Back to Episode 25

Episode 26

I wake up to the kind of sounds a person makes when they’re trying to be quiet but can’t. A whimper, a little cry. Maybe someone having a nightmare. Or—I think of Caliban and his claims that Prospero visits him at night. I have to check on him.

I crawl to the door flap between my cocoon and Caliban’s and push it aside. Just as I do, I recognize a deeper voice also making sounds, murmuring—and—I drop the flap and look away too late.

I can’t unsee Caliban naked on his knees, his hands behind his back—Stephano behind him, his arms across Caliban’s throat, Stephano’s crude expression, his brutish face contorted and animalistic—his violent movements—Caliban’s expression of agony—I cover my eyes.

Caliban mewls in what sounds like pain.

I feel sickened, my heart pounding at what is happening a few feet away.

Stephano is hurting him.

Oh, no—I’ve been having Caliban sedated at night. And his wrists are manacled together.

Is he even able to stop Stephano? What if—

My hands are trembling.

If it’s consensual, then for me to interrupt them would humiliate all three of us, and then if ‘Ban is angry… but what if he can’t fight back, and I’m letting this happen to him?

I hear Stephano groan louder than before, then louder, and Caliban gasps and whimpers at length, and I cringe. I hear whispered sounds, and I pull back the flap just enough to see them separating and Stephano laying back, spent, and Caliban curling up on his side a few feet away. I can see his face. His expression is raw and wounded and—I drop the flap. I can’t look anymore.

It’s over, and I didn’t stop it. And I want to be sick.

I don’t sleep the rest of that night. I play through scenarios in my mind—what I will say, how I will confront them. If Caliban didn’t want this, then I will never forgive myself. And if he did want it—does want it—even then, if it hurts him… I’m terrified that ‘Ban will do anything to be loved, to be touched, no matter what it does to him.

I wait until Stephano wakes and goes into the bathroom, then I crawl into Caliban’s cocoon. He’s half-dressed, curled up in a ball still, staring into nothing.

I move close to him, and he sees me and rolls over, away from me. I ignore the snub. I take his shoulders and gently pull him up into a sitting position so I can speak to him quietly. “I heard noises last night, and when I checked on you…” My stomach crawls and I swallow hard. “I’m sorry, but I saw what Stephano was doing.”

Caliban laughs lightly to cover his discomfort. “And you’re jealous.”

My mouth opens, then closes, then I try again: “That wasn’t where I was going with this, no.” But this answers my question—it was consensual. At least I’m glad for that. My shoulders sag with tension half-relieved.

He shrugs dismissively and speaks in a mocking sing-song. “’Ban-‘Ban Ca-Caliban has a new master.” He looks at me pointedly. “He’s going to protect me. He’s going to help me kill Prospero.”

My eyebrows go up in disbelief. “That man? Kill Prospero? How? Does he have some powers I don’t know about?” My voice is more incredulous than I wanted.

Caliban’s face contorts childishly. “He’s strong.”

“What is he supposed to do against the Shards? Does he have armor for skin? Is he superhuman, that he can break the hold of the Roots?” I’m becoming more insulting by the moment; I wish I could shove the words back in my mouth, but…

He speaks weakly, petulant, defensive without any true belief behind it. “You don’t know what he’s capable of.”

“I saw some of it last night.” I stare him down. “And what I saw…” I draw a breath and force myself to go on with it. I try to make my tone gentle and persuasive. “You can’t let him do that to you. Please, ‘Ban. Don’t let him…”

A hint of a smirk arises on his face, then falls away into bitterness. For an instant, there’s vulnerability in his eyes, confirming everything I fear. “Don’t let him do what? Hurt me? You hurt me. Everyone hurts ‘Ban-‘Ban.”

That’s not fair. “I have done nothing to hurt you. I broke Ferdinand’s heart for you. For you, ‘Ban.”

“But you won’t be with me. Not in the ways that count.”

I scoff. “Sex is what counts to you? If I’m not screwing you, I’m nothing to you?”

“It’s not just sex.” He stares me down. “You’ve never once said that you love me.”

I meet his gaze with a glare and fling the words like weapons: “I love you.”

He winces, closes his eyes, clenches his jaw. He turns his face away. “You just pity me.”

“No,” I say. I do pity him, for so many reasons. But I also love him. I soften and reach out to stroke his face, and he pulls away angrily, still not looking at me. I let my hand rest on his knee.

“I do love you. You are so important to me.” I feel suddenly like I’ll cry. “Do you really want this?” I’m pleading for him to tell me he doesn’t. I’m so afraid that this is the only way he can connect with another human being.

He speaks bitterly, his face still turned away. “Stephano actually wants me. You don’t.”

I’m silenced. That’s true. But it isn’t fair, because I can’t help how I feel, and I lash out. “I don’t see how you can possibly be with that monster. But if that’s what you really want, then I’m going back to Ferdinand. And you’ve no right to tell me I can’t.”

He turns on me then, furious, his expression fixed in a dark, vicious scowl. It scares me.

The door flap opens; it’s Stephano. He looks over the two of us. “Miss me?” he asks with a sneer.

I can’t get out of there fast enough.

Continue to Episode 27

Vote on Top Web Fiction