"Park her? Don't even know her!"

Dick, 3x18 'I Know What You'll Do Next Summer'

Parker sits in class, letting the professor's words slide in and out of her mind. No-one is going to notice. She often gets caught in reverie in these classes, even when she doesn't want to.

Sometimes she remembers the way she used to be – the way she still is, really, so how exactly she's remembering it escapes her. But remember she does. She was so bright, and so bubbly, and so stupid but no-one ever really cared (with the exception of her parents, but they were them and hence didn't really count).

It's not the same anymore. Sure, she still acts perky and sweet, but no-one really believes she's being honest about it – she's not sure whether or not she is. When she thinks she is, she starts resenting them for how they all expect her to be broken for good, but she can't really blame them. People worry; it's what they do.

She's thought about the night it happened more than she likes. She wants to push the entire thing away and sweep it under the carpets in her mind, like she would back when she was being lazy cleaning her room and just wanted her mom's money. But it turns out that her subconscious is just as thorough as Mrs. Lee, and she gets neither denial nor cash.

She sees it like an old film on a projector – ticking sound and flickering on the screen. How Mercer would have pressed her onto the bed, one hand on her breast bone. The sound of radio drowning out his groans. Veronica blissfully ignorant entry and exit, not to be bothered with until much later. Mac waiting outside, making her own judgments. How that pretty silver razor glinted under the little light left in the room.

For something she can't remember, she's got a surprisingly vivid picture of it. She's taken the tiny details people dare to tell her and joined them in her mind, like humanity's most sickening connect the dots. She's always been blessed with a vivid imagination – she could always tell the picture after joining only a couple of points, and she always used to cry at books where she could see what was happening to the characters.

Unconsciously, she runs her hand through the synthetic blond strands that stand for her hair. The loss that symbolized what he stole. If it wasn't for that squirming, buzzing razor, no-one would ever really know unless she chose to tell them. Hell, if Mac and Veronica hadn't been there the morning she woke up, she can't promise she wouldn't have gotten the wig on her own and hidden the whole thing.

She was always so happy as a kid, and that went on into her high school years. People always grinned and laughed to see Parker Lee getting into a new wild antic – it drove her parents crazy, but she reveled in that. The people used to say she was sunshine personified; she had been told more than once she belonged in sunny California.

Given what happened when she got to California, that's a little ironic.

She taps on the page of her workbook; she thinks she ought to be taking notes, but she's not paying attention so that plan's kind of screwed. Hey, she can just fail and drop out, right? Her mother had told her to do that, after the rape; just pack her bags and run away back home. She had been pathetic enough to almost do it, and it took Mac to talk her into the decision she wanted to make.

She never wanted to run – she still doesn't want to, but in her mind she has to, because she can't let in invade every part of her brain like it seems to want to. But that doesn't work either, because it – he – catches her whenever she lets her mind go blank, and she has to dwell on it.

The whole thing strikes her as distinctly unfair, because it was only one night, after all. If she could just forget that night – well, she has forgotten it, but forget it ever happened – there would be nothing wrong, right? There were so many ways the entire thing could have been avoided; if Veronica had turned the light on, or if her roommate and friend had asked her to go with them, or any other event that could have kept her from that party. Yes she knows that if she hadn't been there Mercer would have just gone after someone else, and that's selfish, but if she can't be selfish when she's wallowing when can she be?

Quietly, she traces the edge of her notebook with her finger. Daring it to cut her. It obeys and she hisses in pain, not that anyone notices. She watches the stain on the side of the page and the quickly swelling dot of red on her fingertip, and all she can think of is that goddamned razor again.

He could have cut her, hurt her, left scars all over her skin and skull. He didn't. He was so careful and methodical, like a scientist, and left her skin so clean. They didn't find a trace of him on or in her, and that stung worse – like there was no evidence; she knew but she couldn't prove it.

Okay, that's irrational. Everyone knew. They all knew, and they all wanted to help her; all wanted to find the bastard who did this to her and it was so overwhelming. Because they all knew it, they didn't know her, and didn't they get it? It was so specific and no-one else could see that; they wanted to file her in with the rest of the poor, victimized things he did this to; Veronica tried to identify with her and she hated it all, because all she wanted to do was crawl into her hole where no-one's pain could be more important than hers.

The blood drips from her finger onto the page, creating a red-white pattern that reminds her of things she'd rather not. Of how she has been so pristine, like a toy in the packaging and he ripped her open like an impatient kid on Christmas. Is that a mixed metaphor? It doesn't matter, she supposes.

She is struck by a curious urge to do it again. Drag her skin against the sharp paper edge and see what it looks like this time. She resists the urge; one cut would look the same as another and she hardly ever gets paper cuts anyway, so it might take a while.

She feels it should be over now. Mercer Hayes is rotting in prison right now and she is going to be called on to testify against him in a month or so, and she knows she needs to steel herself for that, but when she thinks about it she just wants to curl into a ball in her bed and never, ever get up again.

She had been so brave that night when he was caught; knowing who he was and looking him point blank in the eye anyway. She wishes she could remember how now, because she thinks she needs that back.

Okay, she remembers how – she had been so scared for Veronica's sake that she could ignore her own problems for a while. Still, she doesn't think having her friend held in mortal danger throughout the whole trial will really be worth it.

She looks up again, and realizes her professor is saying something about 18th century etiquette. She's completely lost, and gives up on escaping her reverie with the tedium of class. Hell, the tedium of class is what led her here anyway, so she has every right to be mad and it and ignore it. Okay, that's insane, but she's still not paying attention to class.

She takes in two deep breaths. If she's not going to pay attention to her work, she'd rather pay attention to something not this, because if she thinks about this too long she'll get stuck in a rut. She doesn't want to be that person; she doesn't want to let it define her; something she didn't even do, something that was done to her. It's all anyone ever sees when they look at her and she's quickly following suit when she looks in the mirror.

It's unfair, because she did nothing wrong and wasn't that cart designed to be safe? She took it home for that very reason; she wasn't even all that drunk but with a rapist on the loose, she wanted to be cautious. They tricked and snared her like a honey trap; they cheated somehow and led her wherever they wanted, and she was just a naive little girl who never got the chance to fight back.

She used to be so bright and happy; so sweet and bubbly. She wants to be, and she tries so hard not to let their darkness consume every bit of her mind and body, because if she does they one. They have the advantage and she knows it; they're both rotting in prison and that should mean she's one, but it doesn't, not by a long shot.

Maybe, she's not the sweet girl she acts anymore. But she doesn't want to admit it, and doesn't want to give anyone the satisfaction of watching her shatter. And she needs to be okay now, because if she isn't someone will see and once and for all, she will be born out of what happened to her. She wishes she could just cut it out of her – she can't even remember what happened, and that sounds like it should make it better, but it never does.

She used to be the sunshine, and it's storming but she fights it anyway. Rain and sunlight make rainbows everywhere, and she knows it's a lie, but it's so pretty she lets everyone chase after it anyway.

Her professor dismisses the class, and even as she stands she's distracted by the quickly clotting scratch that's disfiguring her fingerprint. If strikes her as fitting, somehow.

But then she looks up, pastes on her smile and sweeps that golden hair and silver razor under the carpet, like dust.