“I almost killed him…”
The whisper was quiet, almost as if the other woman had spoken more to herself than anyone else. Her face was turned towards the window of the squad car, her bruised cheekbone hidden in tangled, unwashed strands of hair.
Amanda watched her, too shocked to say anything.
From her place in the backseat, next to Olivia she was as close to a victim as she'd ever been, but a part of mind did not want to accept that every moment between them here was a part of a criminal investigation in which Olivia was no longer a police officer. She wasn't a colleague, a partner, or a part of the NYPD. She was a victim.
Amanda felt a knot in her throat but she felt pretentious for wanting to cry. She wasn't the one who had spent four days in the hands of a rapist and serial killer. She wasn't the one who was forced to watch brutal torture and forced to choke down drink after drink to achieve compliance. She wasn't the one who had possibly been assaulted.
“You would've been more than justified.” Amanda murmured at last, her tone barely rising above a whisper.
Olivia didn't respond.
Her hands twisted in her lap. Her once perfect nails were broken, dirt and grime caked around them. Blood still speckled her arms, chest, and face. His blood.
Amanda wanted to reach out and grab her hand or hug her close, to assure her that everything would be all right, but she was afraid that Olivia wasn't ready to be touched and held.
She knew trauma. She knew the way she would involuntarily pull away, even years after she'd been raped. She knew the loneliness, and yet the utter disgust at human interaction. She knew the way she must hurt; and yet she could do nothing to help her. Not right now.
Olivia's breath shuddered, her brows furrowing at the scene of the beach house in front of them. She lifted one hand, slowly biting at one nail as her eyes glistened.
“We're going to get out of here soon.” Amanda said, pained at the sight of her obvious distress.
They'd spent days searching for her, but all of the fear and anxiety of the unknown could not culminate high enough to match her anger and horror now. Her stomach churned at the thought of what he'd done to her, what he was still doing to her mind.
“Let me see what's taking so long.” Amanda said at last, unable to stand the silence and Olivia's traumatized expression.
She shoved the door open and stepped out onto the beach. The wind from the sea whipped at her hair, carrying the smell of fresh water to her nose. She sucked it in deep, hoping to wash away the scent of sweat, blood, and alcohol.
She marched around the nose of the car, determined to whisk Olivia away from the scene, get her to the hospital and then to a shower. There were long hours ahead of them, but she wanted to stay with her through all of them.
She knew that at some point, Brian would show up. He would try to help with his gruff way and obtrusive attitude, and Amanda cringed at the thought. Even if Brian was Olivia's boyfriend, he wasn't necessarily the best person to be with her right now. He had zero comprehension of what Olivia was going through. She could take care of Olivia far better than Cassidy, the self-centered bastard.
Amanda found the uni who had offered them the backseat of her cruiser.
“Montoya!” She called out to the young officer.
“Yeah?” Montoya turned from rolling out yellow police tape.
“You think you could hand that off to someone else?” Amanda asked, brushing her flyaway hair back behind her ears. “I think we really need to get Benson to the hospital.”
“Sure, sure.” Montoya nodded, eager to be of some help.
Amanda smiled shortly and turned back towards the cruiser. Her smile fell quickly when she saw Olivia several yards from the cruiser, wandering across the sand.
The blanket they'd wrapped her in billowed behind her like some kind of drab cape, her hair rising and falling about her haunted expression. Her head was bent, but Amanda could see exactly where she was headed.
The ambulance was off to the side of the beach house, William Lewis’s barely conscious body inside. They were preparing to leave the scene but not soon enough.
Amanda's heart lurched into her throat at the mere yards that were now between Olivia and her psychotic attacker. For a moment, she was frozen in shock that Olivia was heading straight in the direction of the man she had just escaped before she broke into a jog.
“Olivia!” Amanda called out, her boots pushing into uneven, shifting sand as she ran towards the ever closing gap between Olivia and Lewis.
Olivia barely acknowledged her, her hunched figure determinedly trudging towards the ambulance. Even at this distance, Amanda could see the way her eyes danced with pain from her sullen visage.
“Olivia, wait.” Amanda panted, her heart racing as she reached her.
She darted in front of her, forcing her to a swaying halt.
Her eyes lifted, the blackness of her pupils swallowing Amanda in a dark emptiness that sucked the air straight from her lungs. Her heart squeezed in her chest at the sight of her ashen face and lifeless gaze, as if all she had ever known was this grotesque, torturous existence.
“What are you doing, honey?” She whispered, reaching out to gingerly touch her arms.
Her fingers trembled with the urge to protect her, only stilling when her palms settled over Olivia's flesh.
Olivia flinched ever so slightly, finally blinking. Her gaze locked slowly onto Amanda's, pulling away from what seemed like another dimension.
“I wanted to make sure he was in the ambulance.” She whispered, her voice unnaturally low and raspy. She swallowed thickly before saying haltingly, “Restrained.”
“You don't need to do that.” Amanda said, squeezing her arms softly. “He's not going to hurt anyone anymore...especially not you, okay?”
Olivia barely nodded, her gaze stretching past Amanda as the ambulance began to pull away with a scream of sirens.
“Hey.” She whispered, ducking into Olivia's line of sight. “He's not going anywhere but to prison.”
Olivia's brows furrowed slightly and she finally looked back at Amanda, a veil falling over her dark eyes to mask the terror that still lingered in her gaze.
“I'm sorry. You're right.” She muttered, frowning and shaking her head.
“It's okay.” Amanda said, her heart calming as the other woman returned to safety.
She cast a glance back towards the retreating ambulance before she pulled Olivia close to her with one arm around his waist.
“Come on.” Amanda urged, tugging her in the direction of the cruiser. “Officer Montoya is going to take us to the hospital.”
Olivia followed her lead slowly, her legs trembling with each step. Amanda cast a few short glances at her profile as they walked, her heart racing sickly at the lost look in her eyes.
She was in shock, most likely still inebriated, and it hurt even more to know that when those things wore off, something even worse would come, something not so easy to pull her away from.
The soft beep of machines pulled her from sleep, immediately followed by a dull throb in her skull.
Olivia moaned quietly, becoming aware of the smallest details - the dryness of her mouth, the ache in each limb, the smoothness of sheets against her bare legs, right down to the medicinal smell filling her nostrils.
For a half a second, the world was blank. One merciful moment of nothing.
Olivia jarred upright in the bed, gasping.
Panic was quick to explode in her chest, although a part of her brain logically tried to reason that a hospital was a safe place. She remembered arriving here, but it was like an old, degraded film playing in her mind. Not her real life…
A tug at her arm alerted her of the IV attached to the inside of her elbow and she tried to gather her breath and her racing thoughts as she deduced that it was simply hydrating her rather than keeping her alive.
Glancing at her other arm, she found it wrapped in a brace. She hadn't enough noticed an injury to her arm when she'd been beating Lewis, but now as she stretched out her fingers, she could feel the ache, causing her to gasp softly.
“Hey, it's okay.” Brian's voice drew her attention and she felt his hand touch her arm.
She jarred away, her eyes darting to him quickly. Her heart was still racing and something about the way his hand clasped her brought a feeling of claustrophobia clouding through her chest.
She had thought she would be happy to see him after four days of isolation with Lewis, barely surviving, but now the way he crowded in close to her with groping hands made her skin crawl.
After days under the influence of alcohol, the sudden clarity of thoughts and feelings was disturbingly sharp and as the memories set in, a part of her wondered if she might've preferred to not have woken up sober.
“I'm sorry.” Brian murmured, standing from the chair next to the bed.
“It's fine.” She whispered, staring down at the stark white sheets.
She couldn't meet the grey-blue of his eyes. She could hardly stand the sensation of him looking at her with concern and inquiry. She felt sick at the thought of him asking what had been done to her, what details he might want to wrench from the recesses of her mind.
Clutching her stomach with her uninjured hand, she glanced frantically about the small, dim room.
“Where's Amanda?” The question rose to her lips without her remembering forming the thought.
She remembered the younger detective taking her to the squad car, away from the gruesome scene of the beach house. She remembered her quiet assurance, the way her fingers seemed to ask before touching.
“I'm not sure.” Brian began, his brow furrowing.
“Find her.” Olivia whispered again, a thick knot of tears in her throat. She grasped his arm, meeting his eyes for half a second. “Please…”
He took half a step back, his eyes full of confusion.
“Liv, I'm here.” He finally said, lifting a hand to touch her arm.
His fingers were calloused, gripping her bare flesh too firmly and she jerked away again, tears rising in her eyes.
“Where's Amanda?” She repeated, clenching her teeth against emotion and her hands into fists. Another sharp pain cut through her arm at the action, causing tears to prick her eyes even more sharply.
She could feel her entire body trembling and she grabbed onto the edge of the mattress, squeezing her eyes shut. Images slashed across the black landscape of her vision, jarring her with memories of blood, screams, and the smell of burning flesh. She moaned, releasing the sheets to grasp her pounding forehead.
“No….no….” She moaned, smacking one fist against her temple.
Get out of my head. Get out of my fucking head.
“Liv, Liv, stop!” Brian's voice barely cut through the flashbacks.
Each one hit her like a shard of glass, slicing across her freshly awoken flesh.
She felt Brian grab her arm, trying to wrest her hand away from her head, but the motion triggered an entirely new set of memories.
“Come on, you liked it….Just admit you're getting off on this as much as I am.”
Lewis's voice chortled through her mind like a demented jester, rattling against her throbbing temples. She knew what happened next and, god, how she wanted to look away but her mind wouldn't let her.
He was going to kill her...Hang her in the closet…
A scream pierced the thick layer of her subconscious and she gasped, realizing it was her own voice...Not something out of her imagination…
“Liv…?” Brian's voice struck her ears and she opened her eyes slowly.
She was lying back on the bed and Brian was leaning over her, his fingers clenched tight about her flailing arm.
“Bri….?” She mumbled, panting against encroaching tears.
She felt weakened by her outburst, her brain throbbing, but her heart wouldn't stop racing.
“It's okay.” He murmured, though a horror lay deep in his eyes at her sudden loss of control.
“I...I'm sorry…” She choked out in a raspy whisper, turning her head away from him to hide her face from the way he looked at her, as if she were a stranger, and he, only a good Samaritan.
“It's okay.” He repeated, barely hiding the rigid shock which bled into his tone.
He leaned down and she felt his breath across her temple before the brush of his lips and the scrape of his facial hair. He was tender and gentle despite his uncertainty, but even this kind gesture seemed to humiliate her further. She wrenched her face more sharply away from him, trying to swallow back the tears.
“Amanda…” She whispered, “Please find Amanda…”
He sighed softly, but drew away from her. She almost expected some kind of argument from him but in the next moment she felt his presence fade from the room, followed by the sound of the door shutting. A sense of overwhelming relief washed over her, punctuated by the sting of tears in her eyes.
She rolled onto her side, pressing her eyes shut against the hot flood of tears throbbing against her lids. She grabbed at the sheets, yanking them up against her throat.
She felt naked and violated by the way her mind had just taken over her body, and the fact that Brian had seen it only made it worse. It wasn't his fault but he was never going to understand, and right now she wasn't even sure she wanted him to.
Recovery wasn't at all what she had expected, even after years of trying to understand victims of violent and sexual crimes. She'd even dealt with being assaulted before, but after being so close to death, she felt as if she was still hanging off the edge of a cliff, clawing and fighting to survive. Trying to live seemed harder than just letting go.