AN: I'm sorry it's taken me so long to update this story! It's hard to stay inspired when the show isn't airing anymore, but don't worry, I'm definitely going to continue with this until I can reach some sort of conclusion, and I promise not to rush into it ;) Let me know what you think! I love receiving reviews and it helps me to write what you want to read :)
When Carol-Lynne finally became aware of her surroundings, she was sitting in a car outside the Playboy Mansion. Billy's car. And Billy was sitting next to her in the driver's seat. Her first feeling was one of complete panic, but shame soon took over with devastating force. Looking down at her legs, she saw that her dress was torn along the hem and her shoes were missing.
"Where are my – " she began, turning to Billy without meeting his gaze.
"I took them off so you could walk more easily – you weren't really with it for a while, there."
"I – I can't remember…" This scared her more than anything else that had happened that night.
"It's okay, nothing happened. The jerk bolted as soon as he saw the gun."
"You need to rest. Go inside – you're safe now."
These words didn't give Carol-Lynne any comfort and she found herself stuck to her seat, unable to open the door. "I don't know that I am," she whispered, her eyes trained on the car parked in front of them.
Billy sighed. He had been lucky, walking out the back when he did, but even though he had saved Carol-Lynne – from what, he didn't even want to imagine – it felt like he had failed. Here she was, not able to bring herself to leave his car, and he couldn't do anything to help her. He could chase away her attacker, but he couldn't chase away her memories.
"Look, there are lots of people in there, Carol-Lynne. You'll be fine."
"I'm not fine!" She glared at him with glistening eyes and what he saw in them erased any words he may have hoped would mend her. She exhaled raggedly and turned away again. "How can I – " she began, but her voice gave out before she could go any further. She shook her head slowly and took a shallow breath before continuing. "I can't even protect myself from the dangers I place myself in."
Billy's heart grew heavier as he took this in. "This wasn't your fault," he said quietly.
"I'm not deluded, Billy. I know about cause and effect, about the consequences we have to live with when we make decisions, so it's all the more pathetic that I can't live with them."
"That's crazy." Billy was too scared to touch her, but he wished he could reach out to her face to make her look at him. "How is this guy attacking you a result of your decisions? You didn't have anything to do with – "
"I need them to want me – God, I'm just as bad as Nick – and when they act on that desire – the very desire that allows me to go on – I can't handle it. What the hell am I supposed to do?" This last question was verging on hysterics. When she was done yelling, Carol-Lynne just stared at Billy with distraught eyes as if he actually had the answer she was looking for.
"I don't know," he finally said, holding her gaze even though it pained him to. "All I know is that you did not bring this on yourself. No one has the right to demand sex from you," he hesitated for a moment, beleaguered by his own guilt, "or suggest that it's anything to be bought or earned."
Carol-Lynne took in the man sitting next to her who, just the night before, had made her feel both worthless and exceptional in the space of ten minutes. So many thoughts were flying around her head that she wished she had some sort of shield to stop them colliding and shattering into a million pieces. She couldn't lose any of them – they were the only things that could save her.
"Can you go inside with me?" she asked, searching Billy's face for something – anything – that could give her strength.
"You don't want me with you," Billy insisted. "All the girls will be home by now and Hef will be in there, too. You won't be alone."
"But I want you," she told him with all the sincerity she could muster. "Please. I don't want to be the old prude who people have to listen to or a prized treasure. Not tonight; I just want it to be over – "
"You're not an old prude," Billy assured her, and he was rewarded with a weak smile. He reached behind his seat and handed Carol-Lynne her shoes. "Stay there – I'm coming around to open your door."
They walked across the road together and up the pathway to the front door of the mansion. Carol-Lynne fumbled for her key in her purse, but she stopped when Billy pulled his from his pocket and held it out to her. "Thank you," she said softly before unlocking the door and holding it open for Billy to step through into the hallway. They made their way quietly up the stairs to Carol-Lynne's room, passing doors behind which they could hear squeals of laughter. Closing the door behind her, Carol-Lynne went to sit on the edge of her bed, not quite sure where to go from there. The blank expression on her face had fear washing over Billy once more.
"Do you need any help?" he asked, approaching the brunette cautiously.
"No. No, I'm fine," she replied, then cringed at her own hypocrisy. Regardless, she lifted her left leg and gingerly removed one of her heels before doing the same with the other shoe. Standing up, she stared at Billy until he turned around before reaching her hands behind her to try to unzip her dress. Her muscles were so sore from her assault, though, that she could barely touch the small of her back without pain jolting through her.
Hearing her whimper, Billy turned back around, his concern winning out over his modesty. "What's wrong?" he said, trying to meet her gaze while she was doing everything in her power to avoid his. Finally, she looked up at him with an expression of pure sorrow.
"I…can't get my dress off," she choked out. Without a word, Billy walked up behind her and gently pulled down her zip, making an effort not to brush his hand against her silk-like skin.
"Thanks," she uttered, just loud enough for him to hear her.
"Would you like me to go now?" Billy's anxiety was evident in his voice; so much was at stake here.
"No – please stay," she replied with a conviction that gave Billy some hope. He watched her as she let her dress fall to the floor and stepped out of it, walking over to her wardrobe to find a nightshirt. She placed it on the bed before turning away from Billy to remove her bra, but again, the strain was too much for her. She exuded a shuddering breath, gathering the strength to surrender even more of herself, and turned her head to the side without looking directly at the man behind her. "Can you undo this for me, please?"
Billy inhaled sharply, then walked forward to help Carol-Lynne take off the second-last article of clothing that she had on. He lingered behind her for a little too long and her voice was breathy when she finally broke his trance. "You can step back now." He did, and Carol-Lynne quickly pulled on the nightshirt that was lying next to her. When she turned to face him, Billy thought it was possible that her eyes contained a reflection of the hope that he was grasping onto.
"You don't know how glad I am that you're here," she said, sitting back down on the bed.
"I'm glad, too, but – I can leave whenever you want, or – I'm happy to stay."
He could see her mind processing the pain that his words had caused her and he hated himself for it. "I don't know what I want right now, Billy." He watched her brown, curly hair fall across her face and over her shoulders that rose with every breath that she took and his chest filled with so much longing that he had to remind his heart to start beating again.
Billy moved towards the bed, keeping an excruciating distance from Carol-Lynne. "All I want to do is protect you."
"I don't want to need you to protect me. I don't want to need anything."
"You don't need anything. You're perfect." Hearing this, she looked up at Billy with tired eyes.
"No one is perfect," she informed him.
"I don't want perfect. I want you."
Carol-Lynne's breath caught in her chest. The events of tonight were just too much to process. She needed to rest. She needed to know that everything was going to be okay. Glancing up at Billy, she made one more request. "Will you hold me while I fall asleep?"
"Yes." With that, he removed his own shoes before climbing onto the bed and wrapping his arms around Carol-Lynne's waist. She relaxed into him and he marvelled at how beautiful she was when she allowed herself to accept unconditional support from another person.
"Thank you," she murmured, her breathing becoming shallower.
"I love you," Billy replied, but she wasn't awake to hear him.