A/N: THANK YOU GUYS!
"Mommy, look, I drew a picture," Sara said, holding up the picture she had just colored high above her head with a big smile on her face.
"I see that, Sara," her mother sighed, rubbing her head with the tips of her fingers.
"..Mommy, what's wrong?" Sara asked, jumping up onto her lap. "You look sad."
"I'm not sad, honey," her mother assured her. "Really, I'm not."
"Okay," Sara shrugged, getting up off of her mother's lap. Running down the hallway, she turned and ran into her bedroom, setting the picture down on the floor. Grabbing her teddy bear, she set him down and grabbed a crayon, handing it to him. "Come on, Mr. Snucckums, you can color, too!" she told him. "We gotta make Daddy the bestest most prettiest picture!" she said. "We don't want him to feel left out 'cause we only drew Mommy one!"
The teddy bear looked up at her with its sappy button eyes as it fell off balance and tumbled onto the floor. Sara just giggled and grabbed a red crayon and a piece of paper, starting to scribble on the paper. "Daddy likes red!" Sara told the bear. "I'm gonna put lots of red in the picture!" Reaching over for the darker-colored red crayon, she scribbled in some more.
"There!" Sara said, smiling when she was finally finished. "Daddy's gonna love it!" she said, looking over at Mr. Snucckums. Walking out of her room with the picture at her side, the front door opened just in time for Sara to see her father walk through the door. He was obviously more than a little drunk.
"John, I don't want you here!" her mother yelled. "You're a different man when you're drunk, I'm kicking you out!"
Her father ignored her mother, looking down at Sara. Sara greeted him with a wide, toothy grin. "Daddy!" she said, running over to him and throwing her arms around his legs. "Look, Daddy- I drew you a picture!" she said, holding the picture up.
"There's my little angel," her father said, leaning down. Sara thought he was going to hug her, but instead he picked her up by her tiny arms and headed down the hallway.
"Daddy, what are we doing?" Sara asked. "Are we playing airplane? That's fun!"
"You're such a good girl," her father told her, his words slurred.
"Daddy, I know I'm a good girl!" Sara said. "Mommy tells me all the time!"
"Such a good girl..." her father repeated, walking her into her bedroom. Sara noticed his grip on her arms tightening considerably. Her little face crinkled in a frown as she looked up at him.
"Daddy, what are we doing?" she asked again. "You're hurting me.." she commented, feeling his large fingers wrapping themselves even tighter around her tiny arms.
"We're going to play a game, Sara," her father told her, walking into her room.
"A game? Really?" she asked. "What kinda game? I like games, they're fun! Are we gonna play hide-and-seek? Or ring-around-the-rosie?" she asked, her face brightening despite the death grip her father had on her arms.
"No, honey," he told her, slowly setting her down on the floor. Sara frowned, tilting her head as her father closed the door behind him. "We're going to play something else. It's fun, I promise."
"What is it?" Sara asked. "Have I played if before?"
"No," he told her, grabbing her arm and leading her over to her bed. "No, you haven't."
"Are we gonna have a sleep-over?" Sara asked. "That sounds like fun, 'cept...I don't have any friends. Except Mr. Snucckums, of course!" she added, picking the bear up off of the floor.
"No, Sara, we're not," he told her, lifting her up and setting her down on her bed, right next to the pink comforter. "We're going to play something else," he told her, fumbling with his belt buckle.
"Daddy, what are you doing?" she asked. "Why are you getting undressed in my room? Are you gonna take a bath? I like baths! They're fun...but I don't have a bathtub!"
"You're such a good girl," her father repeated, throwing his belt off to his left. "Such a good, good girl..."
"Daddy, you've said that!" Sara said. "What are you doing?"
"Good girl.." her father said again, advancing on her. Sara was curled up in a tiny ball, holding onto Mr. Snucckums. What was her father doing? This wasn't like him. He was starting to scare her, he had never done this before. Sara wasn't liking this game.
"Daddy, I don't like this game," Sara said. "Can I just color instead? Did you not like my picture? I'll color another one, it'll be even prettier, I promise!"
Her father didn't hear her. Or he did, and he didn't care, it was hard to tell. He sat on the edge of her bed and starting crawling toward her on his knees. "Lay down, honey..." he told her.
"Daddy, nuh-uh, I don't like this game," Sara repeated. "I'm gonna go say hi to Danny!" she said, jumping off of her bed. "BYe, Daddy!"
Before she could get anywhere her father had grabbed both of her shoulders, yanking her back over to the bed. He roughly shoved her down so that she was laying flat on her back.
"Daddy," Sara whispered. "Stop it, okay? Stop? It hurts, Daddy..."
"We're still playing the game, Sara," he told her, putting one hand on her stomach.
"Daddy, no? No, okay? Please? I don't wanna..."
"But this is what daddies and daughters do, Sara," he explained. "They're supposed to do this. Don't you want to? Everyone else does it with their daddies."
"I don't wanna, Daddy," Sara repeated.
"Nonsense..." he assured her, straddling her tiny waist. "That's rubbish, and you know it."
"Daddy, I don't wanna!" Sara repeated, starting to panic. "You're scaring me, Daddy! And Mr. Snucckums, too! He's scared, look!"
Her father didn't stop. Instead, Sara soon found herself underneath her father's body, watching as he did things to her. Bad things. She didn't like this game, it wasn't fun...but her daddy seemed to be having fun. Mr. Snucckums was right by her side, still staring over at her with his little sappy button eyes, his little black-stitched mouth made into a frown.
"Daddy, stop it," Sara whispered, tears running down her face. "It hurts, Daddy."
"Be quiet..." he hissed, his entire tone changing. "You're my little angel, my little princess...you're my daughter, you don't say no..."
"Daddy, please? Just this once?" Sara whispered.
"No, Sara," he said. "You've made me mad, you're a bad girl."
"Daddy, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be bad," Sara whispered. "I'm so sorry, Daddy, please? Please...let me sleep? I promise to be good, I'll try, I really will!"
"This is all you're ever going to be good for," he told her. "You little whore, this is what you're good for and nothing else. No one else is going to love you like I do, understand?"
"Daddy..." Sara whispered, starting to cry again. "Daddy, you're being mean..."
Finally, after what seemed like hours, her father was finished. He got up off of her and got dressed, trotting out of her room with the occasional swaying. He slammed her door behind him and stomped down the hallway, heading out the front door. Sara waited a few moments to make sure he was really gone before she got up and got dressed. Holding onto Mr. Snucckums as tight as she could, she buried her tear-stained cheeks in the bear's tiny back and slowly opened her door.
The door creaked open and she walked down the hallway to her brother's room. She knocked softly and the door cracked open, only for her to discover her brother asleep in his bed. Sara swallowed and walked into his room, maneuvering her way around dirty socks and old sneakers and clothes. "Danny..." she whispered, tugging on his shirt sleeve. "Danny...wake up..."
Her brother groaned, rolling over onto his side to face her. Cracking an eye open, he sighed, trying to make himself become alert and awake. "What is it, Sara?"
"...Danny..." Sara whispered. "What's a whore?"
Sara whimpered as she slept in Nick's arms, her fists clenching onto the loose ends of his shirt as tightly as they could. She looked absolutely terrified, Nick could only guess what she was dreaming about. Nick slowly rocked her back and forth, his body slowly going numb from being in the same position for so long in the dark, empty closet. "Sar...it's okay," Nick whispered into her ear. "It's okay...I promise..."
Nick looked down at her. His words didn't seem to have made a difference. She started to shake now, and she mumbled a few things. Nick leaned closer to try and decipher what she said, but it was to no avail. She was becoming hysterical, he knew...and she was still asleep.
"Sara, it's okay..." Nick whispered again. "I promise, it's going to be okay...no one can hurt you anymore..."
"Daddy, no.." Sara whispered. "Daddy, stop it, okay?" she whispered. "I...want to sleep..." she said. "Please?"
Nick swallowed hard, brushing a strand of hair out of her eyes.
"Daddy, I'm sorry!" Sara whispered. "I'm sorry! I promise to be good! I tried, I really did! I'll try harder next time!"
Nick bit his tongue so that he wouldn't scream. He wanted to beat the living daylights out of her father, but luckily for her father he was already dead.
"Sara, you are good..." Nick whispered. "You are good...you've never been bad, okay? None of it was your fault..." he whispered.
Sara slowly cracked an eye open, looking around the dark closet. She couldn't make anything out, let alone where this strange comforting voice was coming from. She felt arms around her, though. Whose arms? They couldn't be her father's, could they? "D-Daddy...?" Sara whispered. The fear in her voice was evident.
"No, Sar..." Nick whispered. "It's me...Nick..."
"Nick..." Sara whispered, holding onto him tightly. Crawling further into his lap, she rested her head against his chest, shaking with fright. "I-I'm sorry..."
"It's okay, Sara, it wasn't your fault," Nick whispered.
"Yes it was," Sara whispered. "Daddy said I was bad..."
"But Sara, you weren't bad..." Nick said. "You've never been bad.." he repeated. "Your father was the one being bad...you said no, he should've stopped...he didn't have the right to touch you like that..."
Sara just nodded slowly.
"I'm going to get you out of here, okay? We're going to go to the ambulance so they can check you out, 'kay?"
"Okay...but...don't let go," Sara whispered.
"I won't," Nick assured her. Scooping her up into his arms, Nick slowly opened the closet, careful not to make any sudden movements that would frighten Sara. He squinted as light filled the closet- he felt like a vampire, it seemed like forever since he had last seen the sun and it was burning his eyes. Getting to his feet, Nick kept Sara in his arms, holding onto her as tight as he could to let her know he was there. Running his fingers through her hair, he whispered soothing things into her ear every time he got the occasional whimper or two.
He carried her over to the ambulance, nodding to both Sofia and Brass that she was okay. Getting inside, he cradled her in his arms as the EMT walked over to them. "Okay, Sara," Nick said. "This paramedic just wants to make sure you're okay..."
"Okay..." Sara whispered.
Nick nodded and gently set her down on the stretcher inside. He grabbed onto her hand and she quickly squeezed it as the paramedic looked down at her.
"Where did the bullet impact?" the paramedic asked Nick. Nick slowly pointed to an area on her chest just below her neck where it had impacted the vest, now covered by her shirt. The paramedic gently moved the fabric away and Sara looked up at Nick for reassurance.
"It's okay," Nick told her. "They're not going to hurt you." Sara just nodded.
"It doesn't look too bad," the paramedic said. "Lucky it didn't hit lower, it could've damaged her heart if it had," he commented. "Does it hurt?" he asked Sara.
"...Not..that much," Sara whispered.
"Okay," the paramedic said. "Now, about the bruises and cuts on your face.."
Nick had almost forgotten about those. Looking down at her face, he frowned when he saw the cut on her lip and the bruises forming around her jaw and cheeks under her eyes. If only he hadn't fallen asleep, he would've been able to prevent her brother from laying a finger, let alone a fist on her.
"Alright.." the paramedic said. "I'm going to clean this cut here..." he said, getting a small cloth out. Wetting it with something, he gently rubbed it over her lip. Sara didn't know what it was, it was probably alcohol, she thought, but it stung.
"It's okay, Sara," Nick whispered, rubbing her hand with his thumb softly. "You're doing good..."
Sara nodded as the paramedic finished. After he cleaned and dressed a few more cuts and scrapes he sent them on their way. Nick and Sara were escorted to a patrol car where an officer had been ordered by Brass to take them to a hotel.
"The Bellagio, nice," Nick commented, trying to lighten the mood.
"...Only time I've been there was for a four-nineteen," Sara muttered.
Nick looked over at her with a smile. "Yeah, well...it'll be okay. Anyone comes near you and I'll punch their brains out."
Sara looked over at him, laughing. "I'm sure you would..." she told him.
The rest of the ride was pretty much silent. Sara finally made a move and scooted closer to Nick, leaning her head against his shoulder. He smiled and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, gently rubbing her arm with his hand.
Somehow, some way, they knew everything was going to be okay.
As long as they had each other, things would get better.