Chapter Four: Too Shy to Scream
Summary: Just before Blind Mag leaves the Wallace residence, Shilo calls her back to ask why it is "too late" for her favorite singer. A conversation turns into a warm embrace, and Nathan's overprotective side emerges when he sees his daughter in Mag's arms…
Disclaimer: I do not own Repo! The Genetic Opera, unless we're talking about a copy of the DVD or the soundtrack.
Author's Notes: Title from AFI's song "Too Shy to Scream". Yeah, it's from Crash Love. I like that CD, even though it sounds more like a side project than an AFI album.
Shilo dutifully took her medication every day. She recovered slowly in terms of her respiratory issues; after about two months, she still could have trouble breathing if she exerted herself too much. However, at that point, she had grown about three-quarters of an inch and a fine sheen of soft black fuzzy hair had grown on her head. Blind Mag's eye sockets had healed to the point at which they didn't hurt anymore, though when Shilo asked Nathan if he could find glass eyes for Mag to make her more comfortable, he had done nothing.
She had also begun to study some academic subjects to which she hadn't had much exposure. Her father had bought her some rudimentary textbooks long ago, so had asked him for more detailed books on the subjects that she found interesting. She hadn't found any of the quantitative subjects particularly exciting, so she hadn't even paid much attention to the basics. Mag had gone to a fine arts high school and then majored in music at university, but she did remember certain things and helped Shilo as much as she could. Shilo quickly found that Mag was much more bright and sharp of mind than GeneCo had tried to make her seem; when Shilo didn't understand a concept, she would read the passage from the book aloud and Mag would rephrase it in a way that made it easier for Shilo to understand.
Unfortunately, Nathan was staying true to his habit of disagreeing with everything Blind Mag did for Shilo. When he found Mag helping Shilo study, he of course became confrontational and demanded to know what they were doing.
"Shilo is going to be eighteen in a month and a half. She should be able to start school soon, and when she does, she should be ready."
"School. You mean college."
"I don't know if any college would accept her with her limited academic experience. Maybe she could enroll in a local high school for a few years first. But once she's well, she should be able to make something of herself."
"Make something of herself?" Nathan snarled. "Are you implying that I've raised Shilo to be…unworthy?"
"I think Shilo is very worthy," Mag corrected. "I think she has wonderful potential, and an education could serve her well."
"Dad, I really don't think there's any harm in be trying to learn more math," Shilo pointed out.
Of course, Shilo was right, so from then on Nathan let them be when Shilo was studying, occasionally shooting them filthy glances that Shilo was very glad Mag couldn't see.
As much as Mag was trying to help Shilo, she still balked at asking Nathan to allow her to sleep in Shilo's room. Not because she wouldn't prefer to sleep in Shilo's bed over the couch; she was afraid. Shilo had only confronted Nathan once about his physical abuse of Mag, but he, of course, had denied it, and Mag had begged Shilo to never speak of it again. Shilo might have disobeyed that request, but she hadn't seen any new bruises on Mag in a while.
"Shilo, neck-kisses are not part of your curriculum," Mag was admonishing Shilo one afternoon after Nathan had departed from the house, giving Shilo the freedom to be affectionate.
"Maybe if I had time to kiss you during the night, I wouldn't have to interrupt your teaching."
"Shi, we've been over this. I don't need your help as much now that I'm more used to being blind again."
"I still want you in bed with me."
"I know. I'd love to sleep in your bed at night. But since I've healed, I can't ask Nathan if I can stay with you so you can help give me Zydrate and help me get dressed. If I asked now, he would think I only wanted to take advantage of you."
"I wish you would."
"You can't very well take advantage of someone who is consenting," Mag reminded her with just a trace of a smile.
Shilo slipped her arm around Mag's waist. "I wouldn't push you."
"If you think I'm avoiding sleeping with you to avoid making love to you, that's not it. I'd love to sleep next you. But I think I have every reason to be afraid of your father."
"I think I once said that you weren't comfortable on the couch and it was hurting your back. And, you know, me being immunocompromised isn't as much of an issue anymore." Shilo traced Mag's spine with her fingertips, leaning close to brush her lips against the line of Mag's jaw.
Mag sighed. "Well, I suppose you were understanding fractions just fine anyway…"
Mag turned her head slightly to the side, allowing Shilo's lips to capture hers. Shilo climbed into her lap, covering the singer's mouth with soft, repeated kisses.
Shilo and Mag had kissed on this couch before, and it was difficult sitting side by side, bodies getting all twisted up so the moment was ruined when one of them had to readjust. Mag didn't feel like going through that annoyance. So she reclined, bringing Shilo with her, shifting so Shilo's center of gravity was resting comfortably against her hips. She felt a tremor run through Shilo's body; they had kissed many times before, of course, but never in such an intimate position. It was when Shilo felt Mag's legs wrap warmly about her waist that she broke off the kisses and looked at Mag, surprised.
"Is everything all right?" Mag asked softly.
Shilo nodded. "Just…a little surprised." Mag reached up to stroke the girl's cheek and felt the lips curl into a shy smile.
"It surprises you that I want to be close to you?" Mag crossed her ankles behind Shilo's back.
Shilo sighed. "Close, no. This close, yes." She dipped her head to kiss Mag again, shivering as she felt her lover's hands guide the back of her shirt up to her shoulder blades. Mag still point-blank refused to let her hands anywhere near Shilo's breasts, but that rarely stopped her from touching Shilo's skin in less intimate places. Mag felt Shilo move, resting her weight on one arm to leave the other hand free to glide up underneath Mag's camisole, always gentle, always shy, no matter how familiar she became with Mag's body.
Mag sighed with approval and pleasure as Shilo's fingertips brushed her sensitive skin, then found herself whining in protest as Shilo sat up. But then she felt Shilo pulling at her camisole, and she sat up slightly—thanking the strong singer's muscles in her abdomen for allowing her the slight motion—to allow Shilo to pull the garment off completely. She gasped when Shilo lay back down, for the girl had also removed her shirt and Mag could feel the tenderness of Shilo's skin pressed against her. "Mmm…Shi…" She wrapped her arms tightly around Shilo.
"You feel good, Mag. Cozy."
"So do you, little one." Mag allowed her hands to wander over the graceful contours of Shilo's back. She closed her eyes. She wanted Shilo, yes…but she was perfectly content to lie in the girl's arms like this, skin on skin accompanied by kisses and caresses. It didn't have to go any farther.
Mag was trying very hard to convince her body of that fact. Because Shilo's lips were on hers once more, Shilo's hand caressing her breast again…
"Shi…" Her voice was reduced to almost nothing, a whisper than came out much huskier than intended.
Shilo's kisses left her mouth, trailed down her, neck, past her collarbone…
Mag's spine arched as Shilo's lips met the swell of her breast. Her heart felt as if it were trying to batter its way out of her ribs, it was pounding so hard. When Shilo's lips closed over her nipple, a surge of pleasure shot through her, so powerful there was only one proper response.
"Shilo, stop!" Mag squirmed away from the girl, who drew back from her instantly.
"Mag, what's wrong?" Shilo sounded hurt. "You seemed to be…enjoying it…"
"It's not your fault," Mag panted. "I'm sorry. It's my fault. I'm sorry." Mag sat up, pressing her legs tightly together to try to quell the warm ache inside her. She had never reacted so strongly to Shilo kissing or touching her, but the combination of Shilo's sweet skin and those soft, gentle lips closing on her… "I think I need some tea," Mag whispered hoarsely.
Shilo reached out and lightly brushed a hand against Mag's shoulder. "Please don't be mad." Her voice quavered.
"I'm not mad at you, little one." Mag took Shilo's hand and squeezed it tightly. "I'm angry at myself."
"You're shaking." Shilo wrapped her arms around Mag, slowly and carefully, as if she was afraid that the woman would disappear. Mag leaned into the embrace, hoping that would help Shilo understand that Mag wasn't at all upset with her. "Are you okay?"
"I'm not shaking because I'm hurt or upset." Mag paused, waiting for Shilo to say something, but there was no reply at first.
Finally Shilo spoke. "Do you want me to make you some chamomile?"
"That would be lovely, thank you."
Shilo kissed Mag's cheek and got up. Mag heard the rustle of cloth as Shilo re-dressed herself before proceeding to the kitchen, and as she listen, she cursed herself using foul words she hadn't even known she knew. Of course Shilo would blame herself even though Mag's reaction hadn't been her fault at all. Mag was finally growing to understand how much pleasure (be it physical or emotional) Shilo took in knowing Mag enjoyed her affections; that wasn't the problem. The problem was that Mag was still unused to her body being treated with such kindness, and if she cried out for Shilo to make love to her while her brain was pickled in hormones, Shilo would surely oblige…but Mag felt like it wasn't time yet. Mag wanted Shilo's first time with her to be special, not a spur-of-the-moment event stemming from an interrupted study session.
Shilo's footfalls brought her out of her reverie. "Mag? I made you some chamomile. It still needs to steep for a few minutes."
"Thank you, Shi."
Shilo sat down next to Mag and cautiously handed her the mug of tea. "Are you…feeling better?"
Mag slid her hand over the couch until it found Shilo's leg so she could give an affectionate squeeze to the girl's knee. "Yes."
Shilo leaned close and kissed Mag's cheek. "I'm sorry."
"Please don't apologize, little one." Mag turned her head so she could kiss Shilo's mouth. "I told you it isn't your fault. You tried something new. I…just enjoyed it too much." She smiled rather bitterly.
"I enjoyed it too," the girl replied shyly.
"I thought…we could have easily gone too far. And I want to wait for the right time." She paused. "Perhaps your eighteenth birthday."
"Oh, Mag…do you mean it?"
Mag could have sworn her heart melted at the softness and wonder in the girl's voice. She placed her tea mug on the floor so she could take Shilo into her arms. "Yes, I mean it."
Shilo brushed her lips against Mag's throat. It was her turn to start quivering with anticipation. "How…how are we going to hide from Dad?"
"I think it's time I finally asked to stay with you at night. I'll say the couch is uncomfortable. And of course I'll offer to sleep on the floor, on an air mattress…I just won't."
"Good plan," Shilo murmured, pressing her face to the curve of Mag's neck. "Oh, I wish it could happen now…"
"I know," said Mag as tenderly as she could manage. "But I need more time. And I want our first time to be special, if you'll excuse me for being second-millennium."
"I understand." Shilo reached up to stroke Mag's cheek. "I love you. I don't want to pressure you."
"I love you, Shi." Mag said simply, giving the girl a gentle squeeze. "I promise I'll make the wait worth it."
A long shudder ran through Shilo's body. "But what if I can't…what if I can't please you?"
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Mag kissed the top of Shilo's head. "Try not to worry. Everything will turn out fine eventually. I thought there could be no way I could have a life after GeneCo, but here I am with you."
"Nathan? I want to talk to you."
Nathan was halfway up the stairs carrying a tray with Shilo's dinner; Mag had heard the stairs creak.
"About what?" His voice was sharp.
"Your daughter, of course. I'm concerned about her."
"It's not your place to be concerned."
Mag had given up trying to convince Nathan that despite the fact that there had been no official ceremony, she was Shilo's godmother. "Shilo would disagree with you."
"She's too young to judge that sort of thing." Nathan began to proceed up the stairs.
"That's the thing, Nathan. She's not too young. She's nearly eighteen, as much as you have sheltered her. And she deserves a chance at a future."
"Are you saying I'm not giving her a chance at a future?" Nathan demanded.
Mag took a deep breath. Would Nathan strike her again? Probably. But Shilo deserved her support. "Let her go to school. She doesn't have to start college now—I mean, she isn't ready—but enroll her in high school. Or get her a tutor if you're worried about her not being able to handle social situations. But she needs an education."
"I have nothing to say to that."
"Well, you should. She's a bright girl. She doesn't know what she wants to do with her life. She needs some guidance."
Nathan whirled on Mag; she couldn't see him, but she heard his weight shift on the stair. "Why are you so determined to force her to grow up?" Nathan seethed. "Is it because she looks so like Marni? You're trying to age her up to be more like Marni so you can take advantage of her?"
Mag clenched her teeth. "I have no uncouth intentions toward your daughter. I just want to help her. I care about her."
Nathan snorted. "I don't believe you. You were always jealous of what I had with Marni. And now you're after my daughter. As soon as I can convince Shilo you're a bad influence, you're out of this house."
"Is that what you were worried about when you chose to tell me that Shilo had died?" Mag's voice began to shake. "That I would go chasing after her? Do you really think I'd have any interest in her besides taking care of her if I'd helped raise her like I promised Marni?"
"Apparently I was right," said Nathan bitterly. "If only Shi didn't look so much like Marni."
Mag snapped. "Nathan, I can't even fucking see her!" she shrieked. "I can barely remember what she looks like! You claim to love Shilo, but you keep her locked up in this sepulcher of a house! You're so concerned about me hurting her, but you're the one doing the real harm!"
The back of Nathan's hand slammed into Mag's face like a brick. She stumbled backward and fell, tumbling sideways down the stairs. She was struggling to get up when she heard Shilo's voice.
"What's going on?" Then the girl gasped. "Mag! Dad, you hit her again, didn't you?"
"No, Shi, she tripped," said Nathan evenly.
Shilo skittered down the stairs. "Oh, Mag…" Mag felt Shilo's hand cup her cheek. "Your nose is bleeding."
"I can't see you, Shi," Mag whispered, beginning to cry. "I can't see you."
"I know." For half a second, Mag felt Shilo guide one hand up to the girl's face, as if to let her trace her features and try to use touch to better recall Shilo's appearance, but suddenly Shilo was jerked away.
"Shilo, go back to your room."
"Mag will be fine. She just fell."
"Dad, don't lie to me! You always lie to me! I know you hit her! I can already see the bruise starting!"
Mag heard Shilo shouting and protesting as Nathan dragged her back to her room. The brief anger that had surged within her faded, and she laid her head down and cried. Not too much later, Nathan walked past her without acknowledging her, presumably after getting Shilo to eat some of her dinner. Mag waited a respectable interval, listening carefully for any activity from Nathan, before retrieving her cane to make her way back upstairs to knock on Shilo's door.
"Dad, I don't want to talk to you right now!" came Shilo's voice, thick with tears.
"Shi? It's me."
Mag heard the characteristic clicking noises of Shilo's lock pick, then the door was flung open and Mag found herself pulled into the room and wrapped in a tight hug. Shilo covered her mouth with kisses; Mag dropped her cane to return Shilo's embrace. But when Shilo tried to turn her head, Mag flinched back in pain.
"I'm sorry. Did I hurt you?" Shilo stroked Mag's cheek.
"Just a little."
"You're still bleeding a little. Hang on…" Shilo ran to the bathroom and returned with a damp cloth. She gently dabbed away the remnants of blood underneath her godmother's nose, not unlike the way she had cleaned the dried blood that had dripped from Mag's empty eye sockets the night of the Genetic Opera. "I can't believe Dad really thinks I'll believe he didn't hit you."
"Your father seems to have a rather tenuous relationship with reality."
Shilo rested her hands on Mag's hips and kissed her neck softly. "I heard him yelling at you. What was going on?"
"I made the mistake of trying to speak to your father one-on-one about your education. He accused me of lusting after you because you resemble your mother so much. And that was when I said…"
"That you can't even see me." Shilo finished. "I've never heard you curse before."
Mag smiled bitterly. "I lost my temper. I don't love you because you remind me of your mother. I love you for who you are." Mag punctuated the sentence with a kiss on Shilo's forehead.
Shilo made a tiny noise of pleasure and nestled her face against Mag's throat. "I love you. I wish I could ask you to cuddle in bed with me, but I guess Dad might come back."
Mag sighed. "There's no way he'll let me stay in here now. He told me that as soon as he can convince you I'm a bad influence, I'm out on the street."
Shilo whimpered and tightened her arms around Mag. "I wouldn't let him do that."
"I don't think there would be much you could do, little one." Mag rocked Shilo gently back and forth. "Particularly if he calls the police to help throw me out."
"He wouldn't do that…would he?"
Mag thought of Nathan standing over her with a scalpel as she struggled against the straps binding her to the surgical chair in the basement. "I would hope not."
"I guess I'll ask Dad if you can stay with me. It sounds like he's not listening to you."
"I suppose it's worth a try." Mag pecked Shilo a quick kiss. "I should go. I don't want to live constantly afraid of what your father will do to me, but he will hit me again if he finds me here."
"I hate that he hits you."
Mag chuckled dryly. "Trust me, so do I."
In the end, it was Shilo who asked her father both if Mag could sleep in her room and if they could have a more elaborate celebration than usual for her eighteenth birthday. To Shilo's surprise, Nathan agreed to the first, but not the second. (Unbeknownst to her, Nathan was only allowing Mag to sleep in Shilo's room because he was looking for an opportunity for Shilo to "realize" Mag was attempting to take advantage of her.) Shilo's eighteenth birthday was approaching rapidly, but she was overjoyed that Mag was allowed to sleep in her room and decided not to make waves.
Nathan dragged an air mattress out from the basement (a small, legitimate basement, not Nathan's Repo Man laboratory) and filled it using an air pump. The first night Mag was allowed to move into Shilo's room, she couldn't stop smiling the entire day. This earned her some worried glances from her father, but she was past caring. Fortunately, she managed to keep her hands off of Mag too much when helping her up the stairs.
Mag politely thanked Nathan for allowing her to sleep on the air mattress, as sleeping on the sofa genuinely was starting to hurt her back. Shilo was rather unnerved at how deferential Mag acted toward Nathan throughout the various conversations about the topic, but she supposed being obsequious had worked to deflect unwanted attention (particularly if it was angry) off of her when she had worked for GeneCo.
Shilo barely managed to not grin constantly or otherwise act excited the first night Mag was allowed to sleep in her room. She knew perfectly well Mag wouldn't budge on the matter of what was to happen the night of Shilo's eighteenth birthday, but that didn't matter; she just wanted to sleep in Mag's arms.
She wasn't disappointed. After she took to bed that night, she remained awake, pretending to sleep, while she listened to her father and her godmother speak outside her door. It sounded like he was threatening her, but Shilo didn't hear any blows landing or Mag crying out in pain, so at least he wasn't hitting her.
Mag quietly came into the room and lay down on the air mattress.
"Mag?" Shilo whispered.
"Shh. Soon," was the only reply.
In a few minutes, Shilo heard the sheets rustling as Mag carefully climbed into bed beside her. Grinning so hard she thought her face might hurt, Shilo edged closer and opened her arms to Mag. She nestled her head under Mag's chin, sighing happily as she felt one of her godmother's hands running lightly over her scalp, making a light scratching noise as the new, short, still-growing hair was rustled. "Hi, Mag," Shilo whispered.
Mag's reply was to move and squirm to get into the right position to cover Shilo's mouth with a warm kiss. "Finally, I get to lie beside you at night," she whispered as she drew back, allowing Shilo to rest her head against the curve of her neck again.
Shilo leisurely trailed a hand up and down the length of Mag's back. "This is so comfortable. I bet I never have bad dreams with you here."
Mag sighed. "I certainly hope I stop having bad dreams. Sometimes they wake me. I don't want to disturb your sleep."
"GeneCo was really awful to you, weren't they?"
Mag tightened her arms around Shilo. "You might say that."
Shilo dropped a few kisses on Mag's neck. "You can wake me up if you have bad dreams."
Mag sighed. "We'll see, little one. But thank you."
Rotti Largo read the date of birth on Shilo Wallace's file twice. He knew it by heart, and in his younger years, that would have been enough; he would have stopped re-checking the file, because of course his memory was accurate. Although of course, the reason he was looking up the girl's birth date yet again was not his memory.
It was time. For time was something he was rapidly running out of. He had stopped consulting any of his doctors, if only because having several GeneCo MD's shot and killed accomplished nothing now that it had stopped improving his mood.
A racking cough seized him; he grabbed a handkerchief from his jacket pocket and pressed it to his nose and mouth, hacking into it until his head spun from lack of air. Grumbling, he stuffed the handkerchief back into his pocket.
One more week. After that, his worthless, pathetic, traitorous lungs could give out if they wanted. Because in a week, Shilo Wallace would turn eighteen and become be a legal adult. And Rotti would leave all of GeneCo to her, forever proving to his vapid, useless offspring that they deserved nothing of his inheritance. If he could rip his half of their DNA out of each of his three children, he could, and they would be thinking of that for the rest of their miserable lives…
If he survived the next seven days.
A/N: I'm not dead. Really.