<<Previous | Story Intro | Return to Stories | Next >>
A Storm of Shadows
Her return to consciousness was a slow one; the first thing registering was the subtle texture against her bare legs. Eyes still closed she shifted slightly, her mind trying to pinpoint where she was. Her cotton sheets were much softer…the leather of her sofa smooth. Since she was horizontal it ruled out her chair. Stretching slightly, her feet came into contact with something solid, the sensation against her toes the same texture beneath her legs. It was then she opened her eyes halfway, blinking against the blurriness that came with the vestiges of a deep sleep. Bringing her hand up, she laid it across her stomach, feeling the soft cotton fabric against her skin. Looking down, it took her a second to register what she was wearing. A button-up long sleeved shirt…and a pair of boxers.
Every muscle in her body tightened up instantaneously, her sleep-clouded mind trying to recall exactly where she was at, and how she got there. Remembered going to Quinn’s, the jerks that wouldn’t leave her alone, Jack showing up. Jessie’s heart started racing as she recalled going back to Jack’s place, them sitting outside, talking about Cam, the psych place, moving inside, sitting on the sofa together, talking about her and Kutkh…Jack…Iraq. Holding each other. Kissing. Things got pretty fuzzy after that. Try as she might, she certainly didn’t remember changing out of her clothes. Became absolutely horrified that she might have…that they might have…"Oh God, what have I done?"
A sudden burst of sunlight blinded her, sending a pounding shock wave through her brain, momentarily halting her thoughts.
"Good morning, sunshine. You gonna snooze all day, or are you going to get up?"
Jessie held a hand up in front of her eyes, trying to block the light that was stabbing its way into her head. She couldn’t help but groan as the throbbing pain radiated through her skull. "God…close the curtains," she said hoarsely.
"What’s the matter, Jessie? It’s time to get up, have some lunch, face the day."
She managed to sit up, holding her head in her hands as she did so.
"Need a cup of coffee? Maybe some aspirin?"
Her brain was still too muddled to realize what was going on, but that changed when another voice joined the conversation.
"Hey, show some sympathy. She knocked back a half bottle of Jameson all by herself, and that doesn’t include what she had beforehand. You want mushrooms in your omelet?"
"Sure, and some of that avocado on top when it’s done cooking."
Two voices. Sounds of cooking. And soon, the smell of coffee nearby.
"Here. This’ll help."
She managed to take the proffered cup, focused on the hand holding two aspirin tablets. Raised her gaze upward until the face of her tormentor/savior came into view, who at the moment was grinning broadly at her dishevelment.
Jack stuck his head out from the kitchen. "You want avocado on your omelet, Jess?" Grinned at her nonverbal response. "I’ll take that grunt as a yes," he said as he disappeared back around the corner.
Scooping up the aspirin, she managed to get them in her mouth before taking a swallow of the strong coffee. Most of it was psychological, but she could actually feel a soothing reaction in her head as the coffee, more importantly the caffeine, radiated through her. Too many things were bombarding her senses.. She couldn’t ever remember being hung over, much less as bad as this. Tried once again to remember past being on the sofa with Jack. Once again came up with nothing. Jack came back into the room, balancing three plates of omelets in his hands, setting them down on the coffee table in front of her. Surprisingly the smell of the food didn’t turn her stomach. She held onto her cup of coffee like it was a lifesaver as Cam and Jack filled their own cups before sitting down to eat. Jessie stared at the kitchen doorway, then looked back at her plate before giving voice to her first question.
"You cooked this?"
Jack tried to look annoyed, but couldn’t quite manage it. "Yes, I cooked this. What? You think I can’t cook?"
Jessie eyed the plate doubtfully, the steaming, fluffy omelet showing bits of mushrooms, ham and chives; either mozzarella or Swiss cheese oozing from inside, and topped with chunks of fresh avocado. Taking her fork, she cut into it and took a bite, closing her eyes as the savory flavors melded together in her mouth, a welcome distraction from her pounding head. Finally looked at Jack in surprise. "That’s good."
He grinned back at her, taking pride that at least once in a while he could shock a woman with his cooking. "There’s plenty more where that came from, so eat up."
Jessie was thankful her stomach was welcoming the food instead of rebelling against it. When all was said and done, the last thing she wanted to do was toss her cookies. After taking a few more bites, and half the cup of coffee, she finally voiced the one thing foremost on her mind.
"I never thought I’d be asking this…especially here…but where are my clothes?"
Jack couldn’t help it…the temptation was too great not to take a tiny bit of an advantage. "You don’t like my shirt and boxers?" Watched as Jessie locked eyes with him, realized she was wondering if anything had happened that she couldn’t remember. He refused to let her off the hook easily—part of getting back to normal was resuming what one would usually do, and Jack normally would torment the heck out of her in this situation. Because of that, he dropped his gaze to her mouth, giving her the slightest grin as he did so.
Cam for his part sat quietly, trying his damnedest to keep a straight face.
Jessie’s grip tightened on her coffee cup. Surely Jack wouldn’t have…even if she had…what the hell had she done? Clearing her throat, she said calmly, "I don’t have anything on underneath these clothes, and I don’t remember changing."
Just as calmly Jack asked, "What do you remember?"
She took a sip of her coffee. "I remember us talking…and a large amount of alcohol."
Normally he would have milked the situation a lot longer, he didn’t want to unduly upset her. He felt the ‘tough love’ approach was the best way to bring her back…within reason. "After you passed out on the sofa, I gave Cam a call. Figured leather pants weren’t the most comfortable things to sleep in, so when he got here I gave him the shirt and boxers. He got you squared away all on his own." Jack looked over at Cam, hoping he remembered all the things they had discussed the week prior. Saw the subtle nod he gave him.
Jessie felt like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She wouldn’t have been able to live with herself if they had had sex, regardless of being drunk. What they had shared the night before, or at least the parts she remembered, had been intensely personal, almost intimate…bonding because they had survived similar traumatic experiences. It wasn’t something she would share with anyone else. She supposed she should have felt irked that Jack had jerked her chain about the clothes, but Jack was just being…Jack. What surprised her was when he got up with his plate and cup in hand, walked over and placed a kiss on the top of her head. The expression on his face when she looked at him spoke volumes, and what he said had a dual meaning.
"Secrets safe with me."
Secrets…Kutkh, and last night. He had already started walking away when she called out. "Hey." She saw him hesitate for a second before looking over his shoulder. "Same here."
With Jack was busy in the kitchen, Jessie took the opportunity to find the bathroom. Part of it was the call of Mother Nature, and another part was feeling uncomfortable alone with Cam. Looking at herself in the mirror, she felt slightly ridiculous with Jack’s clothes on, tugging the boxers up because they felt like they were going to fall off. Decided she’d feel better back in her own clothes, and for that matter back at her own house. With that in mind she went back out to the living room with the intent of changing and heading on out, but was slightly disconcerted to find Cam there with Jack conspicuously absent. Tried to act nonchalant. "Where are my clothes at? I need to change out of these," gesturing to where she had a hold on the boxers.
Her eyebrow went up a fraction. "Mind telling me where?"
Cam stood, sliding his hands into his jeans pockets. "After we’ve had a chance to talk. I figured you’d be less apt to leave while wearing Jack’s clothes."
Jack sat in the back bedroom, wanting to give them some privacy but keeping an ear attuned, just in case. For a while the murmur of voices was low, too low for him to hear exactly what was being said. Soon, though, the volume began to escalate.
"How the hell can you stand there, and say that you still want me?"
"Because I do, Jessie."
"You have no idea what I’ve done, what they made me do…"
"It doesn’t matter."
"Yes, Cam, it DOES matter. It matters to me."
"Jessie, what happened, it happened to your body. During the entire time they held you captive, did you ever make love?"
Jack winced. Nope, wrong thing to ask, and the resounding crack that followed backed up that assessment. He hoped what he heard was a slap, and not the sound of Jessie’s fist connecting with Cam’s face. Either way, it was going to leave a mark.
"How the FUCK can you ask me something like that!"
Jack looked at the ceiling, hoping Cam could keep a handle on the situation. He had told him there was a good chance Jessie would lash out physically when this conversation ultimately took place, had told him to be prepared for it. With Jessie’s training, she could end up hurting him or herself if he didn’t take control, if it was necessary.
"Answer me, Jessie."
Jack could hear it in her voice when she did reply, the shakiness which bled through the anger and sarcasm. There were holes in that wall she had built up around her…as long as Cam didn’t back down, he just might be able to break through some of it.
"Well, let’s see. Nine times out of ten I was drugged up when I would join Lord Kutkh for his fun and games, so I might have trouble remembering. There was group sex on numerous occasions with about a half dozen other women, where I was either on the receiving end of their attention or being shown how to prepare other females properly for our god’s attention. I underwent extensive training by Lord Kutkh as to how he wanted to be pleasured, what he wanted to see me do and what he wanted to do to me, which I had to submit to without complaint since I was his faithful servant. You know, of all the times I was drugged, poked, prodded, sucked and fucked, I can’t remember one damned time I ever made love! Gee, ya think I might have missed something?"
Oh boy. If this wasn’t lancing the wound, Jack thought, then he didn’t know what else was. Cam’s voice took on a deeper tone, not really in anger, but more pure determination.
"Jessica Angeline, the point is, there is a huge difference between sex and making love. What they did to you was by force, either physically, mentally, or through the use of drugs. Without that type of coercion, you wouldn’t have committed any of the acts you did. You did what you had to do to keep the children safe, not to mention to stay alive. What do you think Kutkh and Ba’al would have done to you if they had found out who you really are?"
Jessie said something, but it was too low for Jack to hear. After a few moments Cam spoke again.
"The reason it doesn’t matter is because I love you. What we have transcends anything they did, anything you did physically. No matter what they came up with, they never touched what we have. Remember what Thoyetlini said? ‘Remember the bond you share. Even when it seems like all is lost, the bond is still there. It can only be destroyed if you let them destroy it’. Don’t let what happened destroy us, Jessie."
Jack waited a while, but anything else that was said was at a much lower level. He stayed put, though, until there was a knock on the door. Opening it, he found Cam standing there.
"I’m going to take Jessie back home now," he said quietly.
Jack eyed the linear mark across Cam’s left cheek. Yep, it had been a slap. "Everything okay?"
Cam gave a nod. "We’re going to take things one step at a time, see how it goes."
Jack patted him on the shoulder. "Patience."
"Yeah. Whatever it takes…I’ll do it."
Jack followed him back into the living room where Jessie was standing by the front door waiting to go, dressed once again in the outfit she had worn the night before, albeit boots in hand. He saw her cheeks flush slightly, embarrassed no doubt by the exchange she and Cam had had, and her losing her temper. Walking straight to her, he wrapped his arms around her, hugging her close. "It’s gonna be all right. I’m living proof, remember?" He relaxed a little when he felt her return the hug just as tightly. "And no more covert bar trips. Always drink with a buddy. Promise?"
Jessie gave him a wry smile. "I promise, Jack. And thanks…for everything."
<<Previous | Story Intro | Return to Stories | Next >>