DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is the property of NBC and Dick Wolf, and being used without permission or intention of profit.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This series is a continuation/parallel to the Desktop Confessionals series. Although you don't need to read that series to understand this one, you may as well if you're bored.
SERIES: Part one of the While You Are Gone series.
WARNING: This story deals with the subject of child abuse, reader discretion is advised.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Confessions in the Dark
I sit in front of the propped open window and allow the warm night air come over my body. It's nights like these that I know you hate. Where it feels like the temperature will never drop and the beads of perspiration will never stop forming. I laugh inside remembering your infamous "there's no purpose to days like these" speech.When you'd jump up from the couch, strip off your clothes, and run to the shower, all the while shouting how meaningless hot days were. How they served no purpose to the world or the environment and how they just plain "sucked". It was nights like these that I loved you more than anything. It was also nights like these when I realized how much of a childhood you didn't have.
In fact, it was a night like tonight that you first told me what it was like for you growing up. How different the picture you painted was compared to what we all believed. Just your name reeks of old money. The traditional, society page kind of money. Just to watch you I would have always believed the same. Hell, even knowing you I fully believed the rumors of your privileged past. I would have continued to if you hadn't said anything that hot August night with my arms around you. Until you spoke the words to me I never would have guessed how tragically wrong we all were. I wonder if you still think about that night? I know it crosses my mind every time a night like tonight comes around.
I close my eyes and take a deep breath. Just thinking about it still brings tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat. When I reopen them I can see everything that happened that sweltering night perfectly. I remember having the window open, just like I do now. And we could hear the kids below trying to bust open the fire hydrant just to let themselves cool down. They were laughing and playing and I smiled remembering that, even though my childhood wasn't perfect, on summer nights they seemed to be. I mentioned something about how great it was to hear kids laughing instead of hearing their voices shake in fear. You nodded silently, almost too silently, before you jumped up into one of your "too hot" speeches and made your way towards the shower. Like usual, I followed you into the bathroom and slipped into the tub right after you. Unlike all the other times, you didn't turn around into my arms. You stayed facing the shower head, allowing the cool water to fall across your beautiful face. I stood back and watched as your body started to react to the temperature change and I remember seeing something else change within you. Your eyes turned from their normal sapphire blue to a hazy gray in about two seconds. And I remember wondering what could have possibly made that occur.
I closed the distance between us and pulled you back into my arms. After a moment you relaxed yourself into them and I asked you if these hot nights were really as bad as they seemed. You didn't answer me and I continued trying to point out the good aspects of them. I cited everything I could think of, ending with the fact that on these nights, when we can hear the children below being children, we can think back to our own childhood when we were more innocent and pure and when the only thing on our minds was whether we could get the hydrant open before someone busted us. I remember feeling your body tense and shake before you excused yourself from the tub and I remember wondering why you suddenly had to depart. And why you didn't comment on any of the things I had mentioned. I don't remember when the concern set in, but I remember when the panic did.
I finished my shower, tossed on some clothes, and slipped out into the hot dark apartment. You had closed the window and were sitting on the couch in silence, your robe wrapped tightly around you. I remember seeing your shoulders moving in the dark and I remember what it felt like to realize you were crying. Alone. I will always remember what you looked like, sitting there soaking wet, tears mixing with the water streaming down your face. And the sounds of your sobbing as you got louder will never leave my mind. The image of you so vulnerable and broken will never ever leave me. You looked so much like the children we see every day. The children that have been beaten, used, abused, raped, and broken. When you turned your face to me and our eyes met I felt the panic cascade over me as your lips started to part. A huge part of me didn't want to hear what you were about to say. I knew I'd never be the same if you did. But I just held your eyes, and your hand, and gave you my best supportive face that I could. I remember focusing on your trembling lips as the words I'll never forget slipped past.
"Night's like tonight are the worst ..there's no escaping on really hot nights." I remember contemplating whether I should pull you into my arms or not, but before I could act on my thoughts you rose from the couch and stood out the window staring blankly down below. I sat on the couch the whole time you spoke. I can remember every word that came out of you as if you're still standing here letting it all pour out. If I try hard enough, I can almost hear your shaking soft voice as you told me about the past no one would have ever imagined. If I close my eyes tightly I can play it all back like a movie I would never want to see again.
"Do you ever wonder why I'm here?.why I'm with the squad?" I shake my head before realizing your back is to me.
"No..not really." You turn your body around quickly and face me for just a moment before turning back around to the window.
"We...we all just think that you're a good person that wants justice for those kids...people...we see everyday...just like any of us do." I try to explain but you shake your head at my words and my fear that I got it all wrong is correct.
"We're all there for a reason Liv.." your whisper grows louder as you start to explain and your hands start to fidget in front of you.
"Elliot's there because he's a dad...he's trying to protect the world from everything...just like he does his kids...Finn's there because he wanted to make a difference and was getting swallowed up in Narco. Munch is there because...well, frankly because no one else would pay him..and you...we know why you're there...We all have a reason...a personal agenda...mine isn't just for justice...or political aspirations...it's never been about that Liv." Your voice has dropped down to a whisper again and I have to strain to hear each word. You push your face to the glass before waving your arm at me to join you.
"Do you see that little girl right there?" I nod as I spot the little Hispanic girl you point out. She's sitting on the steps of the building across from us, her arms wrapped around her knees. Her hair is pulled through a baseball cap and she's wearing a too big sweatshirt and pair of jeans. It briefly crosses my mind that she must be burning up under all that gear.
"I joined the squad because of that girl...because of her right there." I ask you if you know her and you shake your head.
"I joined because of every little girl or boy that has to bundle up in as much clothing as they can on the hottest night of the year because they think it will protect them...they think that if they don't show any skin...if they're as covered up as they can be...that they'll be safe...I joined because deep down inside, those kids know that no matter what they do...it'll never stop...Not until we come along and make it stop. That's why I joined...that's why I'm here." The fear in your voice is mingled with the determination I hear every time you step into a courtroom. I don't know what to say to anything you've just said, but I know that you need to get out what you've been holding in. I'm still so afraid to hear the things I know you're going to say, but I know that I need to hear them as much as you need to speak them. I place my hand softly on your back and you jump slightly before sending me a soft apologetic smile. I place my hand over yours and with all the courage I can muster, I ask you to go on. To let it out. You chuckle nervously before looking back out the window.
"I know what everyone thinks about me, ya know? I know that they think I'm just some socialite brat that used her connections to get where she is..I've heard you guys talk...well, not so much you...but... everyone else. Do you have any idea how wrong they are? I heard the rumor that I was some rich kid from New England...old money parents...boarding schools and everything...God, how I wish that was true...even as stifling as it sounds...I wish it were the truth." You turn to me and face me with a lopsided grin.
"I grew up in the Bronx." For the first time since I've known you the precision in your voice is gone and I can distinctly hear the accent set in. As quickly as it came, it's gone and I realize that the precision you speak with is to hide the obviousness of your roots.
"My dad was an electrician...my mom was...well, other than an alcoholic, I'm not quite sure what she did." You laugh slightly and I can tell you're covering up the nerves.
"I know that feeling." I whisper to you and you turn your head towards me.
"I guess you do...don't you?" I nod my head and we stare at each other for awhile before you turn your attention back to the streets below.
"I grew up in a one bedroom apartment in the crappiest building in town, I swear...there were five of us living there for most of the time." You turn to me again and explain that you have an older sister and brother.
"Angie moved out when she was 16, 17 maybe...well, ranaway was more like it...Andrew ditched us right after that...I guess he figured being in a gang was better than being at home...I was twelve when they left..I just kept counting the days until I could do the same." You pause and our eyes meet in the reflection of the window before you take a deep breath and close your eyes.
"At first I blamed them for leaving me...I mean, I was just a kid...but, after awhile I began to understand...they had to get out to try and save themselves..Funny thing is, they probably are better off where they are now."
"Where are they?" My voice sounds foreign to me when I rasp out my question. You shrug your shoulders and slightly chuckle.
"Last time I saw Angie...Hell, I'm not even sure it was her...but, the last time I thought I saw her was about two years ago...she was standing on a corner in the district...we made eye contact briefly before what I can only assume was a customer came up..she didn't even blink twice."
"And your brother?"
"I see Andrew nearly every time I have to visit a perp in Attica..We never say anything to each other...he just nods at me as I pass by his cell...I've never tried to visit him...he's never tried to contact me...I don't even know why he's there."
"I know that I might be able to help him with his case, if I knew what it was about, or whatever..but deep down inside me...I want him to stay in there..I don't want to save him...God knows he never tried to save me." I know this is the part I'm going to hate the most, and as you turn to me fully and the words come out, I realize how right I was.
"My father...he was...he was a very bad man." Your voice sounds so childlike and the tears streaming down your face aren't helping. I want nothing more than to reach out and grab you, hold onto you and make everything better. But I know that the best thing for me to do is to listen.
"I spent most of my childhood sleeping in the closet...for one, there was nowhere else for me to sleep...and I thought it would protect me from him...I don't know if he ever got to Angie...or if he just started with me." I close my eyes not wanting to ask the next question, but I find myself saying the words before I can stop them.
"How long?" You glance down to the floor and shake your head for awhile before responding.
"It started when I was five or six maybe. I was asleep in the closet and I woke up when I heard him in the bedroom...he was watching a movie with naked girls in it...he wasn't wearing any pants..He must have heard me move or something because the next thing I knew the door was yanked open and I was being pulled onto the bed with him. It didn't stop until...it didn't stop until he was killed in a car accident."
"How old were you?"
"Seventeen." I feel the lump that I get when I hear these things start to rise in my throat and I place my hand over my stomach to stop the nausea. I stare into your eyes and you meet them with such grace and beauty and I respect you more now than I ever did.
"After he died...I had already graduated...I had gone on home schooling and had managed to earn my diploma by the time I was fifteen...anyway, after he died I fell apart...I thought it was my fault. All those times I wished something horrible would happen to him...I felt even more guilty for being glad that he was gone, that it was over..I floated around not really knowing what to do...it was like...my whole purpose in life up until that point...I was his...that's all I had been...that's all I knew." You wipe the tears from your eyes before continuing.
"I don't know when it hit me, but I realized that I didn't want to end up like any of them. I didn't know where else to go though, but I knew that if I got into college, I could probably live on campus...I was so naïve about everything, so sheltered...but I tried anyway...I didn't think I'd really be accepted anywhere. But, I did...I guess I was somehow good enough for Columbia...I immersed myself into school, I didn't want to go back to where I came from and I knew that I only had one chance to make it. After awhile I started exploring career options...I even contemplated being a doctor. But then, one day, a SVU detective came to one of my classes for something...not to talk or anything, but to investigate a rape on campus. I remember the moment I realized there were people out there that helped people like me. I wanted to be one of them...I wanted to be what you are...but I knew I could never have the patience to work my way into the squad...that I'd never be able to do everything you guys do...so I figured out how else I could get involved...once law school was over I had so many options. But I chose SVU anyway." You take a deep breath and place your hand on the window. I follow your eyes and see the little girl being led upstairs by what appears to be her father. The detective in me wants nothing more than to go over there and arrest the bastard, but I know I have no cause to even think of doing it. Your shoulders drop as they disappear in to the building.
"By that time I had lost the accent...or at least gotten pretty good at covering it up...and I had was determined to be the person I knew I always could be...I just never realized that I'd get so good at fooling everyone. I don't even know when I got so good at fooling myself." You turn to me suddenly and your face has changed again, back to the polished exterior I'm so used to seeing. I don't know why you've changed back, but all of a sudden you're pushing yourself away from the window and making your way towards the bathroom door, grabbing your overnight bag as you do.
"Alex." You turn to me before you disappear down the hallway.
"I'm sorry Olivia...I didn't mean to...it's just that nights like these." I don't know what else to do other than cross the room and pull you into my arms, holding you closer to me than I've ever held anyone. I feel your resistance drop, along with your bag, and your arms slip around my waist holding onto me just as strongly. I feel your tears drop onto my bare shoulder and I feel my own slip down my cheeks. You pull away from me and stare into my eyes before placing a small kiss on my lips.
"Thank you." You whisper before placing yourself back into my arms. I don't even know what to say as I hold you there for what seems like the rest of the night.
I don't even remember when the crying stopped or when we finally made it to bed. I just remember the feeling of you in my arms as we slept and how I wanted to protect you from everything, always. And how I never wanted to let you go. I close the window as a chill comes over me. It's still a thousand degrees outside, but I suddenly can't listen to the kids playing anymore. I pull a cold beer out of the refrigerator and hold it to my head. As I sink down onto the couch I wonder where you are tonight, if you're somewhere cooler than it is here. I hope that you are. I know how bad these nights are for you. I know what it's like to hold you in the dark, feeling your trembling body underneath my arms, while you cry yourself to sleep. I close my eyes and hope that wherever you are you're safe and I hope you know you're loved. I also hope that wherever you are, if you're with someone, they're holding you tight. I finish off my beer and head towards my bedroom wondering how many of these nights are going to pass by before it's my arms you're in again, letting me hold you tight, helping you chase away the demons that plague you on nights like tonight.
Sequel The Substitutes
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