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Her office door opens and she looks up, the jerk of her head causing her glasses to slide down her nose a little, surprise on her face when she sees who it is at her door. “Nick?” She furrows her brows, taking the glasses off entirely and setting the black frames to the side, curling her fingers around the top edge of her screen, closing the MacBook with a soft thud. “This is a surprise,” she says, folding her arms on the edge of her desk. “I didn’t know you were in the city.”

He gives her a tight smile, closing her office door behind him. “It was supposed to be a quick visit,” he tells her, slowly walking towards her desk. She tilts her head, narrowing her eyes at him in suspicion. “Just checking on things over here, flying in this morning and back out to L.A. tonight.”

“Okay…” She shrugs, waiting for the punchline. “So I’m guessing this isn’t a social call then.”

His breath whistles through his teeth. “Not exactly,” he says, drawing the words out. “No. Uh…”

She sighs, losing patience. She’s got too much damn paperwork to do and McGrath watching her like a hawk, she doesn’t have time for circles. “Just spit it out, Nick.” She leans back in her chair, folded arms under her breasts. “If you’re giving me and my squad more work to do then just get on with it.”

“It’s not that,” he says, shaking his head. “Can I sit?” He asks, indicating one of the chairs facing her desk.

“Sure.”

He sits, shifting awkwardly in the chair. He seems nervous; anxious even and it makes her heart rate pick up. “What is it?” She asks again, wishing he’d just tell her. The pauses, the look on his face, the hesitation… it’s making her anxious. She has a strong feeling that she’s not going to like what he’s got to say.

“So uh…” He starts, before stopping again. She sits in her chair patiently, trying to resist the urge to yell at him, when he starts to speak again. “Probably should give you some background here Liv,” he continues, flashing her that tight smile a second time. “So after the Haley West case, NYPD sent some evidence from a few cold cases to Forym, to see if we could get any DNA matches and hopefully solve some cases, get some closure for the victims and their families, you know?”

She nods. “I mentioned that to the higher ups,” she tells him. “Said the company did good work and maybe it was an avenue NYPD could explore, for cases with no other leads.”

“Thanks,” he nods. “So uh… we thought it would just be old murder cases, but a few rape kits were sent over too-”

“I thought you weren’t here to give me and my squad more work?” She interrupts with a chuckle.

“I’m not,” he tells her again, stony faced and more serious than she thinks she’s ever seen him. A churning feeling starts in her gut as she watches him. “I need you to know this was an accident Liv,” he tells her, quick, almost panicked. “I don’t know how it happened, honestly I don’t.”

“Don’t know how what happened?” She asks, voice low, almost threatening. Gone is the air of catching up with her old partner, her friend and in it’s place is full-blown Captain Benson, trying to get to the bottom of what the hell it is he’s trying to tell her. I’m not going to like this… am I?

“A kit got mixed up with the others,” he tells her, folding his hands in his lap, twisting his fingers together. “One that shouldn’t have been there. I didn’t test it myself,” he tells her, as if he’s trying to somehow absolve himself of guilt. “One of my colleagues did, and they didn’t realise what it was they were doing. They still don’t know; I didn’t tell them. I just saw the results and… I came here.” A beat. “If I’d known… if I’d seen before the tests were ran… I would’ve stopped it, that I swear to you.”

“Whose kit was it?” She asks, even though she can read the answer all over his face. Please no.

“Yours,” he tells her. There’s no hesitation now, he seems to have gotten the message that she’s not in the mood to be led in circles, that she doesn’t want babied, just wants him to tell her straight up what it is he’s here for. “It was yours,” he repeats. “The rape kit that was done on you after you got away from Lewis…” He blows out a breath. “The inconclusive rape kit… which my colleague managed to match tiny fragments of DNA from your clothing to Lewis.”

She scoffs, brain switching straight to damage control mode. There’s still a chance here. Take it. Grab it with both hands and hold on tight. “He had his hands all over me during those four days Nick.” All over me. “So that’s hardly a surprise.”

“DNA from seminal fluid… in your underwear?” He stares her down, and she swallows hard.

Oh. Bit late for damage control. She swallows, heart skipping. How much do you know? She wants to ask.

“Your vaginal swabs were ran too,” he adds. “DNA found on those also matched to Lewis.” He sucks in a breath. “Do you want to say anything about that?” It’s almost, no, it is an accusation, and it makes her bristle.

Definitely not. “No.” She says, voice harsh, short. I would really like you to stop talking and get the hell out of my office before I lose it… 

“He raped you,” Nick states. “Didn’t he? You hid it… somehow.”

She stares at him, frozen, silent. She’s losing control; the memories are bubbling up, bile in the back of her throat and she needs him to go, needs him to get out. “Get out,” she says quietly. “Didn’t you do enough damage the last time you were here?” She snaps, fear overrode as her temper flares, her cold tone making Nick flinch. “Dragging Burton back into my life?” The horse has well and truly bolted now, and she doesn’t think she could control her newfound anger if she tried. “Wasn’t that enough for you?” She asks him, standing up, towering over him, sat in a chair opposite her desk, having sat there on a falsehood, a lie of everything being okay, everything being fine. “Didn’t drag up enough the last time so you thought you’d come back for round two?” Everything is most definitely not fine.

“Liv…”

Her raised voice is probably catching the attention of those in the squadroom, but she doesn’t care about that, not right now. “GET OUT!” She yells at him, roars it in his face like a lioness, points at her office door. “NOW!”

Nick gets to his feet, backs away from her fury. “Liv…” He repeats, a feeble attempt to get her to calm down.

“I said,” she repeats, ignoring him. She’s not going to calm down, not after this. “Get. Out. Of. My. Office.” She punctuates each word with a point of her finger at her door. “Now!”

“HE RAPED YOU!” Nick yells back, finally losing his temper just as her office door opens, Fin and Amanda’s wide eyed expressions as they flick their gazes between the both of them telling Liv all she needs to know; they heard it all.

She rounds her desk, betrayal the only emotion she feels as she lifts her arms, pressing her hands to Nick’s arm and back, physically pushing him out of her office, through and past Fin and Amanda before closing the door on their protests, on their questions, on their concerns. 

She flicks the lock, manages to close the blinds and lock the other door, the one into the interrogation room to stop them from getting into her office that way, before the panic attack takes hold. Leaning over her desk, she flattens her palms, letting most of her weight drop through her arms as she tries tries tries to remember how to breathe. 

***

“What the hell was that?” Fin snaps, rounding on Nick. “What did you just say?” He hears the lock turning on Liv’s door, the blinds closing out of the corner of his eye, worry for his Captain, for his friend at the forefront of his mind. He knows, witnessing her reaction, that he won’t get any answers out of the woman herself, so his and Amanda’s only current option is Nick, who seems to know a whole hell of a lot. “Well?” His voice drops, mindful of other people around them, even though Nick just screamed it at the top of his lungs. “Did you just say someone raped Liv?” He asks. I must have misheard that… please tell me I misheard that.

Judging by the look on Amanda’s face… he didn’t. His heart drops, falls fifty feet through the floor. No. Not Liv… not after everything. No…

Nick, staring at the closed office door, bites his lip. “Not here,” he says, taking a few steps backwards before turning on his heel, heading for the conference room.

***

The memories assault her thick and fast; flashes in her mind threatening to overtake her completely. I need to get out of here, she thinks, trying to steady her breathing. I can’t be here.

Her iPhone lies innocently on her desk, and she reaches for it, unlocking it with fumbling fingers, scrolling down her contacts and hitting the one person who she knows will come to get her, no questions asked. Forcing a few long, deep breaths into her lungs, she hits call, putting the phone to her ear and hoping she can hold it together for long enough to tell him what she needs.

“Hey Liv.” He answers after just one ring. She can hear traffic in the background but it’s muted; she hopes with all her heart that it means he’s driving, and, hopefully, alone in the car. 

“Are you near the precinct?” She asks, cutting straight to the point. I don’t have time for pleasantries, she says silently. I can barely string a sentence together. I have to get out of here.

“Uh… yeah…” He tells her after a brief pause. “I’m close by, I can be there in a few minutes. You need my help with something?” A beat. “You okay?”

She’s either not hiding her distress as well as she’d hoped, or he can still read her this well even after ten years of absence, and almost a year of somewhat fragmented reconnection, the attempt at rebuilding their friendship punctuated by both grief and the ill-advised undercover operation that she’s still irritated with Ayanna about. “I need you to pick me up,” she tells him shortly. “Don’t come up, I’ll meet you out front.”

“Okay,” he tells her. She hears the engine of his SUV revving as he speeds up, clearly trying to get to her as fast as possible and it makes her heart warm, a calm feeling settling over her at the familiarity. It’s not enough; she’s not sure anything will be right now, but it might just help her hold it together enough to get out of the precinct and to his car. Fake it ‘till you make it, she tells herself. “I’ll be there in a minute Liv.”

She hangs up without saying goodbye, briefly thinks about grabbing her laptop, the files she’s working on so she doesn’t have to come back but her brain isn’t cooperating; she can’t think of what to pick up.

I just need to be out of this building, away from here, away from questions, she decides, her phone in a white-knuckled grip as she crosses her office, unlocking the door and fleeing across the squadroom, not even taking her coat with her. I just need Elliot.

***

They’ve been in the conference room for barely a minute, Nick shuffling from foot to foot, restless and wound up tight on the other side of the table, Fin and Amanda staring him down. “Well?” Fin repeats, sparing a quick glance towards Liv’s office, which he can see from where he’s standing. No signs of movement… he notes. At least she hasn’t run. Let me see what Nick has to say, then I know what I’m dealing with when I go talk to her. Best to be prepared, as much as possible anyway.

Nick sighs heavily, leaning forward, resting his hands on the conference table. “I uh…” He starts, only to get interrupted by the clash of a door opening outside. Fin glances up, sees that Liv’s door is now standing wide open and swears under his breath, catching only a glimpse of long dark hair as it flashes past the windows at speed. “Shit.”

He makes for the door, Nick and Amanda hot on his heels, barrelling out of the conference room and through the squadroom, turning the corner just in time to see Liv disappear into the elevator, the silver doors closing firmly behind her. “Stairs,” he turns to the other two, swiftly switching direction.

***

He’s never ran down stairs so fast in his entire life, and that includes when chasing suspects but even at top speed they can’t beat the elevator, and emerging breathless from the stairwell, their only view of Olivia is her back, clad only in a sweater, as she heads through the front doors of the precinct and starts down the stone steps.

Concern for her mental state, especially given what Nick yelled - the context of which he has no clue, and really needs to know ASAP - spur him on and he sprints across the lobby, the three of them making it to the top of the steps just in time to see a familiar black Tahoe come to a halt in the middle of the street, Liv striding straight across to it, pulling open the passenger door and hopping inside. There’s a very short pause as the car idles, before pulling away at speed.

“Where’s she going?” Nick exclaims, worry evident. “Who’s just picked her up?”

Someone safe, Fin wants to say, but Nick doesn’t know Elliot from Adam, so he can’t tell him that. “Don’t worry,” he says instead. “She’ll be okay.”

***

When he’d gotten Liv’s decidedly odd, very short phone call, Elliot hadn’t known what to expect when pulling up to the 1-6.

Liv, bursting out of the front doors and down the steps like she’s being chased by wolves, clad only in a thin sweater with her gun and badge visible at her hip, her phone gripped tightly in her hand… is not it.

She climbs into the passenger seat, and, very aware of the cold February day that it is, Elliot turns the heat up. “Liv?” He prompts. “What’s happened?”

She’s shaking, shivering and her eyes are red. “Just drive,” she tells him. “Please.”

Eyeing her with concern, he decides whatever this is can wait five minutes, and stomps his foot on the gas.

Chapter Text

Nick watches the Tahoe pull away, turn the corner at the end of the street and accelerate out of sight. “Who just picked her up?” He asks again, switching his gaze between Fin and Amanda, wanting answers from one of them.

“Elliot Stabler,” Fin tells him as he walks back into the precinct, Amanda at his side, Nick trailing behind them both. “Her old partner,” he adds as Nick’s eyes widen.

“I know who he is, I know the name,” Nick retorts.

“I don’t like him all that much,” Amanda glances back at him as Fin pushes the elevator call button, the doors opening immediately. “The way he left her, things that have happened since he came back… but I do know one thing, and that’s that he won’t let any harm come to her.” She steps inside the elevator, Fin beside her, Nick following them in on autopilot. Fin hits the button for SVU’s floor, and the doors close.

“She’s safe with him,” Fin reiterates as the elevator climbs. “Better off with him than she is here right now, especially considering what you were just yellin’ in her face.” His eyes harden with anger. “What the hell were you thinking man?” He asks him. “Now you’re a fancy scientist you forget all your SVU training?”

Guilt stabs into his gut, and Nick looks at his feet. “I… didn’t really handle that well.” He admits.

“Ya think?” Fin scoffs. The elevator doors open on the SVU floor, and they step out. “You don’t yell that in a v-” He stops himself. “In someone’s face,” he says, voice lower as they approach the squadroom. “Get in there,” he says, pointing at the conference room, door still standing back to the wall after their rapid exit less than five minutes ago.

Nick files into the room obediently, standing by the dark wood table, Amanda opposite him while Fin closes the door behind them, cutting the quiet noise from the squadroom down to nothing. “Right,” Fin says, moving to stand next to Amanda, arms folded across his chest in a mirror of hers. “Start talking.”

Nick swallows thickly; Fin’s words, Liv’s reaction, his SVU training coming to the forefront of his mind. “I probably shouldn’t,” he admits. “I uh… I handled this badly and probably should shut up now.”

Fin rolls his eyes. “Now he gets it,” he deadpans. “Only problem with that is, Amaro,” he stares him down, that piercing gaze making Nick nervous. “You’re closing the door after the horse has bolted. Liv took off outta here like a bat out of hell, she’s never done that. You’re gonna have to give us something here, so we’re not goin’ in blind when she comes back.”

Nick glances at Amanda, sending a silent plea for her to back him up, to save him from Fin’s scrutiny but it fails; she glares at him harder than Fin himself. “I…” He flounders. I should’ve gotten her away from the precinct, he thinks. Somewhere quiet, talked to her calmly. Not this. Not acted like an entitled idiot because she lied back then, didn’t tell me, her partner and some idiotic part of me took offence.

“Is this to do with Burton?” Amanda blurts out. “Is that what this is? You coming back and trying to get her to admit what happened with him was statutory at best?”

Her words are like a lifebuoy thrown into the whirlpool he’s found himself in, and he grabs onto it with both hands. “Yeah,” he says, putting his undercover skills into full use to sell the lie. “I was trying to get her to admit it, that he groomed her, that she was too young… I dunno. It was stupid, yelling at her like that.”

Fin sighs. “No kidding,” he raises his eyebrows. “You don’t think we’ve both tried talking to her about that slimy bastard?” He tells him. “She doesn’t want to talk about it, doesn’t want to admit what he did to her was wrong, so we had to drop it. You know Liv, if she doesn’t want to tell you something, she won’t.”

Only she had, Nick says to himself. That phone call, the voicemail she left, and the long conversation we had over takeout later that night… 

But clearly, she’d never said a word about that, or anything else to her squad, and he’s made enough damn mistakes already today. This, the lie - more lies - about Burton being the reason he was yelling at her in her office works. Only damn thing that sleaze is good for, he tells himself darkly.

“Yeah,” he says out loud. “I guess I forgot that at some point in the last… almost seven years,” he says, having had to think about just how long it’s been since this was his workplace. “Wow,” he adds. “It’s really been that long, huh?”

Awkwardness broken, Amanda stifles a laugh. “Yeah, it’s really showing,” she says, sarcasm dripping. “Was planning on taking you down to the range for a shootout next time you were in town,” she says. “I think I’ll pass, if this mess is anything to go by you’ll shoot me.

“I did keep up with that over in L.A. you know,” Nick replies, defensive. He’s glad that he seems to have covered both his and Liv’s asses, but he’s not going to let Amanda insult him. Their old push-pull is back, and it feels familiar as she grins toothily at him.

Fin rolls his eyes. “I got paperwork to do,” he announces, heading for the door. “You,” he says, pointing at Nick. “Can stick around until Liv comes back, you owe her one hell of an apology and if she wants to smack you in the face, I’ll look the other way.”

“What if she doesn’t come back today?” Nick asks. His flight leaves at nine tonight.

“Then you’d better get yourself a hotel room.” Fin tells him, leaving the room. Amanda purses her lips, a quiet look of apology on her face as she heads out and back to her own desk. 

Nick grimaces, gets his phone out of his pocket and opens the app to cancel his flight. Even if she does come back today, I can’t just leave her like this, he thinks. Can’t apologise and run. I pulled the pin on the grenade, the least I can do is help pick up the pieces.

***

Weaving expertly through traffic, Elliot glances sideways at Liv.

She’s hunched up in the passenger seat, curled in on herself as she stares glassy-eyed out of the window. As she shivers slightly in her sweater, he frowns, cranking the heat up even more. “Liv?” He says quietly, not wanting to startle her.

No response.

“Liv?” He says again, a little louder.

She still doesn’t react, and he forces himself not to panic, to reassure himself with the rise and fall of her chest, the only sign other than her repeated shivering that she’s alive as he heads for a nearby parking garage, somewhere relatively private where he can hopefully find out what’s wrong.

***

His grip is crushing; her upper right arm in a vice as he forces her towards her bedroom with his body. The gun is pressed against her left side, an awkward angle at the bottom of her ribs and she knows if he fires it…

Well. It’ll be quick, she supposes.

The way he’s holding her is preventing her from being able to grab her weapon, and she wishes she’d just pulled the damn gun when she’d first heard the creaking floorboard. Why didn’t I? She asks herself. 

Because you thought Brian was surprising you, she thinks. He’s done that before. Nearly gotten himself shot for his trouble. Thought he might’ve learned not to do it again but common sense never was his strong point, so you decided not to risk it.

Stupid, she berates herself. So damn stupid.

She’s flung around like she’s riding a tilt-a-whirl, a gasp, a yelp of pain escaping her as her back hits the wall by her bedroom door, hard. Lewis’s grip slides down her arm, gripping just above her wrist in that same, vice-like manner, pinning her right arm to the wall beside her head, useless. His body is pressed against the front of hers preventing her from moving any further, his breath in her face as he smirks, his teeth gleaming in her dimly lit apartment.

Stay strong, she tells herself. You can still get out of this.

“You took a long time to come home,” he comments, tilting his head, observing her. “I mean… I’ve been planning this since I got bail, but sitting in your bedroom for hours, lying back on that real comfy mattress…” His grin widens. “It gave me so much time, so many new ideas.”

She gulps, forces her breathing to remain steady. Don’t let him see how scared you are, she tells herself. He feeds off it, it’ll only make things worse. “You’re making a big mistake, Lewis,” she tells him, the false bravado in her voice barely holding up.

He hums, as if considering. “Nah,” he says after a moment. “This…” he eyes her. “This is going to be my best work yet.” Her eyes widen as he smiles to himself in glee. “I always did more damage, caused more destruction when I was angry, and you Olivia… you have made me more angry than anyone before you.”

He lets go of her arm then, her terror at his words, the gun still jammed into her ribs keeping her frozen in place as he trails his hand down her side to her hip, tugging her gun from it’s holster. It vanishes, into the back of his jeans and his own gun follows suit, the threat of it at her side disappearing.

She takes the chance. 

Bringing up her knee, she aims for his balls but he’s faster than she is; dodging back out of reach before grabbing her shoulders, forcing her back against the wall even harder than before. She yelps as the back of her head hits the plaster, the picture frame bouncing on it’s hook, rattling as it settles back against the wall, askew. “Ah ah ah,” he tells her, his body pressed tightly against hers, forcing first one leg, then both between her own, forcing her to straddle him, her toes barely touching the floor. She tries to grab at him with her hands, force her fingers into his face, his eyes, anything to get him off of her but it’s fruitless; he grabs her wrists, pinning them to the wall at either side of her head before swallowing her last attempt at getting attention, at getting help, his tongue entering her mouth as she opens it to try and scream out, the yell, the plea muffled to a desperate whimper under his mouth as he kisses her roughly. 

He holds her like that, pinned, swallowing her very breath until she slackens, weakening, giving in to his dominance. “Good girl,” he tells her as he finally ends the kiss, both of them gasping for air. “Now then, let’s get this show on the road, shall we?” He gives her a look, his head tilted up and slightly to the side, eyes hard, daring her to argue, to try and fight. 

She doesn’t. She’s not sure how she’s going to get out of this, but right now… Brian is supposed to be coming over after work, she thinks. A couple of hours maybe? I can survive that… she reasons with herself. He likes to take his time… how much damage can he do in a couple of hours?

Her jacket is pushed from her shoulders, the fabric gliding down her arms and off, thrown away somewhere, she doesn’t know where. She eyes him as he looks down at her, pulling the neckline of her shirt away so he can peer down at her breasts, encased in a plain cream bra. “Nice,” he comments. “Can’t wait to get my hands on those,” he leers. “But first…” His hands move lower, to her belt and she flinches on instinct, earning herself a slap across the face. “Hold still,” he tells her. “Or you’ll regret it.”

She does; to her utmost shame she doesn't even try and fight him off as he pulls her belt from it’s loops, her badge, handcuffs and holster falling to the floor. He loops the belt around her neck and for one utterly terrifying second she thinks he’s going to tighten it, but he doesn’t; he leaves it there, hanging, a silent threat that he could, if he so chooses. A whimper escapes her throat unwillingly, and he smirks as he undoes the button and zipper on her black pants, sliding his hand inside, inside her underwear…

Inside her.

She stiffens as his fingers trace over her, air blowing hard through her nose as she grits her teeth. “Nice,” he comments again, his fingers retreating. “Can’t wait to explore further,” he winks. “But first…” he reverses his actions; doing up the zipper, the button on her pants. Taking the belt from her neck and carefully rethreading it through the loops. It’s unnerving; being redressed by him, watching him as anxiety thrums through her veins. He buckles the belt back up, pleased with himself. “First,” he repeats. “We gotta mark you up. I like to mark my girls up before I take full possession, you know?” He grins, pulling her away from the wall and leading her towards her living room. “It’s a whole thing.”

He pushes her down into one of her dining chairs before backing away. “Don’t you move,” he tells her. “Remember, I got two guns and you’ve got none. Don’t like your chances.”

She swallows, watching him as he searches the floor with his eyes. “Aha!” He leans down, coming back up moments later with her handcuffs dangling from one finger. “Perfect.”

Her arms are pulled behind her roughly; she closes her eyes as the metal closes around her wrists, her watch strap falling away, a clunk and a smashing noise following its removal. She winces, but keeps her eyes firmly shut, listening to the duct tape being torn from the roll, her ankles manoeuvred into position and secured to the chair legs.

A brief silence as she feels him move away…

The flick of a lighter.

She gasps, sucking in air that doesn’t reach her lungs as the cigarette melts the skin just above her left breast. Her eyes pop open, the look of glee on his face permanently etched into her brain as he burns her. “Did that hurt, sweetheart?” He asks, finallyfinallyfinally removing the cigarette. He winces in faux sympathy. “Probably should’ve given you some vodka first, shouldn’t I?” He muses. “Don’t worry!” He winks. “We’ll soon fix that.”

The vodka burns her throat as he forces it down, holding his hand over her mouth so she can’t spit it back at him like she so desperately wants to, making her swallow it down, a fire trail leading to her guts mirroring the burning sensation on her chest.

It doesn’t help; doesn’t dull the pain as he burns her more and more, moving her shirt out of the way, pulling it down over her breasts, copping a feel as he moves her bra out of the way too. She gasps and whimpers her way through it all, forcing herself not to scream - he won’t like that - especially as he shoves her breasts back into the cups of her bra, his fingers catching on the fresh burns, the fabric pressing against the wounds making them hurt even more. 

She manages to hold it, to stay as quiet as he wants her to - can’t disturb the neighbours Olivia - until the pan she hadn’t even noticed him put on the stove is brought to her. 

Placed on her coffee table. Keys white hot inside.

She swallows, eyeing the pan. “Please…” She’d sworn to herself, after the fifth cigarette, that she wouldn’t resort to begging but it seems as though all of her resolve is leaving her now.

“Aww,” he frowns at her. “Don’t worry,” he says. “I’m not a total monster. You can have some more vodka first.” He says brightly.

The second round of vodka doesn’t help any more than the first and she screams out, unable to stop herself as he presses the first key into her abdomen. She’s choking on her own breath, pulling against her restraints, the urge to move away from the pain overwhelming, even though he’s already taken the key away and dropped it back into the pan.

He rolls his eyes at her distress. “We can’t have you screaming Olivia,” he points out. “The neighbours won’t like it.” He tuts at her - tuts! - and reaches for the duct tape. “I’m sorry about this,” he tells her. “I like to hear my girls as I mark them but…” He shrugs. “Needs must.”

The next however long passes in a blur; the pain increasing as he continues to torture her; swapping out the keys eventually, switching back to cigarettes as he heats up a bent wire hanger in the pan. 

That one hurts even more, and she’s still trying to get enough air through her nose, the pain where her shirt is melting in the heat of her skin, sticking to her, pulling at her overwhelming her senses as he pauses, taking a long drink from the vodka bottle before upending it over her head, pouring the alcohol over her hair as she tries to get away from it before he kicks the chair, sending it over sideways.

She hits her head on the floor; darkness follows.

The kick to her ribs awakens her; she grunts through the tape, blinking her eyes open. “Hey,” he says as he sees her eyes flicker. “There she is.” He leans down, close to her face, his hand tracing over her cheek. “Those big, beautiful brown eyes… so beautiful.”

She’s lying on her side on the floor, still taped to the chair. Flinching from his touch, she tries to roll onto her back, to see him. “Give me a smile,” he touches the tape over her mouth. “Still feeling woozy, huh?” He continues as she tries to get up; can’t. “That’s all right.”

He steps over her, gets behind her and her world lurches sickeningly as he pulls her and the chair upright, his left arm around her waist, his right hand at her back. She tries to protest as he puts his hand into her hair, not wanting him to touch her, the burns all over her body itching. Her necklace, somehow still around her neck, sticks to her sweat and vodka soaked skin.

“Shh…” He tells her, one hand on her right shoulder, the other, his right hand, holding a gun - hers, his? Who knows at this point - between her legs. She shifts, tries to get away. “Oh, come on…” he wheedles. “Don’t be shy,” he says as she struggles.

He moves his hand to her hip, gun still firmly in his grip. “We’re past that.”

The touch to her arm comes without warning; still half in the grip of the flashback she comes out swinging, whirling in her seat, closed fist only inches from Elliot’s face before he wraps his left hand around hers, stopping the would-be right hook in it’s tracks. The shockwave ripples down her arm as she stares at him in wide-eyed panic. “Liv!” He’s calling her name, concern and more than a small amount of fear and worry in his gaze. 

She shakes her head, the memories loosening their hold, falling away from her eyes like broken glass, her vision clearing. “El?” She murmurs, not entirely trusting her own gaze.

“It’s me,” he says, lowering their hands, hers still firmly gripped in his, to the centre console. “You with me?”

“I…” She pauses, taking a moment to breathe, to make sure. “I think so.” She nods. “Yeah… yeah I’m with you.”

He doesn’t look convinced, and if she’s honest, she doesn’t really blame him. “Where were you?” He asks. “Where did you go?”

“Nowhere good,” she answers, the dark tone in her voice causing his eyes to narrow in confusion. They haven’t had this conversation yet; she’s been trying to build up to it, knowing it’s necessary before they move beyond this friends for now phase. 

Not that they’ve been doing so well at that; not that she hasn’t kissed friends in the past, but not usually on the mouth and it never involved tongue.

She wants to go further; he most definitely wants to, if his awkward adjustments after their last make-out session were anything to go by…

But they can’t; not until the Lewis Conversation had been had.

Which the universe seems to have decided to intervene on; forcing her hand, dragging up long buried trauma, long buried secrets and leaving them open on the ground, slicing open the old wounds and letting them fester

“What’s happened Liv?” He asks her now, blue eyes earnest. “You came out of the precinct like you were being chased, you haven’t even got your coat and it’s February… what’s happened?”

“Lies,” she whispers, looking at him. The tears are prickling at her already.

“Lies?” He asks, his confusion evident.

“Lies,” she repeats. “So many lies… I wove a whole web of them. They didn’t all stay secret but the most important ones did… I thought I’d gotten away with it but I should’ve known.” She sighs.

Elliot stays silent, watching her carefully, curiously. Waiting for the punchline.

She looks at him sadly. “Lying…” She snorts, shakes her head. “It never ends well for me.”

Chapter Text

“What do you mean lies?” Elliot asks her, gaze imploring. “What did you lie about?”

She looks at him, a sad smile on her face. “So many things,” she says quietly. “I thought it was the best option, saving face, saving my career… thought no-one would ever find out but they have and…” She squeezes her eyes shut. “Now I don’t know what to do.”

“Tell me,” Elliot asks her, reaching his hand out to her, an invitation. She grabs on; interlocks their fingers. It’s a grounding; his presence, his fingers entwined with her own. He’s the earth to her live wire and it’s exactly what she needs right now, in this moment. “Tell me what happened and we can sort this.”

“It’s a bit too late for that,” she tells him. Nine years…

“Never,” he insists. “Everything can be fixed Liv. Tell me what happened and we’ll figure it out, together.”

“You want the truth?” She asks, shifting her gaze from their joined hands to his eyes instead. He nods, and she scoffs. “There’s four versions of that Elliot,” she tells him, watching his eyes widen in shock, confusion, maybe both she’s not sure. “The official one,” she starts. “The version my squad know… then there’s what I told my therapist and after that…” she sighs. “After that there’s the actual truth.” She counts them off on the fingers of her free hand as she says it, from index to pinky, four fingers raised, her thumb tucked against her palm as she holds her hand up facing him. “So which version is it that you want?”

He doesn’t blink at her challenge, at her tone, the harshness of it, the challenge held within. He was never one to back down when she raged, always willing to meet her in the middle, like two lightning bolts colliding, leading to a showdown, a pulse of electricity in the middle of the squadroom. Back then, no-one dared to approach them when they were arguing full tilt; even Cragen was wary but he waded in anyway, the sparks in the air affecting even his usually unflappable demeanour.

Since making Captain, she’s gained a lot more respect for Cragen and the sheer hell the pair of them had put him through over the years.

“I want the truth, the actual truth,” he tells her, holding her gaze unblinking. “If not that, then whichever version you’re comfortable telling me, if any.”

She snorts, shakes her head. “I don’t think comfortable is the right word for this, El.”

He tilts his head, shrugs one shoulder with a nod. “Fair,” he acquiesces. “But I think you should tell me the truth, the whole truth.” A beat. “I think you need to.”

She rears back slightly, on the defensive, tries to tug her hand from his but he holds on tight. “What do you mean?” She snaps, a bubbling in her gut. She’s not sure if it’s rage or confusion or fear that he might be right. “What do you mean I need to?”

“I think you’ve been carrying this, whatever it is, this burden, on your own for too long,” he tells her, hitting the nail on the head as always. It’s true what he says; the weight of the lies around her neck feel like concrete blocks dragging her underwater some days. There have been multiple times where she’s wanted to just scream it out, times where she’s skirted the truth, skated precariously around the edge, barely holding the cracks in the lie together. She’s often wondered if Fin, if Amanda, if Nick ever really believed her when she’d told them that she wasn’t-

Even her thoughts stutter over the word; the lie ingrained so deep it’s almost truth at this point. 

She’d told them, told everyone that she wasn’t raped, that Lewis didn’t do that to her. There have been times since when she’s looked back and thought how did you not see?

Her squad, her squad of trained detectives, trained to realise, to see when they’re being lied to…

Didn’t see that they were being lied to.

That said; she’s been lying since she was a little girl. About the bruises, about her mother, about the drinking. About her father and where he wasn’t.

If there’s one thing she’s good at, it’s lying.

Shame she hates it so damn much.

She’s pretty sure that Barba knows that she was lying over more than just the beating, but he’d never pushed her on it and even if he had… would she have told him? Would she have broken down and confessed to him, the man who had somehow found his way into being her best friend in Elliot’s absence?

Probably not.

There’s only one man, one person on the planet who could, who would call her out on it and he’s sitting two feet away from her right now.

Elliot has an uncanny knack of getting her to tell him things; even what happened in that basement, on that godforsaken UC job all those years ago. That, she’d whispered to him in the dark confines of their old sedan on a stakeout late one night, sitting in a parking garage waiting for their perp to show.

The irony isn’t lost on her as she glances through the windshield. She’s got a strong suspicion that it’s the same garage, even. Maybe this is the moment I’m supposed to have the Conversation, she muses. But… the fear remains.

“You’ll look at me differently if I tell you,” she whispers. Her biggest fear; that he’ll look at her as though she’s broken, weak when she’s not. 

“Never.” The word is spoken almost before she’s finished speaking, the declaration strong, firm as it leaves his lips. “Liv,” he says, softer, gripping her hand between both of his now. “You’re my partner. There is nothing that you can say to me that’ll make me think differently of you, okay? Nothing.” He brings his hands and hers up to just under his chin, holding them there. “Hell, you could come to me, tell me you’ve killed someone and the only thing I would do is help you bury the body, okay?” He rests his chin on the back of her hand. “You can tell me anything.”

She breathes in, her free hand clenching in her lap. The exhale is shaky, but with it comes clarity and strength. You can do this, she tells herself. Let go.

“It was a Sunday,” she says, quietly. “We had the day off, all of us, the whole squad.” She lets out a chuckle; doesn’t know why. “It was such a rarity, should’ve known, really. So… for a few hours… we had the day off. Then Amanda calls us all in… she’d arrested a guy in Central Park flashing tourists…”

***

There’s a coldness against her cheek when she wakes. Frowning, she opens her eyes, squinting in the bright light. 

White. Everything is white. Where am I? She wonders, confusion clouding her brain. The last thing she remembers was…

Lewis. 

Her apartment. 

The voicemail from Brian… being knocked out with her own gun, again.

She freezes, eyes widening as she stares straight ahead, holding even her breath. Where is he? She thinks. Where am I?

Slowly, slowly the room comes into focus. My bathroom? She thinks. What the…

She’s cold, she realises. So damn cold, the tiles of her bathroom floor pressing against more than just her cheek.

Before she can continue with that line of thought, a voice cuts in. “Welcome back sweetheart.”

She closes her eyes again; wants to groan. Maybe she does, she’s not sure. Everything seems… detached, somehow. Disjointed, disconnected.

Her centre of balance shifts, his hands on her arms pulling at her and her eyes shoot open once more on instinct, watching the room as it tilts, as he pulls her upright, hands tracing over her skin-

I’m NAKED, she realises with a surge of renewed panic. What? When the… when did he… what has he done?

She’s spun around, facing him now, the room rotating lazily around her head. She feels slow, sluggish and woozy yet her heart is racing in her chest. “What did you…” The words are thick, like tar in her mouth. “What did you do to me?” She manages to force out on the second attempt.

“Aww, don’t be mad baby,” he grins as she blinks slowly at his face. “Just gave you a little something something to make what comes next more fun for you.”

What? She blinks, confused. What does he mean what comes next… her eyes travel down, over his neck, his bare chest… his bare everything.

Her racing heart stutters in her chest. He’s naked… I’m naked… no. No… no… no…

She raises her arms, realising only now that the cuffs are gone, and tries to batter him but they’re like limp noodles; they won’t do what she wants no matter how hard she tries.

He rolls his eyes at her attempts to bat him away, stepping forward with purpose, walking her backwards until she’s in her shower, back against the tiled wall. “Figured in here would be best,” he says, pressing himself against her from shoulders to knees. He’s hard against her belly and she whimpers in her throat. Please no, please don’t do this, she begs in her mind. Wants the words to leave her mouth so desperately but she seems to have lost control over her vocal cords. “Easier to clean up after.” He adds with a wink.

A strangled noise escapes her as he kicks her feet, forcing her legs to part. Her back slides all too easily on the tiles as he hoists her up, and then… and then it’s all over.

“I was so out of it from the drugs I could barely process what was happening to me,” she says quietly, staring straight ahead through the windshield. “Let alone try to fight him off.”

She hasn’t looked in Elliot’s direction for a little while; finding it easier to tell her truth while watching the concrete pillar in front of the car instead. She doesn’t know, can’t see the look on his face, what expression he’s wearing, be it guilt that he wasn’t there (oh, how I wished you were), anger at Lewis (you’d have known what to do with him Elliot, I know that), or pain at what she’s telling him (you always hated seeing me hurt Elliot). All she can feel is his hands gripped around hers, the strength of them unwavering as she speaks.

“My tox screen was a mess when I finally got to a hospital,” she continues. “The doctors were amazed I was breathing, let alone conscious.”

Elliot sucks in a sharp breath over to her left. “Finally?” He asks, one of the few words he’s spoken since she began telling him the tale of how she was dragged to the depths of hell and back.

“I’ve always said he had me for four days,” she answers, still not looking at him. “I guess that’s true in a way. He grabbed me the Tuesday night and it was late Friday afternoon when I finally managed to call Cragen, but if we’re being precise it was more like sixty-eight, sixty-nine hours. I’ve never been one hundred percent sure.”

There’s a strange noise to her left, and if she were to look, she’s pretty sure she’d find Elliot with tears in his eyes, rolling down his face. But if she sees him, if she sees him crying over her then she’ll break down too and she can’t she can’t, so she keeps on staring straight forwards instead. “They were never sure of the whole extent of what he gave me,” she tells him. “Some of it had probably left my system. I’m so scared of taking meds now… even after the ankle surgery I wouldn’t, couldn’t take more than ibuprofen.” A monumentally stupid idea, in hindsight given the amount of pain she’d been in, the pills barely taking the edge off but she had held on steadfast, point blank refused to take anything stronger for fear of falling into addiction entirely on accident.

She’s certainly got the genetic predisposition for it, after all. 

Liv…” He breathes from next to her.

She shrugs it off. “It is what it is,” she tells him. “Can’t change it now.” Shaking her head slightly, she pinches the bridge of her nose with her free hand, steadying her thoughts. “Where was I?” She asks herself. Oh. There… “Um. So uh… after he was done… he decided to clean me up.”

“Why would he do that?” Elliot blurts, before catching himself. “Sorry,” he apologises. “It just… it seems like an odd thing for him to do, given what you’ve told me about him.”

She can’t argue with that; it sure as hell hadn’t been what she’d expected him to do either. His previous victims had never been subjected to it. “Soap,” she says by way of explanation. “Open wounds… burns…” She swallows thickly, the memory burned into her brain. “He had to put the tape back on to keep me quiet,” she continues. “It hurt… so much.”

Elliots grip tightens, and she squeezes back. “He got me dressed… took me back into the living room, tied me back up again though I really don’t know why ‘cause I was in no state to run even then… he disappeared for a bit, came back with my bedding and more pills.” She sighs, a shuddering, shaking sigh. “It gets fuzzy after that,” she explains. “Apparently he carried me down the fire escape, but I have no memory of that at all. I woke up in the trunk of a car. He’d cuffed my hands in front of me which made breathing a bit easier but… it was so dark and so hot and so small and I just… I’m claustrophobic now, by the way.” 

She sniffs, rubs at her face with her hand. “Uh… I don’t know how long I was in there exactly, but it was a long time. Felt like forever… I couldn’t really move very much, he’d taped my mouth up but he’d gone around my head a few times so even though my hands were in front of me I couldn’t get it off. Took my necklace off instead… hid it by the spare tire as a clue, in case the squad found it. They did… it’s in evidence now…” She pauses for a moment, gathering herself. “When he finally let me out of the trunk it was dark. Took me into this big house, it was in Bellport but I didn’t know that at the time. It was his lawyer’s parents… he made me watch as he let her father die, as he raped and tortured her mother… if I tried to close my eyes he’d burn her with a cigarette…” She trails off. “I can’t,” she says, emotions becoming overwhelming. “I’ll let you read the case file for what happened there if you want,” she tells him. “I didn’t lie about anything that happened in that house. I couldn’t do that, couldn’t risk him getting away with what he did to her.” Couldn’t risk Mrs. Mayer’s statement differing from mine and putting scrutiny on mine either, she adds to herself. “Plus… if her and my accounts didn’t match, they might’ve looked at what I said more closely and I didn’t want that,” she finds herself admitting, unable to tell even a white lie to Elliot right now.

“Looking back on it, everything from my apartment in what I think was the early hours of Wednesday morning, to late Thursday night, apart from what happened in Bellport… is a blur,” she realises. “The only things I really remember are him forcing more alcohol, more pills down my throat… guess he didn’t want me awake much.” Small mercies. “When I was awake I was scared to close my eyes, so afraid that if I did I wouldn’t open them again but after he’d drugged me, when my eyelids were drooping and I couldn’t stay awake if I tried… a part of me wanted it to just end. Is that weird?” She asks, tilting her head. “I didn’t want to die… but I didn’t really want to live through what he was planning for me either.”

“The brain does whatever it needs to to survive Liv,” Elliot reminds her gently. “Maybe you were just accepting what you couldn’t control.”

She thinks that over for a moment. “Maybe,” she agrees. “He drove us to a hardware store… got supplies…” She shudders. “A blowtorch… rope… more alcohol…” She swallows. “Then he just kept driving. I was tied up on the floor in the back, listening to him singing along with the radio like we were on a road trip… then we got pulled over. He ran a red light and a rookie cop saw us.”

She feels Elliot tense. “What happened?” He asks.

“Lewis tried to play it off,” she tells him. “I was in the back, too terrified to move. The cop… he got suspicious and Lewis shot him with my gun.”

“I’m so sorry Liv.”

“He uh… he used the squad car to pull someone else over,” she continues, forcing herself to keep going. “I didn’t see it, but I heard yelling, screaming. A crying baby… it was a young mother. He locked her in the trunk of the squad car with her baby and stole her car. Swapped me into that and we drove off. Ended up at a beach house…” She stops, stops for longer than she has since starting this conversation and Elliot realises.

“Liv?” He prompts, gentle. “Liv… what happened at the beach house?”

She looks at him, finally looks at him. His eyes, bloodshot and red, his tear streaked face, pained, anguished expression. “You really wanna know?” She asks.

“You know I do.” He nods firmly, no hesitation.

“I thought being raped in my own bathroom had changed me forever,” she tells him. “But what happened at that beach house… proved that I’m not really sure I ever… ever knew what I was truly capable of. That house changed me, changed what I thought about myself.” A beat. “You still wanna know?”

Chapter Text

“Yes,” he tells her, without hesitation. “I told you Liv, I wanna know about your life while I was gone.” He swallows, his expression awkward. “The good and the bad.”

“Well this definitely covers the bad,” she deadpans, blinking, trying to stop herself from crying. If she starts to cry this conversation will end, and she’s not sure if she has the strength to start it up again at a later time. I need to get this over with, she thinks to herself. Now. 

“No kidding,” Elliot replies, his mouth tight, lips thin. “Liv… you can tell me anything, that I can promise you. Nothing will make me look at you differently, nothing.”

“Elliot, I just told you that I was violently raped, and that I was tortured, kidnapped… I have scars,” she waves at her chest, her abdomen, her thighs. “All over me. They’re not pretty.” She pulls her bottom lip into her mouth, her teeth dragging over it. “You’re really gonna tell me that that makes no difference?”

“Of course it makes a difference,” Elliot says, making her tense. “But not to the way I view you. It makes me hate myself… because I should have been here.” He shakes his head. “If I wasn’t such a damn coward I would’ve been.”

“Elliot, if you’re gonna say this wouldn’t have happened if you’d been here then-”

No,” he cuts her off. “I’m not saying that. We don’t know that. I’d like to think that I’d have walked you up to your apartment that night, walked in on Lewis and shot the bastard in the head before he could lay one finger on you but… like I said, like you said… we don’t know that.” He sighs. “I would like to think I’d have realised something was up before the next day though,” he adds.

“Two days,” she corrects automatically. His eyes widen, then darken and she realises what she’s said all too late.

Two days?” He asks, a dangerous tone in his voice.

“It was the Thursday morning when they realised I was in trouble,” she says quietly, before shrugging one shoulder. “Cragen had given me two days off, remember? They weren’t expecting me in…”

“Are you kidding me?” Elliot snaps. He’s close to exploding, his face reddening. “There’s a psychotic bastard out on bail with a clear hard on for you-” Liv winces at his choice of words. “Sorry,” he apologises. “With a grudge against you,” he corrects himself. “And they just, what? Thought ‘oh she’ll be fine’?” He shakes his head in stunned disbelief. “Did anyone even try calling to check in with you?”

She looks down at her lap. “I don’t know,” she says quietly. “I… I don’t think so.”

Elliot seethes. “How did they work it out?” He asks. “I mean… you had two days off, that means they weren’t expecting you until Friday, so what, did they need help on a case and realise you weren’t there?”

She shakes her head. “Cassidy,” she tells him. “He went to the precinct, wondering where I was since I hadn’t replied to the voicemail he’d left me.” A fact that has, she’s not going to lie, bugged her for years. Why did you leave it for so long Brian?

There’s a few seconds of complete and utter silence from Elliot. “…remind me to punch that guy if I ever see him again,” Elliot says eventually. “Fin too, come to think of it. How the hell could he not have checked in with you?”

“Elliot, let it go,” she asks him. “Fin… he learned his lesson, okay? They all did.” She leans back, the back of her head hitting the headrest. “It hit them all hard, okay? What happened to me. If I’m ten minutes late now I get a call wondering where I am, if I have a day off I have to text Fin morning and night to let him know I’m okay…”

“Saying what?” Elliot asks. “Hi Fin, don’t worry I haven’t been kidnapped?”

She snorts; can’t help herself. “Not gonna lie,” she says with a tiny smile on her face. “I have actually texted that to him in the past.” She exchanges glances with Elliot, a fond look on his face. “Look…” She pauses, contemplates what she’s going to say. “Things… yeah, they would’ve been different if you’d been here,” she’ll admit that much; knows it’s the truth. “How different… we’ll never know.”

“I’d have checked in on you,” Elliot says firmly. “It wouldn’t have been two days before anyone realised.”

“I know,” she nods. “But there’s nothing we can do about that now Elliot. It’s almost nine years… and as much as I wish things were different, that that… whole incident never happened… I can’t change it now. It happened to me, and I’ve been dealing with that ever since.”

“Have you though?” Elliot asks, pointedly. “Bottling it up, telling no-one… is that dealing with it?”

And dammit if he hasn’t got her right there. “It’s… a way of dealing with it,” she hedges, narrowing her eyes as he rolls his. “Shut up.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

She scoffs. “Not with your mouth you didn’t.” She sighs. “Look… I never pretended that it didn’t happen, okay? I just didn’t tell anyone.” Which both reminds her, and gives her a convenient out for the questions she really doesn’t want to answer. “We’re getting off track,” she states. “I’m supposed to be telling you what happened, if you still want to know, before I lose my nerve.”

“Of course I wanna know,” he’s quick to respond. “Just tell me, whatever it is.”

“Promise you won’t look at me differently?” She asks him. She knows he won’t, but a not so small part of her just needs to hear him say it, before she reveals this to him.

“I promise.”

She nods once. “So he uh… he took me inside this beach house,” she starts before she can change her mind, before she can hesitate. “I was… woozy… couldn’t really walk properly so he was clinging onto me. I woke up properly when he threw me down onto the bed.” She winces at the memory. “The force of it… in my abdomen…” She closes her eyes briefly. “Let’s just say I’d been trying to ignore my bladder for a while, and all of a sudden I couldn’t.” The indignity of the whole thing is at the forefront of her mind, and she shudders lightly. “I had to beg him to let me use the bathroom,” she tells him. “With my mouth taped up. He thought it was hilarious, watching me trying to get up off the mattress. I couldn’t… he had to pull me up. Pressed up against the front of me like… like in my bathroom before… only that time we were both fully dressed.” Thank God. “He wouldn’t take the cuffs off; wouldn’t let me pull my pants down myself.” She frowns. “I don’t know why that bothered me so much, considering everything else, but it did. He stared at me while I used the toilet… I remember being so grateful that he pulled my pants back up after. I remember being so scared that he was gonna take the opportunity to rape me again, or something… but he didn’t.” She takes a deep breath. “I was so relieved…” She says. “Should’ve known really.”

“Should’ve known what?” Elliot asks carefully when she pauses.

“He zipped my pants back up,” she tells him. “Buttoned them. Buckled my belt… I thought he was gonna take me back to the bedroom then. He’d said he needed to get rid of the car he’d stolen, I knew he was in a hurry… I thought I’d gotten away with it… until…”

“Until?” Elliot prompts gently.

“He told me I had to ‘pay the piper’,” she blurts. “He made me get on my knees for him, as penance for needing the bathroom.”

She watches as Elliot closes his eyes, anguish on his face. “Liv… I am so sorry.”

She shrugs one shoulder. “I mean… it’s hardly the worst thing he did,” she says.

“Liv-”

“I know, I know,” she cuts him off. “I’m doing that thing again, you don’t need to tell me. Lessening what happened to me… believe me, my therapist has a field day with me on that one.” She winces. “It is true though… even if I put that against everything else he did to me personally…” She swallows. “He told me to make it good,” she tells him. “And I was so damn scared of what he’d do if I didn’t that I did exactly what he wanted. It was over… quickly, and uh… well.” She falters for a moment. “I haven’t been able to go down on anyone ever since, but you already know I was having issues with that.” She gives him a pointed look.

“Sealview.” Elliot states.

She nods. “Yeah. After… he led me back into the bedroom. Taped my mouth back up, my legs together… he cuffed me to the headboard of the bed and left.” She tells him. “To lose the car,” she adds. “I wasn’t sure how much time I had, but I knew it couldn’t be much, he wouldn’t want to risk being out in the open for too long. I’d heard on the radio in the car that my squad was looking for me… I was just praying that they were heading in the right direction.”

Elliot strokes his thumb over the back of her hand, and she smiles at him. “I’m sure they were tearing the city apart,” he tells her.

“Oh, they were,” she replies. “Proper police procedure wasn’t really being followed, from what I was told later.” She shakes her head. “Probably slightly better than if you’d been with them,” she says pointedly. “But all the same. There was an opening with a curtain across it in the bedroom I was in,” she continues. “I couldn’t see what was behind it, but I was hoping maybe there was something in there I could use to get free, or some way of summoning help. There was no phone in the bedroom itself, but I was hoping, you know?” She shifts slightly in her seat. “I uh… I managed to get my feet to the floor, and I was lying crossways on the bed, most of me off the bed, trying to move the damn thing closer to this curtain so I could see what was behind it.” She shakes her head. “I was almost there, managed to move the whole damn bed and everything, then he came back.”

“What did he do?” Elliot asks.

She almost smiles; Elliot knows Lewis did something. “He asked me if I was ‘going somewhere’,” she tells him. “Threw me back on the bed. Tightened the cuffs so much they were hurting… then he took the tape off and started telling me…” She trails off. This part isn’t easy. “He started telling me how he was going to tie me down,” she forces the words out. “My hands… cuffed to the corners of the bed. He was walking around the bed, I couldn’t see him at some points and it was freaking me out even more… he pulled my legs, said he was gonna tie my feet to the other corners. Spread-eagle.” She swallows, a few tears escaping. “I was so scared,” she says, her voice suddenly losing all of it’s power, it’s volume. I sound like a mouse, she thinks to herself. “He asked me…” She stops, shaking her head and taking a few deep breaths. “Hang on,” she tells Elliot. “Just give me a minute.”

“Liv, if you want to stop-”

No,” she interrupts. “No. I can’t… I just need a second.” I don’t know why this part is so hard, she berates herself. Nothing even happened!

“Whatever you need Liv,” Elliot replies. “I’m not goin’ anywhere.”

“He asked me…” She falters again, sighs at herself. “He asked me if I wanted him to burn my clothes off or cut them off,” she manages to force out, before taking a deep breath. “I don’t know why that was so hard to say,” she admits. “He’d raped me, I’ve told you he did, but that part there… I always find that so difficult to say.”

“He’d told you you were going to die…” Elliot says.

“Yeah…”

“I’m guessing that that house… is where he was planning on going through with that,” Elliot says, choosing his words carefully.

“Mmhmm,” she nods. “Bullet to the head when he was done with me.” She blows out a breath, twisting her lips. She’d come so close to death so many times during those few days, between the drugs, the repeated blows to the head, the alcohol, the guns… “He was going to murder me,” she whispers, eyes wide. “He was going to rape me again… and again… and then he was going to shoot me.” She turns to Elliot, mouth open in a gasp. “I’ve gone over and over it in statements and with my therapist and in my own head so many times… I thought I’d dealt with that, why is it hitting me like I’ve only just realised that?” She shakes her head, tries to clear it.

“Because you’ve never told the whole truth?” Elliot suggests. “You hid parts of what he did to you, and in doing that you wrapped those secrets up, hid them inside the truth that you did tell. Now… you’ve untangled it all, you’ve told me and you’re-”

“Having to process it all over again,” she finishes with a wry chuckle. “You ever thought about coming back to SVU?” She asks, not entirely joking.

“What can I say?” He jokes. “Nineteen years, it’s ingrained.”

“No,” she shakes her head, a warmth in her heart. “It’s just you.” She squeezes her hand around his as best she can. “I’m not proud of what I did next,” she tells him.

“Tell me.”

“He produced this… I think it was a can opener,” she tells him. “From the kitchen. All I could see was that it had a wicked, curved blade on it and I was terrified of it. He started cutting through the tape on my legs and I tried to… check out,” she tells him. “I knew what was coming, and I knew that there was no getting away, no one around to help me, so all I could do was try and endure and pray that my squad would get there before it was too late.” The thought that they might walk in on her being raped, being brutalised had crossed her mind at the time, the horror, the shame of them seeing her like that her worst nightmare, but at the same time…

She hadn’t wanted to die. She would have taken anything, even the embarrassment of that, if it’d meant her ordeal had come to an end.

“He… he wanted to know who I was thinking about,” she tells him next. “It was you,” she admits. “But I wasn’t going to tell him that. So… I…” She trails off, swallows hard. “I thought maybe I could buy myself some time. Persuade him to keep me around for a while, told him I knew what he liked… tried playing up to him…” She closes her eyes, bites back a whimper. “I was basically trying to seduce him, Elliot.” She looks at him. “How horrific is that?”

“You were desperate,” he says. “You were trying to survive. How many times have you told survivors that over the years, huh? Survive. It doesn’t matter how, only that you did.

“It didn’t work anyway,” she keeps going. “He figured out what I was doing… got angry… forced my own gun down my throat. I thought… I thought he was going to pull the trigger, thought he was going to kill me there and then and I really… I really didn’t want to die Elliot.”

“You didn’t.” He reminds her.

“He made me beg,” she tells him. “He wanted me to beg for my life, tell him that I’d do anything, anything if he’d let me live and I did, God I did…” She shakes her head, the tears spilling over onto her cheeks finally. “He was pulling at my belt then someone knocked on the door.”

“Cops?” Elliot asks.

She shakes her head. “No. I screamed out for help… he covered my mouth with his hand, then tape. He left the room, I could hear him talking. It was a maid and her little girl…” She looks down at her lap. “I’d all but given up at that point, but hearing them… knowing that there were more people who could get hurt… it was an iron framed bed he had me cuffed to, and it was old. He hadn’t taped my legs back together and I managed to contort myself so I could kick at the headboard, try to break it.” A beat. “I think that’s when I broke my wrist,” she tells him. “I don’t remember actually doing it, but it must have been then.”

“Did you break it?” He asks.

She nods. “I managed to get it loosened,” she tells him. “I wasn’t entirely sure it would break, I needed it to look intact so he didn’t realise but I was pretty sure it would only take another tug. He came back in, talking about the maid, her little girl… I started taunting him, trying to get his attention back on me, winding him up… I told him it’d been four days and there was a lot of talk but not a lot of action…” she shakes her head at herself. “I mean, if I compare what he’d done to me at that point to that of his previous victims then… okay that was true but really?” She rolls her eyes. “I can’t believe that actually worked.”

“What did he do?”

“He got angry,” she tells him. “Like I’d hoped. Distracted too… I got an opportunity to break the bar, to hit him with it and I did. Knocked him down, managed to grab my gun… I knocked him out.”

“Good,” Elliot says with relief. “So what, you cuffed him, called Cragen?” She shakes her head at him slowly, guiltily and to his credit, he takes it in his stride. “What happened?” He asks gently.

“I cuffed him,” she tells him. “To the bottom of the bed. Then I went and found the maid and her daughter, got them out of the house. Threatened them with ICE, which I am not proud of, but the maid wanted to call the police and I just… I wasn’t ready. I needed to sort myself out first, so I told her that I was the police and I’d do it. That, plus the ICE threat worked, and they left. Then I went back into the bedroom.”

She pauses, hesitant and Elliot squeezes her hand again. “Whatever happened,” he says quietly. “You can tell me.”

She offers him a small smile. “He was unconscious,” she tells him. “Or at least… I thought he was. I was standing there, looking at him lying on the floor and I just wanted him to hurt, you know? Like he’d hurt me. I started talking to myself, wondering out loud what I should do… thought about calling you,” she adds. “I knew what you’d do.”

“Break his arms, break his legs, his back, his face… kick his teeth in,” Elliot says darkly.

She smiles; can’t help it. “That’s what I told him, pretty much in that order,” she says. “Only he wasn’t unconscious; he’d heard every damn word and he used that to taunt me. Told me this stupid sob story about his father and a babysitter and I just… he was trying to wind me up, and I walked right into his trap.” She sighs, annoyed with herself.

“Liv…”

“Don’t,” she waves a hand. “I let him get to me, and I hate myself for that.”

“What did he say?” Elliot asks.

“He was trying to get me to kill him,” she tells him, voice flat. “I had my gun to his head and I was so ready to just pull the trigger… and I stopped. I put the gun down on the dresser, was working out what I needed to do, trying to calm myself down and then…” She pulls her bottom lip between her teeth, shakes her head. “He said that I didn’t have the balls…” She flicks her eyes up to meet Elliots. “And I snapped.” She doesn’t break her gaze, waiting, waiting for the moment, for Elliot to shut down on her, to hate her. “I picked up the bar from the bed frame,” she tells him. “And I beat him with it. I beat him over and over until I was screaming and I thought he was dead.” A beat. “He should’ve been dead.”

“He wasn’t?”

She shakes her head. “No. I went to the bathroom, rinsed my mouth out… I don’t even know how many times. Checked for evidence of what he’d made me do… then I called Cragen. I don’t even remember what I said to him on the phone… I didn’t know where the hell I was so they had to track it. They got to me pretty quick though, that much I do remember. Nick and Fin bursting in, checking on me… getting me help…” She sighs. “They were so good with me… but all I really wanted was you.”

His face crumples. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there Liv.” He tells her.

She shrugs one shoulder. “You were in a way,” she tells him. He frowns, and she smiles. “Your voice in my head when I was beating him. Telling me not to stop, to keep him down. You gave me strength when I wasn’t sure I had any left.”

He brings her hand up to his mouth, kisses the back of it. “What happened after?” He asks.

After… she purses her lips. “That… is when it started getting really complicated.”

Chapter Text

“Complicated?” Elliot queries. “How?” He shifts in his seat. “I mean, obviously you didn’t put everything in your statement, but I’m gonna take a wild guess that that’s not everything?”

She nods. “I didn’t say anything about either of the bathrooms,” she tells him. “So no rape, no sexual assault… I spent the weekend in hospital, they kept me in until the Monday morning, so I had some time to think, to figure out what I was going to say, and what I wasn’t.”

Elliot nods. “I take it they did a kit?” He asks. She nods at him. “Weren’t you worried that they’d find something?”

She gives him a grim smile. “The thought did cross my mind,” she replies. “I was fairly sure that they wouldn’t. He’d washed me… thoroughly at my place…” She winces at the memory. “Plus I was pretty banged up when they got to me. Broken wrist, cracked ribs, concussion. Plus a whole lot of cuts, bruises, scrapes and the burns that all needed to be treated. If I’d been taken to a hospital in the city that was used to SVU cases then maybe we would be having a slightly different conversation right now, but I wasn’t. I was taken to a county hospital, and while they were equipped and trained… it wasn’t prioritised. They dealt with my injuries first, I had scans, x-rays, all that. The kit came after.”

“So there was even more time for evidence loss,” Elliot realises.

“Yeah. It was well past 72 hours when the kit was done, so I knew the likelihood was pretty slim. I’d rinsed my mouth out so many times I was pretty confident on that too… but just in case, I had a plan.”

“What was that?” Elliot asks.

“I told them that I’d been unconscious. Both through being hit in the head, and drugged, so there was a possibility I didn’t remember everything he did to me.” She shrugs. “I mean… it’s true. I was unconscious for long periods of time. For all I know, he did do things and I have no idea.” She twists her lips. “I just have to live with that.”

“I’m so sorry Liv.”

She shrugs one shoulder. “So… we were all waiting for the lab to get back, to see what it said. When Cragen came to me, told me that it was negative…” She chuckles. “He thought that I was relieved because I hadn’t been raped.” She tells him. “I was relieved…” She admits.

“Because you’d hidden the truth,” Elliot fills in the blank.

She nods. “Yeah.”

“Can I ask… why hide it?” Elliot queries. “No-one on the squad would have looked at you any differently for it. I mean, I don’t know Amanda all that well, and I don’t know Nick at all but I know Fin, and Munch and Cragen… and they would never have treated you differently.”

“It wasn’t them that was the problem,” she tells him. “They would’ve treated me differently,” she gives Elliot a look. “They wouldn’t have meant to but they would’ve. They would have been constantly checking in with me, making sure I was okay, all that. Looking back… I think I could’ve dealt with that.

“So what was the reason?” Elliot presses.

“The brass,” she tells him bluntly. “After… I had to fight, Elliot. Really fight to keep my job. So many psych evals, so much paperwork, so many questions being asked. I was offered a different post so many times El. The Chief at the time… he came to me, said that if I wanted a transfer I could have one. Any department I wanted, just name it and he’d make sure it happened. He phrased it like he was trying to do this nice thing, you know? Helping out the poor woman detective who got kidnapped and tortured by the psychopath… but I could see past it.”

“They were worried you wouldn’t be able to cope in the job, in SVU.” Elliot guesses correctly.

“Bingo,” she nods. “And that was just when they thought I’d been abducted and tortured. If they knew I’d been… raped…” She pulls a face. “I think that transfer talk would have been less of a suggestion and more of an order.”

“Did you ever consider it?” He asks her, curious. “Switching to a different department?”

She considers. “Yeah,” she admits. “At first. I thought about walking away, quitting the job entirely but then…” She trails off.

“But then?” Elliot prompts gently.

“He took everything from me,” she tells him. “My apartment… almost everything in it had been destroyed. I’d managed to salvage a few of my possessions, some stuff that had been in boxes out of sight, you know? My clothes… other than what I’d left at Brian’s, most of those were destroyed too. There wasn’t much left, a couple of boxes and a suitcase from Brian’s place by the time we cleared through it all. But it wasn’t just the stuff, the apartment itself… I couldn’t stay there. I didn’t feel safe there. Couldn’t even go in the damn bathroom at all. So… he’d taken that, he’d left me scarred for life, he’d taken my consent away from me, left me with PTSD, left me vulnerable to drug addiction… I was damned if I was going to let him ruin my job for me too.” A beat. “It was all that I had left, all that I could still salvage.”

“So you fought like hell,” Elliot says knowingly.

“Damn right I did,” she confirms, a small smile on her face. “Not gonna lie,” she adds, sobering. “I was second guessing myself when I actually did get back to work, two months later.”

“What happened?”

She sighs heavily. “Cragen… he was treating me like I was broken,” she tells him. “The whole lot of them kept looking at me like they weren’t sure I was actually there, y’know?” She rolls her eyes. “But Cragen… he sent me home after two hours my first day back.”

“And you let him?” Elliot chuckles.

“Don’t start,” she eyes him. “I went in that day, there were flowers on my desk, I made a joke about no cake, which they all took to heart and honestly El, within twenty minutes I had a box of cupcakes in front of me. All I did for those two hours was sit at my desk eating. There was no paperwork for me to do, there was no case for me to get into… so I sat there eating cupcakes and looking at this huge-ass bunch of flowers. Then he sends me home.”

Elliot starts to laugh. “You’re complaining?” He chuckles.

“Yes!” She exclaims. “All I’d done for two months was sit on my ass and trek between hospital and psych appointments. I wanted to do something.”

“But paperwork?” Elliot raises his eyebrows. “You hate paperwork.”

“Yet I somehow managed to get myself three promotions,” she points out. “Each bringing with it more paperwork…” She frowns. “That was a bad plan, in retrospect.”

Elliot snorts. “You said it.”

She swats him. “Shut up.”

“Eh,” he dodges her hand. “Captain… it suits you. Always knew you’d be running that place one day.”

She smiles at him, soft and gentle. “Really?” She bites her lip, shy all of a sudden.

He nods. “Really.”

“Anyway, I came in on the second day,” she starts to tell him, needing the distraction before she gets too emotional over paperwork of all things. “We caught a case and I thought that was great, you know? It was a lost kid in Times Square. Thought it’d be nice and easy to get myself back in… I really shouldn’t have jinxed it.”

“What happened?”

She sighs. “What didn’t, is the better question… so… the missing kid turned out to be the child of a girl who had been kidnapped years prior, chained up in a basement and kept as a sex slave. She wasn’t the only one either… it was a mess. I mean, we arrested the man, we reunited the little boy with his mom, we got her back to her parents, we got everyone where they were supposed to be but…”

“It was triggering for you?”

“The lady who had owned the house the man was using… he’d been ‘caring’ for her. When she died, he wrapped her in her bedsheets and buried her in her backyard.” She blows out a breath.

“Just like Lewis did to you.” Elliot states.

She nods. “He didn’t bury me, but yeah. It was… hard. It was that and those girls… they disappeared and no-one ever found them for years and all that time… they were chained up in a basement and I just… I kept seeing my face on them. Mine.” She swallows. “One of them, she’d been with him for so long he’d conditioned her, and she’d helped him kidnap the others… we were in interrogation and I was trying to get her to tell us where to find him and I just… I lost it, El. I completely lost control and Cragen told me to leave.” 

Elliot raises his eyebrows as she pauses. “I think that helped though,” she admits, biting her lip. “I went away, but I didn’t go home. I went to the hospital, I came back and I’d gotten myself together. I gave Cragen an ultimatum,” she starts to laugh. “I can’t believe I actually did that. I… told him that if he couldn’t trust me, then I shouldn’t be there, or something. I can’t quite remember exactly what it was I said. It worked though. He gave me a chance and I took it and I proved myself.” She frowns, pensive. “I never looked back after that,” she realises. “I just realised that… huh.” She tilts her head. “I’m thinking about if I doubted myself like that again, and… no. No I didn’t.” A beat. “I mean… I got triggered at times. I still do, even now, but I never doubted that I could do my job again.”

“You got your confidence back,” Elliot smiles.

“Yeah,” she replies. “Yeah I did.” A smile forms. “I’m not gonna lie and say it was plain sailing, because it wasn’t. Munch retired… Cragen gave me a nudge to do the Sergeants exam… which I did, obviously. Did really well too.”

“As if you could do anything less.” Elliot grins.

“Shut up.” She pulls a face, and he laughs. “Life was okay, you know?” She nods. “The nightmares were starting to fade, I was doing well at work, my therapy sessions were going well… I thought I had everything under control.”

“What fell apart?” Elliot asks. He phrases it as a question, but it isn’t one, not really. He knows, he just knows that something went wrong, in that way he’s always been able to tell with her.

“The trial,” she says very quietly. “I… I hadn’t been thinking about it,” she admits. “I’d put it out of my mind. I’d left him so badly hurt that he was in hospital for months. The dates kept getting pushed back, there were even rumours that it wouldn’t happen at all, that he’d never be declared physically fit enough to stand trial. I stupidly let myself believe that it wouldn’t. That I’d never have to go on the stand and tell a jury, a whole damn court room what he did to me.” She winces. “Well. What I’d put in the statement, anyway.”

“I’m guessing he didn’t stay in hospital forever, then?” Elliot asks.

“No,” she confirms. “He got out, and then it was him trying to delay with motion after motion after motion. Drove Barba mad,” she shakes her head. “But he stood his ground, fought back as hard as he could. Won some… lost some. You know how it goes.”

“Mmm,” Elliot responds. “Not sure I’m the right person to comment on Barba, given… everything.”

She winces; she hadn’t thought about that. “Yeah, sorry.” She apologises. “I didn’t think.”

He shrugs. “Not your fault,” he tells her. “I’m glad you had someone in your corner.” When I wasn’t, are the unspoken words.

“I think he knew I was holding back,” she admits. “I think he figured out there was more to what happened than I was letting on. He sort of guessed that Lewis was cuffed when I beat him. I never told him outright, but he guessed. Never called me on it though; I’m not sure if that was out of friendship, pity or desperation not to let the case collapse.” She thinks about that for a moment. “Probably all three, knowing Barba.”

Elliot chuckles at that. “Sounds plausible.”

“He finally ran out of motions,” she tells him. “It was just after Christmas, the trial was scheduled for the first week in January. I was mentally preparing myself, seeing my therapist almost every day. I’d been put on leave from work… everything was focused on the trial. Getting through it, getting to the other side, that’s all I could think about. When he ran out of motions I thought ‘okay… this is it now’ but no. He had one last trick up his sleeve.”

Elliot lets out a low groan. “I’m not sure why I’m still surprised,” he tells her. “What did he do?”

“Offered a plea,” she says, shaking her head. “Offered to spend the rest of his life in prison by pleading guilty to multiple counts of rape one, multiple counts of sodomy… with allocution in open court.”

Elliot blinks. “Wow,” he says eventually. “Did he really think you’d agree to that?”

She smiles; can’t help it. She doesn’t even have to tell Elliot that she refused the deal with the devil; he already knows. “I’m pretty sure he knew I’d never agree to it,” she tells him. “But either way he won. I refuse, the trial goes ahead. I accept, and he gets to play out a fantasy in open court about what he didn’t do.” She corrects herself. “Well. Probably what he did do, alongside a whole lot of what he didn’t.”

“I’m so sorry Liv.”

She shrugs. “So… I refused. It went to trial… which was… horrible. I’d spent years and years helping victims stand up in court and tell their story… I never realised how hard that was until I had to do it myself.” A beat. “Oh, and he decided to represent himself… just to twist the knife that little bit further.”

“Of course he did.” Elliot doesn’t even sound surprised anymore, and she can’t blame him.

“His tactics were to try and persuade the jury that I wanted it all, that I’d willingly gone with him, willingly took drugs… it was insane. But that was his plan. That, and some very leading questions when he was cross-examining me. I wasn’t sure if he was trying to catch me out over the lies, or if he was trying to figure out if I remembered the bathroom at my apartment or not. I stuck to my guns, stuck to my story and eventually he lost it.”

“In open court?” Elliot raises his eyebrows.

“Mmm,” she nods. “He got up in my face, yelling at me about how I’d beaten him while he was cuffed. I’d told everyone that he’d broken free somehow and I had no choice but he knew. He remembered, despite all of the head injuries, that he’d goaded me and I’d snapped. He was yelling at me, and I just kept repeating the same line over and over, that I did what I had to do and all it was doing was making him angrier.” She shakes her head.

“You won though, right?” Elliot asks, an almost desperate tone creeping into his voice. “The jury saw through him?”

“He was charged with attempted murder, attempted rape, kidnapping, and assault of a police officer,” she tells him. “They convicted on the last two. Didn’t believe that he was trying to kill me, didn’t believe that he’d tried to rape me… which cemented my decision.” She looks at Elliot. “They didn’t believe that he tried, so why the hell would they have believed that he actually did?

Elliot is shaking his head. “So… he’s in prison?” He asks. She can almost see the cogs turning in his head; wondering where he is, can he get to him, can he make him pay…

“No,” she states, seeing the cogs grinding to a sudden halt. “No he’s not.”

Elliot looks at her, wide eyes angry. “How?” He blurts, before rethinking. “Unless… he dead? He die in there?” He asks.

Yes, he is dead, she wants to tell him, but she can’t. Not yet. She needs all of her strength to tell him this next part; the part that might, that might just break him, like it almost did her.

“No, he didn’t die in prison,” she tells him. “He escaped.”

Chapter Text

“He escaped?” Elliot’s jaw drops. “How?

“Word of advice,” Liv tells him. “Don’t trust jurors with curly red hair.” She sighs heavily.

Elliot tilts his head. “You what?” He’s half laughing when he says it, but sobers quickly when he sees her facial expression.

“He charmed the forewoman of the jury at his trial,” she tells him. “She helped him escape, took drugged cupcakes into Rikers and gave them to him.” She shakes her head. “Lady had a few screws loose,” she adds. “That was only the first time she helped someone SVU convicted escape.” She raises her hand when Elliot opens his mouth. “Long story,” she tells him. “She didn’t get convicted for helping Lewis get out, then she did it again a couple years later… I nearly tore her head off when we caught up with her.”

Elliot snorts. “I can picture that.” He smirks.

“I bet you can,” she says wryly. “She’s in prison now. At least, she was the last time I checked, anyway.”

Elliot nods. “Good,” he states. “So… he escaped…” He gently steers her back on track.

“Yeah,” she nods.

“You get a call from Rikers?” Elliot asks.

“Nope,” she shakes her head. “They’d taken him to hospital after the drugs, but he escaped from there, and they didn’t even know he was gone.” She trades looks with Elliot. “Yeah. I know. Heads rolled for that I’m sure.” She pauses. “It was the end of March. I was getting coffee from a cart on my way to work,” she tells him. “Then my phone rings. A video call… it was him. In a car… telling me he missed me.”

Elliot blinks. “That must have been… terrifying,” he breathes.

She nods. “Yeah. It was so fast, the call… he was in a car, but I didn’t get enough of a chance to figure out where. For all I knew he was right around the corner.” She grimaces. “I called Amanda, got her to come pick me up. She was there, lights and sirens, within two minutes but I’m not gonna lie, I had my hand on my gun the whole damn time.”

Elliot nods. “Don’t blame you,” he says. “So… manhunt?”

She nods. “Yeah. Everyone was on it. We were briefing everyone in the squad room when in walks this guy… Lieutenant Declan Murphy.” She pulls a face. “1PP decided to replace me as CO of SVU in the middle of that… without even giving me a call first.”

Elliot shakes his head. “Standard operating procedure for the white shirts, isn’t it?”

She glares at him. “You wanna rethink that?” She says pointedly.

He winces. “All white shirts apart from the one I’m looking at.” He corrects with an innocent grin.

She grumbles, rolling her eyes at him. “Better.” She sighs. “He’s not that bad a guy,” she explains. “Just…”

“Not dumped on you with no warning to take over your job when you’re trying to catch the bastard who raped you?” Elliot tilts his head.

She copies his movement with a half shrug. “Yeah,” she acquiesces. “He’s a Captain now, works Hate Crimes.”

Elliot nods. “Can’t say we’ve crossed paths.” He tells her. “So. 1PP decided to replace you…”

“I was replaced, confined to the precinct and stuck with a protective detail within five minutes,” she tells him.

Elliot raises his eyebrows. “I can say from personal experience that you’ll have reacted really well to that,” he responds. “But they were right… keeping you in the station at least.”

She narrows her eyes. “I wanted to go catch him,” she tells him. “I wanted to be out there looking.”

“With a target on your back?” Elliot asks. “Not the best idea, for you or for the people around you.”

“Since when did you start with the personal safety first schtick?” She asks him. “Pot, kettle?”

“I… I learned a few things recently,” he tells her. “Hindsight is… hindsight.”

“Like, you should’ve left Wheatley to everyone but you?” She asks him.

“…probably.”

She rolls her eyes. “Therapy is working wonders on you I see,” she notes. “Anyway… so he was out, I was replaced, benched and had two really annoying shadows following me everywhere. Couldn’t go home, they put me in a hotel. A nice one… but still. My whole squad was out searching for this guy, being ordered around by a guy who’d been there for less than five minutes and all I was allowed to do was offer my ‘advice’ on where Lewis might go, what his actions might be next.”

“What did he do?” Elliot asks.

“He broke into the home of his prison doctor,” she tells him. “Killed her, raped and tortured her teenage daughter…” She trails off. “Like what he did to me. Her physical injuries weren’t quite as severe as what mine were, but he didn’t have much time. Psychologically though… she was a mess.” She shakes her head. “She lived, but she needed a lot of therapy.” She takes a breath. “He also abducted his doctor’s other daughter, Amelia. She was twelve years old at the time.”

Elliot closes his eyes. “Did he…?”

Liv shakes her head. “I’ll get back to that,” she tells him. “But no, he didn’t.” A beat. “The older daughter, Lauren, she was taken to hospital where she kept saying that she had to talk to me. Wouldn’t talk to anyone else, just me.”

Elliot nods. “So, despite being told to stay at the station, you went.”

She nods. He knows me so well. “Me and my two shadows went up to the hospital, I spoke to her… she had a message for me from Lewis.”

“What was that?” Elliot asks tightly.

“He wanted me to admit what I’d done, tell the truth,” she tells him. “Nice and vague for the girl, but I knew what he meant. He wanted me to admit that I’d beaten him while handcuffed.”

“So you did, then IAB got involved?” Elliot guesses.

She smiles. “I didn’t,” she tells him. He frowns in confusion. “Oh, I wanted to,” she clarifies. “There was press outside the hospital, I was all ready to go down and admit to the whole lot of it but Murphy wouldn’t let me. I told him what really happened and all he said was that I should’ve killed him when I had the chance… like I didn’t know that already,” she says, annoyed. “Then he rationalised that if Lewis was waiting for me to make a move, to tell the press everything, then he wouldn’t move, he wouldn’t hurt Amelia…” She sighs. “I didn’t like it, but I knew Lewis, and I knew that we might have had some time before he got impatient, so I decided to go with it. For a little while, anyway.”

Elliot nods. “You could’ve made that statement and he might’ve killed Amelia anyway,” he points out.

She nods. “Murphy pointed that out too.”

“What happened next?” Elliot asks.

“They found the car,” she tells him. “Not the first one he had, that belonged to a nurse at the hospital where he escaped. He raped her, stole her wallet, used her phone to call me, and stole her car. We found that at the doctor’s house. He’d stolen her car next, then dumped that, shot a guy in the head, threw him in the river and stole his car, a black SUV.”

“Wow,” Elliot mutters. “That’ll have narrowed it down.”

She snorts. “You sound like Fin,” she tells him, remembering Fin commenting something like that. “Probably why Lewis picked it, let’s be honest.”

Elliot nods.

“So… we’d just figured that out,” she continues. “When he called the squadroom, the tip line.”

“He called you?”

She nods. “Well, the precinct… but he wanted to talk to me, would only talk to me so yeah.”

“What did he have to say for himself?”

“Well,” she purses her lips. “First I made him wait. Didn’t pick the phone up straight away. I knew it would piss him off, hoped it might make him slip up. I put it on speaker… was a bit worried about what he’d say but I knew if I didn’t then it’d look weird. He knew though, made me take it off. I tried not to show it, but I was relieved. At least that way no-one else could hear.”

“Mmhmm,” Elliot nods. “What happened?” He asks, a look in his eye like he knows he’s not going to like what she says next. 

You’re not Elliot, she thinks. You’re really not.

“I uh… I told him that he wanted me,” she tells him. “That he knew that he did… told him to let Amelia go.” A pause, while she looks at Elliot’s resigned expression. “He didn’t want to,” she tells him. “Said he liked her, thought he might keep her…” She closes her eyes. “Which brought up some memories…”

“Because you offered yourself to him, tried to persuade him to keep you around, when he was holding you hostage?” Elliot guesses. “Or something else, something you haven’t told me?”

“No, it was that,” she confirms. “He liked the idea at the time,” she remembers. “If I hadn’t taken it too far… if he hadn’t worked out that I was trying to play him then maybe things would’ve been different.”

“Different how?”

“I was… offering myself to him,” she reminds him. “To buy myself time. If he’d taken me up on that… if the maid hadn’t knocked on the door… it would have been hell, I know that… but it might have given my squad a chance to find me, and they’d have shot him on sight, that I know.”

“Or… it would have given him the opportunity to put you through hell before killing you.” Elliot points out. “How is that better?”

“Because if he’d done that, then he wouldn’t have lived,” she tells him. “You know what it’s like… abduction, torture, rape, murder of an NYPD Detective… he wouldn’t have lasted long before he came across an angry cop who’d have shot him dead.”

“But you would’ve been dead Liv,” Elliot says beseechingly. “How is that fair?”

“Elliot… he escaped and killed four people, raped and tortured two more and terrorised a twelve-year-old girl,” Liv tells him. “I cannot put my life above theirs, I can’t.”

Elliot pulls a face; one that tells her that while she couldn’t, he most definitely could put her life above anyone and everyone else’s. A fact that both endears her to him, and frustrates the hell out of her. The cause of more than one argument between them over the years. “You ever wish you’d just killed him at the beach house?” He asks her.

“Every day.”

Elliot nods. “I should’ve been here,” he tells her again. “I’m so damn sorry that I wasn’t.”

She shrugs one shoulder. “I survived…”

“You shouldn’t have been in that position,” he tells her. “What happened on the phone?” He asks, steering them back on track.

“I offered myself to him again,” she tells him. “Told him I’d go meet him, he had to just tell me where and I’d go.” She bites her lip. “I would’ve done anything to save her, to save Amelia. The way he was talking on the phone…” She shudders. “I was terrified for her. He refused… all he wanted was for me to tell the truth. Public confession on the six o’clock news.”

“So you did it?”

“I was about to say that I’d have to, then the squad tracked the cell phone,” she tells him. “Murphy got all excited. The tracking said he was on Roosevelt Island. They went tearing out of there thinking they had him, all they had to do was close off the bridge, the tram, the F train… you know.” She sighs, shaking her head. “I knew they wouldn’t find him. I remember standing there in the middle of the squadroom as they all rushed out thinking they’re off on a wild goose-chase again.”

“You didn’t say anything?” Elliot asks.

“Nah,” she tells him. “Murphy was in charge, he wasn’t really listening to me anyway so I just let them. I knew what I had to do. Them being gone gave me some time to think about it before I did it.”

“The confession.”

“Yeah. Roosevelt island was a dead end like I thought it would be. The cell phone was on the tram, God knows how he got it there without anyone seeing. He called Rollins on it to taunt her, they traced that to his lawyers apartment, the woman who represented him at his trial. I figured it out… called him on that phone. I thought he’d hurt her but he hadn’t, he’d just trashed the place. I don’t like the woman, but I was glad she wasn’t home. Lawyers… don’t have a good track record when it comes to surviving him.” A beat. “I knew it was time for the confession. Murphy tried to talk me out of it but I knew I had no choice. So… I put on my uniform and I went on the six o’clock news. Told them everything. Apparently it was even broadcast in Times Square.” She winces. “They found a gas station attendant dead not long after,” she tells him. “They think he killed him while I was confessing.”

It’s Elliot’s turn to close his eyes this time. “Wow,” he mutters. “Can I just ask… you confessed to police brutality,” he pauses. “Not that it was,” he tells her firmly. “You were desperate and terrified and traumatised, you were not acting as a cop in that moment and anyone who tells you otherwise is an idiot.”

She gives him a tiny smile. “Try telling that to the press,” she says wryly.

“Not IAB?” Elliot asks.

“No,” she shakes her head. “Tucker and his partner were… oddly understanding. It was a bit unnerving if I’m honest.”

Elliot raises his eyebrows. “How did you end up keeping your job?” He asks. “Getting more promotions… no offence intended here, but if I’d done what you did, I would not be NYPD anymore.”

“No,” she agrees. “I’ll explain that, but not yet.”

“Okay,” he nods. “So did the confession work?”

“We didn’t think so at first,” she tells him. “I was expecting a call from him, but it got to midnight and we’d heard nothing. Murphy sent me back to the hotel with my detail… I didn’t want to go but he insisted.” She rolls her eyes. “Half an hour later I’m sitting in the hotel restaurant, being stared at cause I’m sitting there in my vest, trying to decide whether or not to eat anything and watching them flirting,” she shakes her head. “Honestly, they were useless, I decided to go to the bathroom just to get away from them for five minutes.”

Elliot snorts. “Don’t blame you.”

“I felt my phone buzz as we were going into the bathroom,” she continues. “It was Lewis. He’d sent me a photo of Amelia, strung up by her wrists…” She bites her lip again. “I knew what I had to do. I asked him where he was… he wouldn’t tell me at first. Told me to come alone or he’d kill her.”

“So you lost your detail…”

He knows me so well, she thinks to herself. “Yup. It really wasn’t that hard, like I said, useless. Stole a town car out front, pulled a gun on the driver and everything…” She winces. “Apparently it took my detail almost ninety minutes to realise I hadn’t come back from the bathroom, and then forty-five more before they called Murphy.”

“Are they still on the job?” Elliot exclaims.

“No idea,” she tells him. “I texted him back, told him I was alone, asked where to meet him,” she tells him. “He sent me all over the place. A few addresses, made me wait there. I think he was testing me, testing my patience, making sure I really was alone… or just for the hell of it. Probably that last one, let’s be honest. Finally he sends an address out in Red Hook, abandoned lot. Took me almost an hour to get there from where he’d sent me last, it was a little after four in the morning I think. I got out of the car, wondering if it was yet another dead end but… something told me it wasn’t, not that time.”

“It wasn’t?”

“No,” she tells him, lips thin. “He appeared… gun drawn, pointed at me. Disarmed me, took the clip out of my gun and tossed it, told me to put my hands on the car. Made sure I wasn’t carrying a drop gun… had a good grope while he was ‘checking’…” She sighs. “Nothing I didn’t expect. My cell phone was thrown. He kept the radio though. Said he could use it so they’d hear my screams while they were looking for me.” She shudders. “Then…” The memories flood her mind.

***

The cuff snaps closed around her wrist. “Let’s go for a ride,” he tells her, gun pointed at her head as he grips her wrist, walking her backwards around the trunk of the car, towards the back door.

She’s forced inside; expects him to thread the cuffs through the handle, securing her in place but he doesn’t. He gets in behind her instead, pushing her across the seat, still gripping her wrist as he closes the door behind them.

She swallows thickly. “I thought we were going to Amelia?” She asks.

Lewis pulls a face. “Eh, she’ll be fine for a while,” he replies. “Question is… how much do you want to find her?” He asks.

The look on his face is a familiar one, and she grits her teeth, resigned. “What do you want?”

He grins. “There’s my girl,” he praises her. “I think…” He tugs on the cuffs, keeping the gun pointed at her head as he positions her hand over his crotch. “I think we’ll start here,” he tells her. “Now, I remember telling you this last time, but… just in case you’ve forgotten,” he tilts his head, a stern look on his face. “Make it good… or else.”

“So, I did…” She tells him, tears welling. “I hate myself for it, but I did. I made it good… again.” She sighs.

“He had a gun to your head and a twelve-year-old hostage in an unknown location Liv,” Elliot tells her firmly. “There was no ‘choice’, you did what you had to do to live. Please don’t blame yourself for that, please.” He looks at her, the plea in his eyes, his whole face.

“So I gave him the hand job he wanted,” she continues, not responding to Elliot. “When he was…” She whines in her throat. “When he was almost done…”

***

He pulls her hand from his dick violently. “Can’t mark the upholstery,” he chides her. “It’s a bitch to get out.” He lets go of her hand, grabs the back of her head, forcing her down. “Swallow it all,” he orders her.

The cold metal of his gun to her temple, she does as he asks; her mouth no sooner closing around him before she’s gagging as he comes. He holds her head down, keeps her in place until he’s finished before letting go, laughing as she pulls away, gagging and spluttering.

He’d ruined her for this in that bathroom, and the memories flood her mind again now, the aversion, the fear never stronger, cementing itself permanently in her mind.

She finds herself sitting with her back against the door, watching him nervously as he tucks himself back in. “You did a good job Olivia,” he tells her as she wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, swallowing over and over, trying to get the taste out of her mouth. She wants to spit but considering his comment about the upholstery, she doesn’t think it’d go down well.

“Can we go now?” She asks him, hoping begging praying that he’ll agree. “I did what you wanted…”

“That’s so kind of you Olivia,” he tells her. “But it’s only fair that I return the favour.”

She freezes. Blood ice cold in her veins, heart stopped in her chest. “…what?” She asks him, eyes wide. If she wasn’t flat against the door, if there was anywhere else to go she’d be heading there right now but there’s not.

The door behind her is locked, and she’s trapped.

“You scratched my back, so I’ll scratch yours,” he tells her, eyes bright, wicked. “Well, not quite that, but the sentiment is the same, you know what I mean.”

He reaches for her, and she tries to avoid him on instinct but it’s pointless; no-where to run, no-where to hide and soon he’s half on top of her, the pair of them crushed against the car door as he unbuckles her belt, his hand sliding inside her pants, her underwear…

Her.

“He… used his fingers until I came,” she tells him. “Pinned under him, half crushed but my body responded all the same.” She sees Elliot open his mouth, and shakes her head. “I know,” she cuts him off. “Physiological response. I know that, and I’ve told myself that a whole lot of times, okay?”

“Liv-”

“I’m okay,” she insists. “I worked through it, alright? I didn’t, wouldn’t let it become a problem, so… I fixed it.”

Elliot blinks. “How?” He asks.

“Exposure therapy,” she tells him. “Let’s just leave it at that, yeah?” She does not want to talk about how Tucker, of all people, had helped her regain that trust, to allow someone other than herself to touch her in her most intimate of places. But he had, and she’ll always be grateful to him for that.

“…okay,” Elliot gives in. “But if you ever want to talk about it-”

“Unlikely,” she interjects.

If you ever want to talk about it,” Elliot repeats. “Then I’m here.”

“Thank you,” she offers him a small smile. “Unnecessary, but… thank you.”

“Did he stop there?” Elliot asks. Did he do anything else to you? The silent question in his words.

She nods. “He did,” she tells him. There, at least. “We’d been sitting there for a while,” she adds. “The sun was starting to peek over the horizon, so it was probably what, six-thirty, six forty-five?”

Elliot tilts his head in thought. “Yeah, that’s probably about right.”

She nods. “He cuffed me to the door,” she continues. “Then drove us to an abandoned granary by the water. The drive was only maybe ten minutes, fifteen at most. Not far. It was daylight when we got there.” She frowns. “I remember thinking I should’ve been tired,” she tells him. “But I guess I was running on pure adrenaline at that point, because I was wide awake.”

Elliot squeezes her hand.

“He… got me out of the car,” she tells him. “Had his hands all over me. I didn’t want him to touch me, I struggled out of his grip, I remember that. My skin was crawling…” She shivers. “He thought it was funny, but he let me walk on my own. Hands cuffed behind my back, but he stopped touching me for the most part.”

“For the most part?” Elliot asks.

“He touched my arm a few times as we walked,” she clarifies. “Steering me. That’s all. He changed tactics… decided to torment me with words instead. Going on about flashbacks and PTSD… I mean, he was right,” she tells Elliot, giving him a look. “But I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of letting him know that.” She shrugs. “I bit back a few times, couldn’t help myself but it didn’t make him stop. He kept going all the way up the stairs until finally… there she was.”

“Amelia?”

She nods. “Yeah. Strung up just like in the photo. I tried to get him to let her go, he had me, he didn’t need her but he had… other ideas.”

Elliot doesn’t look shocked at this; at this point, she’s not sure anything she says can shock him. “What were they?” He asks.

“He made me choose,” she tells him. “Rape Amelia… or rape me.”

Elliot nods, eyes dark, anger swirling in them. “Did he go through with raping you?” He asks. He doesn’t ask her who she chose; doesn’t need to. He knows, and she knows he knows, that she’d never, ever let someone be hurt if she could in any way prevent it.

“There was a table in the room,” she tells him. “Big, metal thing. He taped my legs to the legs, keeping them apart… cuffed my left hand under the table and used rope to tie my right.” She pauses, takes a shuddering breath. “Then he…”

The flashback hits; hard and fast.

***

His breath is hot on the side of her face, lips leaving a sticky trail of saliva behind as he trails them across her face, her lips, her cheek. His hands grope at her breasts, her chin, pull at her hair before descending rapidly to her belt, eager, so eager to unbuckle it.

Her fingers grip the sides of the table, cuffs clanking, rope pulling as he humps her from behind, licking and sucking on her neck as her pants are pulled down, underwear too.

Don’t react, she screams at herself in silence. Don’t react!

Gaze fixed firmly on the wall in front of her, her lips twist in a silent grimace as he enters her roughly. I’ve lost, she thinks, only to be proven wrong a moment later when her gamble pays off.

He softens inside her, humps desperately, the zipper of his jeans catching on sensitive skin. “That’s it?” He murmurs in her ear, angry, annoyed. “That’s all you’re gonna give me, huh?” His breath is hot, his mouth right by her ear but she sticks to her guns, holds herself perfectly still, refuses to acknowledge what he’s done to her, what he’s still trying to do.

“Just gonna stand here, play possum?” He asks her, before bursting into a sharp bark of laughter, making her jump. “All right,” he says, backing away suddenly, yanking her pants back into place and zipping himself back up in one fluid movement. “You know what, new game!” He declares. “My rules,” he says, pulling his gun back out and untying her right hand before moving towards a black sports bag, lying nearby. “Not yours,” he finishes. “This is going to be more fun.”

“So in answer to your question,” she tells him. “Yeah, he did. For a few seconds. He couldn’t keep it up when I didn’t fight back.”

“But you… couldn’t fight back in the bathroom at your place either,” Elliot reminds her. “That was a hell of a risk Liv, and I don’t know how the hell you came to that conclusion.”

“At my place… you’re right, I couldn’t physically fight him off,” she agrees. “The drugs prevented that. “But I knew exactly what was going on, exactly what was happening to me. He was facing me the whole time, he could see my reactions, my eyes… and I made noises,” she tells him. “Whimpers. Not much, the drugs were strong but… he knew I was terrified, and it was a turn on for him.” A beat. “Whereas at the granary… there were no drugs. I had total control over what my body did and didn’t do, so I chose not to react in any way, and let him do what he wanted.” She shrugs one shoulder. “As soon as the fight was over, as soon as he couldn’t see the fear in my eyes… he couldn’t keep it up, just like I’d thought.”

Elliot shakes his head. “You’re braver than I’ll ever be,” he tells her.

She pulls a face. Little do you know… “Remember I said he told me he had a new game?”

Elliot nods slowly, concern creeping into his expression. “Yeah…”

“It was Russian Roulette.”

I was wrong; she realises as Elliot’s eyes widen in first shock, then anger, then heartbreak. Some things neither of us could’ve predicted. Not me then, and not him now.

Chapter Text

“You don’t mean-”

“That I held a gun to my head and pulled the trigger?” She cuts him off, tilting her head. “Yep. I do mean that.”

Elliot closes his eyes briefly, a flash of anger crossing his face. “Dammit Liv,” he mutters.

“It wasn’t like I had much of a choice,” she points out. “He didn’t ask if I was willing, El.” She sighs, blows air upwards, shifting the few strands of hair that have fallen over her face. “He’d stolen a revolver when he kidnapped Amelia, and he got it out of the sports bag. Made a little show out of it, getting all the bullets out, putting one back in, you know. Making sure I could see exactly what he was doing.”

Elliot nods, eyes dark, stormy.

“He uh… he decided to be a gentleman,” she continues. “So he went first. I told him he was going to hell,” she remembers, shaking her head. “He said… he said ‘am I?’ then he pulled the trigger. Didn’t even hesitate. I was the one who flinched, not him.”

Elliot’s thumb rubs over the back of her hand, but he doesn’t speak; he seems to know that she doesn’t want him to, not right now.

“He threw the gun on the table between us,” she keeps going. “Told me to pick it up. I hesitated… he pointed the other gun at me, yelled at me to pick it up…” She bites her lip. “I was reaching for it and he uh,” she chuckles darkly. “He seemed to just know what I was thinking. Told me that if I was thinking of shooting him that there was five empty chambers so either I’d be extremely lucky, or I would try, fail and he’d shoot me, leaving just him and Amelia.”

Elliot nods, before his expression turns to a frown and she pauses, confused. “What?” She asks. “What is it?”

“Nothin’,” he says, shaking his head.

“El…”

Elliot sighs. “What he said… about him shooting you and then it just being him and Amelia?”

She nods. “Yeah… what about it?”

“That’s what made you pull the trigger on yourself, right?” He phrases it as a question, yet she knows he knows that’s the truth.

“Yeah…”

“Yet…” Elliot sucks in air through his teeth. “If… and I hate even thinking about this, let alone saying it, but if you’d shot… if you’d killed yourself with that gun… then it would be just him and Amelia anyway.”

“I know,” she nods. “I uh… that didn’t occur to me until several hours later,” she admits. “I wasn’t exactly thinking too clearly at the time El.”

“Not surprising,” he responds, eyes soft. “I’m just really glad you’re still here.”

“So am I.” She smiles at him, tightening her hand around his. “So uh… I picked up the gun,” she breathes slowly, steadily. She’s always found this part, even though she’d gone over it so many times, very difficult to relive, and to remember. “Made a comment to him… I can’t remember what I said now but he slapped me across the face, so I guess it wasn’t nice,” she says wryly. “He told me that either I pull the trigger, or he’d shoot me.” A beat. “So I did.” She swallows thickly. “I mean… I hesitated… again… and he turned the gun on Amelia to force the issue, but I did it.” She tilts her head. “It was so weird,” she says, voice low, quieter. “I was so damn terrified but…” She trails off, shrugs. “I was resigned to it, maybe? I don’t know.”

“Resigned to dying?” Elliot asks.

“I think… I think part of me had felt, and if I’m really honest, I still feel that way sometimes even now… that I was on borrowed time, you know?”

“You thought you should’ve died when he first had you?” Elliot frowns.

“I was supposed to,” she whispers. “I wasn’t supposed to live then.” She’s not lying; it’s a thought, a feeling that she’s held ever since, that she’s not supposed to be here, that she doesn’t deserve what she’s gained since then. Three promotions, Noah… “I beat him and I lied about it,” she reminds Elliot. “I should’ve lost my job.”

“He’d raped you,” Elliot reminds her, tone fierce. “You were terrorised, traumatised… you can’t be held responsible for what you did, and you were not a cop in that moment,” he repeats his words from earlier. “Anyone with half a brain could see that.”

“Mmm,” she acquiesces. “It was his turn again after that,” she goes back to her retelling, deciding against digging further into whether or not she deserves what she’s been gifted with in the last nine years. “He uh… he started to show his hand then,” she tells him, the memory sharp in her mind. “Going on about how with my little confession, even if he shoots himself… that no-one would believe me if I told them what happened.” She chuckles darkly. “You’ll get what I mean in a minute,” she tells Elliot. “He switched hands,” she continues. “Pulled the trigger. He didn’t even blink. I barely flinched… everything was starting to become… numb at that point.”

Elliot watches her silently, his thumb rhythmic on the back of her hand.

“I heard the helicopter then,” she tells him. “The sirens approaching… I knew they’d found me. Of course Lewis did too… so he decided to start taunting them using my radio. Telling them what we were doing…” She twists her lips, thoughtful. “I was relieved,” she tells him. “Not really for me… I knew they weren’t right outside the door, I knew I wasn’t safe, not yet but I knew that he wouldn’t get too long with Amelia. He wouldn’t get away with her.”

“So you felt calmer,” Elliot guesses, correctly once more.

She nods. “Yeah. It uh… it made it slightly easier to pull the trigger the second time,” she admits. “Of course… I knew I had a one in three chance of blowing my own head off,” she raises her eyebrows. Apparently dark humour is the way to get through this, she thinks to herself. “But it was… I don’t know. Still… easier, somehow. I pictured you,” she admits. “I closed my eyes, and thought of you just once. Lewis he uh… he had his gun pointed at me the whole time, urging me on… like he was rushing. He said ‘they’re coming’… he knew he was running out of time.”

“He knew he was on borrowed time,” Elliot says then. “They’d shoot on sight.”

She nods. “Yeah,” she agrees. “After everything, no-one would hesitate, not with him.” She shuffles slightly in her seat. “He was hurried,” she recalls. “I thought he was starting to get antsy the fewer chambers there were left when he all but snatched the gun from me after that time, knowing there was a fifty-fifty chance if I decided to point the thing at him, but maybe it was just because he was running out of time.”

Elliot nods. “So, he’s dead,” he says. “You’re not, so I’m gonna take a guess and say the next chamber held the bullet?” A beat. “Or did your squad come up and take him out?”

She shakes her head. “Neither,” she tells him. “He pulled the trigger again, nothing. The bullet was in the last chamber. It was meant for me.” Another reason for that undeserved feeling El. 

Elliot blows out a breath, shaky. “So if the bullet was meant for you, but your squad didn’t shoot him… what the hell happened?” He asks.

“He turned the gun on me…” She says the words slowly, the memory horrific, seared into her brain in technicolor. “I thought that was it…” She starts to chuckle, ridiculously, to Elliot’s confusion as his eyes widen. “You know something?” She asks him. “When he was pointing it at me, when I knew, or at least thought I knew he was gonna shoot me with it… you know what I thought?”

“What?”

“At least… at least you wouldn’t be pissed at me for killing myself,” she blurts. “If Lewis pulled the trigger then it wasn’t suicide, and if you ever heard about it…” She trails off. “And maybe I’d get to heaven. If I deserved it.”

“You do deserve that Olivia,” he tells her firmly, tears in his eyes. “And just for the record, I don’t think it would count as suicide considering you were being forced, and trying to save the life of another.”

“Really?” She asks. It’s one thing that has bothered her so much over the years, brought up once again after Tucker.

“Really.” He confirms, his eyes bright and true.

“He started taunting me,” she tells him. “Broadcast half of it over the radio. Talking about how it was going to be the last thing I saw before I died… had my chin in his grip, turned my head to face him… to watch… as he turned the gun on himself. He shot himself, right in front of me with his left hand.” She swallows, the phantom memory of the blood making her face prickle. “I got covered in his blood and god knows what else,” she tells him. “I still feel it sometimes… in my dreams. For a while after it wasn’t just in my dreams,” she admits.

“I’m so sorry,” Elliot whispers.

She shrugs one shoulder. “He’s dead,” she says. “I’m not. Amelia didn’t see what happened. I’d kept telling her to turn away, to not look so she only heard it, which is bad enough but at least it’s better than the alternative…” She sighs. “My squad burst in… everything is a blur, honestly. I barely remember what happened after. I was at the hospital… then I was at home, then IAB. There was a whole day and a night between the shooting and my IAB interview but honestly? It felt like about five minutes. I remember almost nothing about that day after he pulled that trigger.”

“Trauma response,” Elliot nods.

“Yeah.”

“So… IAB cleared?” Elliot asks.

“Nope,” she says, popping the ‘p’. “Well… yes,” she corrects herself. “Tucker tried to save me. Told me to just say that I’d shot him in a struggle, ‘cause it was easier. Lewis having shot himself with his left hand… well, he’d told me so himself. He’d used his last act, his own death to try and drag me down, frame me for murder.”

“How far did it go before they finally believed you?” Elliot asks.

“Who’s to say I didn’t go along with the lies IAB wanted me to tell?” She challenges.

“‘Cause I know you,” Elliot responds. “You lied when you were raped to take back control, stop him from taking anything more from you than he already had. I’m assuming no-one knows about half of what happened the second time either?” He guesses. She nods to confirm. “But you wouldn’t lie about someone’s death. You hate lying, even what you have done has eaten away at you ever since, hasn’t it?”

She nods again silently. Dammit El, she thinks to herself. Why you gotta know me so well?

“So that, plus what had happened at the trial… you didn’t want to add more lies than you absolutely had to, even if it was going to hurt you. You couldn’t hide it like you had with the assaults, something had to be said so you struck to the truth.” A beat. “And I’m guessing that people tried to talk you out of it but, stubborn as ever, you refused?”

She narrows her eyes at him. “You know me too well, Stabler.”

He snorts, shrugs. “I do.” He pauses. “So… how far did it end up going before you were cleared?”

She sighs. “IAB cleared me,” she tells him. “But a really annoying Brooklyn DA with a grudge took it all the way to a Grand Jury.”

Elliot closes his eyes. “New guy, trying to make his mark?”

“Got it in one.” She rolls her eyes. “I was this close to putting my papers in, retiring so I could at least save my pension before they inevitably put me on trial. I was so scared I was gonna end up in prison El. Lewis did that good a job, with making me confess…”

“Do you think that was his plan?” Elliot asks. “The whole time?”

“I don’t know,” she admits. “I don’t… I don’t think he intended on going back to prison. But as for his whole endgame… we could say he had a plan the whole time, to frame me for his death, to destroy me completely but if I’d shot myself… then that doesn’t work, does it?”

“Unless he knew where the bullet was.”

Elliot’s words make her eyes widen. “What you do mean?”

“Think about it,” he tells her. “What he’d said about Amelia, about it being just him and her if you were dead… but then forcing you to risk your life anyway… what if he knew there was no risk? What if the whole thing was just to traumatise you some more, see how far he could push you, break you down before setting you up?”

She frowns. “You know… I’ve never thought about it like that,” she admits. “He was confident… too confident for someone who liked to be in control. I know he was lucky… he said as much, more than once but still. Maybe he did know it was in the last chamber.”

Elliot shrugs. “Makes sense.”

“Guess we’ll never know,” she sighs. “But weirdly, that does make me feel slightly better. If he knew, if it was his plan… then that bullet was never actually meant for me, was it?”

Elliot shakes his head. “You were meant to live, Liv,” he tells her. “The first time, the second time. You were always meant to live.”

“They didn’t indict,” she blurts. “The Grand Jury.” A beat. “Obviously,” she adds. “I would not be where I am if I’d been brought up on murder charges, no matter the outcome. Murphy saved me in the end. The DA was trying to say that my confession amounted to premeditation and a history of lying or whatever. Murphy told them that he’d ordered me to lie on TV to save Amelia. I don’t know what else he said in there, he wouldn’t tell me but I know that much. He saved my ass, my career…” She shrugs.

“Lewis didn’t win,” Elliot reminds her gently.

“No, no he didn’t.” She nods slowly, before pulling her bottom lip between her teeth, tears pooling in her eyes. “But he did though, didn’t he?” She blurts. “He still raped me, and I lied about it. Never told a soul, did I? He still won there.”

“You’re telling me now,” Elliot says. “I say that’s him losing that last battle right there.”

She’s not sure how it starts, or how the hell she even manages it at her age, but somehow, somehow she finds herself climbing over the centre console and into Elliot’s lap. His arms come around her as she lands heavily on him, and he shushes her as she cries into the collar of his shirt, rocking her gently, his mouth pressed into her hair.

The steering wheel is digging into her ass; her knees are loudly protesting the position they’re bent into, and how the hell she even fits into his lap - she’s definitely not as thin as she used to be - she doesn’t know, but she also doesn’t give a damn.

He’s here and he’s safety and this is all she’d wanted nine years ago as she buries her face into his neck, the scent of his aftershave filling her nose as she relaxes.

I’m safe.

Chapter Text

Elliot watches her quietly from the drivers seat as she uses the little mirror in the sun visor to try and tidy herself up.

It’s a bit of a lost cause; her so-called waterproof mascara… isn’t, at least not when she’s been rubbing at her eyes as much as she has along with the deluge of tears. In fact, she’s pretty sure she’s managed to get mascara on Elliot’s shirt collar.

Glancing over, it would seem that she’s right. There’s a nice black smear on the collar of Elliot’s shirt, and for some, possibly slightly hysterical, reason, it amuses the hell out of her and she starts to laugh.

He frowns. “What’s so funny?” He asks her.

She’s covering her mouth now as she giggles. She really doesn’t know why she finds this so funny; maybe she’s just an emotional mess after the last couple of hours. “You’ve uh… you’ve got mascara on your shirt collar,” she says, pointing. At least it’s not lipstick, she thinks, descending into more giggles.

He grabs his shirt, pulling it away from his neck so he can peer at it. “So I do,” he notes. “Makes a change from lipstick,” he says with a laugh, which only makes her giggle fit worse. “What?” He asks as she snorts.

“Sorry,” she tries to take a few deep breaths and calm down. “It’s just… I was thinking almost the exact same thing.”

He laughs at that. “Well, you know what they say,” he says. “Great minds think alike.”

“Or fools seldom differ,” she finishes with a grin.

“Eh,” he shrugs. “You’re not a fool,” he tells her. “Me, on the other hand…”

She shakes her head. “You aren’t either,” she tells him, blowing out a breath as her giggles finally subside.

“I think my mom would disagree with you there,” he says with a grin as she turns her attention back to the mirror, abandoning the attempt at fixing her makeup, deciding to run her fingers through her hair to tidy that up instead. “Here,” he says a moment later. She turns, seeing that he’s offering her a tissue. “Might help,” he says. “You’ve got some panda eyes going on over there.”

She narrows said eyes at him. “You’re lucky I love you,” she tells him, before her eyes widen as she realises what she’s just said. “Shit,” she mutters, hiding her face behind her hand. “You didn’t hear that.”

“Didn’t hear what?” He teases. She can feel him grinning. “Love you too,” he tells her. She feels him leaning in, and he presses a kiss to her fingers where they cover her eyes.

“That was not how I wanted to tell you,” she says eventually, plucking the tissue from his fingers and trying to fix the mess that her face has become. “After I’ve bared my soul to you, told you my deepest darkest secrets.”

“How did you want to do it?” He asks. “Over a candlelit dinner?” He tilts his head as she reaches for the water bottle he has in the cup holder, dampening the tissue in the hope it might help in the absence of her usual cleansing products. “Come on Liv,” he raises an eyebrow. “That’s not us.”

“So blurting out our feelings accidentally in the middle of deep and traumatic conversations is?” Success, she thinks as the panda eyes start to look much less panda.

“Well…” He pulls a face. “I did do it first,” he points out.

The intervention. “Good point,” she acquiesces. “God, we’re as bad as each other.” Finally getting her eyes to look more or less normal, albeit sans makeup, she tosses the black-stained tissue onto the dash. “Okay,” she tells him. “I’m good.”

She shuffles in her seat, putting on her seatbelt and he takes the hint, starting the engine. The car rumbles into life, the vibrations of the engine coursing through the seat as he turns to her. “So, where to?” He asks. “Home? The precinct? Somewhere else entirely?”

“Honestly? Home,” she admits. “But I need to go back to the precinct. Fin, Nick, Amanda… they need an explanation.”

“They don’t need anything,” Elliot responds firmly. “You owe them nothing Liv.”

“I know that,” she agrees. “Bad choice of words. But it’s like you said, isn’t it? Before I cried all over you. I told you, so Lewis isn’t winning anymore and honestly? I… I feel like a weight has been lifted,” she tells him. “A weight I didn’t even realise I’d been carrying. I feel lighter, now I’ve told you.”

“So you wanna tell them too?”

She nods. “I need them to know,” she decides. “I need people who knew Lewis to know what he did, to make him lose completely, and I need them to know what happened. I lied to them, have been lying to them for years El. It needs to stop.” A beat. “I also need to at least swing by and grab my things,” she adds. “I don’t even have the keys to my apartment,” she admits. “I have my gun, my badge and my phone, and two of those simply because they were on my hip when I fled my own workplace. My coat, my bag, my laptop… my house keys… they’re all still in my office so uh… I need to go back and get them.”

Elliot nods, putting the SUV into reverse and backing out of the parking spot. “Okay,” he says, checking the mirrors. She’s pretty sure this thing has reverse assistance on it, but he’s not using it. “To the precinct it is,” he says, swinging the car around. “You want me to come up with you?” He asks as he puts it in drive and moves forward.

Please, her brain screams. “Would you?” She asks, trying not to sound desperate.

“Of course,” he says, pulling out of the garage and onto the street. “You want me there, I’m right beside you.”

Reaching across to where his right hand lies on his thigh, his left gripping the wheel, she covers his hand with her own. Smiling as he drives, he flips his hand over underneath hers, tangling their fingers together.

***

It’s not as awkward as she’d feared, walking back into the one-six.

She’d half expected some strange looks from the Sergeant at the front desk, given her rapid exit - and she knows Fin, Nick and Amanda were giving chase, even though she’d never spared them a backward glance - but he gives her the same smile that she gets every time she arrives to work, no matter the time of day. Huh, she thinks. Hey, maybe no-one noticed.

As she enters the elevator with Elliot at her side, she shakes her head. Nah, she thinks. They noticed. They’re just not gonna say anything. Probably too embarrassed.

“You sure about this?” Elliot murmurs as the elevator climbs the few floors. “You don’t have to do this. I can easy go in by myself, grab your stuff.”

And you would, wouldn’t you? She thinks, smiling softly at him. “I know you would,” she says out loud. “But no. I need to do this.”

“Okay,” he nods, reaching out and interlacing their fingers. “Well just know I’m right here, and if you want me to punch anyone, you just gotta say.”

She snorts. “Noted.”

The silver doors open then, depositing them on the SVU floor and she takes a deep breath, pausing for only a second before heading down the hall towards her squadroom. “Here goes,” she murmurs, mostly to herself as they round the corner.

Fin spots her reappearance first; getting to his feet behind his desk with a look of relief. “Liv,” he says, rounding his desk and approaching her. “You okay?” He asks, glancing over first her, then Elliot.

“I’m okay,” she gives him a gentle smile, turning the same expression onto Amanda as she joins them, appearing from the conference room.

“Liv, thank God,” she exclaims upon seeing her. “We were worried.”

You were worried,” Fin corrects. “I knew she’d be fine.” He nods his head at Elliot. “She was with Stabler.”

Amanda, still wary of Elliot even almost a year after his reappearance, eyes him. “Mmm,” she responds, noncommittal. “Nick’s in there,” she points at the conference room. “He’s feeling really bad, Liv.”

I’m sure he is, she thinks to herself. “Mmm,” she nods. Well, the conference room is as good a place as any, she decides. “Come on,” she leads the way, Elliot’s fingers still linked with hers, Fin and Amanda following the pair of them into the room. “Close the door please,” she asks Fin, who closes it with a soft click.

Nick, sat with his head down at the conference table, is on his feet in seconds. “Liv!” He exclaims, relieved. “I’m so sorry,” he blurts. “I… I really didn’t handle that well.”

You think? She wants to snap back, but bites her tongue. No, she rebukes herself. Not going to start an argument here.

“I shouldn’t have confronted you about Burton here,” he continues, emphasising the name. “It was a bad choice, and I’m sorry. I explained it to Fin and Amanda.”

You covered for me, she realises. I don’t have to say a damn word. I could just go along with it, and no-one ever has to know.

It’s tempting; she won’t lie. But…

No.

No, Lewis isn’t going to win, she tells herself. I decided to tell them, and I’m going to.

“Thanks Nick,” she says with a grateful smile. “For covering for me,” she adds, pointed. “But the lies… they need to stop.” She pauses, tightening her grip around Elliot’s fingers, running her tongue over her lips to wet them. “I need to tell you all the truth.”

Chapter Text

She decides that revealing the truth at the precinct is a bad idea; too risky, too many opportunities for someone else to overhear, such as McGrath, who she most definitely does not want to know this, so she tells Fin and Amanda to finish up and meet her at her apartment, and to bring Nick with them.

It’s a good idea, the best in the circumstances but there’s one fatal flaw; it gives her an hour to kill.

An hour for her panic to rise, her anxiety levels to increase making her antsier and antsier until she’s pacing her living room, Elliot watching her with concern from the kitchen whilst making her a cup of tea.

“Liv,” he catches her attention, pressing the cup into her hands before covering them with his own as they shake with the weight of it. He frowns, taking the cup back and setting it on the coffee table before her floor needs cleaning. “You don’t have to do this,” he tells her. “If you don’t want to, I’ll make excuses for you, whatever you need.”

“No,” she shakes her head. “It’s just… I’d psyched myself up to do it and… and now I’m having to wait and it’s just giving me time to think, and…” She sighs.

“Time to talk yourself out of it?” Elliot says knowingly.

“Mmhmm,” she agrees. “They need to know,” she murmurs, mostly to herself. “I made the decision to tell them, and I’m going to stick with that.”

“You are allowed to change your mind,” Elliot points out.

“I don’t want to change my mind,” she shakes her head rapidly, her hair tickling her cheek. She brushes it away, tucking it behind her ear. “I don’t want h- I don’t want Lewis to have that power anymore. I’m taking control back. No more secrets.”

“Okay,” Elliot nods. “What do you need me to do?” He asks.

“Can I have a hug?” She blurts, wanting to be wrapped up in his arms like nothing else.

“Of course,” Elliot replies, wrapping her up just how she’d wanted. “You don’t need to ask, you know.”

She rests her cheek against his shoulder. “So what, I want a hug I just come find you and grab on?” She asks, only half-joking.

“Yup,” he confirms. “If my Olivia needs a hug, then that’s what she gets.” She can feel him smiling where his lips are pressed into her hair.

She snorts. “So what, even if you’re at work?” She teases.

“Even if I’m in the middle of raiding a house,” he tells her, completely seriously. “You need a hug I’ll just tell the criminals they’ve gotta wait.”

She starts to laugh at that, the mental image too ridiculous not to. “I somehow don’t think Ayanna would be too impressed by that,” she points out through her giggles.

“Eh, you outrank her,” he reasons. “She can’t yell at you and you’ll back me up.” A beat. “Right?”

She nods against his shoulder. “Always, partner,” she confirms. “Always.”

“Even if I’m in the wrong?”

She leans back, peers up at him with one eyebrow raised. “Did you forget half of the shit we pulled under Cragen’s nose?” She asks him. “Especially if you’re in the wrong,” she confirms.

He grins at her, eyes twinkling. “Ditto,” he says. “I got your back partner. Moreso if you’re in the wrong.” He winks.

“Pfft,” she replies. “I’m a respected Captain now, El. I wouldn’t do anything outside the rules like that.”

He snorts. “Sure Liv, sure.” A beat. “I’ve never asked,” he says, as if suddenly realising something. “Do your team give you grief like the two of us did Cragen?”

No,” she’s quick to say. “Thank God.” She winces. “I mean… there have been moments when I’ve wanted to fire them. Or shoot them… but they aren’t as bad as the two of us were.” She considers. “Unless they’re all as good at lying to me as the two of us were to Cragen… in which case I really don’t wanna know.”

Elliot chuckles at that, before a knock sounds on the door. “Maybe that’s them,” he comments as she pulls away from him, moving to stand behind the couch as he tasks himself with answering the door. He checks the peephole, nodding in confirmation to Olivia before undoing the chain and opening the door wide. “Hey,” she hears him greet, before Fin, Nick and Amanda appear around the corner. She hears the door locks click back into place before Elliot joins them, moving to stand by her side.

“Hi,” she says to the three of them, the awkwardness hanging in the air between them. “Uh… please,” she gestures to the couch. “Sit down. Does anyone want a coffee?” She offers, the fear bubbling up in her again. It had faded, settling while she was being hugged by, and joking with Elliot but it’s back in full force now. Oh God, she thinks. Can I do this?

You can, a voice that sounds suspiciously like Elliot - despite him standing right in front of her and she knows his lips never moved - sounds in her head.

“Sure,” Amanda nods, Nick and Fin both agreeing as they sit down on the couch. Elliot, sensing that she needs a minute, sits down in the chair opposite while she makes the coffees.

Her latest stalling tactic only wastes a few minutes, and soon there are three coffee cups on the coffee table next to her abandoned tea, and she’s turning to face the chair Elliot is sat in.

He goes to stand, to give her the chair and, presumably, to get a dining chair to sit in himself but she shakes her head lightly at him, sitting down in his lap instead. He shuffles to the side slightly, so she’s half on the chair with her legs draped over his, his arm snug around her waist and she feels herself settle. This is good, she thinks, the memory of the hug in the car earlier, how safe she’d felt on top of him in the drivers seat. Okay, she decides. I can do this.

“So um,” she starts. “I told you earlier that I needed to tell you guys the truth,” she continues.

“Yeah,” Fin nods. There’s a concern in his gaze that she doesn’t often see; not surprising considering what he’d overheard Nick say, how she’d thanked Nick for covering for her afterwards. He’s likely thinking all sorts. “What is it Liv?” He asks. “What is it you wanna tell us?”

“It’s about Lewis,” she blurts before she can change her mind. Fin’s face falls, paling before stony faced anger sets in as the realisation hits. Amanda tilts her head, almost as though she knows but doesn’t want to believe it, and Nick… well Nick already knew.

“What about him?” Amanda is first to speak.

“I lied,” she admits, voice quieter, softer now. “When I told you all that I wasn’t raped. I lied.”

Fin closes his eyes briefly, his jaw clenching. Nick simply nods, knowing this already and Amanda’s face turns to shocked horror. “What?” She blurts. “But… but the kit, the evidence… it all showed that you weren’t…” She trails off. “There was no evidence.”

“I know,” she nods. “I know what it says.” She sighs. “I know why there was no evidence, no sign of anything, no sign of what he’d done.”

“How?” Nick asks quietly.

“It was the first night,” she tells them. “He’d hurt me, he’d burned me… sexually assaulted me,” she lists the crimes like she’s reeling off a grocery list and it feels so strange, but she’s been over those parts so many times to so many people it’s almost like she’s become detached from the details.

The memories are a different matter, but she forces those down as she speaks.

“He knocked me out,” she continues. “I woke up…” Okay, now this is the hard part. “I woke up on my bathroom floor,” she tells them, deciding to stick to just the basic facts. They don’t need to know every little detail like I told Elliot, she tells herself. Just the facts. That’s all they need, all I’m willing to share. “He’d given me something, while I was unconscious,” she continues. “I don’t know what, but I couldn’t move, not really. Everything felt weird. I was completely awake but I couldn’t move, couldn’t fight. I could barely speak. I had no strength… I was a puppet to him.” She swallows, bites her lip. “I was naked… so was he. He raped me in the shower. I couldn’t do anything about it.”

Fin purses his lips. “CSU found traces of bleach in the shower,” he recalls. “You said that you’d cleaned it that morning before work.”

She nods. “I did say that yes,” she confirms. “I hadn’t. It was him. He cleaned up after. Me, himself, the room. No evidence.” The phantom feeling of the soap in her wounds, on her burns is strong, and she finds herself scratching at her belly out of habit.

“Jesus Liv.” Fin breathes.

“Why didn’t you say something?” Amanda asks, looking confused. “We should have charged him with that, he should have paid for what he’d done to you.”

She shakes her head. “They wouldn’t even convict him on attempted, Amanda,” she reminds her. “Let alone anything more.” She sighs. “I never told any of you this, but I almost lost my job, after. Not in the NYPD,” she clarifies, seeing the anger in each of her three friend’s faces, feeling Elliot tense under her. “But at SVU. There were questions asked about if it was a suitable posting for me after what had happened. I don’t know what happened, but I think Cragen went in to bat for me. But… that was after being abducted and tortured and sexually assaulted,” she tells them. “Not raped. If I’d told them, if they knew I’d been raped on top of everything else?” She shakes her head. “I don’t think they’d have let me come back, and if he’d taken that too, when he’d taken everything else from me? I don’t think I would have come back at all.”

“So you lied,” Nick states.

She nods. “It wasn’t that hard,” she says. “He’d done half of the work for me, got rid of the evidence. All I had to do was rinse my mouth out at the beach house,” she tells them before realising, as their eyes widen in unison, in anger, that she hadn’t told them that part. “Yeah,” she confirms. “He forced me to perform oral sex on him there.” Using the technical term for it helps, and she pushes on. “After that, all I had to do was lie. Say if he did I didn’t know, and waited for the rape kit to come back, to see if the lie would hold and it did.” A beat. “I wasn’t even lying,” she admits. “I was unconscious, so for all I know…” She shrugs. “He might’ve done more. I’ll never know.”

“God Liv,” Fin breathes. “I’m so sorry.”

He looks like he’s about to say something else, but she stops him. “I’m not done,” she says quietly, a sad smile on her face.

“There’s more?” Amanda blurts.

She nods. “Yep,” she tells her. “There’s more.”

“When he escaped…?” Nick asks, tilting his head.

She nods. “Yeah.” Deep breath, Olivia. “When I went to meet him. He uh… he said I had to earn seeing Amelia. Show him how much I wanted to find her. He um… he made me use my hands and my mouth on him in the back of the car, and then he returned the favour,” she finishes, swallowing bile at the memory, at the forefront of her mind as though it only happened hours ago, not years. “After that,” she presses on, not looking at the couch, not wanting to see the reactions to her revelations. “He drove us to the granary. As you already know, he gave me a choice, and I told him to rape me.”

“Please tell me he didn’t,” Nick cuts in.

“Wish I could, Nick,” she tells him sadly. “It was brief, only a few seconds.” She tells him. “I refused to fight him and he couldn’t keep it up. So he got angry, picked up the revolver instead. You know the rest.”

Nick blows out an angry breath; who he’s angry at she doesn’t know. “There was no evidence that time, you didn’t get a kit done,” he murmurs. “This could’ve helped with the idiotic murder charges they tried to pin on you after!” He exclaims. “Why didn’t you get a kit?”

She stares at him. “Don’t take this the wrong way,” she tilts her head. “But not one of you actually asked if I needed one.”

It’s the truth, and she knows it hurts him to hear it, but what else is she supposed to say? She’d been alone, held hostage by the rapist psycho who’d kidnapped and hurt her before, and no-one thought to ask her if she needed a rape kit?

Thinking back, it was negligence, not that she’ll call any of them out on it now of course.

“I’m sorry Liv,” Fin says, diverting her attention. “I failed you. Again. I should’ve asked, should’ve checked in with you more.”

“It’s okay Fin,” she shakes her head. “I didn’t want anyone to know, didn’t want to risk the house of cards I’d built over the ten months since he first grabbed me to come crashing down. It was a relief, when no-one asked.”

“I should’ve,” Amanda whispers. “I thought about it,” she admits. “But then I looked at you and you seemed fine and I thought… I thought you must be, that he hadn’t had time to do anything.” She sighs. “I should’ve known better.”

Olivia can’t argue with that sentiment, so she keeps her mouth shut instead.

“I was your partner,” Nick finally speaks. “I should’ve asked, should’ve questioned it. You literally said it in that hospital room,” he remembers. “You told me that he’d got what he wanted and I stupidly thought that you meant getting you to go to him and causing all that destruction.”

“Well,” she reasons. “He did want that too,” she points out. “It just wasn’t the only thing.” She blows out a breath. “Look, I lied, okay?” She says. “You three can pass blame all you want but the truth is… I hid it. I could’ve come to you, but I chose not to. I never even told my therapist. Elliot’s the first person I’ve ever admitted it to, and I don’t even know if I’d have done that if it wasn’t for you and those test results, Nick.” She glances up at Elliot, apologetic but he shrugs it off. “You did me a favour, in a roundabout way,” she adds, directing the last statement at Nick.

“How?” Nick frowns.

“I feel lighter,” she admits, shrugging with a small smile on her face. “I’d been carrying this weight for so long I didn’t even realise it was there, but it’s not now, and he didn’t win. Because I told you. The truth is there, and he’s got no power over me anymore.” She means it, she finds; it’s the truth. The lingering sensation of Lewis, the sense that something was always hanging over her, cloaking her… is gone.

I’m free.

Chapter Text

“You okay?” Elliot asks as he closes the door behind Fin. Nick and Amanda left a little while ago; Nick needing to go find a hotel room for the night and Amanda wanting to get home to Carisi and her girls.

Fin had stayed a little longer, the guilt seeming to hit him harder than it had the other two. He’d had a drink, apologised repeatedly - she’d kept telling him it wasn’t his fault but he wouldn’t have it - and given her a hug before leaving.

Odafin Tutuola willingly giving out a hug; of all the things she’s had to deal with today, that is most definitely the most surprising.

“Yeah, I’m okay,” she replies, busying herself at the kitchen sink, washing out the mugs and glasses as Elliot comes to stand next to her. Her hands are wet and soapy, so she bumps him with her shoulder instead and he smiles down at her, grabbing the tea towel and starting to dry. “I feel better,” she muses. “I never thought it would make a difference, telling someone but it has.”

He gives her a wry look. “How many years have you been doing this job, telling victims that speaking their truth will help?”

She narrows her eyes at him. “Touché.” A beat. “Look, I didn’t think it would make that much difference to me after nine years, okay?”

“Fair enough,” Elliot acquiesces. “It’s good to see you smiling,” he comments.

“Are you doing okay?” She asks, washing up the last glass and putting it on the drainer. “You’ve had a hell of a day too.”

“I’m fine,” he tells her with a smile. “I’m not gonna lie, it was hard to hear. Really hard to hear… but I just keep reminding myself that you’re here and you’re alive. You survived, Liv. You also trusted me enough to tell me everything, and that means more to me than I think I can ever say.”

Feeling her lip wobble, tears in her eyes she takes a step forward, closing the gap between them and wrapping her arms around his middle, forgetting for a moment that-

“You’re getting me all wet, Olivia,” he chuckles even as his arms close around her.

She’s still got soapy hands from the dishes. Oops. “You said I could have a hug whenever I wanted,” she points out petulantly.

He snorts. “That I did,” he nods. “That I did.” He squeezes her tighter. “Where’s Noah tonight?” He asks.

“One of his dance friends is having a birthday sleepover,” she tells him. “He went straight from school to her place. I’ve never seen him so excited.”

Elliot raises his eyebrows. “Do we have a little crush, do you think?” He grins.

She snorts. “He insists that they’re just friends,” she replies. Then - knowing that Noah had come out to Elliot a few weeks ago - “Her brother, on the other hand…”

Elliot laughs. “Wait until he hits his teens,” he comments. “We’re in for a ride with him, I know we are. They’ll be queuing up.”

We. The word means so much to her, Elliot adding Noah into his family, accepting the two of them like they were always meant to be there. Noah starting to love Elliot like a father, Elliot’s kids accepting him as another sibling every time they’ve all been together…

She swallows thickly. “You really mean that, don’t you?” She murmurs, leaning back in his arms so she can see his face properly.

“Of course I do,” he tells her, shaking his head slightly. “One of these days Benson, I will get you to believe that.” He tilts his head. “I’m not leaving you,” he whispers. “Never again.”

I know, she thinks. “I know,” she says aloud. “I think I’m starting to believe that.”

He leans down, his lips brushing hers lightly. “Well I’ll have to make sure you finish believing that,” he tells her. “‘Cause it’s true.”

She leans into him again, resting her cheek against his chest. “You got any plans tonight?” She murmurs, scared to outright ask him to stay just in case he does, even though she really doesn’t want to be alone.

Not tonight. Not ever again if she’s truly honest with herself.

“Nope,” he tells her, his chin on top of her head. “Mama’s out, she’s dragged Kathleen along to a flower arranging class. I dread to think what my apartment is gonna look like when I next see it, and Eli got good grades on an assignment last week so I’ve let him go to a friends for the night to play video games and eat far too much sugar.” He pulls her closer. “You want me to stay?” She’s so close to him now his voice rumbles through her body.

She nods. “I didn’t wanna ask outright,” she murmurs. “But I was hoping you didn’t have plans.”

“Even if I did, I’d have cancelled them for you,” he tells her. “Even if it wasn’t for… everything that’s happened today. You and Noah, my kids, my Mom… nothing comes before any of you. I’m not gonna make those mistakes again.”

She’s not sure what to say to that, not without ruining the soft, gentle atmosphere they’ve created, so she tightens her grip on him instead. “I don’t want to be alone,” she admits. “It’s been… I’ve dragged everything back up so I’m probably going to have nightmares,” she adds. “I’d feel safer if you were here.” The last part is barely audible, but she knows he hears it anyway.

He always hears her, these days.

“Then I’ll stay,” he murmurs. “You want me on the couch, or…?”

“My bed,” she’s quick to clarify. “I know we haven’t… and we won’t be, not tonight at least, but…” She bites her lip, annoyed at her own awkwardness.

He chuckles, shattering the tension. “I know,” he tells her. “You got something for me to wear?” He asks. “Nothing too fancy, you’ve got mascara and soap on me already today, I dread to think what the third thing’s gonna be.”

She freezes, moving slowly away from him with her mouth open in a silent ‘O’, before swatting at him with her still damp hands. He dodges away deftly, catching her in his arms as she tries again, resorting to tickling her to get her to give up. “Okay, okay!” She shrieks, doubled over as his hands tickle her ribs relentlessly. “I give up, I give up!”

He stops, breathing hard through his laughter. “You sure?” He teases, tilting his head, one eyebrow raised in challenge.

“I’m sure, I’m sure,” she snorts, leaning back against the counter, blowing out a breath.

“It’s good to see you laughing,” he grins, leaning against the counter opposite.

She grins back. “It’s good to laugh,” she admits. “It feels like forever.”

“Well, we’ll have to change that then won’t we?” Elliot comments, accepting it as a challenge.

She eyes him. “No more tickling,” she warns.

“Aww,” he pouts. “No fun.” A beat. “I’ll just have to think of something else then, won’t I?”

She laughs, shaking her head. “Come here,” she tells him.

He closes the gap with two strides. “Yeah?” He murmurs, his mouth somehow landing a hairs-breadth from her lips.

She closes the gap, her lips covering his. “I love you,” she murmurs between kisses.

He smiles into the kiss. “I love you too.”

I’m gonna be okay, she thinks, her arms winding around his neck. I really am.