Disclaimer: I don't own Bomb Girls.
Quick rundown of the characters. Betty- recently out as a lesbian and in love with Kate who rejected her after Betty tried to kiss her. Kate-preacher's daughter that ran back to her abusive father after Betty kissed her. Gladys-rich girl who wants to help in the front lines of manufacturing despite her upbringing and awesome best friend.
The ladies changing rooms at Victory Munitions was already filled with steam from the showers despite the blue shift only being let out five minutes ago. Betty stripped off her uniform like she normally would after shift and it was only the firm grip she had on her towel that betrayed her nerves.
Betty stepped into the showers and tried not to let her apprehension show. There was laughing and giggling as more women entered the changing room. There was only one woman in the showers and as soon as she saw Betty an alarmed looked stole across her face as she quickly finished and rushed out. Betty squared her shoulders and stepped inside keeping her head down. She could do this. Two women in mid conversation stopped just at the edge of the showers. Joan, the tall brunette scowled as she saw Betty.
"Come on Doris," she nudged her smaller friend, "we'll get a shower later."
"I can't believe we have to shower with her kind," Doris stepped back clutching her towel.
"My kind?" Betty barked glaring at them fiercely.
"Yeah," Doris snapped right back. "I don't want to shower in front of you anymore. It's like showering in front of one of the men. Who knows what unnatural fantasies you'll have."
Betty growled trying to think up an answer as her skin betrayed her and flushed with humiliation. She had never looked at the other women that way in the shower.
"Oh get over yourself, Doris," Gladys breezed past both women naked as the day she was born. She stepped under the shower nozzle right next to Betty without a hint of self consciousness or worry. "Your own husband doesn't fantasize about you-why in God's name do you think Betty would?"
Doris looked affronted. Her mouth opened and closed as she gasped in indignation at Gladys who continued to shower like normal.
"Or is it that you hope she's looking?" Gladys laughed nudging Betty and flicking water at the still scowling blonde.
"Don't bother with her Doris," Joan spluttered. "She's another one that's strange in the head."
"Ladies, hurry up and shower you're holding the others back," Mrs Corbett snapped without looking up from her clipboard.
"I'm not getting in the shower with the likes of Betty McRea!" Joan declared her nose in the air.
Mrs Corbett looked up from her clip board and gave Betty an assessing look. Betty tried not to balk but there was something about Mrs Corbett that made her anxious. She hated to disappoint the other woman. So few people had believed in her and she hated the thought of losing the supervisor's good opinion.
"I can't force you two into the shower but you can't leave without one. If you don't get in there now I'm afraid you'll have to wait until the rest of the girls are done," Mrs Corbett said going back to her clipboard. "And that goes for the rest of you who think they can pick and choose their place in line."
The other women hurried to fill the showers anxious to be out of the factory and done with the work day. Betty let out the breath she had been holding. She had dreaded this moment since she had first got to work that morning. Gladys gave her a wink and she rolled her eyes. Secretly though, she was glad for the pampered princess.
Gladys waited for her to change sticking close by as the other women muttered around them. Betty glanced at her as she slung her handbag over her shoulder. It was obvious that Gladys wanted to talk to her. They fell into a comfortable stroll out of the factory before Gladys finally took a deep breath.
"Kate wrote to me," Gladys said her tone expecting a fight.
Betty stopped dead. She tried to stop the emotions flashing across her face but it was almost painful how much that one statement had affected her. Betty had to clear her throat before she could speak, "is she okay?"
"Her mother died. She wants to come home," Gladys said reaching out for Betty.
Betty stepped back and held up her hand. Gladys wasn't sure if Betty was pushing her away or Betty's own uncomfortable emotions, either way she dropped her hand limply. "Did she...did she ask for me?" Betty's eyes were squinted but the hurt still squeezed through narrow gap.
Gladys pressed her lips together before shaking her head. "She's doesn't have the money for the train fare and she's afraid her dad won't let her leave again. I'm going to get her tonight."
"Why didn't you tell me this earlier?" Betty snapped because anger was easier.
"And have you distracted and out of your mind as you worked with explosives?" Gladys scoffed at her.
"I'm going with you," Betty's tone brooked no argument.
"-Cause you're a whore!"
Kate flinched as the glass bottle smashed against the brick wall behind her. She picked up the other unbroken empty beer bottles. Her shaking hands made the brown bottles clink together in her arms as she tried to tidy up the front of the trailer. Over head the street lamp flickered; it was the only source of light in the alley as gloomy and muted as it was.
"If you hadn't have left-! If you had stayed maybe she would still be alive!" Her father yelled at her his blood shot eyes bulging. His normal clean and well kept appearance had deteriorated since her mother's death. He had the beginnings of a ragged beard and his shirt was un-tucked and stained. The preacher hadn't even looked at his bible in weeks. He had reverently placed it in the drawer by his bed when her mother died and then turned away from it.
Her brothers seeing the change in their father had turned further towards the church. They had even tried to get another preacher to talk to him but he had only pretended to listen. As soon as the other preacher had left her father boxed the ears off her brothers and just stopped short of the belt because he was too tired. Since then her brothers had been rarely around the trailer. It had been ok for their father to beat their mother and sister but they didn't like it when they got a taste of his wrath.
"What's it they called you?" Her father slurred slumping forward and nearly out of his rocking chair. "Kathleen-Kathy Andrews? Changing your name like a movie star," her father snorted. His eyes were fuzzy and unfocused. Kate didn't think he could even see her. "No, not like a movie star-like a harlot. A virtue-less harlot, should have renamed you Mary Magdalene!"
Kate rolled her eyes. He had already called her that today. Her father was running out of biblical whores to compare her with. Kate dumped the beer bottles in the trash. She wanted to keep the trailer clean in memory of her mother and also lessen her father's ammunition. She turned back from the trashcan's dusting off her hands and jumped as her father was right behind her.
Her father grabbed a handful of her red hair and slammed her against the trailer. Kate's brain was rattled as her father ground the side of her face against the tin wall. "How many men were you with, huh? How many men came looking for the girl in those pornographic pictures?"
"None! Daddy, I swear," Kate whimpered. She tried to struggle but her dad slammed her against the trailer again. It wasn't the drunken old man holding her in Kate's mind but the terrifying figure of her childhood that always loomed over her. Kate could feel the lash of his belt and the heat of his anger as the scars on her back burned at the memories.
"Disgraceful! Abraham knows nothing of my trials," Her father shook his head sounding sad. The pressure on Kate's head increased as her father's hot beer breath whispered in her ear. "I thought I had exercised the evil inside you Marion, I thought I had vanquished your demons with fire and might-"
"-Get your God damn hands off her!"
Kate was suddenly free leaving her to sag against the wall to recover. There was a loud crash as her father was thrown into the trashcans. Kate turned to see Betty standing over her father. She wasn't sure if she was an avenging angel or a demon unleashed.
"Kate, are you okay?" Gladys asked.
Even in the dark after a long train ride Gladys still looked like a movie star. Her dark hair was pinned up in neat curls and she wore Betty's cheap blue woollen coat and managed to make it seem like a million dollars. Gladys' own clothes would have been far too fancy to wear in this neighbourhood without attracting trouble. It had been so long since Kate had seen a friendly face that she couldn't stop her eyes from welling up. Gladys reached out and drew Kate behind her protectively. Her leather gloves where cold and the material crinkled as Gladys held Kate's hand tightly to comfort her.
Her father squinted at Betty as he tried to get up. Betty pushed him back down without a qualm and looked like she was about ready to give him a kick for good measure.
"Don't you touch him, Betty McRea!" Kate said suddenly.
"After what he did to you?" Betty snapped. She didn't even turn to look at Kate. "I oughtta thump him for the thought! I still owe him one for clocking me across the jaw!"
"I didn't ask you to come running to my rescue!" Kate shook her hand out of Gladys's grip. "I didn't ask for you at all."
Betty recoiled like Kate had hit her. She stood defiantly in the shadowy alley in her wide mannish trousers and her close fitting green blouse. Kate had always liked that blouse on Betty, the soft green colour really brought out the teal of her eyes and the red of her lips. But now, standing in the dark, as the cold night air made Betty wrap her arms around herself for warmth, the only thing Kate could see was the reason why she had left the only safe place she had ever known.
"I didn't ask you to come," Kate repeated softer now.
"No," Gladys said tossing her hair back and tilting her chin. "You didn't ask her to come. You asked me-and I asked her and here we are. We came half-way across the country to come get you so grab your things Kate. You're coming home, even if I have to drag you."
Kate looked back and forth between them torn. When she had first wrote the letter to Gladys she had just buried her mother. Her father was starting to go downhill and her brothers where infuriatingly trying to step into his place by constantly calling her the scarlet woman. Then her father had got even worse and started to get violent again. She had been desperate for escape and turned to the only one who hadn't betrayed her. Now looking at Gladys and the freedom she represented Kate's heart swelled with hope only to be crushed by Betty's unwanted presence.
Given the choice of living with her father or Betty in her life, Kate hesitated.
"It's the pervert!" Her father's cruel laugh cut the air as he squinted at Betty with dawning recognition. He was sitting among scattered trash and even as dirty and un-kept as he was he managed to look smug and superior when he sneered at Betty. "My daughter is too much of a man's whore to be twisted to your perversions."
"Shut up!" Betty snapped hugging herself tighter.
"Kate, go get your things," Gladys pushed Kate towards the door of the squat gloomy trailer.
Kate didn't move. Her father was trying to get to his feet and Betty was glaring at him looking like she wanted to tip him over again. The thought of staying with him, especially after tonight, made Kate's heart clench in fear and her stomach drop to her shoes. The scars on her back were still burning. He was a sick grief stricken man with a temper but he was at least god fearing and familiar. Betty was just sick and wrong and unnatural and going with her, being near her-it made Kate hot, uncomfortable and so nervous that she wanted to be violently sick.
"You aren't leaving girlie," her father glared. "You can't go running off again especially with this one. I'll find you and bring you home."
"You go near her again-" Betty barked automatically coming to Kate's defence.
"-and you'll do what? You got one hit in because I was surprised. Don't think i won't teach a pervert like you a lesson," her father growled darkly. Kate shuddered, she hated that tone. It never did lead to anything good. "If you leave, I'll follow you and tell the police the real story about Kate Andrews. Fake papers is a jailing offence."
"You won't come anywhere near her again," Gladys drew herself up to her full height and her sneer of derision put Kate's fathers to shame. "My father is the personal friend of the mayor and the number one supplier of rations in the country. The police won't trouble Kate at all but if I so much as hear you've even got on a train that points in her direction then I'll have the police waiting at the next stop ready to haul you off for assault and battery. Do you hear me?"
"Prissy little bitch," her father sneered. "You can't do that."
"Try me," Gladys said coolly. Something in her expression must have reached through her father's drunken stupor because he hesitated. "Now Kate," Gladys said turning that same imperial tone on her. "Go and get your things, you're leaving and never coming back."
This time Kate went because she wasn't choosing Betty or her father. She was choosing herself and life and the opportunity that Gladys had given her.
Kate found that coming back to the Victory Munitions factory was easy. It was staying that was the hard part. Gladys and the girls she would usually sit and work with had formed a tight protective ring around Betty. Everyone knew about her perversion despite Kate not telling a soul and the whispers and jeering that followed the blonde made Kate stay far away. As a result she was excluded from the protective Betty bubble by her friends. Kate knew Gladys didn't mean to do it and that it was only a side effect of helping Betty but it still hurt.
During lunch Kate had taken to sitting with some of the other women in the factory and the nasty jokes that she had heard at Betty's expense where terrible. She had even heard terrible things said about Gladys and Vera for simply being near Betty. She didn't know how they coped, Kate couldn't stand everyone whispering and jeering at her. It was bad enough when she had first got back and everyone had watched her to see if she would interact with Betty, the gossip had moved on so long as Kate kept her head down and ignored the blonde.
Betty however didn't seem to take any notice of the gossiping groups. She still walked tall with her head held high and worked just as hard as she had always done. That just made the meaner women try harder to provoke a reaction and what the men had said to Betty? The men were just out right rude and demeaning, more so than usual. Kate suspected that it was only Mrs Corbett's watchful eyes that stopped the men from getting physical with their attempts to 'straighten' out Betty.
"Hey McRea! You know you just need a real man!" Paul jeered pushing a wheel barrow filled with casings. He stopped and fondled himself and Kate busied herself wiping the amatol away from the jug.
Betty didn't even pause in her stride as she went to her filling station. "All the real men are off to war, nothing left here but cripples and rejects," Betty called back with her own sneer. "But if you find one you let me know, providing that you don't plan on keeping him for yourself."
Some of the other girls laughed and Paul's face went red. Marco came up behind Paul and slapped him with his clipboard. "Paul don't be so mean to McRea, I mean look at her, she's more manly than most of the fella's in the factory, of course she's a little confused. With an attitude like hers no wonder she put the kobosh on getting a husband."
Betty flushed as Marco and Paul walked off laughing. Kate could see the tension in her shoulders as she fought to stay at her station. She couldn't tell if Betty wanted to run after them and sock them both or run away and hide. Kate knew what she would have done. Betty caught her looking and the flush on her face intensified, Kate could feel her own cheeks heat in sympathy as Betty looked away embarrassed.
At the end of the shift Kate was glad that Betty had started to wait until the end to take her shower. Betty of course didn't make it obvious what she was doing. She took extra long to clean down her station, change and join the line leaving her almost always the last one. Gladys was usually at her side but Kate couldn't understand how Gladys was comfortable being naked in front of Betty now. Kate hated being naked in front of anyone as the scars on her back made her feel ugly. Showering in front of Betty would just be like showering in front of a man and showing him her ugly scars.
"Kate, we're going to grab dinner after work, you want to join us?" Alice asked her. Alice was standing in the shower next to her and Kate was careful to keep her eyes straight ahead, she didn't want to get accused of anything.
"That sounds, uh, great," Kate answered hesitantly. Alice lived on the same floor as Kate but they had never been friends. Kate had latched onto Betty when she had come to the factory and never got around to making other friends. She had thought Gladys and Betty were enough.
"Great we'll wait for you outside," Alice waved as she left the shower to get changed.
Kate hurried to finish and just as she was about to step out Betty had just hung up her towel and was about to step in. They stared at each other in frozen alarm neither one knowing what to do next. The girls on red shift started to trickle in snapping Kate out of her apprehension. She turned and grabbed her towel off the rack exposing her back to Betty. Kate jerked away as a hand landed on her shoulder.
Betty's face was like thunder as she glared at Kate holding her towel like a shield in front of her. "He hit you again," Betty said her voice a tight coil of anger. "You have more scars."
Kate didn't know what to say. She wrapped the towel around herself tightly and moved to pass Betty. Betty didn't seem to want to move out of her way. "Kate," she said trying her best for a softer tone but the blonde was just too angry at her father to pull it off.
"Leave me alone Betty," Kate whispered harshly as she noticed some of the red shift workers eyeing them. "It's none of your business."
Betty didn't move and Kate began to wonder if she would have to physically push past her but Betty eventually stood to the side. Kate rushed to get dressed keeping her head down the entire time. When she rushed outside she almost ran past Alice and her friends her invitation to dinner completely forgotten.
"Whoa! Slow down Kate, are the Gerries on your tail?" Alice laughed as Kate gave them all a weak smile.
"Sorry," she mumbled "I thought I was going to miss you."
"I told you we would wait for you," Alice smiled linking arms with her. "After all how else are we going to find out the real story?"
"Real story?" Kate repeated with a frown.
"Yeah, rumour has it that it was you that Betty tried to, well you know," Alice widened her eyes scandalously.
"What?" Kate asked alarmed. She tried pulled her arm free roughly.
"Hey, don't worry, none of us believed you would be into that sort of thing," Alice tried to sooth her but Kate could barely hear her with the blood rushing through her ears. "I mean singing and cavorting with niggers is one thing but what Betty is doing? That's foul on a whole other level. Come on you can tell us at dinner."
Kate let Alice and her friends drag her to a small cafe in town. She felt sick the entire tram ride and the conversations that the woman were having didn't help any. They were like screeching harpies tearing apart anyone that came to mind. They viciously attack Mrs Corbett who had gained a lot of weight recently and they went after poor Vera and her facial scars. They called her a deformed slut and giggled in wonder at how she ever got the secretary job but their favourite topic that they kept circling back to was Betty.
They ridiculed and mocked everything from Betty's beauty spot, to her getting chosen to be the Bomb Girl poster model and of course her deviance. Their taunts were cruel and hurtful, so much so that Kate could feel the hot sting of tears behind her eyes as she strangled her napkin. Their shrill laughter was the worst. It grated Kate's insides until she couldn't stand it anymore and stood up.
What Betty felt for other women was inexcusable. It disgusted Kate to her core but Betty was still the woman that had helped a poor preachers daughter find her way in a big city. She was still the woman that had stood up to the bullying and harassing of the factory men for all of the woman. She was the one that had risked her life to help Vera and led the blue shift to making Victory Munitions millionth bomb. She was a hero and didn't deserve to have such mean things said about her.
Kate wanted to say all of that. She wanted to scream at the girls and tell them how Betty, as broken and wrong as her predilections were, was still worth ten of them. But fear made her tongue thick and she couldn't say anything because if she did, if she defended Betty then they might think that Kate was the same way. There had already been rumours going around that Betty had tried to get with her but those had died down, if Kate spoke up those rumours might resurface and the thought of all those people think that she was that way? She couldn't speak up. The only thing that Kate could do was tremble and try to hold back her tears. She shook her head furiously and ran away from the table and out of the cafe. She didn't even stop to pay, let them call her bad names.
Kate ran back to the changing rooms thinking maybe she had missed Gladys. They were supposed to go window shopping after work but Gladys had needed to talk to Betty and told Kate to wait for her outside. That was fifteen minutes ago and she was desperately impatient.
"I've heard some interesting rumours about the famous Betty the Bomb Girl."
Kate drew up short hiding at the edge of the door at the sound of the voice. She placed one hand on the frame and peered around the edge to see the back of a red shift worker standing in front of Betty. Betty was just out of the shower and wrapped in a towel with her hair slicked back looking at the red worker warily.
"Do I know you?" Betty asked gruffly.
"Not yet but you will," the other woman laughed. She was standing far too close to Betty for Kate's liking. Why wasn't Betty pushing her away? Betty never let anyone get close.
"Listen lady-" Betty's familiar sharp tone rang out only to be cut off by the other woman pressing her against the wall. The open cupboards filled with the red shift workers things rattled and hid Kate's gasp as she watched the other woman whisper intimately into Betty's ear.
Betty looked confused at first but she wasn't fighting like Kate expected her too. She watched as Betty's grip on her towel tightened until her knuckles went white. Push her away Betty! Kate thought but was too horrified to speak.
"Come to this address tonight," the red shift worker said pulling back and tucking a piece of paper into Betty's towel. "And I'll show the proper place to kiss."
"I know where to kiss," Betty said some of her old spirit returning to her voice but it was obvious she was a bit shaken by the encounter.
"Do you really?" The other woman laughed and Kate's eyes nearly fell out of her skull as the other woman palmed the junction between Betty's thighs through her towel. How dare she!
Betty jerked smacking her head off the wall as the other woman walked away laughing. She looked so smug Kate wanted to punch her in the nose. She drew closer and Kate realised that she was in danger of being caught. Without stopping to think she took off down the hall all thoughts of finding Gladys totally forgotten.
"You're not actually going?" Kate said accusingly as she hovering in Betty's doorway later that night. She had been on her way back to her room when she noticed Betty's door open. Out of habit she had looked in and she was surprised to find Betty in her good dress, make-up on and attempting to do her hair.
"What?" Betty asked through a mouthful of hairpins. She was absolutely hopeless when it came to hairstyles. It had always been up to Kate make Betty's hair look fancy as Betty could just about pin it up to be neat.
"I saw you today with that red-shift worker," Kate hissed looking around the hall anxious not to be overheard. "You aren't really going to go to that address are you?"
Betty's face looked guilty for a fraction of a second before her chin tilted up and her jaw tensed. "Why shouldn't I?" She asked defiantly turning back towards the mirror.
"You know that she's a-a, one of you," Kate stumbled her face heating. "If you go there she might want to-and that's a sin!"
Betty stiffened "well, I'm already being punished-I might as well do the sinning!"
"Keep your voice down!" Kate snapped looking around the hall again. It would be so much easier if Kate could go in and shut the door but she didn't want people to see her enter or leave Betty's room. "Maybe I over reacted to your advance, maybe you were confused, you said you didn't mean it. Don't go Betty," Kate begged.
"Except I did mean it," Betty said finishing with her hair and turning back to Kate. Her head was tilted down and she looked up at Kate through her lashes. She looked so sad. "And I'm not confused, I just don't like it anymore than you do."
"Then just don't be like that!" Kate begged exasperated. "Why can't you just be normal so things can go back to the way they were?" Because Kate had lost her mother, her father, her brothers and her best friend and she so lonely and tired of losing people.
"You think I don't want to go back?" Betty shook her head her eyes tinged pink "back to a time when you could look at me without disgust? It's always going to be between us Kate. I could pretend but you can't un-know and you'd still look at me that way."
"Betty," Kate pleaded with her to find the solution, to solve the problem like she usually did.
Betty shrugged and picked up her purse. Kate grabbed her as she left, "don't go. If you go, you can't turn back, you really will become a deviant," she warned.
Betty sneered at her jerking her arm away. "You've damned me already."
Kate recoiled from the venom in Betty's tone. She felt her own anger rising at Betty's stubborn attitude. "You're being disgusting Betty! Betty! Betty!" Kate called after her but Betty just ignored her and left without a backwards glance.
Kate tossed and turned back and forth on her bed that night. There was a tight knot of anger in her stomach that constantly twanged or flinched when she tried to relax and go to sleep. The thought of Betty actually going through with that woman's offer revolted her. When she had decided to stay part of her had hoped Betty would get better but to go to that woman, be with her in that unnatural way-she just couldn't sleep thinking about it.
How could Betty betray her like this? Kate knew that Betty had unnatural desires but she didn't think Betty would actually give into them. She lay on her bed among the rumpled sheets but couldn't lie still for long. The frame creaked and groaned every time she moved which just added to her annoyance. She growled agitated before finally giving up and pacing her small room.
It was one thing to know Betty was a deviant but seeing it was quite another. She didn't think she would be this mad though. She was going to give Betty a piece of her mind when the other woman got done with her sinning. She was going to march right in there and scream the evil out of her if she had too. Betty was better than this, she was so strong, the strongest person Kate had ever known. Kate just knew if Betty tried, if she fought with even a fraction of the strength that she showed everyday in the factory, that she could do it. Get rid of her demon and be normal.
The floorboards in the hall creaked causing Kate to turn violently towards the closed door of her bedroom. There was a soft shuffling sound right across from her room that could only be the sound of Betty trying to sneak in.
Kate's eyes narrowed as she flung her door open wide and marched across the hall. She didn't take care about the noise or to even lock her room like usual. She couldn't care less if all the women in the boarding house heard her yell at Betty. The other woman deserved it for what she had done.
Betty never locked her door. Even now when the whole house hated her for what she was, Betty still didn't lock the door. She still trusted them that much. Kate threw open Betty's door and slammed it behind her because there was no way Kate was letting her escape. Betty needed to be set straight, she just couldn't pretend what she was doing was okay-that it was-
Kate was ready to launch into an angry sermon that would have made her father proud, until she caught sight of Betty. The normally strong and confident, brazen Kate used to think with adoration, woman was sitting on the side of her bed her head bowed and her entire body slumped like she was a tortoise trying to hide in its shell.
Betty looked up when the door slammed and it was like she had punched Kate right in the gut. Her blonde curls where in shambles with pins clinging desperately to the escaping stands. The neat simple up do, the only hairstyle Betty could do without Kate's help, was nowhere in sight. But it was Betty's bright blue eyes that swept away any trace of Kate's rage.
It was obvious by the puffy swelling that Betty had been trying not to cry. Betty almost never cried, not even when she might have died after Vera's panic attack almost blew the two of them up as she hit the live bomb casing towards Betty. Betty didn't even cry when she had to get her shoulder bandaged after the bomb casing smashed into her. She just soldiered on and after helping Vera went right back to work. The only time Betty ever cried was that night Kate had ran away after Betty kissed her and the thought of that still twisted Kate's guts uncomfortably.
"What's wrong?" Kate asked her voice taking on the soft tone of before. The tone she had always used on Betty until-until she couldn't anymore without feeling like a harlot.
Betty's chin quivered and Kate could see her entire body violently rejecting the need to sob. "I'm fine," Betty forced out trying to use her usually unflappable gruff tone but it sounded like the biggest lie in the universe to Kate.
"Did she hurt you?" Kate's asked sharply. If that woman had hurt Betty she would lit on her with hell's fury because no one had the right to make Betty look so small. The knot in her stomach twisted with the conflict inside her but only a little because nothing in God's world could convince Kate that Betty deserved to be small. Betty was too good, too wonderful and brave and bright to be small and fragile. No one had the right to hurt her just because she was misguided. After all, the Sheppard left his flock to protect one stray sheep from wolves and Kate would protect Betty from all sorts until she was ready to come back to her -to the flock.
"It wasn't like that..." Betty said but she looked away and couldn't meet Kate's eyes. "She wanted her boyfriend to watch, and I, I just couldn't relax, I didn't..."
"Did he force you?" The Egyptian Pharaoh couldn't stop her from reaching out to Betty anymore than he could stop Mosses from parting the red sea.
Betty softened against her touch because she had never been able to do anything else. Betty could never be hard or mean to Kate. Not even on her first day at the factory when Kate had spilled the amatol and nearly blew the entire factory sky high. Betty would have demanded anyone else be fired and shang-highed but she only yelled a little before telling Kate to get back to work.
"No, he didn't. Might have wanted too but I socked him in the jaw when he tried to stop me leaving," Betty seemed to get a little of her fire back as Kate softly stroked her chin with her thumb.
"So you didn't go through with it?" Kate couldn't hide the happiness in her whisper.
Betty flinched and looked away as much as she could without losing Kate's touch. "I did," Betty seemed to drag the reluctant answer out of herself. She couldn't lie to Kate and Kate couldn't live without knowing. Her grip on Betty's chin tightened just a fraction at the news. "I did," Betty repeated and Kate felt a vicious joy in how ashamed she sounded. "Partly with her, and she was rough and it hurt and...it wasn't...it wasn't..."
"It wasn't good," Kate finished desperately. "It wasn't right, you know that now. You've got it out of your system and this is God's way of telling you that you're wrong. You don't like woman that way because it wasn't good..."
Betty didn't answer but she didn't need to. Kate had always been able to read Betty, she had always been able to understand the things the blonde woman was too shy to say. And Betty wasn't saying it wasn't good, that it wasn't for her, she was saying it wasn't how she wanted her first time with a woman to be. She was maybe even saying that it wasn't-that it wasn't- that it wasn't Kate with her.
Kate's own eyes welled up. There was a sinking feeling in her gut. This hadn't straightened out Betty. She might never be set right. But there was also the heated angry disappointment that someone had hurt her Betty. That they had made her feel bad and even if it was wrong, why did it have to be bad for Betty? Wasn't sinning supposed to be fun? Why couldn't Betty even have that? Did God hate her just as much as Betty thinks he does?
Kate's thumb had slowed its soothing strokes on Betty's chin. She traced the little cleft at the top as she stared at Betty's lips. Her lipstick had been wiped away, Kate didn't want to think about how, and Betty's lower lip was pouting like it had been stung by a bee. Kate just wanted to press it back, push the lip back down until it was its normal size. The thought of it being swollen with kisses from anyone else-any other woman, made her feel sick and angry.
Betty's breath ghosted across her thumb and Kate pulled away with a shiver. It was cold standing in her bare feet in her cotton nightdress. Betty lowered her head again, it was as if Kate's touch had been the only thing keeping her upright. Kate should go, she should leave Betty to let her get some sleep but she had a funny feeling that if she left now Betty would just sit there until their shift started and that would be bad for all of blue squad.
Kate began to softly pick out the pins that had valiantly tried and failed to retain some order to Betty's hair. Betty looked up at her with her big wounded blue eyes but didn't move as Kate's fingers went to work. She set the bundle of pins by Betty's dresser and urged the other woman to stand.
Betty got to her feet but it seemed like it took a lot of effort. Kate turned her and undid the laces at the back of her dress. Betty had maybe one good dress that she usually saved for dances, it was pretty but it wouldn't have looked half as good on anyone else. Kate could never wear it but Betty, Betty really shined up like a brass button in it.
As Kate's hands undid the lower laces she saw a rip at the waist. They could definitely sew it and make it just as good as new, but the thought of how that rip occurred, how frantic someone must have been to get Betty out of the dress-Kate felt her hands clench and she had to stop herself from jerking the dress off Betty's shoulders so she didn't have to look at it anymore.
With a force of will and patience that would have made Job proud of her, Kate slowly and softly pulled the dress off Betty. She sank to her knees so that Betty could step out of the dress and she gasped. Betty was as poor as the rest of them so never had petticoats or even ladies long johns. She made do with her cotton vest and panties like the rest of them so when she stepped out of the dress her legs were bare right up until her panties covered her private place.
Kate's hands fisted the dress as she saw the deep red nail marks on the back of Betty's thighs. There was eight all told, four just above the knee on her left leg and towards the middle of the thigh on the right. Kate felt a strong thump of anger like a resounding drum beat at the thought of someone prying Betty's legs apart rough enough to leave those hateful marks.
Betty quickly turned around to hide them standing awkwardly in her underwear as Kate knelt at her feet. She didn't stay there for long as she saw something that made her shoot to her feet like an ally rocket. Betty didn't flinch as Kate roughly tore aside the neck of her vest to see a livid bite mark on her shoulder that the vest hadn't covered completely.
It was a branding mark set against Betty's pale skin. It seemed to glare at Kate with its sin and depravity on full display. Kate was almost quivering with rage. Someone had bitten Betty like she was a piece of meat. Took her and claimed her like they had the right to do something so-so-Kate couldn't find a strong enough thought.
Betty pulled the vest back to cover the mark as she once again avoided Kate's eyes. Kate's stomach rolled, she didn't know who she should be madder at, the animal that had marked Kate or Kate for letting it happen. The bite mark peaked out mockingly from the edge of the vest and Kate had the irrational urge to skin Betty like a wild Indian would. Just peel the flesh off her shoulder to remove the offending mark.
"Does it hurt?" Kate asked scathingly.
"A little," Betty mumbled.
Kate couldn't bring herself to say good or that's how sin is supposed to feel or something like that because she was more upset at the thought of that mark being there with its primal meaning shoved in her face. She glared at Betty but couldn't sustain it as Betty just took her anger like she deserved it. The blonde was already so miserable that Kate couldn't bring herself to build upon it.
With a deep steadying breath Kate composed herself. Her hands were much gentler when she guided Betty into the bed. She fused with the covers before pulling them around Betty tucking her in like a child. Kate turned away to get the light by the door when Betty grabbed her wrist tightly.
It was instinct that made Kate harshly jerk away more than the thought of Betty touching her. Betty's hand retreated quickly and she gripped her pillow tighter burying half her face in it as she seemed to shrink into herself.
"Sorry," Betty muttered.
Kate tried to get a hold of her heavy breathing. The tight grip had reminded her of her father and the scars on her back burned at the memory. Her hand was still raised from when she jerked away and it looked like she was ready to strike Betty. Kate let her hand fall limply because even at her worst she could never bring herself to hit Betty. She remembered when her father had stuck Betty when he had come to collect her, she could never inflict that pain or be the cause of that again.
Betty didn't explain why she had grabbed her. Her courage had fled at Kate's violent jerk and it was obvious that she was going to let Kate walk out of her room. She looked so small under the covers. Kate turned out the light with a soft click. The only sound in the room was the hiss of the electricity cooling down as the element in the light bulb gave off a dull red glow before fading completely and leaving the room in darkness.
Kate's hand was on the door but she didn't need a light to see Betty on the bed overwhelmed by her own blanket. She bit her lip. Betty had always been there to calm her when she had nightmares and they had shared the tiny bed lots of times in the before. But this was after, after Kate knows what she does, after Betty had tried to-to-with that woman, no, that animal. Kate's gripped the handle so hard she was surprised the knob didn't snap.
"Hold still," Kate whispered as Betty flinched at her touch. She carefully climbed over the blonde until she was behind her. Despite being bigger than Betty she was rarely the one that did the holding. She used to just wrap herself up in Betty's arms safe from the world, her nightmares and her father. She didn't think anything could take on Betty McRae and win.
Now though, as she slipped into the covers and placed her hand on Betty's arm, she wondered how Betty got small enough to need Kate at her back. Betty lay deadly still not moving a muscle until Kate had finally settled herself. The bed was small, made only for one, so they couldn't avoid how close they were pressed against each other.
But Betty, brave and foolish to her last breath, dared to take Kate's hand that had rested on her arm and slide it around her waist until they where hugging. Like they used to do. Betty's hand was trembling and she let go instead of lacing their fingers like they did in the past. Kate couldn't stop herself from grabbing Betty's hand and tightening her grip bringing her closer. The front of her thighs pressed all along the back of Betty's as Betty's behind settled into the natural curve of Kate's lap. Her head bowed until it was in the crook of Betty's neck like Betty's used to rest on hers.
God could see everything and everywhere but Kate imagines he wouldn't mind her comforting an old friend like this. Even Jesus comforted Mary Magdalene. The bite mark on Betty's shoulder was glaring at her in the dark and as angry as she was at it she couldn't stop herself from pressing a kiss to it.
Kate's top lip caught mostly cotton as she kissed the bite before turning into Betty's neck and placing a chaste kiss against the smooth skin there. She could feel the hitch in Betty's breath before the curve of her stomach pushed out against the back of Kate's hand. She buried her face in Betty's neck and held her the whole night.
She would save Betty. Protect her. She couldn't let her burn.