over again, and she sobbed quietly into her palms, wishing she could sink into the floor or, perhaps, vacate her body completely. It'd been apparent since Olivia had walked into the room that she knew, but coming face to face with it, face the face with Olivia, she felt frozen with shame.

"Nadine DeFranco." Olivia stated, each syllable sharp as her fingers tightened around Amanda's wrists, the smallest of tangible reactions.

Amanda choked over a cry, hunching down further into her lap as Olivia dragged the truth into the bitter light of day, and here it was as grotesque and damning as she had feared. She cowered in front Olivia, writhing beneath the weight of her own vices. The inescapable thought that she was slowly losing everything that had once mattered to her implanted itself in her head, and grew there, sprouting and flowering in a matter of seconds.

She'd made a series of decisions, starting with her attack on Lewis, which were slowly but surely destroying her. Her job was in question, her sobriety gone, her sanity and her dignity stripped from her once more, her humanity swirling around the drain, and now her frail relationship with Olivia might not even live long enough to see the sun rise.

"Amanda…do you know her?" Olivia urged her, only to met by Amanda's gutted silence.

Amanda's head shifted down against her knees, leaving her trembling hands in Olivia's grip, as her body seemed to bow beneath an almost visceral weight.

"Amanda, I need the truth."Olivia insisted at last, her voice sharpening painfully. "Do you know her?"

Amanda moaned, her head lolling against her knees as thick, hot tears escaped from beneath her tightly clenched lids. She didn't want to lift her head and confess. She didn't want to clarify the truth because taking responsibility meant it was real, and she didn't know if she could take another ounce of blame. She'd already taken so much from herself.

"Amanda, look at me." Olivia's stern tone stung her with that dreaded command, and Amanda choked over another audible sob. "Look at me!"

"I can't!" Amanda burst out, yanking her arms from Olivia's hands.

Clutching her hands against her chest, she cradled her burning flesh, the places where Olivia's fingers had touched her.

"I can't…." She moaned, her voice trailing into a whimper.

"You have to." Olivia insisted in a sharp whisper, grabbing both her shoulders. "You have to tell me the whole truth, Amanda, even if hurts."

The pain in Olivia's voice was evident. There would be no dulling the impact of the consequences nor softening the blow of the truth. Olivia already knew, every sordid detail, and all that was left to do was to fall down on her knees and confess.

Olivia pulled her hands from her shoulders, and her fingers swooped in to grab her lasping chin. She shuddered as Olivia dragged their faces into alignment, and when Amanda cracked open her puffy watery eyes she begged Olivia silently with her gaze for mercy, for any shred of grace that she'd find it within her heart to extend.

Olivia stared back at her, a sheen of emotion glistening her dark eyes as she reached into her pocket. Amanda's eyes darted towards Olivia's hand as she withdrew the picture, following the damning evidence until it was placed directly in her face.

"Nadine." Olivia repeated, stiffly. "Do you recognize her now?"

Amanda swallowed hard, her tears suddenly running dry in the face of the photo. The security camera still had perfectly captured them in a passionate embrace just outside the elevator. She'd been drunk that night, and the vivid, unquestionable imagery of her hands on Nadine's body, and their mouths locked together sent a sharp sensation of humiliated self awareness through her. All the explanations she'd managed to scrape together only minutes ago fled from her mind, leaving her with a crippling sense of damnation.

She felt her chin quiver in Olivia's grasp, and she began to lower head once more, tears of painful self hatred welling in her eyes.

"This wasn't a random attack, Amanda." Olivia whispered, fingers tightening on her jaw. "This was targeted, and I think you knew that last night."

"And so what if I did?" Amanda cried out, suddenly, pulling back sharply from Olivia's grip. "It doesn't matter!"

Olivia stared at her for a moment, stricken, and Amanda couldn't stand to watch the disappointment and horror growing in her watery gaze and twisted lips.

"Yes, it does…" Olivia finally contradicted, her dark eyes flashing and smoldering with suppressed emotion. "It always matters."

Amanda shook her head back and forth, frantically, shoving up the bed. She needed to put distance between them because the sound of Olivia's voice was too much. The touch of her hands and the intensity of her emotions were beyond Amanda's ability to withstand. She felt as though she were losing all control, but with the sun rising just beyond the window, there was no one to catch her this time.

"They're going to get away with it, Liv." She cried, throwing out her hands in desperation as she finally turned back towards her. "They always, always get away with it, especially when it comes to me."

"They get away with it when you don't stand up, and speak the truth." Olivia argued, flying up out of the chair, and rushing towards her. "Amanda, you don't have to hide this time."

Grabbing her arms, Olivia stared into her eyes, and the familiar compassion of that deep gaze pulled at Amanda's heart, but she knew it wasn't love that held Olivia here by her side. It was duty, a commitment to justice that she'd sworn herself to. She'd crusade for Amanda's right to confront her attacker in court, but Amanda was certain than whatever personal connection they'd shared last night had been destroyed. She'd seen the photo. She knew the truth, and it would be less painful now to confirm what they both already knew than to fight the inevitable.

"Fine." She whispered, huskily, at last, her shoulders lapsing in Olivia's grasp. "I know her. Is that what you wanted to hear?"

Olivia's brows furrowed, and Amanda could see the way she pursed her lips against a tremor.

"This isn't about me, Amanda " She finally murmured, each word forced from beneath the weight of emotion.

Olivia's hands felt heavy on her arms, and Amanda could barely stand her compassion, her pity, her unstoppable search for justice. She didn't deserve any of it, not a single scrap of her dedication, not today nor last night. She felt like some kind of imposter, tricking and manipulating her way into Olivia's heart and bed, just as she had with Nadine. Surely, Olivia couldn't view her any differently in the light of the truth, and if she knew what was good for herself she'd get as far from Amanda as she could.

Tilting her head back, Amanda stared up at the ceiling as tears slipped down her cheeks.

"But it is what you wanted to know…." Amanda whispered at last, her voice growing thick and husky. "That I was with her… That we...w-we slept together?"

The question, the confirmation of everything that she had tried so hard to avoid, hung in the air like a dark, looming balloon of dread.

Olivia was silent, scarcely moving like statuesque picture of heartbreak in front of her, and Amanda could hardly stand the ever growing, icy thread of betrayal which seemed to seep from Olivia's fingers into her raging hot, panicked bloodstream.

She turned suddenly away, dislodging her arms from Olivia's unbearable touch. Scraping her hands over her face, she futilely swiped at the tears which seemed to spring anew with each second. She was breathing heavily, barely muffling the sobs burgeoning in her throat, and her stomach ached, her heart threatening to shatter in her chest. The creeping hopelessness she'd felt in the alleyway slipped through her veins, the recurring thought that she could end this all in one fell swoop following quickly after.

She panted into her palms, listening to Olivia's slow footsteps retreat. The bed creaked softly a moment later as Olivia sank to the edge, but she still didn't speak. The silence was unbearable, but Amanda could not force herself to turn around and look at her.

The guilt for leaving her in New York only to find comfort with another woman put a tight fist of horror in her throat, and she couldn't imagine Olivia ever truly forgiving her for it.

"I…" Olivia began softly, startling Amanda with the broken syllable. "I think we should go back to the precinct today. Fin has compiled a list of known associates,and most of them have criminal records so you can look at mugshots…"

Amanda swallowed hard, letting her hands slip from her face. She stared at the wall, hating every second that passed as Olivia surpassed her every attempt to elicit some sort of reaction. She hated that she wouldn't just admit how hurt she was. She hated that she put up this wall, this facade of detective, rather than being what she had been last night - her best friend, her lover, her reason to live.

"Just say you're disgusted…." Amanda whispered, clenching her hands into fists at her eyes stung with another tide of tears.

"No…" Olivia replied, her husky tone barely audible from across the room.

"You're not a cop right now, Olivia." Amanda spun around her as she flung the sharp words across the room. "This isn't some case you can crack, and put another notch on your belt!"

Olivia flinched, her brow twisting, as Amanda's eyes landed on her hunched posture. Her fingers were clenched around the edge of the mattress, her shoulders rigid, rippling with tension as they stared at each other.

Amanda knew there were words and questions and accusations just behind the barrier of her teeth, and she wished she'd spit them out. Anything but this ridiculous make believe that Olivia would arrest the man responsible, and that then all would be right in the world. Nothing would ever be right again if they couldn't be together as they had been last night.

Finally, Olivia broke their gazes as she rose from the bed. She'd buttoned the emotion back up into herself when she came to stand in front of Amanda, save for the deep pain hiding in her dark eyes. Taking Amanda's hand, she pressed the photo in her palm.

"Look at this." She whispered, her brow knitting. "This isn't worth your life. They were going to rape you… For this. A choice that you both made of your own free will. Don't let them get away with that."

Olivia held her gaze for one more long moment before she turned towards the door, leaving Amanda quivering from the slightest gentle touch of her fingers and the passion lacing her tone.

Lifting a trembling hand, Amanda stared at the photo until it blurred in front of her eyes. Yes, she'd made a choice of her own free will, but it was hard to imagine defending that choice or wanting anything but to take back every single, unorthodox decision she'd made in the past two weeks.

She knew Olivia was right. She should care. She should chase the bastard to the ends of the Earth and back for her right to live without fear. She shouldn't let the violence of men dictate her every move. She shouldn't let this guilt consume her until she abandoned all pursuits of justice, but she didn't know if she was strong enough or if she could tread that path alone. For the past three weeks her every thought had centered on Olivia, and imagining an existence without her left her with an aching sense of futility.

"Amanda…"

Amanda turned at the sound of her name, and found Olivia at the door, the handle clenched in her fingers.

Her eyes narrowed against scintillating tears, and she whispered, sharply, "I will not be complicit in this apathy. You did not deserve this, and I will never let you think that you did."

Amanda stared back at her, the image of her graceful figure blurring before her as her chest ached, and her fingers bent and crumpled the picture at her side.

I love you. She wanted to say it again, the words heavy at the back of her throat, but she bit down, harshly, and pursed her quivering lips. She nodded, haltingly, the only motion she could manage without falling to pieces.

"Come down when you're ready." Olivia suggested at last, her tone raspy with unshed tears. "You need to eat, and get your strength up. It's going to be long a day."

Then, she disappeared from the doorway, taking with her whatever grace had managed to befall Amanda's lost, and desperate soul. Finding that warmth again was only one, frail reason to live, but it was all she had. Letting the photo slip from her fingers and to the floor, Amanda followed Olivia out into the world.

Chapter Text

Detective Riley Nyle didn't exactly have Olivia's warm approachable spirit nor did she appear as such an angel of mercy. Her short, dark hair was slicked back out of her narrow, green eyes and long, angular face, and when she spoke her voice was raspy from years of cigarette smoking. Though she ground a piece of Nicorette between her teeth, the damage had already been done, and it only added to her tall, broad shouldered appearance. She meant business, and her severe demeanor both terrified and reassured Amanda's trembling heart. Nyle was the kind of cop that she trusted to get the job done, but not exactly the type to spare to judgment either.

She'd already lied once, and the car ride here had been a walk of shame in and of itself. Olivia's silence had spoken for itself, and it seemed there was no escaping though Nyle seemed eager to hear her story.

She'd met her, Olivia, and Fin in the squad room of the NJPD with a terrifyingly intense gaze.

"I just got handed the case this morning." She'd clarified when Olivia had asked where the officer from last night was. "I've been looking at DeFranco for over a year now."

Turning her gaze towards Amanda, she'd barely cracked a smile as she stated, ominously, "I've been waiting for you."

She'd insisted on speaking with Amanda alone, a turn of events which she had not been prepared for. Despite the rift broadening painfully between her and Olivia, she'd tossed Olivia a pleading glance. Olivia, however, had squeezed hand with a short smile, and assured her she'd be there when Amanda returned.

Now, following Nyle down the stark, white halls of the NJPD's second floor offices and cubicles, she gazed back and forth at the photos of decorated detectives staring grimly at the camera, and a part of her felt suddenly intimidated and out of her depth. Glancing back at Nyle, she noted the sergeant's bars attached to the shoulders of her dress blue jacket. Though most officers only wore it for special occasions, Nyle wore it as part of her outfit, on top of worn jeans and a grey button up. If she'd been a man, Amanda might have judged her as pretentious and insecure, but on Nyle it only felt like a reinforcement of her position, and Amanda felt incredibly unworthy. She was perhaps the worst witness to walk into the NJPD, and she wanted to pull Nyle around and tell her that she wasn't the crack in the case that she so desperately needed. She was just a woman on the verge of breaking completely beneath the weight of her own vices and bad decisions.

Nyle reached an office door, and Amanda swallowed hard as she read Nyle's name and rank affixed to the opaque glass. She hadn't expected to be examined and questioned by someone so obviously important to the NJPD, and she hesitated as Nyle stepped inside and held the door open for her.

"Can I get you something?" Nyle asked, canting her head towards the inside of her office, as if her hospitality would settle Amanda's racing heart.

"I'm good." Amanda forced out as she uprooted her feet from the floor.

There was no use in hesitating any further. She was here, and she'd sworn to herself to make things right, if not for herself, then for Olivia.

Stepping into the room, Amanda gingerly sat in the chair facing Nyle's desk. She noticed the thick file enclosed in a worn manila envelope lying beyond the gold engraved nameplate and haphazardly organized clutter, and DeFranco's name written in Sharpie at the top seized her throat with cold dread. Although she'd never even laid eyes on the man, the thought of him sent a chill down her body and wound her stomach into knots. He'd discovered Nadine's unfaithfulness in a few, scarce hours and with the second perpetrator's escape, Amanda could only imagine that he was already planning some way to escape the law.

"Sure you don't want something?" Nyle asked, her emerald eyes narrowing as she sat down in the chair, shattering Amanda's frozen gaze.

"Y-yeah…" She stuttered, blinking quickly as she dragged her eyes from the file.

Nyle studied her for another unnerving second before she flipped open the file.

"I have the report that you gave the responding officer last night-"

"About that." Amanda interrupted, haltingly, her throat dry, her stomach turning at the thought of her evasive words to the cops last night.

Nyle's brow lifted, and she sat back in the chair, an expression of inquiry on her face as thought she'd been waiting for Amanda to tell the truth, as though she'd known all along the report was full of lies.

"Look…" Amanda began, her voice on the verge of a tremble as she glanced down at her lap. "I'm a cop too. A sex crimes cop. I know I should know better. I just -"

"Amanda." Nyle cut her off, startling her with the intimate use of her first name.

Amanda glanced up into Nyle's intense eyes, relieved to find the smallest hints of compassion resting there in.

"I understand." Nyle said, firmly. "I've dealt with scumbags like this for a long time. I know the fear they can employ. We'll draw up a new report, and let the DA deal with the initial one later. What matters to me right now is that you're here. You have names and faces, and the courage to bring them to light."

Amanda swallowed hard as tears rose sharply in her eyes. She didn't feel courageous, only guilty.

"I'm not -" She began in a husky tone, but Nyle was already pulling out her notebook and swiftly clicking the pen open.

"Just start at the beginning." Nyle urged. "Don't worry about anything else but telling me what happened. Exactly."

Her voice was kind enough, but Amanda could hear the edge of determination cutting through.

What does it really matter anyways? She asked herself, staring down at Nyle's poised pen. Olivia's already gone…

Clearing her throat, she shifted in the chair. "I guess it started with Nadine."

"Nadine." Nyle echoed in a murmur, her pen scratching the page as she etched out the letters.

Then there they lay, too tangible now to take back, inked into existence in a few mere seconds. Amanda swallowed hard, clenching her hands into fists.

She almost wanted to rasp out that it had begun long before, that the final conclusion of this damned trip to Atlantic City had started weeks ago in a cold, stark hospital room beside a woman who'd seen more than any human ever should.

Olivia should be written there instead because it was always going to be her and it always had been. No matter who she slept with, no matter the distance between them nor the trauma that separated them.

Nyle wanted the whole truth, but she was never going to get the full story, no matter how many questions she asked. She'd get the bare bones, the minimum amount of words that it took to enclose those horrific minutes inside the alleyway.

Glancing up at Nyle's expectant gaze, Amanda drew a heavy breath. Then she opened her mouth to make her second confession of the day, and prayed absolution wouldn't be far behind.

xxxxxx

"I made a mistake, Fin."

Olivia's husky tone sounded like skittering nails on a chalkboard to her own aching ears in the silence of the NJPD atrium. She'd felt the need to escape the strange sense of de ja vu that had filled her when they were inside. If she had pretended, she might have been able to fool herself into thinking they'd never even left, that the hours in between had never happened.

But she couldn't.

She couldn't make herself forget, and even through the agonizing, slow shattering of her fragile hopes and warm dreams, she couldn't make herself believe that she wanted to.

She felt Fin's eyes upon her though he didn't say a word. They hadn't acknowledged the hotel or what had occurred behind the closed door of her and Amanda's room, but she knew that he had guessed it. Perhaps, he'd known before they even set foot inside. In her desperation to find Amanda, she hadn't tried to so hard to hide the emotion seeping from her heart.

"I just need to get back to work." She whispered, staring across the room at the bulletin board full of missing persons photos as tears burned in her eyes.

If she stared long enough maybe she'd see herself there amongst the sad and desolate gazes of the vanished. She could imagine the poster in her mind, her own face covered in his blood.

Olivia Benson, detective of the NYPD, was last seen May 20, 2014 in her apartment with serial killer William Lewis -

"Liv?" Fin's voice finally interrupted the morbid train of thought.

She felt him touch her arm, and sucked a sharp breath through her teeth as the unexpected contact.

"I'm sorry." Fin said, quietly, withdrawing his hand though his eyes stayed heavy upon her.

She clutched her arm where her flesh burned from human contact, but she didn't have enough fingers to massage away the ache that Amanda had left across her whole body. She stared harder at the faces on the wall, her jaw clenching as tears rose in a blurry tide to overwhelm their haunted features.

She'd held herself together through Amanda's whispered confession, through their ride here, through the conversation with Sergeant Nyle, but she couldn't grasp the tethers of composure any longer.

"God." She suddenly uttered the curse, or, perhaps, the prayer.

Bending over suddenly on her knees, she pressed her fists into her eyes.

"I've got to get Lindstrom to release me back to duty." She whispered, her voice barely rising above a guttural moan.

Her head was pounding, and the coffee she'd consumed at the hotel had barely eased the throbbing. Her thoughts had been going in circles for hours now, and she felt exhausted with the churning. She wished desperately for an escape, but she had no place to hide any longer. Brian's apartment would not be safe, nor would Amanda's or her own. The only safety net she could think of was the NYPD, her desk, her service weapon, her badge. She could bury herself there in the familiar patterns and objects, put distance between herself and the woman she was suddenly so entangled with. She could forget herself, and eventually this agony.

They could not be together. Amanda had been right that stormy afternoon inside her truck where they'd idled at the crossroads of their life. She'd been right, and as painful as that was to accept, she had to; and she had to do it now now before Amanda returned.

It wasn't so much the fact that Amanda had slept with someone else that made her feel so as much as what both her and Amanda's attempts at intimacy with Natalie and Brian forced her to realize. The trauma that they each carried was far too heavy to shoulder between them, and they had made the fatal error of falling in love with the romanticised concept of saving each other from this madness. It had all been an illusion, a comforting one, but an illusion nonetheless. Salvation would never find itself in soft flesh and warm bed sheets, in pleasure or in love. Salvation was a harsh and horrifyingly long road, a rough, narrow pathway that hinged on an inner strength that she had yet to harness. Attempting to clutch onto someone else's, especially someone who so badly needed it for themself, had been foolish, and most of all, selfish. They'd been doomed from the start.

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Fin was asking gently.

"I don't have another choice, Fin." She insisted, a note of desperation lacing her tone.

"There's always a choice." Fin replied, and though no condemnation marked his voice, she felt it all the same.

"What do I do then?" She demanded. "Spend the rest of my life thinking about what he did to me? What those men did to Amanda?"

Tearing her hands away from her face, she shot a glimmering glare over her shoulder at Fin's drawn expression.

"That's not what I said."

Olivia breathed out a low tone of frustration, and sank back in the chair. Leaning her head against the wall, she pressed her eyes shut over hot tears.

"You gotta work this shit out, Liv." Fin said at last, concern winding through his sharp words. "You can't come back to work all messed up. You and I both know that's the quickest way to lose your badge for good."

She knew he was right, and that he only meant well with the brash reality of his words, but just as Brian had warned her about the possible fatality of alcoholism, she could hardly stand the truth.

"I don't have anything else." She murmured, her chest dully throbbing as a slow tear slipped from beneath her trembling lid.

"Sure you do " Fin argued, quietly.

"Come on." Olivia whispered, roughly, tilting her head towards him as she opened her watery eyes. "You know what I mean."

A frown pinched his brow, his mouth forming a strained line. He didn't say anything this time because he did know. His own personal history was marked with loneliness, grief, and betrayal, perhaps, more than she even knew.

"You'll get back to work." Fin replied at last, skirting her acknowledgment of their shared attachment to SVU. "Just give it some time."

Olivia didn't resist his caution this time, instead allowing her gaze to drift back towards the missing persons board. For the next hour she memorized their names and faces, filing away into mind each wisp of hair or solemn eye until she could forget that thought in the back of her mind.

They're never coming home.

xxxxxx

She'd found his face amongst the dozens of photos. All of them had pictured some associate or another of DeFranco's, and at first, she'd been afraid she wouldn't be able to pick him out from the jumble of people in front of her.

But then there he was, in full color, glaring at the camera. The mug shot was nearly ten years old, but Amanda had recognized him immediately.

"Thomas Carlyle." Nyle had echoed softly as Amanda had picked up the photo was trembling fingers, her wide eyes latched on to his dark expression.

Thomas Carlyle. Thomas Carlyle. Thomas Carlyle.

She thought of him as the New Jersey skyline faded behind Fin's car, and landscape between Atlantic City and NYC rose to fill the windows. It was a clear, June day, but clouds seemed to fill every crevice of Amanda's mind. Clouds of grief, guilt, and that same, familiar hopelessness.

Thomas Carlyle, you should've killed me when you had a chance, Thomas Carlyle.

She released a low sigh, and leaned her head back against the seat, pressing her eyes shut. She hated what she saw in the barren solace of her own head, but she didn't want to open them and see Olivia's vacant, red-rimmed expression. She sat only a foot away, her gaze pinned unflinchingly upon the view beyond the window.

She'd been silent since they'd entered the car. The distance between them seemed to have grown by miles in the time that Amanda had been with Nyle, and what warmth that remained from last night had gone to cold ash. She could only wonder at the thoughts that passed behind Olivia's tired, bloodshot gaze, and a part of her wished to be ignorant to it forever.

Tilting her head back towards her window, Amanda wrapped her arms around her stomach, and swallowed slow and deliberate around the knot in her throat.

Beneath her, the tires raced over yards upon yards of pavement, and she felt as though they were rushing towards a steep precipice. Their lives before lay at the end of this road - where they were only co-workers, barely friends, where Olivia loved Brian and Amanda refused to believe in love - and she knew that they could no longer pretend that those things could stay the same. They could not go on as they had before, blinding themselves to the truth. She'd only hoped that when this day arrived that she would be content and happy with the outcome. What a foolish hope it had been.

By the time New York City cut itself out against the sky, Amanda had begun to drift fitfully in and out of sleep. She dreamed half consciously of Olivia, of Burke and Carlyle, of Nadine and DeFranco, of things much darker than she dared to dwell on. Then Olivia's fingers would reach over to squeeze her own, awakening her to her own distraught moaning, and she'd cling to the warmth of Olivia's comfort for as long as she could make it last.

She was both relieved and apprehensive as they reached the loud, bustling streets of New York City. The bouts of nightmares became impossible with the sound of taxis, street musicians, and sirens beyond the window, but her dread mounted the closer they drew to her apartment. She could barely stop herself now from glancing over at Olivia, and the strained expression of conflict on her face deepened the racing of Amanda's heart until she could feel it pounding relentlessly against her ribs.

The sight of her apartment building, the symbol that their road had ended, seized her with a near inescapable sorrow. She felt frozen in a shell of heartache as Fin parked next to a meter. The silence seemed louder than before as Amanda stared up at the edifice of the old building, her vision blurring, her throat choked by the tears that so desperately wanted to fall.

"I'll take you up." Olivia whispered at last, her husky tone breaking the spell of paralyzed quiet inside the car.

"You want me to wait?" Fin asked, and Amanda could feel him watching them in the rearview mirror.

"Yeah." Olivia replied in a strained tone, abruptly unbuckling her seat belt and shouldering the door open. "I'll only be a minute."

Amanda clenched her eyes shut as the sound of the door slamming jarred her senses. She could scarcely breathe as Olivia rounded the back of the car, and then the warm, summer air spread over Amanda's shivering body as she pulled her door open. She couldn't bring herself to open her eyes as Olivia's presence hovered over her, waiting for her to walk herself to her own demise.

"Amanda." Olivia murmured at last, and the shadow of her sank down beside her.

She barely opened her eyes as Olivia crouched in the doorway, taking her hands, and rubbing the backs of them slowly. Taking halting breaths, Amanda glanced over at her wrinkled brow and shimmering, dark gaze.

"It's okay." Olivia whispered, but Amanda could only hear the reassurance as a warning.

She wanted to slump down into her arms, and beg her not to leave her, promise her anything if only she'd kiss her one more time. She'd pay whatever penance she had to be as they had been last night…

But instead, she slowly nodded, and reached for her seatbelt. Olivia rose slowly, and stepped aside as Amanda slid out of the car. She swayed on the sidewalk for a moment while the gentle breeze dried the tears in tracks upon her cheeks, then she felt Olivia's fingers at her elbow.

"Come on." Olivia murmured, a soft glimmer of sadness scintillating in her eyes. "I've got you."

And even here, at what Amanda was sure was the end, her heart didn't fail to believe her.

Chapter Text

She sat desolate and pale like a marble statue on the bed, one ankle still poised over her knee as her shoe slipped from her white fingers. She was staring at some point on floor where the sun shone without warmth through the window, and Olivia found herself just as frozen.

She'd crossed the room, her heart palpitating with the dread of being so close to her when the sharp words fell from her tongue, the ones that would sever them apart completely. Now, she could scarcely move as the conflicting urge to comfort her swelled in her chest.

Amanda's own breast barely rose and fell as she stared unblinking at the carpet, but Olivia could see the way her throat bobbed, the tears barely held at bay in her cerulean eyes.

"You can go." Amanda's husky tone fractured the silence that had fallen between them, seizing Olivia's chest with sudden emotion.

She leaned back against the wall next to the bedroom door, clenching her arms around herself. Her lips were pursed tight over her teeth, and she couldn't bring herself to comply with Amanda's offering of a quick out.

"I'm not stupid." Amanda said, her tone suddenly sharp. "I know how this goes."

"Do you?" Olivia pushed abruptly away from the wall.

She impulsively crossed the room, dropping to her knees in front of Amanda's prone figure. Grasping her cold hands, Olivia stared rigidly at the ceramic flesh where pink flushes rose around her trembling grip. The vision blurred before her eyes, and she squeezed them shut.

They stayed there for a long moment, locked into a trance of shared understanding and heartache.

We both know better. Olivia thought, swallowing back the harsh ball of emotion from her palate. We knew better last night, and the night before that, and the night before that...

"Stay with me." Amanda whispered suddenly, her tone raw with an ache that reached through space and time to shatter their silent limbo with burning fingers.

Olivia gaze rose quickly towards Amanda's, and she found her face as open and agonized as she had when she'd lain before Olivia's hesitant touch, that night when all they'd had was each other.

"I…" The beginnings of the protest barely fell from Olivia's mouth before she had to clamp her jaw shut again to defy the tears welling in her voice.

"I know this is crazy and impossible and stupid, and I'm sorry." Amanda continued, sniffing harshly. "And I know I left for a reason, a good, fucking reason, but-"

She cut off sharply when Olivia slumped down, pressing her forehead to Amanda's trembling hands clutched in her own.

God, I can't do it. I can't do this. She prayed as the heartache and subsequent weakness welled so quickly inside of her that she could hardly stop it.

"I know, I know…" Amanda murmured, quietly, as though she'd read the desperate thoughts passing through her mind.

She bent down to press her mouth against Olivia's crown, and Olivia surged in closer to her, seizing her around the waist as the pain crushed her chest once more. Every logical word she'd planned to say - we can only be friends until we're both betterwe have to save ourselves, we have to do the right thing for each other - escaped from her mind. Into the emptying spaces rushed memories, moments of comfort, of pleasure, love and belonging.

"Kiss me." Amanda murmured, her voice husky, breath warm against her scalp, spreading tingles down her spine.

Her exhale trembled, and she clenched her fingers tight around the fabric of Amanda's shirt.

"I...I can't…"

Amanda sat back slowly, and Olivia felt her fingers at her chin, drawing her tear streaked face upward. Their eyes met again, red-rimmed gazes that begged for each other's touch.

"One last time." Amanda whispered, her fingers gently stroking stray hair away from Olivia's cheek. "Then I'll let you go."

Olivia turned her face quickly away, pressing her eyes shut against another hot rush of tears. For a long moment, she couldn't force herself to open them again.

"Please…" She managed to rasp out at last. "Please, don't make this harder."

Her swollen lids parted, and she stared through the blurriness at the half open closet across the room. Amanda's clothes were hung haphazardly with no discernable arrangement or color coordination, but Olivia could see the shirt she'd worn that night in the hospital, the first time that Amanda had made her feel safe. She wanted to close her eyes and recall the texture and smell of the fabric, the strength of the embrace beneath - but she couldn't.

Blinking away the lingering tears slowly, she murmured, "We both have to get better."

She couldn't take her eyes off the shirt.

"You make me better." Amanda's hand lingered at her jaw through the quiet coaxing.

Olivia clenched her teeth, and reached up to grasp Amanda's wrist. She pulled her hand down into her lap again, and finally tore her eyes away from the closet, pinning them to their intertwined hands.

"The gambling, Amanda." She whispered. "It has to stop. The drinking, the reckless behavior. What we did…. It was reckless."

Amanda was silent for a moment, unmoving, and Olivia lifted her head when Amanda's response never came. She found Amanda staring down at their joined hands, emotion kindling inside the blue depths of that gaze.

"Amanda?" Sweetie?"

"I lost myself." She said, suddenly, her watery eyes flashing towards Olivia's. "In that hospital, on the verge of taking a man's life. I didn't know who I was anymore."

"I know...I know."

"No." Amanda cut her off, pulling her hands sharply away from Olivia's. "I didn't know who I was again until last night. Until I was with you again. I know I'm fucked up, but don't ever say that what we did, what we had, was a mistake!"

She stood suddenly, jostling Olivia backwards. She marched around the bed, and tore the curtain back from the window. Olivia watched her fingers trembling in the golden sunlight as she pushed the window open, and snatched the cigarettes from the nightstand. She watched her light it, breathe in the nicotine, unable to say a word. She stayed on the floor, hardly able to even cry as Amanda slowly burned the cigarette down to ash and then to nothing. The smell of smoke drifted through the window, and the sun burned into amber dusk while the tears dried on their cheeks.

At last, Amanda turned from the window, and began to strip down to her underwear with angry movements. She ignored Olivia's presence as she climbed into the bed and yanked the covers over her head, hiding from the world, from the truth, from herself.

It was another long minute before her shoulders began to quiver beneath the comforter, and Olivia's own heart was too broken to ignore her distress. Scrambling up from the floor, she kicked off her shoes, and crawled into the bed next to her. Amanda whimpered, arching away from her at first as Olivia wrapped her arm around Amanda's waist, and pulled her back flush against her chest.

"Just let me hold you. Let me hold you." Olivia whispered over and over again until Amanda sank into the bed, trembling and exhausted.

Olivia's own body lapsed against her, and their fingers wound together again against Amanda's quivering belly.

It wasn't the most intimate they'd ever been, but for now, it was all she could hope for, all that she could allow herself. She savored the warmth of Amanda's flesh against hers, the slow rhythm of her breathing that extended into sleepfulness, the smell of her hair and the softness of it against her face.

But it wasn't until she was certain that Amanda fallen to sleep and dreams that she allowed herself to whisper into the quiet and the blonde tendrils against her lips, "It wasn't a mistake…"

xxxxxx

She awoke suddenly in the pitch blackness of Amanda's bedroom to the insistent jangling of her cell phone. The device vibrated against her hip inside the pocket of her jeans, and she rolled over with a moan as she struggled to pull it out. She immediately felt a wave of cold as she disconnected her body from Amanda's, and she realized in the back of her mind they'd never closed the window.

Holding the phone in front of her face, she squinted at the bright LED. The sight of Brian's name on the screen shoved a fist of dread into her throat, destroying what fogginess remained in her head, and she sat up quickly from the bed. Her fingers held a tremble as she groped for her shoes on the floor before she swayed to her feet. Picking her way slowly across the dark bedroom, she yanked the window shut. She cast one last glance as Amanda's sleeping figure, her heart pounding in her ears above the ringing of her cell, before she turned towards the door.

As she wandered out into the hall, she clutched the phone closer again, hesitating to answer the call.

She'd texted Fin after Amanda had fallen asleep, explaining that Amanda was distressed and didn't want to be alone. He hadn't pried, although he'd offered to stay with her instead so that Olivia could go home and sleep. Although the idea of escaping the situation had been somewhat alluring, she knew that going home to Brian only presented another problem. As it appeared now, however, she wouldn't be able to put off either confrontation.

"Fuck." She whispered into the quiet apartment.

She pressed her eyes shut hard as she tapped the answer button and lifted the phone to her ear.

"Hello."

Silence crackled for a second across the line as though Brian was shocked that she had answered.

"Hey." He said at last. "I, uh...heard you were back in town."

"It's two am, Brian." Olivia whispered, leaned back against the wall, and clasping one hand over her face.

She prayed desperately that he'd agree that this was a ridiculous hour to have any type of discussion, but she knew how her absence from Brian's apartment despite her return to New York would appear.

"Yeah, and Cragen called me hours ago." Brian replied, defensiveness swelling in the undercurrent of his voice.

"Cragen?"

"Yeah, I asked him to let me know if you got back safe… I had a feeling you wouldn't."

"Brian." Olivia began, before she realized that she had no place to defend herself.

"You're not here…" Brian continued, ignoring her soft plea. "So where are you at, Liv?"

She tilted her head back, staring at the ceiling as her heart beat anxiously in the quiet. He deserved the truth, and she knew far too well his position after the morning she'd had with Amanda, but the fear inside her held her mouth shut.

"With her?" He prodded at last to which she still could not reply.

Lifting a hand, she clasped her fingers over her mouth lest he hear her halting, tearful breaths.

"I told you we can't keep doing this." He murmured, his voice holding only a fraction of the frustration that she knew he wanted to unleash.

Her choked silence spoke for her for several long moments, longer than she expected his patience to prevail while she stared into the dark, swallowing back waves of emotion.

Finally, she whispered in a brittle in a tone, "I'll be there in twenty."

He didn't have time to reply before she abruptly ended the call.

xxxxxx

It'd been a scarce few days since she'd been in NY, but in her mind it felt like weeks. It was unsettling to exist inside this lifelong environment with a sense of unbelonging. As she was whisked towards Brian's apartment in the back of the cab she watched the city beyond, uneasy and uncomfortable.

That's the guilt talking, honey. She told herself with a grimace, but whether she focused on Brian or simply on the familiar skyline beyond she could not find the rhythm of her life.

I didn't know who I was until I was with you again! Amanda's voice rang through her mind, and she closed her eyes quickly over a hot sheen of tears.

"Me too…" She silently mouthed the words beneath the low hum of the cabbie's radio, and sank back into the worn leather seat.

She didn't open her eyes again until she felt the car sway to a stop along the curb. She lifted her weary gaze to the aging building with the strange feeling that it may for the last time.

"Thanks." She muttered to the cabbie as she paid.

Shoving the door open, she stepped out onto the sidewalk and attempted to gather her courage. She squared her shoulders, and blew out a deep exhale before she pressed forward. She kept her head down, focusing on each step on her path towards Brian's apartment, but by the time she was riding up the elevator her heart was racing.

When she stepped out into the dark hallway, nausea seized her stomach. She heard the doors rattle closed behind her, and she stood listening to low din of a TV still playing down the hall, and the creak of footsteps above her.

The city that never sleeps. Apparently, neither did her guilt.

She closed her eyes, drew a calming breath, gathered what strength she could. Once she started walking, once she entered the space they shared -and soon would never share again - she could not stop. There'd be no time to catch her breath.

I know how this goes. Do you? Yes, I know exactly how it goes.

Squaring her shoulders, she dug her keys out of her pocket, and gripped them in her palm as she strode down the hall. The little, metal teeth bit into the softness of her flesh, but it was far from the worst pain she'd ever experienced with her own set of apartment keys.

Reaching Brian's door, she grabbed the door handle and pushed the key inside the lock. With another twist and push, she was inside. Her throat closed tight as memories of the last time she stood here filled her head.

The alcohol. Brian voice, loud and harsh, reminding her she didn't want to be her mother. His hand catching her, bearing her up against him, inside her. The bed swallowing her, the pillow hot against her mouth. It all seemed like a fever dream, far removed from the gritty reality of New Jersey.

Pressing the door shut behind her, she hesitated there, eyes shut, palm sweaty around the knob.

Her eyes flicked open when she heard his footsteps, distinct and familiar. Her gaze found him in the dim illumination of the kitchen's archway. The sparse light from the bulb above the sink outlined his figure, and though she couldn't see his eyes in the dark, the tightness of his shoulders spoke loud enough.

They stood there for a minute, silent as though they both waited for the other to speak first.

Finally, he pushed away from the kitchen threshold, and she watched him pass her. He crossed to the living room, and twisted the switch on the lamp by the recliner. The sound of it screeched in her ears like nails on a chalkboard before the harsh light flooded the room.

He turned slowly, and she caught sight of the beer bottle in his hand. Dread pulled at her stomach once more, forcing her to remain planted by the door.

He sank heavily into the chair, resting the bottle on his knee. He turned it around slowly, sloshing the liquid inside.

"You slept with her." His husky tone shattered the silence - more of statement than a question; an indisputable fact rather than a fleeting assumption.

"Brian -" Olivia began, her voice trembling alive from the confines of her aching throat.

"Just say yes, goddamnit." He snapped, his eyes blazing as he pinned her with an accusatory glare.

She swallowed hard, tears burning her eyes. With guilt reaming through her chest, she didn't think she had any other choice but to follow his command.

Get your shit together. Tell him the truth. She ordered herself. Don't make him do all the work here. This is all your fault.

She took a halting step forward, and he watched her every movement with a distrusting gaze. As she approached, she could see the glaze in his eyes, the bloodshot lines that branched across the whites. It wasn't the first drink he'd had tonight, and if she hadn't been so guilt-ridden she might have tried to postpone this conversation until he was sober.

Drawing a wobbly breath, she sank down in front of him, meeting his narrowed eyes. It was no less painful than kneeling before Amanda, breaking her heart with each and every word. She'd known it wouldn't be the last fragile one she'd shatter, but she'd prayed it wouldn't be so soon.

"I won't lie to you." She whispered at last, resisting the urge to look away. "I should've been more truthful to begin with."

He released a low scoff, and glanced away as he took another quick drink. It stung that he so flippantly disregard her attempts to apologize, but she clenched her teeth and reminded herself that she didn't deserve an olive branch.

"I went to New Jersey because she was in trouble. But I also went because… because I wanted to."

A frown twisted her brow at the truth spoken aloud, something she hadn't expected to ever say to the man in front of her, but Brian didn't reply. He continued to stare off at some distant point in the room, reticent and guarded.

"That night at the hotel…" She continued, huskily, causing him to flinch at the reminder. "I should've told you…."

"Told me what?" He demanded, his voice cutting her with all it's sharp edges and disdain.

"That I don't know what this is." She murmured, her chin dipping towards the floor as a sudden rush of tears seized her. "I don't know why I feel the way I do, but I know that when I look at you… I -"

She cut off, clasping her hand over her mouth as the emotion swelled like a high, inescapable tide in her throat.

"You what?" Brian prodded, but she couldn't bring herself to speak around the thick fist of emotion planted at the back of her tongue.

A long beat of silence passed as his eyes bored into her and she tried desperately to shore up the emotion spilling from her mouth with quaking fingers.

She heard Brian's beer bottle clank against the side table, the sound of it snapping the tension between them like a twig. Then his hands were on her, grabbing her trembling and harsh around her shoulders.

"You what?" He demanded, shaking with tears, with fury, with every bit of judgement that she deserved.

She lapsed in his grasp, succumbing to the sobs that beat relentlessly against the bindings of her lips. His gaze was burning her, his fingers bruising, yet she couldn't pull away, couldn't bring herself to even attempt an escape from this punishing reality.

"Say it, Liv." Brian ordered. "If it's the truth, say it."

"I…" She choked out, her tearful gaze tilting towards his glassy, incensed one.

"Say it!"

Her shook her again, rattling the words from her tongue in a distressed outburst that matched his desperate tone.

"I don't love you!"

The exclamation seemed to physically assault him, and he jerked back, eyes wide, lips parted as though he would release some shocked expletive, but none ever came. His hands were frozen around her arms as the seconds ticked on, until finally, he released her as though she had burned his flesh. He sat back, running a quaking hand over his face as a quick tear slipped down his cheek.

Immediate regret and pain obliterated Olivia's chest, and she sank down against his knee, her forehead falling to rest with discomfort against the sharpness of his bone.

"I'm sorry." She whispered. "I'm sorry…"

Silence caved in on them, suffocating the room for long minutes that seemed to pass endlessly. An indelible pain planted itself in Olivia's chest without reprieve until finally, Brian abruptly rose, jostling her off his knee. She tumbled back on the floor as he stepped past her, hardly glancing at her puffy, flushed appearance of contrition.

She heard his heavy footfalls retreat towards the door, then the shuffling of fabric as he pulled on his coat and shoes.

"Wh-where are you going?" She asked, her voice raspy and broken as she twisted around.

"I don't think I need to tell you that." He answered derisively as he zipped up his jacket in a sharp, angry motion.

"You're not sober, Brian." She whispered, pushing herself up from the floor with a wince. "You shouldn't drive."

"And you think you're the person to tell me what I should and should not do?" He snapped, his gaze flashing towards her. "You know, you haven't even admitted that you fucked her yet."

"Bri-"

"Just say it once." Brian cut her off, stabbing his finger in the air.

She stared at him, clenching one arm around her waist as her stomach turned, and scrubbing her hand over her mouth again with the other. Her lips were trembling and she didn't want to cry in front of him again.

"You said you wouldn't lie." Brain reminded her, his jaw working.

He had one fist on the doorknob, and his keys were in his other hand, but she knew he wouldn't leave until he wrenched this final admission from her mouth.

"So I'm asking you…." He whispered. "Did you sleep with her?"

Her throat throbbed with a knot of dread, and the tears in her eyes pulsed in tandem. She wished with every fiber of her being that she could impart to him every horrible experience, every lonely night, every thought that had crossed her mind since Lewis so that he would in some way understand, but she could not. And she knew that even if she had his most deepest understanding that it would not be enough to cover this multitude of sins. There'd be no excuse good enough for what she had done, and she was going to have to live with this night and all the rest for the whole of eternity.

The husky yes that finally fell from her mouth felt like neither a relief nor a damnation. The truth could not spare her. It could not set her free.

He stared at her first a long moment, his lips pursed hard against his teeth before his gaze settled upon the door.

"I don't know what he did to you." He whispered at last. "But you need help. Before you hurt anyone else."

Yanking the door open, he stormed out into the hall. The following, resounding slam echoed throughout the apartment, jarring her. Stood in the center of the room, tears streaking down her cheeks as she listened to his footsteps fade down the stairs, then the distant sound of the front entrance door falling heavily shut.

He was gone.

She barely made it to the couch before her legs collapsed from beneath her, and she sank down on her side. Covering her face with her hands, she sobbed into the silence, the tear coming in waves of agony and then anger. The two fought back and forth until her throat was raw and she was exhausted with the emotional toll. Then she became still, her body and heavy and spent, and she drifted into the oblivion of sleep.

When she awoke again, the sun had risen, shining with searing brightness through the windows. Her mouth was dry, her tongue thick against the roof of her mouth, and her eyes ached as she opened them slowly.

Sleep hadn't even come close to erasing the memories of the early morning heartbreak, and she stared off at the wall as the weight of it settled down upon her chest. She already knew what she had to do, but she allowed herself to lie there for several more precious minutes before she rolled onto her back and pulled out her cellphone.

Flipping through her contacts, she found Dr. Lindstrom's direct line. She blew out a low, wavering breath before she hit the dial button and waited for it to connect.

He answered almost immediately, and she knew he'd probably been concerned after she'd missed their last appointment in exchange for travelling to Jersey. She hadn't given him much explanation, but that was all about to change - if she could simply find the strength.

"Olivia, how are you?" He asked.

She hated that question, now more than ever, but this time she had to be truthful.

Swallowing hard, she closed her eyes and admitted. "Not good… I need to come in."

"Okay, take a few deep breaths." He reminded her gently. "What time can you come in?"

"Now." Her hands were trembling and her heart was pounding as she whispered, "I need to come in now. I have to tell you everything."

Chapter Text

Knock! Knock! Knock!

The sharp rapping on her front door awoke Amanda with a start. She gasped awake, her whole body seizing as she was yanked out of the merciful unconsciousness she'd finally found. Her eyes jarred open to the sudden, searing light flooding through the window. Despite the clouds that hung heavy in the sky beyond the pane, her eyes struggled to adjust while the weight of sleep was slow to lift.

For a moment, she was disoriented by her own apartment after spending two and a half weeks in various hotel rooms in Atlantic City. Then the previous evening rushed back to her...

Olivia.

She sat up abruptly from her spread eagle position on her stomach, her heart still pounding as her hands groped the empty bed next to her. It felt like only a few minutes ago that Olivia's body had been molded against her own, cradling her into the peaceful respite of sleep.

But instead of Olivia's warm, inviting flesh she found only cold sheets and disappointment. Her movements slowed to nothing as she sat in the middle of the bed, taking inventory of the inescapable loneliness that always seemed to find her in the mornings.

The knocking came again, and she shot a gaze towards the open bedroom door and beyond to the living room. She wouldn't dare to hope that it was Olivia.

Throwing back the comforter, she slid out of bed and quickly pulled open her dresser drawer. She found a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt, and wrestled into the clothing as the person outside her door knocked insistently once more.

"Just a second!" She snapped as she managed to cover herself and run her fingers through her hair.

Storming out of the bedroom, she approached the door just as the intruding visitor knocked a fourth time.

"Jesus Christ, hold your six white horses." She snarled, flipping the deadbolt.

She pulled the door open, prepared to verbally lash whoever had awoken her from what she was certain would be her last good night's sleep. Instead, she stopped short when she came face to face the last person she'd expected to see outside her door.

"Captain?"

"Amanda." Cragen greeted her with a nod, his brow furrowed and his dark eyes reflecting concern from beneath his golf cap as he took in her disheveled appearance.

"Wh-what are you doing here?" She stammered, suddenly self conscious of what she was wearing, the way her apartment looked, the bags under her eyes. Most of all, she feared what he had learned of her time in Atlantic City and all of its implications.

"I didn't want you to come in to the precinct so I came to you." Cragen replied, motioning towards her apartment. "May I come in?"

"Uh...y-yeah…" Amanda agreed in a stutter although every thought in her mind was screaming no.

Her stomach was turning at his words, a thousand terrible scenarios already flying through her mind at the rate of a speeding train. The wreckage when she finally went off the tracks wouldn't be pretty.

She stepped back, allowing him to enter, before she quickly closed the door and hurried to the living room. She began to anxiously tidy the mess she'd left in her wake when she'd departed all those days ago. She'd been in a frenzy, and the evidence of it lay about in haphazard piles. She dumped everything into the recliner, and motioned for Cragen to sit on the couch.

"Can I get you anything?" She asked, crossing her arms over her breasts as she cursed herself silently for putting on a white T-shirt.

"No, that's okay, Amanda." Cragen replied, removing his hat.

He'd ignored her offer to sit, and instead stood across from her, regarding her with an expression of apprehension that unnerved her.

"What's this all about?" She asked at last, her voice barely rising above a raspy whisper.

The fact of the matter was she already knew, and a part of her wanted to throw herself down in front of him, and pray for forgiveness and a second chance. Unlike Olivia, however, she'd already had a second chance with Cragen, and a third, and soon to be a fourth if he'd be so gracious.

"You're being placed under a protective detail." Cragen said at last, his frown deepening.

"Protective…" She sputtered, shocked by his revelation.

It wasn't at all was she had expected. She'd been prepared to atone for her sins; not receive protection for them.

Slowly, she put the pieces together, feeling like a fool for not realizing sooner that the NJPD would've contacted him immediately. She was a cop in a foreign state, involved with a man who was wanted by White Collar Crimes. Contacting her captain had most likely been Nyle's first course of action.

Humiliation overcame the shock running through her veins and she struggled to come up with a proper response to the protective detail. She obviously had no choice in the matter, but a part of her had to protest. She wanted no more attention paid to one of the most horrible nights of her life, and her boss being so intimately aware of what had transpired in the alley only made her feel more invaded and ashamed.

"I… I don't think that's necessary." She managed to pose her rebuttal in a husky tone. "I mean, they know the guys who did it. They're gonna get them. I just -"

"Amanda." Cragen stopped her, taking a step towards her as though he'd physically comfort her.

She recoiled, turning sharply away from him. She paced across the room and sank down on the pile of clothes she'd tossed on the recliner.

"I talked with Detective Nyle." Cragen continued softly. "We had an in depth conversation about this DeFranco character, and I've decided you've more than compromised yourself and your safety is at risk."

Bracing her hands on her knees, Amanda stared down at the floor as tears rose quickly in her eyes.

"For how long?" She whispered, her voice breaking.

"Until he's apprehended."

"And what about my job?"

"I haven't decided that yet." Cragen answered, seizing her chest in another wave of dread. "For now… you'll be placed on leave."

Amanda pressed her eyes shut, felt a tear slip down her cheek. Her leg bounced as she tried to physically and emotionally process the words coming out of his mouth and the implications that followed, but it didn't feel as though any amount of time would suffice.

"Is it because of Lewis?" She finally asked, her stomach turning at the simple mention of the bastard.

"It's because your life is possibly in danger, Amanda. You didn't follow my orders. I gave you time off in order for you to get yourself together. Instead, you ran off to Atlantic City - the last place you should've been."

"I'm sorry, Captain." The rough apology broke through the hard knot of dread in her throat, and she sank down further over her knees.

"Not sorry enough, obviously." He replied, his tone strained. "I have given you more than enough leeway with the gambling and the reckless behavior, Amanda. Now, I understand that some terrible things have happened, and I do not want to come down on you, but I have to be frank. You are in no position to carry a gun or badge right now."

She stared down at the floor, tears slipping from her lashes as she tried to control the sobs that continuously worked their way up to her tongue. She pressed her lips together hard, swallowing over and over until she could contain the bursting emotion in her chest and stomach.

Finally, she stood from the chair, and clenched her hands at her sides as she fought every urge to collapse to the floor. The floor was blurry in front of her as turned towards the hallway.

"I'll be right back." Her voice broke the silence in a harsh, raspy whisper, and she hated the sound of it.

She ducked into the hallway and back into the bedroom where she'd awoken only a few minutes earlier. Amanda glanced at the bed, reflecting on the sense of doom that had enveloped her as soon as her she'd become conscious. It was too painfully relevant to dwell on now as she forcefully yanked the bedside table drawer open. She swallowed hard against tears, against anger, against every desire to scream in agony as she stared her badge and service weapon lying inside.

She'd sacrificed the most sacred things to have the privilege of being a detective of the NYPD, but perhaps she'd sacrificed even more to have the privilege being Olivia's. In this moment, where she was about to hand over pieces of herself that had become as ingrained as character traits, she could not decide which one - or either - had been worth the pain.

She forced the tremble from her hand as she grabbed the gun and tin from the drawer. Straightening, she pressed her eyes shut until the throb of agony and the pulse of emotion faded enough for her to move. It took another minute for her to force herself to walk back towards the door, down the hall, and to Captain Cragen.

He was still standing in the middle of the room, still waiting, still judging with eyes that had seen all this and more already. She couldn't say that he didn't understand, and she couldn't say that what he was about to do was unfair; but when she found herself in front of him, she wanted to beg one more time.

Just one more chance. Please, I'll make you proud this time.

But the words never came from her mouth. Her tongue was too tied up in tears that she wouldn't let past her throat.

He held out his hand. She stared down at her own holding her badge, reciting the feeling of the metal and leather in her palm, telling herself that it wouldn't just be a memory forever. Her eyes flickered shut just for a moment as she turned the badge on its face in Cragen's palm. Then it was just the gun, heavy in her hand, and she wanted to let it pull her down to nothingness.

"Amanda…" Cragen tone was soft and coaxing, and she wished she couldn't feel the pity rolling off of him in waves.

"It's fine." She cut him off abruptly, forcing a shrug and a quick smile. "I'll get it back."

Thumbing the release button, she disengaged the magazine, and passed both pieces to him. He took the gun slowly, his brow furrowed in deep lines.

"Amanda, listen to me." He warned, slowly. "I've been in your position before, and trust me, you don't want to go down this path."

She pursed her lips hard, shoving her trembling hands into the pockets of her sweatpants.

"Yeah, I hear you." She whispered, but they both knew it was a pacifying lie and nothing more.

She couldn't hear anything but the dead silence buzzing in her own head.

"Amanda," He repeated, reaching up to squeeze her shoulder.

His grip was warm and reassuring like that of a father's, but all she wanted was turn away and hide. One father had lead her to this life. Another could not save her.

Shrugging out of his grasp, she shouldered past him. Grabbing the front door handle, she pulled it open and stood the side, a blatant invitation for him to leave. He'd come to perform a certain duty, and it did not matter whether he had wanted to or not. It was done.

He stood across the room, his face etched in deep concern before he slowly tugged his hat back on, and strode towards her. She glared down at the floor, her jaw clenched as she tried not to collapse. She'd already proven herself incompetent enough.

"Get back into GA." Cragen ordered, quietly as he paused in front of her. "If not, there is nothing else I can do."

Amanda's jaw worked against burning tears, and her chest compressed with rage.

She hadn't asked for any of this. She hadn't asked for a dead beat gambler of a father, or passive, alcoholic mother. She hadn't asked to be raped or to become an addict just like the man who'd abandoned her so long ago. She hadn't asked to fall in love with Olivia, and yet she was here, wishing with every fiber of her being that she would look up and see her face, full of hope and radiance. It was once all she needed to believe in the world, and even at times, herself.

Those days were gone.

The tears felt cold in her eyes as she glanced up at Cragen's stony expression. His brows tightened, and he seemed as though he would say something more for a fleeting moment, but then he looked away with a sigh and headed out into the hall without any further hesitation. Amanda watched him go, tears of frustration building in her chest until he disappeared from her sight.

Releasing a loud cry, she slammed the door, rattling the walls of the apartment; but it wasn't enough. Rearing her foot back, she kicked the closed door, once, twice, then three time until she was sobbing and gasping for air. She sank against the unyielding surface with a groan.

The world was crumbling, and she with it. It would take an act of God to put it back together, and as far as she could tell, she had been forsaken.

xxxxxx

Olivia had spent plenty of nights on the hard cots in the precinct's bunk room, a dozen more slouched against the door of the cruiser door while her partner kept watch. As a child, she'd learned to curl up against the couch where her mother had passed out, too small to lift her dead weight but too afraid to leave her. At some point, she'd realized she could fall asleep anywhere if she had to.

Awakening on Lindstrom's couch, she vaguely thought that a therapist's sofa was the last place she'd expected to find a place of rest. It certainly wasn't the strangest location, but perhaps the most unsettling.

She shifted on to her back with a groan as her cheek peeled away from the leather. Her hips were stiff and her mid back felt like it needed a good crack, but the physical discomfort was the last thing on her mind.

She and Lindstrom had talked long into the night, though various lengths of silence and deep, unfettered sobbing. She'd spilled it all. The abduction, the torture in the apartment, the ensuing entrapment in the trunk followed by the attack on Vanessa's parents. Lindstrom had offered her a break from the horrifying recollections more than once, but she had refused, urged on by Brian's final words to her.

Get some help before you hurt someone else.

By the time she had made to Lindstrom's the night before the pain and guilt had been unbearable, and that thought that everything - including her own abduction and the torment of innocent people - had been a result of her own poor judgment. The only way to possibly absolve herself of it all was to make some kind of confession, to regurgitate it all before it made her sick inside. Lying here in the early morning light, she wondered what pieces of her had gone with it. She could feel gaps and holes inside her body, an aching emptiness that screamed with an unknown pain and longing.

Lindstrom had repeated over and over that what Lewis had done was far from being her fault, but she just shook her head. He didn't know about Amanda or Brian or what had conspired in Atlantic City, neither had he questioned her on it. She dreaded the day that he did. He was a therapist for a reason, and with that came an intuition and an ability to read a person's behavior and words. She possessed a similar skill of her own when it came to perps and victims, and she could barely imagine explaining her actions to herself, much less Lindstrom.

She stared up at the high, cream-colored ceiling, wanting to shatter into a million pieces all over again in the fresh light of day; but the tears did not come.

Finally, when the sun had shifted overhead, she sat up on the edge of the couch and stretched out her neck until it popped loudly in her ear. Her shoes were still on her feet, and she only had to grab her jacket from the back of the couch before she was prepared to slip out the door.

She checked her pockets for her keys and her phone as she pulled the coat on her arms on her way to the door. Tugging her phone out, she checked for the time and notifications. Foolishly, she hoped for something from Brian or Amanda, but instead she grimaced as her period tracker cheerfully reminded her that she only had two days left before she was hit with another unnecessary blow to her fragile state of mind.

"Fuck off." She muttered, shoving the phone back into her pocket, and taking her keys out of the other.

She had little idea of where she would go once she left Lindstrom's office, but she just knew she had to get of this space. She felt raw in her mind and in every part of her body, and the imposing aura and each piece of furniture felt like an assault upon her bruising flesh. She'd recalled things last night that she has tried so hard to bury and forget, things that she'd turned over so many times in her head, things that fell into a grey area in between; and she had prayed it would give her some relief. As she left the building, she couldn't tell whether it had or not.

The bright, warm morning shone down upon her, but she glared against the rays of sun that would seek to melt her cold, rigid exterior. She couldn't afford to break down again.

You have to start taking care of yourself, Olivia. Lindstrom had warned her. Amanda may be important to you, but you are more important right now.

She'd nodded slowly and murmured her agreement, but it was a much harder concept to grasp than she'd imagined. She'd had the strength to put those ideas into words last night as she knelt had Amanda's feet, but she didn't know if she could follow through in the coming weeks.

As she trekked down the sidewalk, her mind was filled with snapshots of flushed, pale flesh, bright blue eyes and tousled blonde hair. Her heart ached in her chest, and more than anything, she wished that she'd close her eyes and reach out to feel Amanda's hand in hers. She'd risked everything for this person who had grown to be her only confidant, her only safe place, and eventually her only lover. The idea that they now had to part to find healing left a bitter taste in the back of her throat, even more so this morning than last night. She's grown used to her comfort, and after her and Brian's violent parting and the following therapy session she felt lost without the option of picking up the phone and calling Amanda. Returning to Brian's apartment was out of the question as was her own former home, still wrapped in bitter memories and stark, yellow tape. Where would she go if not her?

It would be so easy…. She imagined, stuffing her hand into her pocket and turning her phone around in her hand. Make the call, drive over…. We'd be together in an instant and everything would be okay….

She swayed to a stop on the sidewalk, sudden tears shattering her carefully constructed facade of composure. She pinched her thumb and forefinger over her tear ducts, her jaw clenched. She'd promised Lindstrom that she was going to begin processing what had happened without ill advised coping mechanisms, and though she knew she and Amanda's relationship had its downfalls, she suddenly struggled to convince herself that it was a mistake.

I just want Amanda.

It had been her first thought when waking in the hospital, her every desire through each day since, and now it seemed it would invade her mind until the end of her days.

Her hand slipped away from her face, and she gazed up at New York City with tears clinging to her lashes. Her original love was bathed in sunlight, and somewhere in the glittering skyline Amanda existed, her energy pulling at Olivia's heart with the magnetism of a thousand moons. Like the tides of the sea, she had no choice but to follow.

Chapter Text

The path her feet followed was instinctual, both conscious and subconscious. She followed the sidewalks and the crosswalks, past brownstones and bodegas, propelled forward by a single desire. She couldn't remember when exactly she had decided upon this course of action. She could only remember a feeling, a sense of dread that she could not escape and never would escape if she did not go.

Amanda's apartment rose overhead, and she tilted her head back to gaze skyward. A stray tear slipped down her temple.

A scarce half day had passed since last she'd stood here, and then her back had been turned as she'd walked away. She'd sworn to herself to find her way towards recovery, but after her night with Brian and then Lindstrom she found herself too devastated to carry on, too weak to withstand all the trauma that invaded her body, seeping into her bones like a disease.

She clenched her hands into fists at her sides, fighting tears as strangers passed by her, and silently vowed she wouldn't fool herself this time. It wasn't salvation that she sought with Amanda, but rather a solidarity, an understanding that she was not alone. Amanda could not save her. She could not save Amanda, but together, she prayed, they might tread the water. They might stay alive.

Ducking her chin, she stepped towards the front doors, her heart beating restlessly in her chest. She wondered how Amanda might greet her after the way she'd shattered her heart, carefully tapping away at her protective exterior until she crashed through. She wondered but she could not entertain the anxiety which fearfully mused that Amanda would no longer desire her company.

She punched in the code for the door, quietly whispering the numbers that she'd committed to memory as though entrance to Amanda's apartment alone would mean safety. A fraction of relief warmed her chest as she stepped inside, but it was only a temporary feeling. Standing in the doorway, she felt that she clung to a precipice.

Pushing towards the elevator, she tried to control the tremble in her fingers as she pressed the button until it illuminated and she heard the carriage shifting towards her floor. She bit at her lip, impatiently waiting until the doors opened and she could step inside.

Grateful to find herself alone, she indicated Amanda's floor, and leaned back. Her stomach was already queasy, and she clenched her eyes shut as the elevator began to sway upwards with a sickening jolt. She held onto the railing until she heard the doors creaking open again, and she quickly stepped out.

The hall ahead was dimly lit, and with the early morning hours no one else was in sight.

Heading towards Amanda's door, Olivia tried to breathe evenly and control the pounding of her heart, but their sheer proximity brought such a thrill of excitement and relief that it was hard to squash the involuntary reactions.

She reached the door, hesitating for half a second before she quickly knocked. The sound of her knuckles hitting the wood echoed down the empty hall, giving her a strange sense of loneliness and vulnerability. Her throat tightened as she listened to the silence buzz back at her. Trying to quell her anxiety, she knocked again.

Quiet. Nothingness.

She glanced back down the hall then down at the floor as the ball of emotion burgeoned at the back of her tongue. She blinked hard, trying to hold back the desperation slipping past the impulsive joy that had gripped her upon arriving here.

Grasping the door frame, she leaned hard on it for a second before lifted her head, staring at the peephole. She prayed that if Amanda was on the other side that she'd see the desolation in her gaze and open the door.

"Come on…" She whispered, lifting her trembling fist.

She knocked again, harder, her knuckles trapping insistently five, then six times.

Silence.

"Amanda…" Her name rose on her lips in a choked tone, and she stared at the door, her vision blurring out. "Please, I know you're in there…. I'm sorry. I-"

Footsteps.

She cut off, inhaling quickly. She blinked, causing a tear to escape her lid. Her heart pounded in her chest as the sound of Amanda approaching the door became more clear. The deadbolt began to clank and unlatch, and Olivia stepped back haltingly, dashing the tear from her cheek.

The door swung open halfway, and Amanda stood on the other side, her typically clear, sharp eyes glassy and cloudy. Her hair barely clung to a disheveled ponytail, and she wore nothing but a plain white T-shirt and her underwear. Olivia took in her appearance breathlessly, her heart slowly falling as she recognized every symptom of inebriation. The beer bottle dangling from Amanda's fingers was simply a reinforcement of what she already knew.

Oh, Amanda…

She wanted to fall into her, wrap her up in her arms and comfort her until the terrors of the world had passed, but she couldn't. That was her own fault.

Amanda stared at her blankly for a moment as though she wasn't quite processing Olivia's presence at her door. Slowly, her brow furrowed.

"Liv…" She mumbled, blinking slowly with delayed surprise. "What're you doing here…?"

"I… I came to check on you…" Olivia whispered, inching closer.

It was half the truth. The other half was that she had hoped for intimacy and comfort, a resignation of her previous resolution to end the affair.

"'m fine…." Amanda mumbled, her slurred tone marked with resentment.

Olivia's heart clenched as she wondered if it was as she had feared.

Amanda turned away, wandering back into the apartment, the door hanging ajar. Olivia hastily took it as an invitation for her to enter, and stepped in after her, closing them in together.

Amanda sank down on a chair at the kitchen table, her beer bottle lifted to her lips. She stared off at the opposite wall, her eyes bloodshot and filled with tears.

"So…" She whispered, huskily as she lowered the bottle.

"Amanda…" Olivia began, hesitantly moving closer to her, heart racing fearfully in her chest.

"Why are you here?" Amanda whispered, a broken tone that broke Olivia's heart clean in two.

She turned her stormcloud eyes on Olivia, her lips trembled, jaw clenched. Olivia stared back at her, shocked into silence at the heartache that spilled over her delicate, soft features, turning them to hard stone beneath Olivia's eyes.

"Did you know Cragen came here?" Amanda tone rode, abruptly, her nostrils flaring against tears. "I'm under protective detail. I'm on suspension. He took my badge and gun. I might as well be under suicide watch according to him!"

Her voice was sharp in the silence of the apartment, high-pitched and panicked against Olivia's ears. Each sentence slammed like a hammer of dread into her chest. By the time Amanda reached the end of the outburst, her breathing was heavy and rapid, tears fighting against her lashes to escape. Still, Olivia could not speak. The night had taken it's toll on her, and she felt frozen by the world seemingly crashing down around her at every turn. This new torture of being shut out of Amanda's heart was almost more than she could bear. She stood uselessly at the entrance of the kitchen, silent tears burning at the back of her retinas.

Amanda stared back at her, her jaw jutting, her glazed over gaze scintillating with frustration and hopelessness.

"I didn't ask for this." She cried, setting the beer bottle down with a loud clank against the table. "I didn't ask for what happened to me when I was kid. I didn't ask to be raped. I didn't ask for what happened in Atlantic City, but it's still my fault. broke into the hospital. slept with Nadine, and most of all… fell in love with you - the biggest fuck-up of them all."

Olivia flinched as Amanda's hand smacked flat against the table, and the woman she'd found herself caring for more than anyone fell to pieces.

"Amanda…" She whispered, her voice breaking halfway through the plea as she stopped forwards, her trembling hands reaching towards her.

"Jesus, Olivia," Amanda cried, angrily wiping at the tears on her cheeks. "I fucking fell for you like an absolute idiot. And for what? What was the point of all of this?!"

Her voice was raw and full of agony, and when her blue eyes, stark against red whites and swollen lids, met Olivia's gaze with desperate questioning, Olivia felt herself shattering. She broke from the frozen bindings of shock and despair, two long strides bringing her to Amanda's feet.

"You're not an idiot." She whispered, grabbing Amanda's wrists and pulling her close.

Gathering Amanda's head against her chest, she wrapped her arm around her shoulder and held her tight. She bowed her head against Amanda's crown, pressing her lips to the messy strands.

"You're not…" She whispered as Amanda groaned and whimpered, struggling in her embrace.

Her fists pressed against Olivia's hips, her forehead digging into her stomach as she tried to wrench herself away.

"Let me go…" Amanda sobbed, her strangled tone muffled against Olivia's body.

"No." Olivia insisted, her voice breaking. Her heart was already in pieces.

They struggled against each other, Olivia pushing in closer to her until the chair creaked back against the floor.

"Stop…." Amanda groaned, grabbing Olivia's wrist and shoving back, disentangling herself. "Stop it!"

She pulled back, her cheeks flushed with intoxication and indignation, tears leaving distinct, distraught tracks. Her fists were clenched around Olivia's shirt and arm, and Olivia could feel the tremble running through her whole body.

Any other day she might've pulled herself together and apologized. She might let her be, but this wasn't any other day. This was the end of the road. Brian was gone. Her emotional strength had been ripped away from her, and she was raw with open wounds that had only ever begun to close beneath Amanda's gentle hands. She had nothing left to cling to, and if she couldn't have Amanda, she didn't know how to go on.

"Why are you doing this?" Amanda questioned, desperately. "After last night…?"

"I…." Olivia whispered, haltingly, her arm lapsing in Amanda's grip. "I went to see Dr. Lindstrom…"

Amanda's lids fluttered, a tear slipping from her lashes, but she didn't speak.

"I told him everything." Olivia whispered, lowering her head as the familiar shame crept through her chest. "I told him about Lewis. Everything he did to me. I didn't leave anything out. I-"

She cut off as her throat tightened, and she could scarcely breathe. She clenched her eyes shut, her mouth quaking with tears though she wished not to cry again. She did not want sympathy or compulsive compassion. She had no desire to manipulate Amanda's emotions in favor of her. She only wanted to tell her the truth.

She swallowed hard, forcing herself to speak. "I told him about you…"

She felt Amanda's fingers tighten around her arm, and she glanced up at her. Her mouth was tight against emotion, her blue eyes watery with guarded hopefulness. Olivia heart clenched, and she lifted her opposite hand to Amanda's cheek, her fingers hesitantly cradling her swollen, tearstained flesh. Amanda blinked quickly, her throat bobbing at the contact though she hardly moved, seemingly frozen in her place.

"I woke up this morning, and all I could think of was you." Olivia whispered. "I've made a lot of mistakes, Amanda, but thinking I could live without you…. Jesus…"

She sank down against her until her thighs were across Amanda's and their foreheads were pressed together. Her fingers slipped over the back of Amanda's neck, and she clutched the fine baby hairs at her nape, praying this wouldn't be the last time she held her so.

Above the sound of her heartbeat crashing against her ears, she could hear Amanda's breath, quick and ragged. Her fingers trembled around Olivia's wrist, and she grabbed her suddenly around the waist. The air rushed from Olivia's lungs as Amanda shoved her face into her neck, and dragged Olivia roughly against her. She released her wrist, and clasped her hand beneath Olivia's thigh, quaking as she pulled her fully onto her lap. Her breath rushed against Olivia's neck, her mouth desperate as she planted kisses there against Olivia's pounding pulse.

Relief flooded Olivia's veins, and she wrapped her arm around Amanda's shoulder. She showered her forehead and crown with kisses, returning each touch of Amanda's lips as her tears mingled into Amanda's hair.

"I thought I'd lost you…" Amanda whispered, her voice muffled and strained as she rocked into Olivia's body.

Her tiny frame could scarcely hold all of the emotions, the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful.

"I'm here now." Olivia whispered, kissing her temple hard and pressing her mouth there.

She stroked Amanda's hair and cheek as Amanda squeezed her closer. She nuzzled her face into Olivia's chest, her fingers seeking beneath her shirt to clasp her bare back, and just that simple contact made Olivia's heart burst inside her chest.

For once, they were together without restriction or moral obligation. No man nor institution stood between them, not even God himself, and still their embrace was not enough. Even when they were pressed together, there were spaces and gaps that Olivia wanted to destroy, to fill and pack in until they could not open again. She wanted more than their physical bodies could achieve, but for the first time in weeks she did not want to escape her prison of flesh. She just wanted to invite Amanda inside.

She clasped Amanda's jaw, and dragged her face upwards until she was looking into her eyes. Staring into the endless ocean of her gaze, she wanted to say more to encompass all the things that were in her heart, but she suddenly found words useless. Abandoning articulation, she bent and kissed her mouth.

It felt like years since last she'd done so though it had only been a few short hours, barely verging on a day; but when she felt Amanda tremble beneath her, she knew she also felt the desperation, the need that consumed her body and mind.

Amanda surged into her, her mouth parting with yearning heat, and another burst of relief filled her chest. Amanda's tongue pressed immediately past Olivia's teeth, and she shoved up from the chair, taking Olivia with her. The passion kindled her strength to life, and she bore Olivia up against the table, and pressed between her thighs. Olivia's heart raced faster with exhilaration, and she wrapped her legs around Amanda's as her body and heart begged for closer, closer, closer

Amanda kissed her hard, and Olivia felt her head spinning as it had when she'd found herself lying back against the hotel bed, Amanda's mouth working sweet affliction upon her body. She clutched Amanda's neck, returning the impassioned kisses as the desire curled quickly in her stomach.

She recognized it now for what it was, and what it always had been. This warmth that twined itself through her veins had founds it's roots in her heart from the moment Amanda had lead her away from that beach, to her tender care of her in the hospital, and beyond to this very moment.

She dragged her mouth from Amanda's, panting as tears stung her eyes again.

"Amanda…" She choked, the words rising on her tongue, the ones she'd wanted so desperately to say that night in Atlantic City.

Amanda kissed her jaw, her mouth working towards Olivia's neck, never leaving her for a moment, and Olivia felt her defenses come unhinged. She gathered Amanda closer to her, and pressed her face into Amanda's hair, her lips hovering against the shell of her ear.

"I… I love you…" The confession fell from her lips, raspy and trembling, and she felt Amanda shudder to a halt against her chest.

Amanda's fingers tightened around her waist, and she exhaled sharply, her chest quaking.

"Am...am I dreaming?" She whispered, huskily into Olivia's neck.

A smile rose on Olivia's quivering lips, and a tear spilled quickly down her cheek, though this time it wasn't from pain or fear. She stroked Amanda's hair and shook her head, rocking her slowly.

"No." She whispered. "You're not dreaming. I'm real. This is real."

Amanda released a laugh that was still half a sob, and sank further into Olivia's body.

"I love you too." She cried, her voice full of bewilderment and lingering tears. "God, I fucking love you."

She pulled back, dazed yet passionate. Her wide eyes found Olivia's, and her expression was one of shock and excitement, tears shimmering in her eyes as her mouth formed a hesitant smile.

"I've want to say that for so long." She whispered, tearfully, clasping her hand over Olivia cheek. "You don't even know."

"No." Olivia murmured, fitting her hand over Amanda's. "I think I do."

xxxxxxx

Sometime later, Olivia awoke against Amanda's chest, their naked bodies entangled together beneath the sheets. It must've been past noon because the sun was shining brightly through the window, illuminating Amanda's golden hair and rosy flesh beneath it's gentle rays.

When she heard her phone vibrating from the floor, she groaned. She was far too comfortable and content to move, but with all that was happening, she told herself that she shouldn't ignore any phone calls.

She grudgingly rolled away from Amanda, careful not to wake her before she leaned over the bed and grabbed her phone from her pants pocket. She thought it might been Brian or the captain, but when she saw Amaro's name on the screen she frowned.

Throwing back the sheets, she stood from the bed and padded out into the hallway. Clicking the answer button, she greeted Nick.

"Hey, Nick."

"Hey, Liv." He replied, softly, and she couldn't discern the exact tone of his voice.

"What's up?" She asked, her chest suddenly heavy and breathless.

A few different scenarios ran through her mind, mostly paranoid thoughts of him asking about Brian or Amanda, but she didn't have time to form a solid theory before be answed, shattering any idea that she had anxiously imagined.

"We got your rape kit results back."

The words took the air straight from her lungs, and the strength from her knees. She leaned back against the wall, her heart racing in her chest. There was a buzz in her ears, and she suddenly didn't feel prepared to face the truth. With all that had happened in Atlanta, her mind hadn't exactly been on herself and Lewis. It was every present in the back of her mind, but perhaps, she hadn't wanted to think about. Perhaps, if had been easier to bury herself in Amanda's issues rather than her own. It was ironically fitting that this news came now in the light of her vow to finally face her demons.

"Liv?" Nick asked, hesitantly, and she realized she hadn't answered.

"Yes, yes. I'm here."

"Is this an okay time?" Nick asked. "I figured you'd want to know right away-"

"Yes." Olivia interrupted him abruptly, pushing away from the wall and pacing towards the living room. "I want to know."

"We're gonna nail him, Liv. We've got plenty of DNA."

"Okay." She whispered, her stomach turning over, her heart skipping a beat. "Wh-what kind of...DNA?"

"Don't worry, Liv." Nick assured her, a smile reaching through the phone. "No semen. No signs of forcible rape."

Olivia came to a stop in the middle of the living room, relief building into a high tide in her chest. She clasped her hand over her mouth as a sob reached her lips, and she sank into a crouched position. She cradled the phone against her ear, and tried to process the emotion, tried to come up with the words to say.

"Oh my God…" She whispered, staring at the floor in disbelief as tears streamed down her face. "Nick...thank you…"

"We're gonna get him." Nick repeated. "You're gonna get your life back."

She nodded into her palm, unable to speak anymore. He stayed on the phone with her until she could compose herself, detailing the rest of the report to her satisfaction.

When they hung up, she wandered back into the bedroom and stood in the doorway, staring at Amanda's sleeping figure in a daze. It hardly seemed real.

Yesterday, she'd aimlessly trekked across Manhattan, hopeless and devoid of any will to live. Today, the sun was rising, and she with it.

Rushing across the room, she tucked herself back in bed, and curled herself into Amanda's body. She clutched her tight until Amanda roused, and mumbled her concern.

"Liv…? What's wrong?"

"Nothing." Olivia whispered, pressing a kiss against her cheek, and pulling her closer. "Don't worry...Everything's fine. Just fine..."