From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
Know what I learned from people? They don't really want to hear crap about your life. They don't want to hear how your mom's a jerk and she got busted for ripping off the state. That your father's a drunk who beat your family down. Or that your brother's the biggest douche bag in Orange County. No one wants to know. They think you're looking for pity. They think you want their empathy or compassion. Well, you can take that crap and shove it. I want nothing from you. What I come with , that's just what I have, I am not defined by it. I am not the girl with the shitty family. I am Baby Shank because I am damn good with blades.
Captain Shiryat "Sheer" Yieto they are totally all true.
I could tell you every detail- the whole story- but each time I find myself at a loss of words.
Though, I can tell you the moment where I knew I was fucked.
My short stint working with Sheer, I describe as pure hell. Over his years, I bet Sheer's taken a thousand lives, and with each one, a part of his humanity died. So right about the time we met, he's was quite monstrous. Here lemme help: Remorseless, insane, snarling- The fucker was no Jean-Luc Picard, and we, his crew, suffered for it.
Loyalty and trust- Sheer made clear his desires for his crew, and in return, he gave nothing to them. He'd distrust you, punish you if you fell out of his line. That happened quite a bit when found yourself new and you didn't know the 'rules'.
I excelled at my contracts, and brought in a large chunk of change for the 'Company'. I asked about a promotion (I just wanted a room with a real bed to sleep in more than anything). Sheer granted me counsel.
As I walked to his office dread washed over me. I'd seen him beat the shit out of other crew members for minor infractions. I knew something wasn't right about this... I didn't trust him. If I would've listened to myself, and turned tail. If.. if... If only I had met Ansen sooner.
I found myself alone with Sheer in his office. A room estranged from the rest of the joint. He'd set it up that way, so no one could spy on his conversations. Sheer locked the door behind, me, he lead me to stand at attention before his desk. Sheer observed my file, and a light conversation about my progress occurred.
Dread pulled at my stomach. I should have run, should have asked another to be there, but I didn't. Live and learn, right? He was my Captain, and he expected my trust and loyalty. To show other wise, I'd suffer more consequences.
Sheer thought a moment, and I watched, as he pushed himself off his desk. His fingers unbuttoned his shirt, and as he stripped himself bare, I noticed all the intricate tattoos that covered his torso. He put the folded shirt on his desk and approached me.
The question fell out of my mouth as I raised my arms to bar his approach. “Captain, are you a creeper or something?” With that, Sheer lifted his left hand and showed me his wedding ring. I stared at it. He used it to assure me that he wasn't after snatch, and with his other fist he cold cocked me.
I went down. The world went from black; to grey; to pastels; normal color. I felt something cold and wet on the side of my face. I touched it, and brought it before my eyes: my blood.
I moved to my feet, but Sheer drove a knee to the back of my head, I went to the ground again. The pain: my consciousness, fully awakened to it this time. I had to get up, had to fight- I got to my knees again and spit the blood from my cut lip.
'Stay down, you prove nothing,' Sheer snarled at me. It was never in me to helplessly take a beating. Not from my father, brother or mother- and definitely not to the Captain that I was supposedly to devote my trust. I got to my knees again, but he took cheap shots at my ribs. This time, I went down for good. I took several more kicks to my stomach, my ribs and my kidneys. I couldn't will myself to get up, and I didn't cry once... Never for that bastard.
When Sheer was through, he pulled the white shirt over my blood spattered on his chest. He rambled, “Welcome aboard,” and left me there.
I'd become a full fledged crew member.
My heart; My Light
I'd move Mountains to be near you.
My protector; My Lover
I'd make the impossible, possible for you.
First off, I am not co-dependent, assholes. I am just really in love.
When I truly love someone, there's is nothing impossible. My heart, a ferocious roaring lion, would tear apart anyone that threatened me, or Ansen. It'd turn me into one of you capes. No insane Captain's; no imploding worlds would stop that. Strong and brave, I'd fly to be by my lovers side to support him. He wouldn't even have to ask.
I met Ansen the night I got 'promoted' into the ranks of Dogstar. Here- in real blunt terms- promoted means Yieto beat the shit out of me. Betrayed, disillusioned, I stumbled into the D looking for a sucker. Figured I needed some booze to go with these painkillers I stole. There, I found Ansen alone in a calmer area of the D. I held out a crumbled ten dollar bill and asked him to buy this girl something strong.
Ansen hid his face behind a mop of hair and black eye patch, but I didn't see his scars, I just saw soul. He looked skeptically at me, but then changed his mind when he saw the welts, bruises and cuts on my body. Yeah, he figured I needed a drink too. He settled on some stuff called Goldschläger. I got so toasted.
I told Ansen somethings that happened to me while in Yieto's care, but not all of it. He decided to take me the safety of his apartment. Drunk, and battered, and definitely not wanting to go back, I agreed. Hell seemed better than going back to the ship and to the Captain. Through the night, Ansen kept talking to me, and coaxed me in sleeping on his couch. No one from Dogstar knew where I'd gone that night, so I did. He made me a turkey sandwich to sober me up a little, and then I could sleep it off before my senses awoke to the pain again.
Ha, the Turkey Sandwich made me fall in love with Ansen! Haha, I only kid. No, it wasn't the sandwich, it was the kindness he showered upon me. The first person in a long time to do it.
The duration of my time with Dogstar stretched into another hellish month. Sheer's insanity grew and the crew suffered. I retreated to Ansen as much as I possibly could. The two of us were falling in love, and the shit with Dogstar and Sheer put a strain on our relationship. Ansen comforted me instead of leaving me while I figured out what I needed to do. In doing so, my love- my Ansen , kept me from becoming a monster under Sheer.
Sheer observed our budding romance. He viewed Ansen as a weakness; a potential breech in security. Sheer threatened me several times. He gave me the choice to bring Ansen aboard the operation, or he'd kill him and me. No way in hell was I going to allow Ansen to suffer as I had under Yieto's care. And Ansen, politely declined Sheer's invitation.
As time went on, the situations with Dogstar grew darker and deadlier. As a form of punishment, a close crew-mate’s tongue was torn out of his mouth by Sheer's bare hands. We were forced to witness it. He wanted us to believe the consequences for violating the rules.
I went awol soon after. Sheer thought me a failure as I'd thrown away a lucrative career for a guy that made me a sandwich and said nice things. Sheer announced as us enemies.
I stayed at Ansen's apartment to recover, hide and change my thoughts about my life
In the meantime, Sheer murdered my closest crew-mate. There was no one sane protecting the crew. No one standing up for them. I still had access codes, and I went back. Sheer caught me, with the intent to kill me. We violently fought. And as Sheer, strangled the life from me, I could only think of Ansen. Something in me snapped, and I wrestled with Sheer and buried my blade to its hilt into his hip. Sheer released me, but then in the next moment, broke my arm as punishment.
Shortly, before he was to kill me, Sheer struck a bargain. He'd let me live, and Ansen too, if I came back to work for him. I stupidly only asked if I could still live with Ansen, to which Sheer agreed, under the same condition: Ansen was allowed to know nothing of our operation.
Sheer called me his student of war. He relished taking out a green horn and molding me to his teaching, but at the same time, despised my weaknesses. Sheer never seemed to understand that I was just sixteen, and not a soldier. His teaching forced me to kill, and if I disobeyed I knew the consequences. I took lives under Sheer's command.
I made the rank of Officer, and then was terminated for requesting time off to spend the Holidays with Ansen. If only I had done that sooner... if I had made different choices...
"Soundtrack: Sextape by Deftones"
Our dinner smells wonderful.
Ansen's in the kitchen humming;
A smile upon his lips.
His knife drums the cutting board.
Amber eye finds me.
All is right.
I was Released from Hell and peace evaded me.
My Mind and body reacted as if still in war. Loud noises, Night Terrors or if Ansen raised a hand too fast, it all startled me and brought me back to the trenches with Sheer hunting me.
I moved into Ansen's apartment full time. He gave me my own room, and I was too scared to sleep alone. When he passed out, I'd sneak into Ansen's bedroom and sleep on the floor next to his bed. I'd listen to his breathing, and his body moving through the sheets. It comforted me. Sometimes I lie awake the whole night, and if I slept I'd soon wake up screaming.
When peace came, it caused me restlessness. I did not understand that so I picked fights with Ansen to create chaos. I could function in chaos.
Ansen though, he caught on to all of it before I did, and because he loved the hell out of me- we worked through it together. Seeing my constant distress, Ansen stole me and we went on a short skiing vacation. He introduced the snow for the first time by putting it down my shirt.
Game so on Delacroix!
We played for hours building forts, snowmen and pelting each other with snowballs. I laughed my ass off as he tackled me, and shoved more snow down my clothes. Like the snow on my body, the world's stress melted away , and it was just me and Ansen. I love him.
When we returned home, Ansen surprised me by getting us a Christmas Tree. He put on some old Christmas music, as we sat before the fireplace and strung popcorn while drinking wickedly good buttered rum. Because I am weird, and from a different world than Ansen, I started to freak out. It'd been years since I celebrated Christmas. The thought of giving gifts terrified me. Like that night, he gifted me with an ornament for our tree. A snowflake with the inscription: Our first Christmas.
Ansen put a lot of thought into all the gifts he bought for me. I feared that I'd fail in doing the same for him. Christmas morning arrived. I was anxious and really excited to give him his gifts. I made him open one gift, and then I opened one gift- you know- to make Christmas last longer. Damn day was over too fast. At the end of it, Ansen gave me the best Christmas I ever experienced. I look forward to future ones with him.
I sat in the kitchen as Ansen whipped up Christmas brunch. I loved watching him cook. His seasoning amazed me. His eggs didn't need no stink'n ketchup either. I tried to learn from him, but cooking escaped me. Ansen even placed a fire extinguisher in the kitchen for my failures.
I loved our home routine. I loved helping him with laundry, cleaning and doing the dishes after he cooked. I was too afraid to say it. You know, didn't want to jinx it, but I loved our little family. My wounds started to heal. My love and gratefulness for Ansen deepened. I felt lucky. I felt hopeful about this new life we were going to share together.
But my peace of mind was not to last.
Even though I felt safer than I had at any one point in my life, I was still scared shitless. Especially when it came to letting Ansen into my world. Would he reject me? Would he quit on me? Would my shit- my baggage- scare him away?
I love Ansen. I want to protect him; keep him from harm. To keep him from information I know will cause him pain. There's certain things, I cannot hide.
Sheer became heavily interested in drawing me back under his wing. Sweet words, promises and temptation with the weaknesses Sheer knew I possessed. My former teacher knew I felt worthless, and dumb, and he pointed it out often to me. Sheer said he could teach me – that was the bait – to become more successful than just the common thug I was.
I admit, I almost accepted his offer, but didn't for the sole reason that my love, my feelings, my fierceness for Ansen kept me grounded. I love Ansen, more than I wanted to be Sheer's student. I choose Ansen.
To escape the madness, we dropped everything in our lives and headed for a dream vacation to Rome. It only took a few hours there to clear my head and knew that I made the right decision. Ansen and I felt carefree for the first time. We discovered antique flea markets, cuisines and the local tourist traps. We indulged in it all and became better partners, lovers and friends for it.
I could look at Ansen, and know for the first time in my life, that everything would be okay no matter what. We were together, and I gifted him with my undying loyalty.
In Rome... Ansen surprised me with a promise ring. He presented it to me on a silver chain so that I may wear it upon my neck and not be disturbed by dissenters. The silver band lay inset with sapphires in tribute to the blue in my hair. I loved it. I let him place it around my neck but wished he had placed it around my finger.
Our getaway's time came to a closing, and I felt it, so did Ansen, and at some point we'd return to Cap Au Diable to face the problems again.
For the Rest of my life, I will remember this. Ansen set about preparing a Venetian Paella. A smile stretched upon his lips. The happiness radiated from him. I wanted to ask him something-
I asked if Ansen would just once let put the ring on me, so I'd know how it felt. He took the ring from around my neck, and dropped to one knee and spoke to me:
Cassie.. this ring is to remind you every day.. that you are wonderful, bright.. intelligent and deserve to see your dreams come true. That you are loved by one man.. who has placed his trust and his heart in your care. By a man that wants to wake up beside you every morning and fall asleep every night with you in his arms. Cassandra Cole.. with this ring.. I ask. Will you marry me?"
Fuck yes! A thousand times, yes. Ansen.. always.
We became engaged.
I knew my place in the world. I knew in many aspects I was still a shitty kid. In severing ties with Sheer, I lost my teacher. I didn't want my Future husband to be my pseudo dad- ew, I needed to find someone else to guide me or at least help me so Sheer could not fuck with me again.
It's not that Ansen couldn't help me here. He does, and has, but our emotions were so wrapped up in it, that it was hard to keep calm- hard for me to hear the words through the rage. It didn't work.
I wanted to be smarter. I wanted to be stronger. I wanted to be healthier so I could be with Ansen for the rest of my life.
I asked Ansen if I could take information he gathered from one of his jobs to an eccentric and reclusive author friend of his. I learned his name to be Jarod Kingsley. He helped my love... I wanted to meet the man.
I arranged a meeting, and met Mister Kingsley at Sulgrave Manor, his residence, in Cap Au Diable. The sprawling English Manor lay nestled amongst sprawling gardens, collected sports cars and, oh yeah, that Ducati of his.
I basically shit when I entered his home. Mister Kingsley's culture, class and richness made me feel my trailer trash roots. I stained his affluent Manor and his intellect with my words and presences. I felt too afraid to sit down because I might mess up his nice furntiure. I have to say, the man himself was less imposing, and far kinder. He spoke gently, and with big words, and smiled without judgment of me.
I admired the way he spoke. I wanted to be a student of words like him.
I strolled through his literature packed office. My hands wandered over some of the old leathery bounded books. My top secret weakness: I couldn't read, so I pretended that I could read them. I fooled Mister Kingsley well enough, that he gave me an autographed book of his to read.
I proposed to Mister Kingsley why I had come... I wanted a job (I earned on my own). I wanted to prove I could do this and that I wasn't worthless. I gave Mister Kingsley my credentials. I owned a few, even, as a thug. He decided to take a chance on me.
For the job, I went undercover at a bookstore Mister Kingsley favored for his signings. It meant being parted from Ansen, I did not like that, but I sucked it up and invested my time into this job.
Long story short, I fucked up on the job! I took a bullet to my stomach. It's a good thing, Mister Kingsley got wind of it all, and found me just in time. Our fates, and secrets are now intertwined together.
Many things changed after that job. Ansen knew my Truth. As a couple, we discussed the options to teach me again, but Mister Kingsley offered to help me learn. I accepted.
The Future looked brighter.
"And I need you to recover, because I can't make it on my own."
In relationships, each person brings with them their own set of wisdom and baggage; I had Sheer, while Ansen had a man called Sheppard.
If you gazed upon my Ansen, you may see his face scarred, an eye missing from its socket or you may see a beautiful blond, tanned, toned Ex- Military man. Me, I always his saw his beauty and his soul in his single amber eye. Did you know Ansen was deaf? Not many people figured it out, because he hid it so well. He read my lips, because other than flipping the bird, I knew no sign language. I grew accustomed to his deep monotone voice. I looked forward to hearing it.
Ansen, seemed to also have the ideal family- you know- like the Brady Bunch (The Brady Bunch is a lie). Two parents that rallied the family together for a Sunday dinner each week. An older brother named Justin shared Ansen's good looks, and worked as an paramedic. But it all came to an end: a Rikti Invasion killed his family. Ansen the sole survivor.
Me, on the other hand, I had my shitty-ass family, and they were all still alive and in good health. I didn't like talking about them to Ansen. How do you explain to a child whose mother loved him, that your mother resented your very existence? I feared he couldn't relate. Hell, I feared a lot of things, and kept it all inside of me.
Would Ansen have gotten into this mess if he had his parents there for him? The Delacroix's raised a very moral, upstanding man- and to Sheppard, that was a fault. As to Sheer, my morality and empathy, were a fault.
Ansen disobeyed an order to save some people, and blew a mission objective. Sheppard ( that fucker ) he decided to pay Ansen back for a failed mission. The deafness, the scars, the loss of his eye, Sheppard ordered it. He wanted Ansen dead too, but that failed, and my love survived to meet me.
Unresolved issues; people with vengeance; the farts you cut, and try to out run the stink- it all finds you again. Sheer kept finding me, and Sheppard found Ansen. Ansen and I raced time, and Sheppard, to get tech used in procedures to rob Ansen's hearing. We hoped having the pieces would restore it. Maybe just once he could hear me say: 'I Love you'.
We were getting closer to getting all the pieces to the puzzle and so was Sheppard. The last piece lay in a heavily guarded facility with Ansen's old Unit protecting it. They were simply known as the Agency. Ansen thought it best to take a small team, and I assembled a few of my friends: Dr. Kineta and Bal'Xcotl.
My bowels turned to water that morning. This scared me. We're on this fucker's turf – did he anticipate us coming?
We set it up so Mister Kingsley backed us up, and pulled out the remaining team members if the shit hit the fan.
Ansen and I went forward with the stolen security codes. They worked, and allowed us silent entry into the Agency's base. Four against an ops unit base- fun. I charged forward, protecting Ansen's blind side, as he protected me from mine. Together, our team left a wake of battered bodies. I killed, I maimed and I showed mercy.
We breached the room where we figured the sonic device stored. We took the bait, and Doc took the device into her possession for safe keeping. Sheppard knew us to be here now. A heavy ambush distracted me. I strayed from Ansen to fend them off. My love, my Ansen, he couldn't hear.. He didn't hear them sneak up behind him, subdue him, and wrestle his weapons away. I barely witnessed Ansen's struggle before they sealed the door off from me.
Doc , and Bal pulled me out. I lost my patience for mercy, and slaughtered all that dared come close to me. Mister Kingsley met us at the rendezvous. I shook with anger, and adrenaline fueled me. I wanted Ansen back. I wanted to go back, and knock the fucking walls down until he safely belonged to me again.
Mister Kingsley suggested otherwise- and I got into contact with the insider douche that hooked us up with the codes.
The contact provided us a small opportunity the next day to allow us re-entry for reclamation.
FUCK your waiting! I wanted to kill them all. I paced Mister Kingsley's garden. I struggled.. I failed. I did not do it right.. I left my Love in harm's way. It was my fault.. If I had kept right beside him. If I had done things differently. My mind rolled with images of what they were doing to him. Would he still be alive by the time I returned? What if he was already dead? What would I do? Oh Christ, no, he couldn't be dead- No, not dead.
Mister Kingsley tried to talk to me. Tired to soothe me, I couldn't be still. If I stopped.. if I rested.. I might miss the opportunity and lose Ansen forever.
Dawn broke. I readied my gear and sharpened my blades.
Time to go; Time to get my Ansen back.
I brought formidable foes: Bal'xcotl, Dr. Kineta, and now Mister Kingsley.
I tapped into the teachings of Sheer. I let myself revel in the kills. It fueled me. My blades sliced through Agency prats. I pained them, yet not one of them could feel the intense heart break that festered my heart.
Further into the compound we went, Mister Kingsley and I left no one standing. What I didn't kill, Mister Kingsley drained. Worked out well.
We recovered Ansen in the operation room. One by one, my strike team dismantled those that caged Ansen. When I had a moment, I went to Ansen's side as he lay strapped to a gurney. I undid his restraints: released and freed, Ansen went into my arms.
A primal rage erupted from within, and I screamed when I saw what they did to him. Ansen's body bore new violence: skin split open and oozing. My love barely managed the strength to stand. I bolstered him and lent my strength and courage as we made our way out.
My heart ached as Ansen whispered to me, 'I knew you'd come.' Well of course, baby- Not leaving you behind, ever.
Sheppard, also known as Dr. Frankenstein, intended to turn Ansen into a brainless cyborg with his crappy experiments. Doc, Bal, Mister Kingsley and destroyed any and all equipment and tech. We stole files that would help to expose Sheppard to his benefactors. Everything in my power; I would find a way to end Sheppard's god-modding.
Ansen told me about Sheppard's arrival. My heart choked my throat as I thought we barely stopped Ansen's grotesque transformation.
And Sheppard appeared. Sheppard, an aging man with a bad comb-over, stalked in with his bad ass red armor. His booming voice called over to us and to Ansen: Delacroix! You will not escape me again!
Oh, Hell No. I released Ansen, he only needed to stand on his own for a little bit. Sheppard's armor hummed, and then glowed, as if charging. I went after him, as Bal and Doc took down reinforcements, Mister Kingsley sniped all those that came at me from the sides.
My blades clanged as I struck Sheppard's armor. Sparks and metal shards rained in our altercation. Seemed Sheppard never intended for anyone to get this close, I surmised as his armor grew weaker beneath my blades. They tore away, and exposed Sheppard's stomach and chest. He grabbed my wrists, and we wrestled. My legs kicking at armored groin and thighs.
Sheppard growled, over powered me, and he wrestled me to the floor. His remnant armor glowed brighter now, and his hands surged with power. He raised the rolling balled energy over his head, with his snarl fixed upon me.
I watched as a single arrow (delivered by Ansen) pierced Sheppard's shoulder and shattered his concentration. I sprung from the floor, both blades in hand, and tore Sheppard from belly to sternum. His bowels and stink spilled forth as I stepped back.
I heard Sheer's voice in my head: Finish him! I went for another round with Sheppard, but a single gunshot resounded. I watched as a hole appeared in Sheppard's forehead, and the realization, and the last bit of life left his eyes. Ansen's old Master crumbled to the floor dead.
Mister Kingsley 'kill-stealed' me. I turned to find Ansen just as he was about to collapse.
Mister Kingsley and I got Ansen out of there and to a hospital. I lived in the uncomfortable chair next to Ansen's bed while he recovered.
I recognized the terror that woke Ansen from dreams. I knew the vacant looks. I knew the depression that followed. Even with Sheppard dead, the torture freshly lingered within Ansen. I also realized it may take years before the pain ebbed.
I willingly rode the turmoil with Ansen. If I can't fix it, then, I am there in anyway shape or form. Life adjusts and new routine's are made while my partner/lover/friend suffers. It's an act of true love.
As I comforted, and soothed, I thought of my boogeyman. Ansen defeated his. Only the memories haunted him now. Me, on the other hand, my boogeyman still lived and breathed. I received no closure. I hid. There's no defeat in cutting ties and running.
We all know: the things I run from have a way of finding me sooner or later.
I kept vigil over my fiance. I stayed awake while Ansen slept. I felt as though if I did, I could chase the demons from his dreams. I observed the weekly changes in his wounds: from open; scabbed; to fading pink lines; scars.
We now owned the tech which stole Ansen's hearing. We sent it off to Scientists and Doctors whom felt there may a be chance the reconfigured implants may restore Ansen's hearing.
A small glimmer of hope drove us to acquire these pieces but we dragged our feet when Ansen faced new surgery. Ansen panicked about facing an operating room, and doctors. I, on the other hand, thought of the heartbreak and disappointment Ansen may be faced with if the surgery did not work. It scared the living shit out of me.
Something happened to me, and it forced Ansen's hand on this subject. He decided to go through with the surgery. I supported him, even though, I'd still love the hell out of him whether he heard me or not. Did he just understand that I loved him regardless of what he thought about his hearing, or his eye?
Fear is a poison that eats from the inside out. I watched Ansen's resolve rot as the surgery grew near. I distracted him with dreams of our wedding: Bare foot, happy and getting married on Italy's Almafi coast. The hope brightened Ansen's spirits, and then he'd look to his over night bag, and the deep-set fear returned.
The Night of his surgery, I washed his hair really well, and I made my dinner specialty: sandwiches. I wanted to make sure he had some food in him before the surgery the next morning. Ansen, though, found a different way to relive his stress and tension... Rawr. I slept with him wrapped in my arms throughout the night.
Brave, my Ansen's Brave and I wish I were brave like him. He soldiered on, and got in the hospital gown with much flashing of the me. He made himself laugh. They allowed me to be by his side as the put the I.V.s in his hand. I watched as they started to put him out, and I whispered that I'd see him upon waking.
I took my seat in the waiting room, with my bags packed, to keep myself busy during the three hour procedure. I heard a large blast, and saw many people running through the hallways. Chaos erupted around me, and I went back to get my blades (never leave home without 'em).
As if everything else wasn't hard enough for us, Sky Raider's attacked the hospital. I couldn't even be a normal fiancee in the waiting room. God, I was so pissed. No fucking way was I going to allow anyone else to take away from Ansen.
I set out to secure the power grids and the generators. If the power went out there was no telling the damage it would have caused to Ansen or other the patients. I killed as many of those bastards as I could get my blades on. It took three hours to secure the building and the generators barely made it.
First I puked, then I showered and changed before they wheeled Ansen into recovery.
Ansen woke, and as promised, I was there to welcome him back. His recovery and his well being became my first priority. I let slide the shit I faced, until someone brought it up, and I was forced to tell Ansen while he still lay groggy from the anesthesia.
The doctors allowed me to take Ansen back home that night. They gave me a lot of instructions, medicine and a list of scary things that could develop. A few hours later, we decided to remove the bandages. Ansen... I could see the fear in his face again, but again he was brave, and I cut the bandages from him.
He couldn't hear. All this hell and we are punished again. Are we bad people? Do we deserve to be hurt like this over and over?
The look on his face destroyed me. I can't fix this. I can't make this better no matter how hard I try God I wanted him to hear so bad. I wanted him to be happy because things went his way. It's not fair. I wrapped my arms around him tight, and we held each other as we both mourned. For we are one; My heart is broken.
Ansen remains hopeful, and he's doing it for the both of us. I just can't see the hope anymore.
I wanted to marry Ansen more than anything. My only reluctance came from actually planning the ceremony and inviting people. Think about it: Ansen's family's dead; we're not religious; Ansen did not approve of most my friends; Ansen didn't have friends as far as I knew...
I tortured myself by watching “Father of the Bride”. I wanted a father to walk me down the aisle. In my reality, my father looked at me like I was the biggest piece of shit. My mother wouldn't be dabbing the tears from her cheeks with a happy smile. She hated her children, and did not want to have any. She let my brother and I know that fact as much as she could. Weddings... Heh.. They could make a person like me feel the pangs of what I would never have.
Weddings were an expensive mean lie. I started to drop hints to Ansen: Vegas, Elvis, Eloping. I think I hurt him suggesting such. Ansen rarely understood where I came from and I struggled to fathom his good upbringing.
'Let's just get married,' I told Ansen, 'it's for us- it's not for them.' I had no one I wanted to impress- I wanted to be married to Ansen. After a while of dropping the hints, Ansen and I came up with getting married abroad. More specifically to marry in Italy. We choose the Almafi coast, and that right there, opened up the wedding and it came together quite fast.
Two important things happened during this time. One, Ansen's tech started to work , and he regained his hearing. What a change! I watched as he reacquainted himself with music, hearing my voice and ambient noise. I think I told him I loved him a thousand times. He could hear me. Finally, something went right for my love.
The second being, Sheppard emerged again. This time, through an unsuccessful cloning of himself. It shook Ansen, it shook me. The thought of having a hundred possible outcomes with this loose thread weighed heavily on the both of us. Would we ever be done? What would we faced next with Sheppard? I only knew that I'd be by Ansen's side whatever the outcome. We'd see an end to this together.
After all that, we could not get to Italy fast enough. I still didn't have the wedding dress I wanted, but I picked out one that would do. I asked Mister Kingsley if he would walk me down the aisle and he accepted much to my relief. I went to his place to get ready for our wedding.
I presented Mister Kingsley with a gift. Just a small token of affection, and a thank you, for well.. for being part of my adopted family. He was my pseudo father, my pseudo brother, my teacher and at this point I had not told Mister Kingsley I thought of him as such. It was then, Mister Kingsley dropped the bomb on me and said he questioned Ansen's intentions.
Mister Kingsley said that he wondered if Ansen was solely marrying me to save me from the life I had. And that hurt me. It hurt me a lot. I tried not to show it, and kindly rebuffed him as best I could. Ansen, also rebuffed him. And Mister Kingsley, satisfied with our answers, agreed that we both loved each other.
It was then, Mister Kingsley presented me with his gift. I'd like to think it an approval of my union to Ansen: It was the wedding dress I wanted. He found it. I cried from the overwhelming gesture. We spoke more, and he helped me dress. Where Mister Kingsley learned how to do a woman's hair, I do not know. I smiled as I stared at myself in the mirror with him, my pseudo-father, behind me. It was a god damned genuine Kodak Moment.
I realized that it did not matter that my real family wasn't here. I had the people who truly loved me by my side.
We arrived at the beach where the ceremony was to take place. Mister Kingsley's arm anchored me to keep me from floating down the aisle to Ansen. I watched as my groom's naked toes nervously gripped the sand, and he fidgeted with his cuffs. Bless Ansen's heart, he was as nervous as me.
I finally pulled Mister Kingsley along, and Ansen saw us. His golden eye found mine. I could see what was in my heart reflected on my almost husband's face. We met at the end of the sandy aisle, and Ansen took my hand: 'You look... my god Cassie.. you are so beautiful.'
I smiled at Ansen with my heart ready to burst with love and joy. We walked together to the Padre, and the ceremony began. The only nerves I had came with the delivery of my vows. Would I not say it right? Could I not express well just how much I loved my Ansen?
Ansen said his vows: Cassie.. I searched my heart.. but you know what's in it.. So I looked for more inspiration and I found this poem.. I believe.... two hearts can find each other.... in a crowded world... I believe.... soul mates really do exist... I believe.... some things..... are simply meant to be... All because of you. You are the one who has shown me.. I still have life to live.. and its not worth it though unless you are in it. I love you Cassandra Cole and will till the stars fade... You are the one that I want as my wife.. today.”
Ansen slipped my wedding band on my finger. I felt his hands shake with nerves. I blanketed his hand with my own. I looked into his eye. All is right, I wanted to convey. I spoke my long rambling vows to Ansen: You're my Ansen... You have been from the moment I've met you. You are my soul mate.. You're the love of my life. You're the first person I want to see every morning; you're voice; your face is the last I want to hear and see before I go to bed each night. I give to you my heart and my Soul. Because I trust you to treat them well.. And in return, I will cherish, Love and care deeply for you until the end of our days. I love you , My Ansen. I am looking forward to our new adventures together.'
I slipped Ansen's wedding band on his finger. I secretly engraved my favorite poem inside there for only him to see. As the Padre rambled, I whispered simply to Ansen, 'I do'. I wrapped my arms around his neck, and we shared several long and passionate kisses.
Tramonto Villa was ours, by gift of Jarod Kingsley, and it was beautiful. I'll never forget our first night there. Ansen and I sat outside wrapped in blankets. The fire pit crackled with a warm fire, and the starts glinted over our heads. Ansen toasted us: ' To a new beginning... to putting aside the things that hurt us in the past.. but led us to discover what we could become together. Here is to us.. and the life and love we share from now and til forever.'
And I wholeheartedly believed.
"Story: The Life is Lost by @Santo"
"Soundtrack: Good Night, Travel Well"
I sat in front of the coffin that held my Ansen's body. Whenever I closed my eyes, I could only see his dead face: lips parted with death's final gasp; single eye unfocused; the broken blood vessel patches that marred his youthful scarred visage.
It had to be a nightmare. You were going to come to life again and walk through the front door with groceries in your arms. We'd cook dinner together. Afterward, we'd watch a movie and then we'd go to bed snuggled tight in each others arms.
But my eyes remained open. I stare at this box with Ansen in it. And I am just supposed to accept that he is gone forever?
I am so pissed at you, Ansen. You left me. In this whole shitty existence, you were the one person that loved me. Now there's no one.
How could you be so stupid and go to Sheppard alone? How could you fall for that? Were you that insecure in our relationship and my love for you that you'd even once think that I'd go to Sheppard's side? Did you not see me that morning and know how much I was in love with you? Was I not clear enough? I am loyal to you Ansen and I always have been. I would have never gone to Sheppard - and if I was was forced to- I would've been dead because my will and love for you could not be broken.
Jesus Christ, Ansen. Why could you not understand that? Had you never been loved? The decision you made, you made without me. You were smarter than that- you taught me to make better decisions than this one that cost you- no - Our lives. You didn't give me the chance to come home.
God, I loved you so much Ansen- this is killing me.
I drew in a painful breath and looked around as I sat at Ansen's graveside. The coffin hovered over its hole in the earth anxious to be lowered, and I lingered postponing its final descent.
Your memorial service fell on my seventeenth birthday. I know you wouldn't have planned it like that, but it just happened to be that way. I invited no one. The thought of being burdened with their grief, and awkward loss of words in their forced expressions of sympathy made me angry.
I buried you in Virginia right next to your family. I thought you would've liked that... They granted you a military head stone, I didn't think you would like that, but it is what it is.
I closed my eyes to keep the hot tears from falling down my cheeks. If I started now, I'd never stop.
Sheppard made damn sure to punish us. Every possible existence of you, Sheppard took away from me. No alternatives, no living trace- nothing. If Sheppard hadn't been stopped in mid desecration of your body, I am sure he would've burned it, and left me nothing but bones to further punish me.
I forced my eyes open. I felt my lower lip quiver as I looked toward the spread of sunflowers I chose to adorn Ansen's coffin. The sunflower turned its head toward the sun and opened up its petals to bask in the light.
You were my sun, and I was your sunflower, my husband. I loved you so much.
I rose from my lonely chair, and swept the sunflowers from the coffin's lid. I climbed atop of the coffin, and lay there with Ansen.
From my pocket, I pulled a pill bottle. I unscrewed the cap, and slowly started to empty the contents into my palm. I dryly swallowed the pills five at a time.
I can't make you hear me, Ansen. I can't make you see. But you did save me. You were my moral compass; my heart and soul. Loving you made me want to be a better person, and to have dreams and hopes again. I don't want to continue without you. I don't want to go on in the house where we were supposed to build our family together.
I promise you, In the place where lost souls roam, I will find you and we'll be together again.
I closed my eyes and felt rather sleepy as I slipped in and out of consciousness. The last thing I remembered was the helpless feeling of the pill bottle falling from my hand.
“Cassandra, wake up.”
I heard the firm voice command me. My eyes refused to open. The man said the words a few more times as my mind struggled to make sense of it all. A few finger tips batted my cheek, and I opened my eyes. I struggled to focus. Mechanical chirping monitored my heart beat, and plastic tubes fed solutions into my veins. My wrists were bound to the sides of the bed. My stomach felt like hell, my throat burned- uggh.
I focused on Agent Durance whom loomed over my hospital bedside.
“Cassandra,” Durance started, “In ten minutes time you will be given over to the psychiatric ward, where you will be held until you're deemed not a threat against yourself. You've tried to take your own life, and I've stopped you- I need you to live. You're the only person close enough to Ansen and Archeron Acquisitions to know where Sheppard will strike next.. I offer you a chance at retaliation, and to stop Sheppard from further erasing Ansen's existence. But I need to know right here, and right now.. if you can and will carry out this task without quitting in the middle of it.”
I felt myself nodding, even though my soul protested.
“Right,” Agent Durance motioned toward someone, and I felt myself being wheeled out of the hospital room.
“Where are we going,” I hoarsely croaked.
“We're going to Vanguard, where your body will recover before we begin our dismantling of Sheppard's empire.”
“Right,” I mumbled and closed my eyes again. I fell into a deep dreamless sleep.
Two hundred and fifty-one days ago, I had a different life... It's gone now, along with the girl who lived it.
My legs sprinted and I landed on the tips of my feet, going faster. My arms pumped hard at my sides, my lungs burned air. I could see Sheppard now, and he was getting away from me. The old man could run, but I was younger, and faster. I closed in on him. Sheppard stumbled as he tossed a glance over his shoulder. He corrected himself and picked up speed. A few yards separated us. Desperate, I launched myself at his legs. My hand caught the end of his kicked-back leg, and I tumbled to the ground. Sheppard, in front of me, tripped on his caught leg, and tumbled into a heap too.
I picked up my body, and leaped fast on Sheppard who I pinned to the ground before he could get to his feet.
Two hundred fifty-six: the number of days I've forced myself to live without Ansen. Since his murder, it's also the number of crippling anxiety attacks I have had. Now it's the consecutive days I've pursued Director Sheppard's Praetorian clone.
Sheppard threw me from his back. I was quick to get to my feet and dodge his kick. I caught his leg, and lifted it higher. Sheppard fell onto his back again, and I went after him. My fists pummeled his face. His nose made a popping sound. A second later, the bastard howled with pain.
Day two hundred and sixty: Director Sheppard detained.
I owned the bastard now.
My strike team encircled us. Agent Durance pulled me from beating Sheppard's nose into his skull. I made myself a promise: I'd make this bastard thoroughly pay.
As Durance restrained me, I watched as my team hog-tied and gagged Sheppard.
I assembled an odd-yet-elite team: a hacker; an accountant; a scientist; a private investigator; a flock guardian; a few mercenaries; a psychic; and finally, a dream walker I wanted no more loose ends with Sheppard: I dismantled all rogue cells, seized control of all his assets and assassinated his loyal employees.
As punishment for interrupting my suicide attempt, I choose Durance as my second in command. Durance owed it to Ansen, and to me. I even partially blamed Durance for Ansen's death: for lack of research; for letting him go alone; for not finding the real me.
To the scientist, I instructed that Sheppard's experiments be carried out on own his body. I made one request: no experiments on his eyes or ears. The scientist nodded at me. Sheppard growled through his gag. In a parting shot, I disallowed The Scientist the sympathetic use of anesthesia or numbing injections. I wanted the sociopath to feel something.
I watched Sheppard's body wither in agony as each of his failed experiments were performed on him. That asshole could inflict pain, but he couldn't stomach receiving it. Even after Sheppard passed out, his screams continued in my head.
Every time I closed my eyes, the darkness brought forth Ansen's death mask.
I opened my bottle of Xanax. I popped a few of the pills and swallowed.
I next faced Sheppard after his body recovered from the extensive surgeries. Sheppard's body remained strapped to an operating table. It was tipped up right, so that I could stand toe-to-toe with him. He looked like a Freakshow: gone were his hands, replaced by awkward and useless meat hooks.
I had often thought of this moment, and what I'd say to the fucker who stole everything from me. I watched as Sheppard pursed his lips upon seeing me. Sheppard had the audacity to be smug with me even though his fate resided solely in my hands. I struggled to quell my rage.
“You were supposed to kill yourself,” Sheppard snarled at me. I kept my eyes hard on his face.
I would not show this bastard any weakness.
I kept silent.
“Ooh, did you know you betrayed him, Cassandra? Your Praetorian version smacked his face with rejection. If you could have- ,” Sheppard paused to laugh, “-seen the hurt in his face. You, Mrs. Delacroix, destroyed his spirit right then and there. I killed your Praetorian version first, made Ansen watch; made him lose 'you'. Did you know, Delacroix squealed like a little girl when he died. I blew out his heart with a single bullet.” Sheppard laughed.
From the operating tray, I took a pair of tongs. I calmly walked over to Sheppard. One of my mercenaries grabbed Sheppard's head in a lock, and another wedged a bite block between his teeth. I pinched the flailing tongue with the tongs, and extracted it from his mouth. I withdrew my blade from its sheath and sawed through the muscle. Blood sprayed from the wound, and Sheppard choked on his own filthy DNA. I tossed the severed meaty tongue toward a guard dog whom seemed to not even swallow as he ate it.
The crew worked hard to stop the bleeding by cauterizing what was left of his tongue. His body violently trembled from the shock. I came close to Sheppard's face, and commanded he listen through his haze. When his eyes locked on mine, I hissed to him: “You broke my Praetorian version and murdered her. You may have succeeded in breaking me as well, Sheppard.. But me.. This Cassandra Delacroix was trained by two violent immortals, and had a husband that was taught by your Earth version. She didn't die. You’ve just pissed her off!”
I motioned for the other members of my crew. They wheeled in something that resembled a coffin, with wires and monitoring devices attached to it. Sheppard looked to it, and then to me. A gurgle, I could only guess to be a laugh, erupted from him.
“Oh no.” I delightfully squashed Sheppard's hopes. “You don't get to die Sheppard. In fact, you're going to live forever,” I explained. The dream walker opened the lid of the to stasis chamber. His body would be frozen in time. My twelve-member crew transported Sheppard's broken body and placed him inside the tomb. Sheppard's legs and wrists were strapped to his side. His head, I order to be strapped so he was forced to stare directly before him.
“I've bet you've never heard of a flock guardian or a dream walker, have you, Sheppard?” I looked at each of my companions, and then looked back to Sheppard. “Dreamwalkers, they get in your head, and influence your dreams. When you dream, and your mind wanders, Sheppard, I will still own you.”
Sheppard acknowledged me with a growl. His eyes strained as they looked at me from their corners.
“You will live my life with Ansen, Sheppard. . My memories, my love for Ansen will be with you daily. You will learn how to feel my loss. And if God has some screwed up mercy over your shitty self, and you do happen to die: this flock guardian will make sure you're soul is guided to its proper place in Hell.”
I held out my hand, and a crew member placed a picture against my finger tips. I taped the picture inside the coffin's lid. The Scientist rigged it so Sheppard's eyes were pried open. Sheppard struggled against the bonds.
I glanced at Durance's troubled features. It was now Durance's responsibility to see that no one ever disturbed Sheppard's body in its hyper sleep. It was his burden for bringing this upon Ansen and myself. And if Durance fucked this up, I would hunt him down and make him pay as well.
I slammed the lid down on Sheppard. The lid latched down, and the stasis field hissed, extinguishing Sheppard's last protest. The edges of my lip tugged with a smile as I pictured Sheppard 's face seeing the picture of Ansen and me embracing each other after being pronounced Husband and Wife.