A/N: Oops! I forgot my disclaimer! "I do not, have not, will not - unfortunately - ever own SVU or any of the character's and situations relating to it. If you disagree with me and think that I should, by all means go ahead and talk to Dick Wolf and NBC about it. Becca and Mrs. Burgan are obviously mine, otherwise I'm just Olivia's biggest fan." ;-)
I have the forethought to leave a note. Totally falsified, but an attempt nonetheless. Something like "Emergency, drove upstate. Will call by tonight. Sorry." Maybe something else, the specifics here hardly seem important.
I wonder if it will be open, if I will have to wait in the car for hours, if I should've gone straight to the hospital first .But I don't know where else to go but here, the place with a four-letter word as part of its very name.
I stroll inside the heavy doors more casual than I can bear and immediately begin to tremble deep inside my bones. Deep breaths do not exist. I struggle to put on a brave face for the tired woman behind the counter. "I've just been raped," I say with painful clarity, words stinging my tongue fiercely. My knees buckle and I fall to the floor as multiple people now come rushing at me.
I point in what I think is the direction of my car. "Please," it's a whisper, even less so. "There's blood, on the seat. Take it off." That's what I say: take, not get, not wipe, not clean. Take. Everything about my world is violent now. My voice is thready and weak and seems to fade out mud-like so that I don't think anyone's heard me but I do not have the strength to say it again. Now I don't even know why it felt so damn important.
Someone scoops me up, and without realizing it, I've arrived at a hospital. Time is skipping and rushing too fast so that I can't keep up and I don't like it.
"Is there anyone I can call? A friend or family member?" I look up to find familiar brown eyes staring gently back into mine and I know she's introduced herself before, but right now I can't place them. I try to focus on the question.
No, there's no one. I'm about to say, which is true, but somewhere inside me I inherently know that I can't do this, not alone; know that she would expect, even want me to call. The number slips out of my mouth almost unconsciously. She nods, cupping my hands inside her own and suddenly I know: Detective Benson – "Call me Olivia," she said – smiles, tucking in a broken heart to nestle beside her own for safekeeping until I am able to fit the parts together again.
When she comes back, I do not ask Olivia what she said since we woke her in the middle of the night. I do not even know what time it is or how much has passed since. I try not to dwell on it, on anything. "Susan's on her way," she repeats as I am lost in the knowledge that Olivia called her Susan rather than Sue like most people do, and somehow manage to nod, a single tear slipping unknowingly past my cheekbone.
Instinctively, she closes the distance between us and creates contact. At first I jump, heart rate and all, fearfully startled. But before she can pull away the world quickly tilts closer into place and numbly I lean into her, breathing Olivia's carbon dioxide and focusing on the warmth of her hands tight across my back as if she were transferring her strength to me from all the way across this great divide. Then the nurse comes in and I just close my eyes, waiting. Waiting for…? Everything. Anything. Nothing.
She enters with a rush of air, hair tousled from sleep and breathing heavily. She's wearing her daughter's jacket, the lavender one that makes her skin and blonde hair shine. I wonder if she'd had it already, or if Katie'd left it out, if she'd told her daughter – who is close to my age – why she was borrowing it, where she was heading.
"Oh Becca," she cries, same as always even as everything else has changed. I wish she would put the laugh back at the end instead. Olivia steps away from the bed, seamlessly allowing Mrs. Burgan to fill her place, but something within me will not allow me to release Olivia's hand so she stops short, one foot out, to look straight into my eyes.
She is not afraid of me, I realize suddenly. Nor does she pity me. I see understanding there, in her full gaze, equal amounts of sadness, fear and anger. She is redemption, a way out, not revenge but justice. A soul from the other side. She squeezes my fingers tight, a sigh of knowledge passing between her lips and I sigh in response.
Mrs. Burgan is talking to me but I cannot understand. Even my own words are mere mumbles that nonetheless manage to echo.
"We're almost down with the rape kit," Olivia says softly. "Just a few more swabs and then we'll get you all stitched up, okay?"
I wonder why she keeps saying "we", but purse my lips instead of speaking it. "Can I have some chapstick?" I say instead, asking shyly, as if I have no right to do so.
Olivia reaches into her left pocket. "I have some lip gloss, is that good enough?"
What's enough, I think. Nothing will ever be enough anymore. I reach for it, and then shirk back abruptly. "It's yours." I state, as if that wasn't obvious.
She shakes her head, pulling my hand back towards her, placing the slender cylinder inside my palm and then curling my fingers down over it. She looks right into my eyes again before replying, "Now it's yours."
I try to smile my appreciation, but my mouth doesn't work like it should so I just concentrate on twisting it open - an apparently challenging feat with my limbs shaky as they are.
Mrs. Burgan leaps in, slipping the container out of my grasp and back in before my senses can catch up. It's open now, such an easy task, and yet I've failed, again. I know she just wants to feel useful, but I suddenly have this dire need not to feel coddled, and right now she's encroaching on my space.
So when I go to cap it but struggle and she reaches, I snap. "Don't."
The word comes out short, tart, biting. I don't mean for it to, yet it does.
Olivia moves closer. "It's okay," but I'm not sure if she's consoling me or Mrs. Burgan. The lip gloss tastes like wax, equally as impossible as the burning and the musky smell. I want to wipe it off. I wish I'd never requested it. Now I feel guilty.
"I'm sorry." Mrs. Burgan just blinks, and Olivia whispers something to the nurse who has come to stitch up the cut on my arm and above my eye. It makes me glad that Mrs. Burgan has already seen my scars; this shouldn't worry her so much.
They don't hurt, not really. They're not that deep. As usual, my insides hurt the worst. I want to ask the nurse to lay off the local. I can't help it; it's an instinct. How I deal with stress and this damn well better qualify. I don't want to disappoint Mrs. Burgan though, or let on to Olivia that I'm not really over it like I said and risk making everyone sad, so I don't.
Then Olivia drives me back to the station for my statement, and Mrs. Burgan follows in her car. I turn to glance at Olivia, only it's more than a glance. "I thought I'd fought my way into adulthood already, earned my place but now this. If only I'd…"
Olivia parks the car over abruptly to wrap her hands around my own and give them a squeeze. There's that look again, so searing and truthful it hurts but I can't bear to stop looking. "You survived and got here, that's what matters. Absolutely none of this is your fault. I know it's hard, but you've got to stay with me. I promise I will be here with you, through it."
My mouth is dry; I try to swallow. She is so desperate to reach me, I see it in those pretty brown eyes, so fiery, but I'm realizing I don't know how to let her, or anyone. I blink, nodding slowly before she relents and pulls back onto the road. Sighing, I rest my head against the window and watch the world fade out as it rushes on by without me.
"I think he came in the window," I say later, in that claustrophobic room. "My bathroom is the only one in the house without a screen. Brilliant planning, huh? Snuck out it a few times in high school." My laugh is strained, needy and disdainful but inside I am screaming from the brokenness, the nothingness.
Olivia has given me a cup of coffee to drink but I don't want it and Mrs. Burgan politely refused. Her hand remains a barrier against my arm, the other resting constantly in from of her mouth as if to hold her voice captive.
"I'd just gotten out of the shower, so I'd opened it to let the steam out. He, he told me he liked the smell of my shampoo, s-so he'd forgive me for not having freshly shaved legs." I'm trembling again. Why do memories have to be so fucking painful?
"When did you first know that he was in your room?" Olivia asks and I try to go back that far, try so very hard to access what my brain is locking up.
"I'd gone to turn my music up, and when I came back to put my towel away, h-he, he,"
Olivia rest her hands on top of mine, stopping my nails from digging into my palms. "It's okay. Take all the time you need." Her voice is calm and confident, but there is so much pent up I can't help exploding.
"No!" I shriek, pulling my hands free and startling both women. "No it's not okay!" I'm up off the chair and over by the window – where I wondered at first if someone was behind it, watching – before I realize that I am moving. "Nothing is okay!" Every word is enunciated with strange pauses. "Not anymore, not ever!"
Suddenly I'm crying, sliding down into a tight ball until my body is tucked inside a corner. Mrs. Burgan rushes at me, Olivia not far behind, but I can't really see them. Everything's just blurry, forever ruined like water stains.
"She's a cutter," Mrs. Burgan says by way of explanation, cuddling my head away from the solidness of the wall and I watch Olivia's eyes cloud over, making me truly conscious of those words and their meaning.
"NO." I shoot up, resolved, yanking myself from her grip and moving to stand defiantly as I face both women, steel in my gaze. "No, I am not." I shake as if to clear my head and return to the small table.
The tension here - in the air of the room - is so palpable I could almost reach up and touch it, but I don't know whether it will stay taunt or shatter, don't know which is best. A look passes between Olivia and Mrs. Burgan before they too sit back down, somehow braving to close the distance between us all even further.
I spare Olivia from having to ask another question. "He grabbed me from behind, forced me into the tub and pulled my pajamas off." A tear slips down my face and I wipe it shakily. I don't know how I am still speaking.
"Did you see his face?" Olivia prods gently and I notice Mrs. Burgan has somehow managed to wrap an arm around my waist and clasp my hands without my knowing, but I let her stay even though any touch is making me wary.
"No," I shake my head. "The light was off and he'd closed the door. He told me he'd kill me if I screamed but I couldn't even breathe."
"Try to remember anything distinct about him. Height, weight, build, facial hair, a smell, anything."
"Taller than me," My mind jumps. "His chin hit the back of my head. And, and he smelled very musky, almost moldy. I don't think he smoked, and I couldn't taste alcohol…" There's something else but I can't place my finger on it. Absent-mindedly I rotate my earring. That's it! The light bulb goes off. "He, he has a piercing on his lip. Once he got too rough and it ripped mine." I motion and Olivia nods.
"The wounds on your arms?" In my head I thank her for not saying cuts, but I have to assume Mrs. Burgan's mind is still going down that road regardless.
Shaking my head, I tell her he'd accidentally whacked me into the shower door. "Accidentally? Rape isn't usually accidental." Her voice betrays her skepticism but what I am wondering is how come that word does not destroy her as it comes out of her mouth.
"No really," I blink at her, then fidget. "He apologized for it, before he,"
I pause and Olivia gapes, then quickly recovers. "What next?"
"He, he kissed me. Told me to kiss him back. So I did." The tears again. I'm ashamed, so ashamed, but continue. I just want to get this over with. "Then he, he gripped my breasts. Twisted, bit." My lip trembles and I've unconsciously crossed my arms over my chest. "It made him hard. He told me I was beautiful." My crying is silent but I'm not taking in air.
"Is that when he raped you?" Olivia asks, somehow wrapping up each question and detail more gently than humanly possible.
Turning my head to the wall and wiping tears, I nod almost invisibly. There's a minute of silence, thick and heavy but everyone seems to just accept its presence.
"He told me what a good girl I was, how I didn't fight him. Sweet, innocent, delicious. That's what he called me. When, when he realized I was a virgin, he apologized again. But then he said that made me even more special. That now we would be forever joined." The crying has lodged itself in my voice now; I fear it's a permanent change.
I stare at Olivia, my face strained. "Is that true?"
She resumes her rescuer stance because it's what I need right then. She seems to instinctively know these things, molding herself repeatedly into whatever it takes to keep me from falling apart and I wonder how; where she learned this uncanny ability of transformation. "Absolutely not. There is life after this. I promise, you will get through this. It will not last forever."
And I don't know how, but I believe her.
Air returns to my lungs, slowly, but it's there undeniably just the same. "When he was done, he just, laid on top of me. I couldn't breathe. His arms were wrapped loosely around my neck, as if this were a tender moment between us. I was cold and achy and dirty. I still feel dirty, even after the shower at the hospital."
"Which is entirely normal and you might feel that way for a little while, but it will go away too." Olivia reassures, so I force myself to finish.
"I lied to him, after." And of all the details, this is the thing that embarrasses me the most, that I would dare to lie to the person who held my life in his power, the man who made me kiss him back, willingly giving him my body in order to keep my soul, no matter how shattered and worthless it is now.
"I told him all the hot water was gone and that only hot water would eradicate the evidence. I promised him I would wash in less than an hour, as soon as the temperature went up, that I would stay right there until I had. I don't know why he believed me, trusted me, abandoned me there."
"You saved a lot of evidence that way. That was extremely smart of you. We have a real chance of finding him because of that."
It's supposed to be empowering, validating, but everything just feels empty and worthless. I try to smile, to make her feel better, but then I sense the irony of that and a laugh escapes my lips. Even after all of this, I'm still trying to protect other people.
Suddenly I am firing my own barrage of questions. "Do you have a boyfriend? How can you do it? Surround yourself in these miserable circumstances by choice and then go about living your life like another normal person? Isn't the whole world now tainted with darkness? How can you hope and move on? Is it possible?"
She looks at me and I think she has asked herself these questions more times than either of us can count. What's more is I know that right now she is going to give me answers that she does not fully believe herself. "I've dated some, but no one currently, no. I do it for courageous people like you, because someone has to," tears in her eyes "and every day I force myself to drown in the sun, focus on the light. You hope because you're human, and you move on because your life depends on it."
It makes sense, and my heart yearns to seal these nuggets of honesty and wisdom inside my seams. But I can't stop the panic I feel.
I suck my bottom lip between my teeth, tasting the oddness of Olivia's lip gloss – not fruity, like expected because she smells of mandarin, but a subtle vanilla – and remember how I'd put on my favorite chap stick, Chamomile, right before I went to hang my towel up. I will never use or have anything that flavor again. Just like the jeans – which initially were just the first I'd seen to grab after – my favorite, only now I knew the dried blood on them would never wash out. That they are permanently stained, a vision of my life before, being destroyed.
"I'm scared he took a part of my soul that I'll never get back."
This whole time Mrs. Burgan has been this supporting force, but now she suddenly thrusts into the forefront, pulling me tight into her body and speaking strong and clear into my ear. "You already have."
It makes me gasp as I cling to her shirt, her skin.
Olivia smiles in the knowledge of the beginning of this victory, her voice soft and feminine, proud. "That you most certainly have."
And this is what I tuck into my heart. This is the moment I determine to be whole. I will live free.