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Recovery, A Sequel to Darkest Before the Dawn

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Monday morning everyone was gathered around the dining room table eating breakfast. This was one of their first meals where they were all in attendance. Barba and Carisi were sitting one either side of Jesse. Renee was feeding Billie with Reid seated next to her. Amaro and Huang were sitting together. They had all just finished eating and were sipping at their coffees as Renee cleaned up Billie's face with her bib.

"Are you ready for your first case as junior ADA?" Amaro asked.

"As ready as can be," Carisi said looking eager but anxious.

Huang turned to Barba. "You think Amanda is up for this?"

"Based on what I saw yesterday, no. She wants to try though. Really, we don't have any alternatives. The evidence is weak. We really need her testimony," Barba replied.

"I guess I know what the squad will be doing today. Well, those of us who aren't in court. Fin and Liv are supposed to be in court with Casey," Amaro informed them.

"Anything you guys can find us would be greatly appreciated," Carisi croaked.

"We'll let you know if we find anything," Amaro informed the rookie prosecutor. He turned to Barba. "So is this the first time you've ever second chaired a case?"

"I did twice before when I first started at the Brooklyn's DA's office."

"So you're just going to be chilling and drawing pictures."

Barba laughed. "No, not today. The only reason I'm second chairing is because Sonny didn't want to be the lead prosecutor on a case until he got more experience under his belt. I'm officially lead, the figure head if you will. Sonny though, he is the actual lead."

"He's agreed to keep me in line," Carisi said standing up. He walked over and kissed Barba on the forehead. "I'm going to help Renee get Jesse and Billie across the hall so Lucy can watch them.

"Okay." Barba turned to the Jesse. "Have fun today. I want to hear all about what you and Lucy do today when we get home."

Jesse smiled and grabbed Carisi's hand. "Come on Uncle Sonny! Lucy is waiting for us!"

---

After Carisi and Renee left to take Rollins's girls across the hallway to Lucy, Barba turned to Amaro. "Seriously, anything you guys can find, we need it. I really have a bad feeling putting Amanda on the stand today."

"Does Sonny know you have that much reservations about her testifying?"

"Yes, we both do, but we're both trying to hope for the best. His damn optimism is trying to rub off on me."

"Is that right?" Huang asked laughing. "An optimistic Rafael Barba. The world is ending."

"Don't make me glare at you before my third cup of coffee," Barba whined.

"No glaring at Amanda today!" Amaro warned.

"I'll try my best," Barba replied.

---

He didn't want to think anymore about Rollins. Not until he had to. He felt almost eager for her testimony to be over so he could take her up on her invitation to keep being angry at her. The 'olive branch' he extended yesterday was merely to try to get them on talking terms so they could be cordial during the trial. He was nowhere close to forgiving, thinking of forgiving, no even interested in entertaining the idea. He knew Carisi would want to forgive her and for him to share the sentiment, but honestly, he had no clue how to forgive someone for taking advantage of his husband. He'd prosecute her in a heartbeat if Sonny changed his mind and chose to press charges.

He understood she went through trauma (that he was still trying to blame on himself) and that she was in a fragile mental state. He by no means, wished she had been successful in her suicide attempt, but the prosecutor in him whole-heartedly believed she needed punished, just not dead. He'd be satisfied with any sort of punishment, but Carisi would never permit that to happen. In addition to this anger, need for punishment, and jealousy, his feelings were even more complicated. He hated how Carisi would want to forgive her and want to stay friends. He would support his husband's decision even he didn't agree with it.

He also had other conflicting feelings. He and Rollins were never were never close, but it did seem like she made an effort to know him better when he started dating Carisi. She did seem like she was a good and caring person and did try to reach out when they were recovering from their ordeal with Michael. He never would admit it, but he did appreciate the effort that she made to try to get them talking more. Then there was the fact that she was his husband's best friend. And the mother of their nieces, two girls that he came care about and love so much.

It was an unmitigated mess of feelings. He could only imagine Carisi's feelings were even messier. He desperately need a change in subject. He couldn't think about Rollins before her testimony or his anger could seep through in his questioning.

---

"Nick, are you doing better today?" Barba asked.

"Yeah, much. It's just hard seeing Jesse and Billie...I really miss my kids."

"I'm so sorry, Nick. I know I'm not the best one to talk to, but I'll listen. I can't promise to be helpful though," Barba offered.

"Thanks for the offer. I might have to take you up on that when George gets sick of hearing me talk about them."

"I'll never get sick of that, talk all you want, but this would be a perfect opportunity for Rafael to practice socializing."

"I told you not to make me glare before my third cup of coffee," Barba said issuing Huang his first glare of the day.

They all laughed.

---

Barba and Carisi were in their bedroom putting the finishing touches on the suits.

"Sonny, you're shaking!" Barba laughed as he straightened Carisi's tie.

"Nerves," Carisi smiled sheepishly

"Ah. First case jitters. Sonny, you're as prepared as you possibly can be. Every trial will inevitably throw something at you that you weren't expecting, but you'll deal with it when it happens. We'll deal with it. I've got your back, but it's not just me. SVU--the squad and our office--we all have your back. Just like you guys always had...well still have my back." Barba pressed a kiss to Carisi's lips. "You'll be great," Barba said.

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Carisi looked a bit more at ease, but not completely and Barba saw this.

"I've got her. I've got Amanda. Don't even worry about her. You don't even  have to look at her if you don't feel like it."

"Thanks, Rafa. She...that's what I'm most nervous about."

"I know that mi amor. I've got it. Try to relax...well...I mean focus on the case and not her."

Carisi hugged Barba. "Thanks, Sweetie. I appreciate it. I love you so much."

"I love you, too," Barba said picking up their briefcases and handing Carisi's his.

"Good to go nail this prick to the wall?" Barba asked.

"Let's kick his ass!"

---

Carisi and Barba were sitting at the prosecutor's table. Barba removed a single case file, notepad, and pen and situated himself at the table and put away his briefcase. He stared over at Carisi who looked nervous as he organized his notes and files.

Carisi looked up and caught Barba gawking at him. "What?"

Barba just shook his head and giggled.

"Rafi?" Carisi whined.

"You're sexy when you're nervous," Barba whispered with a straight face.

Buchanan and the perp were seated at the defendant's table. As per usual, Buchanan looked smug.

Judge Donnelly was expected any minute now.

The courtroom was packed as the case had become highly publicized due to the identity of the second victim. 

Stabler was seated next to the victims, Crystal Nunez and Peggy Grogan.

Amaro was outside of the courtroom keeping an eye on Rollins. It was expected that she would be called to testify this morning. Huang was there for support--in case Rollins fell apart before, during, or after her testimony.

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---

Background of People vs. Travis Hillsdale

First Victim: Crystal Nunez, mother raped in front of child.

Second Victim: Peggy Grogan, mother raped in front of child. Daughter of Deputy Inspector Grogan.

Perp: Travis Hillsdale, operates an ice cream truck frequented by both mothers and their children

---

A court officer announced, "All rise for the Honorable Judge Elizabeth Donnelly."

Judge Donnelly came into the room and walked to the bench as all stood with respect.

After everyone was reseated, Judge Donnelly pounded her gavel and called the court into session. "Court is now in session. The case being heard is the People vs. Hillsdale."

Barba and Carisi stood up.

"District Attorney Rafael Barba for the people," Barba announced himself. 

"And Junior ADA Dominick Sonny Carisi Jr., for the prosecution, your Honor," Carisi added.

Buchanan stood. "James Buchanan for the Defendant, Travis Hillsdale."

After the lawyers took their seats Donnelly called for the opening arguments.

"I'll hear opening statements."

Carisi looked at Barba who gave him a slight nod. Carisi stood and walked over in front of the jury to address them.

"Today, you are going to hear about the heinous sexual assaults committed by the defendant, Travis Hillsdale against two women. Sexual assault of any kind, in any form, is a heinous, crime." Carisi swallowed hard as he took a few seconds to process his own words and absorb their meaning for himself.

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Barba saw this pause and thought, "Shit, hold on Sonny." Barba looked into his eyes trying to give him the support to keep going.

Gracefully, Carisi continued. "Mr. Hillsdale took these heinous crimes to a whole new level. He raped these women in front of their very own children. He threatened their children's safety if he was met with any sort of resistance of if the children would cry. These children were traumatized as they witnessed their mothers' brutal rapes with their very own eyes."

Barba breathed a sigh of relief but realized that he was having his own issues now...he was thinking about Jesse and Billie and how they were threatened by Patton. He tried to push the thoughts from his mind as he continued to follow his husbands opening argument. "No time for personal feelings. Right now it's about the victims and getting justice for them."

"During this trial, you will hear the survivors tell their accounts, see evidence backed with professional testimony, and hear from a SVU detective."

Carisi again paused and made eye contact with his co-prosecutor. He saw Barba's eyes rooting him on.

"Your duty today is to weigh the evidence and testimony and find the defendant, Travis Hillsdale, guilty of two counts of sexual assault and two counts of threatening the welfare of a child. Now, Mr. Buchanan over there is going to try to muddy the waters by distracting you with extraneous details. I ask you to set aside those extraneous details and focus solely on the facts of what happened and the evidence. What happened is all that matters. That is the only thing that matters. Find Mr. Hillsdale guilty."

Carisi walked back to the prosecutorial table and sat down. "Shit," he whispered.

Buchanan stood and gave his opening argument while Barba scribbled on his notepad and slid it to Carisi.

He read it. "You did great."

Carisi didn't look up but scribbled on it and slid it back over.

"I was talking about Amanda and me."

Barba scribbled a message back and slid it back. Carisi didn't take the notepad, but looked up and watched as Buchanan tried to taint the facts in his opening argument.

"No, no, no, mi amor, don't go there. Don't shut down. Focus on the case," Barba thought to himself as if Carisi could hear him.

After Buchanan took his seat, Judge Donnelly ordered, "The prosecution may proceed."

Carisi stood and began to question the first witness, Crystal Nunez, as Barba listened in. Carisi was professional and and empathetic getting her to reveal the tale of what she had endured. He was good. Quite good. Barba sat proudly as he listened looking for any other loopholes that Buchanan could use against her. She was spot on. Up until it came to her sexual activity. Then it went downhill, but that was expected. They knew that was coming.

"Ms. Nunez, could you please describe who your sexual partners were within the days leading up and the day of your assault?" Carisi asked delicately. 

Even though she had been advised and prepped not to look down, Nunez looked down anyway in shame.

"My ex-husband," she replied.

"Ms. Nunez,"gently coaxed.

"and a guy I met at a party earlier that night."

"Anyone else?"

"No."

"Please let the record reflect that Ms. Nunez had two sexual partners within the time frame of her attack. Thank you, Ms. Nunez. Defense's witness," Carisi said turning over the reigns to Buchanan and returning to his seat.

Carisi looked in Barba's eyes. Barba tried to let his eyes convey his pride and approval. Carisi gave a very quick slight grin in acknowledgement before returning his gaze to the witness stand to offer support to to Ms. Nunez who was already under attack by Buchanan.

"Objection!" Barba said rising to his feet. "Badgering. Witness already disclosed sexual partners."

"Sustained. Move on Mr. Buchanan," Donnelly said.

As instructed, Buchanan left go the identities of her sexual partners but continued to twist her sexual activity. "If you were having sex with two at the time, one being someone you just met that night, how do we know that you just didn't sleep with Mr. Hillsdale as well?"

"I didn't."

"You were drinking though, were you not?"

"Yes, but I knew what I was doing."

"How drunk were you?" Buchanan continued.

Carisi started to tune out and Barba saw this, so he started jotting some notes if his husband would need them later.

---

Carisi was lost in thought questioning Buchanan's insinuation that she was too drunk and just slept with the defendant, reminding him of his best friend on Friday. Rollins was drunk and didn't remember assaulting him. Did Nunez really remember drunken sex as an assault instead of consensual?

---

Barba kicked Carisi's leg lightly bringing him back to reality. Back to the trial.

"Defense is done with this witness."

"Approach?" Carisi asked.

"Counsels," Donnelly said granting permission to all attorneys to join her at the bench.

"Request to change order of witnesses. We'd like to have Detective Rollins to testify next to rebut the defense's cross," Barba said.

"No objection," Buchanan said. He looked very confident. Too confident. Barba hid his concern under his tough prosecutor mask.

"Granted. Step back," Donnelly ruled.

Carisi and Buchanan took their seats but Barba remained standing as a court officer escorted Rollins into the room and swore her in. Amaro and Huang slipped into the back of the galley to watch.

Carisi did not look up even once at Rollins. He was content to let Barba to question her.

Barba tried to look at Rollins as gently as Carisi had done with Nunez, but Rollins was not making eye contact.

"Detective Rollins, you took Crystal Nunez's statement, correct?"

"Yes," Rollins replied looking up and finally making eye contact with Barba.

"When she initially disclosed to you, how many sexual partners did Ms. Nunez say she had?"

"One."

"And later on..." Barba probed.

"Two."

"So she misrepresented how many sexual partners she had the days leading up to the assault. In your experience as a NYPD SVU detective, is that common?"

Rollins nodded. "Yes."

"Why would a victim misrepresent the number of sexual partners?" Barba asked.

"Many victims feel shame. They don't want to make it look like they sleep around on a regular basis."

"Did Crystal Nunez disclose why she had two sexual partners?"

"Yes."

"And the reasons..."

"She was trying to keep her ex-husband...appeased. To keep him from being upset. The other guy, the one she met at the party, that was just trying to establish a social life again."

"Thank you, detective. Defense's witness," Barba announced sitting back down.

Now this was what he was worried about. The moment he and Carisi had been dreading. Buchanan smugly stood and walked to the witness stand. Too much smug for Barba's taste. 

"Detective Rollins, isn't it possible that she could have had more than two sexual partners? She did lie to you once."

"It is possible, but..."

Buchanan cut her off. "She consumed alcohol that night. Her tox screen shows she was just below the legal limit. Is it possible that alcohol could lead to consensual sex but memory loss? Memory loss that could misconstrue consensual to an assault?"

"Yes," she replied looking very uncomfortable. She testified many times and was always professional, but right now, she looked even more distraught than the victim had on the stand.

Buchanan saw he was hitting a little too close to home as he was getting an emotional response from Rollins and he was ready to use it.

"Detective, do you have a history of being sexually assaulted?"

"Objection!" Carisi shouted loudly jumping to his feet. "She is an evidentiary witness. Witness's personal experience does not apply!"

This was the first that Carisi and Rollins made eye contact.

"It most certainly does. It colors her testimony," Buchanan said.

"Overruled. You may proceed," Donnelly hesitantly ruled.

"Detective, do you have any personal experience with sexual assault?"

"Yes," she replied with cold eyes. 

Barba and Carisi both saw the coldness seeping into her eyes and knew she was about to break. Barba couldn't think of anything to stop this line of questioning. They looked at each other know the inevitable was about to happen.

"An assault with alcohol?" Buchanan asked as mere speculation seeing how uncomfortable Rollins was with the alcohol question earlier.

"Shit," Carisi whispered. "Alcohol...she wasn't thinking about Patton, but rather him."

"Detective?" Buchanan asked.

"Detective, you have to answer the question," Donnelly said.

Rollins looked at the ground.

"Answer the question, Detective," Donnelly pushed.

After another minute of silence, Barba stood up. "Sidebar? In chambers?"

Donnelly looked at Barba confused.

"Yes!" Rollins screamed getting up from the stand.

Buchanan looked alarmed realizing his bullying snapped her.

"Sit down Detective!" Donnelly said.

Rollins ignored her and started walking away. 

"Officers, take the Detective into custody for contempt," Donnelly announced.

Barba and Carisi watched in horror as Rollins struggled against the officers and reached for her gun, but her gun wasn't there. Amaro still had her gun."

Donnelly pounded her gavel. "Court is in recess. Mr. Barba, you may have your sidebar in chambers."

---

Barba, Carisi, and Buchanan followed Donnelly into her chambers.

As she undid her court robe she said, "So that was a disaster. I don't know what tactics are at play here, but clearly something has gone awry."

Barba and Carisi looked at each other. Buchanan looked at them.

Donnelly was frustrated no one was sharing.

"Mr. Barba, you asked for a sidebar. What did you want to discuss?" 

Barba looked at Carisi. Carisi looked back at him.

"It's a private matter for Detective Rollins," he replied.

"Will she be able to finish her testimony?" Donnelly asked.

Carisi looked at Barba and shook his head.

"Prosecution wishes to have Detective Rollins's testimony stricken from the record."

"No objection," Buchanan smugly replied.

Carisi looked like he was going to punch Buchanan in the face at any minute.

"Sonny," Barba said redirecting Carisi's focus away from Buchanan. 

"Your own expert?" Donnelly asked confused.

"Si...yes," Barba said. Spanish usually didn't slip into his court work unless he chose for it to. He was flustered and feeling emotional. He felt awful how Rollins fell apart and so publicly.

"So ordered," Donnelly said. "Court will resume tomorrow morning."

"Amanda?" Carisi quickly asked.

"Detective Rollins will spend the night in lockup," Donnelly said.

Carisi looked like he was going to fall apart.

"Sonny, go find Nick. We need to restrategize. I'll be along in a minute." He turned to Donnelly. "I need a minute not related to the case," Barba said.

Carisi glared at Barba. "Go," Barba urged.

Carisi turned and followed Buchanan from chambers.

"Mr. Barba, something you can't share in front of defense counsel?"

"Liz, it's not about the case."

"So it is Liz. So, it clearly it is not about the case. Have a seat," she said motioning towards her chamber's sofa.

Barba sat down on the sofa and Donnelly sat on the opposite chair. "What's going on Rafael? Is it you? Sonny?"

"It's Detective...Amanda. Liz, you can't leave her in lock up."

"I most certainly can, but why wouldn't I?"

"She's a fresh victim. PTSD. We shouldn't have put on the stand. It was my fault. I'll stay in lock up for her. She needs to see a  therapist at the moment. A mental health professional."

"Patton?" Donnelly asked referring to the case she knew Barba prosecuted years ago.

"Yes, but there is so much more. You know I cut a deal with...Buchanan?" Barba asked gruffly emphasizing Buchanan.

"No. What?"

Barba went to work explaining the reason the deal was made and how Patton was set free virtually unpunished. Then he went on to explain how Rollins was continually  assaulted over the past several years and how her sister and children's safety were threatened if she didn't comply or would report him.

Donnelly sat with wide eyes and listened.

After Barba finished, they sat in silence for several minutes.

"Rafael, Patton....there was no good solution."

"What would you have done, Liz?"

"Another trial, I suppose."

"That's what I should have done," Barba replied.

"Rafael, you can't beat yourself up on a mistake. It's done. It's over. You can't change the past. You can only change the future."

Barba looked at the floor. "Please, don't leave her in lock up."

Donnelly stood and went to her phone. "Who's her...psychiatrist?"

"George Huang or Peter Lindstrom."

"I saw George here. Why don't you call him and have him pick her up from lock up. I'll make my call," Donnelly said.

Donnelly went and made a call. She hung up and listened to Barba finish his conversation with Huang.

After Barba hung up, he said, "Thank you. He'll be there in a few minutes."

"Good. Rafael, you aren't to blame for what happened after the deal, but putting her on the stand, that was risky. You really just hurt your case. I can tell the jurors to disregard her testimony, but her meltdown? It's already on the books. Maybe you should advise Sonny not to put unstable people on the stand..."

"It was my call."

"Really?" Donnelly asked shocked.

"She was the only one who Ms. Nunez disclosed to. I couldn't find another way."

Donnelly nodded. "You have until tomorrow morning. Go see if SVU can help you get some damning evidence for you."

"Thanks, Liz."

"Good luck," Donnelly said showing him out.

---

Amaro was waiting outside of Donnelly's chambers for Barba. 

"I know my way, detective," Barba grumbled. "Where's Sonny?" he asked.

"He's sick," Amaro said pointing to the bathroom.

Barba looked up and rolled his eyes. He walked over and sat down on the hallway bench and Amaro sat next to him.

"So...George went to spring Amanda. Now what?" Amaro asked.

"We're screwed. So screwed," Barba hoarsely whispered.

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---

A few minutes later Carisi emerged from the bathroom with his jacket in his hand, the top buttons of his dress shirt undone, the shirt untucked, and his sleeves rolled up.

He immediately went over to Barba. "They can't leave her in..."

"Liz is letting her out Sonny," Barba said standing and wrapping his arms around him.

Carisi hugged him and left out a sigh.

"God, you smell like vomit," Barba said pulling away.

"I need to go home. I'm sick to my stomach over what we just did to her. Both ends."

"Oh," Barba said.

"Oh, I got what you asked for," Amaro said pulling a bottle of Pepto-Bismol from his bag and handing it to Carisi.

"Okay, let's go home and re-strategize. Nick, join us?"

"Yeah, I'm in. You guys need all the help you can get."

Carisi opened the Pepto-Bismol and started drinking it from the bottle.

"Sonny! Not so much!" Barba scolded.

"When you are sick from both ends, then you can take the recommended dose. Until then, fuck off," he snapped at his husband.

Barba stopped mid-strided and turned to Carisi. "Sonny, you're not okay."

"I'm sorry," Carisi apologized while shaking his head.

"Come on, let's go home. We'll talk.  Do you want to talk to George or Peter?"

Carisi nodded and bean to sway.

"Dios, Sonny," Barba said wrapping an arm around his waist.

It happened so fast but Carisi's body went limp and Amaro caught him before he hit the floor and moved him to a hallway bench.

"Sonny! Sonny! Wake up!" Barba frantically shouted.

"Sonny!" Amaro said smacking his face.

Carisi opened his eyes and murmured, "I don't feel good. I want to go home."

"Mi amor, we are," Barba assured him.

Amaro helped Carisi to his feet and Barba took his briefcase.

The three made their way quickly out of the courthouse.