Pairing: Aisha/OMCs, Aisha/Clay
Warnings: non-consensual sex with a minor, mature themes
Author: Lily Zen
Notes: For the comment_fic prompt 'Losers, Aisha, Daddy's little girl ain't a girl no more.' That's a lyric from the song Negative Creep by Nirvana. The song isn't really anything magical, but some of the lyrics are interesting. I was inspired. Oh yeah, so there's some adult content in this. I hope you have the stomach for it.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Aisha was raised like a princess in a castle.
It was a strange castle, granted, filled with rough-looking men to keep the outside from coming in and vice versa, little children that fluttered in and out to ferry the magical, white dust to foreign places, and beautiful, painted women whose primary job was done on their backs. Still, it was her castle.
Like a fairy-tale princess, Aisha spent most of her time isolated from others. There was a section of rooms in the mansion where no one but the immediate family and a few trusted soldiers were permitted, and these were reserved for the young girl. It was there that she conducted her studies, slept, played, and ate most of her meals.
She was only permitted outside with an escort.
When Aisha grew a little older she liked to say that she was Rapunzel without enough hair to escape. At least, she would have said that if she'd had a friend to tell it to.
Her life was a lonely one, strictly regimented by her father. It was for her own good, he said.
At least she'd had her mother. Anahi was Aisha's primary companion for the early part of her life, aside from the tutors which were brought into the compound. She was very beautiful and graceful; kind and soft. Later on in life, Aisha wondered how in the hell such a woman had ever hooked up with her father, the terrorist. But as a child, she simply loved her mother unconditionally and looked to her as though she was the sun.
Anahi died when Aisha was ten. No one ever told her why. One day she was there, the next she was gone. They told her that she had been ill, but Aisha could not remember ever seeing signs of it. Some part of her suspected that perhaps her father had ordered her mother's death, though his reason was unknown to her. The thought hurt, but there it was. Maybe that was why she went after Max with the tenacity of a pit bull; he robbed her of ever knowing the truth.
After that, Aisha was well and truly alone. Her father was busy most days and had little time for a child. Most mornings they ate breakfast together, but that was the extent of their contact. Even though there were these nagging doubts in her mind regarding her father's character, Aisha still loved him and she felt his love for her in return in the smallest gestures. Those early morning meals were an anchor to Aisha, a touchstone to a reality she knew existed in other homes across the land—she had seen it on t.v. and movies; read it in books-and so desperately wanted to join. When her father sat next to her at the dining table and checked her homework over muffins and orange juice it was a glimpse into what life would be like if only her father was a normal man.
Then he would leave to be the warlord Al-Fadhil, and Aisha would daydream of the princess putting on armor and going to fight at her father's side.
When she was thirteen, Aisha experienced one of those moments that she knew would forever alter the course of her life.
One day to avoid the latest odious tutor, she escaped her rooms by carefully climbing out onto the first story overhang, over the baked red clay shingles, and down the trellis. Anahi had adored the gardens and built them up extensively. They were her pride and joy when she was alive, trapped there in the compound, the house-arrested queen. Perhaps in honor of her, Fadhil insisted that they remain in good condition. He spent large amounts of money on diligent gardeners and gifted landscapers in order to preserve the grounds as a memorial for his departed wife. Because of this, they were always richly fertilized and watered, and the plants flourished as though the compound was a paradise.
Aisha hit the ground in her brilliant white canvas shoes and sank immediately in the rich, fertile soil of the garden. "Oh no," she moaned and looked around frantically to see if anyone had noticed. It took her a long time to remove herself from her predicament. One shoe was well and truly stuck. The girl ended up having to take off the shoe and crouch down to pull it out with her hands. Dirt sank into her fingernails and marked up her knees, but when she gave a mighty tug the suctioned-shoe released itself from the earth's sticky grasp so quickly, so ferociously that she toppled over onto her ass. She hit the ground with short, sharp cry and then lay silent, eyes darting about to see if any of the guards heard her.
When no one came immediately, Aisha discerned that no one had heard and thus her rebellious escape would not be discovered. Agilely, she sprang back up and balanced on one foot in order to put her muddy shoe back on, and started walking away towards the jungle. There was a small hidey-hole nearby where she and her mother used to play hide and seek while the guards stood sentry over the two giggling females. As she moved, she passed her hands over her denim shorts, trying to get as much of the dust off as possible.
She was halfway there when she was spotted. "Don't move, girl!" A man shouted at her. She spun, reeling about to see who had found her, who was surely going to drag her before her father where she'd be punished for disobeying him and promptly returned to the awful teacher. Her eyes widened upon spotting him and her hands came up defensively. He was, of course, armed, and attired like the other men she had seen around her father's land in olive green fatigues. His face was scruffy with uneven facial hair that made him look devilish and an ugly scar pitted his left cheek. Between his lips rested one of the slender, brown cigarillos that Aisha had seen her father smoke from time to time. Those lips stretched into a tar-stained grin, the cigarillo chomped between his teeth, as he eyed Aisha up and down, keeping his gun trained on her.
"What are you doing out here?" he drawled between those ugly teeth.
Aisha's lips moved but no sound came out.
"You're not supposed to be out here. How'd you get away from the rest of the group?" The man moved closer, stepping carefully through the grasses and coming up on Aisha's side. "Eh?" He jabbed his muzzle into her shoulder blade and it nearly pitched the frozen girl onto the ground. As it was, she stumbled and caught her balance with her hands on her knees.
The man put the safety back on his gun and let it slide off, hanging like a woman's purse near his side. A rough hand grabbed her shoulder, jerked her upright, forced her to face him. Aisha made a sound, a startled squeal. She didn't know this man and something in the way he was looking at her was making her quake with an internal alarm. "Pretty little thing, aren't you? A little older than the rest. Hm…" His opposite hand stroked her face, the feel of which made Aisha jerk her head to the side, her jaw set stubbornly.
"Hey now, don't be like that," he growled and the light in his eyes spoke of dark things that Aisha couldn't give name to. She did not have the words. Her chin was grabbed, fingertips dug in harshly.
"No!" she shouted on instinct and kicked the man in the shin just long enough to slip from his grasp and turn to run. Her legs worked as hard as they could, but he had more height than she, a longer stride, as was proven when he began to give chase.
"Get back here!"
Aisha tried to leap over a fallen branch, but misjudged the distance. Her foot landed awkwardly on top of it and the branch rolled. She lost her balance, felt something in her ankle give a painful pop as she landed akimbo on the forest floor. "Ah!" She let out a sound of frustration and fear, and tried to scramble back up. Dirt smeared her arms as she pushed up with her hands, her arms, her whole upper body, to get her feet back under her, but she was grabbed, caught by the material of her sky blue tank top and thrown back to the ground.
The adolescent's teeth knocked together as her head bumped the earth and a whimper passed her lips. "Little bitch," the older man panted. He knelt over her, a knee jammed between her legs. She would forever remember the surprising softness of his olive pants, worn from many washes, against the inside of her thighs. He hit her with his open palm across her face. Her head turned with the force of the blow and heat exploded across her cheek. "No!" she screamed again and tried to scramble away, but his position allowed her no leverage, crouched over her as he was, and this time he was quick to immobilize her hands as well, "No! Daddy! Help! Help me!"
She had found her voice, but the man was quick to take it from her again with another harsh blow. That time she bit her own tongue and tasted blood like bolivianos and raw hamburger. "Shut up, stupid bitch," he hissed, "I'll have my fun and take you back to the others before they even know you're gone." His dirty hands rucked up her stained, pastel tank, and touched the café au lait skin of her bare belly. It slid down, covetously, over the zipper of her denim shorts and through the thick material she could feel the heel press down over her private parts. The shock of it, the humiliation renewed her struggles. As she squirmed debris from the jungle floor bit into her skin—sticks, rocks, dirt, and who knew what else—but her fierceness was for naught because the man had the advantage of size and leverage, and he simply rode her back down to the ground every time she gained an inch of space, like a bull-rider or a croc-wrestler. Aisha liked to watch those shows on t.v.
"Please," she was gasping, "please." Tears were streaming from her eyes; her breath was short from effort and emotion. Despite her effort, the button on her shorts was opened, the zipper made a torturous journey downward and her virginal pink little girl panties were exposed.
"Why you fight so hard?" The man bared his teeth in some combination of grin and grimace, "This is nothing. Soon they'll take the little rubbers and shove them so far up your tight little asshole you'll have a hard time walking." He laughed cruelly and shoved her shorts and underwear down in a tangle of cloth, and with the other hand he fended off her desperate clawing.
"No, no, no," she whisper-screamed and squirmed and tried to get away. Aisha understood now what her instincts had been telling her; that animal urge to run, danger scented, fight or flight. "Daddy, Daddy…"
"Daddy's not here." Fingers forced their way between her legs and dove inelegantly between the folds of her privates to shove their way into that hole she bled from every couple months now.
Aisha released a scream of anguish and pain into the oppressive Bolivian air, and bucked her hips to try to dislodge him. Except, to her horror that moved the appendages deeper and, god, it hurt! She stilled, shuddering, praying that her lack of response would make it stop, make the man lose interest and leave. "Don't, don't, please don't." She didn't even realize she was speaking aloud anymore. The mantras in her head spilled from her lips without her permission and she couldn't make it stop; her thoughts and her pleas were chasing themselves in circles inside of her mind.
She squeezed her eyelids shut.
There was a quiet sound, like a tinkling bell—later her mind would identify it as the sound of his belt buckle coming undone—and fingers lightly touching the downy hair that it seemed had sprung up overnight on her privates. Her legs were roughly shoved apart as the mercenary made room for his hips between her legs, and then there was pain. Unbelievable, terrifying, mind-numbing, soul-crushing pain!
She had never felt anything like it before and Aisha screamed with such force that it startled her out of whatever corner of her mind she'd retreated to. The man hit her again but this time Aisha was braced for it. He's going to hit me, she thought, and then when he did it didn't hurt quite so badly. Nothing could hurt as much as that awful wound between her legs. "Take it, whore," he grunted as he moved within her. Aisha clenched her teeth against the cry that wanted to come out and felt within her the start of something deep and hot.
A volcano was inside her heart, the magma heating, rising, churning…
She was wet with virgin-blood and tearing, and it eased the man's movements so that it was less of a stuttered stabbing. Somewhere Aisha registered that she was still crying, hoarse, low moans pouring out of her throat like the sound of a bleating animal with a broken limb begging to be put out of its misery. "I hate you," Aisha whispered under her breath, "I hate you. Die."
Her rapist was too caught up in pumping his bloated, stiff member within her. He was grunting every time he came to the end of her, and Aisha was wincing, her hands clenching his clothes in an unvoiced plea for mercy. Her rage was coming to the surface, readying itself as her right hand found something straight and solid. She gripped it tightly.
"God, no," she pleaded as the pain began to fade, replaced with something not entirely heinous. Aisha cursed herself, cursed her body for betraying her. She didn't like this, she didn't want to like this, so why? Why was it doing this to her?
Desperation put that out of her head for the time being, but it would torture her later with remembering. Double-edged sword. Sex is a weapon. The body can lie.
Gathering her strength, Aisha gave a hard tug and pulled free a knife blade about five inches in length. There was such kinetic force to the motion that the blade almost sunk into the earth next to Aisha's head. She nicked a tiny part of her own earlobe before she could stop it and turn the force of her unskilled jab. With a roar, the blade plunged into the strange man's side. He yelled and jerked back, ripped himself out of her—"Agh!" she cried—and tried to scramble back, holding his bleeding side with his pants bunched around his knees.
Aisha was fortunate enough that her hand seemed to have soldered to the hilt of the knife and it remained in her hand instead of buried in his wound. She rolled to her feet and came after him, wearing only the torn, dirty, and now bloody baby blue tank top, and a pair of tennis shoes that used to be pristine white. "Die!" she screamed and slashed at his face with the knife, swinging wide because she didn't know any better. "Die!" Aisha dropped to her knees, bringing down her raised arm in an exaggerated arc, like she'd seen in that American movie, Psycho. The knife plunged in and she ripped it back out. Blood poured from the wound, coating her hands with red liquid, making it hard to grip the knife. She didn't notice, didn't care.
Again, again, again…!
Until the man stopped screaming, stopped moving, stopped breathing.
"Bastard, bastard, bastard," Aisha was muttering under her breath in a constant stream, "Now who's fucked? Huh?" Now who's fucked?
Five of the guards descended a moment later, having heard the commotion. What they found was the boss's daughter, pant-less, covered in blood, and rocking back and forth manically, clutching a knife like it was a teddy bear.
Daddy's little girl ain't a girl no more.
After the incident, once the bruises faded and the stitches were removed, Aisha convinced her father that it was unwise to keep her isolated. She was defenseless should their home be invaded, and unsafe on their own property because the men never saw her. They could not tell the difference between their warlord's daughter and a drug mule. Fadhil evidently saw the logic in what his young child said and began to expand her education, as it were.
There were men assigned to teach her to fight, to shoot, to slice, and men who taught her about incendiaries; men whose job it was to make sure that Aisha could not only defend herself, she could also attack.
She was harder now, driven by the thought of her body's weakness, it's betrayal of her will. Every waking moment Aisha devoted to becoming faster, better, stronger. She would never be defeated like that again; she was no one's whore, not like the painted women who were brought to the compound to service the men.
Some of them resented her. They felt it was demeaning to their skills to babysit a spoiled little girl playing at things she didn't truly understand. Others grew to hate her superiority, though she only acted in such a fashion when she was able to best them at a particular task, celebrating the accomplishment with unthinking, youthful exuberance. It wasn't like she meant to make them feel silly, being beaten by a girl. It was just their man's foolishness.
But no one ever touched her, never again. The old fighters, the ones who had been with the family for many years, including her thirteenth, were stringently respectful and discreetly informed new mercenaries just what would happen to them if they laid one inappropriate finger on their employer's daughter. Whatever it was that was said, it was sufficient enough to act as a deterrent.
The years passed and Aisha bloomed into a young woman; one who could kill efficiently, build bombs, and understand the finer nuances of terrorist deal-makings. She was being groomed to be her father's successor, and Daddy was very proud of his shining star.
It was all going so well: Aisha, the knight-errant.
This is out of our range and grown.
When she was seventeen, Aisha had another one of those life-defining moments. It all began like any other day. She bathed and dressed, choosing comfort and practicality over style; sweatpants she had cropped at the calves and a black tank top that stretched tightly over her frame, neatly holding in her breasts, diminishing them so they would not hinder her during her training. Socks and sneakers completed the look.
On her way to the breakfast patio, she tugged her deep brown hair into a high, tight ponytail; a warrior's knot.
Every morning she had breakfast with her father, the two of them together on the patio when it was nice or in the small dining room should it rain. That morning the sun was shining and so she headed automatically to the outdoors, pacing out of the family wing with a nod to the two guards stationed at the end of the hall and down the stairs. A sharp turn at the end of the staircase took her down a marble-tiled hallway. Rooms appeared on either side: the formal living room, a study, the dining room and kitchen. Workers' quarters were located in another building a few yards away from the main house, as well as the barracks where their militia slept.
At the end of the cheerful hallway stood an open pair of french doors which Aisha went through without pause, depositing her onto a stone patio looking out on an in-ground pool. "Good morning, daddy," she greeted with a smile, sweeping up to the table to drop a brief kiss on his tanned cheek. His hair was getting grayer and grayer, she noted casually. His eyes crinkled as he returned her smile.
"Morning, princess. How did you sleep?" he asked as she perched elegantly in her chair, the smoothness of the gesture at odds with her pedestrian clothing.
"About the same. I'm negotiating a new business deal and it seems promising." Her old man's face lit up whenever he talked about his work, and Aisha responded to his excitement with enthusiasm of her own. She was like the moon, reflecting back the rays of his moods. He was always restless when he had a new deal cooking up.
"Good!" she cried, "I know how happy you get when something works to your advantage. Best of luck on your new venture, dad." Fadhil poured her a glass of orange juice while she spoke and lifted the lid off of her plate. After many years with the family, their cook knew Aisha's taste buds all too well. She devoured her food with alacrity, eager to be onto the next part of her day: the fresh berries and the plantain pancakes, a hard-boiled egg and a small amount of cottage cheese. After breakfast, she and her father parted ways, he to see to his business and she to her morning training exercises.
Nowadays the first part of her day was devoted to Juarez, one of the men they employed as mercenaries. He was tall and muscular, older with a bit of gray weaving throughout his dark, silky hair. He kept it cut short. Not military-short, though he was former-military, but rather with an inch or two of growth on the top, tight and close on the bottom. Aisha liked how he was always clean-shaven and neatly pressed, and admired him for his cool head. The guards were run by Keenan, but Juarez was the spirit of them. Keenan was, like her father, a very busy man, so it was often Juarez who relayed orders and whom the others looked to for decisions in the field. She didn't know all of his backstory, but she had heard enough rumor to figure that a man as straight-laced as Juarez would only turn to her father after experiencing such horror, such travesty that he could do nothing else unless it was to put a bullet in his own head.
She met him outside on the wide open space between the side of the compound and the jungle. It was mostly dirt there and they mowed carefully to keep the grasses as low as possible. "Morning," she said and smiled at his straight-laced, imposing figure. "Aisha," he nodded at her in reply, a small smile just barely pulling his full lips up. If Aisha was honest with herself, she could admit that she'd had a crush on him. He was handsome with high cheekbones and a strong jaw, the lips and the laugh lines around his dark brown eyes. When he moved it was with a sense of mission, of purpose; when he spoke people listened and felt the power of his words within them.
Wordlessly, Aisha began to stretch out.
Juarez worked her hard, as hard as he did any of the men. Maybe harder, Aisha suspected, in some attempt to make up for her body's natural inferiorities to a man's when it came to fighting. She was always going to be smaller and weaker, but enough skill could compensate for that in most situations.
By the time she was done with the exercises and sparring, she was coated in sweat and breathing heavily. She paced to cool down and then the other men filed onto the field, and it started all over again, this time with witnesses.
Aisha felt boneless, exhausted, but simultaneously exhilarated. She loved the challenge of measuring up to the men in her father's private army. As she walked back to the house, she was lost in those thoughts until she heard something; a noise that startled her from her adrenaline-soaked reverie.
A cry. Startled, heartbroken; young.
Her body froze mid-step and her head reeled, trying to place it.
She was near one of the outbuildings, the place where her father conducted most of his business from. As far back as she could remember, he had worked to keep his work physically removed from his home. Aisha didn't understand why. It wasn't like her mother was around to object anymore, and Aisha had never cared either way. Why not use their home for what it was intended, a building meant to impress and intimidate?
Unthinkingly, Aisha followed that sound into the lower recesses of the building. Two men were sprawled out in chairs at a wooden table, each with a hand of red-backed playing cards. She recognized them, smiled and said hello. They let her go without challenging her presence and she moved up the stairs.
"Hold her still," she heard.
"Well then keep her quiet."
"I'm a little more concerned about her wiggling around. Little bitch almost kicked me in the junk."
The other man laughed.
With a sense of dread and déjà vu humming along her nerves, Aisha forced herself to breach the room just as the girl yelped again. Her eyes could barely process the kaleidoscope of information presented to her as she poked her head up over the stairwell. Men with guns holding a group of children captive in one corner of the room. Lush patio furniture at odds with their cold, hard barrels. Keenan, his skin so dark, seeming like midnight as they contrasted with the pale golden skin of the young girl he was holding facedown, spread across a table.
Something sick burst open inside of Aisha as she registered that.
Another man, a nameless soldier, had her legs; her little legs that were still trying to kick and twist, to reach for escape. Yet another was measuring out little quantities of yellow-white substance on a scale. It clumped together in little pebbles until one broke it up. Then he slid it into condoms and tied them off, slicked them up with some kind of gel. A last man stood behind the girl, his hands sliding over her bare, tiny rump, waiting patiently for the baggie to be handed off to him.
Aisha's throat closed up and she made some sort of choked-off gagging noise.
It was too close, too close to that nightmare moment she kept hidden away inside of her. Rooted like something poisonous in the darkest corner of her heart.
"What are you doing?" Came a shout.
It took her a full minute to realize it was her and she'd run up the last few stairs, and now all the guns in the room were pointed at her. She wasn't really there though. Aisha was back in the jungle with a man on top of her, splitting her asunder. Automatically, her hands had raised in that age-old gesture of 'don't shoot' but her eyes were for the girl; the struggling, pained girl as the soldier used his gloved, slicked up fingers to widen her asshole and shove the heroin inside of her.
"Aisha…" And there, sitting and watching those proceedings in a comfortably padded chair like a king on his throne, eyeing those blasphemous court rituals impassively was her father.
"Take your hands off of her!" Aisha shouted, taking three more steps towards the table with her hands still up in the air. However that gesture of surrender was a tentative one, for she was clearly growing more and more agitated with what she was witnessing.
The girl whimpered, struggling against the pressure on her anus. Her dress, a cheap little blue thing, was rucked up, exposing her lower body mercilessly.
Aisha growled. "You're hurting her!"
"That's enough, Aisha," her father commanded, "Turn around. Leave this place."
"No!" Quick half-running steps had her at the men's sides, and she ripped away the blue-gloved hands of the man forcing condoms up inside a little girl, a little girl who should be at home playing with her friends, not trapped there on a table surrounded by bad men; he was the immediate threat, the one who needed to be removed first. The remaining men looked to her father for orders.
Fadhil himself stood and descended his dais. "Aisha, stop this."
"Now," he ordered, having reached her side in four long strides.
Her head snapped to the side and a whip-crack echoed in the room. It was only afterwards in the silence so complete that the birds outside suddenly sounded like a full jazz band in the room with them that Aisha realized he had hit her. There was heat blooming across her cheek. Betrayal mixed with the horror she was still reliving and Aisha found that her vision was growing blurry with unshed tears.
"I said that's enough," Fadhil intoned. "You—" he pointed at one of the men guarding the other children, "Return her to her rooms at the main house."
"You have embarrassed me enough for one day, Aisha." Her eyes widened in shock.
The man in fatigues grasped her by the upper arm and staunchly frog-marched her from the room. Aisha went without much struggle. She felt stunned, numb. Under that somewhere was fear and betrayal.
For the first time she recognized just what a bad man her father was, how horrible of a human being. It was entirely possible that he'd killed her mother. It was entirely possible that one day he would kill her. He abused children, killed people, sold poison to finance his terrorist activities.
Somewhere deep within, Aisha had already decided to leave, to abandon him and his stupid ideals. She would be braver than Anahi; she would have the courage to get out as her mother should have done. Either she wasn't very smart or she wasn't as kind as Aisha had thought. Perhaps she'd placed her mother and father up on pedestals. Whatever. Her father had tumbled from his place of idolization. He was nothing more than a man now. A bad one.
This is getting to be a drone.
She bided her time; waited, planned for the right moment.
He would never let her go, not willingly. Not without good reason.
If she left on her own, escaped the compound, he would retrieve her. Aisha had no illusions on this. Everything must be done on Fadhil's terms. It must be made to look like his idea. So she waited.
For six months she dropped hints about college into casual conversations. The best schools were in the United States and U.K. She was excited about receiving her home-schooling diploma. Aisha was thinking about what she'd like to do, the future, who she wanted to be.
After she'd spent so long priming him, it was easy to get Fadhil to agree that sending her away to college was a great idea. The best idea, in fact. She got into Brown, and they packed her up and shipped her off.
Aisha wasn't a fool though. She knew her father would have men tailing her—security—and he'd receive regular updates on her activities. However, away from Bolivia, Fadhil's power was diminished. His resources in the U.S. were limited. Most of his enterprise's business was conducted overseas, which was part of the reason why Fadhil had decided Aisha should attend college in the United States. He thought she would be safer there. It also put her further out of his reach.
It was on foreign soil that Aisha ducked her security detail and took off. To say that she did not attend Brown was an obvious.
She knew that the men probably paid with their lives for failing in their task, but she couldn't bring herself to care. They were killers.
Disappeared into the vast American crowd, Aisha found a new identity, a new life. She was a whole new person, freed from the ties of the past and obligations. Duty was a concept she no longer believed in. Loyalty? Discarded.
After a few years living under her new identity, Aisha—Ashley Smith—started college at Berkeley. She majored in Marine-biology and met her first lover there in the program. His name was Brian Collier. He had the body of a warrior—strong, muscular, tough—but was kind and generous. Right after high school he'd served in the army, and then gone on to Berkeley with the money he'd earned. He loved manatees. When they moved in together, there were pictures of manatees all over their little apartment. Aisha didn't mind. Their funny little faces made her laugh.
Living there in a tiny apartment with Brian, Aisha's old life started to seem like a dream. Hadn't she always been Ashley Smith? When you live a lie for so long, you almost start to believe it yourself. Her parents were dead: mom died of cancer when she was younger; dad was a trucker who got in an accident. They had been estranged from the rest of their families, so Ashley was alone.
They did Thanksgiving and Christmas with Brian's family, and his mom took a picture with Ashley, hugging in front of the superbly decorated tree.
Eventually they broke up, after two years and some change. Brian was moving to Australia to do his master's program, and Ashley wanted to stay stateside. It was friendly and mutual. Their relationship was over, but she took away something from it more precious than gold.
There was a string of other men, a master's degree, and finally a postcard in the mail from her father. 'Call me. Urgent.'
Ignoring the fact that he'd been able to find her, she did so. It was, after all, urgent and despite everything he was her father. She only had one parent left. He asked to meet, spoke frantically of a man named Max and some sort of sinister plot. "I need you to know in case something happens to me, Aisha."
Aisha drove down to LAX and waited for hours for him to show. He never did.
Then she found out he was dead. Suddenly, the illusion of Ashley was shattered. Aisha was once again in the jungle. A hunter. Flesh and blood was her only reason for living; to claw, to kill her raison d'etre. She would find Max and she would destroy him.
I'm a negative creep and I'm stoned.
'I counted the teeth in the chopper wreckage.'
Aisha wondered why that echoed in her head as she lay there next to Clay.
Perhaps it was because the phrase was so cold, so astute. For years she had managed to escape becoming a hardened killer. Then someone destroyed the only family she had left and suddenly the monster was right there at the surface, ready to take over her life. She was her father's daughter. Fatalistically pragmatic. Driven by a thought, an obsessive ideal: Max must die. Hollow. Cold. Ruthless.
Ashley was a dream, a dead thing. Almost eight years of school? Never happened. Erased in one fateful instance.
Subconsciously, her arms tightened around Clay. He shifted in his sleep, murmured something and pressed a sleepy kiss on the top of her head. She wanted to disdain him for it, but couldn't quite get there emotionally. To do so would mean she'd have to disdain herself for taking such comfort in his arms in the first place.
She definitely had a type. Strong men with commanding presences and a hidden kindness. God, she was such a sucker.
There she was lying in bed next to the man who shot her father.
The funny thing was Aisha wasn't even mad at him anymore. Clay had done what any good soldier did: followed orders. Then he'd done what a good man would do and gone in to save the children. The little drug-mules that Aisha had wanted to save herself. He'd done what he deemed necessary and shot a known terrorist when Fadhil threatened the life of an innocent.
Over time, Aisha had come to accept that it was Fadhil's choice to die that way, like suicide by cop. He knew death had been inevitable. Her father had simply chosen the method of execution himself.
Clay was a pawn, a pawn in a game that he hadn't even understood was being played. He, as much as she, was a victim of circumstance. Things had happened that had been beyond their control. Now they simply reacted.
But here in this bed, this was their choice.
Aisha would always be conflicted when it came to her father. He was evil, but he was hers. A child's adoration warred with an adult's rationale. Things would never truly be settled there, and she had resigned herself to that fact.
But she didn't hate Clay for it. Not anymore.
She couldn't have felt that way and still let him inside her body, inside her defenses the way he'd just been an hour ago. Aisha was not that good of a liar. To do so would have been too much like a rape to her.
No, she liked Clay; she respected him. Someday she might even grow to love him if they stayed together long enough.
It was her choice to wake him with gentle kisses, to provoke him with her body until they were both flushed and ready. The violence of their earlier union was gone, shoved aside in the wake of something slumberous and fragile. Aisha straddled him and took his length inside of herself. They shared their breaths in the air between them. His callused hands were careful with her, offering support and stroking her into a frenzy.
Something was building inside of her, shifting and changing her inner landscape.
Her lips coaxed him to be soft and yielding, and Clay responded to the change in her demeanor subconsciously.
When she came it was with a high-pitched, feminine moan, body arching and clenching, and dragging Clay along for the ride. Aisha watched him, his face an exquisite grimace in the face of ecstasy, and felt as though she had just come up for air from the water.
Her father was dead. His evil was gone, evicted from this world by a missile.
She was his daughter, yes, but she was not him. She didn't have to be him.
Max was still alive, spreading his poison across the globe.
Her father had wanted him stopped because he'd recognized a heinous evil even worse than his own.
Stopping Max was the right thing to do.
It didn't have to be about vengeance. It could simply be about doing the right thing.
As she lay back next to Clay, limp and satisfied, a small smile on her face, she felt aglow with these obvious truths.
"Mm," came Clay's sleepy rumble, "You're happy."
"Yes," Aisha sighed and kissed her lover's neck, "I am happy. I am free."
Free of the specters of her past, free of the damning chains of vengeance and hate; just free. For the first time ever, she was just Aisha.
Daddy's little girl ain't a girl no more.