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Amanda rubbed at her arms, trying to generate some sort of warmth. It was freezing out, and the clothes they’d had her wearing undercover weren’t cutting it, not after they’d made their collar and the adrenaline was seeping from her system.

“Nice work,” Carisi told her, and tossed her a balled up NYPD jacket. Of course he’d thought of it. He probably had band-aids and antibacterial spray on hand just in case she’d scraped herself up. Water and a light snack in the car. “You all right?”

She put on the jacket and ignored the question. As the only sub on the SVU squad, she’d probably been undercover more than everyone else combined, the first choice any time they needed to dangle someone as bait. Amanda didn’t complain, though; a sub police detective was enough of a novelty as it was. She may as well play to her strengths, and apparently her top strength in SVU was appearing to have “Please rape me” tattooed on her forehead.

“I’ll check in with the Lieutenant, then I’ll take you back home,” he told her, and she tamped down on the indignation that it wasn’t a question. Most of her irritation wasn’t at him, but at the lingering feeling of the perp’s hands on her body. That and the smirks she’d gotten from several of the officers who’d been part of the sting. She didn’t want to leave before she’d had a chance to do her job, the part of it that wasn’t letting perverts grope her while they collected enough evidence to pin them. She also didn’t want to go back home to Jesse until she’d had a chance to take a shower and change clothes.

Outside of that, the offer was tempting. She knew Carisi would stay, would cook a nice dinner, would play with Jesse so Amanda finally had some time to put some clothes in the wash. It was all too domestic, though, and she didn’t want to fall into that trap. She didn’t think he was trying to dom her, not exactly, but he probably couldn’t help it. The last time he’d come over, he’d put a hand on her shoulder and asked her whether she’d gotten enough to eat, and Amanda had almost been pushed down into subspace, until she had the presence of mind to make some excuse to retreat to the bathroom and recover.

Besides, what she really wanted was to go out and get wasted, since she’d booked the babysitter for the night, anyway.

“I just want to get back to the precinct and change,” she said, and Carisi took her at her word. She could find her own way to the bar.

The dom hit the floor with a satisfying thud. Amanda rode out the urge to kick him in the head, right in the mouth that had been spouting shit at her for the past ten minutes while she tried to ignore him.

The rest of the bar went dead, shocked at the sight of a sub dropping a dom twice her size. She saw their faces, spinning around her as the whiskey did its thing. She should probably get back to Jesse, but the room was moving too fast. The dom made his way to his feet and Amanda grabbed hold of the bar stool to keep from falling over before he even had a chance to knock her on her ass. Within seconds, a group of concerned citizens was holding the man back. Even in a dive like Amanda had chosen, they didn’t let doms beat on subs.

“Is there a dom we can call, sweetie?” one of them asked her, and she pushed away at their hands as they tried to settle her down into a chair. She could already tell where it was going.

She knew better than to speak for herself in court. Her main job was to look like a victim of circumstance. She stood silently and let the caseworker speak for her.

“Your honor, Ms. Rollins was defending herself. The dominant in question had been verbally harassing her for an extended period of time, then escalated to physical assault.”

“And at any point during this did she tell him to leave her alone, or was her first response to...” Judge Linden paused to check the file in front of her. “...punch the living daylights out of him?”

The caseworker pressed his lips together. “He had his hand up her shirt.”

“I imagine a sub alone and drunk in a bar like that would have made quite the target.” The judge took of her glasses and stared directly at Amanda. “Ms. Rollins, what in the world were you doing there alone in the middle of the night?”

“It’s not a crime to go to a bar alone,” Amanda replied, to the disapproval of both the judge and the caseworker. In the end, neither of them were on her side, though, no matter what they thought. Family court judges in these situations were mostly rubber stamps for whatever social services wanted, and an extra chance to run subs like Amanda through the ringer.

“No, it is not,” the judge agreed. “It’s also not very good judgement. This is not criminal court, Amanda. You’re here because we’re trying to determine what’s in the best interest of you and your family. Do you think it’s in the best interest of you and your family for you to be alone at a bar like that in the middle of the night?”

She ground her teeth together and breathed heavily through her nose. Of course it hadn’t gone to criminal court. The asshole wasn’t going to press charges, not when it would bring attention to the fact that he was taken out by a sub. If she’d been a dom, this whole thing would have ended when she’d knocked him out. The only reason she was stuck in court was that she was a sub who couldn’t be released into a dom’s custody. She’d seen Judge Linden before, and the woman had made it clear that she thought Amanda “would benefit from a more traditional family structure.” She’d also made a pointed comment about the justice system’s inability to provide the structure Amanda should be getting from a dom, words that still grated in Amanda’s ears.

“Ms. Rollins, answer the question. Do you think your behavior is in the best interest of your daughter?” the judge asked, and Amanda’s blood ran cold.

Amanda fingered her copy of the court order folded in her pocket. She hadn’t looked at it since she’d left the courthouse, but the contents were burned into her memory. Carisi was in the kitchen, oblivious to it all, letting her rest on the couch while he did whatever the hell took twenty minutes to do in the kitchen. He’d texted her after work, worried about the vague “appointment” that Amanda had needed to attend in the afternoon. It was easy to let him come into the apartment and just take over. She’d kept herself in a protective fog as he’d made dinner, gotten Jesse ready for bed, then packed up the leftovers and cleaned the kitchen. Amanda had managed to walk Frannie, but that was really just to give her the space to cry privately in the crowded anonymity of the New York streets.

She’d do anything for Jesse; she knew that. She just didn’t know what that ‘anything’ should be. Parts of the probation were straightforward: maintaining steady employment, alcohol restriction, regular meetings with the caseworker. It was the last requirement that had prompted her to down a quarter of her last bottle of Jack while Sonny read Good Night, Construction Site in the next room. She needed a dom who could “act in a supervisory capacity and ensure that the submissive maintains the conditions of the probation.”

The caseworker had acted like it was a win for Amanda, as if she’d been hoping for a dom her whole life, and could could finally reel one in with a court order that threatened the custody of her daughter. “I think this will be really good for you, Amanda,” he’d assured her, and Amanda had been a hair’s breadth away from violating her probation before she’d even left the courthouse.

The whiskey warmed and numbed her. She flitted through names as she drifted on its effects. Anyone from GA was obviously out. She had the people she knew through Jesse, but she didn’t want to risk Jesse losing friends over any of it, and most of the parents groups she’d been a part of were filled with gossips who obsessed and worried over dumb shit like how long a kid should have a pacifier. That left everyone at work, which is where she knew she’d be going for this eventually.

Amaro would have been perfect. He would have done it as a favor and let her do what she wanted, grumbling along with her at the overreach of the law. Fin would leave her alone at first, but she knew he’d take it out on her hide the first time she did something to risk the probation, and Amanda had no doubt that she would. She was already drinking, after all. Liv would be worse. Liv would make her go to therapy.

That left Sonny. She knew she’d land on his name eventually. He would do it for her, she was sure. She was also sure that he might be in love with her. The last thing she wanted was something real. She took another gulp of the whiskey and set it on the floor beside her. She wondered whether she could do it.

She heard him finishing up in the kitchen and shoved the bottle out of sight. Dizzy with the sudden movement, she steadied herself on the arm of the sofa and smiled as he entered the room.

“Thanks for helping out tonight.”

He still had a towel over his shoulder, and water was lightly spattered on the front of his shirt. “Yeah, it’s fun for me, you know? Seeing Jesse, spending time with you guys.”

“Sit down.” She indicated the cushion beside her, and he threw the towel on the coffee table before settling down with her.

“So, are we doing Netflix, or is something on?” he asked, reaching for the remote.

She put a hand on his arm and used the other to pull him toward her, peeking up at his expression. He was unsure of what was going on, but he leaned in at her cues. She tilted her head up and pressed her lips to his. It was so much easier with the alcohol coursing through her system, when she didn’t really care what happened to her, or what had happened to her in the past. Sommy responded carefully, then more actively as she opened her mouth to him. She leaned back and was pulling him on top of her when he grabbed the back of the sofa and broke the connection.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

He squinted down at her in confusion. “Have you been drinking?”

“Does it matter?” She met his stare, more than a little irritated that he’d pulled her out of the fog she’d escaped into.

“Yeah, it does. How did you get this drunk while I was cleaning the kitchen? And why?”

She scoffed and pulled the bottle from where she’d stashed it behind a throw pillow. “Gotta use it up. Help yourself.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He frowned and set the bottle on the coffee table, and Amanda pushed herself back up.

She pulled the court order from her pocket and handed it to him. He took his time unfolding it, then read it over at least three times, his brow furrowing more deeply with each pass.

“Amanda, this is serious. You’re on an alcohol restriction. You can’t be drinking at all.”

The whiskey was blunting her anger, and instead she just felt a passing annoyance at his concern. “You think they’re going to come test me at nine-thirty at night?”

“They could, and you could lose your job, lose Jesse-”

“I know how to fucking read, Carisi!” she snapped, snatching the paper back from him.

He responded to her outburst by taking a few calming breaths of his own. “Okay, so what are you going to do?”

She shrugged. “It’s been six hours. I’m sorry I don’t have some grand life plan worked out yet.”

“You mean other than drink all your alcohol?” he asked, and she tried to glare at him, but she didn’t have the energy for it and ended up dropping her head into her hands instead. He sighed. “Amanda, they want you to get married.”

“They can’t force me to get married. The advocate told me so.” She actually hadn’t believed the advocate, but it was a comforting thought.

Sonny carefully took the paper from her hands and looked it over again. “Yeah, but this ‘stable home life’ stuff, that’s what they mean. They want Jesse to have a dom in the house.”

It was all too much. Amanda started shaking and hot tears leaked through from where she was pressing the heels of her hands to her eyes. She just wanted to escape from everything, and the alcohol wasn’t enough. Sonny’s arms around her should have been comforting, but instead she imagined herself squirmed out, out of her own skin and flying somewhere nothing could touch her.

“It's going to be okay, Amanda. You’re going to be okay.”

His voice was impossibly close, and Amanda knew she was trapped right where she was.