“Hi….hi…..Mommy, is she okay?”
Noah's tiny voice scratched at Amanda's consciousness, rousing her from the deep, alcohol induced sleep she'd been in. As soon as she'd broken the surface of sleep, she could feel the headache beginning and the dry, thick taste in her mouth. Her entire body felt sluggish and she groaned softly.
“Noah, leave her alone, please.” Olivia's voice drew across her ears, reminding her of exactly where she was and how she'd gotten there. Some parts of the night were fuzzy but others were clear as day.
“Come eat.” Olivia called Noah once more and she heard his small feet patter away.
She opened her eyes slowly and Olivia's living room came into view. The furniture and fixtures of the room were like sad props in a play, witnesses to a fleeting act of passion.
Amanda laid still against the couch, feeling no inclination to rise.
In the harsh light of day, knowing what she'd done, she wanted to slap herself. She could blame alcohol but who would believe that lie? Truth be told, the alcohol had only served to loosen her cold grip on anger and revenge. While her inhibitions were lowered, even deeper feelings had escaped out of the cracks in her heart.
“Amanda…” Olivia's voice neared her and Amanda glanced up to see Olivia coming to her side. She bent down next to the couch, her gaze fixed with carefully concealed concern.
“I'm fine.” Amanda said immediately, beginning to push herself up. Her head throbbed and she squeezed her eyes shut, lifting a hand to her aching forehead.
“That's what I thought.” Olivia murmured.
Amanda lowered her hand to glare at her but was met by Olivia's outstretched hands offering water and pain reliever. She grudgingly took both and tossed the pills into her mouth. She washed them both down in one long gulp, thankful for the water on her parched tongue.
She supposed this was Olivia's attempt at an apology.
“I have to go soon.” Olivia said, glancing back towards Noah. “Lucy will be here soon.”
“Trying to get me out so your sitter won't be suspicious?” Amanda jabbed with a cynical laugh.
Olivia tilted her head with an irritated gaze. “Lucy is the least of my worries.”
“You mean...Fin.” Amanda sighed, gazing downwards. She picked at a loose thread on her jeans to avoid Olivia's gaze.
“I support you speaking your feelings to someone.” Olivia said, slowly and Amanda could sense a ‘but’ coming.
“Just not your sergeant.” Amanda said softly.
Olivia didn't reply for a moment and Amanda slid a glance her way. Olivia's brow was marked with a frown, her lips set in a firm line.
“You don't have to tell me all the ways I fucked up last night.” Amanda said, pushing the water glass back towards Olivia and standing quickly. “I'll get out of your hair.”
“Amanda…” Olivia began as Amanda slid around her and headed for the door.
Amanda could already feel humiliated tears in her eyes. She couldn't believe her drunk self had been convinced that Olivia would possibly be reminded of their time together and want that again. There was no room for second chances any longer. Amanda had crushed every single one.
“Amanda.” Olivia caught her arm just as she grabbed the doorknob.
“What?” Amanda asked, turning back go look at Olivia's conflicted gaze.
“We should talk about what happened.” She said, her voice soft but firm.
“What's to say?” Amanda replied, keeping her voice lowered but only for Noah's sake. “I think we both already know how we feel.”
“Trying to read each other's mind is what got us in trouble last time.” Olivia's voice was close to a plea and as much as that reaction sparked glee inside of Amanda, she knew better than to believe it.
“I'll see you at work.” Amanda said, pulling away. She didn't look back at Olivia as she headed down the corridor.
She pressed her eyes shut for half a second against a second wave of threatening tears. Her heart ached, remembering how close they'd been last night, but she was ashamed of her own weakness. Olivia hadn't responded like she had wanted and so she had played the only card she had - to get down on her knees like some slut in a porno and beg to be punished. Her ego was so miniscule at this point, she wondered if it even existed after all that Olivia had done to her.
Amanda pushed out of the front gate of Olivia's apartment building and headed out into the rising sun. She decided that what she needed right at the moment was a good, long smoke.
She walked until she found a small bodega down the street to buy a pack of cigarettes from. Afterwards, she sat on the sidewalk against the building which offered shade, and opened the pack.
She didn't care if she smoked them all or if she was late to work. Olivia couldn't degrade her or ridicule her any further. She was already at her lowest point. From her position here in the deep pit of despair and humiliation, she didn't see a way out, nor could she find any reasons to climb up towards the light.
When Amanda arrived at the SVU precinct, the rest of the squad was already there, gathered around the whiteboard. Pictures of the bodies were displayed along with a photo of Ronald Duvall. Maggie Wilcox's school photo smiled sweetly back at Amanda from amongst the gruesome ugliness.
“Some of the bodies are still unidentified.” Carisi was saying as she approached. “We're searching missing persons.”
“Widen the search-” Olivia began but her orders were interrupted when Amanda entered. Her eyes flickered to Amanda's, her tone tripping conspicuously.
“Hey, I almost thought you went back to Homicide.” Carisi joked. “Long night?”
You don't know the half of it.
Fin smacked Carisi's arm with a frown and Carisi's smile fell.
“I'm good.” Amanda shrugged. “Besides, this isn't my precinct.” She shot a narrowed glance towards Olivia.
“So you can slack off on seven dead children?” Olivia's folded her arms, returning Amanda's glare two fold.
Fin and Carisi exchanged uncomfortable glances and Amanda felt her cheeks flush.
“No, that's not what I meant.” She said, damning the burn that rose up through her body.
It had been her walking away this morning when Olivia had offered an olive branch but she couldn't shake the feeling that it hadn't been sincere. Maybe that was her own bitter mind sabotaging her but Amanda wasn't ready to fall at Olivia's feet again. Not now, and maybe not ever again.
“Good.” Olivia snapped her gaze back to the other two detectives. “Widen the search. He hunted outside of his home state, his comfort zone. Maybe New York isn't the only place he traveled too.”
“Yes, ma'am.” Sunny saluted her and Amanda rolled her eyes. He just couldn't refrain from kissing Olivia's ass even when he realized the tension between her and the lieutenant.
“Find the parents of these girls.” Olivia said. “I want to know if they've ever seen Duvall before. How did he find them?”
Fin nodded but Amanda could feel him glancing over at her. She wondered if he had an idea of what had happened after he left her at Olivia's last night. He probably thought they'd slept together again but the truth was much more horrifying. Amanda thanked God her inebriated tongue had not spilled the entire story of their affair.
“And since you've decided to join us, Detective Rollins,” Olivia turned back towards her, “you'll be heading to Jersey with me.”
“Wait..what?” Amanda asked, a jolt of apprehension slicing across her chest.
“We need to know everything about Duvall.” Olivia said, “I've already spoken with the local PD. They'll work in conjunction with us should we need to go beyond interviews.”
Amanda struggled to find some reason to back out of the trip, but short of resigning from the case, no opportunities presented themselves. Just the thought of having to be alone with Olivia again brought a shudder of dread to her limbs. Just when she thought she could escape, Olivia found another way to trap her.
“Do you have a problem, Rollins?” Olivia asked, her searing gaze digging into Amanda, inquisitively.
“No…” Amanda shook her head, but she was already turning away.
Her heart was racing, her palms clammy. She rubbed one hand on her pant leg before running it over her face. She breathed out and tried to assure herself that everything would be okay, that'd they'd be so busy with the case they wouldn't have time to even look at each other…. But she knew it was all a lie. They'd never been too busy; no, not even Amanda walking away had been able to keep them apart.
I-97 S whipped by Amanda as the squad car raced towards Jersey.
Olivia's foot was hot on the pedal and Amanda had a feeling that neither of them wanted to spend any more time than necessary confined inside the small space. They hadn't been driving long but Amanda already wanted out.
Olivia let the silence prolong for another few minutes but Amanda could tell she wanted to say something. She could see the tension in her grip on the steering wheel and the stiff set of her shoulders. She could sense it in the way her eyes glanced over for half a second before concentrating on the road.
“I'm not going to bite you if you speak to me.” Amanda laughed at last, although they both knew her bravado was but a facade. They'd both been witness to her weakness last night and if all it took was alcohol to break her, then maybe her fortress walls weren't as thick as either of them had imagined.
“The last time I suggested we talk, you blew me off.” Olivia returned.
Amanda stared out the window, quelling a tide of emotion at the mention of the morning after.
“Well I think we both know that you say what you want.” Amanda returned at last. “You're trying to tell me you want to put the kid gloves on now?”
Olivia pursed her lips before saying, softly, “I've made that mistake before.”
“What's that?” Amanda asked, glancing over at her.
She didn't want to say she was moved by the gentility in Olivia's voice but after the brutality of the past few days it peaked her interest.
“Speaking and acting before thinking.” Olivia said, her eyes narrowing on the road.
“If this is another apology…” Amanda said, tiredly.
“No…” Olivia shook her head. “Its an admission…”
Amanda swallowed and licked her dry lips. She wasn't sure how to reply because she didn't know where Olivia was going with this.
“You've confessed to me plenty of times, but…” Her voice trailed off and Amanda could hear her draw a breath. Amanda's own inhale hitched, her heart fluttering in her chest.
Her mind was a million miles ahead then suddenly racing backwards. It wasn't the first time Olivia had confessed to her in this car and now with everything that had happened Amanda wondered exactly what it was that Olivia wanted.
“I've learned to admit when I'm wrong.” Olivia continued. “It's a skill you have to have in this line of work but I guess I've never learned how to do it in my personal life…”
“What are you trying to tell me?” Amanda asked, impatiently.
“We've got two hours in this car.” Olivia tossed her a sharp look, “Let me get this out.”
Amanda drew back at the passion in her tone. Maybe for once in her life she needed to stop forcing things and actually listen, as hard as that was. It was the last thing she wanted to do for Olivia after she'd wasted so much time already on this messed up relationship, but a tiny voice in the back of her mind urged her to give her just a little more time.
“What I'm saying is…” Olivia drew a breath, “I didn't want to admit that I was wrong from the beginning….I pride myself in being the commander of this unit and yet I did the worst thing a leader could possibly do…”
Amanda stared at Olivia's strained profile, her heart beating rapidly against her chest. She could hardly draw a breath as she listened to Olivia's voice rise and fall, her tone both bitter and sweet.
“I didn't want to call it what it was.” Olivia continued, her voice trembling against emotion that wanted to break through. “But it was abuse of power...No matter what way you look at it...I was in the position to manipulate you and I did it…”
Silence fell over them for a moment and Amanda could feel the first of tears gathering at the corners of her eyes and a question she'd never even thought to ask rose to her lips.
Olivia glanced over at her sharply. Her eyes were glistening and rimmed with soft red but Amanda knew the tears wouldn't fall, no, not today.
“Because…” She whispered, her tone incredulous, as if it were obvious, “I really do care about you.”
Amanda looked away with a scoff, “If you cared about me so much, wouldn't you have found another way to show it?”
“I wouldn't ask you to understand...but I've never felt this way before.”
Amanda pressed her eyes shut, shaking her head. She of all people knew how lust turned into abuse but this she couldn't comprehend. She couldn't wrap her mind around the fact that Olivia felt so strongly that she hadn't been able to control it. It wasn't possible that Olivia cared about her as much as she claimed.
“When I was with Elliot…” She whispered at last, jarring Amanda's attention, “I didn't think. We never thought. We just acted. We spent our days on the job and sometimes our nights. When we finally got away, we'd be so exhausted. Sometimes we'd been awake for almost two days but then…” She sighed and Amanda could hear the pain wrapped up inside that single vocalization. “We'd look at each other and realize we didn't have anywhere else to be. No one to go home to.”
Amanda looked away from Olivia's face, unsure if she wanted to hear this. It seemed far too private for her ears not to mention it struck a chord of jealousy inside of her, hearing of lustful, carefree trysts that she could only dream of. What pain could come of freely given love?
“I let myself fall in love with a person who could only give me one side of himself and while my heart was broken, he went back home to his wife and his children.” Olivia continued, “So I vowed to never be so stupid again.”
Amanda didn't answer although tears clung to her eyelids. Olivia's description of her heartbreak was something that Amanda could understand and the realization struck hard. She bit at her lower lip and fixed her gaze towards the escaping landscape of New York.
“And now…” Olivia murmured, “I've done the same things to you.”
Amanda choked back to sob and rubbed her hands over her eyes. She couldn't break. She had to find a way to bolster her anger. This commiseration was nothing more than a tactic to gain her sympathy, to find one more way to slip between the broken pieces of her heart.
“I let all the pain I'd experienced twist my feelings towards you into something that couldn't possibly resemble love.” Olivia whispered. “Just like I wanted.”
“You wanted to hurt me?” Amanda asked, clenching her teeth against emotion.
“I wanted to protect myself.” Olivia replied, her voice strengthening.
Selfish bitch… The epitaph wasn't far from falling from her lips but she bit back the bitter words.
“You don't know long it took for me to call you into my office that first time.” Olivia said, her tone strained, “You don't know how long I wanted you, and the lengths I went to to keep myself from you.”
Amanda grasped the seat, caught off guard by the passion driving Olivia's confession. She'd told herself many times that she was only a surrogate for Olivia's desires, a plaything to alleviate loneliness, a bolster for her ego… From the beginning, she'd never imagined that she was the sole reason for Olivia's actions. There wasn't a place for her in Olivia's life or heart….
"You're lying…” Amanda whispered, her tone halting.
“I wouldn't.” Olivia returned. “I'm guilty of many things...but not being untruthful.”
Amanda shook her head, “You did this to me knowing what would happen.”
“Yes…” Olivia admitted softly.
Amanda pushed herself up in the seat and turned towards Olivia to say, “You're right. All you ever did was abuse your power and manipulate me.”
Olivia's head ducked for a moment before to glared out at the road. A tear clung to lower lid, welling up in her sad, dark brown eyes.
“Don't give me this bullshit line about wanting me or loving me.” Amanda hissed, “I won't be played. Elliot may have played you but trust me...I'm not that naive.”
Olivia drew in a breath, her nostrils flaring, but she didn't reply to Amanda vehement response.
“You made us what we are.” Amanda panted angrily, “All we know how to do is hurt each other and believe me...That's exactly what I want.”
She turned away, her arms crossing tightly over her heaving chest and stomach. Her stomach churned sickly, her head spinning. The wounds on her heart burned with the acid from her rage, but she only hoped that it served to flush out the naive desires of tender love she'd buried deep; because unlike Olivia, she wouldn't be that stupid.