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If I cannot see what’s in front of me
How will I know?
If I cannot break these chains that bind me
How will I go?



[ O N E ]


Olivia has seen awful things. She’s been in dangerous situations, stared down demons hidden behind human faces, walked into situations that she’s had to accept that she might not walk out of again. 

Yet, she’s never felt a fear like this one.

“Blind?” Olivia repeats, and the word is like tar as it falls from her lips.

“Temporary blindness,” the doctor corrects quickly. “Full vision should likely be restored in a few days, but the trauma to the base of your spine and neck caused some bruising and swelling of the veins around your optic nerve. What did you say happened again?”

“She was tackled by a suspect,” Elliot says from somewhere to her left. 

“I know it’s scary, detective, but you should consider yourself lucky. If you’d hit the ground any harder we’d be having a very different conversation.”

“How long until I can go back to work?” Olivia asks. 

She can’t wrap her head around this. She has to focus on the facts or she’ll panic, because her eyes are open and she can’t see a damn thing. It’s terrifying, actually. She can’t even see shadows: there’s nothing but endless darkness. 

If she keeps thinking about it she’s going to hyperventilate. 

“It’s hard to say with certainty,” the doctor answers. “Your vision won’t return all at once. You’ll probably start to notice pinpoints of light at first, and then shadows, maybe a few blurry images. But you won’t be given the all clear to go back to work until we can determine that everything is back to normal and there’s no residual swelling.”

“How long?” Olivia pushes.

“Liv,” Elliot soothes. 

She heaves out a sigh. Elliot is right, and pushing the doctor isn’t going to get her anywhere. This isn’t a perp she’s trying to break: this is a medical professional. He probably has years worth of experience dealing with people who get angry and demand answers he doesn’t have when he tells them something they don’t want to hear. 

“A lot of the healing time is going to be dependent on you, detective,” the doctor tells her. “You’re going to want to push yourself, but the more you do that the longer it’s going to take. You’ll need to rest and take it easy, because the more active you are the longer it’ll take for the swelling to go down. Your other injuries will need the time to heal, as well. The bruising on your neck and shoulders will be tender for a while, so it might help to sleep on your stomach if you can. Otherwise, try to prop yourself up on some soft pillows. Remember, the less pressure the better.”

Olivia is doing her best not to be a pain in the ass. Really, she is, but everything about this sounds awful. She’s never been great at taking it easy. 

“Well, what about heat? I’d love a hot bath right about now,” Olivia says, and then she tenses as another thought occurs to her. 

She can’t see her partner’s expression but she knows that he understands where her mind has gone because she can feel the sudden tension that seems to radiate off of him. Olivia hears the momentary shuffle of his feet; the air near her arm moves slightly, and she knows that he’s taken a step closer to her. 

Olivia will give the doctor credit, because he picks up on the suddenness of her understanding. 

“I’m sure you’ve realized this, detective, but you’re going to need some help for a while. Do you have someone at home, someone you trust to help you?”

Olivia grips the edges of the hospital bed so hard her knuckles turn white.

“I’ll manage,” she grinds out through gritted teeth.

She can sense the hesitation in the other man’s voice before she hears it. “I don’t mean to be insensitive, Detective Benson, but this isn’t something you can do on your own. Your life is that of a seeing person, and for the next few days, at least, that’s not how you’re going to be living. The disorientation alone is going to be an adjustment.”

“I don’t,” she starts to say.

“I’ll stay with her,” Elliot interrupts. 

“El, I …” But Olivia doesn’t finish her sentence because she doesn’t know what to say. The doctor has made it clear that she’s not going to be able to do this on her own, and who else does she have in her life that can help her?

What can she say? I can’t ask you to do this? Great, because she didn’t. What about Kathy? He’ll just get irritated that he has to remind her - again - that he and Kathy are no longer married and have been divorced for nearly a year. I’ll be fine? Even if she can’t see him she knows exactly what kind of look he’ll give her if she even tries to utter those words. 

The truth settles over Olivia all over again: she can’t fucking see. Temporary blindness, and even though the doctor has given her an idea of a timeline he can’t say for certain how long it’s going to last. Working isn’t the only thing she can’t do for the foreseeable future (and god, what a shitty pun that is!): she can’t drive, can’t text or read a menu - or read at all - or even write with any kind of accuracy. 

Olivia tightens her hands on the edges of the bed until her fingers start to go numb. How the hell is she going to get through this? How long is Elliot going to have to play her nursemaid, and what the hell would she do if he hadn’t volunteered to help her? 

All at once, the bleakness of her life hits her all over again. She’s alone, and while she’s had years and years to get used to and accept that fact, she’s now also helpless in a way that she’s never been. 


She blinks at the sharpness in Elliot’s tone, which is useless but reflexive. Olivia’s awareness starts to return to the moment which is the only reason she realizes that it was anywhere else. She takes a deep breath and forces herself to loosen her hands and pull them into her lap. 

The doctor - she’s pretty sure he introduced himself as Dr. Shaefer - clears his throat. 

“Panic attacks are to be expected,” he tells them kindly. “They might start to lessen after the first two or three days, but it really depends on you. They’re most likely to happen after you first wake up, but they can happen at any time. The important thing is to remember that they’re normal, and they’ll pass.”

“I’ll be fine,” Olivia says, because at this moment it’s all she has. She has to focus on the facts, the mechanics of it all, or she’ll lose it. “What else do I need to know? I’m tired and I’d like to go home, doc.”

“Of course. I put in a prescription for some muscle relaxers that will help with the body aches …”

“That’s not necessary,” Olivia interrupts.

“We’ll be sure to pick them up,” Elliot says immediately, and if Olivia could see his face right now she knows that he probably just glared at her. 

“And I’ll send you home with a white cane,” the doctor continues, ignoring the interruption and their exchange. “You’re still going to need help, but the cane will give you a measure of independence.”

A measure of independence. 

The doctor is still talking to Elliot, but Olivia’s thoughts are starting to spiral again. She’s been independent her whole life. She doesn’t know how to be anything else, and now here she is being told that she’s going to be forced to figure it out. 

She’s going to be forced to learn how to be almost entirely dependent on someone else, at least until she can figure out how to adjust to this temporary challenge. 

No, not just someone else: she’s going to be dependent on Elliot. Her partner, the man who trusts her to have his back, who needs her to be at the top of her game and able to hold her own. Now, she’s going to be reduced to a measure of independence because she can’t fucking see

“Detective Benson?”


“I said you’re free to go home. I’ll want to see you back in a week, or when your vision starts to return, whatever comes sooner.”

“Great,” Olivia says, but her tone tells them it’s anything but. 

“Let me get you that white stick, and I’ll meet you at the nurse’s station with discharge instructions.”

She blows out a breath and waits for the sound of the door opening. It doesn’t close again, so she knows that the doctor has left it open. This is how she’ll have to navigate the world for now: by sound. 

“Liv,” Elliot begins, and she lets her head hang for just a second. 

“I’m fine,” she repeats. 

Olivia’s feet are solid on the small step of the hospital bed, so she braces one hand on the edge to help with her balance and slides carefully to her feet. Then, she reaches out and down with one foot to gauge the distance to the floor, and steps down. 

She can do this. She’ll be as independent as she can, she’ll use whatever tools she has to make this as easy on Elliot as she can. She may not be able to see, but she refuses to be helpless. Useless. Whatever she can do for herself, she will. 

The fact that Elliot is being quiet concerns her. He must be wondering what the hell he’s signed up for, because god knows Olivia is. Why did he volunteer in the first place? 

Probably because she has no one else to help her, but that thought isn’t worth exploring now. Or ever, actually. 

“How many steps to the door?”

“Liv -.”

“How many steps to the door, El?”

“Step left,” he instructs, and when she does he continues, “Four to the doorway, five to take you out into the hall.”

Olivia nods. 

Next to her, Elliot watches her straighten her shoulders in determination and start toward the door. He’s not sure what will kill him first: Olivia’s independence or her stubbornness. 

Or just her, in general. 

He sends up a silent prayer as he follows his partner into the hall: please, God, let us survive this.