15 June 2024

08 – Truth, nothing but truth

Two weeks had passed and she had written him off for good, even trying to erase every memory of him from her mind. Her heart had hardened and she had begun her crusade against the Seeds in earnest.

This time, John was right. Her actions were driven by wrath, an irrepressible wrath fueled by his actions. She would do anything in her power to destroy them. To destroy him. Just yesterday, she was destroying the huge statue of the Father that stood on the Henbane River Mountains, driving Faith mad with rage and despair.

John did not know what to do to contact her. He had even gone as far as recording a new commercial. It was broadcasted on the only authorized TV station in Holland Valley. He invited the deputy to meet him for a chat. However, she had not followed up on this communication, of which they were the only ones to understand the real meaning.

Tired and out of ideas, he had stopped thinking about a solution and was about to go hunting, enjoying the last rays of sunshine of an October morning, when he heard a discussion between his men. They were talking about how the demon had destroyed the statue of Joseph and were feeling sorry for poor Faith who must have been in a terrible state.

Faith ! Why didn’t I think of that earlier ? She could read people’s minds, she was gentle, patient and understanding. Just the opposite of him. Maybe she would be able to give him an idea, or at least listen to his distress. He left his business and headed for Henbane River to meet his adopted sister.

* * *

Rachel was sitting comfortably on her sofa. She was stroking Marshal Burke’s head on her lap. He was singing softly, when someone knocked on the door of the barracks. The siren cheerfully invited the visitor to enter, in her soft, singing voice.

When John came through the door, she knew at once that he was worried. She knew him well, when his eyes changed from the color of the blue sky to a storm, some thought was haunting him. Of his three adopted brothers, he was her favorite. She feared Joseph and Jacob, but despite the brutality John could demonstrate, she found herself in him. They had both experienced family violence, both physical and emotional.

She understood his way of acting, even though it was the opposite of hers. He had never been loved and therefore had never loved in return, he did not know how to behave with his peers. His arrogance hid a cruel lack of self-confidence and recognition.

— John, come in ! How nice to see you !
— Faith… I heard about… the statue. Sorry about that. I hope Joseph was understanding…
— He… he asked me to stay in this house until he decides my fate. I hope he will be merciful. To me, but especially to the deputy. She hasn’t found the way yet.
— Yeah… Can I talk to you ?

He glanced at the marshal, still lying on the sofa, his head resting on his sister’s thighs.

— In private ?

Faith addressed Burke gently.

— Cameron ? Could you leave me alone with my brother for a moment, please ? Maybe you could go pick a nice bouquet of fresh flowers in the garden to decorate the table tonight ?
— Anything you want, sister.

The marshal walked out of the room with a big smile on his face. He seemed to be in another world. He certainly was, Faith giving out bliss without counting the cost.

John sat down next to her. She took his hands in hers.

— Tell me everything, brother. I’m listening to you.
— I don’t know what to do anymore. I… I think I’ve done something bad.
— You can tell me everything John, it will stay between us. You have my word.

Reassured, he continued.

— I have sinned, Faith. There is a woman. A woman who drives me crazy, who makes me lose all control. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I can’ t think straight in her presence. She has always responded to my solicitations, but recently I think I’ve done it wrong. She’s been ignoring me ever since, I don’t know why. I think it’s something I did or said that she didn’t like.
— Your story sounds complicated to me. Would you mind telling me everything, from the beginning ?

He was hesitant. Talking to her about the deputy when she was the cause of her isolation and future punishment seemed inappropriate. On the other hand, it would be difficult for her to advise him without knowing all the elements, or almost. He thus resolved to tell her about their meetings, the night at the ranch, the morning at the King Hotel’s hot springs, without however revealing the identity of the woman.

She threw him a sad look, dismayed.

— John, I know you’ve been through a lot. But that doesn’t excuse it. What you just told me makes me very sad. I think that person… the deputy… ?

He looked at her with astonishment. How could she have guessed that he was talking about wrath ? He had carefully avoided any clues that might give away her identity. But he didn’t want to lie to Faith. He nodded silently as she gently squeezed his hands to reassure him.

— I understand better why her heart is so heavy with resentment. The deputy hasn’t found the way yet. Despite this, she is still a human being who can show sensitivity and, despite appearances, fragility. Listening to your story, I get the impression that she has opened up to you while you have denied her any possibility of access to you. You were extremely violent during your last encounter, how can you think she would still want to have any connection with you after you raped her ?
— I am not a rapist. All I wanted was for her to understand how much I wanted her, only her, and to promise me her loyalty. There’s this FBI asshole hanging around her…
— John… abusing someone without their consent in any way, shape or form has never been any kind of attachment to them, let alone a way to send them a message, other than that you are a dangerous man they need to run away from. Please understand that your actions simply confirmed to her that she should fear for her life.
— But she has never said no to me when I have pushed her before.
— Everyone has their own definition of what is acceptable and what is not, and that definition is not set in stone and may change over time. But in any case, when someone sets a limit, you must respect it. I know you have a hard time taking no for an answer, but if you refuse to do so, you have to face the consequences and consider that you have lost the deputy’s trust and affection, and forget about her for good.
— Isn’t there anything I can do to make things right, or at least have the opportunity to apologize and explain my actions to her ?
— First, stop trying to reach her. Stalking her won’t help anything, just the opposite. Secondly, I don’t know if the Lord will give you another opportunity to cross her path. But if he does, you need to work on yourself first and stop behaving the way you do, stop using violence and brutality to get what you want. You must use words, make your expectations clear and be patient with the people you are communicating with, although I understand that this is not easy. If you see the deputy again, perhaps it would be wise to offer her something important to her.
— But what ? A gun ? A ring ?

She couldn’t help but chuckle. He was really clumsy. She put her hands against John’s heart, which she could feel beating wildly despite the layers of clothing that separated it from her palms.

— No, John. I think what she wants is there. Open your heart to her. Let her into you.

Uncomfortable, he withdrew his sister’s hands from his chest and stood up. He left her, thanking her. He sincerely hoped that Joseph would not be too harsh on her, who offered forgiveness to anyone who asked.

* * *

Jacob pointed to the Jessops’ greenhouse.

— That’s where we grow most of the sprouts.

Killian looked around.

— It’s a beautiful area. I don’t condone your actions, but you must have your reasons.

A smile brightened the elder Seed’s face.

— Come on, I’ll take you to the marshal.

When they reached the house where Faith was recluse while waiting for her sentence, Jacob held out his index finger towards the garden.

— Look, there he is. He’s picking flowers.

Burke stood up to offer them an innocent smile, his arms full of colorful and fragrant autumn flowers. Killian walked over to him and put his hand on his shoulder.

— Marshal, you okay ?
— Yeah my friend, no problem. I’m happy here, I’ve finally found a meaning to my life.

Killian looked at Jacob in dismay.

— Is he on drugs?
— Yeah, he is. It’s my sister’s doing. Other than that, he’s in great shape.

Killian winced as Burke came up to him and whispered in his ear.

— My sister is sad. Because of John.

The FBI agent raised an eyebrow, interested. Any information that could discredit or bring down the Baptist was good to take.

— Really ? What did he do ?
— I’ll tell you, but you mustn’t repeat anything. I heard them through the window. He hurt the deputy.

* * *

On the way back to the ranch, John thought about everything Faith had told him. He had to work on himself. It seemed difficult, he had never felt the need to question himself and it seemed harder to express his feelings than to be angry. He thought of a way to lure the deputy so that he could talk to her one last time.

It wasn’t very fair, but the only idea he could come up with was to trick her. It was clear that she would not respond positively to any request from him, but an opportunity to get rid of him or another member of his family could not be denied.

* * *

The sun was setting over Henbane River as she walked through the prison’s security gate. She was exhausted, she and Jess had just settled the score with a man who called himself the butcher and who had slaughtered many innocent people on Jacob’s orders.

A comforting meal had been served on the large dining room table and she savored the day’s hunting plunder cooked by Virgil and his team. Dana didn’t let on that she was in pain. She hadn’t told anyone about the aggression. What was the point ? No one cared about her condition. All that mattered to them was the help she could give them.

After dinner, it was customary to debrief the day and plan the next day’s actions. Rumor had it that Joseph Seed himself had set up camp at Lincoln watchtower to keep an eye on the area in light of recent resistance activity.

When a round table discussion was held to decide who would go there to deal with him, she naturally volunteered. She was dying to get rid of this infamous scum and his crazy family once and for all, they had taken too much from her to let them get away with it. Her companions knew of her determination to get rid of the Seed family and therefore supported her application to take on this mission. That night, she went to sleep confidently.

The next morning, she devoted herself to buying cartridges for her automatic weapon, grenades and small throwing knives. She spent time practicing shooting and refueled the vehicle she planned to use to get to the lookout tower.

A detour to Fall’s End allowed her to tell Mary May and Jerome that they could prepare to celebrate the final victory of the resistance soon. If Joseph was eliminated, the rest of the Seed family would soon surrender. Jacob might be more of a problem than the others, but if his men dropped him, he alone would be no match for Eli and the Whitetails.

As for Faith and that rat John, they followed the Father with their eyes closed and feared him above all. However, Jerome seemed worried when she announced the plan which consisted in her going alone to the watchtower in order to get hold of Joseph and bring him back to the prison, or to suppress him if the first plan did not work.

When she had finished explaining her mission, she enjoyed a hearty meal with them at the Spread Eagle and set off for Lincoln tower in the middle of the afternoon.

* * *

For once, John had not rushed back to the ranch. He needed to think. He liked to drive aimlessly at times like this. The road calmed him and kept his mind occupied. Paradoxically, it allowed him to think more calmly.

It was close to noon when he parked in front of the wooden steps of his house. His stomach growled at the thought of the leftover roast he was about to heat up and enjoy. He pushed open the front door, thinking about what he would prepare for his meal.

A tornado of violence swept over him and threw him to the old wooden floor. He barely had time to realize that an intruder had broken into his home when another rain of blows fell on him.

That FBI bastard. The man grabbed him by the collar, forcing him to stand up. He slammed him against one of the display cabinets with broken glass doors.

— You son of a bitch ! What did you do to her ?

He punched the Baptist again, aiming at his abdomen.

Breathless, he couldn’t answer. The man grabbed his throat with both hands and squeezed.

— You poor bastard. You really have a problem. You must be really insane to do that to a woman. You deserve to die !

His fingers squeezed Seed’s trachea even harder. He choked. The FBI agent seemed to pull himself together. He finally loosened his grip and nervously ran his hand through his hair. John fell to his knees, desperately trying to catch his breath.

— You’re lucky Jacob is your brother. I think too highly of him to finish you off. But I’m sure someone will soon, karma always strikes. Until then, don’t you dare approach Dana. Next time, I’ll kill you.

He headed for the door. Gathering all his strength, John stood up and shouted across the room.

— You’re no better than me, FBI.

Killian turned around, ranting.

— What did you say ?
— I said you’re no better than me.

The two men stared at each other. The room seemed charged with electricity, as if lightning would strike either of them at any moment. The Baptist continued.

— You see her as an object. You said yourself that you came to “get her,” as if she wasn’t capable of making her own choices.

Killian remained silent, shocked by his opponent’s words.

— Yes, I screwed up, I screwed up big time. But unlike you, I take responsibility for my actions and I don’t hide behind a vigilante cape to justify them. It’s not for you to judge me. Only God and the deputy have that right.
— You’re forgetting your brother.

John’s throat tightened at the thought of the Father learning what he had done.

— Leave Joseph out of this. He had nothing to do with what happened.
— You’re mistaken. I think he’ll be very interested to know that his beloved little brother blithely ignored the rules of the cult and raped an innocent girl.
— Dana is not innocent. She attacked us. And for your information, it wasn’t my first time with her.

The FBI agent lunged at John, raising a threatening fist.

— Don’t you dare talk about her like that ! You disgraced her. You have tainted her, you don’t deserve to pronounce her name !

The Baptist hurriedly opened his shirt to show him the name engraved on it.

— Look ! Look what she did to me !
— You liar ! You are so obsessed with her that you tattooed her name on yourself.

He released his fist. No, there was no way that asshole could have tattooed that on himself. Why would he do it ? He would have condemned himself in front of his brothers and followers. It didn’t make sense. Still, the idea that Dana would be interested in that asshole Seed was just as painful to him as the idea that he had forced her to submit. Maybe even more painful.

The Baptist wiped the blood dripping from his split lip with the back of his hand.

— Listen, FBI. I have no interest in hurting her. You know Joseph wouldn’t forgive me. I was overwhelmed. Believe it or not, I regret what happened and I intend to apologize to her and do everything in my power to make things right. Whether she forgives me or not is up to her. The choice is hers. And whatever it is, I will respect it. If she doesn’t want me anymore, I will leave her life for good.

Killian, now calm, was carefully listening, incredulous.

— I may only ask one thing of you. A simple favor. Give me the opportunity to apologize. Don’t mention this to Joseph.
— Why would I wanna do that for you ?
— If you care about your ex-teammate, do it for her. Even if I can’t undo the harm I caused, maybe hearing an apology from me will make her feel better. I would have wanted to hear an apology from my “parents” so badly.
— I’ll do so. But if you hurt her in any way, this time I won’t be so merciful. I’ll cut your fingers one by one, gouge out your eyes and rip off your balls before I throw you to the cougars. Is that clear enough ?

John nodded. The man hurriedly turned on his heels and slammed the door behind him. The Baptist sighed with relief. This time you almost didn’t make it, you fucker. Your actions had to catch up with you. Now it’s time to make amends. Let’s hope it’s not too late.

* * *

Dana parked her pickup a good distance from the tower to avoid being noticed, then disappeared into the nearby thicket. From there, she took out her binoculars and looked around. Strangely, there was no sign of Joseph or his men. She hoped, however, that the rumor would be confirmed and that he was indeed stationed on top of the building.

She emerged from her hiding place late in the afternoon, deciding to take a closer look at what was going on. As she approached the stairs leading to the observatory, a sound of shifting gravel from behind the rocks caught her attention. That bastard John suddenly emerged. Instinctively, she pointed her handgun at him.

— Get out of my way, asshole ! I’m coming for your brother, I don’t give a shit about you.
— Deputy, let me explain…

He didn’t have time to finish his sentence, interrupted by a bullet grazing his foot.

— You’re fucking crazy ! Stop shooting, just let me talk to you !
— I told you to GET OUT, you stupid bastard !

Two more bullets ricocheted off the rocks behind him. He was sure she had consciously missed. If she had wanted to kill him, no doubt she would have, given the short distance and her aiming abilities. He decided to go for it and dropped to his knees, pulling his revolver from behind his back and throwing it in her direction.

— Would you shoot an unarmed man who surrendered ?
— I know you, Seed. You’re a snake, a malicious liar. I won’t be fooled by your sweet talk anymore.
— Look, Joseph isn’t here. I’m the one who spread the rumor to get you here. I needed to talk to you. I know you want to kill me and I accept that possibility. I just ask you a simple favor first. Agree to listen to what I have to say.

His request intrigued her. He clearly couldn’t be trusted, but she wanted to hear what he had to say. Then she would kill him, without mercy.

— So go ahead, spill it. I’m listening.
— Can we go upstairs to discuss quietly ?

She thought for a few seconds then nodded. She did not want to remain an easy prey for the cougars around and the possible men that he could have prevented.

She motioned for him to climb first, keeping her gun pointed at his back. As he began to climb the steps, she grabbed the revolver he had thrown at her feet and tucked it into the back of her own pants. When they reached the top, she pushed him against the railing, holding him at bay, while she entered the tower to inspect every corner, weapon in hand. At least no one was hiding inside.

The only threat didn’t seem to be a serious one, he had sat on the small terrace that ran along the four sides of the tower, leaning against the wall. She sat the same way he did, the door frame separating them, facing the sun that was beginning to set.

The situation was painful for John, he would be obliged to show his true face and not that of the chameleon which adapted to each situation to better trap the human being in front of him. He would be forced to accept his own weaknesses and expose them to this woman, the enemy, who embodied everything he and his brothers were fighting.

— To start out, I lied to you about Jacob. The events did not quite unfold as I told them to you. First, I wasn’t there by chance. I came as soon as I heard that you were in his hands. I know his methods and I know that few escape alive or even unharmed. I felt bad for letting you go. If I hadn’t been so angry with you, none of this would have happened. I’m responsible for your capture and, believe me, I’m not proud of it.

His eyes stared blankly at the horizon as he spoke. She had turned to look at him, intrigued by the content of his speech. It didn’t sound like John Seed, the confessor confessing seemed implausible. She was looking forward to the next part.

— When I saw you there, I thought you were giving yourself to that FBI asshole. You were in his arms and I thought you were whispering sweet words to him. You were hugging him. It wasn’t until I walked into the room that I realized : you had been calmed down with bliss and one of those damn songs that Jacob uses for conditioning was playing loud. You had no chance to defend yourself, physically or morally, he had total control over you. I was filled with fury, I couldn’t stand to see this man trying to abuse you. I ordered him to let you go and I took you to the prison, as the woman I spoke to there must have explained to you.
— Why would Killian want to strangle me, since you said I was incapable of defending myself ? Didn’t you say it was to get me to let him go ?
— I lied to you about that too. You were in your own little world, the bliss one. I don’t know how, but I think you confused that bastard with me. When I walked into the room, you were talking to him.

He hesitated before continuing.

— You were kissing him, but it was my name you kept saying. He went crazy when you said that… that you loved me. That’s when he grabbed you and I stepped in.

His statements froze her. She had no recollection of saying that sentence, but she didn’t remember the rest either. He could make up whatever he wanted, she had no way of verifying.

— How do I know you’re telling the truth this time ?
— I have no way to prove it, it’s just my word. Those words you said, they haunted me. I have doubted many times that I heard them. I thought I might have made them up. When I saw you again at the hot springs, I didn’t know how to approach the situation. Did you remember anything ? And if so, did you remember saying those words ? Did you do it consciously or did bliss speak for you ?

I have never been close to anyone in my life, except my brothers. Or rather, I’ve been close to a lot of people, always with the aim of extorting their little secrets to use them to get something back. No one has ever said those words to me, not even my own mother. Those words touched me, despite all the energy I put into trying to forget them.

When you pulled me into the water, I felt ridiculous. It was obvious to me at that moment that you had lied, as I had lied to everyone around me. This idea enraged me and I lost all self-control. I went completely off the rails. I wanted you to understand how much I cared about you and to know that I was faithful to you, so that you would be faithful to me too. Faith… Faith opened my eyes. My behavior has been unacceptable, and not for the first time. I don’t know how to behave any other way.

Her eyes widened. She couldn’t believe her ears. The obnoxious Baptist was confessing to her, apologizing and acknowledging his wrongdoing, a first ! The more he said, the more she was anxious to know the rest. But there was another element that disturbed her, and she wanted to know the outcome without waiting.

— What about Holly Pepper ? Weren’t you close to her ?
— Who told you about her ?
— Jacob.
— She and her husband owned a farm in the Henbane River area. He used to hit her pretty hard and I think she got tired of it. We never really knew how, but one day he just disappeared and left no trace. She quickly joined Eden’s Gate. We welcomed and loved her, unlike her blood and alliance family. We sympathized and one thing led to another. We started to see each other more regularly. It was good for both of us to have someone to talk to about our days, our doubts and our fears. We slept together several nights and…
— At the ranch ?
— No, at that time all the members lived together, in the little houses we built with our hands, around Joseph’s church.
— And ?
— One day Joseph found out. He was tolerant, up to a point. Overnight, no one heard or saw Holly again. Joseph told me that he had excommunicated her. As for me, he granted me forgiveness in exchange for the etching of my sin by his own hands.
Lust ?
— That one, yes. It relieved me, the pain of the needles freed me from my sin. I swore to him that I would never again stray from the path he had laid out for us. From that moment on, we began tattooing the devotees so that they too could take on their own sins and atone for them. Holly was my confidante. We went through the same physical and moral torture, which brought us closer. I felt nothing more for her. I regret what I said to you. She is not nobody. I cared about her. As I care about you.

The atmosphere was heavy, loaded with emotion. After a few long minutes of silence, Dana reached out her arm to Seed, offering him her open palm. He stared at her with a sorrowful look in his eyes, and extended his arm to take her hand.

It was getting dark and the air was getting downright cold. The Montana autumn evenings were raw and it was better to be well dressed to face them. She was starting to shiver. She turned her head to address him.

— Would you offer me a cup of coffee ?

* * *

He smiled at her and she saw his eyes regain some of their strength. They got up and entered the watchtower, closing the door behind them. The place was well laid out and had the bare necessities : a cot, a folding table with two chairs and a kitchenette with a stove, two hotplates and a sink. The kitchen was equipped and they easily found a filter coffee maker and two cups. No coffee, though. John proudly smiled.

— No problem. I had it all planned. I brought a few things with me.

Putting his money where his mouth was, he walked over to the cot, next to which was a large backpack. He took out some canned goods, a bottle of water and some coffee. He put some logs in the stove and lit it, while she prepared the coffee pot.

— I thought that if you wanted to, after hearing what I had to say, we could spend some time together here, away from the hustle and bustle.

She didn’t know what to say. If his explanations had softened her a little, she still did not trust him and preferred to keep him at a distance. Seeing her hesitation, he resumed.

— I have no ulterior motive, I swear. My proposal is honest : just to spend time together, nothing else. No violence, no brutality, no sex. I promise I won’t hurt you or try to force you to do anything against your will. To prove my good faith, I promise to obey all your instructions.
— Okay. We can have a coffee together, but nothing more.
— As you wish.

When the coffee pot was ready, they sat down opposite each other, their cups close together. The small table was narrow, their knees were brushing against each other. John’s hands were placed prominently, so she could keep them in view. She looked at them for a few moments and placed her finger on one of the many tattoos that adorned his left hand.

— What are these ?
— They are the Latin names of the seven deadly sins.

She ran through each word.

Tristitia ? Where is sloth ?
Sloth is sometimes replaced by sadness, depending on the context.

From the sound of his voice, she knew he didn’t want to say more. Never mind. For now. She went up to his wrist, passed over his imposing branded watch, and put two fingers on his forearm.

— And this ?
— Airplanes. You know my penchant for aviation, I think.

She slid down his arm again, grabbing it with both hands, rolling up the sleeve of his shirt, and pointed to a drawing of a rocking chair topped with the words “Sit down and we talk”. Weird, his tattoos seem to have been carved in relief.

— What about this?
— A reminder of my “parents”, so I don’t forget the “Power of Yes” and confession.
— You are completely obsessed with this idea, how could you forget it ?

He slightly laughed. Dana’s gaze was drawn to the scar showing through his open shirt collar. She’d noticed it before but never asked about it. Since he had agreed to submit to her will, she wanted to know more.

— What is this ?

He looked down at his collar, removed his vest, undid two of his shirt’s buttons and pulled the fabric apart so she could see better.

— That’s not a tattoo. It’s a scarification. Sloth.

The word was composed of deep lines cut with a blade. It had been crossed out along its length in the same way, and apparently sewn back on.

— Why was it slashed ?
— Because I have succeeded in freeing myself from this sin. For many years now, I have been fully committed to Joseph’s Project, finally doing something with my life.
— And why wasn’t it simply taken away from you, like you did to Nick the day you tattooed me ?
— Because it’s not just ink injected into the first few layers of skin. To remove a scarification, you’d have to cut much deeper, and I’m not sure that’s possible, at least not without surgery.

The flaps of his open shirt gave her a full view of his torso, especially as he leaned in to detail his scar. Something on the bottom of his belly attracted her glance. She stretched out her hand to move the garment away and see more closely, but he held her wrist firmly.

She looked up at him with stern eyes and met his worried gaze. Realizing his mistake, he immediately released his grip and placed his hand back on the table.

— Excuse me, deputy. Please… I’d rather you didn’t look.

He had said too much, and in any case, with all that he had made her undergo against her will, she estimated that a simple glance would not hurt anybody. Moreover, she had already had the occasion to lay her glance on his naked body in its integrality.

She undid the remaining buttons and spread the sides of his shirt. What she discovered caused her a heartbreak. She brought her two hands to her mouth to hold back a shout of shock.

The “lust” word once tattooed in ink was now made up of deep, relatively fresh cuts that showed the raw flesh beneath his skin. The wound was a mess, it had not been disinfected nor treated, and each letter of the word was blistered and reddish.

— John, what does this mean ? Who did this to you ? Was it the same person who cut your lip ?
— No, it wasn’t.

He put his hand on his split lip.

— It happened during a cleansing earlier.
— And the scar ?
— Nobody did that.
— Nobody ??? Explain to me !
— It’s me.
— For what reason ? And when ?
— To punish me for my sin. The first time was in the morning at the ranch, before you got up. The second time was after you escaped through the window. The third time was right after you left when we met at the springs.
— What were you thinking ?
— This is how it works, deputy. Only a sin that’s been assumed and displayed can be absolved.
— You’re out of your mind, Seed ! You really need help !

She got up like a madwoman and went to the door. When she opened it, she heard him pleading behind her.

— Please stay ! I’m begging you !

John Seed begged her. The world was upside down. She now understood better why he couldn’t or didn’t know how to behave normally around other human beings. He had a real psychological problem. She retraced her steps and met his gaze.

— I’m staying. But the deal still stands : no violence, no brutality and no…
— None of that. I won’t ask you anything, I’ll keep my word. Please stay here, spend the night with me. I’ll leave you the bed and I’ll sleep on the floor, I’ve brought some blankets.

She rubbed her shoulders. It was getting really cold. She grabbed some new logs and threw them into the stove before closing the door. Anyway, it wouldn’t be the first time they slept together. He was unarmed and the proposal to stay on their own seemed reasonable and acceptable.

— Okay, but no one takes the bed. It’s screwed to the floor and the space to the other side of the room doesn’t seem big enough for me to feel far enough away from you. Instead, we’ll both sleep on the floor, splitting the room the other way. And I’ll sleep near the door, so I can get out if you try to trick me again.
— Whatever you want.

The fact that he hadn’t called her wrath once today suddenly struck her. She wasn’t really used to getting so much respect from him. He had been particularly well-behaved and hadn’t erupted once, which was rare enough to note. He rummaged in the backpack he had brought and took out a large blanket, which he threw to her.

— Here, take this blanket, it’s thick. I’ll take the one on the bed. Oh, and I took this too, in case you don’t have any pajamas…

He handed her a blue cloth. When she realized it was the satin shirt she had worn at the ranch, she threw it in his face, barking aggressively.

— What do you think ? That I would undress to please you ? That I would wear something which belongs to you ? I’d rather die !
— Sorry deputy… I thought you’d enjoy it, I thought you liked it when you were at my place. It’s okay, it’s up to you.

As he turned around to stuff the shirt into his bag, she realized that once again she had lost her temper, but he had not fought back, even though she had thrown something in his face. Maybe he had really worked on himself and wasn’t acting after all. If in doubt, it was better to assume that he was faking it anyway, as always.

They lay down each on their side of the room and she turned off the switch, which was on her territory.

— Good night, deputy.
— Good night.

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