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Fall Away

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He was well equipped to deal with rejection. He could very well deal with a simple no, or a gesture of refusal, unlike the people it was his job to investigate. It always hurt, definitely, but Carisi was able to walk away, content to try and sleep his wounded heart out of mind.

However, the one thing he couldn’t deal with had reared its ugly head that morning. He’d paused outside, feeling the cool of the air biting his nose, chilling his breath. He had watched the careless coattails of the bartender from the night before glide out of Amanda’s room, an alluring, warm smile on his face, eyes crinkling. Sharing that same expression Rollins owned as she leaned on the doorway, wearing a loose blouse, hair messy and necklace crooked.

Carisi felt his already injured heart crumble apart at the seams, the pieces trickling down deep into his stomach, cold flashes not linked to the weather rushing over his person like ocean waves. He swallowed and cleared his throat, watching her sea blue gaze follow the man as he entered his car, an enchanting, teasing bite on her lip. His grip on the drinks he’d brought for the two of them loosened, and he’d almost dropped them.

The motel door clicked shut and the bartender’s car started up with a hum. The empty space where his love had once burned brightly smoked like watered down embers, hope extinguished and remorselessly smothered. He took his eyes off his partner, ducking his head and managing to turn, to leave. He felt weighed down and heavy, his eyes beginning to glisten. He was better than this--than crying. He needed to do something to dull the bitterness, the sick feeling settled in his stomach, to quell this dissonant betrayal and be capable to do his job and forget about this dispute. So, that meant he had to find a way to drown his sorrows.

Thank god they had an extra day here.

 

 

The burn of whiskey was good at muddling swirling, conflicting emotions, each shot sweeping up dusty pieces of hurt and woe. He flexed his hands around the glass, arm laying limp against the marble counter of the bar, before bringing it back up to his lips. As it emptied, it burned like fire, but he was used to the sting, the acrid but addictive taste. He wanted it. Drowning himself in scotch was much better than any alternatives, better than falling back to his teen habits and doing regrettable things.

Swallowing thickly and adjusting the cuffs on his shirt, Carisi sighed. Another glass slid across the counter-top and into view, so he slipped a bill on the table, money being quickly snatched away. His back ached for him to sit up but he really didn’t want to do anything but sip at the caramel liquid swirling around in the mug beneath him. Having woken up with a hangover, he was already equally if not more wasted than last night, and despite the ever-present aching in his heart, he had to bring that girl in tomorrow--arriving tired and drunk wouldn’t sit well with Amanda, who expected him to drive four hours to New York. He didn’t want to fight with her, piss her off, or make her feel bad, even though he yearned to be bitter. He didn’t want distance, but he knew that’s what they needed--what he needed.

So, downing the glass, he peeled himself from the counter-top, setting the cup down and motioning to the bartender, mumbling thanks. It wasn’t the same guy, and distantly he frowned at the realization that the guy from before was probably with Amanda right now. Already discouraged, he got to his feet, and an odd flash of vertigo ran over him, nausea digging uneasily at his stomach. He caught himself on the side of a smooth table as the world lurched, legs wobbly, unstable.

I might’ve had one too many.

He caught the sound of a couple men laughing when his knee jammed against a chair, near tripping himself due to his drunken clumsiness. Embarrassment rose to his face and he blamed his gangly limbs, reaching the door with a scowl, face hot with shame at his weak nudge to get it open. He reached out to try again and flinched when a tough, tanned arm flew in from his peripherals, beating him to it. He caught the door before it could swing shut in Carisi’s face.

He curled his fingers around the door’s metal handle and shook his head, refusing to face this dick, knowing he only wanted to get a kick out of him “I got it,” he uttered indignantly, internally cringing at the slur of his own words. He pulled it open wide enough to walk through, but regretfully not without the help of the newcomer, whose shoes he could hear slapping on the wet concrete, trailing only a few feet behind him. A distant sense of nervousness crept into his mind and he attempted to quicken his stride, but the hasten only worsened his steadiness. Before he knew it, that push to walk faster had called another horrible, oppressive wave of nausea to take over his person, and he bent over as pins and needles filled his legs and numbed his knees. He reached out for the wall, but moved too late. His feet tripped over each other and the pavement rushed up to meet his face.

He groaned against the concrete, clenching his eyes shut as the pain from the impact caught up with him, a rough stabbing from the right side of his skull. exhaling sharply, he rolled over, pushing his palms against the ground. He tried to pull himself up, but his muscles only spasmed and gave out, feeling weak and disconnected, like after you got a shot.

Though he was now relatively panicked, his heart did not correlate. It stayed sluggish, slow, just as loud as the blood rushing passed his ears.

“You sure you still got it?” came a rough, southern voice, footsteps creeping closer, the noise heightening until dirty checkered shoes found their way into his gaze. At the sight, his stomach tightened and pulled and something terribly warm rushed up his throat, rusty liquid sputtering from his lips, dappling those black and white shoes brown. He gagged, his vision going blurry, unable to make out the face of the person who grabbed him by the shoulder and lugged his non-responsive body off the path. He tried to move, to push the guy off him and stagger to his car, but he could feel the sensation leaving his limbs, only managing to weakly hit at the man’s torso. He felt the same strong grasp loop itself under his arms, holding him up, a chuckle building in the body pressed up against his back.

“He’s a fighter, isn’t he?”

“Le’ me go,” he implored, the words instinctual. “I ain’t-- I’m not good.”

I’m not good for this.

The man laughed again, sharp and loud and right in Carisi’s ear. “Oh boy, nah, you’re definitely good,” he argued, dragging his hand along the smooth fabric clinging to the detective’s side. They were moving now, the heels of his feet dragging along pavement, before dropping off onto the black top. The lights of the bar were distant, and he worriedly wondered where he’d been carried to. “Why do you think I chose you?”

“Please,” he grinded out, head lolling lamely against the man’s chest. The burn of the whiskey seemed to be spreading throughout his body, tingling and hot, like he was on fire. He heard a car door pop open and though still slow, his heart skipped a beat, the man jostling his lame body into the backseat. He writhed against the leather, parting his lips, trying to breathe. “I don’t- I don’t wanna-”

A body climbed roughly atop his, the weight heavy against his pelvis. Gnarled hands made their way under his vest, stroking each button and pulling it free, one by one. Carisi struggled senselessly, shivering, sweat rolling down his back. “Please, le’ me go.”

He knew now that he’d been drugged, that time was slowly ticking away until he wouldn’t be able to move at all, until he was locked in a hostile stranger’s car with no way of calling for help.

“Wh- what’s your name?” he asked with a tone of desperation, trying not to think about what he might use that information for. He moved his hand, reaching upward, grabbing for the man’s hair, to feel it, to see it. Once his fingers touched and his eyes wondered, however, his fingers were laying back against the seat, a resounding crack reverberating around the interior of the car.

I ask the questions,” the man growled, getting nice and close to Carisi’s face. His eyes were hazel with thin strips of amber, hungry and exhibiting a manic glint. “I bet you can’t even feel that, can you?”

“Wh-” he started, but his attacker’s hand secured itself around his neck, squeezing. Carisi squirmed but the struggle was useless, the man forcibly tilting his head to the side.

His eyes widened. His wrist. It looked sprained, maybe even broken, red and swelling. The guy was right--he couldn’t feel it, not at all, not yet.

His breathing quickened, out-matching the slow pace of his heart, and the hand released. He sucked in air greedily, knowing he was losing sensation, tongue numb and tasting like cotton.

“Why are you doing this?” His last chance, a desperate grasp for information. If this was truly it, he didn’t want to die begging.

His attacker leaned down, and Carisi tried to buck, but still those chapped lips pressed against his own in a rough kiss. A foreign, wet object pushed into his mouth, raw and shameless. He groaned against the strain, back struggling to arch, to resist against what was happening, but he was unable to stop it. He hated this--he hated the foul-tasting slime being merged with his saliva, the touch on his shoulders, clutching at his half-unbuttoned clothes. How those hands worked quick to pull fabric off, grasping at random, aiming to rip and tear.

Carisi breathed gratingly through his nose before his mouth was freed. He gasped, eyelids fluttering, making out the deep hazel within the blur.

“You taste so good,” the man hummed, his wide, charming grin obscured by the rapidly duplicating black dots in his vision. “I knew you would.”

 

 

The morning sun filtered through the yellowing shades over the window, shining speckles of light along the dirty gray carpet. Among the odd stains and dirty footprints, there laid a dappling of large, crimson mottles, tinted maroon by the dull darkness of the motel’s atmosphere. Towels and sheets were haphazardly strewn about, draped over the bed rail, sitting on the nightstand and hanging off the bathroom’s door handle, a bloody handprint embellished clumsily onto the golden knob and red fingerprints trailing across the white finish. Each fabric had been originally pale, but found itself newly discolored due to a dark, rusty influence. Even the sheets were covered in blotches, especially the ones curled up around the shivering body of Detective Dominick Carisi, half naked and thoroughly unconscious, clothes tattered and dirty.

A bird tweeted kindly from somewhere outside, loud and sweet enough to be heard through the thin walls, even this late in the season. But the soft chirping was quickly interrupted by a terse, sharp rapping of knuckles against the front door, disrupting the room’s static, lifeless hold on its occupant. A moan drifted through the air, and the mess of bloody sheets and blankets shifted, eyes fluttering open and focusing on the opaque ceiling above.

He saw checkered shoes.

The knocking sounded again, louder and more urgent this time, ringing throughout the room and driving nails into an already aching head. Carisi moved to grasp the side of the mattress, to pull himself off the bed, but cringed back at a sensation akin to a knife stabbing into his forearm. He stared, perturbed, at his swollen wrist, as if remembering a dream. The mottled dark blotches were worrying, to say the least.

“Carisi?” Amanda’s voice greeted from outside, knocking once more, rousing him from his stupor. He sat up, groggy, listening. “Hello?”

As reality set in, an overwhelming sensation of pain returned to his body, mingling with the after effects of the drugs and alcohol still present in his system. They weren’t helping anymore. He was sitting and it hurt, the realization sending uneasy needles into his spine.

Bile spattered over the pavement, soaking into coarse, patterned fabric.

He parted his lips and felt his voice crack before any words could even come out, a rattling cough forcing its way from his lungs. He covered his mouth and felt his hand shake, Amanda’s knocking becoming more persistent, worry creeping into her tone.

“Comin’,” he gritted out, hoping it was loud enough for his partner to hear. “Just give me a minute.”

Forcing the covers away and pushing himself off the bed, he got to his feet. The pressure was immense at first, but this time he was able to catch the wall, keeping himself upright, holding his breath.

You’re okay. It’s fine.

He stumbled numbly towards the bathroom, reaching out and holding onto anything he could to keep him afloat. The corner, the bloody doorknob. Distastefully, he rubbed his palm against it, smudging the stain until it was no longer visible.

The bathroom was thankfully clean, save for a first aid kit sitting torn apart in the sink, along with a smooth smear of crimson across the porcelain surface. He grabbed the kit and tucked it back from where he’d found it, before turning to face the mirror.

His chest tightened at the sight of his face. He didn’t remember much of last night, when he arrived here, staggering into the place with blood dripping down his legs and his brain aching, fluid oozing from two gashes across his back. He had barely been able to see, to distinguish the shapes in front of him, and it was a miracle he was lucid enough to contort his body until he was able to reach it and sloppily stitch it. But, through all of that, he didn’t exactly remember seeing himself, having never reviewed the facial damage in favor of taking care of his body.

There was a distinct cut in his lip, the slit dark, almost black. The right side of his jaw was bruised and colored a muddy purple, the same color trickling along his cheekbone on the opposite side. His fingertips ghosted across the warm skin, tracing the outline, feeling how inflamed, how hot it was. There was a knick near his eyebrow and the skin around his eye was reddened, the lid thankfully not swollen over or bruising. Blood trailed down from his temple, the ugliest violet peeking just from underneath his messy hair. He rinsed his hand under the faucet and carefully washed it away. Even then, the way his hair swept over his forehead made him feel much too young, vulnerable.

He couldn’t imagine how his body looked. He didn’t want to see the wounds again--more so, he didn’t want to be naked again, but what he had on was ruined and he had to get into something new. With his face looking like this, he would do anything to avoid seeing the extent of his bodily injuries. He already felt them stirring, the wrong, terrible pain in his hips, the intense stinging of his shoulder blades and aching of his chest. Quickly, he went over ways to avoid it; maybe closing his eyes like an insecure school girl, or just keeping his gaze locked on a wall, relying on muscle memory to do everything right.

Crisp knocking interrupted Carisi’s thoughts and he jumped, swearing as a pang ripped up his legs from the jostled movement. “Hold on,” he shouted, agitated, gripping the sink’s edge and tightening until his bloodied knuckles were white.

He received no verbal response, but he swore he could hear Rollins let out an exasperated sigh, like she was tired of him. The cold, bitter feeling from the night before ate back at his chest, and he shook his head, heart squeezing.

She would never love him. No one would. He’d gone to mourn and instead of solace he’d gotten- gotten r- ra-

He pounded a fist against the porcelain, feeling a few of the scabs adorning his knuckles reopen at the action. He brought the hand up to his chest immediately afterward and swore distantly, realizing how loud that must’ve been. Somewhere in there he heard Amanda speak, but his ears were ringing and he couldn’t register what she said.

“I’m- I’m fine,” he replied aimlessly, an irritated growl on his lips. “Dropped something. I’ll be right out.” He refused to look back at the mirror and instead chose to hurry out of the bathroom, trying to hide the rampant discomfort on his face at each step, despite his obvious limp.

He got undressed with his gaze averted and shoved the bloodied left over clothing into his bag. Thank god he’d brought a spare dress set, and hadn’t fallen prey to Amanda’s soft teasing about how they only needed civvies. He swiftly layered the new, tight fitting suit over his battered body, swallowing winces, even as he bent his legs and struggled to put on his shoes. Afterward, he hastily kicked the sheets and stained blankets underneath the bed, hiding any and all evidence that could be linked to what had happened. It’s not like he’d killed anyone, or even committed a crime. There were no legal consequences for wishing to keep your privacy--he only pitied the poor people that would clean this room after he left. He wished he could tip them, but he couldn’t do that without drawing suspicion.

He slung the loose strapped bag over his shoulder, reading the clock on the wall for the time. He wasn’t too late. They’d planned to leave at 9:00am, and it was already 11, but that wasn’t too bad. He’d expected worse, having only gotten back to his room at witching hour. He hadn’t gotten much sleep, but then again it was better than none. Besides, he had a job to do, Heather Parcell had caused a woman’s assault and she needed to be brought to justice, sooner than later. She’d gotten a day to find care for her mother, but it was time. How he felt didn’t matter, especially not now.

He made his way to the door, anxiety squirming restlessly beneath his skin. He placed his hand on the handle and tried to ignore the shock of the cold metal, turning and pulling it towards him. Outside, it was shining. The birdsong from earlier was gone but the sun rained down from above, melting any ice that tried to accumulate the night previous. Still chilly and crisp, it was cold enough that Amanda’s confused gasp turned solid for a few moments, before the mist drifted away into the atmosphere.

Carisi wordlessly walked passed her, tucking his hands into his pockets and squinting against the sunny rays, walking slow so the limp wasn’t as noticeable as it was otherwise. He heard her shoes clack against the pavement in retaliation, coming up quick behind him, the noise releasing paranoid chills down his back, sending his heart off into a frenzy.

He exhaled as only Rollins caught up with him, her blonde hair bouncing on her shoulders. You’re fine, he repeated to himself to stay grounded, to keep his mind from focusing on other distinct images and sounds.

Sonny,” Amanda breathed, her voice intense and stance stiff. Carisi paused, keeping his eyes forward, despite the pang in his chest that tone had earned. “What- what happened?”

“Nothing,” he said back without thought, unable to help the gruffness in his voice. He flexed his hands by his sides, picking at the skin around his fingernail with his thumb. He motioned forward, where he already saw the car parked, their young convict sitting idle in the back. “Come on, we need to get her to Manhattan before Liv thinks we’re takin’ another vacation day.” The slur was only slightly present, easily dismissable as an after effect of sleep, not a drug’s lasting hold on his tongue. He continued to walk, momentarily leaving Amanda standing frozen in her spot, but of course the blonde was back by his side before he could blink. She reached out for his arm, wrapping her thin fingers around the flesh tightly.

He was unable to suppress the reaction to a stab ripping up the artery of his forearm, rippling like sudden burns throughout his bone. A quick, pained noise escaped his mouth and he ripped out of her grasp, holding the hand closer to his body than he had been previously.

“Liv’s not gonna care about vacation days once she sees you like this,” Amanda argued, her eyes trained on the dull bruising peeking out from the cuff on his shirt. “I couldn’t get a hold of you all yesterday, Carisi, or find you anywhere, and then you just show up in the morning, beat to hell?”

Carisi blinked, nervous. “I didn’t just show up,” he blurted, defensive. “I was here, sleeping, like you usually do while staying overnight for a job.” the jab was vague and mostly unintentional, but the subtle clench of Amanda’s teeth sent guilty satisfaction rushing through his veins. One small victory that he happily latched onto.

“Yeah?” she remarked, her expression morphing from worry to agitation quicker than the concern had formed. “What were you doing before that, huh?”

Before that.

What was he doing before that?

He’d thought it was raining. His clothes were damp and liquid tapped quickly against the path underneath him, like droplets falling against the pavement. He felt his ankle give out on him but blamed it on a slippery street, even as he tumbled toward the ground, the dry, dusty ground, concrete cold and untouched. It wasn’t raining.

His clothes were still wet. Liquid pooled underneath his body but he lied there, listening to the sound of distant passing cars, his quick, sporadic breathing, the gross sniffling and disgruntled sobs shaking his chest. He heard the slapping of shoes on pavement and he clenched his eyes shut, the tears multiplying as he felt the familiar press of his own service weapon up against the back of his skull. Like Tom Cole all over again, but much, much worse.

There was that laugh, the one he’d grown accustomed to in the past few hours. Then, the voice, that sickening southern drawl.

“Get up,” he commanded, kicking the back of Carisi’s pants, eliciting a cry from the detective. When he complied, lugging his own heaving body from the cement, the man scoffed, almost sounding offended. “Wow, you sure ain’t a fighter anymore.”

Clearing his throat, Carisi shoved trembling fingers into the pockets of his dress pants, letting his thumbs hang out loosely in an attempt to look calm. “Nothing,” he repeated, nodding his head and avoiding Amanda’s eyes.

She refused to let it go. “Then where’d that come from?” Rollins berated, crossing her arms and gesturing vaguely at the injuries to his face.

“Nowhere,” he said, again, flashing her a stubborn, bittersweet smile, before taking off toward the car, limping unsteadily and feeling eyes on his back the whole time.

 

 

The soft vibrating of the car under his feet and familiarity of the wheel sang to him like a mother’s lullaby. His eyes stayed trained on the road ahead of them, slightly overwrought at the idea of being at all drunk or high while in the front seat of a vehicle. Even if it was basically out of his system, any chance of harming Rollins in any way made him squirm.

The blonde resided in the seat beside his, and from his last glance he was sure she was talking to somebody, stubbornly engrossed in the text on the bright screen. He knew she wouldn’t be so quiet at any other time, and he felt her eyes grace his face every once in awhile, the darkening bruises growing rapid on his injured wrist. The presence of their passenger sitting slumped in the backseat had taken away any possibilities of discussing those things over the four hour drive. He was sure Amanda did not want Ms. Parcell to be privy of her partner’s weakness, in case the woman would try and use it against them. He doubted she would- the kid was no threat in the waking world, without the power of a fake face and an online shield. He was unsure exactly how long it had been, sitting in this sordid silence, but he knew they were a little over halfway, over two hours gone by. The sun the sky had disappeared behind dense grey clouds, showing signs of either rain or snow, but due to the risen temperature it would most likely be the former.

He’d thought it was raining. It wasn’t.

Clearing his throat, Carisi moved his good hand off the wheel, running his across the bridge of his nose, a habit. He adjusted his posture in the seat and reached forward, returning to normal. Or, apparently not, because heard the shuffling of clothing to his right and Amanda sighed, setting her phone on the console with a dull clank.

“She’s asleep,” Rollins informed, and Carisi felt any hope he harbored dissipate. He nodded, squeezing the leather of the wheel.

“Well, she’s goin’ on trial soon,” he spoke, blinking the blurriness out of this eyes. “Better to be well rested.”

God, how he wanted to sleep. It was a miracle he hadn’t already succumbed to the heaviness of his eyelids.

“So,” Amanda started, her voice settling on that same edge from before, a sigh escaping her lips. “You gonna tell me anything, even give me an excuse?”

“I fell,” Carisi blurted sarcastically, thinking of the stupidest and easiest to disprove excuse in the book, habitually trying to lighten the mood.

Instead of that soft laugh Rollins made that sent heat rising to his face, he was rudely greeted with another annoyed scoff. “A bullshit excuse, then,” she grumbled, and Carisi’s heart sank, like it always did when Amanda was upset.

He only remembered bits and pieces, the only things completely clear being the beginning and the very end. Whenever he thought about it, more details tended to pop up, uninvited and unwanted, slipping through undefined gaps in the carefully constructed walls of his mind. He would try to avoid that because obviously, he didn’t want to remember anything else, and secondly, he was driving, and self-victimization wasn’t going to do very well for his lucidity.

No, he wasn’t a victim. It was just a mistake that he would make sure to avoid in the future.

“It’s-” Carisi started, voice catching in his throat as he struggled to find a better way to put it. “It’s really not your business, Amanda,” he mumbled, trying not to sound spiteful. “Just something personal between me and- and a friend.”

“I don’t think friends do that to each other,” he cringed at the harshness in her voice, and he shook his head, taking a turn onto a highway edged with woodland. There a pause, and for a moment he was sure they’d leave it at that, a hanging statement for the rest of the ride. Of course, though, that’s not what happened.

There was movement to his right and he felt a press to his wrist, before Rollins’ soft voice cut through the air. “Where’s your watch?”

Fingers trailed restlessly down his wet bare back, heavy breathing to his ear. He’d given up on trying to move, instead allowing his eyes to read over the words imprinted into the buttons on the door. Window, lock, window, lock. The sweep of the up-down switch and the soft edges of a plain red sticker, almost peeled away.

“Oh, what’s this?” his attacker purred, hands licking from his spine to his shoulder, running down his arm. His wrist was elevated, limp fingers dangling down, unfeeling. His watch was unlatched and pulled away, hand thumping back against the soft car seats. He stifled a groan. “An apple watch, hmm? You fancy and a cop, huh, Dominick?”

The name barely registered in his drugged mind, sensation returning to his chest for a moment, reminding him of his badge, missing. He didn’t remember it being found, taken, but he didn’t remember completely losing his shirt either. Even now, the holes in his memory were vast and overpowering, just as numb as his physical form.

His body didn’t react when his neck was lifted up, the watch roughly pushed in front of his eyes. He blinked stupidly, taking a few seconds to process that the small screen was cracked, bent in the center. His last method of possible communication, destroyed, unlike the way his phone had been carelessly discarded from out of the car’s window as they raced down some Virginian highway. Now, he had no way to call for help. No way to escape.

He was going to die here.

Carisi!” The shout woke him from his memory and Amanda’s hands were on the wheel, leaning over him in an attempt to take control of the car. Other car’s horns were blaring and at first, he didn’t know why, but reality rushed back into view seconds later, when Rollins saved them from running straight off the road and into the forest beside them.

“Shit, shit, I’m so sorry,” Carisi spouted, eyes wide as he re-tightened his grip, helping Amanda set them driving forward. Heather Parcell was wide awake now, and he heard her crying out, demanding to know what was going on.

Amanda’s voice lowered, almost growling. “Pull over,” she spat, angry. “Now.”

Frowning, he did.

They were all breathing heavily, and in all the time he had to breathe he hadn’t noticed the indecipherable pain emanating from his ribcage. Internally, he swore, but he didn’t have time to talk before Amanda had slammed the door and he was forcibly dragged from the car.

“‘Manda-” he tried, the woman dropping her grasp on his tie as he stumbled to a halt, shoes grating against the hard, pebble-littered ground. “What the hell?”

“No, what the hell to you,” Rollins hissed, stabbing an accusatory finger at his chest, blue eyes narrowed. “You coulda killed us. What the hell were you thinking?”

“I wasn’t-” he began, stepping away from the uncomfortable press on his front. “I wasn’t thinking, Rollins, I’m sorry, I really am, but I won’t do it again.”

“Are you even gonna tell me what that was about?”

Carisi crossed his arms, a shrill sense of anxiety creeping down his neck. Apprehensively, a chuckle traveled up his throat and slipped passed his lips, before he met his partner’s eyes, his own irises shining, an odd flash of twisted daring overtaking his person. “Why should I tell you anything when you won’t even tell me about your little fling, huh?”

If Rollins could’ve turned red, she would’ve. Her hands balled by her sides and at first he was sure she was going to slap him, but instead the blonde pushed angrily at his chest. He knew Amanda was stronger than she looked, but it only justified that point as fire flared in his chest, weak legs pushed onto their heels before completely collapsing, like a dainty stack of cards.

The back of his head slammed against the pavement and his vision flashed white, matching the new, red hot pain lacing through his nerves. He laid there, eyes wide but seeing nothing, body numb and unable to move. Like before.

He lied there, silent, tired, lulled to sleep by the vibrations of the car and hum of the engine, only disturbed by the offhand bumps in the road. Unconsciousness wouldn’t claim him, and he didn’t know where they were going, only that his hips burned and bled. He knew that the man now sitting in the driver’s seat was not one for patience, nor a show. He did not build up. He did not tease. He just did what he did without hesitation. Just like now, when the window slid open and the muffled sound of rushing, cold air filled the car, the blurry shape of his own phone disappearing over the dull edge.

He tried to move, a noise akin to a moan escaping his mouth. He wasn’t gagged, contrary to what he’d expected. This man had enough drugs to keep him incapacitated for days. Enough drugs to kill. He’d seen at least seven of those small, clear bottles, containing the flaky powder that must’ve been poured in his drink, the one that in hindsight was obviously not from the bartender. The labels had “Ketaset” printed across the top in sharp blue font, but that was all his drunken mind could make out, the rest appearing as black scribble huddled amongst a white and yellow background. He tried to retain the information, but it was hard--his short term memory was failing him. As if to prove the point, when his body was jostled from another hole in the road, he had to re-realize that the car was running.

And then it wasn’t.

They had stopped. The passenger door flew open and he was grabbed by the ankles, pulled roughly from the car until his head banged against the cold asphalt. He heard waves, soft, lapping waves, the creaking of old oak trees and rustle of foliage. He saw the stars above, twinkling and watching, partially hidden beneath lilac clouds.

“We’re gonna soak you clean, boy,” The hiss interrupted the sounds of nature, sucking it away, only leaving the sight of hazel eyes and approaching checkered shoes. His breath hitched as he heard the familiar clanking of the man’s belt, and he mumbled, trying to plead, even though he knew it was futile. “But not after one last round..”

His teary eyes blurred his vision and the sky lightened, turning from a dark purple to a desaturated blue. The stars disappeared and the clouds turned light and fluffy, floating aimlessly across the horizon.

The man leaned over him, a hand falling on his chest.

Get away from me,” he snapped, scrambling as far as he could manage, confused and surprised when those actions transmitted and his limbs followed his instructions. He could move, could speak, the slur of his words was gone, only oncoming tears threatening to compromise his walls.

He brought a hand up to his eyes, wiping away the liquid and rubbing it on his pants. He pushed himself onto his knees, letting his fingers drag through his messy hair, feeling for a wound at the back of his head.

There was none, nor a bump.

He was brought back into the present by Rollins’ voice, and he remembered. He’d been driving. He’d almost driven them off the road. Amanda was rightfully angry and she’d pushed him over, and his shoulder blades were screaming. No, no--it wasnt her fault. She’d nudged him and he’d fallen, because he couldn’t stand upright. Even now.

Her hands caught him by the shoulders as he almost stumbled forward, holding him steady, expression soft and sympathetic. It felt sour.

“I’m fine,” he assured, relishing in the gentle touch but burned by it at the same time. He pulled away, stumbling across black top until he leaned against the car, catching his breath.

“Sonny,” Amanda started, less angry and more serious. Carisi pressed into the car, staring at the ground, feeling woozy, nauseous. “Please, Sonny, you gotta tell me what happened.”

Lie. Think of a lie. Get her off your back.

“Your--your boyfriend,” he said ruefully without thinking, immediately regretting it at the sharp intake of Amanda’s breath. “I, uh, confronted him.”

“He’s not my boyfriend,” she bit back, with no ill intent.

“Yeah, yeah, the one you slept with,” he restated, quick.

Spit it out.

“We fought.”

Amanda nodded, crossing her arms. She believed him after two words. Her worry was beginning to drift away. She was confused, interested.

“You went to beat him up?”

A nervous, taken aback laugh fell out of Carisi’s mouth involuntarily, and he shook his head, running a hand over his face. “No, of course not,” he swallowed. “I went to him to uh, to--to ask him what made you-” he sputtered, useless, still trying to hide the fact that he was smitten with his partner, even if it compromised a much bigger cover-up. “I asked him if he had a good time, that’s it. He didn’t like that, thought I was, um, tryin’ to get back at him, or you.”

“That’s assault,” Amanda said, automatically.

Carisi stood straighter, relieved at the lack of an additional word in her statement. “I’m not gonna press charges,” he explained, knowing it was illegal to convict on a lie, and that if he was hospitalized they would find much more than wounds from a simple brawl. Not even considering the fact that he hadn’t even seen Amanda’s bartender friend since he left her motel room two days before. “I shouldn’t’ve gone lookin’ for trouble--the Lieu doesn’t need to know.”

“Sonny-”

Carisi shook his head. “Amanda. Please,” he all but begged, voice straining. “She doesn’t need to know. No one does. It was my mistake--let’s just leave it at that.”

He waited a moment, their blue gazes locked. He tried to force sincerity into his eyes, even with Rollins’ calculating, prodding stare, knowing that if the detective had any reasonable doubt, she would betray his wishes. He knew what Lieu would do if Rollins told her, and he refused to be on the wrong side of an interrogation room. He wasn’t the victim that they would make him out to be.

Amanda’s lips parted and Carisi’s heart seemed to pause, his blood ceasing to run as he waited for his sentence. She blinked once, twice, her hand tucking into her pocket before she sighed, conflicted.

“Fine. Let’s go,” She turned toward the car, pleased at her assumed success at getting his story, before turning to him with a glare. “But I’m driving this time.”

He smiled, relieved. “Okay.”