SVU doesn't belong to us! *Crosses arms and pouts.*
Amanda haphazardly tossed her bag onto one of the white-sheeted mats that served as a bed in the cribs. She ran her hand through her short blonde hair, pulling it into a messy ponytail, taking a moment to compose herself to a faint resemblance of a calm person for her own sake. She breathed and closed her eyes, quickly realizing the latter to be a bad idea.
Darkness was never good when she got like this.
Darkness was torture.
It didn't prove to be the release into nothingness she was hoping for, not the clutch of escape she so desperately wanted, instead serving as a blank viewing screen for all the horrible things that had happened. Earlier that night, earlier that year, earlier in her life - the darkness was her past, and she just couldn't seem to find the light of the future.
Her breath caught quickly in her throat before she opened her eyes again, feeling foolish.
She was right there, right in the precinct, right where she was safe.
It was here where she could protect herself.
And yet, every time she blinked she forgot.
She shook her head, clearing all of the thoughts that were rushing through her mind. A few little words and situations ricocheted off of her brain like an internal pinball machine, and she begged it to stop.
She really needed some sleep. Sleep, she thought, that was a joke. There would most definitely be no sleep tonight. She pondered going to the main level of the precinct and catching up on some work. What would be the harm in that? She'd get things accomplished and keep herself from going insane. She contemplated this, eying the bed longingly before sighing.
She couldn't bring herself to take the plunge and attempt drifting off, since she knew it was hopeless. Instead she tiptoed down the stairs. She yawned and brought her computer screen to life before opening up her file cabinet, pawing through the cases.
How nice it felt to be able say that.
Her job at her desk, all things that belonged to her, a tiny luxury in a world where everything had been taken away. Her feeling of security, her job back home, her happy-go-lucky attitude she once had, even her innocence…in more ways than one.
But she wouldn't allow herself to think too in-depth.
She swallowed again and put her head in her hands.
God, this night sucked.
She hated so much to be this kind of the person. The one always relying on the past, and never getting to live life in the present. She worked so hard every day to put on the façade that she was that kind of person.
But that was just it: a façade.
Sometimes she even convinced herself in the peacefulness of the daylight, without the shadow of doubt and horrifying memories forced by the parts and pieces of all of them that still lived within the chinks of her mind and buried deep within her soul.
All of them lived in her like a splinter, her skin simply growing over to hide them and their ruthlessness.
But they were always there infecting her.
Her spinning head spun even harder when she heard the sounds. All of the sounds combined, forming daunting white noise. The taunting, the laughing, the false compliments, the too-real threats, all of them spinning the web that was impossible to break through. New footsteps were added this time; Amanda thought nothing of them under the circumstances. Just another foreboding sound adding to the pressure.
But the tangible feeling of sudden slight weight on her shoulder wasn't imagined, right? It couldn't be…
Clutching the table, Amanda flipped around to meet the figure at her back, involuntarily gasping as a chilling shock ran down her spine.
"Calm down, it's all right, it's just me," the person said, quickly throwing her hands back into sight and reassuring Rollins.
Amanda clutched her chest, but hastily placed her hands by her side when she realized who was there. "Oh, Olivia, I just…I didn't know anyone else was here. I thought I was alone…" she said, masking her racing heart. She'd be surprised if Olivia couldn't hear it from a few feet away. "Where…um…where were you?" she endeavored to compose herself yet again, this time for the sake of the other detective.
"I was just running home to get a few things before heading back here. Why are you not in the cribs?" she inquired.
"Oh, couldn't sleep. I had some caffeine earlier tonight, it must be kicking in," she made a failure of a plausible excuse. "Why…uh…why are you here exactly?"
"Well I wasn't about to leave you here alone after everything that happened," she reasoned.
"Olivia, really, you don't need to do this," Amanda said, hating to impose, embarrassed at the attracted attention.
"Fine," Olivia sighed.
"So are you leaving?" Amanda asked, trying to divert the terror from her voice. She wasn't bipolar, she really wasn't, but the prospect of Olivia leaving made her nervous. However much she hated the attention which, trust her, she did, the thought of being alone again outweighed it. She didn't know why, but she immediately felt better once Olivia was around. The sense of security returned just a notch.
"Hell no, I'll just keep in mind to word it differently next time," Olivia replied with a small smile. "Come on, let's go to sleep," she extended her hand in order to help the younger detective up.
"But I told you I can't sleep," Rollins said, now panicking at the thought of having to return to the dark room and the expectation to close her eyes again.
"Oh, because of the caffeine, right?" Olivia snorted, rolling her eyes. However, upon seeing the redness and unintentional crease in the blonde's forehead she immediately stopped her good-natured teasing.
"Look," Olivia bent her knees slightly to get closer to the level of the desk. "I understand that you're scared, and after what that bastard did you have every right to be, but you of all people should know that you're safe here. You're not alone here, all right? You don't have to-"
"Stop!" Amanda blurted out quickly, causing Olivia to blink and stumble back a bit.
She didn't say this rudely, but rather automatically. Nothing was wrong. She couldn't talk about it if there was something, because that would make it real. Pretending made it so it never happened. If you didn't talk about it, it wasn't true.
Realizing that Olivia was still staring at her, wide-eyed and confused, Amanda realized she was probably expecting an explanation for the sudden outburst.
"I'm sorry," she apologized. "I just…don't need the speech. While I appreciate it, it's just…it's not necessary… I mean, I'm fine," she forced a smile. "Really I am. I guess I'm just…tired," she forced the last word through her teeth, shoving it out of her mouth. "You know, you're right, let's go get some sleep," she said finally, changing the subject, and getting up to leave before another word could be said.
Olivia had spent countless nights in this very spot.
It was almost like a reserved little area. It was like she was coming back to at summer camp, lying in a reserved bunk just for her when she needed it.
Sometimes she used it for its intended purpose of sleeping when it was too late to travel home. However, this didn't happen as much as it probably should have. More often than not she fell asleep right on her desk, her cheek stuck on a paper clip or stapler, therefore causing an imprint the next morning, hereby facing mockery from Munch and Fin all of that day. ("I think she took the saying 'be the case' a little too literally.'" "Hey, Benson, you got somethin' on your face!")
Sometimes it was used in unique situations, like that one time where there was a snowstorm and going out wasn't an option. (At least that's what the Captain had said when she protested that she was more than capable of driving home, blizzard warning or not.)
And still there were times when she slept there for someone else. With Nathan, the boy who had to watch his mother murdered right before his eyes, and now with Rollins.
She understood the situation Amanda was in.
The first few years of her working at the precinct, she too spent many nights right where she was lying now, thirteen years later.
It wasn't that the cases got easier; it was that she got more a stomach for it all.
She learned to deal with the stress in healthier ways than hiding from her life. She learned to take the pressure in a better way than giving up all sense of normalcy and routine.
That wasn't to say it was easy. It didn't happen right away. Hell, there were even a few times in the past couple of months she found herself not wanting to venture back to her apartment, instead finding a way to a bunk.
But those times were much more sporadic now, the fears and frights much less impactful, the returning memories much less a part of her life outside the job.
She had her days, but it had mostly passed.
She found a way to cope, and she was determined to help Amanda find the same peace she'd eventually accomplished, victorious over the obstacles they faced.
Lying on the bed in the dark, she stared at the ceiling, thinking thoughts of hope. And with those in mind, she allowed herself to peacefully float into sleep.
Olivia awoke to the sound of heaves.
Slitting her eyes and crinkling her eyebrow, she inquired as to what could be making this noise. Of course, it being early morning, there were certain thoughts she was seriously pondering that didn't make the most of sense. ("When did my alarm clock starting sounding like that?" "Did Munch prank me and turn my ringtone to something disgusting?")
Realizing that the sound was in fact coming from a real live person, she looked over to the other bed as the memories of earlier came flooding back to her in a dazed, fuzzy heap, clearing out over moments of understanding.
She came to the only logical conclusion and eventually comprehended the fact that Amanda Rollins was not in bed, and the only sensible solution was that she was the source of the gagging and coughing.
Pushing herself off the cot in concern, Olivia padded to the small single bathroom attached to the rows of bedding.
When she pressed on the wooden door to fully open it, her suspicions were confirmed. Kneeling next to the toilet was the young detective, sweat pasting her loose blonde hair to her forehead, tears-the natural reaction to sickness-sticking to her to her face, her palm resting and weakly supporting her head, her elbow resting upon the white fixture.
Olivia couldn't help but think she looked so…young.
Caught between the place of wanting to nurture, but not to patronize, Olivia was at a loss at how to react. After all, Amanda was an adult, and she was certainly stubborn. Though Olivia had no doubt she was capable of taking care of herself, she was distressed at the thought of her actually doing so.
Offering to help would no doubt be met with refusal, and the prospect of her ill, on the floor, in the middle of the night was enough to make Olivia sick as well.
Seeing no other option, she decided that taking charge was her best bet here. Olivia knew that, if she were in the same situation, she would decline the assistance. Hell, she'd been in the same situation. The only difference? There were no offers to reject.
Her first few weeks of SVU, her entire childhood, it was all the same. And the saddest part of the story was that no one was ever there to hold her hand and help her through it.
"Amanda," Olivia said in a loud whisper, knocking gently on the doorway.
Amanda's head jerked around, her balance kept only by her hands on the toilet for support.
"Oh, God, I'm sorry," she said quickly. "I didn't mean to-to freak out and wake you up. I meant to shut the door but it must have crept open a crack. I tried to be quiet so you could sleep but I must've been too loud and-" she explained quickly and with desperation.
"Shh, calm down, you're fine," Olivia assured putting her hand out.
"I really didn't want to bother you. I should've been quieter, I mean that's why I-"
"I've always been a light sleeper."
"You're fine, I promise. Please don't worry about it."
Amanda let out a breath through her nose and forced out a pained smile before putting her hand to her mouth and emptying her stomach again.
Sensing her helplessness, Olivia took this as her cue to intervene. Moving to the collapsed figure, she wordlessly sat down next to her while holding her hair out of her face and placing a supportive hand on her back.
Catching her breath, Amanda gained control of her body again and inhaled slowly, shaking a bit from the wrenching retches.
"You okay?" Olivia asked softly.
Amanda nodded with an unconvincing bob of her head.
Olivia nodded and helped her sit against the wall before opening the supply closet and grabbing a plastic cup, filling it with cold water and handing it to the blonde.
Rollins nodded a slight movement, a mixture of embarrassment and appreciation before taking the water and sipping it greedily. "Thank you," she murmured, fiddling with the cup in her hands.
"No problem," Olivia returned, now wetting a paper towel and handing it to the other detective.
"Oh, no, I'm fine," Rollins excused the make-do wash cloth.
"Trust me, you'll feel better."
Sighing, Rollins complied and placed it on her forehead; most likely realizing arguing would prove to be fruitless.
"So what's going on? You sick?" Olivia asked, now sinking down to join Rollins on the floor.
"It's probably just a little bug," Amanda fibbed.
Olivia affirmed this, though she didn't believe it for a second. She took a deep breath, warning herself to approach the subject with caution. It was time, and it was necessary. "You know, if you need to talk about something you can. Whether it's with me or someone else that works here or a therapist or whoever, it doesn't matter," she started. "But I do think that talking about it, whatever 'it' is, would be beneficial. I don't mean to sound preachy or to make you uncomfortable, but," Olivia let out a breath, searching for the right words, "I get it. I know that you're scared and you try to hide it, trust me, I get that. And that's fine, it's needed, in this job you need to be tough and you have to be able to set aside your feelings and focus. But please, please don't feel like you can't open up outside the job. Because I know that no one is going to judge you or think less of you if you ever want to talk."
There was a pause, and Olivia looked over to see if Amanda had even heard her.
"I don't know that," she finally said, staring across the room.
"Don't know what?" Olivia asked confused. More silence. "Amanda, don't know what?" she asked quieter, moving to look into her eyes.
"I don't know that no one is judging what I say. My entire life, that's all there's been is judgment. My family, my friends, my town after…after the first time. Same goes for the last place I worked, so don't you tell me that people aren't going to judge and that this world is just full of compassion and unicorns running around on damn rainbows, because I know first hand that that's bullshit," she said venomously, searching Olivia's eyes.
Whether it was from exhaustion, or whether it was a first step at an honest emotional release, Olivia couldn't yet tell. All she knew that this was a side of Amanda she hadn't yet seen, and that she'd finally broken a bit. The small touches on past events, the pure desperation and anguish in her voice; it was the exact formula for a victim. So Olivia did the only thing she knew how when this happened.
"Then tell me," Olivia practically pleaded. "Talk to me, tell the problem so that I can help you," she beseeched. "Honey, you can't keep this all bottled up, because if you do, it's going to destroy you," Olivia said, a new sense of urgency in her voice at the sight of the microscopic moisture accumulating upon Amanda's tear ducts.
Rollins closed her eyes, letting out a quivering breath. "I have nightmares," she admitted slowly.
"How often?" Olivia prompted calmly.
"Almost every night," she said, almost ashamed, head bowed and eyes closed. "I can't eat without feeling sick; I can't sleep without seeing his face. Who the hell am I kidding, I can't sleep period, I can't…I just feel trapped," she confessed. "Every time I close my eyes or-or see something that reminds me, I tense up and I obsess. Every single place I turn it feels like I just keep remembering them and I can't stop," she shrugged, vulnerable. "And I've tried, I swear I've tried, I've tried everything," she promised. "All the pills all the, the tips, I've tried them. And I know you think I'm crazy to take this job with something like that, but it helps me. Bringing them in and helping other people helps me move on, you know? But at the end of the day," she opened her eyes with a shaky breath, "I'm still me. I'm not superwoman or a miracle worker, and I feel…alone." she confessed, allowing Olivia in.
Amanda's arm flinched when Olivia placed a tender hand on her shoulder. However, Olivia's hand remained, almost insisting that Amanda accept the small gesture of comfort she was offering, forcing her to relieve some of her burden. "It's okay to feel like that. And it's going to take time, and it's not easy, but you can get through it. And it's going to be hard, and frankly it's going to suck, because this job, frankly that's just what it does. It sucks. Dealing with these people everyday, dealing with the emotional rollercoaster, the mental toll it takes on you, it's not healthy. One second you feel fine, and the next second you find yourself thinking one more second is going to break you, and hope in the world is impossible, and you find yourself saying 'how am I going to do this?' But you know what? You do."
"How?" Amanda asked, weakly. "How do you…how do you survive after everything?"
"You understand that even though there's a whole lot of bad, there's a whole lot of good. And you're part of that percentage that's good. You can be that voice, that beacon of light for someone else," Olivia paused. "And eventually, you realize that some people are worth trusting."
"Trust," Amanda repeated, slightly skeptical.
"Trust," Olivia said with conviction, pushing down hypocritical feelings. "Everyone has problems with that one, especially me. But I'll tell you what, I'll work on it. We can learn together."
"Weed out the prince charmings from the royal assholes?" Rollins asked with a smirk.
"Yeah, if you want to put it that way," Olivia said, cracking a smile too. "Listen, I meant what I said. You want to talk, my door's always open. Well, actually it'd be locked, but my phone's always on," she joked. "And I'm here now," she offered.
"I'll remember that," Amanda said, genuinely curving her lips into an appreciative smile.
Olivia nodded and helped her up. One step at a time, she thought, one step at a time.
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