Paddra Yun Rowan traveled along with her Yun and Umbra company along Cocoon. After one too many Witch Time zappings in being carried around by a super-sped witch, she felt a little sickly today, but her shift in Cocoon didn't end for two more hours. Rowan respected what they were doing here too much to ask for early leave.
Rowan wasn't a particular fan of the Umbra. She understood what they were trying to do in Cocoon and respected that, but the Umbra had long since fallen from grace for other sins and deeds. Unlike some others, Rowan knew this from firsthand experience.
Back some forty three years ago, Rowan had been a young Yun, fresh at 20 and barely worldly. It was then that she'd been chosen, picked among thousands to hold the honor of falling into an Umbra couple's liking. They weren't just any Umbra couple, either, but the Umbra who'd stood Second and Fourth to the leader. Roma and Cybele had picked her from the crowd.
Rowan had jumped at the chance. She'd been enthusiastic, and her Umbra couple, very pleased and quite happy to have her, too. In twelve years of trying, not once had they let her be mistreated. Roma had even encouraged her own sexual preferences as well. Her family had been more respected than ever by the Yun community and tribes, and Rowan had been proud to give them a baby girl. She'd returned home celebrated with an open invite into Paradiso and the Umbras' personal home.
For nine blissful years, Rowan enjoyed her celebrity status. She was admired and cherished by both communities of Umbra and her own people, and she went to visit Carme whenever she wished it. Rowan had shared other women in those years and had other children with them. She'd been happy and carefree, a young Yun just looking to make the best of a good life.
Carme's death changed everything. The world stood still the day Rowan received the news of her death. Rowan didn't pick favorites among her own children, but Carme had been cherished. She'd spent 11 years making that child and in a day, she was gone, completely wiped from this world. Rowan stood shellshocked in the wake of Carme's death.
Things crumbled from there. Rowan had trouble taking joy in anything anymore. Even her remaining kids scared the hell out of her for what could happen to them. It got so bad, Rowan's courted mate-to-be left her, and she couldn't blame her a bit. Rowan became so overprotective and paranoid, even the other Yuns she'd fathered children with started to avoid her, correctly claiming her grief had changed her horribly, and that she needed to work through it so they could feel safe with her around her children.
Rowan didn't. Instead, she fell deeper into depression and solitude for a long time. It felt like someone was crushing her heart. Every day, she woke up, haunted by Carme's young face and envisioning a fal'Cie crushing the life from her girl.
Then, Styx came. The last thing Rowan would have expected was to be brought out of depression by a charming, young stud. Styx came with her own problems. She had been chosen by the Umbra, too, but in a different time than Rowan. The climate of power had been changing. Since Carme's death with the other girls, it was no longer such an honor to be chosen. Whispers rose up here and there concerning the Umbra. Tall tales and secrets both festered.
Rowan knew they were lies in concerning the girls' deaths, but Styx came with her own miserable experiences with the Umbra. Grief had changed them too, it seemed, and dark happenings were going on with the Umbra. Styx told her about the Umbra who'd 'chosen' her, Umbra who didn't seem nearly as kind as Rowan's. By the end of her eight-year stint with them, it'd practically been forced servitude to finish out her responsibility. They hadn't even let her come back to see the girl. Styx had hit a depression almost as severe as hers, and in it, both bonded with each other and slowly, very slowly, they both rounded the bend to healing.
Rowan loved Styx more than anything now, and it'd taken years for her heart to turn enough with the young stud to accept it, but recent circumstance had reopened old wounds. Rowan had been at home with Styx when they came: Umbra sweeping into their home. She'd been so afraid when they'd come in again, fearful they'd take Styx away. The news they came with seemed even worse. It was then that Rowan learned her daughter had been taken here.
She'd volunteered for wiping out Cocoon just as soon as the option was given. Styx worried and didn't want her to, so she volunteered to go with her as well. Jeanne had warned them of the circumstance, but nothing could have prepared Rowan for their first arrival here.
These 'men' were animals, filthy and deserving of nothing but a slow death. Some of the other volunteers waited for the Umbra to kill the babies and children, but not Rowan. Her hatred for these 'people' was frightening, even to her, and Styx was the only one keeping her from going over that precarious edge. Styx always had a way about her, and she hadn't left. Every day they came back was a struggle, but Styx understood Rowan needed to come here.
After learning of Carme's true method of death, dying in a raping from one of these pigs, it was the only thing Rowan could do for her. She didn't have hope like some of the Umbra of finding a body here. These scum had probably desecrated her; no, Rowan's only motivation in putting herself through this again and again was justice for her daughter who'd been brought here. She'd bleed through every last one of the bastards here.
"Rowan," Styx voice floated into her rage, and then there was a hand on her arm and squeezing to sooth her. Rowan glanced to her side. Gray eyes looked back under the most perfectly formed eyebrows, neither too thick or thin, but arching perfectly over the eye. Her dark-colored colored eyebrows matched her hair: a rich, deep byzantium purple, darkness offset by a scarlet twist that streaked back in two concentrated strips back from her hairline.
'Beautiful' didn't do Styx justice. Rowan always found herself more calm when looking upon her Godsent mate.
"Shh," Styx quietly tamed, fingers brushing up her arm to ease. "You're growling, sweetie."
Styx ran her fingers over the back of her hand before she linked them. "You need to get some rest, Rowan."
"Shift's not over yet."
Rowan knew that tone, a tone with the dual combination of worry and heartfelt concern over her, but as she pushed through the back alley with Styx and the other Yun and Umbra in their company, the faintest of scents drifted into her periphery senses. Rowan sniffed the air, recognizing it. "Do you smell that, Styx?"
"Rowan," Styx repeated again, this time in more of a sighing fashion.
"Really," Rowan redirected as the hint of a scent grew stronger. "Sniff it, Styx. I'm not kidding."
Still seeming disappointed with her, which Rowan silently promised to make up later and try to talk again, Styx sniffed. It only took one good whiff before her features contorted, scrunching in disgust at the scent. Around them, other Yuns had started to make similar faces.
"It smells like- "
"Death," Rowan confirmed, which wasn't a good sign. Other teams hadn't headed out this way yet. By the growing stench of it, they were heading straight into a body pit of it. The two Umbra with them, Athena and Jeanne, were both Umbra Rowan and Styx were familiar with and thus, they directed the question to her.
"What is it?" Jeanne asked when she saw the Yuns attention stirring.
"This way." Rowan took off first, fingers breaking from Styx', but her lover kept pace, followed by the two other Yuns with them and two Umbra. They wove through the backstreets, scent growing more potent as they drew near by the minute, but they were still downwind of it. Rowan didn't know the streets, so she steered them as best she could through the winding streets and pathways through the city. They jogged for at least two minutes before Rowan broke out into a sprint towards the alley opening that broke free of these tall buildings. When she finally reached it, Rowan stopped dead in her tracks.
"Rowan!" Styx skidded up to a halt beside Rowan, eyes popping wide at the landscape. With Rowan, she stared.
Before them, a street opened up into a small parkway with a red-brick laid trail leading to a raised platform and a fountain. A sparse scattering of trees had been grown. Buildings rose up on the far side of the park, viewable beyond the far street that circled the park square. It might've been pretty once, a quaint little corner, but now, death reeked over the land like a plague.
The fountain ran red with blood. The tall oaks held bodies, strung up by their feet, necks, and hands with chests split open by some crude weaponry of sorts. All were naked, and out of the cuts splitting the bodies bear, viscera and blood spilled forth. Some had been ripped out and lay hanging like some beast had torn out the insides of a man. Many had been castrated and now wore their own balls, stringed together and draped around the necks of a few. Others were missing their penises, too. One man left half-chopped and cut up on the ground had his own, hairy dick half shoved down his throat before he had choked or bled out from the numerous cuts to his bodies. Another couple lay crumpled in a 69 position, sucking each other's with whip lashings all over and a pool of blood gathered around their bodies on the ground in front of the fountain.
Not a single women among them had suffered. Every single desecrated corpse was male. But even that wasn't what tipped Rowan off to the scene, for as much as these women lived in fear of the men, Rowan could see a small, angry band rising up by themselves. They couldn't all be cowards. But no, even despite that possibility, Rowan noticed the distinctly Yun aspect here…
Not a single body was whole. Tortured and desecrated as these bodies had been splayed, Rowan noted with acute attention that every body had been torn. Blood and guts literally paved the way into the park. Hearts had been torn out. Stomachs lined and decorated men's throats. Blood soaked the skin and dripped from bodies, leaving trails from all openings. Not a single, maimed body had been burned to ashes, and instead lay dissected and ruined.
In Yun society, bodies were burned. It didn't happen often, but when a Yun died to a fiend, it was utterly unheard of to leave the body behind. Fiends and animals would have picked it apart. The Yuns weren't a religious tribe, but if a Yun fell in combat, her sisters regrouped for the body before it was left for the fiends to destroy, even if they had to burn it in the fields out in the open. It was considered a high shame to return a body back that had been opened and torn.
These bodies had been blatantly, purposefully torn to welcome such predators to feast upon their corpses. Rowan hadn't seen any terribly fearsome creatures in this land before, but they did have birds, rabbits, dogs, and tame animals of the sort. These men had been left for them; ripped apart for the feasting and discarded to die alone.
It was the most disrespectful blood bath Rowan had ever witnessed. Whoever had done it, whatever Yuns had ventured here to slaughter these men and desecrate their corpses, Rowan wanted to know. She would have honored those responsible.
A couple of gasps followed as the other Yuns and Umbra caught up. "Rowan…" Styx whispered, shocked at the revelations Rowan was sure Styx was making.
The Umbra came up behind them. Jeanne touched Rowan's shoulder as she passed, silently keeping her and the other Yuns back at first. "Was this…"
"The women?" Athena asked, equally confused by the massacre as she stepped up beside Jeanne.
Styx reached for her arm again and squeezed, giving her high eyebrows when Rowan glanced her way. The other two Yuns with them came up beside them. One with flaming red hair glanced her way and whispered. "Cocoon didn't do this," she whispered, barely audible at all except for the hypersensitivity of Yun hearing. Rowan cut off any further words with a sharp look that both Yun caught. When she knew she had their attention, her eyes drifted to the Umbra backs who stood shellshocked before the scene. Her eyes cut a sharp trail back to the two Yuns. The same Yun who'd spoken tilted her head.
"Good for whoever did this," the Yun said audibly, eyes leaving Rowan's to look ahead at the Umbra. "It's about time we saw some resistance from Cocoon."
"Yeah," the other Yun beside her agreed. "It's great to see."
Good, Rowan thought. These Yuns didn't deserve to be punished. Not for this. Not for any torture concerning men.
"How did they…" Athena asked, almost speechless as they took everything in.
"They're striking back." Jeanne turned away from the massacre. "We're going to need to call in help to clean this up. "Athena?"
"I'll get the others," Athena agreed.
"Do we have to?" Rowan asked, not because she was squeamish but because it seemed a shame to clean up the Yuns' work. "We could just leave them." Again, Styx squeezed her arm.
"It's okay, Rowan," Jeanne claimed, sorrowful eyes seeming to understand. "We'll burn the whole square. Athena," Jeanne called before she disappeared completely. "Bring any other bodies here. It'll be our next body pit." Athena nodded and left. "Rowan- "
"We're going to look for survivors or the women who did this," Rowan informed.
"Stay close and in your pack." Jeanne advised. "The women may attack intruders as well as men."
"We'll be careful," Styx promised for her. "Rowan," she tugged her arm. They started off down the street between buildings to expand the search. The other two Yuns followed after. Styx kept casting worried glances her way.
"We'll talk, Styx," Rowan promised. "After I find the Yuns."
1230, AS: Lynx: New Moon
7 Nights Later
"Ohh," Lightning cringed, hand going to her back where the most pressing of aches persisted in hurting. She'd held out long enough for Jihl, though, releasing her lover to her newly-favorite extracurricular of exercising like a nut, trying to work off her belly faster by any means necessary. Between the babies and frantically worrying about Lightning coming so close to her delivery day, she didn't get as much time as she would have liked to do that. Though Lightning was in pain, it'd do no good to keep her fiance captive to stay with her and fret.
Thus Lightning slowly, heavily made her way over to the empty bed, every step waddling. She tried to support her stomach by holding it, but her giant belly had grown so frightfully big, even that didn't help much anymore. She just needed… some time to lie down again… maybe more rest would help the aching, but Lightning didn't look forward to the bedsores she'd get from lying innate so often.
"Here we go," Lightning breathed, finally reaching her empty bed again breathlessly. Simple stairs took so much out of her, it was embarrassing. Lightning sat carefully, depressing the bed a great margin with the chore before she scooted herself back on the mattress slowly. "There we go," Lightning said to her babies, gentle fingers brushing over the side of her stomach, caressing. "Time to sleep, babies. No more kicking tonight, okay?" Her children didn't exactly listen, but at least they weren't being terrible at this hour yet. Lightning snatched one of pillows from Jihl's side of the bed and propped it where her belly would rest. Then, turning on her side, not without effort, Lightning wincingly reclined to her side, stretching and cursing the aches that just wouldn't leave.
Face scrunched, fighting to ignore the pain, Lightning closed her eyes. She wasn't sleepy, but after having bathed for the past hour with no other relief, it was the best she could make of a painful situation for now. Heart still beating fast, maybe from the stair climb, Lightning tried to sleep. She didn't get but a few seconds before the bedroom door started opening.
"Jihl?" Fang's soft voice asked, door creaking. "Are the girls- oh!" Lightning started turning to address her.
"The girls are with their grandparents, Fang. Mom and Dad are-aghk!" Lightning cringed, then, as a horrible pang ran rigid up her spine at an unfriendly turning. She actually let out a small squeak. Fang rushed in immediately. "Light! Are you okay?"
"I'm okay," Lightning responded breathlessly, eyes scrunching closed as she waited out the zing. "Just twisted the wrong way."
"Where's the pain?" Fang asked, seating herself on the ledge of her bed and immediately touching the back of Lightning's shoulder, which had her exhaling. "Is it your back again, Light? Is it aching?"
Lightning took in a slow breath, though her heart wouldn't stop racing. Jeanne had said that'd be normal especially in these last few weeks, that Lightning's body would be working extra hard to pump blood to all her extremities and the baby, but it didn't rest her case for being 'okay' very well when she could hardly breathe. "A little," Lightning admitted, downsizing it because she didn't want Fang to worry, either. Not when she'd already been so sweet throughout all this.
"It looks like it hurts more than a little," Fang countered, seeing through that easily. "Lie down, Light," Fang advised, guiding her slowly back to her side position gently.
"What are you doing?" Lightning asked, though she had a feeling she knew already.
"Just relax," Fang told her, fingers touching at Lightning's back near her bra catch. "Do you want this off?" Fang asked gently. "You might breathe easier without it constricting your chest."
Lightning smiled faintly. A few months ago, Fang would never have even asked to remove a piece of her clothing, even if it was just for easier comfort for Lightning. Lightning loved how far she'd come along with her and Jihl in that time. She even felt comfortable enough to gently tease. "Trying to get me naked, Fang?"
"It would make the massage go easier." When Lightning glanced back to check Fang's, she found the beautiful Yun faintly blushing and keeping her eyes down. Lightning's lips twitched in a tiny manner, not wanting to make her too shy.
"You can take it off, Fang," Lightning allowed. "My chest has been constricted."
"Is it hurting you to breathe?" Fang asked gently, fingers brushing her back as she unlatched the bra clasp and carefully lifted it off Lightning till she held it at her front.
"Thalia said it was normal to feel pressure in my chest and be a little hard of breathing." Lightning wormed out of the rest of it, chest releasing a great exhale as the restraining bra fell free. It really had constricted her more wearing it. Fang politely kept her eyes away, polite and sweet as always about a privacy issue Lightning didn't have with her there. "Thank you, Fang."
"Mhmm," Fang murmured, then Lightning felt her fingers. She groaned almost immediately, then blushed a little herself, not meaning to have reacted so very much at first contact. It was just Fang's fingers- she was good with her hands at relieving. "Tell me if I'm pressing too hard."
"No," Lightning noticeably had to control her breathing. "That's perfect. Fang-!" Lightning hissed in relief, breathing easy a lot harder than it sounded. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, Light." Fang's palms and fingers went about finding all the sore spots on Lightning. "I'm sorry it's been hurting you so much of late. You should be delivering soon, at least."
"Any day now." Lightning nodded. "Jihl makes that seem like a hell of it's own, though."
"It's probably your Umbra side," Fang shared. "Yuns don't have that much trouble delivering. I've never seen any other Umbra deliver, but Jeanne says it's harder on your bodies." Fang started to shift, then, and lay down behind Lightning, getting other parts of her back with that up-front reach. "Are you scared?" Fang asked after a few seconds of squeezing.
"Maybe a little," Lightning admitted, hard at work on controlling that breathing so she didn't let all the embarrassing groans of relief float free. "I'm pretty ready to deliver, though. The bed-crib's too big for just two babies."
"They'll come, Light," Fang promised, reassuring. "We'll all be there when it happens. You don't have to be afraid." Fang touched her shoulder, then, and gave it a squeeze. Lightning appreciated the contact. In truth, she hadn't been too frightened by the prospect of delivering until Jihl went through it. Lightning was no stranger to pain, but the way Jihl spoke of it in recollection was not comforting.
"Thalia's still unable to heal Jihl," Lightning noted, thinking of it when she'd thought of Thalia first healing their pain when they'd just arrived here. "She tried to take care of a cut Jihl received while cutting vegetables and the healing didn't take again."
"I guess it wasn't the pregnancy," Fang surmised. Her fingers brushed back Lightning's hair from her shoulder to fall over her back again, revealing the single scar Lightning had left since her last healing. It was the same scar Fang had given her when she'd sunk in her teeth to the flesh of Lightning's collar, the one that had marked both Lightning and Jihl in the same way.
"I wish we knew what it meant."
"Me, too." Fang hesitated, hand lingering over her side. Lightning reached for it and gently glided Fang's hand over her belly where she laid it to rest.
"You can touch them, Fang." Lightning's stomach tickled with the light brush of fingers over her belly. Her eyelids fluttered, back sores seeming nonexistant after Fang's gentle handling. Everything felt better by Fang's touch, and Lightning craved it. "Fang… hold me."
From behind, Fang's other arm moved under her hip to rest on the other side of her belly. Lightning felt her shift in against her back more fully and was left feeling warmer and cozy. Something about Fang always felt safe when close like this. She gave hugs as comforting as Jihl's could be. "Thank you," Lightning murmured, feeling whole new levels of peace and comfort. Fang gently squeezed.
"Soon, Light," she promised, "Your babies are going to be beautiful."
"Our babies, Fang." Lightning folded her fingers on top of Fang's hand between hers, just grasping her gently. "They're half yours, too." Fang was quiet and only held her. Lightning lay in comfortable peace with her there. She didn't know how long they lay together, she just sat in that comfortable bubble for a long time with Fang.
The door opened sometime later. "Oh, hey," Jihl's voice floated over from the doorway. "Hope I'm not interrupting. Scoot over, Fang." Fang started to rise and pull away from Lightning, but when Jihl crossed the room, she stopped that. "Further on the bed, you numbnuts." Jihl plopped down on the narrow strip of bed behind Fang and pushed her back against Lightning again, then proceeded to lay in the spot behind Fang herself and scooted her along. "Make room for me."
Fang and Lightning both obeyed and scooted, Lightning with a little smirk catching her lips in her glance back at Fang. Jihl shamelessly stretched a leg over Fang's to touch Lightning's, the majority sprawled over Fang's legs. She pulled up the blanket and settled in behind Fang. Jihl leaned over her and kissed Fang's cheek before settling in. "Thanks for taking care of her in my wake." Lightning spotted that same, faint blush that caught Fang unsuspecting sometimes. "Dawning, lovelies."
"Sweet dreams, Jihl." Lightning bid with that faint, utterly comfortable smile in keeping her. "Sweet dreams, Fang."
Not hearing their voices, Jeanne turned the knob slowly, careful to keep quiet so she wouldn't rouse her girls if they were sleeping. When she'd opened the door enough to check, sure enough, Jeanne found Lightning and Jihl asleep on the bed together.
But that wasn't all.
Snug fit between them with her arms around Lightning, and Jihl's draped around her as far as her leg curled over the extra, Fang cuddled between them, sleeping, all three spooning each other and resting.
An invisible, heavy ramming to her chest was enough to suck Jeanne's breath away as if she'd been hit. Jeanne closed the door quickly behind her, fighting for a breath, then leaned against it and closed her eyes in a vain attempt to settle her racing heart.
Fang was sleeping with them. Not that she'd done anything sexual to the girls, Jeanne was sure of that, but the mere fact that both Fang and the girls felt comfortable enough to hold each other in dreaming spoke volumes by itself of their progressing relationship.
Jeanne didn't know a word that would describe it, or even a sentence, really. Jihl was wholly, 100 percent in love with Lightning. Jeanne knew this, but then with the complicating factor of Fang thrown in, the lines got so blurry and painful, it hurt to even think about.
Jeanne wasn't blind or stupid; she could see the affection growing between the three of them, an affection that was further than friendship, but not quite dating or lovers. Add in her daughters' good hearts in wanting to include Fang more thoroughly in the parenting of their babies- babies that rightfully half belonged to Fang in any other world than their current situation- and the situation was growing ever more worrisome. Those factors didn't even include Rhea, who Cereza and Jeanne - Jihl's mothers- had raped Fang to obtain or the fact that Jeanne was still raping the woman for another daughter while Jihl and Lightning's affections were growing.
Jeanne felt sick, in a word, sick and shameful so much, it brought tears to her eyes and hurt her with every drawn in breath to breathe. There were too many sides to this coin to decide any which way. On the one hand, she'd never seen Fang happier or more comfortable than when she was with Lightning, Jihl, and their babies. Fang had never treated anyone with that much warmth but for Rhea before. On the other, it was dangerous to even allow it, knowing how her Umbra sisters felt about the situation and how they would keep using Fang. And in yet another, it was so incredibly morally wrong that Fang should have feelings for the daughters of her primary abusers- daughters who'd been equally warped and fooled into using Fang, too, for those exact babies she loved and cherished so badly.
The whole thing was such a mess, it twisted Jeanne's stomach into irreversible knots of sickness and worry, but worst of all was the nights she still spent with Fang inside her, pumping them both into sweating submission, trying to save a position Jeanne was so tired of holding, but had no other choice but to fight for for Fang. One, single tear dripped and was brushed away. Jeanne steeled herself and swallowed the urge to be sick down a tightened throat. Locking down her deep horror and shame, she made for the stairs back down the way.
The others had to hear of this, too.
When Jeanne arrived in the kitchen, Farron and Cereza were at the table, each with a respective baby. Farron held onto Rosalind, the littlest one with little tufts of blonde hair, and Cereza held Cordelia, her twin who seemed almost identical at this young age. Raina busily made her way about the kitchen, preparing something for all of them.
"Jeanne," Cereza welcomed with a smile and held out her granddaughter, to show Jeanne "Look. She sleeps like a little angel, Jeanne."
"Not this one," Farron claimed as her granddaughter wriggled and writhed. "She's got some fire in her bones like her mommy. Hard to hold onto this little girl!"
"We should talk," Jeanne came in stating, sorry to damper the joyous mood with the babies. Raina was first to look back at her with deep, brow-furrowed worry.
"Is something wrong, Jeanne?" Quick to jump to the rightful conclusion, Raina still couldn't bring herself to forgive Jeanne, Jeanne knew. Even with the unalterable circumstance surrounding Fang, Raina had a hard time coming to terms with what she and Cereza had done to Fang. She blamed herself more, but Jeanne knew that small ebb of distrust, too. She deserved it; Jeanne couldn't forgive herself for it, either.
"Lightning and Jihl are sleeping with Fang," Jeanne announced bluntly without beating around the bush. "Just sleeping together, holding each other with Fang in the middle of them, but…"
"Oh," Raina turned back to her dough. "The girls are just showing Fang their affection for her."
"A growing affection," Farron commented, eyeing up after Jeanne in concern. "They've been getting awfully close to Fang."
"Are you saying there's something wrong with that, Farron?" Raina asked, tone tipped with a dangerous edge if she didn't receive the right answer to her question.
Cereza must have heard it, too, because she stepped in on Farron's behalf. "No one's saying it's wrong, Raina. There are just… complicating factors."
"Complicating factors." Raina repeated, eyes turning back to the food she was prepping, but her tone remained icy. "Interesting term."
Jeanne sighed inwardly. They all knew how protective Raina felt over Fang and how much she'd thought she'd failed the girl, so it was natural that she wanted to make it up to Fang, but… "Letting Fang become emotionally involved with our daughters won't change the past, Raina. I'm not even sure it's healthy for her, considering."
Raina's hands stopped cutting into whatever meat she'd currently been into and her back went rigid and very still. "Letting Fang?" Jeanne braced herself. Raina was on the verge of explosion and everyone in the room could tell. For her part, Farron tried to interject before it happened.
"I suppose it's our place to determine who Fang attaches herself to, too, is it, Jeanne? It's not enough that we've put her on a regular rape schedule, but now we should disrupt the relationship of the only girls she's bonded to as well. Is that it?"
"Raina- " Farron tried again and was overran.
"No, Farron, I'm sick of this." A knife went so hard into the cutting board on the counter, it cracked it in half and slid into the counter underneath it. Raina turned on them with a fiery passion in her eyes. "Fang is thirty and hasn't had a friend since I left. Now, she's finally warming up to somebody and you won't stand for it for the 'complicating factor' that you're fucking her as well? Well, fuck off, Jeanne," Raina growled, fire growing to rage. Her pupils darkened and the surrounding color yellowed instead of white.
"I haven't seen Fang this happy in months. You probably haven't seen it for years! And now, you're worried about how close Fang's getting to someone, bloody anyone that you want to rip it apart because it makes your position more difficult in screwing her as Jihl's mother? Haven't we ruined Fang's life enough?" Raina snarled. Rosalind started to cry. Raina turned back around away from it and yanked the knife forcibly up out of the counter. "Well, deal with it! You don't get to control every aspect of that girl's sad life." Raina's dissatisfaction turned into a low, guttural growl. "Leave her alone. For once in her condemned life, just leave Fang alone, Jeanne."
When she seemed done, but kept fuming, Farron braved the waters. Delivering the sobbing child to Jeanne, who tried to hush her charge and rocked her, Farron approached Raina from behind and came up beside her with a hand that only reached up to her back, which was as far as her arm naturally went without reaching up uncomfortably so. She rubbed Raina's side soothingly, very brave, considering Raina had a temper and a knife in her hands and had almost transformed in her loss of control.
"Raina," Farron tried to ease. "No one's trying to hurt Fang more. We're only concerned for everyone's well being in this."
"You're siding with her, too?" Raina half choked with a snarl, sounding like she was near tears if not there already.
"I'm not siding, Raina. I'm just trying to approach this with a clear head, and that head is coming with worries- for both Fang and our daughters. Raina..." Raina stifled a cry. Farron lowered her voice, speaking softer. "Claire raped Fang, too. Jihl and Claire, both of them."
"No," Raina cried out, sobs and despair breaking the anger in her voice. Farron continued on gently.
"Do you really think that's best for Fang?" Farron pressed. "For any of them? Fang is falling for her abusers, Raina."
"Don't call her that!" Raina practically wailed, choking on tears as she cried out for reprieve. "Claire's not like them, Farron! She's not a rapist!" All the strength seemed to leave Raina with the word being spoken. Her knees trembled, then gave out on her. Farron caught her as best she could and wrapped her arms around Raina, more level with her as she cried and mumbled between the tears. "She's… not them, Farron. ...Tricked...Not them."
It was the most horrible collapse Jeanne had ever seen of Raina. With little Rosalind squirming and wailing in her arms, masking Raina's quiet cries, Jeanne put a hand on the back of Cereza's shoulder in her seat. Cereza looked back at her and shook her head, just as affected as Jeanne by the scene. Jeanne turned her eyes to the door, then back to Cereza, who stood quietly from her seat to follow. They only left to the next room before Jeanne quietly shut the door behind her.
"Raina needed that," Cereza spoke when the door had closed. She turned around to Jeanne to face her, baby still held in her arms. Away from the noise and ruckus, Rosalind started to calm a little more in the nook of her arms. "But are you okay, Jeanne?"
Jeanne couldn't even fully look at her, her wife and granddaughter, she was so shamed. "It's not like it wasn't true."
"You're doing what you have to, Jeanne. It's for Fang."
"Is it?" Jeanne's heart pounded hard. "We've been using Fang for years, Cereza. Nothing's changed. I'm tired. I'm so tired of leading this charge."
Cereza cupped her cheek with a hand, then, right in front of Jeanne. She lifted Jeanne's chin to look her in the eyes. "We have to," Cereza stroked back her free hand into Jeanne's hair and cradled her. Jeanne curled into the touch. "It's not fair or right. The world and our friends will hate us for it, but someone has to be there for Fang. You know what happens if we quit." Jeanne closed her eyes. She could barely stand with the pressure of it all. "I know you're tired," Cereza whispered, tone softening. "I am, too, but you need to continue being strong. You're my warrior, Jeanne. I know your heart, and I need you by me."
Lips pressed to hers in the gentlest of ways. It was pure love through soft kissing, and it was just what Jeanne needed. She couldn't remember the last time she'd kissed her wife like this, without Fang sharing their bed out of desperate attempt to make her a little more comfortable with the raping. Jeanne missed this kind of kiss. She missed Cereza so badly, and couldn't help feel her grasp on all things slipping.
When Cereza pulled back from her, her taste and that fleeting warmth lingered for only a few seconds before the crush of everything weighed back on her. She opened her eyes, surprised to feel two, wet tear streaks cascading slowly down her cheeks. She couldn't do this alone; but the pure moments she had left with her wife were so fleeting. Jeanne knew she was slipping. "Cereza," Jeanne pleaded, the baby gone very quiet now as she leaned into her wife's shoulder for that comfort she couldn't stop seeking. Cereza hugged her in with an arm, careful of the babies they were holding. "Don't let me fall."
"Never," Cereza promised quietly. "I'm with you, Jeanne, always. I'll never leave. I'm never going to abandon you, Jeanne. Never."