|janecarnall (janecarnall) wrote,|
@ 2009-01-02 15:25:00
The Pieces: Willow
This is part 1 of a 7-part sequence following on immediately from the last part of The Gambler. Part 2 is written and will be posted when I'm done with Part 3, as usual....
The previous stories in this series (my Keptverse) began with The Games (six parts) and continued with The Network (one part), The Players (seven parts), and The Gambler (seven parts). The whole series will terminate with the next sequence, "End Game", which is planned but not yet written.
The story may be regarded as fanfic set in poisontaster's Keptverse. There is a species of cast list here.
Sorry for the long gap - partly Yuletide, partly family stuff, partly computer woes, partly a nasty cold that Santa gave me for Christmas. (He's a git, by the way.) I want to thank Dusk Peterson, whose lovely and thoughtful review of my Keptverse series to date really gave me the emotional kickstart I needed to sit down and finish part 2, despite all difficulties.
Part 1: Willow
Crying gave Willow a headache. Waking up with a headache and a sore feeling in her mouth and throat was like waking up after crying herself to sleep. Except she had not cried.
Two thousand people were going to die. Willow sat up, pushing her thumbs against her forehead. She was in one of the guest bedrooms at Gerard’s house. Giles was sitting up in the chair, or rather, slumped in it, asleep.
Two thousand people were going to be killed. Willow had sat with Adam at the kitchen table, and seen a network of connections across that whole company, branching out from site to site, workteam to workteam. She’d made it up. She’d seen it, looking at their files. But they’d believed her.
Two thousand people. If it was Tuesday already, they were all going to be dead by Friday.
Giles was still asleep. Willow got up quietly and washed her face. She wanted to talk to Sam. She had no idea what time it was. Late: the house was quiet. The door to Gerard’s room stood open: so he wasn’t in bed yet. Willow went downstairs. The kitchen door was open, and the light was on: Richard was sitting with his back to the door, and Sam facing the door. He saw her, and stood up. Richard didn’t seem to stir: Sam added, to him, “Don’t move, Richard.”
“How are you?” Sam looked tired, leaning against the wall beside her. He spoke quietly. His accent was thick with Texas (Heyareya?) that came out slurred over the words like cream.
“Good,” Sam said. “You hungry? Want something to eat?”
“No,” Willow said. Her stomach lurched. “Yes. But. Sam, what I did – ”
“Shut up, Will.” She might only have imagined him calling her bambina, but his face looked as grim as she remembered looming above hers as she half-lay against the bathroom wall. “We are not gonna talk about that tonight. You don’t have to do it again. Get in there and sit down.”
“With Richard – ?”
Sam looked at her a moment, considering her. “Willow, how much does Richard bother you?”
“Not really,” Willow said. Sam went on looking at her. He looked grey and tired, but his eyes on her were intent. “Well, he’s sort of creepy. You know.”
Sam smiled, tight-lipped, without warmth. “No. Has he ever said or done anything that in any way made you uncomfortable?”
Willow hesitated. But – “No,” she said. Sam went on looking at her. “He’s so quiet. And he – ” She glanced through the kitchen door: Richard was sitting slumped against the table, his head down, shoulders bowed. It looked uncomfortably like someone having a cry, but Richard was silent. He was probably just asleep. There were things Richard did that made her uncomfortable, and this was one of them, but she understood what Sam meant. “No, he’s never done anything. And he never says anything.”
“I got a email offering to buy him today,” Sam said. “Different offer from last time. Lot of money. When I got something and someone else wants it and I don’t know why they want it, that just weirds me out, so you want to help me find out why everybody wants Doctor Richard Kimble?”
There was a mound of data from sixty-three Commerce reports that Willow had just begun to process. She’d lost all of today. There would be twice as much to do tomorrow. And if it wasn’t her imagination, Richard had twitched when Gerard said his old name. Could he hear them?
“Can he hear us?”
“Maybe,” Sam said “He’s kind of out of it right now.”
“I… when do you need to know?”
“I don’t know if I need to know,” Sam said. “It just gripes me not knowing. I gave everything you were working on this morning to George, and everything else to Adam, so you’ve got nothing to do now till we get the next set of files from those bastards. Friday or Monday.”
“I don’t – ” Willow was full of an awful relief, like cutting a math class and discovering later that the math teacher had been killed the previous night so the class had been cancelled anyway. “But I should – ”
“You’ve got nothing to do unless you want to help out with this Richard thing. Come on, you need food, you need to eat something.” Sam straightened himself. “Come on in and sit down.”
There was soup and bread. Richard lifted his head and began to spoon soup from the bowl when Willow sat down across from him: or rather, when Sam put a hand on his shoulder and leaned over him. Sam didn’t say anything: he just reached for his own bowl, which was empty now. Richard didn’t look up from his bowl: his face, though a grown man’s, looked in some ways empty as a child’s. Except he didn’t look lik a child. It was creepy, his silence, his lack of expression, and his downcast eyes.
“Here you go,” Sam said. The soup was canned chicken, anodyne on Willow’s throat, not the usual spice-hot brew Sam cooked up at weekends. Sam had cut two thick slices of bread, a different loaf from the one Sam had fed her bits off this morning.
Sam sat down – a chair where he could watch both Willow and Richard, Willow noticed – and leaned his chin on his fist. “That soup okay, Richard?” He sounded friendly.
Richard stopped eating. He looked at Sam – briefly, not changing his expression. “It’s good, Sam.”
“Good,” Sam said. “If it’s cold, I can zap it in the microwave.” There was something wrong with his tone of voice: he wasn’t just being friendly.
Richard said, again, in the same tone of voice “It’s good, Sam, Thank you.”
“That’s okay,” Sam said. Willow was sure of it: Sam’s voice sounded right, sort of, but it was all wrong. She went on eating the soup in her bowl. Richard’s eyes were down, and his hand moved, mechanically, soup to mouth. He didn’t look as if he wanted to eat. Sam didn’t speak again: he looked tired.
The soup was good. Willow finished it, and was eating the second piece of bread, when the door – right behind Richard’s chair – opened. Richard dropped his spoon. Sam was on his feet.
Willow looked up: Giles had woken up. He was standing in the doorway, looking more than a little dazed. Willow smiled at him, trying to look apologetic.
After a moment, Giles gave his glasses a rub, and slid them back on. “Hello,” he said.
Sam sat down again. “Hey, how are you? Want some chicken soup? I think I got another can.”
Giles appeared to give that momentary thought. “No, thank you. Willow, are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” Willow said, and yawned unexpectedly. “I just… woke up.”
Sam looked at Willow. “Well, you should go back to bed. Richard and I are about to.”
There was still some chicken soup left in Richard’s bowl, but he hadn’t moved since Giles opened the door. Willow stood up quickly and picked up Richard’s bowl and her own, scooping up Richard’s fallen spoon. “Okay,” she said.
Richard lifted his head for the first time and looked at her. Sam’s eyes flicked at her, and for an instant he was frowning. Willow gave an apologetic shrug, and went to the sink: she rinsed out both bowls.
“Willow,” Sam said.
“You willing to do that job I asked you to do?”
“I thought,” Giles said – he sounded terribly mild, but not at all sleepy “ – that you’d given Willow the week off?”
“Yeah,” Sam said. “It’s only Richard I want Willow for, it’s not a big deal.”
Giles looked at Sam over his glasses. Willow had never seen him do that to Sam Gerard before. “Would you care to clarify that.”
Richard was sitting completely still. Willow didn’t like the look on his face.
Sam sat back, folding his hands together over his stomach. “Willow, you okay with doing what I asked you to do?”
Willow felt like she wanted to flail. She couldn’t. “Yes,” she said.
“Okay. Richard, Willow’s one of my interrogators, she’s going to begin investigation tomorrow. Don’t panic – ” though Richard hadn’t moved or blinked “ – we’re going to keep it on this side of the house. But you’re gonna cooperate with her, got it?”
There was a pause. Richard’s hands slid off the table, out of sight, into his lap: his elbows and his shoulders seemed to tuck themselves inward, as if he were flinching, becoming smaller. He bowed his head and said, to the table. “Yes, Sam.”
“I see,” Giles said, after a moment. “Well. Good night.” He glanced at Willow.
Willow came round the table, avoiding both Richard and Sam, and caught hold of Giles’ wrist: he felt solid and comforting through the fabric of his shirt. Sam nodded to them both. Richard was still sitting, hunched and still, not moving.
Willow let go of Giles when they were in the hall and the kitchen door was closed: Giles said nothing until they had reached the top of the stairs, and then only, “One of his interrogators?”
“Well,” Willow said, uncomfortably conscious that this description fitted Giles far better than it did her, “I think maybe he just wanted to scare Richard.”
She’d spoken without thinking, but knew at once – not only from the way Giles sucked in a long breath and let it out again – that this was why. “I’m just – going to find out why people want to buy Richard off Sam.”
“Yes, well,” Giles said, and then, “If you are going to be spending any time with Richard at all, I had rather he was thoroughly scared. In fact, I think cowed is the right word.”
Richard was scared of Sam. Of course he was. Willow went on to the guest room. That wasn’t exactly news. She wanted to be in the guest room with the door shut and a pillow over her head before she heard Sam and Richard coming upstairs. She could deal with the idea of Richard frightened: and she knew – everyone did – that people had bodyslaves they used for sex. But the bodyslaves she had seen had all seemed to make their service something elegant and clean, delicate and luxurious – not a real man with a real and solid body, who was really going to be raped. Not long from now, in a bedrooom just down the hall.
“Are you all right?” Giles asked. Willow had waited till he was inside and shut the door very firmly.
“I’m just going to brush my teeth,” Willow said.
“Wait,” Giles said. He put a hand on her shoulder. “Are you really all right?”
“No,” Willow said. She looked up at him. “Are you?”
Whenever they had to share a bed, they just kicked their shoes off and lay down on the coverlet and each took a blanket. It wasn’t even really embarrassing any more: they’d done it so often in so many motels, before they got to Illinois. You could say almost anything to Giles, but when they were lying down next to each other on a double bed, even a big one, even when they were both dressed, Willow did not want to talk about how she was thinking, in an awkward kind of way, about Sam and Richard. About Sam raping Richard. Somehow it was just as embarrassing to think of Sam as a rapist as it was to think of Richard being raped. More so.
“Sleep well,” Giles said. It was after one in the morning. He switched the light out on his side of the bed, and after a moment, Willow did the same on hers. Giles had asked if she was all right because two thousand people are going to die. Willow lay still in the semi-darkness. She had forgotten. How could you forget something like that, even for a moment?
She thought she would not be able to go to sleep. It seemed to her that she spent a long time staring at the shadows on the wall, listening to Giles breathe beside her. But she must have gone to sleep quite fast, because she could not remember hearing Sam or Richard at all, once she and Giles were upstairs.
to part 2