|Primary Characters:||Cade, Eddie, Joshua|
|Warning:||some strong language, m/m sex referred to|
|Description:||Joshua shows up telling Cade that some new aliens have arrived. This could have a big impact on the Gua invasion. Angelica finds out what happened between Cade and Eddie. The timing is terrible, because she’s got some important news of her own for Cade.|
Trish frowned. This wasn’t like Angelica. Cade’s blonde lover hadn’t been in touch for at least six weeks, and she usually called in every week or so. In fact, there were times when the two women worked together closely.
Not that Trish liked to be relegated to a sort of backseat driver, but as it happened, she and Angelica provided very nice backup for their lovers. In her own humble opinion, they were even better at what they did, but since they weren’t the ones mentioned in the Prophecies, she would just have to grin and bear her own more modest situation.
Angelica called her at 11 p m, just as Trish was thinking about joining Eddie in bed. Her sons were at least quiet, which might mean just about anything. Not that they weren’t in the trailer at all, she’d checked on that. In the past months, she’d become expert at seeing through their little schemes of sneaking out, leaving something bundled up in their bunks to fool their old mother. She was not so easily taken in, however. Now they might simply be asleep, gathering strength for tomorrow’s crazy stunts.
Trish smiled indulgently, thinking that it was amazing how much they took after their new stepfather, and naturally, they were mimicking their mother. On the other hand, her sons might also be quietly hacking into some government agency’s web site. In which case, they’d better own up to the offense fast, or they would all end up in custody.
The sound of the phone ringing made Eddie turn over in his sleep and make funny noises. Trish thought it was best to pick up before any other men in the household started to get ideas.
With a sigh, she wished that she wouldn’t find herself talking to some bimbo offering phone sex. That was another sad likeness between her sons and both their fathers. Except for one thing. Their biological father would be seeking sex with other guys. She didn’t think her sons would go that far.
“Angelica? At last. What have you been up to and where have you been hiding yourself?”
“I’ll tell you when I get there. Our trailer is still there, right?”
“Sure is. I parked it myself last night. And you still have the van?”
“Yes. Everything’s normal. Sort of.”
“Ok. When can we expect you? Have you been in touch with Cade, by the way?”
“No. I haven’t. What about you?”
“I think he left a message for Eddie the other day, but I’m not sure. Nothing major.”
“I see. Well, I’ll probably be here tomorrow morning. Early. I’ll be driving all night.”
“Are you sure that’s wise?”
“Why wouldn’t it be?”
Angelica snapped at her friend, before realizing that Trish had done nothing to deserve that. The silence at the other end of the line communicated Trish’s surprise at being talked to that way.
“I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to -“
“I’ll be ok. See you tomorrow.”
“Yes. Drive carefully, ok?”
“Oh, I will. Don’t worry about it.”
As Trish hung up she wondered if there had been some kind of falling out between Cade and Angelica and if so, what had brought it on. But it was impossible to imagine those two lovebirds breaking up. They were just like two young newlyweds, hand in hand, vacant expressions on their faces. It was sweet.
Once Trish had fancied herself that much in love. In fact, briefly, when she and her husband decided on the separation, well, strictly speaking before that, she’d thought she felt that way about the young pizza guy. Oh, well. You didn’t necessarily grow wiser as you grew older. It had been her wakeup call, when the guy turned out to be sleeping with two other bored and frustrated housewives on the same street.
Speculation was useless, as she well knew, and contenting herself with that, Trish made room for herself beside Eddie, by ruthlessly pushing him towards the wall. He grunted, but didn’t wake up. Resting her head on his shoulder, she dozed off.
The sound of a car pulling up outside woke her up. Eddie, as usual, snored on. Trish wondered if the boys were up already, but thought not. Usually, you could hear them as soon as they started moving about.
Some fumbling on the bedside shelf produced her wrist watch, and miraculously it seemed to be running still. It was a genuine old-fashioned watch, not one of those crappy battery-charged ones. Her husband had given it to her when they were newlyweds. A payoff, she realized now.
He had showered her with expensive presents at the beginning of their marriage, most likely in the hope that she wouldn’t ask too many questions about his late nights at work. To begin with, she’d wanted to get rid of everything he’d given her, but in the end she had decided that those gifts were for her, and only her husband’s most feminine lovers might find a use for them.
It was warm outside, so she didn’t bother putting anything on. The t-shirt and shorts she slept in would do. As long as the car out there really did belong to Angelica, or Cade. If strangers were coming, she wouldn’t have to worry about her outfit anyway. They’d be wielding guns and would certainly not be in a mood to stare at her state of undress.
In any case, her idle thoughts were unnecessary. The van did belong to Angelica, and though she was wearing jeans with her t-shirt, her hair seemed to be in about the same disarray as Trish’s.
“Hello. You look like you could use some coffee.”
“No, thanks. I’d like some orange juice if there’s any available.”
Trish cast about in her mind to try and recall if she’d remembered to send Eddie into town for supplies lately. Otherwise, she knew her sons would have gulped down the last of the orange juice days ago.
“I hope so. I’ll check.”
“Never mind. I have some stale stuff in the back of the van. It’s not important. I’m not really in the mood for breakfast anyway.”
“I’m not sure if it’s wrong, but something’s come up. Something I’d like to discuss with you.”
“Ok. Me? Or me and Eddie?”
“You. We could go into my trailer. Our trailer.”
“Ok. Right now?”
“If you’re not too tired.”
“You look as if you could use some sleep, but I’m ok. If you want to talk, let’s talk.”
“I’ll get some sleep later. This is really important. An unforeseen complication.”
Angelica unlocked her trailer – Cade’s and her trailer – and stepped inside. The air was stale, just as she had expected, and she opened the windows.
“Why don’t we sit down?”
“This sounds serious.”
Trish didn’t like the look in Angelica’s eyes. This was bad news, she could feel it in her bones.
” In a way it is. But in another way, it’s nothing. Not in the grand scheme of things.”
“Ok, I’m listening.”
“Trish, I’ve screwed up. Wait. Don’t worry about it. It’s not the cause that’s at stake. Just something a lot less important. Cade’s and my relationship.”
“You cheated on him?”
“Ok. Maybe I’d better shut up and just listen.”
Angelica hesitated again. She had a pretty good idea of what Trish was going to tell her, and somehow she wanted to hear it. But she couldn’t allow herself to be weak. Cade’s work went beyond any other minor concerns. If she weakened him, she could very well end up causing the extermination of mankind. But she couldn’t bear this secret alone anymore. Another woman’s input would be welcome.
“Trish, I’m pregnant.”
The look on her friend’s face told Angelica that Trish really didn’t see the implications. That smile was reassuring, but Angelica knew it wasn’t as easy as that.
“But that’s great news, isn’t it? I know Cade’s always wanted a family.”
“Yes. But he’s not just Cade anymore, as you well know. He’s the Twice Blessed Man, with all the responsibilities that entails.”
“And there’s nothing in the Prophecies about a wife or lover, is there?”
“There is something about the devoted companion. I don’t remember the exact words.”
“Yes, I know that. But that must mean Eddie. The trusted sidekick. That kind of thing. Not a lover.”
Something about Trish’s face set off the alarms inside Angelica’s mind. What was wrong now? Something she’d said just now. Lover. Eddie. Cade. No. Impossible.
“What? What did I say?”
And now that evasive look. Something was definitely not right. Surely she couldn’t mean that –
“Trish. If you know something, you have to tell me. Don’t you think I deserve to know?”
Trish pondered her friend’s request, no plea, in silence. Yes, she needed to know. But the problem was, that while Eddie hadn’t explicitly asked her to keep quiet about what he’d confided in her, she knew that was understood.
On the other hand, this was another woman, who was sexually involved with one of the men in question. Trish knew she’d never want to be kept in the dark about any such dark secrets. Knowledge was always better. No matter how much the truth hurt at first.
“Yes. You deserve to know. But you have to realize the position I’m in. Eddie told me this in confidence. He didn’t ask me not to tell you, since we didn’t know you existed at the time. But it was pretty much understood that this was between us. And I know that most likely he wouldn’t have confided this in me if he hadn’t been in some emotional distress. He was worried about Cade. As you know, he had reason to. It was just sheer luck that made him run into you.”
“I know. But I have to know. Please. Was there something between Cade and Eddie when you first met Eddie?”
Again, Trish hesitated. How could she possibly explain this? She was older than Angelica, and despite Angelica’s life as a government operative, she had led a sheltered life emotionally. At least since she suffered the heartbreak of losing her family as a vulnerable adolescent.
Trish also knew that her own life in California, married to a gay man, had prepared her for all kinds of lifestyles and pairings that Angelica might not be ready for. But she had to say something to her desperate friend who was sitting here agonizing over not one but two big complications in her personal life.
“Ok. If you mean a relationship, no. Definitely not. You know as well as I do, that Cade isn’t gay, and neither is Eddie.”
“I can understand that you’re asking me that now. Now that everything is being placed in doubt. But honestly, do you really think Cade’s gay?”
“I don’t know anymore. You haven’t told me anything.”
“But Cade told you about his past, right?”
“Yes. Not right away, but eventually. What about it? That’s not what this is about, is it? I thought this was something to do with Eddie.”
“It is. But you have to understand that whatever happened, it’s got nothing to do with being gay. Or betraying you. This was before Cade met you and before Eddie and I met. At least in person.”
The impatient look on Angelica’s face told Trish that she’d better get on with her story.
“On this one occasion, Eddie and Cade got drunk, and Eddie – well, you know Eddie – he wanted to show Cade his extensive collection of porn, which by the way, I’ve confiscated and deleted. Mostly. A few of those movies are actually quite – Never mind.”
“I’m still waiting for an explanation.”
Trish sighed. Yes. The explanation. How would she phrase that?
“I don’t understand how it happened, but at the end of that night, they had a brief sexual encounter.”
“Oh? And what exactly does that mean?”
“You must know about how guys can get all excited and carried away when they watch porn together?”
“Charming. Yes, unfortunately, I do know. I grew up in an orphanage, and the majority of the inmates were boys. Creeps.”
“Inmates”? Obviously, Angelica still had a deep, warm feeling for her old orphanage.
“Yes. And that’s probably what happened. Except – I think Cade’s past had a lot to do with it. He was emotionally distraught. I suppose you might say it was a kind of breakdown.”
“So you’re saying that Eddie took advantage of him? How far did this go, anyway?”
“No. Eddie didn’t take advantage of him. I mean, it was kind of a mutual thing. But the point is, it didn’t mean anything.”
“To whom? To them? Or you? Or to me?”
“Angelica, try to understand.”
“I am trying. Really hard. But it seems to me that I have my answer already. Either I have an abortion or I just disappear. If I vanish out of Cade’s life, I won’t have to deal with – this. And he won’t have to know about the baby. Because you’re not going to tell him, are you? If I could survive as an orphan, I know I can get by as a single mom.”
“Angelica. Listen to me. I won’t tell Cade anything about this. That’s understood. But don’t do anything rash. Please. You know how much Cade loves you, don’t you?”
By now, Angelica had tears in her eyes. She looked away from her friend, and Trish knew the blonde girl well enough not to try and comfort her by hugging her or by touching her at all. Words would have to do. In her own way, Angelica seemed to be as vulnerable and traumatized as Cade was.
“Do I? Do I? How can I be sure of anything anymore? How did you deal with this thing that happened between them?”
“Well, to begin with, I know Eddie loves me. Cade’s just a very close friend of his. In fact, I even think you could go so far as to say that they’re a bit like brothers.”
The bitter sound that Angelica made, told Trish that her brother metaphor hadn’t been a good choice.
“Secondly, I also know that Eddie’s not gay.”
“How very nice for you. But I don’t know anything anymore. Those Prophecies might refer to the trusted sidekick and the devoted lover, all in one person.”
“No. You’re wrong. I think those lines refer to you.”
“And is there anything that can be twisted and stretched into covering a growing family of Blessed offspring? I don’t think so.”
“Maybe not. But everything doesn’t have to be in those Prophecies.”
“I’m tired, Trish. Maybe I should get some sleep. We’ll talk later.”
Trish didn’t want to leave Angelica alone when she was in this state. From what Trish could tell, her friend was upset enough to just get back into her van and drive off. And with her state of mind the way it was, not to mention the extreme fatigue she was suffering from, that could be fatal, at least for the baby, but also for Angelica herself.
“Wait. I just want you to know that if you do decide to stay, Eddie and I will help look after the baby. You’ll be able to continue your line of work. Honestly. It would be my pleasure.”
“Right now, I’m not even sure I want this child. Tell me honestly, how did it feel when you found out about your husband?”
“I was relieved. Finally, after all these years, I realized that it wasn’t my fault. I’d given everything to that marriage, and it wasn’t enough. When I finally knew why, I was off the hook, and I could start anew. But this isn’t the same thing. Come on, Angelica. You know that Cade was a prostitute for maybe five years. What do you think he had to do in that time? It’s not pleasant to contemplate, I know, but you know as well as I do, what he did. If that didn’t bother you before I made this slip, why should this be any worse?”
“Because, Eddie wasn’t a trick. And he wasn’t an abusive stepfather either. Not that Cade’s ever told me that his stepfather did anything more than beat him up. Come to think of it, how do I know anything he’s told me is true? Eddie owned up to that one slip as soon as he met you. That must count for something. But Cade’s never given me any hint at all about what he and Eddie did. Is that a way to enter a relationship?”
“Maybe not. But Eddie doesn’t have Cade’s past. This was just one thing. To Cade it must have seemed as if his entire past was made up of humiliating, degrading incidents. He must have felt you wouldn’t be able to deal with any of it. Just like he dealt with it all by trying to forget.”
“He should have trusted me right away. All I knew, all that anyone can know from talking to him, watching him, being around him, is that he’s in emotional pain. So what? So am I, to tell the truth.
I lost my parents and my little brother all in one night, to a drunken driver. The reason I wasn’t in the car with them, was that we’d had a fight. I acted like a total little beast. My brother was crying when they left. Dad was angry with me, and I’d just told him I hated him. Mom was sad too. I could tell, but I wouldn’t apologize. And so mom said I had to stay at home alone. I said some pretty nasty things to her too. And that was the last I saw of them. How do you think that makes me feel?”
“I understand. Really, I do. Come on. I never said Cade was the only one who’s had a troubled past.
My dad was an alcoholic. There were times I hated him too. And I never had a chance to take those words back. He wasn’t abusive and he mostly hurt himself with the drinking. I know that he loved me and my mom. But I was ashamed of him. When I got back from school, he’d be half-naked, crawling around in the grass, trying to find the gate. My friends never wanted to come home with me. I didn’t want anyone to see my family.
So one day, my mom and I had enough and left. That was the last I saw of him. He cried. Begged mom to reconsider. And he held out his arms to me to hug me goodbye. But he was a dirty smelly old thing, and I was such a little princess when I was 10, I just wouldn’t go to him.”
“Ok. You win the contest.”
“That’s not what this is about. Angelica. Please get some sleep and we’ll talk about this later. Don’t do anything rash.”
“Rash? Like what? You think I’m going to eat my gun? Here. Take it. Take the ammo too. Do you think I might drive off again, like this? Ok. Take the keys too. Just leave me alone. Wait. Aren’t you going to check the medicine cabinet for some pills that I might take to do myself harm? Go on. Don’t be shy.”
“I’ll take the gun and the keys, but if you promise you’re not going to take any pills, I’ll accept your word for it. Angelica, nothing will seem quite as bad after you’ve had some sleep.”
“Who made you my mother?”
“Sleep well, Angelica. We’ll talk later.”
On her way back to her own trailer, Trish thought about the new situation. It was never a good idea to take anything for granted. Now they had a major crisis on their hands. For a second, she contemplated betraying Angelica’s trust. If she had Eddie call Cade, she knew he’d be around within 24 hours, no matter what case he was working. Angelica meant the world to him.
But this was a complicated matter. Betraying Angelica’s trust was not something she could consider doing just like that. The blonde was her friend. But so was Cade. Trish decided to wait until Angelica had had some hours of sleep before making any major decisions. Maybe her friend would calm down a bit and be able to discuss the problem more rationally. No one could help her deal with the distressing news she’d had about her lover.
In Trish’s mind there was no conflict. Eddie wasn’t gay, and even if he was bisexual, it was her he loved. End of story. But Trish wasn’t naive enough to think that everyone felt the same way. And whatever Cade’s sexual orientation, he had kept something of major importance to himself. That wasn’t a good way to start a relationship, Angelica had been right about that.
On the other hand, Trish sympathized with Cade’s dilemma. How could a man deal with that sort of past? She wondered if Cade had ever told Hannah the full story about his life until they met. Somehow, she doubted that. So whatever Angelica thought, her lover had come a long way since he’d left the street.
By the time Trish was back inside the trailer, she could hear that the day had begun for all her men. The cheerful argument around the breakfast table was usually music to her ears. Today, she was a bit preoccupied. As usual, no one was very perceptive when it came to reading her facial expression.
“There you are. We were wondering where you’d gone off to. How’s Angelica?”
“I saw the van. Isn’t she having breakfast with us? That’s one hot babe. Cade’s a lucky guy.”
Normally, Trish didn’t find her son’s fixation with Angelica so objectionable. Today, she frowned irritatedly. Men could really be such bastards at times. She forgot to reprimand her eldest son for his choice of words.
“No. She’s not feeling well. I’ll go check on her later.”
Now Eddie turned to face her.
“Just a headache. And she’s tired. She drove all night.”
“Oh. When you have a minute, I’d like to discuss something with you.”
“I know what it is, mom.”
Now her youngest son spoke up.
“Eddie and Mark have discovered some weird stuff going on on the internet.”
“Surprise, surprise. Like the internet was ever anything but weird.”
Eddie cast his stepson a glance that for once silenced him. After all, who was the pro here?
“It’s not just the internet. I’ve discovered that in the past six months or so, there’s been an attempt to distribute false information. Deliberately, I mean. It’s mixed in with the truth, so it’s hard to spot it unless you look closely. But I think it’s our friends the Gua who are behind the whole thing. If they can control the news flow, who knows what damage they can do?”
Trish looked somewhat sceptical. The media was run by so many independent agencies, she found it hard to believe that the Gua could find a way of controlling the news coverage.
“What other media are you talking about? Newspapers?”
“Yes. And tv and radio too.”
“Are you sure all this is related? There’s some shoddy documentation going on, I know that. But with all those tv stations, all those radio stations, and the papers, not to mention online news agencies, how can they control them all?”
“That’s what I’m trying to find out. And that’s what I’m going to send Cade out to check for. Right now he’s doing another thing though.”
Josh didn’t want to be left out.
“We are working on it. You said we could help.”
Eddie shot his lover an apologetic stare, but she didn’t sympathise at all. If he wanted her sons hanging over his shoulder as he did his work, it was his loss. He’d be sorry long before he found any answers.
“Ok. What about this other case Cade’s working on? You said something about violence, didn’t you? Nothing dangerous, I hope.”
“I don’t think so. What Cade’s checking out is sort of the aftermath of this violence. The police are putting those confrontations down to gang fights. But they can’t explain why several witnesses claim to have seen people die, and on closer inspection, there are no bodies to be found. Sounds a lot like the Gua, don’t you think?”
“Possibly. Or else those witnesses just didn’t look closely enough. If the bodies disappeared, isn’t it possible that they came to and wandered off on their own? Unless you take a closer look, you won’t know if someone’s dead, unconscious or merely shaken up a bit.”
“I know. That’s what I want Cade to find out. Angelica could help him out.”
“She isn’t doing anything else, is she? You two haven’t got some women only surveillance thing going, are you?”
“No. Of course not.”
“And you’d tell me if you were?”
“Don’t be such a baby, Eddie. What about you? Are you keeping things from me, you and your boy’s club?”
Her sons turned offended gazes onto her, but she ignored them. If she could refer to her middle-aged lover as a baby, she could call her sons boys for however long she wanted to.
“No. We’re not. Honestly. I was just joking around.”
“Ok, fine. When did Cade report back the last time?”
“I think it was last week. Why? Angelica’s ok, isn’t she?”
“Yes. Of course she is. I just thought he’s been out there a long time.”
“Yes. He has. I could contact him and ask him to report back right away.”
“No. What if he’s in the middle of something?”
“Good point. I’ll wait until he gets back to me.”
“Eddie, I want you to go into town for me. We need all kinds of groceries and other supplies. Can you do that for me?”
“Sure. Aren’t you coming with me though?”
“No. I’d better stay here with Angelica.”
“Should I get her some painkillers? For the headache or whatever it is?”
“No. That won’t be necessary. Just get orange juice and – well, you know what we need.”
“Cool. We’ll go with you, Eddie. There’s some stuff we want to get too.”
Trish recognized the excitement in Josh’s voice and had a bad feeling about the entire trip.
“If that stuff involves undressed women, you’re not getting it. Deal?”
“Mom. Like we’re some neanderthals who can’t treat women with respect.”
“Hm. You don’t want me to answer that. What is it then? It had better be legal.”
“No drugs, honestly.”
“That’s not what I was worried about. I’m talking about computer equipment.”
“Oh. Well, there were a few things we thought we’d -“
“Eddie – I’m holding you personally responsible for this. Don’t let them buy anything that can put the entire family in danger.”
“I’d never -“
“Good. Then it’s settled. Go on. Drive carefully and all that.”
In a way it was a relief to see the last of those guys. Trish had a lot on her mind right now, and Angelica was what worried her the most. If the blonde former agent should wake up, it might be better if Eddie was out of the way. And considering any awkward topics of conversation, her sons were better off out of the way too.
Trish estimated that Eddie and her sons would be gone for maybe three or four hours. Unless they stumbled across something interesting. In that case, they might not be back until nightfall. Not until now did it occur to Trish that they wouldn’t have gone to the nearest town at all, but the larger city some two hours’ drive away. If she hadn’t been so distracted by the emotional upheaval, she wouldn’t have been taken in that easily.
But fair enough. This was one time she wanted to be alone and think things through. And it looked like she was going to have plenty of time to do that. Hopefully, there would be enough food for her and Angelica during the day. Pregnant women couldn’t start neglecting their health, just because they were upset.
Suddenly Trish had the idea that Eddie might want to have a kid one day, before it was too late. And in her case, too late might be just around the corner. Some might argue that the timing was off, but Trish had long ago decided that the impending alien invasion wasn’t going to be allowed to stand in the way of her life. If Eddie wanted a kid, all she needed to do was find out how she felt about it. And if she decided that she did want to start again, she would. They would get by somehow.
Fortunately, she didn’t need to make up her mind about starting a new family right now. A few weeks wouldn’t make any difference either way.
While Angelica slept on uninterrupted, Trish continued her morning rituals. By the time Angelica was awake, Trish had showered, changed and prepared a simple but nourishing meal. If she said so herself, she was quite a good cook.
Angelica didn’t show her face until she too, had showered, changed and looked a different person. There were shadows around her eyes, that Trish knew had nothing to do with sleep deprivation, but all in all, the blonde was looking far more collected than the desperate creature from a few hours ago.
“No problem. I understand. And you must forgive me for making that slip. This is one time you needed to work things out without having to worry about old complications.”
“I still don’t know what to do. But you were right. I feel a little better now. Sorry to lose control like that. The last time that happened – Well, I was 14. It was the morning after the accident, when the cops came to tell me about it.”
“That’s ok. You should see me in action. I’ve lost control so many times in my life, I don’t really consider it a disaster. Holding things in is bad for you.”
“Maybe. But if Cade had been around this morning, I think I would have beaten the crap out of him.”
“I’ll bet you would have. Maybe that wouldn’t have been such a bad thing. Nothing like a bit of domestic violence to wake a man up to the crisis in his relationship. I often wished I could have beaten some sense into my husband.”
“It’s not as much fun as you might think it is. I’ve had to get physical with suspects a couple of times and though you might think it helps clear the air and so on, it doesn’t. Violence doesn’t solve anything.”
“I guess not. Would you like some lunch?”
Angelica didn’t look too enthusiastic, and Trish suspected the morning sickness had started already. Abortion wouldn’t be an option for much longer and somehow she was glad. Trish didn’t object to the procedures on principle, but this was a close friend of hers. In fact, two close friends of hers were involved.
“Just try some of it, please. You won’t be sorry. Even my two very critical sons like my cooking.”
“I suppose I might have a little. Since you come so highly recommended. And I guess they’ll vouch for your child-raising capabilities too.”
“Just don’t ask them out loud. Check them out discreetly and judge for yourself. Like they’re checking you out.”
Again, the look in Angelica’s eyes was far from enthusiastic. Then the humor in the situation seemed to strike her.
“Oh, well. If I decide to dump Cade, I’ll have two candidates standing in line to replace him.”
“That’s great. Then I’ll really end up being your mother.”
“Don’t worry about it. They’re terrific kids, but I doubt if I’d be able to feel that way about them.”
“You’ll have to convey that to them gently.”
“I’ll try. No beating or kicking, I swear. And I won’t do anything to Cade either. Honestly.”
“He deserves better. Twice Blessed or not.”
“I know that. Ok. Lead me to the table. I’ll try to eat something.”
After having a meal, Angelica was beginning to feel a bit stronger again. When Trish ventured to touch on the painful topic again, there weren’t any emotional outbursts.
“Couldn’t you try to hold off making any decisions concerning the relationship until Cade’s back from his current case?”
“Why? It’s not that I want to punish him for what he did. There are two separate issues in all this. First of all, does the Twice Blessed Man really need an additional worry in his life? And secondly, can our relationship survive what I just found out?”
“I know you don’t want to punish him. But I’d just feel a lot better if you agreed to stay here while he’s finishing up this case. When he’s back, you can decide what you want to tell him.”
“I don’t know. If I decide that me and the child will weaken him and harm the cause, I’m not going to tell him anything. It’s harsh, I know. But in the long run, I know it would be for the best. Let him wonder, even if it hurts him never to find out the real reason I took off. He can blame me if it makes him feel any better. But if I decide to go, he can’t know about the baby. On the other hand, if I think he and the cause can survive this added responsibility, then I’ll confront him. Even if our relationship dies, I’ll let him see his kid. I’m not the kind of monster I might have looked like this morning.”
“It’s understandable that you were upset. Who wouldn’t have been? Ok. I wasn’t in the same situation when Eddie told me. At that point, I could just have decided that this was a good place to hide out for a while. Then when my husband bailed me out, I could have left it at that. You stand to lose so much more. All the emotional investment you’ve made in the past couple of years.”
“Exactly. That’s what hurts me so much. He kept this from me all this time. Even after he told me about his past. And another thing. There was something else that happened. I just know it did. Remember when you and Eddie called me and I had to come and pick up the pieces?”
“I remember. But I have no idea what was wrong. Eddie doesn’t either. He’d have told me. Something happened while he was in Gua captivity. Do you think he might have found out something about Hannah’s death?”
“I have no idea, but I’d have thought whatever it was had to be more direct. Like being tortured. Except that wasn’t it. I would have noticed. There were a few bumps and bruises, that’s all. Like someone had knocked him about a bit. Nothing more.”
“Well, that’s all I have about that.”
“Hm. But don’t you agree that there’s a worrying pattern in all this. Something complicated or traumatic happens, and he keeps it to himself. What does that say about our relationship?”
“Have you been totally honest about your past life?”
Angelica stared at Trish as if she’d never seen her before. What? This wasn’t about her. It was about Cade.
“Yes. And it’s not as if there are any dark secrets.”
“Have you told him everything about the relationships in your life?”
“Yes. There’s only been three. This one’s the most serious to date.”
“And every single fling?”
“What are you implying? That I deserve to be treated this way?”
“Not at all. I’m just saying that if there’s anything you’re hesitating to tell him, maybe you can relate to what he’s going through.”
“I don’t know. There is one thing I never wanted to talk to anyone about. But I don’t think it’s in any way comparable. If you insist, I suppose I could -“
“You don’t have to say anything that makes you uncomfortable.”
“I know that. But I should have been able to tell someone. It’s not like it’s all that unusual. My first time, I was 16. The guy was about the same age. We were in the same orphanage. I thought he was special. Shit, I thought I was special to him. He sweet-talked me into having sex with him, then I found that he’d done the same thing with two other girls in the same place, and who knows how many other girls around the city. One of them got pregnant.”
“Yes. But that’s nothing like this other thing.”
“Maybe not. But we all have things we’re not proud of. Don’t we?”
“I don’t know. Do you?”
“Too much. But I’ve learned to accept my weaknesses along with everything else in life. Would you like me to give you a few examples”
“No, thanks. It won’t change anything. I need to think. But right now I’m too tired to leave. So I guess I’ll stay for the time being. Maybe I’ll wait for Cade to come back. For now, I’m here to stay, anyway.”
The relief was enormous. At least, she had bought some time. If only Cade would be back soon. Trish was sure that once Angelica saw her lover again, she would forgive his weaknesses.
While Angelica was going through all the pain and heartbreak because of her lover, Cade went about his business, happily unaware of any trouble.
The violent confrontations he had heard so much about, had given rise to all kinds of rumors. One persistent myth insisted that the men fighting it out were ghosts. Several people could conveniently produce accounts of past gang fights that had cost so and so many lives. Those were now being reenacted in a ghostly way. Cade couldn’t believe people would be so gullible, but apparently, there was no limit to what the ignorant and the bored would choose to believe.
In the three weeks Cade had been working on the case, he had made little or no progress. All he had been able to uncover was that the confrontations were getting more and more frequent and that they took place in various different locations all over the city. All over the country, in fact. Most of the confrontations took place in urban environments. Some of the persons involved, surprisingly, appeared to have been women.
That seemed to square with Gua behavior. Cade had no doubts that there was alien involvement behind the puzzling incidents. But what was causing the violent outbursts was still a mystery. He was convinced, however, that further investigation would uncover the reasons, given time.
But he was totally unprepared for the break when it came. He was staying at a cheap downtown hotel. So what else was new? One night, as he lay awake, wondering why Angelica hadn’t been in touch, he heard someone at the door. Within seconds, Cade was on his feet, the gun Angelica had given him in his hand.
Over by the door, he crouched, ready to spring. But the weight of the gun was unfamiliar in his hand, and he doubted he’d be able to fire it at another human. And a Gua? He should be so lucky to get one of them with one shot, which was what he estimated would be what he’d have time for. But he couldn’t just let himself be taken out without at least trying to put up a fight.
The door swung open. What? Cade knew for a fact that he’d locked it. There were times when he felt like barricading it with whatever furniture that could be moved around the room. And now, the door was opening and a tall dark shape loomed up against the light from the corridor outside.
Cade battled with himself on whether to fire the gun or not. It was obvious that whoever his visitor was, it couldn’t be Eddie. He would have identified himself sooner. The man reached for the lightswitch, and turned on the light. Now Cade knew who his visitor was, and without thinking lowered the gun and pocketed it. He might not be too thrilled to see Joshua, but he was fairly sure the Gua wasn’t there to kill him.
“Cade Foster. Do not be alarmed. I am not here to harm you.”
“Ok. How about knocking on the door? Not to mention coming at a more civilized time.”
“Forgive the intrusion. I have important information for you. You have come to investigate the confrontations between Gua and -“
“What? Are there humans involved in these conflicts? What’s going on?”
For a second, Cade almost forgot that he was talking to one of those aliens, who should have been an enemy. But while much still remained a mystery about the Gua, and he naturally made Cade uncomfortable, he had become more and more of a possible ally.
“I will tell you everything you need to know. We do not have much time. Some of these confrontations are internal. Nothing that you need to concern yourself with.”
“What if I want to know?”
“Very well. I will give you a brief account of this other situation as well. Some of us feel that this invasion is a mistake. We are trying to regain control over – Let us just say that at present, the two factions are about evenly balanced. I have my supporters, but the militant wing is constantly striking back. This is not entirely new. We had differences of opinions before the invasion began. However, the new development is one that none of us had been able to foresee.”
“Is this good news for us, or bad?”
Joshua evaded the question, and continued his account.
“Another group of – I suppose you would call them aliens – have arrived.”
“More of you?”
“No. Another – people.”
“Are they enemies of yours – or friends?”
“This is far too complicated for me to reply with a yes or a no. My people and these others have had a long history together. I can not tell you too much about that. There is no need for you to know. Besides I do not have time enough to tell you all of it. However, suffice it to say, that they were once known as Guardians. They sought out intelligent species that were in an earlier, less advanced stage in their evolvement, and guided them towards a greater complexity. This was many millions of years ago. At some point, the Guardians became less caring, more ambitious and selfish. They corrupted many species under their care. Like the Gua. It is our greatest shame, but also, I suspect, theirs.”
“Alright. They’re old friends of yours. What now?”
Cade’s mind was reeling from this new development. New aliens had arrived? Did this make Earth’s position more difficult, or could they gain some advantage through their enemy’s distraction? He needed to think, but right now, he had the means of gaining more valuable information.
“I believe that the Guardians have had some sort of change of direction. They are now attempting to sway our leaders. But they are difficult to communicate with. You must understand that they are not in any way like us. Nor in any way like you.”
“They are not humanoid?”
“Having that knowledge will be of no use to you.”
“Fair enough. But are they using the same methods you are, to travel here?”
“In a way. They are in some manner remote-controlling some of our Gua’s consciousnesses. Those of my people who are allied with them. They are in turn using the husks we all are.”
“I see. Let me ask you what you personally feel about these Guardians.”
The deep silence that followed this question made Cade think that perhaps he had offended the Gua. That had not been his intention, but how was he to find out anything important if he didn’t dare to use whatever means were at his disposal?
But Joshua did not appear to have taken offense. Instead, he seemed to be weighing his next move.
This impression led Cade to believe that his question was touching on some extremely central point. The question was what? Since so much appeared to depend on this answer, he wondered if the reply would be truthful.
“I am among those of us who do not believe it is wise to once again depend on the help of others. It is their help that made us what we are today. On the other hand, it is undeniable that they are trying to right an old wrong. What you need to know is that they are not your enemies, and humans have nothing to fear from them. Is this sufficient? Will you agree to leave this investigation?”
“I can’t just take your word for it. How do I know you’re not just trying to feed me a number of plausible lies to get me off your back?”
Again, Cade held his breath. Had he gone too far? This was no ordinary man, and though Joshua had this embarrassing partiality for Cade, it wouldn’t do to underestimate him.
To his surprise, Joshua appeared to consider his words carefully. Cade was constantly amazed by the respect this alien was showing him. Some of that respect might be due to Joshua’s feelings for him, but not all of it.
“That is of course a risk you must take. I am, however, willing to share more information with you. Enough so that perhaps you will trust me. Is that acceptable?”
“How? What kind of information?”
“That will depend on the circumstances. And I shall have to get back to you later. For now, I have said most of what I can tell you at present.”
“I see. Well, I appreciate your help. Why do you want me to stay out of this?”
“I would have thought that obvious. You do not have anything more to gain by further investigation, and in the process you run the risk of getting hurt. The Gua would not hesitate to use force against you, even if the Guardians would not. And I give you my word that I have never lied to you.”
Cade wasn’t sure he was hearing this, and besides, could he just take an enemy’s word for his truthfulness? On the other hand, Joshua had proven his loyalty on a number of occasions.
“Alright. Say I will back out of this one. When will I hear from you again?”
That came out a bit wrong, but it was too late to change his choice of words. Besides, this wasn’t a human even if he looked that way. Cade was fairly sure that Joshua wouldn’t interpret his words the way any ordinary man would.
“I will be in touch. You can count on it.”
Apparently, that was as much as Cade could expect from the Gua. And at this point, he had had quite enough of the commanding presence. Besides, he needed time to process all this new information. The implications of the news were staggering. Now all Cade wanted was to discuss this further with Eddie – and Angelica.
“Thank you. For this information.”
Joshua nodded in acknowledgement of his gratitude. He then left the room as silently as he had entered it, leaving Cade to sort through all the thoughts that were flying through his mind. Yes, he might as well return to Angelica and the others. They would need to confer about this new development.
Cade looked at his watch, and realized that the sun would be up in less than half an hour. He might as well pack his things and get going. Getting this new information to Eddie and the others was what counted right now. Any further investigation could wait.
There was absolutely no premonition about what he was walking into. None at all. He just had a vague hope that Angelica might be back soon, and that they could take some time off together.
When he called Eddie’s answering service, he found the directions he needed, and nothing else, which implied that Eddie had no new and urgent information for him. The new site was not all that far away, and it only took Cade about 5 hours to get there. He arrived towards evening, and the two trailers had never seemed to look quite as much like home, as they were silhouetted against the deepening dusk. As usual, Eddie had found a secluded spot to park the trailers.
On closer inspection, Cade realized two things. Angelica’s van was parked nearby, and the lights were on in their trailer. Cade’s heart took a leap in his chest. She was home. Now he would definitely take some time off and spend it with the woman he loved.
Before knocking on the door to his own trailer, Cade decided to make his report to Eddie. He remained standing outside, listening to the sound of some pop music pounding through the silence. It was more rhythm than melody and Cade felt old as he realized he not only had no idea of who the performer was, he didn’t even know what type of music it was.
His own limited knowledge of music stopped sometime around the Bangles. He still had a hard time imagining Eddie as a father. But from what he could tell, Eddie was doing ok. Well, no point in putting it off any further.
Normally, Eddie would be almost ridiculously happy to see him. This time, it seemed to Cade that there was something odd about the way his friend was looking at him. But there was no time for any closer observation.
“Hey, man. Great to see you again. Any big news?”
“Yes. That’s what I’ve come to tell you.”
“Ok. Cade, there’s something I have to tell you too, but go ahead.”
Eddie cast a wary glance backwards, but the boys seemed to be busy in front of the tv.
“Angelica’s not here?”
Again that weird look. Was something wrong with Angelica?
“Ye-es. She’s over in your trailer. Trish’s with her. Go on, I’m listening.”
“Is Angelica ok?”
“Uh – yes, she’s ok.”
With a nagging feeling of something being not quite right, Cade made his report, and as he went on with his account, Eddie’s eyes lit up a bit and he was carried away by the excitement of the new discovery.
“This is huge, man. We’re damned lucky to have that Gua on our side. And he said he’d definitely get in touch?”
“Do you think he was telling the truth?”
Cade thought it over for a minute, and he arrived at the conclusion that he was inclined to believe Joshua’s word.
“It may sound funny, but I think he was. As far as that goes. We’d better not rely too much on him.”
“Yes, of course. But still – what a stroke of luck.”
“Yes. Now – I’d really like to go over and see Angelica. If that’s ok -“
“Cade. I have to tell you something first.”
“What’s wrong with her? You said she was ok.”
“Yes, she’s fine. It’s just that -“
Eddie looked over his shoulder again.
By now, Cade had a really unsettling feeling. Something was wrong. Whatever Eddie was trying to cover up, he had to find out right away.
“Cade, let’s go for a walk.”
“No. Not before you tell me what’s up with Angelica.”
“Not here. Let’s go outside. But I swear to you, that nothing’s wrong with her. She’s perfectly healthy. Honestly.”
Marginally comforted, Cade agreed to go for that walk. Eddie led the way, to a spot some distance away from the trailers. The lights from inside the windows looked cosy and welcoming. Why couldn’t he just go to Angelica and see for himself?
Finally, Eddie seemed to consider their location safe from being overheard by nosy teenagers. Cade still didn’t have a clue as to what was so secret.
“Cade – I’m really sorry. Trish made a slip and – Angelica knows.”
For a moment, Cade’s mind was a total blank. Angelica knew what? Eddie’s face was tense and stricken and that didn’t bode well, but Cade still didn’t have any idea of what could be so bad.
“That night. Just before you met her, and I met Trish. You know -“
And by now, Cade realized why he had had that sick feeling all the way out into the bush. That night. What they had done – He felt his face drain of all color.
Eddie must have seen it too, because he almost reached out and touched Cade’s shoulder, then thought better of it and remained standing at a distance, anxiously watching his friend.
“Trish didn’t mean to – Anyway, Trish’s with her now and she’s -“
Cade didn’t listen to Eddie’s babbling. He turned and walked over to his and Angelica’s trailer. This was what he had feared all along. And though he knew he should have told his lover long ago, he just hadn’t been able to find the words. How could he explain something to her that he couldn’t explain to himself?
The door was unlocked and he just walked in. In the sudden silence that fell, all he could see was Angelica’s pale and somehow much thinner face. Was it only six weeks since they’d last met? It might have been six months, judging by the changes in her. And this was all his fault.
He barely noticed how Trish got up, shot him an apologetic look, said something that he just couldn’t hear, and disappeared outside. Finally, alone with Angelica. Now he paused to consider what to say. What could he tell her that would make a difference?
Her reaction didn’t help. It was obvious that she was fighting back tears, and she seemed to be biting her lower lip so hard, it would start to bleed in a second, to prevent a scream from issuing from her mouth.
Without even realizing what he was doing, Cade was kneeling at her feet, staring into her face as if trying to read the answer to his burning question there.
It was a while before either one of them regained control of their vocal cords.
Over and over again, Angelica had thought about what she would tell him once he was standing before her – or as he did now, kneeled at her feet. The way his eyes pleaded with her almost got to her, but she still couldn’t think of anything to say. This was no good. She was a trained field operative. Her training should have prepared her for anything. In theory, she knew how to kill with her bare hands, how to obtain a confession through torture without leaving any traces of the abuse.
But none of those things were of any help now. Strangely enough, the mere thought of her old job, of herself as a trained professional helped a little. Put things back into perspective. This was ridiculous. Her relationship might mean a lot to her, but looking at it from an another angle – how serious was the situation really?
“Oh, get up, Cade. What are you doing on the floor? Sit down and talk to me like a rational human being.”
She noted with satisfaction that her voice was almost steady. The effect her words had on Cade was encouraging. He did get up, and he did sit down next to her. There. Much better already. This wasn’t a dumb soap opera, it was their lives.
“Angelica – I’m really sorry. You shouldn’t have had to find out like this.”
“No. I should have heard it from you. Right away. How could you?”
“I don’t know. But how could I tell you? I don’t have any explanation. And I’ve been thinking about it again and again since it happened. It’s just not -“
“Ok. Let’s start at the beginning. What happened?”
“I hardly remember. We’d been drinking for hours and we didn’t have much to eat either.”
“Great. Better and better. Go on.”
“I can’t. Please. It was a nightmare. For a moment, I was thirteen again, and – Eddie was every trick that ever -“
“I see. Well, I guess that does explain it in a way. Of course, you’ve had a long time to think up this explanation.”
“Forgive me, Angelica. Please. If you could just -“
“Of course I forgive you, Cade. But it really doesn’t matter. I’m not sure I can deal with it. All of it, but maybe most of all the fact that after all this time, you still didn’t tell me yourself. I had to hear it from Trish. That’s another thing that bothers me. All of you knew about this. I was the only one who didn’t. How do you think that makes me feel?”
“I wish Eddie hadn’t told Trish about it. But I suppose I can’t blame him. I should have told you right away, just like you said.”
“Yes, you should. And while we’re discussing trust and honesty, remember that time when Joshua saved you? When Eddie and Trish got me to come out to be with you, because you’d had some kind of breakdown. You never told me about that either. I thought that if I was patient and let you take your time opening up to me, you’d eventually do that.”
“I wanted to. It’s been weighing on my conscience all the time.”
“I wish I could believe that, Cade. But if you thought about it all this time, I can’t believe you wouldn’t know that you could tell me anything. Remember after you’d beaten up that pimp? You told me about your past. Why didn’t you tell me then? About all of it. That thing with Eddie, and whatever else there was.”
“I – it was just too fresh in my mind. What happened when I was a kid, was the past. This – was more recent. And I wasn’t a kid anymore when those things happened.”
“I know. Will it make any difference if I try to tell you now? About that time Joshua got me away from the Gua.”
“I don’t know. This has been a bad shock to me. And there’s something I need to tell you. But go ahead. Tell me about that too.”
“The Gua that took me prisoner was a female. Regina. That’s what she called herself. And she was – so much like you. Except for the eyes. They were cold. Really not human. And she wanted -“
Cade nodded, his eyes still focused on something Angelica couldn’t see.
“She was disappointed, but that didn’t stop her from trying – again and again. And then Joshua showed up.”
“Joshua. Yes. I suppose we owe him.”
“Cade. There’s something I need to tell you. I’ve been agonizing over this for so long. In a way, I guess I shouldn’t have asked Trish’s advice. If I hadn’t, I’d never have found out about this. But I had to hear one other person’s opinion, because this concerns not only you and me, but the entire cause. You’re not simply Cade, but the Twice Blessed Man.”
“Yes, I know.”
“Cade, I’m pregnant.”
Whatever he’d expected, it was nothing even close to this. A baby?
“Angelica, this is – fantastic. I’m so -“
“But it will endanger the cause. I can’t take it on my responsibility to have you lose your fight against the Gua invasion.”
“It won’t. I won’t let it. But I never expected – You have no idea -“
“Cade. I was going to just disappear. Then I found out about – this – For a while, I was wondering if this hadn’t been a big mistake. And I was even thinking about terminating the pregnancy.”
Each word hurt Cade more. It was like she was twisting a knife in an open wound.
“Don’t, please. Never.”
“I couldn’t. But I was going to just leave and never come back. Don’t look at me like that. It wasn’t as a punishment for what you’d done. I just told you why. Humanity’s survival is far more important than my petty problems.”
“They’re not petty, and they’re not your problems alone, Angelica. I’ll be there for you and the baby. Don’t ever doubt that. How could you think I’d let the cause take precedence?”
“I knew you wouldn’t. But you have to, don’t you see that? If you really are the Twice Blessed Man, we don’t have any choice. But now it’s too late. I won’t go. Trish says she and Eddie will help out. You can continue your work.”
“Yes. Of course. But -“
“Whatever I feel right now, I’d never shut you out of our baby’s life.”
At least he wouldn’t lose them. Somehow, he’d find a way to regain Angelica’s trust. And now there weren’t any more secrets to hide.
“Thank you. Angelica? Please believe me. I love you. No one else. And – I’m not -“
“Ok. I get it. But I need to think this through. Don’t try to rush me, please.”
“I won’t. Whatever you need, just tell me. I’ll do it.”
“That’s good, Cade. I – love you too. So much. That’s why it hurt so terribly, when I found that you’d let me down.”
“It won’t ever happen again. I swear. Never again.”
“I hope not, because I just couldn’t take it. Maybe you think I’m tough, hard even. That’s what I want people to think. Growing up in an orphanage tends to do that to you. But with you, I was opening up, too much, maybe. I don’t ever want to feel that kind of pain again, Cade.”
“You won’t have to, I swear.”
“Ok. Cade, I’m sorry, but I want you to sleep somewhere else tonight. I need some space. Don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not trying to punish you. You mustn’t think that. And it’s not that I feel that you’re – I just need some privacy right now.”
“That’s ok. I understand.”
Her voice was close to breaking, and Cade wasn’t far behind. This meeting between them had been more emotionally draining than ever before. He wondered if it would be ok to hold her for just a moment, but was afraid to ask. So he got up, shakily and turned to leave. Her voice called him back.
Suddenly, she was on her feet as well, pulling him into her arms. He could feel her tears wetting his cheek, and he wasn’t sure if there weren’t a few of his own mingling with them. At last, she forced herself to let go.
“Could I -“
He held out his hand towards her abdomen, with a pleading look in his eyes. A brief smile moved her pale features and she took his hand, guiding it to her abdomen.
“You won’t feel anything for quite a while yet. But it’s there. I went to see a doctor to make sure.”
“Are you – both of you – ok?”
“Yes. We’re fine.”
“I can’t believe this is true.”
“Believe it. For what good it will do us.”
“It will. Things will work out. Somehow.”
“I hope so.”
Despite all the pain, Cade couldn’t give in to despair. Inside the woman he loved, a little life had begun. A part of him too. It was incredible, and wonderful. And he’d do his utmost to make up to Angelica the pain he’d caused her. He’d find a way to make things right. Somehow.
“Angelica, I love you. You have to believe me.”
“Oh, I do believe you. And as you know, I love you too. I only wish I didn’t love you so much. But I do.”
“Forgive me, please.”
“I already have. Let’s not talk about it anymore. I just need time to think.”
“Alright. I understand. It’s no more than I deserve for being such a coward.”
The pain in Angelica’s eyes was a silent accusation, and Cade once again turned to leave. This time, she didn’t try to hold him back.
It was bitter knowing that he had brought this on himself. All of it. He should have known he could have trusted Angelica. And now he might lose her love, if not her companionship. At least she wouldn’t take his child away, never to let him see it. How many women wouldn’t have used that against him to strike back?
And she still cared. That was far more than he deserved. There had to be something he could do to earn back her trust. And he would find the time to be a part of his child’s life. This was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to him, in the midst of all this pain and despair. What an odd twist of fate.
Struggling to remind himself of how lucky he still was, Cade made his way out into the merciful darkness. He didn’t want to run into Eddie and Trish right now, or their kids. This was a time for solitude and contemplation. Besides, meeting Eddie right now would be a bit more than he could handle.
Would his past never stop blowing up in his face again and again? This had to be the last time, because he didn’t think he’d survive another incident like this one. Enough was enough. And Angelica shouldn’t have to get caught in the middle. It wasn’t fair. It was time he took control over his life. Events couldn’t be allowed to control him anymore. That resolve carried him through the first moments alone. Never again.