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This case had really gotten to Amanda. In part, she thinks, it was because of her own upbringing in the Catholic church. Living in Georgia, she had seen many people in her community use the bible and God to justify their misogyny, their homophobia, their hate for other religions and skin colors, and many other things. Worse, she’d seen people mask their hate as love, saying that they only cared about saving others’ immortal souls. It all disgusted Amanda, though she continued to believe in God and the validity of religion. She’d heard her own father use the bible to justify hitting her mother, cheating on her, and then finally leaving her; still, she’d believed. When her mother caught her kissing another girl when she was a teenager, she quoted scripture to try to prove to Amanda how unnatural she was. Still, she had had faith but started thinking for herself. She didn’t think God cared about who loved who, and she began to question all that she’d been taught. Even though she still believed in God, the doubts she had were blasphemy so she kept them to herself. After she was raped, her faith was shaken. When she moved to New York and saw the most heinous things, she wondered how a loving God could let these kinds of things happen. Her faith died a little more. And then Lewis happened. He was true evil personified. There was no way a man that vile could be made by God. What he did to all those women and to Olivia? Olivia who was a saint, a soul made of pure light and goodness? Amanda could believe He would create her, but to make her suffer like that? No loving God could do that. And if God wasn’t loving, then he was a villain, screwing with humans just to watch and laugh at our pain. It was easier just to believe that there was no God at all, and that humans suffer because we do it to each other. She didn’t care whether others believed, of course; she wouldn’t try to convince anyone otherwise, but she did think people should get to choose to believe or not believe for themselves, not because they were brainwashed. Religion should never be used against other people. Like it clearly was being used against Esther.

The other part of why this case had hit her so hard was just because of the case itself. It was horrific. Esther, the poor girl, had been terrified of everything and everyone, including her own father. She had been starved so severely that she looked like a teenager when in fact she was 27 years old. She was so pale because she rarely got to be outside. She’d been raped by one of her own brothers. She showed signs of being tied up. She hadn’t bathed in weeks. Anyone with eyes could see Esther had been through something horrible and prolonged. Yet, Amanda sensed a resilience, intelligence, and kindness to her. Maybe it was because she had been the one to connect with her, but Amanda wanted to protect her, to save her. Then William Labott came in, and there was just something off about him. Amanda’s gut feeling that he was behind Esther’s suffering grew stronger. She didn’t want to let Esther go with him, but legally, they couldn’t keep her, and Esther herself told Amanda she wanted to go with him. (Though that clearly wasn’t completely true.) There was nothing Amanda could do, except keep looking into it.

Amanda attempted to gather as much evidence against the Labotts as she could via her computer but there wasn’t much to be found in cyberspace. The family must really be off-the-grid. So she waited until Liv was about to leave for the day. She started off by apologizing to her for going off on her like she had; Amanda knew that, when she got pissed, she had the tendency to get in people’s faces, and Liv obviously hadn’t done anything wrong. Amanda hadn’t been angry at her; she’d been angry at the whole situation and took it out on Liv. Luckily, her amazingly understanding girlfriend knew all this and had already forgiven her. So Amanda continued, attempting to sound nonchalant, “I’m thinkin’ that I could use a mental health day or two.”

“Really, Amanda?” Liv deadpanned, a hint of a smile on her face, amusement in her eyes. “You wanna dig in on Labott.” It wasn’t a question. Amanda should’ve known that her girlfriend knew her better than that.

She knew that Liv shared her instincts, but she was still grateful when she gave her permission. Amanda soon discovered that the Labotts were a textbook patriarchal cult. Esther had eight brothers and sisters, all of them malnourished, pale, and dirty. Some of their neighbors didn’t even know that William and his wife even had kids. Another told Amanda that he had seen them marching back and forth across the house all night. With her own eyes, she confirmed her suspicions about the Labott children getting chained or locked up like dogs and starved if they “disobeyed” their father. Their mother was too scared to go against her husband, had probably even convinced herself that he was right in his actions. It was hell on earth, and no one should have to live like that. Amanda wanted to save all of them. But the Labotts had some big guns and things had quickly gotten out of hand. The local department refused to listen to Amanda or Olivia, moved in, and things swiftly escalated into a fire-fight. It only ended because Olivia noticed the Labotts had stopped firing and ordered everyone to stop. Mr. Labott surrendered but as soon as he’d come out with blood all over his hands, Amanda’s heart froze with dread. She and Olivia followed ESU inside. Grief filled Amanda when she found Esther, dead, a single gunshot wound in her forehead, blood splattered and pooling on the floor around her. She checked for a pulse but knew she wouldn’t find one. Esther’s eyes were staring lifelessly upwards. She looked up at her girlfriend, hoping for comfort, only to find that Olivia was staring down at Esther in shock and despair too. Amanda couldn’t stand the horrific scene anymore. She quickly walked out of the kitchen, holding back sobs. Olivia, sensing Amanda needed her, quickly followed though she didn’t know what to say to soothe her girlfriend. They left the house together only to come face-to-face with Mr. Labott himself. “You killed my children,” he accused. “For what?”

Olivia leaned against the house with Amanda at her side. ‘He’s right,’ Amanda growled to herself, rage filling her. If only the LEOs had listened to her and Olivia. They could’ve ended this without any deaths. Instead, they’d gone in guns blazing and killed Esther and two of her brothers. Logically, she knew that the Labotts had been the first to fire, and don’t get it wrong; she was pissed at the patriarch too. His eldest sons had only taken up arms because he’d brainwashed them into thinking they were protecting their way of life and each other. She walked away, seething.

It was her and Fin who were to interrogate Mr. Labott while Carisi got the wife. Amanda let Fin take control at first since she was still furious but that didn’t mean she’d stay silent. She added a few things here and there as Labott preached at them. Amanda’s anger was growing hotter, wilder, and harder to control. “Your children were tortured,” Amanda told him, coming closer. Her voice was calm, almost soft, which Fin and Olivia knew was more dangerous. Amanda was a ticking time bomb about to explode. “Broken, like animals.”

“The chains taught them discipline. Fasting brought them closer to God.”

Amanda’s self-control was slipping by the second. She leaned down so she could be at Labott’s eye-level as she glared at him. “No. You starved your 27-year-old daughter her entire life,” she growled. “She was the size of a little girl.” She grabbed the man’s shirt and pulled him forward until they were inches away from one another. “You know, it’s really- it’s too bad we can’t rain some biblical punishment down on you,” Amanda snarled in Labott’s unrepentant face. She wanted to hurt the man so badly, wanted to fill him with bullets before finishing him off with one to the head just like his daughter. She wished he would suffer the way he made his children suffer.

“Amanda.” Fin grabbed her and pulled her away.

Amanda let him but, in her rage, she grabbed the nearest chair and flung it against the wall.

That was when Olivia burst in. “Amanda!” she yelled, fully expecting Amanda to continue her tantrum, but softened her voice when she saw she wasn’t. “My office. Now.”

Amanda didn’t want to go, but she knew Liv was right to pull her; Amanda needed to get out of that room before she did something that she couldn’t take back. She stomped out of interrogation and into her girlfriend’s office. She let out a ragged breath as she tried to calm herself down. Tears filled her eyes and threatened to spill. Amanda rubbed stubbornly at one eye before it could leak.

“Amanda, I know that this is hard.”

“Hard?” Amanda interrupted. “Just imagine how hard those kids’ lives were, and then to have to sit there and listen to that zealot use God to justify it!” Amanda aggressively tapped on the glass. She took a few steps away from the brunette.

“I get it, Amanda,” Olivia continued and, logically, Amanda knew that she did indeed understand exactly how Amanda was feeling, but she was just too worked up to care. “But I need you to get your head on straight. Okay?”

“Okay,” Amanda told her. “Fine.”

“Do you think you can do that?” Olivia asked, sternly, her tone telling Amanda that the answered needed to be yes.

“Yes,” Amanda snapped before closing her eyes and taking a deep breath.

Olivia continued, “Because when this case is finally over…”

“It is over,” Amanda interjected, her voice a little tamer now.

“I wish that were true,” the brunette told her. Her voice softening. Eye contact and the sharing of personal space becoming difficult. She hated that she had to be the one to tell Amanda this, but at the same time, she would hate for it to be anyone else. It would be easier for her girlfriend to hear this coming from her, and Olivia could take her home and comfort her afterwards. Sensing that Olivia was about to drop a bomb on her, Amanda fell silent, her heart pounding and stomach dropping. Olivia picked up a file that had been sitting on her desk. She hesitated for just a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Preliminary ballistics came back on the siege of the Labott house.” She came back into Amanda’s space so she could hand her the file.

Amanda didn’t take it, however, choosing instead to keep her eyes on her girlfriend in an attempt to read her expression. When Liv seemed to be hesitating, she prompted, “That was fast.”

As gently as she could, Olivia ripped off the metaphorical band-aid, “You fired the bullet that killed Esther Labott.”

For a few seconds, Amanda looked at her like she didn’t believe her. “N-n,” she stuttered. But Olivia just kept looking at her with sympathy, sadness, guilt, and love, and slowly it dawned on Amanda. An image of Esther dead on the floor flashed through her mind. She had done that. She had stolen the life of that poor girl that she’d tried so hard to save. She was the reason Esther was dead. Not one of the other officers. Not Labott. Amanda. Amanda gasped and began to sob. Her legs suddenly felt too weak to hold her up and she sank into a chair. “Oh, God.”

“Amanda,” Olivia whispered. Her heart was breaking. She had never seen Amanda like this- ripped open, exposed and vulnerable. Not because Amanda had never felt like this before, but because Amanda had never allowed Olivia to see her like this. She wanted to gather her beloved in her arms- almost did, but if she did that, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to let go for one and, for two, their relationship was still a secret and she didn’t want to risk giving them away. Not to mention that Olivia was pretty sure that Amanda wouldn’t welcome that level of physical comfort just then anyway. In that moment, all she could do was place a comforting hand on Amanda’s shoulder and crouch down in front of her, staying close. Amanda looked down at her as if she was silently pleading with Olivia to tell her she was just kidding. It would be a cruel prank, but she’d forgive her if it meant that Amanda hadn’t murdered Esther. Olivia could barely stand to maintain eye contact. She decided to stick with work-talk; it was familiar territory for both of them so maybe they would both find some comfort in it. “You know the drill,” she said softly. Amanda nodded, showing that she was listening at least, so Liv continued, “You’re gonna talk to the force investigative group, and you’re gonna talk to IAB. And I’m confident that- that you’re going to be back on the job in the next few days.” Amanda only cried harder, bending a little more in on herself. One of her arms curled around her waist and the other covered her mouth to muffle her sobs. “I’m sorry,” Olivia choked, tears filling her own eyes. She felt grief for Esther too but she felt even more for Amanda. She needed to move away from Amanda suddenly, before she broke down too. “I’m sorry,” she repeated before getting up and walking behind her desk.

Amanda covered her face for a moment as she allowed herself to sob freely. Then she stared ahead silently, focusing on slowing and finally stopping her tears. Eventually, she turned back to Olivia, a now-empty look in her eyes, and asked quietly, “When do they need to talk to me?”

“Whenever you’re ready, though preferably as soon as possible.”

Amanda nodded and stood. “I’ll go now.”

“We could go home,” Olivia suggested hopefully. “You could go in tomorrow.”

Amanda froze, pondering, before she shook her head. “I’d rather get it over with, but I’ll see you later,” she promised. She opened the door and walked out before Liv could say anything else. Liv watched her go, wishing she could go with her to offer emotional support, until Amanda had grabbed her coat and disappeared around the corner. While Amanda painfully yet stoically recapped everything that had happened for the necessary people, Olivia finished up everything at the office. She watched as Fin finished with Labott before taking him to a cell. Carisi finished with the wife and did the same. She’d probably get off easy, but hopefully the Labott patriarch would be in prison for the rest of his life. All three of them completed their paperwork for the case before, somberly, Liv told them to go home.

“Amanda okay?” Fin asked, concerned. Carisi paused as he waited for the answer.

She hadn’t told them that it was Amanda’s bullet that killed Esther; she figured Amanda could tell them if she wanted. But they’d seen how angry she’d been. “She will be,” was all Liv said.

“What about you, Lieu?” Carisi questioned.

Olivia gave him a small smile. “I’m good Carisi. Thanks. Now go on, both of you.”

They wished her a good night and then left. She only stayed a little while longer before she went home too. Amanda wasn’t there yet, so Liv assumed she was still talking to IAB. She felt some of her sadness from the day fade as she doted upon their son and daughter. Thankfully, Noah and Jesse were in good moods so she didn’t have to add fighting with her children to her already bad day. Eventually, it got late and Amanda still wasn’t home so she put them to bed alone.

“Why isn’t mama home yet?” Noah asked.

“She’s still at work, sweet boy.”

Pouting, Noah told her, “I like it when you both tuck me in.”

“I know you do, and I’m sorry that you’re stuck with just me tonight.”

“That’s okay, mommy. I’m glad you’re here. Will mama give me a kiss when she comes home even if I’m sleeping?”

“We always do. Good night and sweet dreams.”

“Night, mommy. Love you.”

“Love you too.”

Sitting on the couch, Olivia waited up for Amanda, who came home not long after the kids had gone to bed. She oozed defeat and soul-deep exhaustion. As soon as the door had closed behind her, she broke down in sobs once again. Liv shot up and wrapped Amanda up in her arms. Amanda held on to her like Olivia was a buoy floating in the ocean and she would drown if she let go. Liv stroked her hair and back and whispered, “I love you” into her ear over and over. Eventually, Amanda quieted. Liv helped her shrug out of her coat and hung it on the coat-rack. Then she guided the blonde to the couch so they could lay there and hold each other, Liv on her back and Amanda nearly completely on top of her. She went back to rubbing her back and running her fingers through Amanda’s hair. Amanda sniffled for a long time before her body went limp and her breathing evened out. Olivia didn’t need to look at her face to know she had fallen asleep. She didn’t have the heart to wake her. In retrospect, she probably should’ve taken Amanda to bed but she was willing to risk back pain if it meant Amanda got some decent sleep.

Olivia hadn’t realized she had dozed off herself until she was startled awake by Amanda twitching and whimpering in her sleep. She shook Amanda’s shoulder as she said gently, “Baby, wake up.”

Amanda gasped awake and sat up.

“You were having a nightmare.”

“I kept seeing her. Esther. She was… Her eyes were… And she asked me why I didn’t save her. Why I… I killed her. Then suddenly, she was grabbing my shirt and yelling at me, telling me how it’s m-my fault she’s dead. I killed her. She wished she’d never met me. She h-hates me.” Amanda broke off as she began to cry fervently.

Olivia hugged her. “It’s not your fault, baby.”

“It was my bullet that hit her!”

“You were doing your job.”

Amanda fell silent. She knew that Liv was right, but her guilt was overwhelming.

“Come on,” Liv said softly. “Why don’t we get to bed? On our way, you can stop by and kiss the kids. They missed you today.”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t here for y’all.”

“Don’t be. You’ll be able to spend some time with them during your time off. They’ll love that.”

Amanda spent the next couple of days alternating between faking that everything was okay for the kids, sitting alone and numb at home while they were at school and Liv was at work, and crying while Liv held her at night. She ate only when Liv made her because she didn’t feel hungry. She barely slept and, when she did, she had nightmares of Esther. When she got the call saying it was a good shooting and she could go back to work as soon as she was cleared by the department psychiatrist, she was too numb to feel happy about it. She loved her family- she really did, and she loved spending time with her kids, but it was like her body was on autopilot. She had gone through this numbness before; the worst had been after she was raped. She knew it was just her brain shutting down in order to process the extreme emotional distress and stop it from feeling any more. Last time, she had gotten rid of the numbness by gambling, but she obviously couldn’t do that anymore. It scared her. She missed feeling human; most of all she missed feeling connected to her family. She knew she couldn’t let her grief and guilt consume her any longer. In lieu of gambling, however, she’d need help, and the only person whose help she’d accept was Liv’s. She knew her girlfriend knew something was very wrong and that she was worried. She’d been giving Amanda space because that was what Amanda preferred but Amanda could tell Liv wanted to press her to talk to her. Liv could be awkward sometimes- they both could- when it came to comforting one another. Years of being alone had done that to them. Normally, however, Liv was better at the emotional stuff- probably because she had had serious relationships before whereas Amanda hadn’t. That and therapy. Still, Amanda knew that if she could get Liv to understand what she needed Liv would give it to her. She just had to try.

She waited until later that night, after they had put the kids to bed. Since Amanda had cooked dinner, Liv was cleaning up. Amanda went to the bathroom and started to fill the tub with warm water. She sprinkled in some lavender-scented bath-salts, hoping they would further entice Liv to join her. Once the tub was full, she turned off the water, stripped, and stepped into the water. Even if it didn’t affect her state of mind, the warmth did at least somewhat soothe her tense muscles and that was when she realized her body hadn’t relaxed in days. She leaned back against the wall of the tub and focused on trying to further relax her body. She breathed in deeply the lavender scent.

“Amanda?” Liv called.

“In here.”

“Can I come in?”

Amanda huffed humorously and rolled her eyes. They had already gotten past the whole we-haven’t-seen-each-other-pee stage, so she didn’t think Liv needed to be shy. “Yeah.”

Liv came in, saw she was in the bath, and smiled, happy to see Amanda doing some self-care. She opened her mouth to ask if Amanda needed anything when Amanda beat her to it. “Join me?”

Liv answered by quickly shedding her clothes and getting in behind Amanda. Once she settled, she wrapped her arms around Amanda’s waist as Amanda relaxed against her. They both sighed in contentment. After a few minutes, Liv gently asked, “Are you doin’ okay?”

“No,” she answered honestly. “I… I…” She should’ve prepared better. Luckily, Liv waited patiently as she picked her words. “I can’t… feel… anything.”

“Dissociation,” she explained kindly. She wanted to ask if Amanda had ever experienced this before, knowing it’s a very common trauma response, but that wasn’t the priority right now. “What, if anything, can I do?”

Amanda turned just enough so she could kiss Olivia comfortably. “Make me feel again?”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. You’re the only one who can.” She kissed Olivia deeply and passionately and took hold of her breasts. She swallowed Liv’s gasp.

Olivia touched Amanda everywhere before finally cupping her between her legs. Amanda moaned as she palmed her folds. Eventually, she slipped her middle two fingers between them and leisurely circled Amanda’s clit and opening. Amanda shifted to lay her head back onto Olivia’s shoulder as she moaned softly and repeatedly. The slight change in position allowed for Olivia to reach around Amanda with her left arm and latch onto her right tit. She squeezed it, earning another moan. She kissed, nibbled, and whispered sweet nothings into Amanda’s ear. Her words and hands were magic, slowly healing Amanda’s deepest wounds. Her love was returning life to her already. The water was growing cold by the time Olivia finally narrowed in on Amanda’s clit. Amanda groaned and her hips jerked slightly, but Olivia kept up her slow pace. She encouraged Amanda to let go. “I wanna see you come for me, sweetheart. You’re so beautiful when you come.”

“I’m close,” Amanda gasped. “Harder.”

Olivia increased the pressure and Amanda whined.

“Faster,” she begged.

Liv did as asked.

At last, Amanda’s orgasm broke. It wasn’t earth-shattering or energy-sapping; it was like a wave gently lifting her as it passed before she drifted back down. Still, her body tingled pleasantly at the rush of serotonin. It was a start. She hoped Liv was in this for the long-haul because she wasn’t sure how many more orgasms and loving words and touches she’d need.

“Feel any better?” Liv asked hopefully and kissed Amanda’s shoulder.

“A little. But I- I need…” Amanda felt guilty asking for more.

Encouragingly, Liv told her, “I hope you know I’d give you anything you want.”

“I need more.”

“We can do this all night if that’s what you need.”

“Okay. Let’s move to the bed. The water’s cold.”

They helped each other up and out of the tub before drying each other off. Liv was so gentle and loving and careful. Amanda felt her heart grow warmer. It was another step in the right direction. Liv took her hand and led her to the bed. She guided Amanda to lay down beside her. They started kissing again as they held each other. They moved unhurriedly. Amanda felt safe and precious. Some of the tension she’d been carrying in her body and mind began to relax. Lightly, Liv pushed Amanda’s shoulder so she would lie flat on her back and moved to hover over her. She kissed every single inch of Amanda’s body. Her face, her ears, her neck, her clavicle, shoulders, down one arm. She softly, deliberately licked Amanda’s wrist, earning a shaky gasp. She kissed Amanda’s palm and all five finger-tips. Then she did the same for her other arm. She returned to Amanda’s chest. She kissed, licked, and sucked Amanda’s nipples. Then she moved to Amanda’s stomach. She tongued Amanda’s belly-button, prompting the blonde to giggle quietly and squirm. Olivia smirked and winked up at her before continuing down to Amanda’s pelvis. She kissed Amanda’s hip bones. Then she lifted one of Amanda’s slender legs as she kissed the inside of her thigh, her knee, her shin, even her foot. She gently set her leg back down and lifted the other. When she was done with that one, she placed it back down.

Amanda was quivering in the face of Olivia’s worship of her body. Her eyes shone with unshed tears. She didn’t deserve this, but, selfishly, she couldn’t stop it. She was wet again. Olivia laid down on her stomach between Amanda’s legs. She slid her arms under Amanda’s thighs so she could hold them open. Then she glided her tongue between the blonde’s folds. Amanda hummed. Liv was still moving at a leisurely pace as she lapped at Amanda’s pussy. She swirled her tongue around Amanda’s opening and clit then inside her. Amanda moaned over and over. She fisted the blankets. Her hips started to undulate. “Fuck, Liv,” she gasped. “I’m- fuck- so close.”

Olivia focused on Amanda’s clit. She sucked it and flicked it with her tongue. She circled it and shook her head and therefore her tongue back and forth. Finally, Amanda stiffened and came. It was slightly more powerful and pleasurable than the last one. This was working, Amanda thought hopefully. Liv waited for her to relax before she took her fingers into her own mouth. She made sure they were covered in spit before she circled them around Amanda’s opening. Amanda whimpered in need and looked at her lustfully. This was all the permission Liv needed to ease one finger inside her. She pumped it and pressed Amanda’s g-spot. Amanda moaned for more. Liv added another finger. Eventually, she stopped moving her fingers, but kept them deep inside Amanda, and returned her tongue to Amanda’s clit. Amanda gasped. She grabbed Liv’s soft hair. The brunette was staring at her lovingly and lustfully. She was close again. Liv curled her fingers rapidly against Amanda’s g-spot and flicked her tongue against Amanda’s clit. “Jesus Fucking Christ,” she gasped just before her body orgasmed. This one felt normal, not dampened by Amanda’s numbness, but good.

Once Liv had pulled away, she asked, “Is this working, my Georgia Peach?”

“Oh yeah. You’re a fricken miracle worker. I love you so much. You’re way too good for me,” Amanda panted.

“That’s not true. Nope,” she quickly covered Amanda’s mouth when she saw she was about to protest. “You’re amazing, Amanda. Don’t argue with me or I’ll stop.”

“Fine,” Amanda sighed against Liv’s hand.

Liv smiled, satisfied, and removed her hand so she could replace it with her mouth. Amanda purred at the taste of herself on Liv’s tongue. After a few minutes, Liv leaned over so she could reach for the locked case under their bed. With two young kids, it was important this particular box have a lock on it. She spun the numbers, unlocking it with their special code: 2016 aka the year they got together. Then she pulled out their battery-powered magic-wand vibrator from amongst their other sex toys. She turned it on, pressed the pattern button, and, unceremoniously, pressed it against Amanda’s pussy.

“Oh my God!” Amanda practically shouted, her back arching. The three short vibrations followed by a longer one instantly drove her to the edge of another orgasm and kept her there. Amanda gasped and moaned. Liv bent so she could mouth at Amanda’s tits. “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Liv!” she panted. When she couldn’t take it anymore, she grabbed Liv’s head and pulled her up so she could look in Liv’s eyes. “Please,” she begged.

Liv knew exactly what Amanda wanted. Without needing to look, Liv moved her finger to the off/on button and clicked the vibrator off. Amanda didn’t have time, however, to protest before Liv clicked it back on. The intense and uninterrupted vibration was exactly what she needed to shove her over the edge. She quickly shoved her mouth to Liv’s to keep herself from making too loud a noise and waking the kids. She shook and twitched and held Liv close as she came. Liv left the vibrator on for a moment to prolong her pleasure before clicking it off so she wouldn’t become too sensitive. When Amanda was able, she requested breathlessly, “I want us to come together at least once. I love when we do that.”

“Okay, my love. Here.” She moved to straddle Amanda’s pelvis, aligning her pussy above Amanda’s, and slipped the vibrator between them. “Is it in a good place?” Liv asked.

“Little lower. There.” She wrapped her arms around Olivia once more so they could resume their eye contact. Then Olivia turned the vibrator back on. They both gasped and moaned. Olivia’s hips rolled slightly, switching up the pressure. Amanda held herself back from orgasming, waiting for Liv to catch up with her. “Are you close?”

“Gah. Getting there… Almost… Fuck, Amanda; I’m close.”

“Come with me Liv. Please.”

“I’m coming. I’m coming. I love you.”

Amanda stopped trying to not come and she and Liv orgasmed together. The connection was just what Amanda needed. Her emotions exploded at the same time her orgasm did. For a moment, all she could see was the brown of Liv’s irises. Her own eyes leaked as her love for Olivia overflowed. “I love you. I love you,” she whispered over and over. Liv turned the vibrator off and moved to lay next to her. They held each other close as they recovered.

After a while, Liv asked, “How are you feeling?”

“Amazing,” she slurred sleepily.

“Really?”

“Yeah. Much better. Not numb an’more. Love you so much. Yer my hero.”

Olivia chuckled. “I’m so happy you feel better. Why don’t you go to sleep? You’ve barely slept the last few days, and I think it’s catching up to you.”

“’Kay, but wake me early. Wan’ spend more time with you ‘fore you leave.”

“Okay, baby. I will. Goodnight.” She kissed Amanda’s head.

Amanda sighed and was asleep in seconds. Olivia held her for a few minutes before carefully moving her aside. She cleaned their vibrator, put it away, and stashed the box back under their bed. She grabbed the blankets and covered Amanda with them. She set her alarm for an hour and a half earlier. Then she turned out the lights and climbed back in bed. She regathered Amanda in her arms. In her sleep, Amanda cuddled her back. Olivia loved the blonde so much. She hoped her dissociation was truly over. She hadn’t said anything but she had been scared the last few days that she would lose Amanda one way or another. She knew Amanda’s grief would probably not be over, but she’d take that over the numbness any day.

Amanda slept straight through until Liv woke her up by straddling her ass and massaging her back. The blonde moaned in pleasure. “Good morning,” she said, her voice crackly from sleep.

“Good morning. How’re you feeling?”

Amanda smiled. “I feel much better. The numbness is gone. Right now, I’m mostly feeling relaxed.”

“Good.” She continued her massage, starting at Amanda’s neck and shoulders and moving down to her lower back. Then she slid backwards and massaged Amanda’s cute, little ass. Her goal was not to arouse Amanda but to relax her and reinforce their connection. She was perfectly happy to be doing this for her beloved, to simply be touching her and bringing her peace. She knew Amanda would do the same for her and had.

Amanda was floating happily between consciousness and unconsciousness when Olivia laid down next to her. The movement brought Amanda out of her floating. She blinked her eyes open to find Olivia staring adoringly at her. Amanda smiled. “Thank you for everything. I love you so goddamn much.”

“You don’t need to thank me. I love you too.”

With effort, Amanda rolled over onto her back and opened her arms. “Come here,” she requested. The older woman shimmed closer, pressed herself against the blonde, and rested her head on her stomach. Amanda hugged her tight. “You were so good to me last night and this morning. I feel like I should reciprocate in some way.”

“You don’t have to.”

“I know, but I want to.”

“How about a raincheck then? I just wanna cuddle with you for the next hour or so before I gotta get ready for work.”

“Okay. If you’re sure.”

“I am. So how do you feel, truly?”

Amanda fell silent as she took stock of her emotions now that she could feel them again. “I feel human again. I feel loved and safe and sated, but I also feel sad and guilty.” Liv knew there was nothing she could say to convince Amanda that Esther’s death wasn’t her fault. Amanda didn’t think she’d ever stop feeling guilty, but she knew that eventually it would get easier to live with. Suddenly, she had an idea. “I think I want to go to church today,” Amanda told Olivia quietly as she stared at the ceiling and began to absently play with Liv’s hair.

Surprised, Liv rested her chin on Amanda’s waist so she could look up at her. She knew about Amanda’s dead faith. She also knew that Amanda hadn’t even been to church since moving to New York. “Really? How come?”

“Esther found comfort in her faith despite her father using it to torture her. She might’ve questioned his teachings but she didn’t doubt God. I wanna think she’s happy in heaven now and… I want to go and pray for her.”

Olivia smiled lovingly at her girlfriend. “I think she’d really appreciate that Amanda.”

Amanda smiled and nodded. She was in no rush to go anywhere though, so she lounged in bed with Olivia until it was time for the brunette to get prepared for work. Amanda got the kids up, made them all breakfast (of which she participated hungrily), saw Liv off with a goodbye kiss, and then took their children to school. After that, she returned home to make an appointment with the department psychologist. Then she took a long, relaxing shower. Eventually, she was dressed in jeans, a blue button-up, and her tan coat and ready to go to church. It was cloudy and a bit chilly outside, but Amanda decided she could use the fresh air and walk, so that’s what she did. As she walked up to the gate of the church, she hesitated a moment, suddenly feeling as if she didn’t belong. She wondered if God would be angry with her for losing her faith and coming to church now only to pray for the soul of Esther. Then she decided she was being ridiculous and went inside. There was only a handful of people there, silently praying and minding their own business. No one even looked at her. She walked to an empty pew and sat down. She wondered for a moment what to even do or pray. What was once so engrained in her that it was basically second-nature was now so foreign. She shifted uncomfortably, just about to give up and leave. Then her eyes landed on the cross on the wall in front of her, and she felt a sense of peace wash over her. Others might believe it was God Himself, but Amanda would rather think it was Esther, reaching down to her from heaven and telling her that she forgave her and to forgive herself. Either way, Amanda felt calm, comforted, peaceful, and she relaxed. She let her head tilt back, closed her eyes, and smiled.