stbethadettes: (big belly)
[personal profile] stbethadettes
The sidecar was uncomfortable at times, especially for long stretches, but now Beth thinks she'd kill to still have the luxury of it.

Now the travel's all on foot.

Hero could be making much better time on this trip without Beth; there's nothing like being enormously pregnant to slow a woman down. But they're stuck together, the two of them, and it's not so bad if you look past the slow pace and aching back and sore feet and tiring so damn easily.

Okay, those all make it hell of a pain sometimes.

But Hero... well, she's really not bad, and Beth can't stop herself from thinking sometimes that she was too smart to have ever become an amazon.

"Hey, do you smoke?"

Date: 2006-07-21 10:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Smoking's shit for you." That, of course, is no kind of answer to Beth's question and it isn't exactly like what's shit for them matters a lot any more. "I haven't smoked in years. Not since..."

Fuck you, Grandpa. I'm glad you're dead. I don't give a damn that they couldn't make me go in and say goodbye to you, you dead fuck. No matter how bad Mommy wanted me to, no matter how angrily Dad insisted. And Yorick, always trying to make me do shit just because it makes them feel better. No way, not a chance.

Beth, can I bum one of your cigarettes? Promise I won't tell Yorick you haven't quit.

Different Beth, though, and definitely a different world. Shrugging off the memory, she eyes this Beth but not suspiciously, just with some curiosity. "Why? Do you?"

Date: 2006-07-21 10:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Shit, mamacita." Shaking her head, Hero lets out a deep breath and stops walking, struggles out of the huge heavy pack on her back. Paramedics don't have to be as strong as firefighters. She remembers watching Joe run around with thirty pounds of shit on his back like it was nothing and that was always so impressive to her. She remembers thinking how glad she was that she didn't have to do that kind of shit for her job, running around with all those axes and hoses on her back. No, she just got to be there waiting in the ambulance in case she was needed, but not for Joe. Never for Joe.

He was too strong and too good and too kind, and he was supposed to live forever but he didn't and her brother did and none of it's fair but no one ever promised that anything would be fair.

"Cigarettes are currency, Beth, didn't you know that? Got a few cartons when we traded in the motorcycle. I was trying to be good, but it isn't like it matters, does it?" Reaching deep into her pack, she pulls out a carton of Winstons. "Not my brand back then, but I guess it's kind of late to be choosy about that, isn't it?" She tears open a corner of the pack and taps one out.

"I can't believe I'm offering cigarettes to a pregnant chick. But I think you'll be okay. My little niece in there's already most of the way developed and this shouldn't hurt her." Of course, standing still for long with an open flame might; she knows she's not bad at listening for strange sounds but one thing she's learned is how easy it is for people to sneak up on a girl or two. Especially when one's the size of a small developing nation and can't move so very fast for very long.

She hands Beth a matchbook -- another good piece of currency -- and takes one for herself and lights the cigarette. "I think if these things had been around in abundance after the shit hit the fan, I'd have hoarded the fuck out of them. Gone into the cigarette business." Her laugh is bitter, though, and tinged with remorse. On the east coast, the amazons ruled it all.

Date: 2006-07-21 11:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"I still can't believe I'm gonna be a goddamn aunt." She smiles despite it all: Yorick was the last man she ever figured to be a dad. Now of course he's just the last man; a little different distinction there.

Okay, so it's a big distinction, and the realization that it could be her family's genes that reestablish males on earth -- along with the boy kid in Kansas -- is just so fucked up. It's so fucked up, in fact, that she smokes nearly all her cigarette way faster than she should. Coughing, she shakes her head. "Just got distracted for a minute thinking about things. About all this shit. I mean, we all have a part to play in this crazy world of ours, right?"

All her life, she's felt insignificant. She's always figured her name was just the last straw in some goddamn cosmic joke; people always think she's full of shit when she introduces herself. No, no obnoxious obscure Shakespearean handles for her niece, not that it's really up to her to decide.

They can surely spare a few moments to sit down, though, instead of having to smoke their cigarettes standing like they're in high school, sneaking out under the bleacher seats in the stadium where no one will ever be able to find them. It's early evening, finally cooling off, and the wind is picking up just a little bit. "I never thought I'd have to learn to tell direction from the goddamn sun rising and setting."

My kingdom for a compass.

There's a moment of silence where little else moves but the leaves on a nearby tree. "Did you really think about growing tobacco?"

Date: 2006-07-22 01:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"It's a great idea." Reaching into a pocket, Hero comes up with a well-loved tattered beat-up map, the kind you used to be able to buy for a couple bucks at the corner gas station. In worn-out pink letters the front proclaims Western United States and she opens it carefully, like it might break into pieces and fly away on the evening's non-existent breeze.

Maps are also currency these days, especially ones like this: on her whole trip across the country, she made note of the routes that she took and what they were like and how many bands of amazons or other reactive so-called protective groups stood in the way of making progress. She'd bypass a few places this time on the way back to Kansas if they could, like that place with the dead chick in Colorado.

Too bad they'd had to barter away the motorcycle, but from the looks of things Beth wasn't gonna fit into it too much longer anyway. Holding the map forward, she shows it to Beth. "We're here, not that far from Las Vegas." It'd be a couple days on horseback, a week or more on foot. "We can't cut straight across northern Arizona and New Mexico 'cause the goddamn Grand Canyon's in the way. So our best bet's to head north toward Salt Lake and pick up the old Spanish Trail they used to take in covered wagons. Also, there's trains there if we can get you on one without people noticing, but I can't make any guarantees about that." It was hard enough for her by herself jumping around like some goddamn twin of Amp's, but Beth can't do that.

And she certainly won't be able to do it once the baby's born.

Shit, shit, shit, and shit some more, just for the hell of it. She points to the map again. "Then, to avoid more mountains, we double back down into New Mexico and cross over just a little bit of Colorado till we get to Kansas, and fuck me for saying this but I'm starting to feel like goddamn Lewis & Clark. How about you?" With a laugh, she puts out the cigarette. "And you were a flight attendant. Remember the days when you could get from coast to coast in six hours? Who ever thought that being squashed into economy class would seem like the world's biggest fucking luxury?"

With a sigh, she folds the map again. "We aren't gonna make it to Kansas before the baby decides to make an appearance, I can tell you that." It's a good thing that a hefty part of the barter for the motorcycle included medical supplies. Hero's no fool; she knows exactly what they're going to need. If only they had a fully stocked ambulance.

Date: 2006-07-22 03:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
She gives Beth a considered narrow-eyed glance. "It's kind of up to you, Santa Madre. I'm all for the workout, but you might not be. It's a long fucking walk. Now, if we can get rides part of the way, that'll make things easier, but if we can't... I'm thinking three, four, five months. Maybe even six if we have to walk the whole thing."

Shit. Even Lewis and Clark had canoes and horses. At the very least they'll need a baby backpack or something. "Time to break into the closest Toys R Us," she says underneath her breath. "Get one of those jogging strollers, maybe." Yeah, she can just see the three of them crossing the continental divide, a stroller with a happy-face mobile attached to it.

You fucking dog, Yorick.

For all her bitching, though, she misses him.

You ever dream about them, Beth? About the men you lost, I mean? That's a question for another time, she decides.

Standing again, she shoulders her pack: it's heavy but it's got all their shit in it; she's not gonna make a pregnant chick carry anything but the lightest stuff. Her sleeping bag, her water, her little other backpack: that's about all she's willing to let Beth take on right now. "We'll get there, mamacita. You and me and little Beth. I'll get us there. Come on." She reaches out to help Beth stand; there's still enough light so that they can scout out a nice safe place to spend the night.

The possibilities are endless, as far as patches of ground and caves and abandoned buildings go.

Date: 2006-07-22 04:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Yeah, mama?" Scouting out things in the distance, she thinks she sees a little building on the horizon but they'll be lucky if it's not already occupied. Still, they can get there before dark and figure it out from there.

"What is it?"

Date: 2006-07-22 05:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's been a long long time since anyone thanked her for anything, and she's not quite sure what to make of it. This is her brother's baby Beth's carrying, and family... well, it's the only thing she really has going for her any more. Just her, Mom, and Yorick... but now there's going to be a baby girl and what's she supposed to do, hand her over to the amazons? No fucking way.

"Yeah, let's." She points off to the east, where the sky is darkening. "I saw a building this way. Can't tell from this distance if there's anyone in it or not, but we can find out. Who knows. If we're lucky, it'll be abandoned and we won't have to worry about snakes and wild dogs for a night. Wouldn't that be a luxury?"

As they start walking, Hero pauses and turns to Beth.

"And... you're welcome."

Date: 2006-07-22 04:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Yorick? He's more of an escape artist." It's a strange question, but not as strange as some might be. "Just one."

How to surprise the fuck out of your sister. No, not that one.

"It's gross and kind of retarded, though. You really want to know?" She has used it, after all, in the past couple or three years.

Date: 2006-07-22 08:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Despite herself, Hero guffaws. "It's not even really a trick, it's more of a technique. You learn how to throw shit up that you swallowed, so you can use it. For instance, a lock pick: you barf it back up and pick the lock with it by holding it between your teeth, if you're handcuffed. Shit like that. I never got very good at the actual lock picking -- it takes me fucking forever -- but it works."

The building in the distance, now that they're closer, makes her pause for a second. Figures it'd be what looks like another goddamn church. Hopefully, none of those Swiss Guard bitches will be at this one. She'll scout it out first so no one gets to chloroform the Santa Madre again.

That just can't be good for the baby.

Date: 2006-07-22 10:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"I'll scout it out for us first. Wouldn't want to see those goddamn chicks in armor again... we should've gotten some clearance letter from the leggiest guy in the Rockettes back there. No need to gas this one, girls, we've already done it. No immaculate conception here. Something like that." Like there's more than one head nun going around stalking pregnant chicks? She sure hopes not.

As they near the building, though, she's pretty sure the place is abandoned. When she got to Beth's church back in Cooksfield, she knew the place was lived in. Comes a time when a person can just tell that about a place; it had that cared-for look about it. This place definitely doesn't, and it's been looted but not recently.

Hero's not sure if it's safer for her to bring Beth inside or if it's better for the chick-carrying-a-chick to wait outside. "You want me to go in first and make sure it's empty?" From the lack of sounds in the night air, though, she's pretty sure it is. And this time she won't be wandering around introducing herself out loud.

Date: 2006-07-23 12:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"You got it, sister." After all the shit that Sister Ober put them through, at least she gave Hero back her gun; it's drawn now as they approach the door. It's still light enough so they can make out what things are like inside the church, but just barely.

Good thing, too, because the place is a wreck. Pews are destroyed, pages from hymnals scattered all over the place, stained glass windows riddled with bullet and arrow holes. "Holy fuck. I bet it was the local badass amazons." She's got one arm out in front of Beth, protective, like there's something that arm can provide that the gun can't.

Aside from the creaking of their feet on the shit on the floor, though, there's no other disturbance, no other sounds. It's a small church and the tour of it doesn't take too long and, as a bonus, there's a balcony or whatever they call a balcony in a church, and it has a back staircase. That might actually prove to be a smart place to sleep for the night because if anyone comes in, they won't be seen.

With a nod, Hero turns to Beth. "Think this'll do?" She hopes like fuck Beth doesn't go into early labor. After the story she wove, all the nuns and Swiss Guard cunts in the world would have something to laugh about with this kid being born in a church... if they ever found out.

Date: 2006-07-23 12:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"I like the balcony up there for it. Here, hand me your sleeping bag." There's no arguing about it, either: the less Mamacita has to go up and down the stairs, the better, probably.

Upstairs, there's less destruction and a lot more dust, but this ain't Auntie Hero's Maid Service. Instead of cleaning up she just kind of sets down the sleeping bags not too far from the stairs leading out into the back part of the church where there's a little makeshift kitchen (no running water) and a bathroom where the toilet looks like it still flushes, and what might be a study for whoever would have been preaching that day. It's a simple enough place and they should be safe here overnight.

No one's been following them, she's pretty sure about that. Even back at the other church she knew the nun and other chicks were there. After years on the road, she's pretty good at that kind of thing most days.

Most nights, too. As she spreads out the sleeping bags and unpacks a little pillow for Beth to use, she digs around for supplies. "Beth. You want cold baked beans with or without ham tonight?"

Date: 2006-07-23 04:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"With ham, then. Glad I'm not a fucking vegetarian. Even if I had been, I wouldn't be now. You ever do the Spaghetti-os thing when you were a kid? Mom used to make them for me and Yorick as a treat."

She sets to opening the can and pulls the two spoons out of her pack. Hers is marked with a piece of blue tape so in case they don't get to wash them -- a more frequent occurrence than is either desirable or sanitary -- she at least gets her own germs back and doesn't pass them along to Beth.

"Strange fucking world where can openers and cigarettes are the best currency, isn't it." She hands the can to Beth. "You first. Eat for two." If they ration things carefully, they won't have to steal or barter for more food for a good month or so.

This isn't much of a meal, but she remembers starving for the whole week before the amazons found her. She never wants to be that fucking hungry again as long as she lives.

Date: 2006-07-23 06:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Here." She trades the can of beans for a precious kid-sized box of apple juice; it's not enough to keep anyone from being thirsty but the pregnant chick gets first dibs on it. "It's hot work walking all this way, and we don't want my niece getting fluid-deprived." Glancing into the can of beans, she's glad to see that Beth actually ate more than half this time. They'd had it out the other day, about how eating more was the responsible thing for her to do. Nag, nag, nag, Hero had told her, like I'm your mama or something. At least they'd both laughed about it afterward. For Christ's sake, she's gone days without food, but she's not the one growing the next generation human.

She's also really not that much into self-sacrifice. It's just sensible. After the kid's born, Beth'll still need more. She'll still be feeding the baby, just in a different way.

Lying back after eating her share, she thinks of her father for a moment, about his deal with Shakespeare, about how she's always resented the name he gave her. Then again, the way things have shaped up, it doesn't really matter what anyone's named. They're all just a world full of girls: some smart, some stupid. And some of the smart ones turn stupid, and some of the stupid ones get their heads out of their asses and turn smart again.

So you walk softly and look sweetly and say nothing,
I am yours for the walk; and especially when I walk away.

She'd never once been her father's Hero. Not submissive, not compliant. Not since she was old enough to fight back, anyhow. The thing she's come to admire most about Beth is her independence. She accepts help, but she never asks for it.

It's pretty goddamn admirable. Yorick picked really well.

Date: 2006-07-23 07:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
With more of a snort than a laugh she takes that little box of juice and finishes it; it's a real treat even when it's warm. "I don't know about that. Yorick always did have cooties." At least when they were little and played together, but she was the big sister. It was easy to boss him around.

It's strange, she thinks, that people grow up when they stay children in our minds. For her, Yorick will always be the snivelling little guy who cried in the field when she showed him the statue of Queen Victoria. She understands now that he was too young to look up into that hooded face with anything but fear. For her, the field and the dandelions and the lone statue were comfort and solace; for him, they were menacing frightful things.

He was just a little squirt.

It's been way too fucking long since she prayed, but seeing as how they're in a church and all, she figures it won't hurt much if she offers up just a few little thoughts now, the sweet taste of apple juice lingering on her tongue: Lord, or whoever -- I mean, if all the men died, are you dead too? does it matter? -- shit, I've forgotten how to pray and I don't know the right words, but I figure if you're listening, you can still hear me. I only have two favors to ask right now. First, let this baby be okay. I'm trying real hard to take good care of her and her mama. And second, please let me be a better aunt to this kid than I was a sister to my brother.

There might be other pleas later on, like let me deliver Amp's shit safely to the twins in Kansas or forgive me for killing the people I killed although she really doesn't expect forgiveness -- divine or other -- for that.

But still, a girl can dream. She sneaks a last glance at Beth before closing her eyes. "I think we're safe in here tonight. Don't really feel like we need to stand watch unless you think we do."

Date: 2006-07-24 10:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
In her dream -- one of those intense, memorable ones just at the edges of either falling deep asleep or waking suddenly -- she's on horseback again, riding through a meadow, wind in her hair. It's a liberating, freeing feeling and there's no heavy pack on her back, no saddle on the horse, no shoes on her feet. It's pure and elemental and raw and beautiful, the freest she's felt since that day the world went to shit. There's no plague here, no death, no worries. Just a meadow filled with dandelions, and as they near a stone statue, she brings the horse to a halt and slips off his back. The grass and flowers tickle her feet as she gazes up into the statue's hidden face.

[Hello, Hero. It's been a long time.]

Hello, Queen Victoria. I brought you some apple juice.

[Thank you, Hero. You're a smart girl. You know how to gain a Queen's trust.]

She curtsies.

[What else have you brought for me today?]

This, bitch.
She watches herself, horrified, as a longbow and arrow appear in her hands; she shoots the arrow into the statue's chest. The statue collapses; blood spreads.

I... I shot her in the heart. What the fuck am I doing? No, no, not again...

In her dream, the statue changes, blends, turns into a pale red-headed figure.


[You know what you have to do. Destroy that sample you're carrying, kill the woman and her baby. There is to be no next generation. We don't need men and we don't need the promise of men. Don't you remember what those monsters did to you?]

I do... but that time is gone.
Plucking that arrow out of Victoria's chest, she raises it in her right hand. Don't you get it? If there are no boys, there are no girls, and you know what girls are made of. Just as she's about to plunge the arrow again into Victoria's heart, there's a tug on her shoulder. Hero. Hero.

In the darkness of the church, her eyes struggle hard against opening. "...sugar and spice and everything..." Beth's face is inches from hers as she sits quickly. "...nice? Beth? What's the matter?" The first thing she reaches for is that gun she never, ever wants to use again.

Date: 2006-07-24 10:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"No, mamacita, I got it." She's up in a flash anyhow, pulling on her boots, tucking her gun into its holster. "Don't try to pick it up."

It's one of those 30- or 40-pound things she used to admire Joe carrying around all the damn time. Rolling up her sleeping bag quickly -- she sees Beth has hers -- she ties it onto the back of the pack and shoulders the huge heavy motherfucker. As she follows Beth and the narrow beam of the flashlight down the stairs, she wonders just what in the name of Jesus she found in this little shithole of an abandoned church in the middle of the night that makes them need to take all their belongings with them. Snakes, maybe, or a family of baby bear cubs? Some shit like that? But over the past years she's learned to act first and ask questions later, even though there are a million questions just begging to be asked right this goddamn minute.

Date: 2006-07-24 10:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
From the complete lack of fear on Beth's face, she knows it can't be something bad. She saw the anger and distrust and fear written all over Beth's face when the nun and her sidekicks met them at St. Bernadette's, and this is nothing like it.

Still, there are thoughts she can't suppress; she's a smart woman and all those questions present themselves. What could it be? She's not in labor, that much is obvious. So what is it, a late litter of kittens? Rabbits? The proverbial fucking pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

[There's no such thing as hope, Hero, not as long as there's a single male left on the planet. You know what you're going to do when you get to Kansas. That baby boy won't be old enough to fight back: a quick twist of the neck is all it will take. And then you can deal with your brother later.]

Shut. The. Fuck. Up. I've had it with you, Victoria.

As they round the corner, she reaches for Beth's arm. "I trust you." Misguided though her trust might have been in the past, she doesn't waver on giving it now. "Whatever it is, I trust you."


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