Chapter One

/Olivia Benson's apartment: 4:25am/

It was a foggy haze she'd been running through, surrounded in a mass of clouds and faces that seemed never-ending. Olivia cried out to follow the sound of her voice, but nothing came. The face of a little girl with bright red hair and green eyes danced in her head, bringing a sense of anxiety and urgency. It was Olivia's job to find her! God only knows what was happening to her. As each second passed, Olivia could feel her panic state of mind starting to rise, to the point that there was a ringing in her ears. The ringing became more intense each second that she pushed through the bodies that seemed to fight against her. She was losing her! Where the hell was Elliot? Hands reached for her radio, but it was gone...along with her badge and gun. What the hell? Brown eyes searched frantically on her person for her belongings when a shadowy figure stepped in front of her to gain her attention. The little girl she had been searching for struggled against the arms of the larger figure holding her with a large knife to her throat.

"Help me, Olivia," the little girl cried, but she was frozen in place. The dark evil eyes staring back at her were her own. Olivia stood there, staring as a figure of herself, ready to take this young girl's life. Just as the realization sunk in, the blade moved swiftly from one side to the next, leaving blood and a lifeless little girl to fall at Olivia's feet. In the ominous boom of her body to the floor, Olivia started to lower herself to catch her when that same blade entered her chest, her dark eyes meeting her match's, differing only in the expression her evil self portrayed. There was a sinister amusement in the eyes that stared at her and they both knew that, as strong as Olivia was, she was powerless to save her or herself. The world began to spin as the dying process took over Olivia's body. Was this what dying was like? Death was a painless flash of light all in slow motion...with loud ringing. What was that...?

Olivia woke with a jolt, hand immediately to her chest as she quickly sat up in that empty bed. Her heart raced while she attempted to catch her breath, as though she'd been running a marathon. This wasn't the first time that this nightmare haunted her, so she wasn't surprised by the graphic horror that her mind created. Hell, she'd seen worse on the job. The job! Ring, ring, ring...well, that explained the ringing, didn't it? Rolling over with a soft groan, clumsy fingers snatched that phone up and brought it to her ear.

"Benson," she mumbled into the phone, not bothering to sound professional. Why should she? At this hour, most could assume she'd been asleep. Despite her rebelliousness at the late-night caller, she already knew who was on the other end. Olivia didn't have to look at the caller ID. There was only person who called at 4:27 in the morning with sirens sounding in the background before she could even speak her name.

"Liv, meet me over on the corner of Amsterdam and West 145th. We've got a crime scene." Elliot's voice seemed less than amused. Why was it that crimes were always discovered in the middle of the night? Didn't people have sleep to catch up on? Olivia never minded the interruption, though. She never slept well anyway and would much prefer working a case to a failed attempt at sleeping. At least when she was working, she had a solid excuse for her insomnia. Before Elliot had the opportunity to finish those two sentences, she was out of the bed and looking for clothes to throw on. Let's see...which of her outfits looked best with her infamous black leather jacket? Should she choose the black pants and gray button-down, or the black pants and purple button-down? Hmm. Decisions, decisions.

"Be there in ten," she spoke in a groggy voice, though she was wide awake. Nobody else needed to know about her difficulties. Not even Elliot, who would understand entirely, needed to know just how bad her nightmares were becoming. The last thing she needed was to have this get into the hands of Huang, who seemed to be rather eager to psychoanalyze the brooding detective. No, thank you! Purple shirt pulled on and tucked in, badge clipped beside her duty weapon, radio on the other side, Olivia was out of her apartment without a second glance at the kitchen. Who needed breakfast? Not this girl. There was work to do, and nightmares to forget about.

/Crime Scene #1: 5:03am/

"I wouldn't..." Dr. Melinda Warner spoke out, but it was too late.

"What have we got?" Elliot's voice interrupted, clearly tired; this was the last thing he wanted to be doing, especially when things with Kathy were going so well lately. The sight of the small white sheet covering an even smaller body only guaranteed that both Elliot and Olivia wouldn't want to work this case. Any case when children were victims left a bad taste in the SVU's mouth. Unfortunately, Munch and Tutuola took the last case, so the dreaded responsibility of this one fell on the shoulders of Stabler and Benson. Crouching down by the sheet, Olivia lifted it just a few inches to see the damage underneath.

"Oh my god," Olivia couldn't hold back her commentary. It was all she could do not to drop the sheet and run in the opposite direction. The only thing that kept her from doing so was Elliot lowering down beside her and placing a hand on her shoulder, his other gloved hand taking the sheet from her grasp. Perhaps it was the color draining from her face or the expression of horror that clued him in to take the reins on this case for the moment. Whatever gave it away, Elliot took control quickly to allow Olivia the time to collect herself.

"Tried to tell you. It's not a pretty sight, Detectives." The only response from the two was the small whistle from Elliot's lips. Melinda continued when neither of them contributed anything substantial to the conversation.

"Name's Erin McCaffe. Twelve years old. Perp did quite a number on her. There's some bruising around the vaginal and anal region that was there prior to rigor setting in. I'd say your perp raped her multiple times before severing her carotid artery. Time of death, I'd estimate maybe around midnight. Maybe a little earlier than that..." Melinda snapped those gloves off and shook her head. No matter how many you see or how desensitized one can get, it was still tragic.

"That son-of-a-bitch," Elliot muttered under his breath. That girl couldn't have been much younger than his own kids. He always did have a weakness when it came to handling child cases. It always hit close to home. Typically, Olivia handled the children cases much better. She didn't have any kids which gave her enough logical reasoning to not tear the bastards apart when they stared smugly back at you in the interrogation room. Where Elliot always lost his cool, Olivia could remain level-headed and manipulate the situation to play in her favor. This time, however, things for Detective Benson were a little different. Instead of going through the notions to gather evidence, Olivia stood there, staring at the white sheet, haunted by the face underneath it.

Innocent eyes remained open and gripped the core of Olivia's soul when Elliot's cell phone rang, the loud ringing snapping her out of her trance and back into reality. Her eyes lifted to Elliot's face while he took in the new information. There was nothing to love about the expression on his face when the phone call ended.

"Liv, we gotta go. Call just came in. Eyewitness just showed up at the precinct. Said he was the one who called 911, but got scared and bailed," Elliot snapped that phone shut and headed toward the car, stopping when he caught the distant look that crawled over Olivia's expression.

"Hey. You okay?" he asked, athletic body remaining between the car and its open driver side door. The cold fear in her eyes was pushed aside and she gave him a glimpse of her typical half-assed smile, nodding while those hands slipped into the pockets of her coat.

"Yeah, I'm fine, El. Just caught me off guard. Didn't get my coffee this morning, you know? Wasn't it your turn to bring that?" she teased, relief washing over her the moment she saw his defenses lower while they got into the car. He didn't need to know how those dead, green eyes and bright red hair struck terror in the base of her heart. It wasn't his place to be privy to the information that was meant for her and her alone: Erin McCaffe was the little red-headed victim from her nightmare. How was this even possible?