Title: Chronology
Author: Shae-Lynn
Address: benson_stabler@hotmail.com, pink_sequins@yahoo.com
Rating: PG
Category: Post-ep, Angst
Spoilers: Futility
Summary: Post-ep for Futility.
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine, except for Olivia's classmates (my OC's.) The rest belong to Dick Wolf and boy, am I ever jealous.

Note: Apologies to Margaret Atwood for stealing bits of her superb poetry ("What Happened" and "Chronology"). Hey, I had to find some way I could qualify writing fic as "studying for English".

Chronology

"Meanwhile on several

Areas of my skin, strange bruises glow

And fade, and I can't remember

What accidents I had, whether I was

Badly hurt, how long ago"

I ran over everything Elliot had said on the dark road, on the way back to my apartment.

"Liv," he'd said, "You have to get over it."

Easy for you to say.

He'd said I'd done my job.

He had no idea how much I needed to believe that.

He'd said I could leave, walk away if I wanted to.

"No I can't," I'd whispered, on the verge of tears.

Then I left.

I didn't want to end up in Elliot's house watching some stupid late night TV and eating potato chips to make me forget that I had put Carrie Huitt through hell. At least she wouldn't have to live knowing her attacker went free, whereas who could tell how many victims wouldn't even report their attacks now? How many more rapists would walk the streets?

Damn right I identify with the victims, Elliot Maybe because I'm a woman. But also because my mother was a victim just like Carrie Huitt. And I saw exactly what it did to her. And to me.

----------

"At 6 I was sly as a weasel,

Adroit at smiling and hiding,

Slippery-fingered, greasy with guile."

From there, under the table, I could see mommy's feet in her fuzzy pink slippers. She thought I was still in bed but spies have to be sneaky. I heard grandma clinking the coffee mugs together in the kitchen and then her feet were in the room with my mother's.

"Serena, you look awful. Did you sleep all right?" My grandma asked. They had no idea I was there. I giggled and pulled out my doodle pad and crayons so I could write down important information. I was a spy, Secret Agent Benson. Double-oh-six (because I was six years old). I knew the answer to grandma's question.

"It was a bit too cold," mom said. I frowned at the lie. It wasn't cold that night; mommy had had a bad dream again.

We had gone to sleep in grandma's big bed upstairs. I had left my teddy bear, Alistair, at our house. There was no light in the room and I was scared, so mommy said, "It's okay, sweetie. You'll just have to hug me, all right?" And I nodded and put my arms around her. She was warm and soft and I fell asleep real quickly.

But she woke me up in the middle of the night with her shaking. She was crying just like a baby. I should know; my best friend, Sunny, has a new little sister. All she ever does is cry. So I tried to rub mommy's back 'cause that's what Sunny's mom does to stop her little sister when he cries. It didn't work; mommy hit my hand away and she looked at me in the dark.

"Oh, God," she whispered, looking scared of me, her eyes all big, "Oh, God." She sounded like she was going to start crying again. And she got up out of bed and went to her suitcase to find the bottle she'd packed there between the underwear and the socks. She took it out of the room. It was so dark and I was scared again so I hid under the covers, and pretended that the pillow was my mother.

----------

"Maybe I could take Livvy for a week? You could get some rest." They were talking about me, so I listened hard.

"You don't have to take her, Ma. She'd be too much trouble." My mouth formed a perfect "o" of surprise.

"It's not a problem, dear." Grandma sounded mad.

"I'd ask you to take her forever if I could," she grumbled. I tried to guess out what this meant. Forever is a long time. I felt sick. If I lived with grandma, I couldn't see Sunny anymore. And I couldn't see mommy. Why did she want to leave me here? Maybe the bad dream had been my fault. I didn't understand.

"I'm serious, Serena. Take some vacation days. If you don't want to leave her here, send her to camp."

I didn't understand. I had been camping once with Sunny's family but I couldn't do it by myself.

And I wasn't having fun anymore. I crawled out from under the table and my grandma covered her mouth, seeing me.

"I'm sorry," I said, beginning to cry myself. "I didn't mean to. Don't leave me."

"How long have you been there, Livvy?" She asked in a whisper.

"I dunno."

My mom came and kneeled in front of me, eyes wide. She put a hand on my head and ran it through my hair.

"I'm sorry, Livvy, I won't leave you," she said. Then she hugged me and I put my arms around her and she put her hand on the back of my head and she sighed. "Do you forgive me?" I nodded. She had said she was sorry. That I understood.

-----------

"At 12, instructed

By the comic books already

Latent in my head, I was bored with horror."

The note landed right in the middle of my desk; a perfect throw. I turned and winked at Sunny before opening it quietly behind my math text. Mr. Schilling was up at the board; he didn't notice. Inside the note was a cartoon of Schilling with his Pinocchio nose and big chin. I laughed. I couldn't help it. Schilling whipped around.

"Is there a problem, Miss Benson?" My face went red and I just knew Sunny was hiding her smile in the collar of her jacket.

"No, sir," I said with a straight face, "I think I need a drink of water. Can I go to the water fountain?"

"I don't know, can you?" Typical Schilling; always concerned with our English during Math.

"May I?"

"Yes, you may." I walked back down the row, past Sunny, who was bright red from holding in giggles, and I dropped another note on her desk on the way out.

Instead of going down to the water fountain, I got my jean jacket from my locker and went out back, across the field to the grove. I didn't care if anyone saw me; I didn't care about missing algebra.

"Hi, Olivia. How'd you get out of Math?" Tommy Peterson was sitting on a log with his friend, Arnold, a geeky, short kid with unruly red hair and braces. Tommy, on the other hand, had girls falling all over him. He was a year older than me and he was taller than all the other boys in his grade, with this thick, dark hair that Sunny said she'd like to "run her hands through."

"I asked to get a drink of water"

"What about your stuff?" Arnold asked.

"Sunny's getting it after class." I hoped I sounded cool about it. "What are you guys looking at?" I pointed to the open comic on their laps.

"It's the new issue of Amazing Tales. This one's about a wolverine who eats people's brains."

"Can you move over?" I'd read it the week before, but they didn't know that. They shifted towards Tommy's side of the log and I had to squish up next to creepy Arnold. I pretended to be interested, but by the time they got to the part where the wolverine was eating the second woman, I was thinking about other things. The fair was on this weekend and Sunny and I were going to bike there. I was wondering if I could get Tommy to come with us.

"Tommy," I said, pointedly ignoring Arnold, "Sunny and me are going to bike to the fair this Saturday. Wanna come?"

"I can't bike," Arnold said, "I have asthma." I had hoped he'd take the hint, but apparently he hadn't. "And my dad won't drive us anywhere. Our car's getting fixed." Part of me was grateful; Arnold's car was the ugliest thing I'd ever seen. Sunny would never forgive me if I made her ride in it.

"Could your parents drive, Olivia?" Tommy asked, flashing me a killer smile. I flushed. My mom was going to Jersey for the weekend with her latest boyfriend. She thought I was old enough to stay by myself now.

"Well, my mom's going to be away," I said.

"What about your dad?" I felt like he had punched me. I couldn't tell him; now was not the time to give a life history, especially not in front of Arnold.

"He's away," I lied smoothly, a rotten feeling in the pit of my stomach.

"On business?" Arnold guessed. Why did they keep forcing me to lie?

"Yeah." There was an awkward pause as I frantically tried to think of a solution.

"Maybe Sunny's brother could drive us," I suggested. The idea caught on. The attention wasn't on my family anymore.

I had escaped. But I knew, eventually, I'd have to start telling the truth.

----------

"She should be gone by now. Come on in," I said, opening the front door quietly. Sunny followed me in and put her school bag down in the hall.

"It's so great that your mom lets you stay at home alone."

"Yeah, well she has a pretty great mom," came a voice from the kitchen.

"Mom?" I called, confused. My mother came out into the hallway with a very weird expression on her face.

"Mrs. Benson? Are you okay?" Sunny asked, concern in her voice. My mom was swaying on her feet.

"Mom, weren't you going to Jersey?" I said, taking her arm and gently leading her to a nearby chair. Her breath smelled and I cringed, wishing more than anything that Sunny would leave.

"I couldn't," she began, starting to cry, "For God's sake, it's been twelve years. You'd think I'd be able to...you know. As soon as he starts taking my shirt off..." she began. My eyes widened in embarrassment.

"My parents are expecting me. I'll see you tomorrow, okay? Bye Mrs. Benson," Sunny said quickly, backing out the doorway. I turned around to see her running down the street, backpack swinging on one shoulder. I knew she was gone for good. I took a deep breath and started going into the kitchen.

"Where are you going?" Mom asked, throat clogged.

"I'm getting you some water," I said flatly, "Then I'm phoning Sunny and apologizing."

"Why? Are you ashamed of me?" She always got angry after she got sad. I sighed, pulling the glass out of the cupboard.

"No, I'm not." Even though I was.

"Yes you are." She followed me to the kitchen. "I didn't have to keep you, you know."

I couldn't take it anymore. I spun around and slammed the glass down on the counter.

"Don't remind me. It would've been better for both of us if you hadn't," I exclaimed angrily. She looked at me in shock, then sunk to the tile floor slowly and buried her head in her hands.

"Livvy, you don't understand," she managed to croak out. I kneeled down beside her and tried to get her to look at me.

"I'm sorry," I said, my throat constricting.

"You don't understand. I'm doing the best I can." I kneeled beside her and put my arms around her lightly.

"I'm sorry."

----------

"At 16 I was pragmatic,

Armoured with wry lipstick;

I was invulnerable."

"You look beautiful, girls." My mother took out her new camera and motioned for me and Sunny to stand in front of the rose bush in our dresses. It was the junior prom and we were going stag so we got each other's flowers for fun. My mom was beaming from ear to ear, wearing a new sun dress. "Smile, Olivia," she said from behind the camera. I rolled my eyes, put on a fake grin and she took the photo.

"Thanks, Mrs. Benson," Sunny said nervously. She always acted like my mother could jump off the handle at any moment. It irritated me. We were walking to the school so we left my mom waving at us from the front porch.

----------

The school gym was decorated with blue and yellow streamers. I could see a few of my friends hanging around the refreshments table so I gestured for Sunny to follow me over there. Tommy Peterson (who now preferred to be called "Tom") looked up at me and started laughing. A few of the people around him joined in.

"What's so funny?" I asked with an easy smile, afraid I had tucked my skirt into my underwear or something equally mortifying.

"Nothing," Tom said, trying to control himself. "Have some punch, Olivia. You look great." I grinned at his compliment and took the cup from him. He passed another cup to Sunny.

"Thanks," she said. Just then, some boy came along and asked Sunny to dance. She shrugged at me and went off.

"Want some more?" Tommy asked when I had finished my cup. I looked at him.

"Is this your job or something?" But I handed him the empty cup. He handed it back full.

"Nope. I just like doing something nice for a pretty girl."

"Well how would you like to dance with one?" I asked.

"Sure, but you should finish your punch first." I was a bit suspicious, but said nothing.

"Okay." I drank the rest of it and then he led me out onto the dance floor, putting his arms around me. He kept stepping on my feet but I didn't care.

"You're a really good dancer," I lied.

"My mom wanted me to take dancing lessons. My dad wanted me to take baseball," he said, "She won." I put on what I hoped was a dazzling smile and looked right into his gorgeous brown eyes. I felt light-headed. Maybe, I thought, I'm in love. Tom was so cute in his black suit. He looked like Christopher Reeve or something. The song ended and Tom took my hand, leading me back to the refreshments area, where Sunny was looking at with surprise. I pulled my hand out of Tom's quickly.

"What's up, Sunny?" He asked, "Aren't you having a good time?" She turned on a glowing fake smile.

"It's just too hot," she said.

"Lighten up, have some punch," I said, passing her a cup while getting another for myself. She glared at me.

"Maybe we could dance when you're done," Tom asked her. Her eyes lit up.

"Sure." I went to sit down and almost fell out of my chair. I guessed I was dizzy with jealously so I tried to take a couple deep breaths, but I nearly tipped out of my chair again.

"What's going on, Miss Benson?" I turned to see the Vice-Principal, Mr. Carswell, staring down at me.

"I don't know," I said, and started laughing even as Sunny and Tom were heading out to the dance floor. Through my hazy vision, I noticed Sunny stumbling slightly. Mr. Carswell grabbed my arm and pulled me to my feet. I swayed a bit and started laughing again at the look on his face. With his black hair slicked back and his white skin, he looked just like a vampire in a tweed suit.

"What have you been drinking?"

"Just punch," I said honestly. Mr. Carswell picked up my glass and sniffed it.

"You're coming with me, young lady." He grabbed my arm so hard it hurt and pulled me out in front of all my friends. By the time we got to the office, I was crying instead of laughing.

"Please don't call my mom," I said desperately.

"I'm sorry," he said as he picked up the phone.

----------

I saw my mother's headlights as she pulled up to the school and I felt my heart sink into my stomach. I heard her feet running down the hallway and then she was in the office, grabbing me up into her arms and hugging me fiercely. She was shaking and I started crying.

"I apprehended your daughter drinking," Mr. Carswell began, but my mom wasn't listening. She held me at arm's length, tears running down her cheeks.

"What were you thinking? I was so scared," she said, genuine panic in her eyes.

"I was only drinking punch, I swear," I said, slurring slightly.

"Olivia, it doesn't matter. Just never do it again."

"But it wasn't my fault," I gulped. "Someone must have spiked it."

"Impossible," Carswell denied. My mother stared at him.

"Did you check the bowl?" She demanded. He began to sputter.

"Well, no."

"Then I suggest you leave my daughter alone." She began to lead me out of the office and when we got to the car, she took me into a hug again and said, "Livvy, I love you so much. I love you so much." I nodded.

Later I realized she wasn't scared that I was in trouble or even that I was drunk. She was scared that I was going to turn out like her.

---------

"Time wears me down like water.

The engraved lines of my features

Are being slowly expunged."

When I got back to my apartment, the answering machine light was blinking. I switched on the hall light before pressing the PLAY button. Elliot's voice filled the apartment.

"'Liv, it's me. I was thinking about what you were saying when you were here. You know when you asked me what the point was, and I said I didn't know, well I think I found the point." There was a pause. "Gloria Stanfield, Hope Garrett, Dr. Massey, Tom Landricks, Stanley Billings," he paused momentarily and I could hear him flipping through papers. My eyes began to tear up.

"Clayton Mills, Richard Manning, Edwin Todd...there's more. Anyway, 'Liv," he said, "They're all behind bars."

I picked up the picture of my mother and I that was sitting beside my phone. I smiled at it.

"There's your point."