You ended up renting a place to sleep with Parfait at the roadhouse. The big old Greyhound bus has been converted into a kind of hotel, with all the seats broken down into makeshift beds and rooms cordoned off with sheets and plywood. It isn't much to look at, but the cushy seats still have most of their stuffing and the bus is kept toasty warm at night, which is a welcome change to the cold night air. The solar generator powering the bus's heater hums along at night, masking most of the normal night sounds and providing a decent white noise for sleep.
It's maybe the third transition when you got up to use the bathroom, which was the tiny room down the "hall" of the bus with its convenient track lighting. Finished with your business, you open the bathroom door to see Zero standing there. She was waiting for you. She's wearing a long yellow shirt, it covers her belly and runs halfway down her thigh.
Her arms are crossed, and she's standing in your way, barring you from exiting the bathroom. She says quiet, but firm, "Jack. I know what your kind can do when you frak somebody. What you learn about them. Branigans tore my mind into itty bitty pieces for the last year. I need to know what I did, I need to know what's locked," She points to her head, "In here."
She moves a step closer, into the doorway, right in front of you, "I'm clean. You can't get me pregnant. And I'll never, ever tell."
What do you do?
The track lighting in the hall is just barely bright enough for me to get a good look at her. She is quite attractive – perhaps an older, more confident Kiddo – and she wears her pregnancy well. Quite well indeed... But she is no Parfait, and the control I lose by sleeping with someone makes the entire act something of a gamble, even if we succeed. Though to be honest, I would do quite a bit to undo the damage Branigans can do to people.
"While the proposition is certainly an attractive one," I begin in a whisper, "I have mastered the act of a deep listen without the need for that level of physical intimacy. It grants me more control in the moment – as it removes distractions – and it keeps us both faithful to the ones we love."
I look her in the eye, "It is possible the process will be painful, and yield no results – but if you are willing to trust me, then I can help you."
I finally nod, tired, and motion for the door. "Shall we?"
She reaches up a hand to your chest. "You sure this is safer than frakking? I'm not opposed to it."
I take her hand off my chest, gently holding it, and put down the cover of the toilet seat, pointing down to it. "You should sit in case you lose your footing," I whisper, "It's as safe as if we were intimate; but as I've said, it offers me more control over the direction of the conversation. Relax." I offer her my other hand, and try to catch her gaze.
(Rolled: 2d6+3. Rolls: 3, 4. Total: 10)
"Well, my dear... Why don't we see what that monster's done to you, shall we?" I clear my throat, and softly gaze into her eyes. "You speak of these things you did in the past year — the things locked away in your mind. Think deeply my dear, and speak true: what was your lowest moment under that monster's influence?"
Her eyes well up when you ask the question of her. You know she wants to answer, that she's been yearning for some neutral party to bare her soul to, but even still, the words don't come easily, or without pain as they leave her tongue.
"It was the flashes, of him, Jack." She says quiet, like the words slip out of their mooring. "When we were together, he would let me see him, deep in the throes of passion, in the moments where he played me like a guitar, made me climax so frakking hard I would almost pass out. And in those moments when he'd have my vision blurry, I'd see him. Branigans, and I knew I was with him. That he was doing this to me, I was doing it with him. I was frakking him, and it felt really, really good."
Her voice breaks a little, and the dam breaks, too. Tears trickle down her cheeks, but she doesn't hide them or wipe them away, "I'd try to fight then, but he'd just beat me down make my mind quiet, or wipe it away. But he never wiped it all away, Jack. There was a part of me that knew. That always knew, and hated the rest of me for giving in. That part, Jack... it liked what he did to my body, craved it. And hated me for liking it. I think that's why he let it stay in my... my frakked up head. It hasn't gone away, either. I can't cum with the real Ollie anymore. I want to, in my... I want to. But I can't."
I take a deep breath, and calm myself as I maintain my gaze, "my dear... What secrets do you hold that pain you most?"
I focus my gaze on her, and softly whisper, "I need to get into your head my dear. Branigans has played with your mind for quite some time... If you'll let me in, and let me suss out the lies he's put in there, then perhaps you will be free of this nightmare. But your defenses are strong, my dear... I need to know: how is your mind and soul vulnerable, so that I may help you best?"
Its how she is weak. This is what she hates, that she is weak, that she can't stop loving them, but that's how he did this to her. How he violated her entire sense of self. She is still fragile from the harrowing experience, and quite dangerous.
She's thought of suicide, Jack. She still thinks it would be a way out, where she wouldn't bring that abomination into the world, where she wouldn't have to keep feeling guilt over her betrayal of her mate and children.
I take a deep breath, and exhale through my nose, moving my hands to her shoulders. "Your love for Oliver and Kiddo and Humphrey... You see it as weakness — an opening for people to exploit, and break you — but it is not true... It is strength. It is a willingness to put yourself in danger, and do whatever must be done for the ones who hold your heart."
I pause a moment, and steel myself, "The vision I spoke of earlier, with my son... There is a part of it I have not told anyone... In order for my son to survive, it was said to me that I would have to sacrifice myself for him. In spite of this, I carry on — and when my time comes, I will die for my son. I will not go easily, and I will not seek it out — but I will take whatever course, and weather whatever storm is necessary to ensure the people I love are safe." Surely this is why she put herself at Branigans' mercy in the first place...
I swallow again, and give her a moment to process... I want to slip into her head, and tear down these lies. I want to remind her of who she really is — and not to fear the love she feels for her family. "Branigans was capable of fathering only one thing: lies. He lied to you, and manipulated your perception of reality to the point where you could not recognize anything anymore — but he is not here anymore. Through perseverance, and pain, any and all strings that man holds over you can be broken. All of them. By believing the lies he has twisted your mind into believing, you only give them power over you."
I look at her gravely, "believing the lies will ensure Branigans can hold on to a part of you forever; but casting them out, and accepting the truth — that your son is Oliver's, that your family loves you, and that your love for them is not a thing to fear, but to be embraced and celebrated — it will free you. It will bring pain — but pain is temporary, and love is eternal."
"He's not Branigans child?" she asks softly. "I don't understand how... I guess it doesn't matter." She laughs once, then sniffs. She throws her arms around you suddenly and gives you a hug that, if you hadn't been shot just a week ago, wouldn't hurt quite as much.
I pull back and smile, remembering that fateful night where I harmed Parfait the first time — not because she suffered, but rather because we grew closer as a result of it. She tasted the pain we'd both feared, and lived through it. "You will recognize what those walls look like, and feel like as they fall down — and then, when you encounter them again in matters such as the mystery of your child's conception, you will have the tools needed to tear them down alone. You will know the truth, and you will be free."
I raise an eyebrow and bite my lip, holding in a breath expectantly, "can you do that?"