Nos Faux Ratu Ch. 06byEvil Alpaca©
This story is a bit wordy and fairly long, so if you are looking for immediate gratification, you might want to look elsewhere.
The following story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance between these character and events and any real person or events is strictly coincidental . . . and pretty darn impressive seeing as it is a science fiction story. Do not reproduce or copy this story without the consent of the author.
In my magical, mixed-up world, characters don't worry about STDs or unwanted pregnancies except occasionally as a plot device. The author encourages the practice of safe (and hopefully satisfying) sex.
While this is a science-fiction story, it may at different points contain sexual behavior that might fall into other categories. You can rest assured however that there will be NO depictions of Non-Consent, Mind Control, or Incest for any purpose other than as plot devices, and certainly not for sexual arousal. Anything else is fair game.
Jenna was wishing like hell that it was evening. She was surrounded by nineteen of her former colleagues from the Nightwalkers, and she realized that she had nothing in common with them. The only one of them she had ever spoken to was Death, and he was refusing to act as a buffer. He was smugly waiting for a bed-ridden (okay, a "gurney-ridden") Empress to actually make conversation.
Almost all of the other commandos were just as hesitant to approach Jenna as she was to BE approached. For years, she had been one of them, but not really one of them. She had intentionally kept her distance, buttressed by the walls she had built in her own mind to keep herself safe. Those walls had begun to crumble at an alarming rate, thanks to Nessa, but it left Jenna attempting to effectively walk on waters that she did not know how to navigate.
Ghede, Jenna's doctor, both medical and witch, seemed to have no problems whatsoever socializing with a number of genetically engineered vampire soldiers. As a point of fact, almost all of the female Nightwalkers present were quite happy to be engaged by the dark-skinned, soft-spoken man.
But there was one Nightwalker who seemed interested in breaking the ice. The High Priestess was actually sitting nearby, making herself available but trying to be silent. Jenna thought hard about the Priestess. What was she like? She was certainly an attractive woman. The Priestess was a little taller than Nessa or Anabella, but was still a few inches short of Jenna's six-foot frame. Her hair was as black as Jenna's was pale, and her face seemed built for smiling. It was almost impish. She had a curvaceous physique that made her very popular with the unattached men (and some of the attached ones as well) in the Nightwalkers, but that was it. That was all Jenna knew.
"You look like you're trying really hard to be absorbed into the bedding," the Priestess said with a wry grin. "You okay?"
Jenna kept her composure. "I'm fine." Then she thought over what she was supposed to say next. "Thank you for asking."
Rather than be put off, the Priestess smiled. "My name's Caitlin, by the way," she said, extending a hand. "I always wondered if you ever knew any of our names."
Jenna shook the hand softly and briefly. "I knew you as the High Priestess. Wasn't that enough?" She felt bad when Caitlin flinched, but the expression vanished as quickly as it appeared.
"It's just one of my names." The High Priestess glanced at the bandages on Jenna's arms. "So you fought the Hanged Man and lived? I wouldn't want to do that when he didn't need to shave his back, much less now. How'd you beat him?"
"I didn't beat him," Jenna whispered. "I survived him, and the only reason I was able to do that was because I detonated my house when he was in it. I should be dead. I would be if it weren't for Nessa."
"So are we going to meet this boss of yours?"
Jenna nodded. "I assume so. She sleeps during the day."
"Just like in the old stories?" Caitlin said, her eyes growing wide. "What else can she do?"
"I think that I would rather wait for her to reveal her own secrets," Jenna said crisply, then stopped.
Caitlin sighed. "You really don't like any of us, do you?"
Jenna's eyes pursed. "What makes you say that?"
The High Priestess snorted. "Let's see, you answer every question with as few words as possible. You don't care about our names, you never ask us about our lives, you certainly never compliment anyone --" She saw that the Empress was just staring at her, so she threw her hands up, then stood up to walk away.
"Priestess," Jenna said suddenly, the name tumbling out like a runaway boulder, "I . . . I'm sorry."
Caitlin turned around. "Sorry?"
"I don't know how to talk to people," Jenna said softly. "Ask Nigel. I've been having coffee with him every day for years, and this is actually more conversation than he usually gets."
"Really?" The High Priestess sat back down. "Because girl, I've met livelier corpses in my life." But she was smiling when she said it, which defused some of Jenna's intended indignation.
Jenna suddenly knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that she needed to keep talking. She could not handle the awkward silence. "Caitlin --" she started, then paused, then continued, "Do people really hate me? The Nightwalkers, did they all --"
"Hate you?" Caitlin glanced at the ceiling, her mind lost in thought. "No, I don't think I would say 'hate.' We've all been afraid of you."
"In some ways, we were as afraid of you as we were the Fool and the Hanged Man. I mean, they were just mean and badasses, but you were --"
"It's okay," Jenna said, quietly but firmly, "I want to know."
"Cold. When you and Death worked together, it was like you could simply make someone die by force of will, but Death talked to us. It made him a little more human. We knew how to deal with that. I mean, a bunch of us wanted to talk to you, but it was like we didn't even exist in whatever world you were living in."
Jenna thought to the castles that existed in her soul plain. "Trust me," she said, "it's better for you that way."
"Well, we're in your world now," Caitlin pointed out, "Like it or not." She smiled, her full lips drawn back in what looked on her to be the most natural of gestures. "So why not make the best of it."
Jenna felt a blush trying to form. "I . . . I really don't know how."
Caitlin's face reflected a set of emotions, starting with irritation, then incredulity, the amazement. "You're serious, aren't you?"
Jenna tried to smile, then raised her bandaged arms. "Don't I look serious?"
"You look like a mummy that went through a paper shredder." Caitlin grinned and scooted her chair closer. "Okay, you gotta tell me the truth. Are you and Death an item?"
"Me and . . . Nigel?!"
"Yes?" he said from nearby. He tended to notice when his name got mentioned.
"No," Jenna said emphatically.
"Really? I always thought you made a striking couple."
"I . . . uhm . . . Nigel, could you come over here and explain --"
"Nope," he said, looking toward the gathered Coin cards. Somehow, the entire suit had defected at once. "You can explain everything yourself."
"Nigel!" Jenna hissed, then saw that the High Priestess was leaning forward, awaiting an explanation. It was a maneuver that put a bit of her cleavage on display, and Jenna had to struggle not to look at it.
'How can she have cleavage while wearing body armor?' Jenna thought. 'Is that armor regulation?' "Nigel is dating a school teacher. He and I are just friends. Honestly."
Caitlin raised one eyebrow. "So . . . you're single?" She watched Jenna's face, but the woman had turned to stone. Yet –
"Jenna," Ghede asked as he came over, are you feeling all right?"
"Really? Because your heart's BPM just went through the roof."
Caitlin raised her eyebrow, but suppress her urge to smirk.
Jenna's face remained stoic. "I believe that your readings must be off."
"Really, it shows right here --" Ghede started to stay, then found himself devoid of his portable scanning device as Jenna grabbed it and smashed it against the railing of the gurney.
Ghede looked at his hand-held unit, which was gamely spitting sparks and making an unpleasant whirring noise. "I'll go get a working unit," he said calmly.
"You do that."
"You really don't like personal questions, do you?" Caitlin asked. She scooted her chair closer to the invalid woman. "Why? Just keeping your professional life separate from your home life? I only ask because right now, the two seem pretty not-separate. Sounds like all our lives are kinda in your hands now. Well, yours and your boss's."
"You're a highly trained operative. With Nessa's help --"
Caitlin got up suddenly, a look of exasperation on her face. "Never mind."
"What?" Jenna said. "Did I say something wrong?"
"You didn't say anything, at least not of import. You were giving a standard report. I wanted to get to know YOU, not your assessment of your boss, and you can't even tell me why you won't tell me anything." Caitlin struggled to calm down. "Sorry. It's none of my business anyway," she said, walking away.
Jenna's mouth opened, but the only sound she could back was a quick catch of her breath. She had not meant to be so cold. She leaned back and closed her eyes. Once, a lifetime ago, she could have talked to someone like Caitlin. Why was it so hard now? She knew the basic mechanics of conversation. She knew the rules. What would her younger self have done? What would that version of her splintered psyche have done before that horrible day when she was fifteen?
"You," Nigel said, taking Caitlin's old seat, "are pretty clueless."
"I don't know what I was supposed to say."
"You got flustered with her."
"I never got like that with you, did I?"
"No, but things were different. The scenario was controlled. The conversation was limited. I think you're having problems dealing with life now that it cannot be contained or compartmentalized. And I'm not being critical of you. I'm trying to help you." He smiled. "Have you ever noticed Caitlin before?"
"Of course. She's a highly competent agent. I've always been impressed by her skills, her demeanor, her --"
Nigel made a tsking sound, then leaned back. "No, have you ever noticed her? How long has she been with the Nightwalkers?"
"Five years. Why?"
Death looked across the room, made sure that they were relatively alone, then whispered, "Did you know that she has either idolized or had a crush on you since she first put on the uniform."
Jenna stared at him. Then she looked over at Caitlin. Then she stared back at Nigel. She looked completely and utterly baffled. "Why?"
Nigel chuckled, then covered his eyes with his hands. "Okay. First of all, you are, and this is something that I marvel at how you can be so completely oblivious to, a stunningly beautiful woman. Combine that with your athleticism and your fairly extensive skill set, it makes you rather desirable in the eyes of a great many people."
"I . . . uhm . . . did you --"
"Did I find you desirable? Of course. I simply respected your privacy, and wound up valuing you as a friend far too much to push the issue."
Jenna was stunned. "Well . . . thank you?" She folded one hand across the other. "I never noticed."
"If it was social in nature, it could have been an explosion and you wouldn't have noticed."
"An explosion is hardly --"
"It was a metaphor," Nigel said calmly. Sometimes, Jenna was as dense as a five-year old. "You don't notice things of a personal nature because . . . well, just because. You could probably list off all of the High Priestess's combat scores --"
"92 in firearms, 96 in hand-to-hand, 90 in explosives --"
"Jenna," Nigel interrupted firmly, "I was being rhetorical. But it makes the point. You know all about her in regards to her being an asset to the Nightwalkers, but nothing about her, or any of them besides me in any way that's personal. They're getting ready to follow you into a hell of a fight, and its one that for them, all the rules of the way things work have changed."
"But they're not following me. They would be following Nessa."
"It's either a vampire they've never met who is an unknown commodity, or you."
"Or you," Jenna pointed out.
"You're more powerful than I am. They all know it, and you proved it to me back at the old TACCP."
"So what am I supposed to do? Just tell everyone everything?"
"No, I don't think so. But it might not hurt to get to know them. Let them know that you appreciate their support?" he said, giving her a knowing look. "And would it hurt to let Caitlin get to know you?"
"I . . . I don't know. I . . . she . . . Nigel, am I gay?"
For once, something Jenna said had Nigel speechless. "Uhm . . . I don't know. Are you? You certainly seem to like Nessa."
She nodded. Then she looked around. Both Nigel and Ghede were reasonably attractive, she supposed. Any number of the males present seemed to fall into the "attractive" category, yet she did not feel the reaction she had when Nessa first rubbed up against her, or when Caitlin had leaned in and . . . well, how was she NOT supposed to look at that cleavage? And then she thought back to Tanya Smithson. She had been Jenna's best friend back before her life had been torn apart. She had not been Jenna's first kiss, but she had certainly awoken feelings that the young Nightwalker-to-be had not known about. And a kiss stolen in the girl's locker room had made Jenna's toes curl.
"I think I am," she muttered. For some reason it made her feel . . . better. Like she had made progress somehow. "Could you get me a coffee?"
"Is that okay with your physician?" Nigel was going to object further, but he followed her stare to the broken medical monitor, then thought better of it. "I'll get coffee."
"Two sugars," she told him. She glanced around. Now that Nigel had brought it up, she saw the nerves in the face of everyone there, and she wondered what she could do. Motivational speaking was not her forte. She would have to think about it. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the High Priestess walking by. "Caitlin?"
Jenna looked at the seat next to her, then back to Caitlin. Then back to the chair. Then back to Caitlin. Then back –
"All right, all right, I'll sit!" Caitlin laughed. "It is so strange. You're like an entirely different person from moment to moment."
The Empress collected her thoughts and her breath. "I'm really, really screwed up," she said at last.
Caitlin's face grinned, which seemed to be its natural state, but her eyes still held some worry. "Well, that's a start."
"Over the last several days, I've relived so many bad memories and been dragged through my own nightmares that it's just exhausted me."
"Hey listen, I didn't mean that you had to go exposing any deep dark secrets or anything. I just . . . I dunno. This is the first time I've ever seen you out of body-armor. It's the first time you've ever been, you know, accessible."
"It's been pointed out that I've been kind of oblivious about how people see me. I never really meant to be that way. I never even thought about it. I've done nothing but be a soldier and a Nightwalker since I was eighteen years old. I've hidden from all social interaction, so I'm just not any good at it."
"But why hide?" Caitlin waved off the question. "Never mind. I just said I wouldn't ask, so --"
"Do you remember the Messenger?"
Caitlin's face grew dark and confused. "The serial killer?"
Jenna steeled herself. This was the hard part. If Nessa had not gone into her mind, Jenna doubted she ever would have been able to tell this story. It had gotten a little easier with Nigel, but Jenna did not know Caitlin. Maybe that was the point.
"I was the only survivor of the last family he took. He . . . he --" She had to stop for a second, to avoid hyperventilating. Caitlin's face had gone strangely calm. It was the face the Nightwalkers put on when they knew that it was time to get serious. "He kept me for two months. He made . . . he killed the rest of my family. He hurt me," she whispered, feeling like she had just uttered an understatement so vast that it bordered on a lie. "Part of me didn't survive, or at least I thought it didn't."
"Jenna, I'm so sorry." Caitlin moved forward and took Jenna's hand. It was a comforting gesture that both Nigel and Nessa employed with her. It felt nice. "I know that must sound so pathetic, but I am. And you were fifteen?"
"Yes. When I met Nessa she . . . she has a way of looking inside a person. For lack of a better phrase, she can see into your soul."
"That is totally freaky. What happened?"
"She saw that I was broken. I wasn't even one person anymore. I was three, and I only really nurtured one of them. The others I just locked up."
Caitlin nodded. "It's called Disassociative Personality Disorder. I was a psych major before joining the force," she explained. "It happens when someone experiences a traumatic event, and they create a new personality to assign the guilt or the blame or even the need for revenge to."
"That sounds right. Except I just buried it instead of using it. I never spoke with someone else's voice or heard voices in my head. I just couldn't handle what had happened, so I tried to start over. Sometimes I wonder how I ever made it through the psych exams."
Her compatriot shrugged. "Probably because they didn't care. Someone in that mental state would have no real moral compass. Not meaning that you were evil, just . . . just morally malleable. You sacrificed your history, so you had no concept of your limits, meaning when they tried to push yours --"
"I didn't know enough to tell them when to stop." Jenna closed her eyes. She was the third most powerful Nightwalker because she was too emotionally stunted to realize what was happening to her. Great.
"Jenna . . . man, when you drop a bombshell, you don't do it halfway. I was just expect you to say that you'd killed a man in Reno just to watch him die or something."
"Reno hasn't existed since the Casino Wars of 2141 and --"
"Being facetious," Caitlin said, still holding Jenna's hand. "Listen to some really, really old music by a guy named Johnny Cash sometime. You'll get it." She made her smile as sweet and gentle as she could manage. "Anyway, thank you. For telling me, I mean. I can't imagine what it must have been like living with what you experienced for all these years, but it explains so much. I wish I'd known earlier, because I think I could have helped, or at least gotten you some help. I'm no soul-gazer, but I'm not bad with a therapist's couch and an attentive ear."
Jenna smiled. It seemed to be a good smile, because it apparently made Caitlin happy to see it. "Well, you still have the attentive ear, though a medical gurney isn't quite as comfortable as a couch." The smile turned down a bit. "So yeah, I guess to answer your original question, I'm single. Sort of." She could see the next question coming so she headed it off. "I have been . . . intimate with Nessa on more than one occasion, but . . . she and I . . . it's not --"
"Permanent. What's truly sad is that I actually had to ask her what we were because I had no frame of reference. No precedent to look back on. I don't even know for sure what you call what she and I are. She's my friend, and she's my counselor, and she's . . . well, she's just kind of Nessa."
"She's a state of being now?"
"You have no idea. You'll meet her this evening." Jenna looked off across the room and thought, 'And when you see her, you won't even be thinking about me anymore.' Jenna heard a clearing-of-the-throat noise, so she looked back. "Yes?"