Damaged Goods

"She's been dead at least three days." Sonny Carisi mused, making a cross with his hand before standing upright and walking over to his boss. His voice was solemn but there was no evidence to prove this had anything to do with their case. A serial rapist had been terrorizing Manhattan for weeks with little evidence left behind. "I doubt they're connected, Lieu."

Olivia Benson held up a bottle of prescription pills with a gloved hand, reading the label out loud. "Oxycodone. An overdose, most likely." She instinctively reached for her gun when she heard the noise from the room behind her. Was that a sneeze? She motioned for Carisi to follow, leading the way into what looked like a young kid's bedroom.

"Jesus Christ." Carisi muttered, looking around the room. It looked like it couldn't belong to a kid older than 12 with its pink walls and posters of musicians and boy bands. Sonny recognized one of them as One Direction – his niece Mia had loved them when she was younger. There had been pictures of a girl with various people – friends, Carisi assumed. It made him sick to think that a child so young would've been witness to something so horrific.

Olivia turned to Carisi, counting to three on her fingers – she was giving him time to get his service weapon ready if needed – before swinging open the door. It was the child in the photos, her red hair hanging over her face as she huddled in the corner of the closet. "Hi," Olivia greeted, kneeling down in front of her. Her voice was soft and soothing, the way she would talk to a victim. She is a victim. "My name's Olivia." She turned to Carisi, who had long since lowered his weapon. "This is my friend, Sonny. What's your name?"

The girl looked at Olivia and huddled further into the corner. She didn't know if he was coming back for her or not but it wouldn't be the first time he'd brought friends. She just turned her head so she was looking at the wall, her eyes burning with unshed tears.

"It's okay," Olivia coaxed, her hand reaching out to touch the girl's arm. She quickly retracted it when the girl scooted further away, an obvious indication she didn't want to be touched. "We're police officers. We want to help you. Can you tell us your name? What happened?"

Her response was so quiet Olivia had to strain her ears to hear it. "Dani." She turned her head towards Olivia again, but her eyes landed on Sonny. She wanted so bad for him to just go away – the last thing she wanted was to be around a man, she hated men.

"Dani. That's a pretty name." Olivia sensed that she wasn't comfortable with Sonny in the room, so she turned around to face him. "Carisi, can you call Fin and fill him in?" Once Carisi had left the room, she turned back around to face the girl – now known as Dani. She slowly extended her hand again, smiling softly when Dani didn't recoil. "Hey, why don't we come out of the closet and see if we can't find you something to eat?" She noticed Dani was extremely malnourished, underweight. "I know this place a few blocks away that makes a mean grilled cheese."

Dani perked up at the mention of food. She never got to eat around him. He wanted to keep her skinny for his visitors. She bit her lip, contemplating the idea of eating a full meal. She'd never had grilled cheese before and she thought the idea was a little strange - why would anyone grill cheese of all things - but her growling stomach won over in the end and she nodded slowly, taking Olivia's outstretched hand and letting the older woman pull her to her feet. "My mom's dead, isn't she?"

"I'm sorry, honey." Olivia nodded and put her arm around Dani's shoulders, guiding her out of the bedroom and around the back of the house. She already knew about her mother's demise, but she really didn't need to see her dead body. Olivia didn't think she could ever recover from something like that. "We'll talk all about what happened a little later, but why don't we get some food first, then we can talk some more about that at the precinct?"

Dani nodded against Olivia's shoulder and she let the woman lead her out of the house and into one of the cars parked outside. Olivia had told her to wait in the car while she spoke to Sonny, making sure she was safely secured in the vehicle with her seatbelt on. It was such a small gesture, but it had been something that no one had ever done for Dani before. Her own mother hadn't cared if she was alive or dead, too busy looking for her next fix. Dani watched Olivia through the window, just to make sure she wasn't going to leave her too.

"I don't know what went on in that house, but that little girl was caught in the crossfire. She's a victim here, Carisi." She turned to look at Dani waiting in her car, smiling softly at her. "I'm gonna take her to Andy's for a sandwich then to the precinct until I can get CPS involved. "

Sonny nodded his approval, resting a hand on her shoulder. "I'll see you back at the squad room, then, boss."
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Olivia had ordered herself a coffee and Dani a grilled cheese and hot chocolate before finding a spot for the two of them to sit. She guided the younger girl to one of the only empty tables in the restaurant, handing her lunch to her. She raised an eyebrow at her when she saw Dani eyeing the sandwich with caution. "What's wrong? Did I get the wrong kind of cheese?"

Dani looked at Olivia, shaking her head and biting her lip. "I've never had one of these before." She admitted quietly, her attention back on the grilled cheese sandwich. She examined the liquid in the mug in front of her, reaching out to dip her finger in the drink before Olivia reached across the table to stop her. She looked at the woman quizzically.

"It's hot chocolate, honey. It's hot. You'll burn yourself." Olivia's heart hurt for Dani – whatever her parents had done to her, she'd never even been able to experience a childhood. "You're gonna love it, though. I promise."

Dani took a bite of the sandwich, her eyes going wide with delight as she tasted the combination of cheese and bread. She quickly swallowed and took another bite, and another, and another. This had to be the best thing she'd ever had.

Olivia smiled at the girl, reaching across the table to stop her before she took another bite. "Slow down, Dani. You're gonna choke."

Dani obeyed, placing what was left of the sandwich on the plate. "Y'er'ight." She mumbled through her mouthful of her newly discovered favorite food. Dani never had a favorite food before. She would be happy if her father had let her eat one meal a week. And calling it a meal would have been pushing it - half a slice of toast and a kiddie yogurt cup.

Olivia chuckled, deducing the girl's words and nodding her head. "I usually am." She joked, earning a beaming smile from Dani. "Just take your time, sweetie. We've got all day."

Dani took a sip of the hot chocolate, looking at Olivia and smiling widely. "This is the best drink ever!" She exclaimed, picking up the sandwich. She had the most brilliant idea as she looked between her two new favorite things. She dipped the sandwich in the hot chocolate and - much to Olivia's disgust - took a huge bite, her tastebuds entirely satisfied by the combination. She extended her hot chocolate-soaked sandwich to Olivia, offering a bite to the older woman.

Olivia shook her head, unable to contain her disgust. She managed a small smile at the girl, though. After going for so long without food, she had been kind enough to offer some of the sandwich to Olivia – who was practically a stranger. "I'm okay, Dani. Thank you."
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It only took Dani about 15 minutes to wolf down her food, begging Olivia to take her there again sometime. Olivia had been quick to agree, handing Dani her card with her number on it. She had promised that she would find the time - between her job and Noah, though, time was something she lately only felt like she was running out of. She'd guided her out of the restaurant and into her car, and that's when she noticed that Dani had become increasingly quiet. Before, she'd told Olivia all about school and her friends.

Her favorite teacher was Mrs. Cameron because she had a soft spot for the kids and found it extremely difficult to give them any grade below a B. Her name was really Danielle, but she preferred Dani because he always called her Danielle, and Olivia had so desperately wanted to ask her what else he'd done to that sweet little girl, but she was finally opening up to her and Olivia didn't want to ruin that.

But now, she noticed Dani had huddled down in the passenger seat of her car, and the closer they got to the precinct, the more scared Dani had gotten. "I don't want you to be afraid, honey. We can talk about all the same things we talked about in the restaurant, we're just gonna talk about it somewhere a little quieter. Is that okay?"

Dani nodded slowly, her shaking hands fumbling for the seatbelt once Olivia parked the car. She got out of the car and looked around the parking lot, trying to find an escape route. She knew what this place was. The last time she was here, a nice police officer had coaxed her into telling him what her father did to her. He got arrested and made bail the same night. She couldn't walk for a week after that.

She doubted Olivia would let her run, but she was younger and probably faster. She could get a head start. Dani silently counted to three, wriggled herself out of Olivia's grasp - she had been holding Dani's hand, something else that Dani's own mother had never done - and made a run for it.

"Shit!" Olivia muttered, running after the younger girl. She didn't get very far, though, because one of the officers had seen Olivia running after her and decided to take matters into his own hands and stop her. He grabbed her roughly, throwing her against the patrol car in front of him and forcing her hands behind her back. "O'Malley!" Olivia had gotten to them just before he had collared the girl, who had been trying for the life of her to fight him off.

"She's not a perp. She's scared." Her voice was laced with annoyance as she told him to stick to traffic patrol. She watched him walk away with his head down, obviously thinking he'd done the right thing. She'd apologize for her harsh words later. She turned to Dani, her hand resting on her back as she tried to soothe the hysterical girl. "It's okay. You're okay."

Dani let the older woman comfort her, the memories of her father too much to handle on her own. She was thankful that Olivia had given her a couple of moments to compose herself before grabbing her hand a little tighter this time so she couldn't get free as easily.

"You can't do that, Dani. You could've gotten seriously hurt." Olivia admonished softly, gently so as not to give the panicked girl the wrong idea. Olivia wasn't mad, she had been so scared that the girl was going to run into traffic and get hit by a car. Olivia wouldn't let that happen, not on her watch.

Dani nodded in understanding - she hadn't wanted to get hurt, but she was so scared. She didn't think she could handle that kind of pain again. She clung to Olivia as she let the older woman lead her into the precinct and up to her squad room. "I'm sorry," she muttered, her head finding its way to Olivia's shoulder. She was so comforting, so understanding and Dani was just now realizing what she was missing out on. She'd never had anyone who loved her, who cared about her.

Olivia rubbed her back, a silent indication that it was okay, that she wasn't angry. She led Dani to the interview room they had set up for children, and guided her to the couch. "Have a seat, sweetheart. Let's just...let's take it slow, okay?"

Dani nodded, sitting down next to Olivia on the couch. She let Olivia take her hand, trying desperately to control her nerves. She understood that Olivia was safe - in fact, Danielle had never felt safer than she did with Olivia - but she knew that the conversation was coming and Dani was terrified that he would find out.
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Olivia felt the sudden need to take a long, hot shower. She wanted desperately to forget about the conversation she'd had with the young girl, talking about what had happened to her mother, going into explicit detail of the abuse the girl had suffered at the hands of her father.

She had held Danielle when she cried, assured her she would make sure he never got to her again, and promised to ensure that she was placed into a loving, patient foster home with parents who treasured her. She'd held her hand while she cried for the second time, begged Olivia to just make it stop. Her small, malnourished body curled into Olivia's as she cried herself to sleep. Olivia had made sure she was asleep before carefully maneuvering her so that she didn't wake her up. She quietly left the room, her hands shaking and her body filled with rage at the fact that the child's own father had done such horrific things to her.

"Liv," Amanda Rollins approached the brunette woman, her hand resting gently on her arm. "Child services are here." The woman behind Amanda, who Olivia had somehow missed until now, spoke up.

"Molly Hunter, CPS." Molly extended her hand towards Olivia, frowning when Olivia simply stared at her. "How's Danielle holding up?"

Olivia looked through the window, her eyes landing on the couch where Dani was still asleep. "She's sleeping. She's been through a lot."

Molly nodded in understanding, reaching out to open the door to the interview room, only to be stopped by Olivia. "Lieutenant Benson, is there a problem?"

Olivia stood in front of the door, daring Molly to challenge her. She ignored the questioning look on Amanda's face and stared Molly down. "I just said she's sleeping. Let's just give her some time to recuperate before we uproot her for a third time, okay?"

"Liv," Amanda started, stepping in front of Molly. She had only seen that look once before - when Sheila Porter had kidnapped Noah. "She's just trying to do her job."

And Olivia knew that. She knew that Molly hadn't done anything wrong. She was sure that Molly had seen cases like Dani's at least once a week, and she was sure that Molly was competent enough at her job to make sure that Dani would be placed into a safe home, so she reluctantly stepped aside and let Molly enter the room, following close behind.

Dani had stirred, looking around the room. Her eyes landed on Olivia and then two other women who she'd never seen before. Her eyes were fixed on Olivia, terrified she would leave her alone with the two strangers. She didn't want to be around them. She wanted to be around Olivia. She wanted Olivia. "Who are they?"

Olivia and Amanda both started towards her, Molly staying close to the door. Probably in case she tries to run, Olivia thought. "Dani, honey, this is my friend, Amanda," she started, and Amanda smiled and waved, "and this is Molly. She's with CPS. She's gonna make sure that you find a nice, safe home to stay in. You're gonna go with her, and she's gonna take really good care of you, okay?" She leaned in closer, as though she was going to tell Dani a secret. "She might even buy you a grilled cheese sandwich." She whispered, just loud enough for Dani and Amanda to hear.

It didn't go too badly at first. Dani had initially thought that Olivia was going with her and Molly. She had nodded her head slowly, enticed by the idea of yet another grilled cheese sandwich, and grabbed Olivia's hand to let her know she was ready to go. But then Olivia squeezed her hand gently before letting her go, guiding her to Molly. It clicked for Dani, then, that Olivia wasn't going with her. That Molly was trying to take her away from Olivia, from the only mother figure she'd ever had and she'd already lost one mother so why did she have to lose Olivia too? She screamed, kicked, fought like hell to stay with the older woman, eventually breaking free of Molly's tight grip and running into Olivia's arms. "Don't let her take me!" Dani cried, clinging onto Olivia, clutching the fabric of her blouse. "Please, Livi, I wanna stay with you!"

Olivia's heart broke at the new nickname Dani had given her, holding the younger girl tightly. She had wanted to tell her that she'd be okay, she wanted to tell her they could keep in touch, she wanted to tell her to be brave, but she lost her words and when the child was suddenly being yanked out of her arms by Molly and two CPS officers, all she could do was watch as the girl screamed for Olivia - screamed for the one woman who had ever cared for her. And as Amanda had rested her hand on Olivia's back, overcome with emotion herself, Olivia had finally broken down into quiet sobs, her heart breaking in two for the fate of the child.

Olivia had gotten the first call mere hours later. She had just put Noah to bed, held him tighter and told him she loved him more than anything in the world and was about to settle down with a glass of wine and a book that Amanda had lent her, she was going to try to forget about the day's events when her phone started buzzing.

Unknown number.

Olivia had so badly wanted to ignore it, to just turn her phone off for the night and forget about work until the morning, but something told her to answer it, so she pressed accept and held the phone to her ear. "Benson." There was a pause on the other line and Olivia pulled the phone away from her ear to see if the caller had disconnected.

"Lieutenant Benson?"

It took Olivia a minute to process whose voice she was hearing, but once she did, her heart sank. There was only one reason one Molly Hunter would be calling her. "Molly. Is Dani okay?" She could hear Molly's sigh on the other line and Olivia couldn't help the nagging feeling in her gut as she waited for the other woman to tell her the reason for her call.

"No." Molly's voice was a little somber, and Olivia ran through all the possible scenarios Danielle could've gotten herself into. "She got into a fight with her foster sister and the family kicked her out."

Olivia closed her eyes, feeling Dani's pain as Molly explained that it wasn't really so much a fight as it was Dani getting pounded on by the other girl. "The family took the side of their daughter, which is perfectly reasonable, but where does that leave Dani?"

And before Olivia could stop herself, she said the three words that would change everyone's life forever. "I'll take her."

So, the next morning Olivia walked into Molly Hunter's office and before she knew what had happened, Danielle ran over to her and hugged her tightly. Olivia hugged her back tightly, rubbing her back. She released her after a few seconds, taking in her appearance. "Honey," she started, eyeing the bruises all over her face, "I'm so sorry this happened."

"I'm fine." She said, as Olivia examined the bruises carefully. "Molly helped me."

Olivia looked over Dani's shoulder, mouthing a quick 'thank you' to her, before guiding Dani outside the office and to the couch in the waiting room decorated for young children. "I want you to wait here for me while I talk to Molly, okay? I'll be right back." She squeezed Dani's shoulder gently before walking back into the other woman's office, ready to sign the paperwork. She was going to make it official. Dani was going to be her daughter.
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Scott Cooper was finally in their hands. He had been pulled over for speeding and the BOLO that Olivia had released to every officer in New York had paid off. He had been yelling at Rollins and Carisi as they dragged him into the interrogation room, Amanda accidentally misjudging the distance between the man and the doorpost, walking him into the door when he'd told them the little bitch was going to pay. The grunt of pain that he had let out was all too satisfying.

"Oops."

The interrogation was incredibly grueling. Amanda sunk down into her sofa, her mind reeling. She had seen her share of child molesters, all vehemently denying what they are. She hadn't been used to him confessing to his crimes so openly. Fin had told her it was because she had developed a connection with Dani, that it made the details that much harder to hear. She'd told him that he was one to talk – he would've punched Scott's teeth down his throat if Carisi hadn't held him back.

But now, sitting in her apartment, cuddling up with Frannie, she'd finally let the emotions get the best of her. She had sobbed openly, wept for the child who had hurt so much in her short 12 years of life. She couldn't even fathom how another human could do that to anyone else – let alone a child. If someone had done that to Jesse, it would've shattered her. The thought that Jesse was different because she had a loving mother, a family, brought on a new bout of tears.

The knock on the door had pulled her out of her thoughts, wiping furiously at her tears before padding to the door, looking through the peephole. Habit. She had internally groaned when she saw Olivia standing on the other side. She had gone home, promised the older woman that she was fine and all she needed was sleep. Leave it to Liv to check up on me personally. She swung the door open and was nearly knocked down when Dani ran into her arms, hugging her tightly. It took her a couple of seconds to realize what had happened, but once she did, she hugged Dani back, looking at Olivia questioningly. "Hey, Dani. How you doin', honey?"

"Good!" She held up a brown paper bag, giving it to Amanda before walking inside. "Grilled cheese." She said simply. "Is this Frannie?" She ran over to the dog, scratching her behind the ears and talking to her as if she was a person.

"I'm sorry," Olivia whispered, closing the door behind her. "She wanted to see Frannie. I would've called you, but I didn't think you'd answer." Olivia knew all too well that after a bad case, Amanda shut herself out from the world. She knew because she did the same thing. She looked at Amanda and noticed the bloodshot eyes, the tear-stained cheeks. "Amanda…"

"I'm fine." She dismissed, setting the bag down on the counter. "It's fine." She said, referring to Olivia and Dani showing up at her door. Truth be told, it was probably best for Amanda to be around people right now. She looked back at Dani and Frannie, watching the dog lick her face and jump up, wrapping her two front legs around Dani's neck – the dog's way of hugging her. "I think she likes you, Dani."

Dani beamed, standing upright from her position on the floor and walking over to Olivia. Frannie had followed close behind, not letting her new friend out of her sight. "Can we eat now?"

Olivia nodded, running a hand through Dani's hair. "Of course, honey." She led Dani to the island, digging around the bag for her grilled cheese sandwich. She made a mental note to talk to her about eating something other than hot chocolate and grilled cheese sandwiches, but she didn't want to overwhelm her. She eyed Amanda, watching as she grabbed the plates from her cupboard. She would have to find a way to tell her about the plans for Dani, but it could wait until after Dani ate.

Dani had finished her sandwich within a matter of minutes and, in an attempt to distract her from the conversation about her father's case that the two adults intended to have, Amanda had turned the TV on – telling her to keep it quiet or she'll wake the sleeping baby. Dani had looked at her quizzically until Amanda pointed to the bedroom where she saw a literal sleeping baby, complying with the older woman's orders. "I'm taking Dani." Olivia blurted out, looking back at the young girl who was engrossed in the TV. None of this CPS crap again. "I made it official this morning."

Amanda nodded, taking a sip of her wine. She had figured as much, seeing the two of them together. She wasn't sure who would put up more of a fight if anyone tried to separate them again. "Yeah, I kinda figured, Liv." She sighed, placing her glass down on the counter. Her voice was low, a whisper, when she said, "It's not gonna be easy, though. You gotta be sure."

Olivia nodded, playing with the stem of her own wine glass. "I'm sure, Amanda. I think I've been sure since I saw her hiding in that closet because she thought her father was gonna come back for her."

Amanda nodded, seemingly okay with her response. She looked over Olivia's shoulder to see Dani curled up on the couch, one arm draped over Frannie as they both slept peacefully. "All those grilled cheese sandwiches must'a tired her out."

Olivia turned around, taking in the image herself. Amanda had already snapped a photo on her phone and sent it to her boss, her phone buzzing with the new text. Frannie jumped up when Amanda clicked her tongue, her dog trained to come when she hears the noise. It didn't phase Dani, though, whose arm dropped down to hang over the edge of the couch. Olivia quietly made her way over to the sleeping girl, brushing her hair out of her face and shaking her shoulder gently. "Hey, Dani. Wake up for me, sweetheart."

Dani stirred, taking in her surroundings. She sat up, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. "Sorry," she looked at Amanda sheepishly, a blush creeping to her cheeks as she realized she had fallen asleep.

Amanda smiled softly at her, silently telling her she didn't mind. "Hey, my couch is your couch."

"But," Olivia started, rubbing Dani's arm softly, "I think it's time we call it a night. You think so?"

Dani nodded, standing up from the couch and leaning into Olivia when the older woman had put her arm around her shoulders. She gave Amanda a quick hug goodbye, gave Frannie one last pat on the head and they were out the door.
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The nightmares were too vivid for Dani to handle alone. Her father had been leaning over her, his breath on her neck as she tried desperately to fight him off. He'd told her that she couldn't have fun with him yet, that he had some people he wanted her to meet and then all of Olivia's friends had walked into her bedroom, watching Scott beat her up. Scott ripped her clothes off and she tried to cover herself. She looked at Amanda, Fin, for help. She screamed for Olivia, cried for her to make him stop but she ignored her. Why was she ignoring her? Did she make her mad? Scott was just about to thrust inside her when she had woken up in a cold sweat, her hands shaking violently as she tried to control her breathing. In and out. Just like Olivia had taught her.

But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't stop crying, couldn't stop shaking. So, she threw the covers off the bed and padded into Olivia's bedroom, finding it more and more difficult to breathe. She didn't want to wake her up, so she carefully crawled into the other side of the bed, trying to remind herself that she was safe. She was with Olivia.

"Dani?"

Dani jumped from her spot next to Olivia, closing her eyes tightly to avoid seeing his face. That only seemed to make it worse, though, the haunting blue eyes and the chubby cheeks of the man who stole her innocence seeming to possess her thoughts.

"Dani, honey, look at me." Olivia's voice was only a whisper, careful not to wake Noah who was sleeping in the next room. She placed a hand on Dani's back and rubbed it soothingly, trying to calm her down. "It's okay, sweetheart. You're safe. Can you look at me, please? Look at Livi, honey."

Danielle slowly, cautiously, turned around to look at Olivia, her face crumpling as she saw the look on her face. She hated her. Her breathing was becoming harder and harder to control, and she was beginning to feel lightheaded. She made to get out of the bed before Olivia got really mad, but the woman had pulled her back. She apologized for waking her up and then she vaguely heard Olivia tell her to look at her again, and she really didn't want to make her mad so she obeyed, her scared and pain-filled eyes meeting Olivia's kind, warm eyes.

"Good girl. Remember we talked about breathing? Deep breaths in and out." Olivia demonstrated by taking a deep breath in, coaxing Dani to do the same. She released it when she saw Dani breathe in. "Good," she praised, watching Dani slowly breathe back out again.

She had coaxed Dani into doing it on her own a couple more times and once she realized that the younger girl had her breathing back in check, she pulled her closer, running her hand through her hair. "Oh, sweet girl," she murmured, letting Dani cry into her shoulder. "Shh, I'm right here. I've got you."

And Dani was out again, a restless sleep that was plagued by visions of the evil she had experienced, but Olivia hadn't been able to fall back into sleep that easily. She had watched Dani for the rest of the night, her arms around the young child tightly. And every time she started to move or stir in her sleep, Olivia would hold her tighter, shushing her, telling her she was safe.

At one point in the night, she had started to cry in her sleep, begging them not to hurt her, so Olivia had placed a kiss to the top of her head and the girl had quieted. It was as if Olivia had quite literally kissed her nightmares away and she had known then that Danielle Cooper was her little girl.