DISCLAIMER: Characters belong to Dick Wolf and NBC/Universal.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: "Night" (6.20)

A View of the Open Sky
By Mira


The low-voiced words sound like they're being spoken underwater, and Casey keeps her eyes closed. Her head is killing her.

"He told me I should see you about it first." The voice is familiar, teary. There's a low, obnoxious beeping she can't place, and her chest feels like it's been run over with a truck. "Is she going to be okay?"

"Just fine," says another voice, cheerier. "Pretty bad concussion, a few broken ribs…lot of pain for a while, but Dr. Reynolds isn't worried…"

Doctor. Is she in a hospital? Are they talking about her? Casey opens her eyes, slowly. Dingy walls, tile, and there's an IV in her hand, swollen against scratchy linens and swimming in her field of vision. Everything is foggy. Everything hurts.

"Casey, I." She leans forward, her eyes brilliant with tears. "I'm so sorry." Her voice is the mellow, cloying one she uses on victims, and it's irritating. Casey blinks: victim, yes, that's a good name for this weight of loss on her chest.

Olivia's guilt is suffocating her, the only thing in the room strong enough to penetrate the shroud of painkillers and fear. Casey's neck itches from the paper of the hospital gown, and she wonders whether she's like this with everyone, whether every rape victim in Manhattan can smell Olivia's guilt.

She doesn't want to deal with it, her dramatic announcements, her sad eyes, the pulling at the corners of her mouth that says: I'm not worthy. Not now, while her head is pounding and every nerve in her body is screaming.

Leave me alone, she wants to say, but Olivia needs more, she knows, and she gives up. "Not your fault," she croaks, and her lips are huge and numb and talking hurts her throat and anyway Olivia is old enough to have learned by now that not everything is her fucking fault.

Olivia bites her lip. Casey closes her eyes: the easiest way to make Olivia go away.

They take her out to the sedan in a wheelchair. Olivia and the nurse manage between them to lift Casey, wheezing, out of the chair and into the front seat, and her ribs hurt so much she almost passes out. The nurse reaches in and lowers the seat back so she can lie down. It doesn't help much, but she'd rather not say so.

"Thanks," Casey mumbles, instead of: it still hurts. Olivia doesn't say anything. Olivia hates hospitals.

Casey jolts awake.

"Asswipe," Olivia growls, white-knuckled at the steering wheel as the car in front of them swerves back into its own lane. She looks over. "Sorry about that."

"'S okay," Casey says, a little dizzy. She tries to look out the front window. It looks like Midtown, maybe. Her hair feels slicked to her head: three days without a shower.

She turns slowly to look out the side window: definitely Midtown. There's a guy eating a whole loaf of French bread, a woman in tights and ballet flats, three suits who seem to be together but are all talking on separate phones. The car passes in front of a dark building and Casey gasps. It's the first time she's seen herself, ghostlike and hideous in the window.

Olivia's voice. "What's wrong?"

"I—nothing." She can't stop staring at herself now, her distended cheeks, her swollen forehead, the huge, angry abrasions all over her face. She's never felt so ugly.

"We got him, Case." Her voice is weary. "It's going to be all right."

Casey doesn't care that much, actually. "Yeah," she says. She looks out the window, tries not to see herself. "Could have been worse, I guess."

Olivia's hands are shaking. Casey spends the rest of the drive pretending not to notice.

"Do you think you can walk?" Olivia asks.

Casey nods, just once, because she feels like her brain's not connected to her head anymore, and if she moves too quickly, she might fly apart. The swelling feels like it's gotten worse since she left the hospital, her cheeks hanging off her face like they don't belong there at all. She swings her legs, very slowly, off the front seat.

Olivia leans in to help her. "Here," she says, and she makes it two syllables.

"Don't touch me," Casey snaps, and Olivia looks like she's been hit.

Casey sighs. Everything aches. "Sorry."

"It's okay," Olivia says, and her voice sounds edgier now, more normal, more practical. "We just need to get you inside."

Casey knows that.

Olivia gets her comfortable on the couch and wanders into the kitchen to get her something to eat.

"Could you do crackers and cheese?" she calls.

"Whatever," Casey says, as loud as she can, but her throat is still sore from the tube. "I'm not really hungry."

Olivia comes back, after a little while, with a plate of Ritz crackers and sliced Gouda. Casey tries to remember how long the cheese has been sitting in her refrigerator, but everything is hazy and dull. She decides she doesn't care how old the cheese is, decides she doesn't care that Gouda doesn't really go well with these crackers. She can't taste it anyway.

Olivia is eating her leftover pizza, cold, tearing off chewy, surely disgusting crust and congealed mushrooms like she hasn't eaten in days, and maybe she hasn't. She catches Casey looking at her. "It's okay if I eat this, right?"

"It doesn't matter," Casey says.

Olivia clears her throat and smiles in the way she sometimes does when she forgets about things. "Uh," she says. "I was thinking I should probably stay here tonight. In case. I mean, if it's okay with you."

Casey looks at her hard, but it doesn't seem like she means anything more than that. It's not okay with her, actually, because the last time Olivia said that, what she really meant was: I don't want to be alone, and what really happened was: lips, teeth, light, skin, mouth, sweat, heat. What really happened was: Casey didn't want to cross that line, but she did because one time Olivia's mother came at her with the sharp edges of a vodka bottle and what if she'd died then, sixteen years old and sad-eyed and guilty guilty guilty, and it wasn't pretty and it didn't help. She knows she can't let it happen again, and it shouldn't be hard: she's not even sure she likes Olivia all that much.

Olivia's voice is quiet again, like she's afraid Casey will break if she speaks normally, and it's probably the patronizing that Casey hates most. "Look, Case, I didn't want…I hope you didn't…I don't want to take advantage."

Casey wants to laugh, because Olivia thinks she can break her with a nickname and a good fuck.

"I'm sorry," Olivia says. "I just, maybe, when you're better, we can talk about it."

"It's okay," Casey says, and means: not really. Casey would prefer to hate her, but can't.

Olivia jerks her thumb back toward the space decorated like a living room. Casey would like, someday, to be able to afford an actual apartment, with separate rooms, and doors. "I'll just sleep over there, on the couch," she says. "If you need anything. You can just call."

"All right," Casey says thickly, already half-asleep and mist-headed with Darvocet or Vicodin or whatever the hell she's taken, the springs of her old mattress digging through the haze and into her back. She appreciates it, really. Olivia bends over her, smoothes her greasy hair out of her eyes without, thankfully, touching the bruise. She hesitates for a long moment, then presses a kiss to the corner of Casey's mouth: appropriately ambiguous, Casey thinks, and it's as clumsy as whatever it is Olivia's thinking right now.

Casey lets her, partly because she can't move very well but mostly because she wants to enjoy, for a split second, the touch of Olivia's lips. Casey would prefer to love her, but doesn't.

The last thing she thinks, before the gray fog of the painkiller settles over her eyes again, is: that's the last time.

The End

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