According to Landen, I have nightmares.
We both remember the worst of the Crimea: the constant crump-boom-thump of artillery as the background for a chorus of shouts, screams and the rapid percussion of machine-gun fire. The roster of friends we left behind, the imbeciles who returned only because of the shiny command bars on their dress uniforms, and the sickening realisation that they, the Enemy are just the same as your allies this side of the trench. I know those are his nightmares, but they are rarely mine: Aornis cured me of that in her own sadistic way. I'm almost immune to the charge now, I don't wake Landen by revisiting the Crimea in my memories, ironically thanks to Aornis' mindworm. Aornis... Whether she has planted (or worse - erased?) something in my mind is a surefire way of stifling any conversation around the dinner table (and isn't it odd that Jenny is always absent?), but it's a topic that surfaces when Land and I are lying in the dark together. Sometimes I wonder how they keep her imprisoned (at least her powers aren't as physical as her brother's) and if she will make good her threat of escape with outside help. Landen laughs, pointing out that I captured her once, so I'm quite capable of doing it again and Aornis at least can't convince her jailers to let her walk out with their guns.
Convincing. You were Acheron, even – and I don't like to admit it, even now – even to me. I (I never would have kissed you otherwise!) and poor Braeburn (I should have kept in touch with my best friend, but I was too cowardly) and probably most of your victims, whether you killed them or not, including Filbert. Landen has woken me a few times from the memories of that fiasco, hugging me and doing the impossible of understanding. It was awkward at first, talking about Filbert: the hesitancy of our friendship, my jealously of the girl in Tewkesbury (well, the one I thought existed), Hades' glee at revealing his aggregation. I didn't love Snood, I never had, so that made it easier when Land started wiping the tears from my face. He says I cry in most of my nightmares, not just the guilt-ridden ones.
If I cry in most of them it must confuse Landen intensely when I start giggling after the occasional one. A fight against something demonic, with Spike bleeding on the floor and me suddenly realising I've turned into Thursday5 and my gun into a chakra self-help manual, is not fun while it's happening, but those are always the best bad dreams I've had. Oxymoronic, but what the hell. Better than the other sort, the ones that begin innocently instead of ending that way. The ones that end up with me weeping, shaking, covered in hot sweat and Land's kisses while he murmurs that everything will be all right (well, it won't, haven't you seen to that?).
Hot sweat, which is so much worse than the cold variety, because the cold is normal, safe, and it doesn't remind me of you (you were always cold, but I never was). Something that anchors me a little to the normal life I lead with Land and Tuesday and Friday and Jenny: predictable, dull, carpet-filled and certainly not stressful. Not the life I really lead (which is coming unfortunately close to the façade - when will I slip up?) but one I could have. Then I'd be a married version of Thursday5, but that might be a good thing. Of course I might have been Thursday1-4 too, if things had been different. A simple switch, "yes" instead of "no" when-.
When exactly? When the dying sunlight was pooling like liquid blood into your office (well, it wasn't yours anymore, not after Braeburn) after you'd dropped the charm (but not the dagger in your smile), wit and genius and asked me flat out whether I would leave with you? Or when I'd left with you before, stupid enough to have bought you a bottle of absithe for christmas so you wouldn't nick wormwood from the senior biochem stores? (Mother had conniptions when she saw the bottle.) Well, I was stupid enough to drink it, just once, out of curiosity. Then the second time when I picked up my assignment in the evening, then the next week, slightly earlier because I escaped from the compulsory post-Eradication counselling after you'd given the pyro next in line a pile of failed assignments and a lighter. (He never broke the habit after that, I know because I arrested him ten years later for burning bootlegged Byron. I also know you planned it that way.)
Did you plan me too? Did you look inside my head with a casual glance in a lecture, smilingthat smile when I scrawled notes to Braeburn promising to give her mine when I didn't have a headache? These days my headaches are from bookjumping instead of hangovers, but I still can't tell my family the cause. How in the name of the GSD am I supposed to admit to Mother that I'm still at Jurisfiction hunting down Minotaurs, despite my promises to the contrary? I'm sure she suspects something though. (She certainly did when I came home from uni smelling of alcohol and licorice, but I doubt it involved your fingers brushing the last drops of poison off my lips. It always tasted better on yours, anyway.) How much blood was on those fingers, even then?
How much is on mine now? I don't know the number of people I killed in the Crimea (more than forty seven certainly, and all probably would have ended up as police or SpecOps), nor am I certain whether to count Generics in the total. Sometimes, after the worst of the nightmares, I think I should dredge up some courage and visit the Generics in the refitted book. After all, they (or their parts, really) only exist because I suggested it. Mine, my pawns to manipulate as I wish. (Stop it, just stop. You're thinking like him now, Thursday, you cretin!) I was foolish enough to think that the true events of Affair control the generics and plot and setting, but that's all a delusion. I control it, because I write, I take the truth and act upon it, turning fantasy into certainty. And I do it better than those scriptwriters and novelisers did, with all their sex, violence and catfights. The lure of the siren's song, pleading with me to twist events as I wanted them to be, is not something to which I will ever fall prey. After all, I am simply changing the books back to what Affair was really like. Honestly. I was never your protégée and we were never nearly lovers. (Ironic, isn't it? Taking the fiction out of fiction. Ha!)
They must be nightmares, for I felt no guilt and was never in love.