A/N: My apologies ahead of time for how morbidly depressing this chapter turned out to be. It's certainly one of the darker chapters and it's also longer than usual as I really wanted to just openly inspect the skeletons in Jane's closet before Thanksgiving break. There will be some snippets that are familiar - lifted from earlier chapters when I made allusions to this backstory - so I hope by the end of this chapter everything with Jane's pre-SRU history makes sense.
What I Learned at SRU
Chapter 29 - Smellerbee
- April, 2005 -
"Hello? Anybody home?" Jane surveyed the quiet living room, the lights on. There was no car in the driveway aside from her own, but someone had to be home - the door had been unlocked and lights were still on. With a shrug, she let an exhausted sigh slip from her lips she set her backpack onto the floor by the couch. It had been a long, damp weekend of hiking and camping, but had been rewarding, nonetheless.
"Hell-oh?" she called out, confused, as she unstrapped her hiking boots. Her feet tender and blistered, she carefully paced through the living room, appreciating the squishy, soft carpet, and glanced out through the glass sliding door to the backyard. No one was in sight. "Hm." She frowned, perplexed, and wandered upstairs. She noticed the bathroom door was closed, and it clicked - whoever was home was probably occupied. "Hey," she greeted to them, stretching out her arms and dragging her aching joints to her bedroom at the end of the hall. "I'm home early," she explained to whichever cousin was there. She knew her uncle was still at work on this Sunday afternoon. She received no response but shrugged it off. This family wasn't exactly talkative, but she didn't mind. "Anyway, I'll be in my room," she advised, closing her banged-up door.
Her muscles were sore, her head throbbed, and her clothes were damp with rain and sweat. It had been an exhausting week of camping and she was bushed. Without the will to take a shower at the moment, she opted that she would just change into fresh clothes for the time being. Her room's walls were painted black, posters of a random assortment of movies that didn't really make sense together were splattered haphazardly around the room. Her sheets sat in a bunch on her mattress, a pile of clothes from a week before exactly as she'd left it at the foot of the bed. A composition notebook was flopped onto the corner of her dress, the name "Smellerbee" scribbled and retraced on its front, cartoony sketches of bumblebees buzzing around the cover. She slipped on a pair of roomy sweatpants for lazy Sunday afternoons, appreciating the security that was brought by the familiar sound of the toilet flushing in the distance and creaking footsteps crawling down the hall. That security was shattered at the sound of her bedroom door's handle clicking.
"What the hell, man?" she hissed with irritation, happy her back had been facing the door as her shirt was off. She rushed to slap her fresh T-shirt on. "Would ya knock from now on? I was freakin'-..." When she'd whirled around, her heart had skipped a beat, a wave of fear washing through her veins. He didn't belong here. This was her space. She'd thought she'd gotten rid of him months ago when his family had moved. She gulped hard, a knot in her throat, her insides churning at the sight of his curious face. "N-Nils?" she mumbled. She dunked her words in a bucket of spare courage she had lying around and tossed them out at him. "What are you doing here? Get outta my room!"
"Aw, little Cousin It's all sensitive about their girly parts," Nils taunted. "Simmer down, prick," he grunted, rolling his eyes at her defensive nature. "Your cousins went to the store to get some drinks, I'm waiting for them to get back."
"Why'd they leave you here, then?" Jane demanded, suspicious. "And what are you even doing in town?"
"Just seein' some faces before I graduate. And they told me to come meet them here at three. I showed up in town a bit early so I figured I'd just stop in like old times and make myself at home."
The explanation seemed plausible enough, and Jane's cousins did have a tendency to leave the front door unlocked, and Nils had become like some odd overgrowth into the family. Her cousins would probably leave the door open on purpose for good ol' fucking Nils.
"Fine, whatever," dismissed the red-head with the scowling olive eyes. "Just...piss off and leave me alone, all right?"
"Whatsa matter?" Nils jeered. "Why all the hate, huh? Don't miss your old chum?"
"Out." Jane burst the word out through clenched teeth, her heart-rate climbing just being in his presence. Rage and fear blended together into a most unpleasant combination. She thrust her index finger back to the hall behind her longtime adversary.
He shook his head and sighed. "I try to play nice and you're a complete bitch. Just like old times, am I right?" His smug grin and devilish eyes berated her, and in her wrath she gave in, stomping to him and shoving at his shoulders. She was shocked when her wrists were tightened by his grasp. She pulled to no avail, glaring at his cocky smile. He twisted her arms around, behind her back, and chuckled at her squirming and huffing. "You think you're so tough, but you're just a scrawny little stick." He let go suddenly, and Jane found herself tumbling back, falling flat on her rear. As Jane lamented the pain and frustration, the door closed. The soothing click of the lock on the door - normally a great comfort - was now terrifying. This didn't compute. Nils, in this safe space, was never meant to exist.
"Leave me the fuck alone," Jane growled, her strength deteriorating as she scrambled to her feet.
"We both know that's not what you really want, Jamie," Nils suggested, his eyes sly as he ran his hand across his thin, clean blond hair. "Ya know, I'm actually really glad you showed up when you did. It's like fate." He was slowly pacing toward her, one step forward for each one she took back. "Two star-crossed lovers..." he mused dryly. "...getting a chance to embrace before their farewell."
"Don't you fucking touch me," seethed the girl from the corner of her room. In that moment, every odd glance, every lingering smile, every off-remark, and every insult...all of it came snapping together like a puzzle. He was obsessed with her, wasn't he? That was why he always saved some attention for her, why he always went out of his way to give her trouble, all this time. "I swear to God, Nils, I will rip your fucking balls off," Jane threatened, shaking her head intently at him, relishing the idea.
"Oh-ho!" He clapped his hands together mockingly. "You really know how to cut straight to the chase, don't you? Always have liked that about you Fitzpatricks."
Jane had run out of space to retreat to and he had come within inches of her by now. Her fists were tight, and she launched one into his chest. It sunk into his pectoral with little effect, save for a cough.
"Whoa, throwing punches, are we?" Nils shrugged off her feeble attempt. She swung the other at his face, and he absorbed the blow, as if on purpose. Her arms were trembling now, eyes ablaze, as she shook off her wrist. He sighed and sniffed, wiping a trickle of blood from his nose. "Two for two. Haven't lost your touch, have ya? Scrapper. Livin' up to that Irish name."
You fucking-ho-bag-douche-whore-shithead-creeper, shut up.
Jane motioned to ram her knee into his testicles - that would sure keep him quiet - but her efforts failed as he caught on to her scheme, delivering a solid blow to her stomach with his knuckles. Jane's twisted intestines were now smashed together, and she coughed violently from the force.
"But now it's my turn," Nils explained after the fact, pressing his head against her own, which was bobbed down, her body scrunching up in reaction to the hit. She pushed at his thick frame with her scrawny arms to no avail, pressed at his head with his own despite her dazed state, but the strength simply wasn't there. She was too skinny, he was too large, the wind had just been knocked from her, and she was already drained from her hiking that day. His butch hand clutched itself around her neck before slamming it against the wall. The back of her skull pounded with pain, the world a blur around her, until another body blow overloaded her senses.
She came to moments later, the familiar comfort of her bed calming her petrified soul. Her situation came roaring back into her mind like a train crashing into her fortress of peace. As her senses drifted back, she was horrified at the realization that the very clothes she had just changed into her no longer there. She only wore her underwear.
"Rise and shine, Cousin It." Nils' voice berated from above. She grabbed her head in agony, her sight still blurred from the impact. "Hm. A push-up bra and boxers. Can't say I'm surprised in the slightest."
"...The...The fuck are you...-?" Jane warily urged words out but they tumbled and spilled where she intended to lash.
"I know it's been an excruciating wait, my friend." The girth of Nils' body heaved down on Jane's back and she grunted out in defiance as he continued. "All this time you've been teasing me with the name-calling, the punching..." Nils pinched at her cheek and she tugged away, her skin stretching and snapping back. "...Flaunting those cute freckles of yours and that pretty, pretty hair." He ran his dry, clean hands through her greasy, sweaty mess of orange. Jane thrashed from under his heft, squirming to escape. She may not have possessed the physical force to bring him down, but surely she was too speedy for him.
Just as she could feel herself finding some headway, a clump of her hair was tugged back, yanking her head up, the nerve endings burning her scalp. She cried out in aggrevation and fury, scratching at his arm with her dirty nails. Her face was crushed into her own pillow, eliciting her to switch up her reaction and gasp for breath through her own pillow's fabric rather than attack. The cold, beefy hand against her neck felt like Death's fingers pulling at her spirit. She could hear the sound of Nils' jeans unzipping from behind her, and she anticipated the torture that awaited.
She couldn't run, she couldn't fight, she could only endure, relieved at least that she was on her stomach and didn't have to see his face while he decimated her defenses. Her body involuntarily choked out sounds of disgust and anguish, to which a hand enveloped her lips to quiet her. His nose sniffing at her head felt like rabid wolf, his hand on her neck like claws. Minutes passed, each second a small eternity of agony. The walls of her only place of solitude and safety crumbled, a white flag of surrender all that stood in the aftermath.
She tried to drown out the sensations, but she might as well have been ignoring bullets and grenades from inches away. When the last round had been fired and the battle ended, the weight lifted, the zipper sounded again, a siren in her ears, and she flinched as his hand gently smacked the back of her head.
"You'll always be mine, Little Cousin It."
Jane did not move from her position on the bed for a long, defeated moment. She felt dead, her soul riddled with bullet holes. She simply waited, trembling in a heap on her stomach, until the door closed. She slowly rolled onto her back, her fresh afflictions surging cramps and pain through her body. She woefully glanced at the closed door to confirm that the danger was gone. Only then, upon his exit, did she allow herself to cry out the shadows he had put in.
She decided that she would not feel this way ever again.
And she would get revenge on anyone who did make her feel this way.
- Sunday, November 21st, 2010 -
"So did you finally manage to get that stick out of Toph's ass?" Jane wondered, spinning her straw around in her large cup with the blue arrow. She glanced at Aang's sigh as she tipped her strawberry milkshake up to her face.
"Did you finally manage to get one out of Johnny's?" he retorted, grabbing his fresh veggie wrap in both hands.
"Touche," Jane congratulated, raising her cup with a wink. "'Atta boy, Aang. You just may end up growing a pair one of these days," she teased. "There's hope for you yet." They exchanged humored grins before Aang chewed into his green-tinted wrap and Jane sucked a gulp of pink shake. "Seriously, though," Jane muttered. "She seems better this weekend. Things get cleared up?"
"W-well, I mean...as much as they can be right now, sure," Aang answered with some hesitation.
"What does that mean?" Jane dubiously inquired, taking a moment to study Aang's sheepish expression, his eyes staying stuck to his food.
"Her and Katara made up and everything."
"But...she's still really upset with her parents." He sighed, enjoying another bite of his meal. "Don't get me wrong, I'm not happy with them, myself, but...I think Katara has a good point."
"Yeh," Jane shrugged in compliance, uncomfortable with taking any sides.
"She won't listen to anyone, though," Aang lamented. "Not even me."
"Guess she'll figure it out herself," Jane concluded with some remorse. "The hard way."
Aang nodded his head to the side in admittance, not pleased with the concept.
"When she gets worked up about her folks, though, she gets all...-" Aang huffed, letting the thought trail off.
"Gets all what?" Jane prodded coyly, noticing some embarrassment in Aang's demeanor.
"Difficult," replied Aang. "Very pushy."
"Pushy, huh?" The red-head crossed her arms, amused by the prospect as she quickly pieced things together.
"Y-yea, it's...She gets very...physically demanding."
"Horny, Aang. You can say it."
"..." Aang's brows furrowed in discomfort.
"Sh-she gets...really horny..." The words trickled out reluctantly. "It's weird, and...I-I don't know what to do with it when she acts like that."
Jane slurped more strawberry liquid and wiped her lips with her knuckle, holding back a chuckle at his endearing confusion.
"Oh, so you're not interested?" Jane teased with glee as Aang's face burned up.
"N-no, that's-...Of course I am," Aang assured. "It...It's a little...bit much sometimes."
"Little forceful, is she? Ya don't say..." Jane grinned facetiously.
"It bothers me sometimes, though," explained Aang with some seriousness through his blushing. "She gets so stubborn, and she tries pushing me to do stuff I just...-"
"...You're not comfortable with," finished Jane with some solemnity.
"Yea," huffed Aang.
Jane nodded slowly, and sat her drink down. "Aang, listen," she firmly advised. "I know how that girl is. Don't let her force you to do something you aren't cool with."
"Yea...She's...She's usually good about taking it slow," Aang defended her. "We've...ya know." He popped his shoulders up. "We've made progress, we're a lot more...intimate than we were when we started."
"Don't let her push you, Bud," Jane reiterated, tapping her finger into the table. "Take your time. Trust me, that kinda stuff...It's tricky."
"I don't...I don't know what I'm doing," Aang explained. "This is...It's all new to me. I've never had a girlfriend before Toph."
"Heh." Jane smirked and nodded her head. "Yea, no kidding. I can tell."
A pouty frown poured across Aang's face and Jane laughed.
"Hey, don't be like that, ya baby. It's fine. Everyone has to start somewhere."
"I feel like I'm...not 'man' enough or something."
"Hm." Jane drank the last of her milkshake as she contemplated her reply. "From experience, Aang, lemme tell ya: it's not about how 'manly' or 'womanly' you are, it's about...how you are. Period. Toph doesn't look at it like that. She doesn't think 'is Aang man enough?' Get me?" Aang nodded at her raised, expectant eyebrows. "Toph thinks 'Aang is enough.' Just you, exactly as you are. I know she's told you this."
"She has, she has...When she gets all...pressuring...and stuff, it starts seeming like she wants me to do things I don't want to do yet, or be someone I'm not."
"I hear ya," Jane agreed. "I can see that. But like you said, maybe that's just because she's stressed right now."
"Ya know, Aang..." Jane fidgeted in her seat as he ripped through his vegetables. "I know what it's like."
"Mmph?" His mouth was full.
"The...- " Jane glanced around Appa's, pleased that there wasn't anyone nearby who would likely overhear. "The 'uncomfortable' thing." She was mumbling now, trying to convey some intimacy but unsure how to do it in this public setting.
"What do you mean?" Aang wondered.
"I...-" Jane's olive eyes darted to her right for a moment, her nail running across her left eyebrow. "I've had trouble with...physical stuff, too." Aang's curious eyes were now peppered with concern. "It takes time, but eventually, with the right people, it works. It's all about going at your own pace, Bud."
"I know, I'm trying. You...You and Johnny, you guys have...-" Aang waggled his finger left and right. "-worked through stuff like that?"
Jane nodded and took a deep breath as her mind was washed over the stress of that entire situation.
"I'm the one who needed to go slow," Jane admitted. "So I had to keep getting Johnny to drop the pace here and there. We got there eventually, though."
"Got there," Jane snickered with a wink.
"And things are going well?" Aang checked. Jane's smile faded and gave way to a melancholy sigh as she folded her arms onto the table and sat her chin down.
"They're...hit-and-miss," she groaned.
"Haven't they...been like that for a few weeks now?"
"Uuuughhhh..." She slammed her head into the table.
"Sounds like I'm not the only one who needs to work on some stuff."
Jane quickly popped her head up and ranted off her issue. "I seem important to him until those God damned Freedom Fighters need him. They always come before me. What the shit? Seriously!"
Aang flinched back from her rage, wide-eyed, and Jane recognized her fury and settled it.
"Heh, sorry, Bud. I'm a little...worked up about it."
"Yea, no kidding," picked Aang, stealing her line from earlier. "I can tell."
"You're getting quicker on the draw, Aang." Jane pointed to him with a sneaky grin. "But ya gotta be more original with your comebacks."
- Monday, November 22nd, 2010 -
"The fuck?" snapped Jane, exploding with irritation. "Are you serious, Johnny?" She pounded her fist against her pillow as the slender young man slid into his pants. "Can't it wait? You're just gonna leave right in the middle...-?"
Longshot shook his head, jamming his feet into his working boots. Jane rolled onto her back, tucking the sheets back over herself.
"Fine. Whatever. Obviously, I'm fuckin' chopped liver on a stick over here..."
Longshot gave her a disapproving gaze in the dim light from the desk lamp, but Jane avoided it, opting instead to inspect the time: [1:12am].
"It's an emergency. I have responsibilities," Longshot defended with conviction. "You have to accept that."
"Yea, you just keep on spinnin' it 'round back on me," growled Jane, rotating around so that all he could see was a freckled shoulder and a ball of hair popping out from the covers. "Makes me feel super important. Glad to know my place."
"You insist on having this same argument over and over," Longshot sighed, zipping up his flannel coat. Jane refused to acknowledge his statement as he approached the door, poised to leave. The handle clicked. "Good night," Johnny muttered gently, sticking his hat over his head.
"Night," was the bitter farewell he was given.
- Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 -
"Don't-!..." Smellerbee jabbed her finger out with accusation at Johhny's suspicious glance. "I just-!...Stop looking at me like that, Longshot." He didn't stop. "I told you, I'm not in the mood to discuss it, all right?"
Longshot shrugged and fidgeted his cap, his eyes rolling with a smirk, as if this were merely some embarrassing factoid akin to a light-hearted childhood story.
"It's not funny, Longshot," insisted the grouchy red-head with a heaving sigh. "Can we just...drop it?" Scratching at her itchy, sweaty scalp, she flopped onto his bed and bobbed her head down in exhaustion.
Her mind boiled with anger at how Jet had stirred this history back to her present just the day before.
- Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 -
"Ya just couldn't let it go, could ya?" Smellerbee growled, fists clenched, grime wedged in her fingernails. "Couldn't let it the fuck go!" she roared at Jet, kicking her tire again.
"Oh, like how you forgot your demons, right?" Jet countered. "Sure let that shit go, didn't ya?"
Smellerbee could feel Longshot's inquisitive presence prying at her with that curious raised brow of his, but she dared not look at him.
"That's-!...That was different," Smellerbee hissed, slashing her hand defensively through the air. She marched over to Jet and grabbed his collar, tugging his face within mere inches of hers. She seethed to him in a whisper, "I fucking told you to never bring that shit up. Ever!"
- Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 -
And now here her boyfriend was, expectantly curious about what Jet could've been referring to - what Jet knew that Longshot did not. It crawled around the inside of Smellerbee's skull like a parasitic worm that had never left but had merely hibernated for quite some time. The familiar stinging confusion warped her thoughts as she considered the prospect of confession. Guilt ravaged her brain: How could you tell Katara about this and not your own boyfriend? He knows about most everything else. Why have you hidden this from him? The answer was quite simple. Because he is a man. Because he will hold it over my head, just like Jet did, and never let me forget about it. Because he is just and will want me to accept penance or something. But I just want to leave it alone. I don't want to go back to that. A different person did those things.
Longshot's perplexation was contained as he stood before her and wrapped his hand around hers, his way of assuring that things were all right.
Things are really not all right, Johnny...Fuckin' Jet, why did he have to bring that up? Argh. Guess I asked for it, though. Fucking stupid. What was I thinking?
Smellerbee's mind was dragged out of the mud as Johnny's lips pressed against her forehead. She was in a foul mindset, but her depleted energy welcomed the sensation. He bent his head to the side and enveloped her lips with his own, and she reciprocated. Somehow, in that ever-knowing way, Johnny could tell she wasn't in the mood for anything too intimate, so he sat beside her on his bed. She yawned and stretched, and by the time she was done with this gesture, she was overcome by a methodical and familiar rubbing on her ears. Johnny's slender, strong fingers worked around her ear lobs and up around the entirety of her ears, quickly sending her into a deep state of relaxation. Only Johnny knew of this weakness of hers - no one else had ever cracked this particular code because no one had ever bothered to find it. Before she knew it, her head was against Johnny's skinny shoulder, her face warm and her arms numb. She hummed out a pleased sound and let herself drift into slumber.
- Monday, November 22nd, 2010 -
Jane scratched at her ears, her sleep interrupted for reasons she couldn't identify. She rolled over groggily, trying to decipher the alarm clock on her desk. The blurry red lines eventually formed the time: [4:52am.] Johnny hadn't come back yet. Had he just gone back to his own dorm instead? That would figure. Jane groaned out in dissatisfaction.
"Oh, I-I'm sorry, Jane," squeaked the mousy voice from across the dark room. "Did I wake you?" It was Ginnie, Jane's roommate, at her computer, the laptop glow reflecting off of her glasses.
"Nah, Jin," Jane grunted, rotating back over, unable to find a comfortable position, her shoulders stiff, her stomach empty. "'S cool..."
"Is everything all right?" Jin wondered. "You've been really restless in your sleep."
"GrRrRmMmMmNm," was all Jane found herself able to muster through her pillow, her face half buried in its fabric out of frustration.
"Hee. I'm sorry to hear that," Jin joked, trying to lighten the atmosphere of the dark dorm room. "If you'd like, you could have some sleeping pills or something."
"Mmm," hummed Jane approvingly.
"Haha, all right. No problem." Jin's motions were like a blur in the pale light of the laptop, and as she fiddled with a bottle and poured water in a glass from their bathroom sink, Jane fumbled for her cell phone. She flipped it open, the light blinding her eyes, and closed it quickly thereafter upon the disappointing realization that she had no new messages. Worry overtook her, but she knew if anything had actually come up, she would hear from someone, so she laid her concerns to rest and gladly took the glass of water Jin provided, popping the pair of pills and swallowing.
Jane chugged the water down with ferocity and lamented her own dehydration and hunger before grumbling out a "Thanks," and settling herself back into her sheets.
"Hope you sleep better," Jin offered retreating back to her computer.
Jane and Jin shared this bizarre but comforting relationship in which they rarely interacted but when they did, it was peaceful coexistence. Jin didn't ask questions, and neither did Jane. They both were often away and half the time neither even slept in their own room. It wasn't anything that Jane held onto, but she had grown to appreciate the natural flow and lack of difficulty. With Jin, there was no commitment, no questions, and no worries. She had a feeling this was a mutual feeling. Smellerbee would have preferred this kind of relationship over one where she'd get periodically frustrated with her fussy friends or irritated by their sense of humor, but Jane had grown to rather enjoy the mystery that each day brought with this group of people and the deliberate sense of being belonged - not out of obligation like the Freedom Fighters but out of choice. She chose to spend time with them, to be a part of their 'clan.'
She chose to commit that act, years ago.
Her mind was reminded of that which seemed to be possessing her in her sleep this week, and she opted to attempt sliding back into slumber's embrace with the prospect of better dreams. Better dreams didn't come.
- July, 2005 -
The arid summer afternoon was welcoming to Jane's teenage senses, the scent of dry grass blissful, the gentle occasional breeze soft against her hair, which flowed down her back in a scruffy ponytail. She couldn't have asked for a nicer day to run this errand. She followed her steps from the day prior, traversing the hot fields near her home. In this place, on her own, she enjoyed the company of her only true friend: nature. While most summer afternoons out in the wild had been spent leisurely, this was different. Jane Fitzpatrick had a purpose, a task of dire importance to fulfill. This made her glad.
The consistent, gentle humming sound she approached was relaxing, welcoming.
Come. Come to us, Jane, she could swear they said. We are ready.
She stared at their hefty mass, wrapped around the small tree's branches. Jane grinned a wide smile that rivaled the Cheshire Cat's as she approached. She savored the sweet irony as her biology terms screeched to a halt. Apidae: Bombus. That may have been a species she loved - the Bumble Bee - but these creatures that swarmed before her...they were hybrids. They had no accurate terminology to suit them, no concrete scientific classification. These creatures were a mistake, an unnatural species that had become reality - something she could connect with.
These were Africanized Bees. While in most other situations Jane would lament their unfortunate nickname, on this day, she couldn't contain her pride in the association.
"Hey, there, girls," Jane greeted verbally with a casual wave. "Good to see ya again. How ya been?" She lifted her metal can and directed the spout at the pulsating swarm, flooding the colony with smoke.
Bees could smell fear - pheromones - but Jane was not afraid. And if their senses were dulled by smoke, their channels of communication faded. After she had sufficiently doused them into a stupor, she set down her can and picked up her glass jar. She gently, confidently, extended an arm, scooping up a handful of the insects. Their tiny feet en mass danced across her palm, trickling across her fingers in a river of energy and life. She watched with delight as they scurried and as some took flight, whirling around and away. She slipped her fingers into the jar and let the small platoon crawl off, finding their way onto a tiny branch she'd set inside. With care, she screwed on the jar's top, and was quick to drizzle a helping of smoke inside before leaving. If the insects panicked and released chemicals indicating as such, she might have to worry about the swarm immediately behind giving chase.
Unscathed, Jane merrily began her trek back home, ammunition in hand.
"Your sacrifice will not be forgotten, ladies," Jane promised her private army, admiring their tiny bodies as they wandered around their glass deployment vehicle.
Jane tended her restless new pets with another puff of smoke, her window wide open and a fan blowing to mask the gas as well as the potential noise. She had been lucky to smuggle them in, careful to sneak through the back door while her cousins tossed a football in the front yard. She untied her tail and let the mess of orange fumble across her back. She occupied herself for a while in her bedroom, doing her best to settle her nerves and maintain her resolve. She sat at an old desk, one inherited from her late mother that she had cared for tenderly over the years. Propping open the top drawer, she admired a pewter-hilt that formed the shape of a roaring lioness head, and smirked at the blade that protruded from the other end. It had seen use in the months since she had received it the prior Christmas, a relic passed down from her grandfather on her dad's side. It had been her father's, left behind when he had moved out, only to be unearthed and given to Jane to be put to work for various tasks, the common of which being letter opening. She delighted at the sight of it as it glinted back up at her.
Hello, old friend. What shall it be tonight? Business or pleasure? Maybe a bit of both?
"Hey, 'Cuz!" cried out a distant voice from the stairwell. "You seen my phone anywhere?"
"Nope!" Jane cried back simply.
"Shit...I think the battery might be dead. Well, whatevs. We're finally headin' out to go pick up Dad."
"Yep!" She casually dug into her pocket as she heard the stomping footsteps of her cousins flee the house and fiddled with the device she'd procured - the very phone her cousin had been inquiring about. She sorted through the contact list to the guest of the hour and sent a message to someone who was spending their summer vacation in town - someone she had been avoiding as best she could for months and who had, funny enough, been seeming to avoid her.
[yo man wassup? my bro is gettin pops n then its baseball time u in or wut?]
Jane set the phone down and took a deep breath. She waited, her mind full to burst with adrenaline, the wait agonizing.
She grabbed the phone in a flash, viewing the message with heated anticipation.
[Sounds good. Should I come over?]
With shaky hands, she punched in a response.
[ya totally im up in my room come over]
Jane deleted the messages - sent and received - that had occurred during this exchange and snapped the phone shut, proceeding to sneak off to her cousins' shared bedroom. She cautiously traversed discarded clothes and magazines about sports, porn, and hunting until she reached their bunkbed. She slipped the phone on the floor just under the bed, carefully dropping it atop a stinky t-shirt. She clicked on the television in their room, leaving it at its default station as some sports commentary played. She drowned out whatever the suits were babbling about and closed the door, then did the same to an empty bathroom.
The trap was set. All that she had to do now was wait.
She shut the entrance to her own room so that only a crack was open, and she tactfully hid her jar of bees between her desk and her dresser. She pried open the drawer, retrieved her blade, and contemplated different possibilities as to how this would play out. Before she knew it, the sound of someone entering the house echoed from downstairs. Jane could feel her heart speed up as the steps approached her, climbing the creaky old stairs, one by one.
"Hey, man! I'm here!" Nils' painfully familiar voice called out.
You sure are, you fucking prick.
She waited until the tell-tale groaning of her cousins' bedroom door sounded before she quietly slipped out of her room, holding both hands behind her. She made sure to keep some distance as she approached, a panther on the prowl.
"You in the bathroom or-...?" Nils curious question was stifled when he saw Jane staring at him from the hallway. His hair was slick as usual, and he wore an unbuttoned jacket representing some sports team Jane had never bothered to focus on. He had been wearing it every time she had seen him that summer, which she found to be unwise given the hot weather. Nils had never been one to care much for practicality, though. "Well, well," he said with amusement. "And how are you doing today, Fitz?"
"Fuckin' fantastic," growled Jane, eyes narrowed. "Get the hell over here," she cut to the chase. Nils' brows raised and a smile worked its way up.
"Wow, pushy as ever." He sauntered toward her, and she carefully backtracked, keeping her gaze locked on him. She swerved to the stairwell and drew her knife, pointing it straight out. His hungry, questioning eyes now flashed with shock.
"Get in my room," Jane commanded robotically.
"Whoa, whoa, Cousin It. I didn't know you were that happy to see me..."
"Get. In. My. Room," she repeated with conviction, showing no sign of amusement.
"All right, OK." Shrugging his hands up, Nils did as he was told. "We're playing your game this time, is that it?"
Damn straight we're playing my game, you creep.
Jane followed him in, knife raised all the while.
"You even dressed up all nice for me," Nils observed. "Ya got your hair down, you're showing off those precious little freckles on your shoulders..." Jane noticed her bare shoulders above the black tanktop she was wearing, and was stunned at how he could still be trying to flatter her after all that had transpired. She couldn't tell if he was sarcastic or delusional. In a few minutes, it wouldn't matter either way.
She issued her next command. "Get on the bed."
"Ho, ho, right down to business. So very tact." Nils slung off his light sports jacket, dropping it at the foot of her bed. She was glad that he hadn't noticed the jar on the floor to her right yet, the rushing fan on her desk covering their sound. She took a quick moment to survey the jar's position, and in that moment, Nils took her by surprise, gripping the wrist that contained the knife. She struggled, her heart pounding, as Nils twisted her own arm until it gave out, dropping the blade to the floor. He pushed her away, her back slamming into her dresser, as he bent down to pick up the knife. This unexpected twist was welcomed, though, as she saw it playing to her advantage in the aftermath.
"Didn't your Uncle tell you to never play with knives, Fitz?" taunted Nils, his blue eyes burning with anticipation, just as they had on that day in the spring. It was easy to make herself look afraid with how much she was sweating, how much her mind was flashing back to what he had done to her. But she wasn't truly afraid. Not anymore. She squirmed across her desk's front, inching toward her desk, and Nils grabbed one arm, pinning her with his weight, while her other arm was to weak to stop him from raising her own blade to her face. He jabbed it gently at her cheek and she froze up at its presence. She knew he wouldn't actually harm her. He didn't have the guts and whatever his intentions were, they wouldn't be any fun if she couldn't resist. She had certainly learned that, at least. Her face burned slightly at the scratch Nils had created from the pressure of the tip.
"Gee," he cooed, "I'm so sorry about that, Cousin It, I didn't mean to hurt that little face of yours." A chuckle escaped him as he retracted the knife, delivering a punch to her face. Dazed, she shook off the blow and wiped at her nose with her hand, blood smearing across it. Delightful. He was playing right into what she wanted. Still dizzy, Jane had enough stability to ram her knee into his testicles. He choked and faltered, stumbling back but oddly laughing the entire while. It was unsettling. "'Atta girl," he huffed. "Knew ya had it in ya..." He pointed the knife out casually at her, finding this entire situation entertaining as he rested on her bed's side.
Jane, teeth clenched tight and adrenaline pumping hard, scooped up her glass jar with her damp hand, her own blood sticking to its surface. She tossed it underhanded to Nils, whose face flashed with fear as he dropped the knife to catch it.
"The hell?" he shrieked. "You bitch, I'm fucking allergic to these things!" His arms trembled as he stared, horrified, at the now disturbed insects.
"Oh, I know," Jane assured with a sniff, blood clotting in her nose. "I remember. I did my research, you cock. Anaphylactic shock, Nils. That's what happens to you because of your allergic reaction. Did you know it can be fatal?"
Nils' expression flared, his blue eyes ablaze with indignation and horror.
"Careful, now, Nils. Bees can smell your fear," Jane reminded him.
"Crazy cunt!" Nils roared, chucking the jar at her. She swiftly dodged, bounding out the door as the jar smashed against her dresser and the angry buzzing commenced. Nils' screeched like a banshee as Jane pulled out her bedroom door's key and locked it shut from the outside. That would buy her just enough time, she imagined. She relished the involuntary shouts of agony Nils exerted as he attempted to traverse the bedroom. She flinched when the door rattled, savoring the sounds of his anguished hacking, his senses already too stunted to think to simply unlock the door from the inside. Nils' groaned out incomprehensible insults and demands that went ignored as Jane waited for the ruckus to die down. She opened the bathroom, she turned off the sports programming, all to make sure it was still apparent that she had simply been in her bedroom. At last, she unlocked her own door and entered, stepping inside.
Shards of glass, some stained red, littered the floor, the jar lid at her feet. The delightful, droning hum coming from below filled her with satisfaction. She wiped the blood from her cheek with her sleeve, eyes locked on the discarded jacket at the foot of her bed.
She rustled through her dresser, whipping out a near-empty box of cigarettes from beneath her socks. Her grimy hands, shaking like leaves in the wind, fumbled a cigarette out from the rest. She grasped it tightly in her jittery fingers as she retrieved the lighter from the top of her dresser.
Her trembling thumb desperately flicked at the disposable lighter, again and again, aching for it to ignite. At last, it did, and she quenched her nicotine thirst with a deep inhalation. She puffed out a cloud of smoke and immediately stuffed the small box of cigarettes into her pocket. Restarting the lighter, she smoked for a few moments, eyes mesmerized by the flickering flame in front of her face as she contemplated the situation.
"Fucked with the wrong bitch, Bastard..."
She lifted her thumb and the spark died out. As she puffed on her cigarette, she nonchalantly put on her pair of leather hunting gloves she had tucked in her desk, grabbed her smoking can from her closet and puffed it out at Nils trembling body, settling the bees down. He was covered in hives - she found the cruel irony hilarious - his eyes terrified between puffed patches of skin, his lips swollen.
"And you were worried about my face," Jane teased with malice as she felt around Nils pockets, pleased to see her black and yellow friends still scuttling about his body. Nope, not here. She then approached his nearby jacket and found his phone. She purged its memory banks of any messages pertaining to this interaction and stuffed the phone back where she had found it. Nils whimpered in agony. "Oh, I know," Jane mocked. "It'll be over soon." She slapped him in the face with her gloved hand softly and he winced. "You wanted me so badly? You got me. I've always been your Little Cousin It. When you leave? That little cock-bite that always took all your shit will leave, too." She lectured him over his anguishing moans for help. "I'm not that person anymore, Nils. Thanks for waking me up from that. I really owe you for teaching me how you fucking men work."
She took in a deep inhalation from her cigarette and puffed smoke out into her fan, watching it dissipate out toward the window. Self-defense, she could argue. As she removed her gloves, stuffing them into her dresser, she pieced together the story in her mind.
Nils had shown up, knowing that she was home alone, to try and rape her - which he had before, but she'd been too afraid to tell anyone for her own safety. They would probably buy that. He had attacked her - invaded her room, grabbed her by the wrists, punched her in the face, taken her knife from her own hands and cut her cheek...And she'd tried to threaten him with her jar of bees - collected for research purposes, of course, as she was often inspecting local wildlife - to distract him and escape, but he'd forced it from her and tried throwing it at her, instead. She'd managed to flee, but upon realizing he was incapacitated, she tried to smoke the bees and settle them for his own protection. She'd called 9-1-1 in an attempt to get medical assistance there in time to save him, but they had arrived too late. He was gone before they had even shown up. She was only trying to protect herself and unfortunate events had resulted in his untimely demise. He happened to show up at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong intentions.
Once her place of sanctuary, her bedroom had become her own prison on that day when Nils had defiled that illusion of safety. Now, she had turned it into his prison. This new person that had found her way out from the ashes of the fires of her past...this wasn't Jane Fitzpatrick. Someone tougher, harder. Not as trusting, not as naive and foolish. More cunning and selfish because looking out for herself was the only way to not be used by others. This was someone new.
As Jane toyed with her cell phone, getting ready to make the fated call to the authorities to establish her innocence, she smirked at Nils' fading life with sparking olive eyes.
"When you get to hell, Nils, tell them that 'Smellerbee' sent you."
A/N: As I've said before, part of Jane's inspiration is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and if you've seen that movie, you will recognize some correlation with the character "Nils" in that movie and the similarly named character in this story in terms of some of what role they fill. As for the bee-catching, I did try to do some research and got inspiration from this particular video:
Obviously, Africanized Bees are different, and I really don't know how easily they'd take to Jane's taming, but I try to imply that she has a kind of special connection with bees, so give me some benefit of the doubt on that, please.
Also, a little props to artist Doodle Buggy and her comic about Longshot and Smellerbee and it has influenced certain nuances to how I write their interactions. In particular, I really liked the idea she did with this strip, and it reflects in this chapter.
Lastly, I want to specify that while what I experienced was not the same as what Jane goes through, I am a victim of sexual abuse, and I use the characters of Jane and Aang to explore the difficulties of physical intimacy that I myself have dealt with over recent years.