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Equinox of Penitance

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The silence was deafening, ringing loud against Amanda’s ears. Shock held her breath tightly in her lungs, sapping the strength from her legs. For a long moment, all she could was stare back at Olivia’s unwavering gaze.

Finally, Tucker cleared his throat, breaking the respite of Olivia’s confession.

“Is this true, Detective Rollins?” He asked, disbelief layering even his most professional tone.

“Uh…” Amanda struggled to speak, barely able to take her eyes off of Olivia. Olivia nodded at her slowly as if to urge her to play along with what she’d just said. A frown creased Amanda’s brow as thoughts began to swarm through her mind, each one buzzing louder and louder over the last.

Wasn’t this what she had wanted? She’d pushed Olivia over and over again to put their relationship above her job and she had even threatened to expose them to save her own ass from a murder rap… But now, Olivia had swept that all away from her. She’d taken her last shred of control from the situation and simultaneously absolved herself. Just days ago, Amanda had been ready and willing to turn Olivia in for sexual misconduct and assault but that was before Olivia had suddenly laid her career down in line of fire to take responsibility for everything she’d done. Perhaps this was a power play - Olivia’s attempt outsmarting her threat - but suddenly, Amanda’s heart was caught. She’d never expected Olivia to risk her career, no, not in a thousand years.

“No...no…” Amanda shook her head at last, her breaths rushing quickly from her mouth as she turned towards Tucker. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Olivia’s brow furrow in shock that Amanda was denying her confession.

“It’s not true…?” Tucker said slowly, his eyes bouncing between the two of them in confusion.

“I wasn’t…. manipulated .” Amanda  stated, her voice quivering.

“That’s not-” Olivia began, nearly rising from the table before Tucker cut her off.

“Stop.” He held up a hand. “Sit down, Lieutenant Benson.”

Olivia sank back to her chair, her hands gripping the edge of the table. Her expression was drawn, and Amanda knew she must’ve paced for hours, conjuring the strength to come in here and lay herself vulnerable to command discipline and perhaps even expulsion from the the NYPD… And that was exactly why Amanda couldn’t let her do this.

“Detective Rollins…” Tucker gestured for her to go on.

Amanda licked her lips, her heart slamming up against her ribs, “I wasn’t manipulated, sir.” She said, quickly, “I entered into the arrangement of my own free will.”

“Arrangement.” Tucker repeated, his brows raising slightly.

“Yes.” Amanda breathed out, having to remind herself into inhale and exhale.

“So this began as…. Sexual favors?” His tone, although even, emitted with deep undercurrents of disbelief and shock. She didn’t blame him. If she were him, she wouldn’t believe it either, especially not from Olivia Benson.

“Not exactly.” Amanda said slowly. “I insisted on a romantic relationship…..”

“Captain Tucker, I’d like a chance to speak.” Olivia cut in, leaning forward.

“Can it, Lieutenant.” Tucker snapped with a deep frown. “You’re culpable either way.”

“I know that.” Olivia’s voice rose, one hand slamming down on the table. Amanda could see the look of panic in her eyes, and her heart fluttered lightly in her chest at even the idea of Olivia rushing to put her neck on the line for her. In the entire six months that they had been involved, it was perhaps the romantic thing that she’d ever done.

“Calm down, Lieutenant.” Tucker said, evenly. “You’re being suspiciously eager to railroad your own career here.”

Olivia sat back, her teeth working over her lower lip anxiously. “I’m only eager to tell the truth. She said, quietly.

“Fine, but I want to hear what Detective Rollins has to say.” He cast his strained gaze in Amanda’s direction. “Go on.”

Amanda drew in another deep breath before saying, “That’s all there is to it, Captain. We became involved. I wanted to continue the relationship, she didn’t… So I left the precinct. This is sexual misconduct at most.”

“Why are you doing this?” Olivia asked, lowly, her darkened gaze full of agony and questioning.

“Because you’re not ruining yourself for me!” Amanda snapped, blood rushing to her cheeks. “I wasn’t worth your time and I’m sure as hell not worth your life and livelihood!”

“Ladies, ladies!” Tucker held up a hand, appearing disturbed by their outburst. “This isn’t divorce court. This is Internal Affairs.”

“Fine.” Amanda gave a dramatic shrug. “Then I refuse to cooperate with this investigation.”

Tucker’s brows rose and stood from the table.

“Now, hold on just a minute.” He began.

“No, you’ve got my side of the story.” Amanda said, turning towards the door. “But I won’t say anything against her….”

“You’re unbelievable.” Olivia said, turning in her chair. “You asked me over and over again if I was ready to put our relationship of ahead of my career and you hated me because I wasn’t…. And now, you turn around and derail my attempts to take responsibility?”

“I finally accepted that it was never going to happen.” Amanda snapped, turning back towards Olivia. “I finally rose about the idea that I wasn’t good enough for you to see that you were just a selfish bitch!”

“Hold on, hold on..” Tucker shoved up from the table and rounded the table to come between them, holding up both hands. “This is not a goddamn therapist’s office either.”

“Selfish?” Olivia returned, ignoring Tucker’s attempts to break them up. “I have a son to take care of and a squad to lead and you wanted me put all of that on the line for this fucked up relationship. I have responsibilities that are more important that just our feelings.”

“And I was one of your responsibilities!” Amanda lurched against Tucker’s restraining arm, her blood boiling. “You made goddamn sure of that!”

“Calm down!” Tucker’s voice rose above her own, causing the room to fall silent.

Amanda and Olivia stared at each other, panting and flushed, and Amanda could decide if she wanted to slap her or kiss her. She was caught on the fine line of love and hate, both lustful and loathing of Olivia’s affections, and this moment, this confession was exploding every single capsule of self doubt inside of her. She’d finally accepted the fact that they’d never be together as she had once yearned for, and now Olivia decided to make this grand gesture of commitment. Whatever Amanda had thought she wanted before was crumbling at her feet, leaving her vulnerable and confused.

A voice in the back of her head whispered to her that if she had just given in to Olivia’s proclamations of love in that New Jersey hotel room, none of this would be happening. If she had let her heart have what it so desperately wanted, they would’ve never been miles apart when Duvall escaped, and they wouldn’t be here in IAB, confessing to moral and sexual corruption. Of all the mistakes she had made, this was by far the worst.

“If you need me again, call my rep.” She muttered to Tucker at last, before pulling away. She strode towards the door to make her escape. She couldn’t keep looking into the deep wells of Olivia’s sincere gaze or else she might fall. And once she fell, she might never find the ground again.

~~~~~

2 Days Later

The clock on Amanda’s bedside table read 1:53 pm when the sound of her ringtone jolted her from sleep. The cell buzzed across the surface of the table, jangling loudly, disorienting her.

She’d barely been able to fall asleep last night, even after two bottles of beer. She’d lain awake, her mind turning over and over. Without her job and her badge, she found herself drifting aimlessly through the days, barely able to drag herself up from the bed or the couch to perform basic tasks. She thought about Duvall, and the moments before she had shot him, trying to explain to herself exactly what had happened; but above all of that, Olivia’s confession to IAB replayed in her mind in the most. She could live with the flashbacks to the shooting, but she wasn’t sure she could live with what was happening between her and Olivia.

The phone buzzed once more and Amanda lifted her head from her pillow. She was lying on her stomach, her face half buried in the pillow and sheets. She threw a wandering hand over to the table and groped for the phone before picking up and rolling onto her back. She squinted her eyes against the LED screen and recognized the caller ID as that of her union rep.

She bit back the urge to answer the phone with a snarky attitude and settled for an irritated ‘hello’,

“Amanda, it’s Jen.”

Jen Salandez was a professional, middle aged woman who Amanda found to be smart and capable. Amanda trusted her advice, but she couldn’t seem to ever take it.

“Hi, what’s up?” Amanda asked.

A premonition was swirling in her stomach and she could only wonder what problem had arisen now. She wished that IAB would just make their decision. The not knowing of whether her career had seen its final days or not was breaking her down into a depressed state that she couldn’t claw out of.

“There’s been hiccup with your case.” Jen said.

“What do you mean?” Amanda asked, pushing herself up in the bed. Olivia’s confession rose up in the back of her mind again like a ghost that wouldn’t be cleansed from her thoughts.

“They’ve handed the case over to someone new.” Jen said. “Tucker is off the case.”

“What?” Amanda breathed. “Why?”

“He recused himself from the case.” Jen replied, “He cited a conflict of interest.”

“A conflict… of interest…?” Amanda repeated, her heart knocking in her chest, her pulse slowly rising. “What kind of conflict?” She demanded.

“They didn’t say.” Jen answered, “And I didn’t think it was appropriate to ask…”

“It’s not a conflict with me!” Amanda replied, her mind racing. “I’ve had nothing to do with Tucker but an investigation into my sister and my shooting her ex-boyfriend.”

“I know that.” Jen said, calmly. “The new IAB detective wants to re-interview you.”

“W-wait…” Amanda rubbed her fingers across her forehead. She could feel a headache arising and she couldn’t grab onto the racing thoughts that tumbled through her brain in order to sort them and make some sense out of this development.

“Amanda…” Jen said, firmly, “This isn’t a big deal. In fact, this might be better for us. Tucker may not have a conflict with you personally, but I sensed he had a hard-on for your job.”

“This can’t be right.” Amanda whispered.

She was hardly listening to what Jen was saying because her thoughts were spinning, dredging up theories and controversial attachments. The pieces of the puzzle were somewhere in the mix, waiting for her to put them together.

“Are you all right?” Jen asked, slowly.

“The last time I saw Tucker, he was talking to Liv.” Amanda said, her voice trembling. “He was appalled when she admitted to the sexual misconduct…. No, he was horrified. I could see it in his eyes.”

“What are you talking about?” Jen asked, insistently.

“I’m sorry, Jen, I’ll have to call you back.” Amanda hung up the phone and jumped out of the bed.

Her fingers were trembling as she grabbed her jeans from the floor where she’d thrown them the night before. She yanked them onto her legs and grabbed her phone again and began to flip through the contacts. She snatched a hoodie from the chair at her desk and slid it onto her arms as she left the bedroom.

The phone began to ring as she made it to the kitchen. She yanked the refrigerator door open and grabbed a beer from the shelf.

“Come on.” She muttered at the incessantly ringing phone. “Pick the fuck up.”

She propped the phone between her cheek and shoulder in order to use both hands to pop the beer open. She took a long, hard swig, forcing the burning liquid down her throat as the phone finally clicked.

“Benson.” Olivia’s voice cracked through the line.

Amanda’s breathing picked up into angry pants at the sound of her voice and she leaned on the table, pressing her eyes shut against the rage.

“Hello?” Olivia asked. “Amanda?”

“You….” Amanda began, gritting her teeth. “You... fucked Tucker?!”

Silence cut across the line, as loud and clear as any affirmative reply that Olivia could have given her. Long seconds ticked past and to Amanda they felt like neverending minutes.

“Answer me!” She snapped, gripping the cold bottle in one hand so tightly that her knuckles blanched white.

“It wasn’t serious…” Olivia’s even tone finally replied.

“Jesus fucking Christ, Olivia!” Amanda ground out, slamming the beer down on the table, attempting to release her anger. “First Elliot, then me, and now Tucker?”

She was met by silence once more and she could’ve only been angrier if Olivia had denied all of it.

“You destroyed my life because you said you couldn’t be with me and then you turn around and sleep with the fucking Internal Affairs dickwad psychopath?!” She demanded, feeling tears burning hotly and humiliatingly in her eyes. “You couldn’t commit to me so you spread your legs for some fucking suit with a penis?!”

She thought she heard Olivia release a trembling breath and she hoped to God that she was crying. She prayed that her venomous words burned acid across her beautiful eyes.

“I finally figured it out.” Amanda breathed, “Your sob story with your alcoholic mother and your rapist father fucked you up so bad that you don’t even know how to love someone! Then Elliot came along and ripped out the rest of your heart and now you break people’s hearts for the satisfaction of getting off. You’re a heartless, scheming, lying slut and I fucking hate you-”

The line clicked, suddenly, ending her violent tirade.

Dead silence buzzed in Amanda’s ear and she ripped the cellphone away from her cheek to stare at the screen. CALL ENDED stared back at her and Amanda growled, tossing the phone away.

“God damnit !” She screamed at the silent, lonely walls of her apartment before her voice broke down, tears shaking her entire body. She sank to the floor of the kitchen and hugged her knees to her chest. Her extremities trembled with anger and heartbreak and she whimpered into the void of nothingness that rose up to surround her, “I hate you…”