It's been two months since his sister's death, and Stone isn't exactly holding up well. He has finally abandoned the thought of having to find comfort in strangers' arms, but the drinking hasn't gone away, and it's always in there, crepping inside of him every day as some kind of predator waiting in the night for its pray. Stone doesn't really try to break the habit, and that's when it starts to affect his efficiency in his job. Now he's questioning everything all the time, and not exactly in a good way. He questions the victims, the facts; he is not willing to give the benefit of the doubt because there's always little details on the victims that remind him of Pam, and suddenly his attention is in the thought of her dying in front of his ocean eyes, and the only thing that he wants to do when that happens is to drown himself in a bottle of whiskey until he loses the grasp on reality. No one really knows about the drinking, no one except for Carisi, probably. He's the one that usually accompanies him when he feels the need to get a drink, and Carisi is always the first one to leave. He should have noticed already how fast Peter drinks, and how he repeats his round of drinks over and over again without having a single break, refusing to eat when Carisi suggests it so that his stomach is empty and the only thing inside of him is the alcohol. Peter doesn't expect anyone to notice, because he just seems on edge all the time but that doesn't give away the fact that he drinks until past midnight and then gets some insignificant hours of sleep and wakes up with a headache that doesn't go away until he drinks again, repeating that vicious circle. He finds something in the drink that no one can effectively give him, and that's oblivion. He gets lost on the bottle, he pours all his tears and sorrows in the alcohol and expects them to leave him alone at least for a few hours, while he enjoys the unconscious state the whiskey offers him. And he takes it gladly, and doesn't ask questions. There's nothing left for him in the world, and he's on his own. There's no one waiting for him at home, or someone that expects something from him. He's just living, breathing and following the world around him as if his own world hadn't completely stopped when he saw Pam die. He wonders if he should go back to Chicago, where everything was easier. Chicago brings some smiles to his face every now and then, but New York tastes bitter on his mouth and he hates the flavor. There's nothing but disgrace on New York for him, and he's getting more and more tired of it.
Olivia asks him if he's okay more times than he's comfortable with. She knows the answer, but still he never gives it to her. Peter refuses to say it out loud, so he just shakes his head and looks away, hoping she doesn't push too hard, and she never does. More than once she has scolded him for something he has said or done, and she just suggests him to take a break and clear his head. There's only one way to do that, he wants to answer whenever Olivia asks him to calm down, but he's too afraid to say it and prefers to keep his mouth shut. The Lieutenant is getting tired of his attitude, he's sure of that at least. The way she looks at him, almost as if she didn't trust him anymore. Did she ever trust him at all? He's failing her now. Did she often think to herself how things would be better if Barba was still with them, and if Stone was back in Chicago? He doesn't know the answer to any of those questions, so again, he drinks.
He doesn't have a favorite bar. He picks one randomly, preferably one that isn't too far away from his apartment. Carisi goes with him only when he's in the mood, which isn't that often. Maybe once or twice every two weeks. He drinks, watches the baseball game playing on the TV, and asks the bartender if he could change the channel whenever there's news that remind him of his job when he's supposed to be there in order to forget. He spends aproximmately two hours in the bar, and then decides to take a cab and go home where he drinks more from his own collection in front of the scattered paperwork placed on top of the glass table on his living room. He sleeps there sometimes. Too tired to get up and get a change of clothes, his exhausted and drunk body considering that the couch is the perfect place to get some nice rest, but he immediately regrets it when the morning comes and feels his neck and lower back resent the decision too.
He doesn't expect to stop soon, because he knows he'll stop only when he feels that it has gone too far. But he doesn't realize that indeed it has gone too far, and that he needs to wake up before it's too late for him. It's just a matter of time before he finally snaps, but he doesn't want to shed a tear anymore. Winning cases used to bring him joy, but the ones he has won in New York just feel wrong. He's glad he can make someone pay for his or her crimes, but at the end of the day it never feels like a victory. It's just...job. And he tries not to dwell too much on the feeling that assaults him when the jury gives the verdict, but it's almost impossible to completely ignore it and pretend it isn't over his shoulders, whispering things on his ear that he doesn't quite understand. He's sick of everything but he doesn't do anything about it. He stays where life and circumstances have placed him, and he refuses to move forward. He won't move, because he has nothing that could motivate him to start walking again.
Everything remains the same until one day he goes to the precinct to explain Olivia for the hundredth time why they can't proceed with the case they are working on. It's a she said, he said, and he already can feel the start of a long and tedious week. He walks out of the elevator, going through the hall and nodding towards Rollins and Carisi, but they are so busy with the case that they barely notice him going inside Olivia's office. She's standing in front of the window, listening to Fin interrogating the best friend's perpetrator with a furrowed brow. She seems deep in thought, and not wishing to scare her, Peter knocks on her door twice, gaining her attention.
"What is it now, Peter?" She asks, and she sounds tired. Stone doesn't like the way he's greeted, but he understands that these cases always get on their nerves.
"I came here looking for you to tell you that we can't proceed with the case. Apparently you suddenly can't answer a text," he doesn't expect to sound mad, but he feels angry. He feels agitated.
"I was busy, Counselor." Counselor, how formal. Peter hates it. "Why can't we proceed with the case? We have his DNA, witnesses, he doesn't have an alibi for that night. She already recognized him. What else do you need? Do you want me to interrogate him on the stand too?"
"But your victim was on drugs when everything happened, and she didn't even remember her name when you first went to see her to the hospital!"
"So what? She remembers the assault. She scratched him. She remembers his voice, what he said, how he was dressed, everything." Olivia is now facing him completely, and despite the fact that she is significantly shorter than him, she still looks as if they were the same height.
"But do you see on him any scratches? Right, I thought so. And they found another sample of semen in her, didn't they?" Peter is plain mad by then. His heart is beating fast against his ribcage, and his voice is getting louder and louder. He doesn't notice it, but the two detectives outside of the office do.
"They did, and she already told us that she had sex with someone that same day, five hours before the assault." Olivia is angry too, he can tell. She's irritated, and noticing that he knows he should stop, but something inside of him doesn't want to, so he doesn't.
"That 'someone' doesn't want to cooperate with us because he's married and has two daughters! He won't testify! So, yeah, I guess we are back in the beginning, Lieutenant, because I'm sorry, but I don't want to interrogate an unstable witness that is probably high in some dumpster right now, skipping classes while her parents look desperately for her! Of course, what an example for the jury!"
"You don't want to? Well, that's your job, counselor, this is not about what you want, this is about getting the job done to find justice for the victim!"
"Then maybe I don't want to do this job anymore!"
Everything goes silent then, and suddenly they are aware of their surroundings. Peter feels surprised by his own choice of words, but the thing that destroys him completely is the disappointment he sees in Olivia's eyes. She looks as if she didn't know what to say, and Peter only wants to run away from there. He feels exposed and vulnerable, and he hates the feeling. An apology starts to take form inside of him, and before he can actually say it, Olivia decides to speak first.
"Well, if that's the case then I suggest you leave this job immediately." And she turns around without anything else left to say, and joins Fin in interrogation one, closing the door behind her with more force than necessary. Peter remains silent and unmoving for what seems like an eternity, and he feels the emotional pain going through every part of his body like some kind of poison. He realizes what he has done, and knows that maybe he wasn't entirely wrong for having doubts about the case, but his actions and the things he said are a completely different story. He feels regret at the back of his throat, and it's in there where the need hides, the need to drown everything. He sighs deeply and feels mad with himself. Maybe Olivia is right. Maybe he should leave the job. He's no good for anyone in there, and no one would miss him if he chose to go. He leaves the office and his face is emotionless. He walks down the hallway and barely notices Carisi approaching him.
"Hey, Counselor, are you alright?" He asks, and his tone is polite. There's no judgement in his voice, and still Peter feels the necessity to be judged, attacked for what he said. He stops and looks at Carisi and Rollins.
"You heard everything, didn't you?" Amanda is the only one that nods, Sonny simply looks down. Peter offers them a sad smile, and then starts to walk again towards the elevator, now faster than before. Both detectives don't try to stop him, and he appreciates it.
He doesn't want to go to a bar that day. He just wants to be alone, because being surrounded by loud cheers and noisy talk is too much for him to handle right now, so he decides to get away from everything by finding solitude in his office. He tells Carmen to cancel his plans for the next three hours and proceeds to lock himself in the only room where he can actually feel safe. He goes to his desk, pulls out a bottle of whiskey and a glass, and pours the amber liquid inside of it, taking all the content in only single drink, proceeding to pour some more and drink it all again. He's not even mad anymore. He's just empty and broken. He feels the same way he felt when he was alone on that office after Pam's death. He could never get used to that feeling. He wishes he wouldn't feel that deeply.
He doesn't know what time it is, but he's already drunk and is now seriously considering leaving that same afternoon. He doesn't have a lot of stuff in there, it won't take much time to clean everything up. He wonders who will be the next one to occupy that office, but he prays for someone completely better than him. He's no one right now.
He jumps in his seat when someone knocks on his door four times, strong and insistent. He knows already that's not Carmen, but he suspects who is the one outside of his office. Peter smiles. He gets up from his seat, barely having the strength to keep himself in a standing position. He finishes his drink and starts to walk towards the door, feeling dizzy. Three more knocks attack his door when finally he opens it, revealing the person he was hoping to see. Lieutenant Olivia Benson, alive and breathing in front of him. She takes a look inside, sensing something is wrong.
"Peter, we need to talk." She concludes, and her words seem genuine. Peter nods slowly and moves aside, giving her space to enter his office and closing the door once she is completely inside. "Carmen looked worried."
"Well, she has every reason to be," Peter answers, and Olivia still doesn't notice the estate he's in. She looks around, the sense of familiarity sparkling in her eyes. He wonders how much that office means to her. After all it was Barba's office before. Did she miss him? Did she want him back? "What did you want to talk about?"
"About what happened, in my office. Listen, what I said— I didn't mean it, and I'm sorry for having said it. It was unprofessional and stupid, I admit it." Peter feels uncomfortable while listening to the apology because she isn't the one that should be apologizing. It's him. She was mad too, that's true, but she was mad because he made her feel that way, and everything she had said, he had deserved it. He knows that now.
"Olivia, you don't need to..."
"You've been drinking, right?" The question catches him off guard, and he flinches at the interruption. Stone feels glad that she finally notices it.
"Yes, I have."
"That's why you were here, locked up. Right?" Peter nods, and he's confused about where does she want to go with that question. "How long have you been drinking?"
"What time is it?"
"Then maybe one hour and a half." He answers genuinely, because there's no reason to be dishonest now. "What does this have to do with—"
"Carisi told me, Peter. I know." The way she speaks sends a shiver down his spine, and suddenly he wants to cry. Peter looks down, ashamed. He should have seen it coming. After Carisi saw their argument, he may have felt the necessity to explain it all to Olivia, something Peter himself couldn't do on his own. And that's why she is there. She isn't offering free apologies. She is there to do the thing she is the best at.
"I guess sooner than later you would have known anyways." Peter doesn't feel that drunk anymore. "It's me the one that owes you an apology. I've been acting like an asshole."
"Why didn't you tell me?" She looks offended, hurt. Peter hates the fact that he is the one making her feel that way once again.
"It's not something I'm proud of, Olivia," his voice is full of emotion. He doesn't want to cry, but his eyes are now bloodshot and she notices it. "I didn't want you to see me as someone who needed to be fixed, not again."
"Peter, there's nothing wrong in having to be fixed. We all have gone through all kinds of things, but it's not the end of everything you know. You are young, and there's—"
"There's what? There's a lot of things waiting for me out there? There's a lot of things left for me to do and see? Well, maybe I don't want any of that!" He wants to smash his hands on his desk, the wall, anywhere. Everything inside of him is buzzing, and he breathes heavily.
"No, Olivia! You don't understand. I don't want it. I wish I could borrow you some of your infinite hope, but it seems impossible now. You have done so much for me already." He lowers his voice, but only because he doesn't have the strength inside of him anymore. He's exhausted, and he sits at the edge of his desk, rubbing his face with both of his hands as if he was trying to rub off everything he is feeling. As expected, it doesn't work. He only feels more miserable than before. And even though he wants to be alone, he can't bring himself to ask Olivia to leave his office. It's painful to feel that useless.
"Then what do you expect to do? Keep yourself locked up in here and drink all day? Is that the life that you want, Peter? It's the only question I want you to answer me. When you decided to choose this job, was this the way you pictured your future?" Olivia looks as if she wanted to punch him, and he knows that he wouldn't complain if she decides to do it.
"No, it wasn't."
"Of course it wasn't! Then why do you do it?"
Olivia can't effectively hide the disappointment in her eyes. She seems tired, but still the intensity of her gaze is what makes Peter want to hide in himself and never go out again. He needs to wake up. He needs to accept the world he's living in before everything and everyone leaves him behind. The faith Olivia has on him is absurd, and still he finds comfort on it. Apparently there's still people out there that care for him and would hate to see him give up.
"But you all... you all are better off without me," he admits, full of agonizing sadness. Olivia arches an eyebrow at him, questioningly.
"What do you mean?"
"I'm just being a burden nowadays. I lose cases, I get irritated easily, I've disrespected you more times than I can remember. You all don't need me." He tries to explain himself, but he stumbles on his words. Olivia looks genuinely confused, but he doesn't want to talk again. He doesn't trust his voice, so he expects Olivia to talk for him.
"Hey, hey, no one is thinking like that. We are a team, of course we need you. You are part of our family now. Family will always be there to support you, no matter what, but we can't help you if you don't talk to us. This job... It's hard, I know. It's different from the rest, it's complicated, but it's not over yet, Peter."
"You are too good, too good for me," he won't lie to himself, he wants to hug her. He remembers the feeling of being in her arms that night, when he broke down for the first time. But he's embarrassed to ask for something like that, so he remains silent and unmoving. Olivia closes the distance between them, but she only places a hand on his shoulder.
"Peter, I know probably you don't want to talk about all of this anymore. Have you eaten?" Olivia asks with a soft and bright smile.
"No, I haven't."
"How about if we all go out to grab dinner after the job? To clear your head, distract yourself."
"Oh, I-I don't wanna be a bother to you," Olivia laughs happily, turning around to walk towards the door.
"You don't bother us, Peter. I'll call you later. Be ready." She warns him. "Now I'm gonna leave this door open, and you better throw away that bottle, alright? Or else, I will do it myself, got it?"
"Got it, Lieutenant," both share a small laugh, and then Olivia says goodbye, leaving him alone in his office one more time. Peter smiles, and with brief hesitation, puts the bottle in the trash.