Fascism

 

 

Chapter 1

 

The world of Vesperia was dying.

 

It was all due to one man.

 

Bray Wyatt.

 

From the time Abigail met Bray, she knew her life would never the same, even at the tender age of 10.  Fostered at age 5, Abigail was silent for 5 years.  She knew how to talk, but the horrific events of what she’d witnessed haunted her…stopped her from speaking a word to anyone.  They called her a mute, the foster care people.  The kids all made fun of her for it, almost to the point of crucifying her on a daily basis verbally and sometimes physically.  One day, a small boy with dark hair and kind blue eyes came up to her, asking if he could watch television with her.  Abigail didn’t know what possessed her to do it, but she wound up speaking for the first time in 5 years…to Bray.  He was kind, sweet and had a powerful spirit about him.  They shook hands, introduced themselves and went on with watching cartoons together, while the foster people looked on in awe and disbelief.  How could one simple boy have such a profound effect on a girl who hadn’t spoken in 5 years? 

 

The foster people were heavily into religion, Catholicism, and they were convinced Bray was some kind of demon sent to bring destruction to their world.  It was insane, but the poor boy was punished on a daily basis.  Abigail could do nothing for him except help tend to his wounds late at night, after sneaking out of bed to check on him.  They’d put him in the highest room of the building, which was also the coldest at winter time and never tended to his room.  The blood pouring out of him was evil and he had to be cleansed of it, they said.  Abigail cried every night over Bray, wishing they could somehow escape their misery and it finally happened…when they turned 17. 

 

Bray had snuck them out, ordering Abigail to follow his every move or they would be done for.  It worked, they were free, and it was freezing outside, with nowhere to go.  At least they were free.  Bray had scars all across his backs from the constant whippings he’d received, but Abigail just saw them as survival.  She loved him, truly, he was her only friend and the only one she trusted in the world of Vesperia.  Somehow, they’d found a way to survive after that escape and Bray vowed, that night, to create a world of peace, a world where only one religion existed.  His religion.  DOV – Dominion of Vesperia.  Slowly but surely, he began recruiting members to his religion, traveling town to town, with Abigail by his side always, preaching his word of DOV.  Abigail was on his side completely…until she realized the horrors that were truly within Bray’s mind as well as what the members were doing.

 

Women were captured and forced to have sex with one of his followers to produce children, to grow his Dominion.  His religion.  His world.  If the women did not produce boys, they were punished, and the boys were taken away from them instantly to be raised by their father.  If the women produced girls, the girls stayed with their mother until the proper age where they could be bedded to produce more for Bray’s army.  That was all women were used for was baby making and cooking.  The men were not loyal to their women either, raping sometimes 4 a night, depending on their sexual appetite and hunger.  If the woman could not produce within a 3-month span, after having sex sometimes 4 times daily, she was executed and thrown away like yesterday’s garbage. 

 

Abigail was the only woman untouched and it was at Bray’s decree because she was his.  She belonged to him.  They hadn’t had sex, but she knew it was inevitable when the time would come where Bray would force her into it.  He was no longer the sweet boy who made her talk again after 5 years at age 10.  He was a monster, hell bent on warping the world to his satisfaction, to what he wanted, and Abigail’s heart crumbled along with the world of Vesperia.  If one did not follow the DOV, they were executed on the spot.  It was kill or be killed with Bray at the charge, leading his followers down the path of destruction.

 

And Abigail saw no hope for escape from this horrendous life she now lived.

 

Bray, if anyone had bothered to ask, would have been very thorough in his explanation of why things were being done this way.  No great revolution, be it a country, or a religion, occurred without casualties.  It was a sad fact of life.  In order to make things better, things always had to get worse first.  The women being used… well, the ones who birthed sons, would one day be exonerated and praised in new history books, tracts and materials.  They would be known as brave pioneers, volunteers for a righteous crusade.  As with any revolution, some of the more… horrible details would be glossed over.  One just couldn’t make an omelet without breaking several eggs.  He cared for Abigail; out of all these women, she was precious, special, and she was meant for more than just being a vessel for more followers. 

 

When they first began this crusade 10 years ago, Abigail never imagined Bray would turn into the monster he was today.  The babies produced by the women had grown incredibly fast, too fast.  The babies were also born too fast, not needing to wait for the full 9 months before being birthed.  Abigail had done some snooping around and discovered Bray had a sorcerer by the name of Malcolm.  He had produced a serum that was injected into the mothers, once they were with child.  There was no way of knowing if the baby would be a boy or girl, which was why the women were punished severely if the baby came out a girl.  It was a waste of the precious serum that allowed Bray to grow his army at an alarming rate. 

 

Within a year’s time, they were full-grown men and women.  Throughout the course of the year, the father’s job was to teach their son everything about the world, about DOV and instill Bray’s beliefs in them wholeheartedly.  The women taught the girls how to cook, clean and told them about sex, because on their first birthday, technically, they would be chosen to breed and produce.  Once full-grown, the men – boys – carried on the tradition of breeding with women to create their own offspring, mostly with the women born the same time as them from different father’s.  Before Abigail knew it, Bray had over 200 followers within a one-year span.  They now lived in a castle, built by the followers, with plenty of room for everyone.  Whenever they began running out of room, the women who could no longer breed were executed, either hung or shot in the head.  It was sickening…so much death and bloodshed.

 

When would it end?

 

He was working with his sorcerer on a new serum.  Women, as a whole, might be worthless, but individually, some of them eventually would show merit.  Bray wanted them ALL to be worth something and, in order for that to happen, they needed to birth boys.  He needed a ratio.  For every 20 boys, he wanted only a single girl.  Malcolm’s original serum was great; it helped immensely, but women were birthing more babies than their bodies could tolerate.  Doing it at accelerated rates, however, meant higher burn out.  If that was going to be the case, then they were officially resources and Bray wanted to get everything he could out of them before they became expendable.  Not to mention, execution was a waste of resource as well. 

 

“Give me a list of what you need, and I’ll see to it.” He ordered in his deep, gravelly voice. “This is to be a top priority.” Wars were won with soldiers, not women.

 

“My liege, these ingredients can only be found in…” Malcolm hesitated to say it, frowning because he knew Bray would not like hearing this. “The main ingredients we need are found in…the town of Wonderful.” It was one of the ONLY towns Bray had not acquired for his own due to the place littered with Revolutionists against the DOV religion.  It was led by one of the most dangerous men in all of Vesperia and Bray had made it a point not to venture in that area…at all. “Mythril will not be easily obtained, My Lord.  I fear it is the only ingredient that will be proficient enough to produce only soldiers for your cause…” However, Mythril was in the jurisdiction of the Undertaker. “Perhaps we can find another way.  Give me some time, I promise to make this my top priority.”

 

The town of Wonderful…who was this Undertaker Malcolm spoke of?  Abigail hid in the shadows and barely breathed while eavesdropping on Bray and Malcolm’s conversation.  If this town known as Wonderful was as he said…could that be her ticket out of here?

 

Eventually, Bray would deal with the Undertaker.  They would have their showdown and it would be glorious indeed, legendary, but for now… discretion was the better part of valor and he wasn’t a fool.  He wouldn’t risk his precious soldiers against the Undertaker, not just yet.

 

“See that you do,” He ordered after a moment, eyes flashing ice. “I’ll… look into alternatives.” Perhaps a spy of sorts, someone who could slip in and out without being noticed, or at least without being suspicious.  Frowning, Bray turned to walk out of the room.

 

Abigail had not stuck around and moved swiftly back up the stairs from the sorcerer’s chambers to the sitting hall, seated in her pure white dress.  Bray was adamant about all of her clothes being white – it showed she was pure.  Personally, Abigail wanted her color back, but knew better than to defy Bray and just went along with what he wanted.  The last thing she wanted to do was upset him and they’d been together for 17 years now, just not in an actual relationship.  Any man who even LOOKED in her direction, Bray made sure they regretted it.  It was a sin, as far as he was concerned, to admire what was his.  Abigail looked up when Bray walked into the room, her midnight blues locking on icy blues and her black hair was down, brushed neatly and hanging down her back in gentle waves.

 

“You look distressed, Bray.” One thing Abigail NEVER did was call him ‘My Lord’, ‘my liege’ or anything like that because, to her, he was simply Bray and she supposed he let it slide because of how long they knew each other. “Is everything alright?”

 

At the sight of his childhood friend, his love, the only thing pristine in this cold, cruel world, Bray’s face lit up in a smile.  All the anger, the coldness, it melted at the sight of her and his face changed into what it had been once, or perhaps could’ve been. “Abbie…” He sighed, walking over to sit in front of his chair, his back to her legs and he leaned his head backwards, feeling her hands coming down to caress his head. “I have a problem, Abbie…”

 

He had several problems, but Abigail knew better than to say that aloud and simply acted as if she hadn’t overheard him and Malcolm talking.  He had sat down, looking stressed and her hands instinctively began rubbing his head and shoulders, trying to ease some of his tension.  As sick and twisted as his ideals were for DOV, she couldn’t deny she did love him, at least part of her did.  He had saved her from the foster home, the abuse, because he hadn’t been the only one to be scarred by those wretched people.  She had too, a deep scar two inches deep across her abdomen from a whip…it was a reminder to her just how cruel the world was they lived in and what they’d had to do in order to survive.

 

“What is it, Bray?” She asked softly, not stopping the massage and caressing because at least he was calm for the moment. “Maybe I can help…”

 

“As much as I know you want too, I don’t think…” Bray trailed off, staring off into space thoughtfully, his hands moving to caress the white gown she wore.

 

He adored Abigail in white.  She was the most kind, gentle soul he had ever known, even after everything they had been through, she had remained pure of heart and spirit.  White was the color he preferred her in, it represented how he saw her.  One day, he would take her properly, for his own, but first… first Bray would give her a world where she could live without fear.

 

“Maybe…” He amended, frowning as the thoughts continued to form.  Above almost everything, he cherished her the most, but she was also the only person he truly trusted. 

 

Could he trust her with this?

 

Never once had Bray tried making a move on her or touched in an intimate way.  Not even a butt squeeze, only soft pliant kisses and rubbing arms and back.  His hands never went lower, though Abigail could tell, now that she had matured and grown into a woman, from the child she’d been, the lust for her had increased.  She could see it his eyes whenever he looked at her, touched her, smelled her.  There were nights Bray would sneak into her bed and simply hold her against him, and she could feel his desire poking and prodding her.  He’d kiss her neck, rub her arms and then roll her over on her back to kiss her lips, but never touched her breasts or lower extremities.  It was weird, strange, because by the time he finished, she’d feel as if she was on fire and wouldn’t be able to sleep the remainder of the night.  Luckily, it only happened twice a week, so she was able to catch up on rest the nights he didn’t come to visit her in her chambers.

 

“Whatever it is, you know you can talk to me about it.  I don’t know if I can help, but I can at least try or maybe ease your mind a little.” She caressed his face before being pulled against him, another soft kiss brushing her lips. “You know I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s going through your mind and what troubles you.”

 

At the very least, it wouldn’t hurt to tell her what was troubling him.  Abigail knew the worst of him and the best, and she was still here, offering to hear his troubles.  Taking a deep breath, Bray told her about the serum, what it could do for them, and how some of the ingredients were hard to find and one… one was going to be near impossible, due to where it was.

 

Chapter 2

 

“Malcolm is looking for a way to… well, another place to find it, but it may be a long time until he does, and we NEED this, Abbie.”

 

It was very difficult to hide the disgust she felt rolling through her body at his explanation, still not believing how undervalued women were to Bray.  Breeding machines and nothing more.  He had killed so many women in the span of 10 years, it was treacherous, and Abigail couldn’t believe she still felt love and feeling for him.  He was a cold-blooded killer, in her eyes, and yet, she remained because there was nowhere else for her to go.  This serum would only do more harm than good and speed up the process of building his army, nothing more.  It was selfish, inconsiderate and downright evil.  Somehow, she kept the soft smile on her face and hid how she truly felt from him, a master at this after so many years.

 

“You will find a way.  Going after the Undertaker, of all people, isn’t wise, Bray.  I know you already know this, but…I don’t want you getting hurt.  Or anyone else for that matter.  There must be another place to find the Mythril.  Give Malcolm some time to look for it, like he asked.  That’s my advice to you.” What she REALLY wanted to say was forget the serum, forget the DOV and release these poor, defenseless women that were ripped away from their loving homes to become breeding slaves! “You will find your answer, as you always do.”

 

“If I could send someone in… just in and out, someone who wouldn’t be noticed…”

 

He disregarded her advice because they were so close… so close Bray could almost taste it.  However, he couldn’t send in one of his precious men either; they were needed, essential, necessary.  And the women… no, he didn’t trust his little breeding machines.  Not to mention, he needed his human incubators here, busy with their one job.

 

“No… I need someone I trust, someone who can get in and find out where the Mythril is… how to get it.” He was now staring into her face, wondering if he was willing to risk her.

 

“M-Me?”

 

This was too good to be true!  Was he joking or was he serious?  No, Bray rarely joked and the amount of conviction in his eyes spoke volumes.  Her voice had come out soft and shocked, her eyes filled with perplexity.

 

“You want to send me, don’t you?” It was more of a statement than an actual question. “You wish to send me as a spy to infiltrate and find out where the Mythril is.”

 

Given she was the only one he fully trusted out of everyone in the DOV, Abigail still didn’t think he valued her over men.  Then again, she had witnessed, firsthand, what happened to those who dared defy his wishes to keep their hands off her.  Case in point, a man named Zack Ryder though he’d get handsy with her one day and Bray sliced his head off in front of her.  Abigail had screamed, his blood coating the front of her chest and, needless to say, it was the only warning Bray ever had to give to his men to keep their hands off her.

 

“I will do whatever you wish of me, Bray.  You know that.”

 

“I know.” Bray groaned, moving so he was on his knees before her; the only person in this world or the next he would ever put himself in this position for. “I know, Abbie, and that’s my problem.” He reached up, cupping her face tenderly in both hands. “You know how much you mean to me… so asking this of you,” Bray stared into her face, his eyes searching hers. “I know it’s a lot, and it could be dangerous,” Frowning, he wondered just how much danger. “But with planning… and precautions…”

 

Pressing her finger to his lips, Abigail merely smiled while he held onto her, his hands moving from her face to her hips.  This was her chance – her ONE opportunity to get out of the castle and find help.  Bray wanted her to infiltrate the Wonderful, the Undertaker’s domain, and she planned on doing it, just not the way he wanted her to.  The Mythril was not her concern.  She wanted to liberate all the women who had been forced to come here and hopefully save them, before they were executed for ‘not meeting expectations’.

 

“If you think I’m scared, I’m not.  If this is for the good of DOV, some sacrifices must be made.  I’m not saying I’m a sacrifice, but…if I’m the only one who can do this task, then you should let me do it.  You’ve always put the Dominion above everything else and, it sounds like this is very important to get our hands on.  So, let me help you.” This time, she brushed her mouth against his and felt his arms snake around her, kissing her a little deeper than before. “I’ll be safe and careful, I promise, if you send me out to do this.  I’ll feel like I’ve achieved something other than standing around in white gowns all day.  Let me actually CONTRIBUTE to your cause and help you pave the way.” If he wanted to take her here and now, she would let him if he meant getting out of this castle and far away from him and the DOV.

 

“Abbie, my sweet Abigail,” Bray whispered against her lips, breaking the kiss before he did something he would regret, the need for her growing with each passing day. “I don’t know what I would do, who I would be, without you.”

 

She was his best friend, his most cherished, and one of the main driving forces behind what he was doing.  The DOV would ensure she would never suffer what she had suffered before, and he knew some of the things he did were wrong, but they were NECESSARY.  Sometimes, the ends justified the means.  Bray would ensure it, he had too, because if Abigail ever looked at him without that light in her eyes, he would know he had failed and then… then he didn’t know what would happen.  She was the only thing holding back the total darkness that consumed him, his one ray of light. 

 

“What if I lost you because of this mission?  I can’t…” But he had too, and he knew it as Bray began raining kisses over her face.

 

“You won’t lose me.  We’ll plan it out to where I’m not in danger and I’m inconspicuous.” Abigail crooned soothingly, seeing she was getting through to him and convincing him this was the right thing to do. 

 

Good.  Sometimes, she could work her manipulative magic on him, but she didn’t do it often.  No, better to play her cards when the moment counted instead of squandering her opportunities.  Abigail kissed him again, this time harder and moaned in his mouth when his tongue touched hers for the briefest of moments.

 

“Please let me do this for you, for us, Bray.  For the DOV.  Trust in me and my ability to get this done.”

 

Caving, his hands moved to rest on her waist, no lower.  He wanted too.  Bless the Dominion, Bray wanted too; the times he had gone to bed with blue balls were considered penance half the time, suffering for the sake of her purity, suffering for all the sinful things he knew he was eventually going to do to Abigail, when the time was right.  When they were both ready, and that moment was on the horizon.

 

“Fine… Abbie, we’ll do this.  We’ll plan everything out to make it as safe as we can.  I can’t lose you.”

 

“Thank you, Bray.” Abigail hugged him tightly, stroking the back of his neck and narrowed her eyes, feeling his face bury in her neck. “Thank you for letting me do this for us and for DOV.”

 

Just as she said that, a woman that couldn’t have been more than 17 was dragged down the hallway by the back of her neck, tears streaming down her face.  She was crying out, pleading with the man not to take her to his room, but he wasn’t listening.  Was this really the world Bray wanted Vesperia to be?  Her eyes closed as she heard a scream followed by the door slamming shut, feeling Bray’s body tense along with hers.  After all this time, Abigail should’ve been used to it by now, but…she wasn’t. 

 

“I’ll speak with Malcolm.” Bray assured her, after a long silence, the woman’s screams fading finally.  He pulled away from Abigail, standing up and stretched his arms over his head, staring down at her. “We’ll plan all of it, Abbie, ever last bit of this.  I won’t risk you.” He was completely oblivious to the hypocrisy of what he had just said, after a woman had just been dragged into a room to be raped and bred with.  Bray pulled her up, bestowing one of his rare, gentle smiles. “Go rest, all right?  I’ll work this out.  I’ll see you at dinner.”

 

“S-Sure, see you then.”

 

Abigail watched him walk away and couldn’t get the disbelieving expression off her face.  What the HELL was wrong with him?!  Did he not just see a woman be dragged, against her will, into a room on the second floor to be raped?!  Bray’s soul was tainted, if he even had one.  Abigail couldn’t stand to think about all the cruel things that woman was going through and went to her chambers, shutting the door with authority behind her.

 

“I have to get out of here.” She whispered, clasping her hands tightly to rest over her lips and walked over to stare out the window, tears sliding down her cheeks. 

 

The ONLY good thing Bray ever did was make a decree that, any sexual activity, was to be done behind closed doors.  There was to be no fornicating or showcasing activities of that nature for everyone to see.  He had punished a few of his soldiers for not listening and obeying that rule, which pleased Abigail immensely.  She had been the one to put the bug in his ear about how unpleasant it was to watch women being taken and pointed out it should’ve been a one-on-one affair instead of having an audience.  He agreed with her and the ruling was made.

 

If only Abigail knew how much influence she could have had over him… she was his weakness.  But when she was out of sight, the smile was gone, and the ice was back in his eyes, all warmth leaving with her.  Bray spared a glance at a guard standing at the wall.  His personal guards were all mute; they had voluntarily had their tongues removed, so they couldn’t tell the things they heard in the castle, the things he said or planned.  Frowning, he went to go see Malcolm again, he had an escapade to plan.

 

“My liege, I’m sorry, but you wish to do what?”

 

When Bray repeated himself, Malcolm felt faint and had to sit down, blinking.  This man wanted to send his most prized possession, his one true love, his precious innocent Sister Abigail, into the lion’s den?!  To infiltrate and gather information for them regarding Mythril??  Although it wasn’t a bad idea, or a bad plan for that matter, Malcolm was having hard time believing Bray would willingly sacrifice Abigail for the ‘greater good’ of DOV.

 

“How do you plan on having her infiltrate the Undertaker’s domain, My Lord?” There was only say many things a woman could do without being caught and she had to be inconspicuous.  No, this was not a good idea at all.

 

“I’m working on it.” Bray studied Malcolm intently, seeing the disapproval written all over the other man’s face.  If not for the fact that Malcolm was a rare breed, sorcerers were not exactly easy to come by, Bray would have reminded him that he was in charge and he wasn’t overly fond of having his decisions questioned, silently be damned. “I’m thinking as a low-level person, someone who isn’t noticed easily, or perhaps… perhaps ignored…” He was sometimes a genius and began smiling. “No one will give a servant another look.” They didn’t, not usually.

 

That was…a brilliant idea, actually.  Malcolm felt ashamed for ever doubting his Lord and lowered his head, clasping his hands in front of him. “I do believe that would work perfectly, yes, my liege.  You never cease to amaze me, your intuition knows no bounds, you…” He gasped when Bray wrapped his hand around his throat, squeezing threateningly.

 

“Do not think for a minute I don’t know what you’re doing, Malcolm.  Trying to get on my good side, after blatantly defying me…” Bray gritted his teeth, squeezing harder. “I shouldn’t have to remind you that your granddaughter, Susan, is turning of age in a couple days.  And it would be MOST upsetting if she were to wind up in…let’s say…Luke Harper hands, hmm?”

 

“N-No!  P-Please, m-my liege!” Malcolm begged, coughing when Bray released his throat and gasped for air, clutching his throat. “I-I’m sorry…I’ll n-never doubt you again!  Just please…please not my Susan…you know what he’ll do to her like all the others!”

 

“Of course, I do.  He’ll rip her apart, piece by piece, and take great pleasure in taking her BY FORCE.” Luke was one of his trusted guards, with his tongue still intact, that enjoyed hearing a woman’s scream as he took her for his own, filling her with his seed in the most violent of ways. “Doubt me again, and I will make sure she winds up in HIS hands…”

 

“I won’t, my liege, you have my word.  I’m sorry…”

 

“Good.” Bray stepped back and clasped his hands behind him, a congenial smile spreading over his face.  The venomous air about him gone almost as quickly as it had come on. “Remember Malcolm, if you are good to me, I can be good to you and to yours.” Which meant he would find someone suitable for Susan, someone who would be gentle.  If Malcolm decided to be a pissant… he would ensure Susan begged for a bullet to her forehead. “Now,” He rubbed his hands together eagerly, boyishly. “Let’s get to work.  What do we know about the Undertaker and his little town?”

 

Unfortunately, Malcolm didn’t have much information regarding Undertaker, his people or the town of Wonderful.  He’d never made it that far east, especially since he was forcefully taken out of his home to live and work for Bray Wyatt.  It was all against his will, Bray did not take well to people not bending to his whims and will.  His daughter had paid for it, but luckily, his sons were nowhere near this lunatic and hopefully never would be in their lifetime.  By the time Bray left, it was past dinnertime and Malcolm slumped against the wall in his chair, hoping the monster kept his word about choosing one of his kinder, gentler soldiers for her to mate with.

 

Chapter 3

 

Later that night, Abigail was visited by Bray and knew it the moment she felt a warm body slide into bed with her.  She didn’t even have to turn over to know who was in bed with her or the lips that kissed her neck, the hand that stroked her stomach through the white nightgown she had on.  The moon streamed through her window, the only light given to them and she turned to look at him, stare into his eyes that were only warm for her.  Abigail did not know how sex felt, she was a virgin, a 26-year-old virgin, thanks to Bray and the fact he wouldn’t let any other men near her or have her.  He was the only one who would have her in the end and it pained her to know that, to know she wouldn’t have a say in when that time came.

 

“Is everything okay?” She asked quietly, in a whisper, sighing when his mouth merely claimed hers in a passionate kiss.  It was the same thing she asked him every night he came into her bed and all he did was respond with kissing and touching.

 

Everything was not all right.  He was sending the purest creature he had ever known, HIS Abigail, into the relative unknown.  The only thing he did know for sure was that, at the end of her road, lie the Undertaker.  Bray knew the man by reputation, but he knew the soldiers at the Undertaker’s command, because they were fierce, and both men AND women.  He mentally snorted at that, his lips moving along her jawline, hands caressing her through her nightgown.  Torturing them both, Bray knew it, but damned if he couldn’t help himself.

 

Having this man touch her so intimately and lovingly confused the hell out of Abigail.  She hated how Bray ran so hot and cold, one minute he was perfectly content and HER Bray, the Bray she remembered, and the next he was this vile, cruel creature she didn’t recognize.  It broke her heart to kiss him and touch him because she never wanted him to bed her.  As much as she loved him, she wasn’t in love with him the way he was her.  Or maybe it was obsessed.  She didn’t know anymore.  Abigail felt him roll them both to where she was on top, his mouth claiming hers again and she began grinding against him.  It was out of pure instinct since her body felt like it was encased in fire.  Bray sat upright slowly, breaking the kiss to look into her eyes and Abigail flushed from head to toe at the way he stared at her.

 

“Talk to me.  Tell me what’s on your mind.” She coaxed in a soft voice, knowing better than to use any other tone with him and caressed his bare shoulders. 

 

He had come to bed with her naked from the waist up, which wasn’t out of the ordinary.  Bray had a crazy dilemma on his hands.  He knew what he made others do, got the basic principles of how it worked, but he and Abigail were different, still pure.  They had been raised in the traditional Catholic lifestyle, including the flagellation beatings, thrashing the sin out of him.  That hadn’t worked he supposed, instead it had backfired greatly.  He went with what felt good, what felt right, and knew where the lines were drawn.  Abigail was just too precious, too special, and he wanted their first time, both their first time, to be the same.

 

“I love you, Abigail, you know that, right?” He moaned against her mouth, swiping his tongue along her bottom lip.

 

If only Bray did, if only she could believe him when he said those beautiful words.  They fell on deaf ears with her because of everything he did, everything he’d forced poor, innocents to do in the name of his religion.  Still, Abigail knew better than to not respond the correct way and nodded against his lips, burying her fingers in his hair.

 

“I know you do, Bray.  I love you too.” That left a bittersweet taste in her mouth because, she did love him in her own way. 

 

Not the Bray he was now, but the Bray back then when they first escaped the horrid foster home.  Damned if he couldn’t kiss the breath out of her though and make her panties dampen in the process.  It was a physical reaction, which was normal for the human body, but…mentally and emotionally, Abigail had shut down long ago and put on a splendid performance.  Luckily, Bray couldn’t detect the trickery in her, the deceit, the absence of what he craved most from her.  She was responding, lighting his blood on fire and he knew he was sending her out into the unknown, which only pressed him on.  His mouth roamed the column of her throat, his hands moving to find hers, lacing their fingers together and squeezing briefly before letting go.  His hands moved to her waist and then slowly, almost hesitantly, down further, fingertips skimming her backside.  His darkened blue eyes searched for hers in the moonlight.

 

“I want you, Abigail.”

 

She merely smiled at him, though inside Abigail was panicking and hoped he stopped like usual…that tonight wasn’t the night he wanted to take her for his own.  Abigail was almost free of him, she just had to hold out a little longer until this plan of his came to fruition and then she could find the help she needed to bring down the DOV, to bring Bray down.  There was no way she would egg him on further, though it didn’t feel good to be touched on her backside because it was a change from the usual song and dance they did together.

 

“Why me?” That question escaped her before she could stop it, her eyes widening just a fraction and quickly pushed aside the surprise. “There are…other women here, countless women, you could take to your bed and breed with.  So, what makes me so important to you, so special, from the others, Bray?”

 

Bray stared at her in surprise, hurt blossoming through his blue eyes. “That you should ask me that,” His voice came out in a harsh whisper, his upper body pulling away from her, though his hands moved back to her waist. “You’re MY Abigail.” He kissed her forehead, a wetness in his eyes that he blinked away. “What we’ve been through together, what we’ve suffered,” Bray gnashed his teeth, guiding her arms around him until he felt her palms on his back, skimming the scars they both knew too well. “You saved me, Abbie, you saved me so many times.” His forehead rolled against hers, his mouth pressing against hers again. “And I, and the Dominion, will deliver this world, renewed and reborn, to you.”

 

Tears filled her eyes, even though she’d heard it plenty of times before, how he was doing this all for her.  That meant every woman that was raped and forced to breed, every woman that was ripped from their homes, was her fault. “You saved me too.” That was the complete, honest truth. 

 

If Bray hadn’t gotten her out of the foster home when he did, Abigail shuddered to think what might have happened with him gone.  However, that didn’t excuse what Bray was doing.  There were other ways to build an army, other ways to change the world in a positive way.  Everything he did was negative, and he did it for her, which made her sick to her stomach.

 

“I-I’m sorry, I just…I haven’t asked you that question before and it’s been weighing on me.  I didn’t want you to get mad at me, so…I didn’t ask it, but…it kind of slipped out.  Please don’t be angry with me…”

 

“I’m never truly angry with you, Abbie, you know this.” He sounded almost sullen, more offended and hurt than anything. 

 

She knew what she meant to him, hadn’t Bray told her enough?  Hadn’t he proved it?  He had raised an army; he was changing the world.  They would be able to grow old under the Dominion of Vesperia, knowing what they had suffered would never happen again.  If he had to destroy a few hundred lives to deliver Abigail and himself a perfect world, so be it.  He would be forgiven all trespasses, he knew it.  He FELT it.

 

“Hey, look at me, please.” Abigail had to make this right somehow and pressed her forehead against his while stroking his back, the scars not bothering her. “Sometimes I feel like…I’m not good enough for you, Bray.  You plucked me from obscurity and you didn’t have to.  You could’ve escaped the foster home without me and never looked back and built this all on your own.” She stroked his face, seeing her words were getting through to him and smiled softly. “I just wanted to make sure I’m what you truly want.  I know you’ve said it and you’ve more than proven to me how much you love me, but love can also die…and I never want that to happen between us.” She kissed him soundly, passionately, not pulling back until they both needed air. “I won’t ever ask you that again because I have my answer and I know how you feel, without any doubts.  Thank you for telling me.”

 

Just like that, all was right again, and he didn’t feel hurt or offended, the smile back on his face. “Lay with me.” Bray whispered, laying down on the bed and pulled her with him into his arms.  Sighing in contentment, he ran his fingers up her arm, feeling her nestling into his side. “This is how I want it to always be between us, Abbie.” He rumbled softly. “Always like this, all right?  You and me, promise?”

 

If only she could actually promise him that, if only he knew how much this hurt her. “You and me forever, Bray.  I promise.” Abigail whispered, not having a choice in the matter except to say what he wanted and needed to hear. 

 

Luckily, she was a master at deceiving him and felt his arms wrap around her tighter, spooning up against her back.  Once again, she could feel his erection digging into her backside, but Abigail didn’t move and simply lay there.  Staring out the window, she didn’t let the tears fall until she heard his deep snoring and even breathing. 

 

~!~

 

“All right,” Luke Harper was one of Bray’s most trusted and, while he was a bit sick in the head, was also a brilliant strategist and planner. “So…” It was bright and early with him and Bray were in the war room, a map spread out as they drank their morning coffee and munched on fresh fruit. “You want her to go in as a servant, so she’s going to need to look the part.” Bray was great coming up with plans, Luke got to help with all the minute details because that was his thing. “So, we’ll need to get her some used, but serviceable clothing and not in white.”

 

Seeing Abigail in something besides white… his mind took him back years ago, when she had worn nothing except dark colored frocks.

 

Of course, Abigail was there for the meeting since it revolved around her and the infiltration.  She couldn’t go in blind, Bray wouldn’t allow it.  Currently, she wore another white gown with silver etchings throughout it, her hair done and makeup on, looking like the pristine, queen of purity Bray wanted.  It sickened her.  Abigail could feel Bray’s trepidation and slid her hand up his arm, soothing him the best way she knew how.

 

“Hey, it’s okay if I wear color for this.  He’s right, you don’t want me sticking out and he’s already been to Wonderful, if I recall correctly.  So, he knows what he’s talking about.” She despised and loathed Luke Harper, but Abigail had to play her cards right.  Play the game as it were and play to win. “It would be even better if we could actually GET a set of servant’s clothing from Wonderful to pass it off better, hmm?”

 

“Yeah sure, except I’m the only one who has been and, when I was there, I didn’t think about grabbing some crone’s clothing.” Luke argued, frowning and exchanged looks with Bray. “It’s not that much different from some of the stuff the women here wear.  We could find one who might know how to sew, and I can draw up a sketch of what the outfits looked like.”

 

“Good idea.” Bray wasn’t sending someone in just to steal an outfit.  It would be risky, especially if anyone noticed the theft.

 

“Why don’t I ask Valerie?  She was a women’s clothing designer before joining us.” That was a very nice way of putting it. 

 

The poor woman had been taken from her home, beaten and raped for weeks before she finally surrendered to the DOV way.  It was despicable, but luckily Luke hadn’t been the one who had the pleasure of having her.  Abigail was to thank for that and she’d told the woman such, which was why they were good friends.

 

“I will talk to her about it and see what she can come up with.  She’s a good judge of character and knows the style.”

 

Luke stared at Bray with a raised eyebrow.

 

“Luke has been to Wonderful, Abigail.” He said patiently, his eyes icing over as he returned Luke’s look.  Bray already knew how this looked and would have to dismiss her from the planning if she didn’t keep quiet for a bit. “He already knows the style and knows what we have on hand, and he can give this woman, this Valerie, a description.  Why don’t you go find something to do while we work out the details?”

 

Considering he doubted Valerie had seen any ‘style’ in years and her judgement of character meant dick… good call.

 

Did he actually just talk down to her in front of this peon?!  Abigail had never been so insulted in her life and felt like punching Bray in the nose, knowing that would be grounds for immediate punishment. “You asked me to come to the meeting, Bray.” There was no way she would allow him to get away with this. “Why am I here if you’re dismissing me so suddenly?” When he just raised a brow at her, Abigail folded her arms in front of her chest and knew he was saving face in front of Luke.  She didn’t defend herself often, not needing to, but this time he had crossed a line. “Next time, don’t invite me to your meeting.  Just come and tell me what’s going on.  Excuse me.” Storming out of the room, Abigail closed the door behind her and went to her chambers to scream in a pillow.

 

Bray held up a hand when Luke started to open his mouth, his own a thinly compressed grim line.  Abigail had been placed on a pedestal, by him, but as a general rule, women were not overly valued for their intellect.  It was their baby making abilities and that was about it.

 

“Draw your sketches, get with whatever seamstresses you can find.”

 

Nodding, Luke left Bray to his thoughts.

 

Chapter 4

 

Still not overly happy, Bray went to find Abigail, easily locating her in her room.  He threw open the door, rewarded with her shooting upright from her pillow. “You were invited as a courtesy, Abbie.” He said flatly, leaning in the doorway. “You’re… offer is appreciated, but not practical.  This woman had probably been down in the camps for months, or even years,” Providing she was one of the women who birthed more sons than daughters. “We need people who actually know what they are doing, who have actually seen.  You need to learn to critically think if you’re going to do this.” Her outburst had him reassessing this because Bray couldn’t afford her getting offended over baubles.

 

Calm down, cool your jets or you’re never going to get out of here, Abigail had to mentally coach herself, swallowing down her anger, her pride, and took a deep, fortifying breath. “You are right.  I was out of line and…I apologize, Bray.” That left a bitter, sour taste in her mouth to say those words. “I was honestly trying to help, but I overstepped my boundaries and…you were gracious enough to invite me to the meeting.” All women were to Bray were babymakers, breeders, nothing more and it sickened Abigail to no end. “I-I will take whatever punishment you deem fit to give me…My Lord.” VERY rarely did she call him that, but she had to warm up to Bray again and this was the best way to do it. “Please forgive my insolence, it will not happen again.” Just to make sure he believed her, Abigail lowered to her knees in front of him on the bed and bowed her head, clasping her hands together in front of her.

 

Seeing Abigail in that position, kneeling before him and hearing her calling him ‘my Lord’, Bray wasn’t sure what to make of it.  On one hand, this was his Abbie, his best friend and his most true companion throughout these long years.  Then again, she was a woman who had challenged him in front of a trusted adviser.  She had put him in a stupid spot.  He treated her differently from everyone else, and in the DOV, it was complicated.  During the many sermons, many teachings, women were told that the trials and tribulations they were suffering were holy and righteous.  Abigail would be their holy Mother, a new Madonna as it were.  In the end, she would be their salvation and he had every intention of being hers.  But that moment wasn’t here just yet, soon… very soon.  And until then… He ran a hand down his face.

 

“You know better, Abbie.” He said finally, his gravelly voice serious and stern.

 

“There’s no excuse for my actions, My Lord.  Please forgive me.”

 

Abigail felt lower than dirt begging to be forgiven, for merely speaking her mind and trying to help.  This was ridiculous!  The sooner she was out of this castle, the better, but first she had to get on Bray’s good side again.  When he moved forward and raised his hand, she did her best not to flinch and breathed out silently when it merely rested on her head.  Looking up at him with tear-filled eyes, Abigail once again apologized for no reason and leaned into Bray’s touch, her hand raising to clasp his against her cheek.  A single tear trickled down her cheek and it wasn’t because she was sorry, it was because she was terrified of this monster.

 

“Bray, I’m so sorry…”

 

She had looked like she was terrified that he would strike her, which Bray had never done before, so why would she think he would now?  He had been there, seen the abuse Abigail had suffered, just as she had seen the horrors inflicted upon him.  He needed air and there were other matters to attend too.

 

“You’re forgiven.” It came out brusque than he had intended, but there it was. “I will see you at dinner.” Bray pulled his hand away and walked out of the room, his eyes icing over.  He wasn’t surprised when Erick Rowan, another most loyal, fell into step behind him. “I want a review of the women, those who have birthed males.  I want our serum to go on them.” He wasn’t about to waste it on female babies.

 

Good heavens, that was close!  Abigail swallowed hard, wiping her tears away and knew she had to tread VERY carefully from now on until it was time to infiltrate the Undertaker’s domain.  Walking over to the window, Abigail leaned against the ledge and looked out at the long stretch of land they lived in, taking another deep breath.

 

“Undertaker…you better be ready for what I have to offer.  You’re my last hope to end this once and for all.” She whispered, eyebrows furrowing together and hoped she was doing the right thing, hoping this didn’t backfire on her.

 

~!~

 

“Do we have any intel on this Undertaker?”

 

“He’s big, tall… that’s about it.” Luke answered as they walked the camps, Bray’s ice blue eyes not missing anything as he took inventory of the women scurrying around, while men trained. “When he goes out of Wonderful, he’s… disguised.” None of them really knew what he looked like. “A lot of his men are built the same though.  You could have fought him already and you would never know.”

 

“What kind of disguises?”

 

“You would need to talk to Malcolm.  His theory is that the Undertaker has a talisman that allows him to change his appearance.”

 

This had been bothering Luke for a while and it was high time he brought the subject up, clearing his throat. “My liege, there is something that troubles me…about your relationship with Sister Abigail.” Nobody called her anything except that, due to the religious nature.  Or M’lady…some even called her Queen Abigail, though Luke never had.  When Bray’s icy blues met his, Luke hesitated, but decided to speak his mind. “Sire, I know Abigail is…special to you and whatnot, but don’t you think it’s time to have her start breeding?  You need heirs to the DOV, to carry on your legacy when you eventually perish.  She’s 26-years-old and…not getting any younger, My Lord.  And I am not the only one who fears this happening.  A lot of us believe it’s time you breed with her and have her do what a woman does best…” Open her legs and allow the seeds of DOV to flow through her.

 

“I’ve been thinking of that as well.” Bray confessed, running his fingers through his long brown hair, ruffling it, his brow creasing in a frown.  He knew it was hypocritical, other women breeding and he kept one for his own ‘pleasure’ as it were, without touching her, without producing an heir. “I want to ensure she’ll produce sons first.” It would look quite bad if his Queen bore him a daughter as his first child. “After this mission is complete, after we have the Mythril, then I will bed her.”

 

That made sense and Luke felt marginally better about the situation, thankful his Lord hadn’t cut him down for asking about Sister Abigail. “Do you believe the Mythril will ensure she bores you a son?”

 

At Bray’s nod, Luke smiled and clapped him on the shoulder, already knowing his Lord hadn’t bedded any woman in his lifetime, which was a damn shame.  Bray was a handsome, strong man and any woman would’ve been lucky to breed with him.  However, he had remained steadfast in his belief that Abigail was his one and only, no other man would touch her.  As much as Luke longed to have Abigail, even for a night, or long enough to breed with her, he knew it would never happen and instead took the other women they brought into the DOV to bed…even if they weren’t willing.  He wondered what it would be like to hear Abigail scream while penetrating her, a sick smile crossing his face at the thought.

 

“Will you go talk to Malcolm then about this talisman theory?”

 

“Yes, a lead is a lead and we need all the intel we can before sending her.”

 

He was glad Luke hadn’t pressed anymore issues; it would pain him to beat the life out of a man he considered his friend.  Bray would not, however, be taking Abigail with him.  She had already cost him a little pride today and he didn’t need any more questions concerning her status.

 

“Go speak with the seamstress, tell her what you want and have her get to work.” He watched as Luke got a sick smirk on his face, his own lips spreading upwards in amusement. “And Luke?  She will need her fingers for this task…”

 

“Oh, I know that…” Luke got an even sicker smirk, his eyes gleaming with pure wicked intentions. “She’ll be able to use her fingers…doesn’t mean I can’t bend her over the table while she’s performing the task though, does it?” At Bray’s headshake, he laughed and walked off to find Valerie, a woman he had bedded and bred with on more than several occasions.  She was used to his volatile nature and ways, always doing whatever asked of her like a good little, obedient breeder.

 

Malcolm was not surprised when Bray came back to visit him, not surprised by Abigail’s absence.  She had overstepped her boundaries this morning; she was lucky she was in her position; any other woman would have been strangled to death.  He had seen Bray, in a fit of rage, choke the life out a woman who had given birth to nothing except daughters.

 

“I want to know about the Undertaker, and how you think he disguises himself.  Luke said you had theories.”

 

Heaving a sigh, Malcolm did not want to upset his liege with false data, trying to think of the right way to say what he wanted. “There’s…a rumor, a theory, mind you, so I don’t know how accurate it is, about the Undertaker.  He…goes around disguising himself…and he has a special talisman that was passed down through his family.  I don’t know how true this is, it seems pretty far-fetched since I am the only magical entity in existence.  But there ARE relics out in Vesperia that do hold magical abilities, but they are very rare and hard to find.” If Undertaker had one of those relics, a talisman…it would explain why his domain was impenetrable.

 

Bray stared at Malcolm, drumming his fingers on the table beside him. “What exactly do you think this talisman does?  Allows him to change his appearance?”

 

“Well, I think it does more than that.  I think it is also what keeps us from being able to invade.  A protective bubble, if you will.”

 

Interesting, but odd. “So… you are the only sorcerer in Vesperia, but there is a magical talisman out there that defies all natural and magical laws and properties?” One eyebrow was raising.  His sorcerer was approaching the endangered species list.

 

“My liege…as I said, it’s a theory and I don’t know if it’s true or not.  I DO know one thing for certain: Many have tried to face the Undertaker, to invade Wonderful and NONE have succeeded.  They’ve either been killed or shown mercy and let into his ranks.  He’s…strong, My Lord…and the only explanation is he has magic on his side somehow, someway.” For all they knew, the bastard could be inside their domain now and they would never know it because of his disguises. “Instead of focusing on the Mythril, why not have Sister Abigail put her focus into finding out what exactly makes the Undertaker as powerful as he is?  If we could somehow get the talisman from him, or whatever magical relic he possesses, you would surely be able to invade and take Wonderful as your own as you’ve done the rest of the towns.”

 

Casually, Bray picked up a nearby candle and crooked a finger at Malcolm.

 

“My Lord?”

 

His eyes were on the flame, swallowing hard.  Malcolm had probably crossed a few too many lines today, on top of Abigail’s own transgressions.  When those eyes just narrowed into slits, he reluctantly walked to his liege.  He took Malcolm’s hand and moved it over the flame, watching his sorcerer intently.

 

“The Mythril is my priority, Malcolm.” Bray said in a friendly manner, feeling Malcolm’s hand trembling violently as he held it over that flame, knowing the damage it would cause. “She is going in as a servant.  Getting anywhere near the Undertaker isn’t going to happen right away, not if he’s as clever as you all seem to think.  It’s a secondary priority, do you understand?”

 

When Bray had his mind set on a particular task, there was no swaying him from it.  Malcolm had learned that the hard way. “Y-Yes, my liege, understood!!” He shouted out, the fire burning his hand and knew better than to pull away. 

 

This was his punishment for speaking his mind without permission.  Malcolm was a fool and it hadn’t been the first time since he’d been punished.  What was he thinking advising Bray to do anything?  He should’ve just told him what he knew and kept his mouth shut about the rest!

 

“I-I will help however you see fit, my liege, I swear it!!  PLEASE!!”

 

“Damn right you will.” Bray pushed the flame up until it smothered against Malcolm’s palm, aggravating the burn he had made by the hot, melting wax now adhering to Malcolm’s skin.  He refused to let go, even as his sorcerer trembled from fear and pain. “There is a reason tactical thinking is left to others, Malcolm.  You have no sense for it.”

 

“Y-yes my Lord, of course, Sire, you’re r-right.”

 

Smiling, Bray let go of the other man and watched as Malcolm cradled his hand to his chest, snorting.  Pathetic.  He had taken horrific beatings as a child, suffered near starvation, countless horrors and he bore his scars proudly.  He had survived, and he had a purpose.

 

“Good.  Now, about this talisman, what exactly should she keep an eye out for, if she’s lucky enough to even get that close?  Same for the Mythril.” Abigail had never seen Mythril, it was that rare.  He hadn’t either, not in its raw form.

 

The first chance presented to him, Malcolm was leaving the Dominion, or escaping rather, and taking his granddaughter with him.  Her mother had been killed, after having three daughters in a row – HIS own daughter – had been taken and ripped from him because of this fiend.  Malcolm couldn’t handle the punishments and disgrace anymore.  He’d been taken from his loving home, his wife killed before his eyes and forced to serve Bray Wyatt and the DOV.

 

“I-I don’t know, m-my l-liege…” Of course, Malcolm had information, but he wasn’t about to give it up now that his hand was severely burnt, blisters already forming. “I-I’ve never s-seen M-Mythril up-close b-before or this t-talisman…I-I have no other i-information, I-I’m sorry…” He was in so much pain, tears stinging his eyes.

 

Bray stared down into Malcolm’s eyes, finally nodding. “Of course, of course Malcolm, I believe you.” He lied very openly, his tone dripping with venom. “I do think, however, that I’ll have Luke Harper ask your granddaughter, Susan, a few things, just to be on the safe side, hmm?” When Malcolm began sputtering and stammering, he grabbed the smaller man by the throat. “Lie to me again and I will cut out your filthy tongue and make your precious Susan EAT IT!” If Malcolm was smart, he’d start telling the truth immediately.

 

“I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ELSE!!” Malcolm screamed bloody murder, tears pouring down his face as he clutched his hand against his chest, knowing it was infected already.

 

Upstairs – hell, she was pretty sure the entire castle heard the screaming – Abigail went about her business as usual, which was…walking around and being bored out of her mind.  She couldn’t wait to get out of this castle.  Torturing was a form of punishment in the DOV, when one wasn’t being truthful, and Bray could somehow sense when someone was lying to him…except Abigail.  She was the only one who could snow him and make him believe what she wanted.  When she heard another scream, she couldn’t handle it anymore and stood up from the table to go outside for some much-needed fresh air.  Bray would steer clear of her after what happened that morning and she was grateful for it, not wanting to be near him.

 

Chapter 5

 

In the end, Bray commuted Malcolm’s punishment because the sorcerer was lying.  When all was said and done, Malcolm told him exactly what he knew, what signs to look for, and what Mythril in its raw form looked like.  Bray made sketches and took notes, not about to send his beloved Abigail out into the unknown unprepared.  He would not do it and he would not brook disobedience or defiance.  There would be no lying.

 

“Luke… remove Susan’s tongue.”

 

“But… I told you everything!”

 

“You did.  After I had to punish you.  I shouldn’t need to do that, Malcolm.” Bray argued patiently. “I’m afraid you’ve been pampered; you’re used to my leniency.  We’ll correct that.” He spoke gently, like a parent to a child.

 

One the females, a child still not near breeding age, who had been put to work as a servant in the castle, since cooking, cleaning and breeding was all females were good for, had heard that and finished her job, cleaning out embers from the fireplace.  She hefted her heavy bucket and walked out, head down and quiet as always.  She needed to find Sister Abigail.

 

~!~

 

“What?!” Abigail glanced over at the beautiful brown-haired girl, that wasn’t even a year old yet, chasing a butterfly. 

 

Her heart pounded vigorously in her chest as she watched Luke Harper come toward the girl, not surprised when Susan began to resist.  Right there, in the courtyard, in front of everyone, including her, he proceeded to hold her down by straddling her, whipped a knife out and proceeded to cut her tongue out.  The gagging noises, the blood spurting out of the poor girl’s mouth…Abigail had to look away and then watched as Susan was raped.  Luke had broken one of the main rules of the DOV by raping a woman in front of an audience, instead of doing the deed behind closed doors.  Abigail rushed off inside the castle to go tell Bray what one of his most trusted had done and couldn’t wait to watch the bastard be punished for insubordination.

 

“I’m sorry, Abigail, that it upset you.” Bray said when she found him and told him what she had seen, reaching out to cup her face gently.  Sighing, he bent down to kiss her forehead, wishing he could have shielded her from that sight. “But… an example had to be made.  People are getting too lax, forgetting the driving force of the Dominion and what we are trying to accomplish.  Before this hour ends, what happened out there will be known to every last follower and they will know the reason why it was allowed.”

 

No exceptions were that message and he would strike down with a holy and just punishment.  This was just another reason why she had to get away from here, out of this castle, and out of the DOV.  This was madness.  He allowed one of his right-hands to break the rules by raping that poor, defenseless girl, AFTER cutting her tongue out!

 

“I-If you don’t mind, I-I’m going to my room.  I-I need to be alone right now…and I’m not feeling good.”

 

Pulling back, his hands left her face and she’d only done it because they were alone at the moment.  She knew better than to do it in front of people because it ‘cut him down’.  Ridiculous!  Abigail let the tears fall and let him SEE her tears before she backed away from him, not recognizing this monster anymore.

 

“I won’t be down for dinner, I-I hope you understand why.  Good night, Bray.” Bowing her head, she walked out of the room and ran to her own, throwing up as soon as she was completely alone in her private bathroom.

 

Bray let her go, knowing he had to go out and be seen, preach the word of the DOV, so they knew that this breech in protocol had been for a valid reason.  If their leaders, if his most trusted, couldn’t be trusted, then there was sin afoot and it had to be stamped out.  They had to all remember their place, their reasons, and he would remind them.  Luke, because he was just that kind of person, when he was done with Susan and had sent her packing to be tended too, had taken her tongue.  He had taken it down to the cooks.

 

~!~

 

Over the next few weeks, Bray strategized with Abigail on what to do, how to act, and instructed one of the women, who had drifted from Wonderful, to coach her on how to portray herself.  Bray looked disturbed as Lily told her all about Wonderful and how equally everyone was treated, the women were just as important as the men.  Abigail assured him that Lily was fully with the DOV and appreciated breeding to help build their cause, their DOV empire.  That seemed to settle Bray down some and Abigail continued listening, deciding once Bray was out of the room, she would warn Lily NOT to upset Bray by talking about how ‘great’ Wonderful was.

 

Before she knew it, the night had arrived where she would depart the castle and Abigail would’ve lied, if she said she wasn’t nervous.  Bray assured her everything would be alright, raining kisses on her face and then allowed her to change into the black skirt and soft lavender long-sleeved top.  It was such a change, a difference from the pure white she was always forced to wear.  Bray had a car brought around for her and once again, they went over her story for when she infiltrated Wonderful.

 

“My name is Abbie, I’m from Salny and I’m seeking a new beginning and refuge from the Dominion of Vesperia.” She reiterated, a bag packed in her hand. 

 

They had decided she wouldn’t be coming back until she had surefire proof of where the Mythril was located and if it was even in the Undertaker’s domain, along with some kind of talisman.  Bray hadn’t gone into details, just told her what to look and watch out for.  Putting her bag in the trunk, he turned her around again and kissed her, keeping hold of her face tightly.  He didn’t realize it, but this would be the last time he saw Abigail for a long time…until she came back with reinforcements to bring him down or…in a body bag from the Undertaker killing her.

 

“Is it wise,” Luke watched the car drive off, knowing it would drop her a few miles from the borders of Wonderful.  She had been given a map to memorize and then destroy, but it would look awfully suspicious for a servant woman to arrive seeking appropriate employment in a vehicle. “To not require her to check in every few weeks?”

 

No, it wasn’t, he thought, eyes narrowing as his head tipped to the side. “What’s done is done.”

 

“Of course.”

 

Checking in was too risky.  Bray had been the one to tell her the plans had slightly changed, slightly altered.  He wanted her to get close enough to the Undertaker to be able to find out the location of the Mythril as well as if the talisman theory was the truth.  Not to mention, if she was going in claiming to seek employment, a new beginning, as a servant girl, after leaving her ‘home’, why would she need to check in with them?  It would be too suspicious, and Abigail was thankful to be rid of Bray Wyatt and the DOV for the time being. 

 

It was a solid plan, but that meant she would not be checking in, only coming back, according to Bray, when she had the information he needed.  That wasn’t going to happen, however.  Once the car stopped, a few miles from Wonderful, Abigail stepped out, grabbed her bag and watched it race off before her eyes moved to the stretch of road before her.  It was a couple miles north and Abigail breathed in the night air, letting a few happy tears slide down her cheeks because she was finally free.  Now, it was time to liberate everyone from the DOV, but that would take a lot of time and effort.

 

“One step at a time.” She murmured, hoping what Lily said about Wonderful was the truth because she couldn’t handle watching women being raped, beaten and tortured on a daily basis anymore.

 

A woman traveling at night, by herself, was just poor common sense. “Oi, you see that?”

 

“No…” That was because he wasn’t the one looking through the night vision binoculars. “Gimme a turn.” He raised them, looking for a few moments and then frowned. “That a woman?”

 

“Aye, poor gal… she’s likely to be picked up by them roving bastards.”

 

“Probably.  We’ll keep an eye on her from time to time.” They had to stand watch, keeping their eyes to the south.

 

“I wonder what the hell she’s doing out there all alone…”

 

Her black hair was braided, currently hanging over her shoulder.  It was waist length, Bray refused to let her cut it after begging with her to leave it alone.  Just another choice taken away from her.  White shoes were on her feet, a little scuffed to give the illusion she had come a long way.  The bag in her hand was a little heavy, but nothing Abigail couldn’t handle and, again, gave the illusion she had left home to pursue a new beginning elsewhere.  It was a believable enough story, she hoped anyway.

 

Bray had, personally, taken an additional step in her disguise.  Abigail was meant to have been walking quite some distance and a servant… he had rubbed her face in embers and then washed only a bit of it off, doing the same with her hands.  Making sure the black remained in the lines, giving her the impression of someone who actually served.

 

“Why don’t we send someone out to get her?”

 

“Because after dark, that’s against the rules?”

 

“I’ll send out a runner, it’ll be quick.”

 

“Don’t let Steve catch ya, he’ll have your balls…”

 

About a mile from Wonderful’s gates, Abigail was stopped by a man with kind dark eyes, long black hair and a smile.  At first, she didn’t think he was coming for her, but that quickly changed when he stopped in front of her.  Abigail swallowed hard, keeping her distance and hesitantly sized him up.  This man was HUGE, muscular and built like a brickhouse.

 

“I-I don’t want any trouble, sir.  I’m just trying to get to the next town…” She spoke up in a low, quiet voice, hoping the men in Wonderful weren’t rapist pigs like back at the DOV. “Please…”

 

“You ain’t gonna get none either, ma’am.  I’m here to escort you into the city walls for the night.” He saluted her with two fingers, chuckling at the look on her scummy face. “Lady, it ain’t safe out here and the big boss, he don’t like folks out wandering.” Which was true, but they were usually not supposed to go out and bring strangers in after dark.  Wonderful had some serious bleeding hearts. “Come on now, let’s go.  You can stay in the common house for the night and get back to your business in the morning.”

 

Everyone who walked through the gates to the city had to go through the scanner, something powered by the big boss himself, and nobody got in with a weapon of any kind.  Nail files wound up setting off an alert.  Austin had cracked a lot of jokes about that the first time it happened.  This man worked for the ‘big boss’, which had to be Undertaker.  Was this one of Undertaker’s men?  It had to be!  Fate was on her side, apparently.

 

“O-Okay…thank you…”

 

She had no idea what to call him and he hadn’t bothered giving her a name, just guided her, with his hand on the small of her back, the rest of the way into Wonderful.  He stood well over 6 feet, muscular and had long black hair, along with a matching goatee, dressed all in black.  The moment she stepped inside, it was like a whole new world full of life, laughter and spirit.  Abigail wiped some of the soot off her cheeks, trying to make herself look somewhat presentable and felt eyes on her with every step she took.  The man lead her to a place called the common house, just as he said and left her there, wishing her well.  He assured her they would take care of her and then went back to his post for the evening.  She had thanked him before venturing inside, feeling as though her heart would leap from her chest from how hard it pounded.

 

“Jesus Chris look at you, you’re so damn scummy!” A brown-haired woman with kind blue eyes laughed when she spotted the woman coming in. “Fuck… hey Amy, get some hot water and a bar of that soap, the scented!”

 

She ran the common house and, those who couldn’t pay her fees, they had to sign their name and whatever else on the ledger for the big boss to review and pay for out of the community funds.  It all circulated within Wonderful and, since money had kind of gone the way of proper civilization, they tended to use valuable goods as currency.  Since Wonderful was one of the last bastions of actual freedom, they had been cut off from the majority of Vesperia, actual currency, like paper money, was hard to come by.

 

“Come here honey, let’s do a lice check really quick.  I’m Stephanie, by the way.”

 

Lice?!  She didn’t have lice!  This woman was out of her mind!  Abigail suddenly remembered what she was doing here in the first place, having forgotten, momentarily, her past life with Bray and the DOV, nodding hesitantly.

 

“T-Thank you.” She stammered, a little taken aback by how…free the women were here. 

 

If the women back at the castle spoke the way Stephanie just did, she would’ve been severely punished.  Abigail was waiting for a man to come and do the punishing, but none came.  This was very strange to her.  All Abigail could do was allow Stephanie to lead her to sit down on a nearby bed and lowered her head for the lice check.

 

“So, this is our little getting to know you room and most people hate it.” Stephanie explained, chewing her gum noisily. “But we do lice checks in here and you’ll have to strip, just down to your underwear.  Gotta make sure you don’t have any open sores, or wounds, or anything, you know?  We’ve got a decent stock of medical supplies, but if you have something contagious… you were vaccinated, right?  Before all this shit went down with those fucking Dominion assholes?”

 

“Yes, I’m up-to-date on my shots.”

 

Without Bray’s knowledge, she had asked Malcolm to administer the shots to her, not wanting to take any chances with diseases.  Bray was against any type of vaccination and had destroyed the neighboring towns that had any kind of medicine to be injected in the human body.  Just another reason she knew he was insane and out of his mind.

 

“My name is Abigail.” She answered when Stephanie asked, slowly removing her clothes to reveal pale, unblemished skin all the way around.

 

“Good, good, now I have to ask you something personal.  Any STDs or…?”

 

Chapter 6

 

Her cheeks burned a bright red. “No.  I’m…um…I’m a virgin…” Couldn’t get an STD without having sex, after all.

 

“Oh shit, that don’t mean nothin’, sweetie.  You could get an STD just from swapping bodily fluids.” Stephanie laughed, shaking her head at the pink cheeks that Abigail sported. “Yeah, so… we’ll take your word for it though.  You don’t look like the kissing type.” No offense meant, Abigail just looked too virginal.  After they were done with the physical exam, Stephanie noted the details down in the ledger, turning to give the other woman some privacy to redress. “Okay, Abigail, where are you from and what brings you our way?” Obviously, she was unarmed because she had gotten through the gates without them going off.

 

“Salny.  And I’m here to…well, I left home after my Mom died.  There was nothing left for me there.  I’m just hoping I can find a job and start making my own way.  I’ve been traveling from town to town, searching for a job, but so far, I’ve come up empty…and I’m running low on funds.” Bray had given her enough money to get her started here and then her job as a servant, hopefully, would pay her way until she could go back to the castle. “I can pay for the services here, how much do I owe you for your hospitality, Stephanie?”

 

“Wait, what?  Traveling from town to town?” Stephanie was staring at Abigail like she was out of her mind. “You do know the world is at war, right?  Towns aren’t exactly, um… they don’t really exist.” Salny was a pretty far off distance and her eyes dropped down to the scuffed white shoes, cocking an eyebrow. “How’d you manage to avoid the DOV?” Obviously, she had because Abigail didn’t look battered, abused or pregnant and everyone knew what happened to women in the DOV.  They were cattle, brood mothers.

 

Abigail had to tread carefully with what she said next, swallowing hard and clasped her hands in her lap, already redressed. “I…stayed away from them.  I used the woods and shelters in various towns on my way here.  Truthfully, it wasn’t easy and…I didn’t think I would actually make it to Wonderful.  My Mom…she told me all about this place and how great it was.  She told me on her deathbed to come here, that I’d be safe from the DOV.” Wrapping her arms around herself, Abigail let out a shuddering breath and wiped a stray tear away from her still dirty face. “I didn’t realize it until that man brought me through the gates that this was my actual destination.  My Mom was right.  I just hope I can…start over here and make her proud of me, somehow.” In every way, she meant that with her whole heart. “I don’t blame you if you don’t believe me.  I know it’s a pretty outrageous story, huh?”

 

Amy’s heart went out to the poor thing, hearing and feeling the sadness radiating from her and could tell Stephanie was touched as well.

 

“Nope, you’re not special sweetie.” Stephanie reassured her. “We get those stories quite a bit, well… from the ones that make it this far.”

 

“I’ll go see what’s left from supper and get her a dish.” Amy strolled out into the main room, which was lit up, tables and chairs everywhere as people wound down their night. “Hey, get your hand outta there, save some for others.”

 

“Rude much, Red?”

 

“Eat me, Austin.” Amy laughed.

 

“So, work huh?  What kind of work?” Stephanie asked, tossing her hair over her shoulder and led the way out of the small room and into the main. “Trish, get off the table, someone cut her off.”

 

Women could drink alcohol?  Since when?  Women in the DOV were not allowed to drink a drop of alcohol due to constantly getting pregnant.  It wasn’t good for the babies growing inside of them.  Abigail watched in awe as a busty, petite blonde sauntered over to the bald-headed man Stephanie called Austin and tossed her arms around his neck, kissing him passionately.  What the HELL?  Public affection was allowed too?  What kind of world had she stepped into?  This was the polar opposite of the DOV, of Bray’s world!

 

“I-I’m not sure…I haven’t really thought about it and figured tomorrow, I would go around to the local businesses here.” There were quite a few too. “See what I can find unless you have a suggestion?” Abigail had to avert her gaze from the sloppy making out couple and walked over to the table Stephanie gestured to, sitting down while the redhead set a bowl of what looked to be chili in front of her.  It smelled delicious and even had cornbread to go with it. “Thank you…Amy, right?” The redhead nodded, and Abigail immediately dug in, suddenly starving.

 

“Hey, you said you had money, right?”

 

“That’s rude, Steph…” Amy scowled, dropping down a large mug of milk next in front of Abigail.

 

“Well come on, when was the last time you seen… holy shit,” Abigail had pulled out old paper money and some silver pieces. “Are you kidding me?  Some people still use this?”

 

“Sorry sweetie, that stuff is no good here.”

 

“It is when we’re out of toilet paper…”

 

“Shut up, Steve.  Don’t you have to go check in?”

 

“Soon enough, Red, go get me a plate for the big guy.”

 

“His ass still holed up in the old tower?” Amy shook her head when Steve just shrugged, pushing herself up again and disappeared back into the kitchen.

 

“Wait…” Now Abigail was confused, frowning as she looked from Stephanie to Amy’s retreating form and then back down at the money she had. “What exactly do you use for currency around here?” She tilted her head, not understanding why they wouldn’t take her money, especially silver pieces.  Didn’t those go for a nice chunk of change?  Apparently not in Wonderful. “I’m sorry…that’s all I have on me…”

 

She frowned, hating that Bray had given her money that was no good in this place.  Abigail overheard what Amy said about the big guy being holed up in his tower.  Was that the huge tower she’d seen as she passed through the gates?  It had to be.  That was where the Undertaker resided…and something told her he didn’t leave his tower often.  This was going to be a lot more difficult than she thought.

 

Steve was paying attention to Abigail now, bringing over his beer to sit down across from her and examined the money, feeling the thin paper between his fingers. “We use things that are necessary, honey.” He raised curious blue eyes up to study her. “Money ain’t good to anyone anymore, what the hell are we going to use it for?  Lines for trading with other towns have been cut off systematically as the DOV grows, so we have to trade for services, or food, or medicine.  Some people may want something pretty and shiny… so keep your coins.”

 

“O-Okay, but…I don’t have a way to pay for the services here…”

 

“No sweat honey, we have a contingency for people such as yourself.” Stephanie informed her with a smile, placing a hand on her shoulder.

 

Abigail shook her head, refusing to be made out as a charity case and stood up from the table. “Let me…help out around here, just for tonight until my bill is paid.  I can cook and clean, do dishes, whatever you need.” She offered, hoping to show off some of her skills that would push her in the direction of the Undertaker. “I won’t let you down.  You’ve been kind to me and…I want to repay you for your generosity.”

 

Steve held his hands up, not knowing what to say to that and drained the rest of his beer. “Hell, let the little lady help.” He was going to tell Taker about the newcomer, his curiosity burning about her for some reason he couldn’t explain.  It was an…unsettling feeling being around her.

 

“Send her with Taker’s tray, take her up.” Stephanie had seen the speculating look on Steve’s face, her own baby blues mirroring it.

 

“Good idea.” Steve tapped his knuckles on the table, staring at Abigail. “You can bring a tray up, and I’ll fill you in on how the town works while we walk.” He had to get back to work anyway. “Red, where’s that food?”

 

“Up your ass!” She shouted, carrying a very large, laden supper tray. “I’ll spill this on you, Austin.”

 

“Mm.” He gestured to Abigail. “You wanted to be useful, honey.” Steve went to the counter near the door, reaching underneath it to retrieve his guns and a large crate filled with packed meals for his boys on watch. “Let’s go.”

 

“Yes, sir.” She blinked when he froze, midnight blues widening.

 

“Steve, honey, just Steve.  We’re not formal ‘round here.”

 

Abigail cracked a small smile, holding the tray perfectly still and nodded to show she understood. “Alright, Steve, lead the way.”

 

This was it.  She was about to go meet the Undertaker and could feel her heart thundering powerfully in her chest.  Abigail couldn’t come right out and ask for his help, that would be suicide.  No, she would have to bide her time and figure out a way to get close to him without being suspicious.  Bray wasn’t a patient man and would expect her back in a few months, at the latest, so Abigail had to act fast, but be careful while doing it.

 

Steve led the way out into the town, noting residents were heading home.  Vendors had long cleared and the streetlamps were on, for a little while longer, then it would be power off across Wonderland.  He guided her to a stone wall, pushing through a heavy door and then started climbing the stairs.  The tower, they would get to it, but he took her the long way, dropping off meals to the men on watch and gave her basic information about Wonderful.  Eventually, they reached the entrance to the tower and he rang a bell, waiting patiently until the steel door opened.

 

Abigail soaked in as much knowledge as she could about Wonderful, not asking questions right out the gate because that would be suspicious.  Hell, she didn’t even care about the Mythril anyway.  As far as she was concerned, Bray could stick that up his backside because she wasn’t here for him.  She was here for herself and to liberate the poor people, mostly women, from the DOV.  When that steel door opened, Abigail came face to face with a giant, swallowing nervously as he leaned in the doorway.

 

“Evenin’ Taker, came to bring yer food and figure you’d wanna know the latest newcomer.  Say hi, honey.”

 

Midnight blues met acidic green and she felt her breath stolen for a few seconds, pretty sure her heart also skipped a beat. “H-Hi…” It was a soft, timid tone, barely audible and somehow, she’d kept the tray perfectly still.

 

Acidic green was about all she could see because it was dark behind him.  Snorting, he flicked on the light to reveal a pale purple, hard material mask over his eyes.  His gaze moved from Steve to the woman and back to Steve.

 

“Her arms are trembling.” He said finally, turning and gestured for them to follow. 

 

Taker wore simple black jeans and a long sleeved, black thermal top, his shortly cropped, auburn hair gleaming under the lights as he moved.  Steve eyeballed Abigail.  Taker was right, her arms were shaking pretty badly, and bowls and silverware were clattering on that heavy tray.  He took it from her and turned, following after Taker.

 

“Why is she here, Austin?” He asked, settling himself behind an old, dark stained wooden table, papers and maps scattered around.  Taker shifted things aside, making room for the tray.

 

“She wanted to work off debt to Steph.”

 

“Hm.” He reached up to remove the mask.

 

Steve flinched because, a week ago, Taker had been out patrolling and had a skirmish with the DOV.  He had taken an iron bar to his left eye, broken orbital bone.  Taker wore the mask to protect it from any further damage while it healed and probably to spare people the ugly sight.

 

The giant spared Abigail a look, eyes raking over her, appraising her. “Who are you and why are you here?”

 

“My name is Abigail, Undertaker.”

 

She remembered what Steve told her about the formality and didn’t break eye contact with the giant.  That would be a big mistake.  No wonder Bray was afraid of him, the size of this man was incredible.

 

“Abigail Waters.  I come from Salny.”

 

With precision and a surprisingly steady voice, Abigail reiterated her story about being from Salny and her mother dying, not changing a single thing.  That was crucial to any lie.  She had learned over the past 10 years being stuck with a sociopath, after all.  Since she kept her story straight with no changes, the skepticism from Steve vanished a little, though he still felt uneasy for some odd reason.  Maybe it was too much beer, or those bitches had drugged him at the bar.

 

“I’m not looking for any trouble, I just wanted a fresh start after losing my Mom and she told me to come here for that new beginning.  Unfortunately, the money she gave me is…outdated and I didn’t realize it.  Some other places I’ve been to still take silver coins and regular paper money…” Abigail took the tray from Steve with a smile and set it down on the nearby table in front of Taker. “If you don’t have room for me here, I’ll understand and be on my way in the morning…”

 

“And just where the hell are ya gonna go?  The DOV?”

 

Her eyes hardened slightly. “No.  Never.” Again, she added in thought, keeping the smile on her face.


“We got plenty of room here for ya, little lady.  No need to leave when yer ass is safe here, right Taker?”

 

“Steve has an unfortunate flaw.  He trusts too easily.” Taker said without emotion in his tone. “In fact, most people do when they hear a sob story like yours.  It makes you seem vulnerable, and sad, and people are naturally going to like you because of it.”

 

“You’re such an ass.” Steve said it quietly.

 

“I’m honest.” He had no time for sugar coating or lies; a lot of people had trusted him with their safety. “There is room, however, providing you’re useful.”

 

Everyone had to help.  It was honest work, but hard on occasion.  Taker never sent people out on suicide runs; he didn’t demand anything he wasn’t willing to do himself.  Except the elderly, pregnant women and children under a certain age.  The older children generally helped out with menial chores, but they also had plenty of time for education and play.

 

“What do you know how to do?”

 

It was understanding why he was cautious and a tad cold with his words, not mincing them, but Abigail admired that.  He watched out for his people and did what was necessary to ensure their safety.  Yes, it would take a lot of time and effort on her part to gain his trust, and then she could ask for his help, come clean to him about who she truly was.  Hopefully, by then, he wouldn’t rip her head off her shoulders, which looked to be very possible.

 

“I can cook and clean, for sure.  It depends on what jobs need done around here.  I will tell you if I’m unable to do a task assigned, if you wish?” Bray hadn’t really taught her how to do those things and often berated her for helping around the castle, but Abigail felt an obligation and duty to help with their home.

 

“Come to me.” He ordered, now surveying his food and reached for the chunk of bread Amy had sent, tearing it in two while he stared at her. “Now, Abigail.” His tone clearly indicated he expected to be obeyed.

 

“Go on, honey.  His bark is worse than his bite.” Austin encouraged gently, softly.

 

Taker watched as Abigail slowly approached him.  He had noticed when she had been carrying that tray that everything on it had shook.  Her arms had been visibly trembling under the weight and what likely had been a long walk here.

 

“Hold out your hands.” He dipped his bread into the stew, watching as she extended her arms. “Palms up.”

 

It took Steve a moment to realize what Taker was doing and now he realized what Stephanie had been speculating on.  He moved closer.

 

“You have never worked a day in your life…” He said quietly. “Or, if you have, it was a very, very long time ago.” He traced a finger along the length of her palm. “Soft.  No callouses.  No scratches.” His own, rough fingers ran down her palm again, feeling the very noticeable differences between them.

 

 

Chapter 7

 

It was true.  Bray didn’t allow her to do much around the castle chore-wise because she was considered his Queen.  Royalty in the Dominion.  He didn’t take that into account when sending her here, but Abigail was flexible.  Also, in the foster home, she was forced to do menial tasks such as cleaning, dishes, taking out the trash and scrubbing the floors with a toothbrush if she got out of line.

 

“You are right, I haven’t.  My mother is the one who worked and supported us.  I cooked and cleaned the house, but that was about it.  I’ve never had an honest working experience and, when she died, I had to learn how to survive on my own.  It’s been…difficult without her and makes me realize how much I took her for granted.” Pulling her hands away from him, Abigail started thinking this was a big mistake coming here, to Wonderful, because everyone was skeptical of her, something she hadn’t expected.  Still, he was her only hope – her LAST hope and chance – to bring Bray Wyatt down and the DOV, once and for all. “If you give me a chance, I won’t disappoint you, Undertaker.”

 

“Stephanie will be able to help find you something to do.  You may have a bed at the common house for now.”

 

They had proper housing, but that was usually reserved for people who had been here awhile, with families.  Building onto Wonderful was something he and Steve had been discussing, but that would require expanding the wall.  Taker was still thinking on how to do that without overtaxing himself.

 

“You coming out tonight, boss or…”

 

He shook his head, more focused on eating, though he was observing Abigail thoughtfully.  Finally, he raised a hand, dismissing them.

 

“Come on, honey, let’s go get you bunked for the night.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

Abigail followed Steve out of the room and down the stairs back outside, the night air crisp and cool against her skin.  Nobody was allowed outside at night at the castle, mostly due to the fact that’s when the breeding would take place.  Abigail looked down at her hands, soft and barely touched.  She didn’t know what true hard work was.  She didn’t know what hardship was because she’d been pampered by Bray, for the most part, since age 16.  The walk back was made in silence and Abigail walked back into the common house, seeing the mess the hall/bar was in.  Dishes, garbage…did people really not know how to throw their trash away?  Apparently not.

 

“Gather the dishes and put them in the back.  Do you know how to do dishes?”

 

A few times she’d done them at the castle, but Bray had put a stop to it. “I will learn, no matter how long it takes.” She started the water and looked at the huge bottle of soap on the counter, pouring some in as the bubbles began to form.

 

“That’s good, but next time, don’t use that much.  Otherwise, you’ll have a sink full of suds and won’t be able to find the dishes.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“Sorry,” Stephanie said after realizing she probably sounded like a total ass. “I’m tired, it’s been a long fucking day.  And… you don’t want to slop bubbles all over the floor.” She looked down at the floor, sighing. “Mind you, it probably needs it.  Steve, send in some help please, I want these tables moved.  This floor is filthy…”

 

“I’ll send in Shaw and John.  I got to get back to patrols.” Steve said, nodding at her and then winked at Abigail before heading out.

 

A few minutes later, John came bouncing in, laughing when he seen Stephanie trying to lift a table by herself. “M’lady ring for some muscles?” He teased.

 

“Abbie, this is John and he’s a shameless flirt.  He’s only any good BECAUSE of his muscles, ain’t a damn thing between his ears.”

 

“Harsh, homie girl.”

 

Another John…only this one was built MORE than the previous one, shorter, but definitely more muscular.  He had bright blue eyes, kind, and an army crewcut for hair.  Abigail bit her bottom lip, trying not to laugh at the ‘homie girl’ line and failed, not remembering the last time she laughed.

 

“I can mop the floors for you after I do the dishes, Stephanie, if you want.” Since she would be staying here for the foreseeable future, Abigail would work day and night or night and day to ensure she paid her way.

 

“Are you sure?  You look dead on your feet, no offense…”

 

Honestly, Abigail had gotten plenty of rest at the castle, to last her a lifetime, and she never felt more alive now that she was free. “I’m sure.  I’ll go to sleep after the dishes and floors are mopped, I promise.”

 

“She new?”

 

“Brand spanking.”

 

“Go on, Steph, I’ll sit with her.” John said after a moment, surveying Stephanie thoughtfully. “Go on to bed, I’ll be there shortly.” He winked at her.

 

“Oh, go on!” She laughed, cheeks red and nodded. “I’ll see you in the morning, Abbie, we’ll work something out then.”

 

Bradshaw walked in next and the men began moving the tables and chairs, stacking them out of the way and chatting quietly as they did so.  When they were finished, Shaw went to get Abigail some hot water and lye for the floors while John retrieved the mop.  Neither of them were aware that their behavior was anything atypical for her.

 

“Need me for anythin’ else, ma’am?”

 

Men being ordered around by women…men calling her ma’am instead of the other way around with ‘sir’.  Abigail had really entered the twilight zone and shook her head at him with a soft smile. “No, John and…John.” That was confusing as hell. “Okay, since both of you have the same first name, do you mind if I call one of you by your last or something different.  Or maybe I can call the army guy here Johnny to separate the two of you?”

 

“Fine by me.”

 

“Now hold on a minute!”

 

The blue-eyed John looked more like a Johnny anyway and Abigail grinned before beginning to mop the floors with the lye, dipping it in the bucket of water while the dishes soaked in the sink.  The tables would have to be moved back to where they were once she finished mopping, but Abigail knew the real reason why Johnny was sticking around.  He was her babysitter, to make sure she wasn’t up to no good.

 

Just because he was a technical babysitter didn’t mean anything.  She was new.  She was an unknown and it was just how things were.  Unfortunately, the world was at war, thanks to Bray Wyatt and his Dominion of Vesperia, what an asshat.  Johnny was eyeballing her, sure, but he wasn’t a jerk about it.  When Bradshaw finally left, he began walking after Abigail, old rags under his feet and skated along, drying the floor in her wake, so he could put the tables and chairs back.  When she gave him a look, he grinned with a shrug.

 

“Hey, I’m tired and I bet you are too.  Quicker we get this done, quicker we can hit the bricks, right?  Did Stephanie show you where you’d be sleeping?” She shook her head and he nodded; Stephanie had been really tired. “You’ll get either one of the bunks or a cot, just depends who took what tonight.” Common houses meant shared housing.  There were only a handful of tiny ass bedrooms and Stephanie had one.  There were the ‘checkup when check-in’ room and then a larger bedroom, where sick people were usually quarantined.  Everyone else got to share the open floor plan style room up, accessible via a ladder.  Cots and bunk beds, pallets on the floor, it was clean, warm and better than the ground.

 

“Thank you for the help.  Nice moves, by the way.”

 

While he wiped up the floor, drying it with the towels, Johnny was dancing, and it was amusing to witness while she continued mopping.  Granted, she wasn’t planning on drying the floor at all, just letting it air-dry, but perhaps what he was doing was safer.  Once she finished, Abigail wiped her forehead and set the mop aside in the bucket, after dumping the dirty water out in the other sink that wasn’t soaking with the dishes.  Johnny was right, she was extremely tired and dead on her feet, but Abigail needed to finish her task, which was a stack of dishes.  So, this was what hard work and labor felt like…and it felt great to be able to do things for other people for a change. 

 

This woman was incredibly slow… she had to be tired.  John made himself useful, rinsing and drying for her while she washed.  He then showed her where everything went and, by the time they were done, he was ready to go crawl in Stephanie’s bed and cuddle.  It had been a long day.

 

“Okay, so women’s restroom and showers are over there,” He pointed across the room. “Men have behind the kitchen and up here,” He began climbing a ladder to the upper room. “Is where people who don’t have their own housing sleep.” His voice had dropped to a whisper. “Just find an empty bed and call it yours.  Nobody will bother you.”

 

Slow was due to the fact she wasn’t experienced, but the more she did it, the faster and easier it became. “Thank you.  Good night, Johnny.” She whispered back, shaking his hand and walked over to where an empty bed lay near the window, the moon streaming into it. 

 

This spot was perfect and reminded her of the castle as well as the foster home.  Silently, she sat on the bedding, which was comfortable enough and set her bag beside her, pulling the covers up to snuggle with.  Abigail was out before her head fully hit the pillow, every part of her body aching from cleaning, but she also felt liberated.

 

~!~

 

“This shit sucks… I miss the good old days when you could call a contractor to come do this shit and have your insurance pay for it.”

 

“Shut up and get back to work, it’s too hot out here for this shit.”

 

“Agreed.  Austin, shut up.”

 

Repairing houses was not high on his list of fun, but… it had to be done.  Recent storms had done some mild damage to infrastructure.  Steve, Bradshaw and himself were up on the roof of one of the houses, relaying the shingles.

 

“So says the dickbag who is wearing long hair today.” Steve snorted, moving carefully across a weak spot and then looked up into his own face. “I’m pretty sure… that’s an abuse of your powers.”

 

~!~

 

Abigail was up just as the sun rose over the horizon and helped Stephanie, Amy and Trish, the drunken blonde she’d saw making out with Steve the previous night, with breakfast.  The common house made three meals daily for people that didn’t have homes, herself included.  Today’s menu was biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs and bacon.  Abigail wore an old apron Stephanie let her borrow and her hair was once again braided over her shoulder, after she’d had a rather cool shower.  The hot water had been taken, but that was fine by her since it was a whopping 90 degrees today.  Her clothes were shorts -Stephanie lent them to her-, blue jean, along with a red tank top.  Stephanie had shown her how to knead the dough, making biscuits from scratch while she did the bacon and gravy since it required the grease from the bacon.

 

“You know, it’s mostly just me and Ames running this place, and cooking for all these hungry folk, on top of cleaning and everything else.” Stephanie explained, knowing Abigail would need to be trained, which was fine. “The guys come help out when we need some muscle or just another hand, but it’d be nice to have another full-timer around here.  What do you think?” Before Abigail could answer, the bell over the door sounded and she looked over her shoulder. “Shit, they’re going to be starving.  They were up at the asscrack of dawn working on houses.  Who the fuck you supposed to be today, boss?”

 

“Dealer’s choice.” He smirked, his hair hanging down to the middle of his back, jet black, a goatee and mustache combo adorning his pale face.  Like Steve and John, he was in only working jeans and boots, bare from the waist up, revealing a multitude of tattoos across his upper body.  His eyes today were a gray green, less acid.

 

“You should’ve seen him and Steve, two of them, it was disgusting.”

 

“I – um – yeah, that sounds good, Stephanie…”

 

Abigail couldn’t believe the difference from the previous night, the change and suddenly remembered what Bray warned her about.  The disguises.  Was this the Undertaker’s true form?  His face was completely healed too, the mask gone and…Abigail had to turn away, hearing the oven go off and pulled the biscuits out.  She pulled the oven mitt on, sliding them out and set them on the rack to cool for a minute or two while Trish finished with the eggs.  The gravy was done, a huge pot of it, and there were at least 60 biscuits done so far.  She immediately popped the next batch in, turned the timer on and took the oven mitt off before turning around, only to slam right into Mr. Disguise himself.

 

“Oh shit, sorry!”

 

“Accepted.” He grunted, without looking at her, busy reaching up to pull down a stack of large plates.  If she knew who he was, it was because Stephanie had called him ‘boss’. “Watch it.” Taker grabbed her hand and pulled her away from the stove, pushing the gravy off the still hot burner. “It goes off when you’re done.”

 

“Oh shit, please don’t get a third-degree burn… those cast-iron pots and pans will mess you up!” Stephanie yelped, wishing she had remembered to tell the new worker. “Boss, are you still planning on going outside the walls today?”

 

He nodded. “You have the lists?”

 

“Yes, everyone made one and I pooled them together and cut down to the essentials.  Non-essentials are on the back, I’ll go grab it.”

 

This truly was the Undertaker.  The same man with the mask and disfigured eye…the short cropped auburn hair…it was as if it never existed.  He was completely different, and Abigail could only nod at his warning along with Stephanie’s.  What the hell was going on here?  Did he truly have magical powers that allowed him to change form?  Bray had said something about a talisman.  Could he use that talisman to liberate the people of the DOV and destroy it?  Abigail busied herself with the biscuits, trying to clear her mind, so she didn’t make a mistake and put another set of biscuits in.  Stephanie ordered her to start serving the food, bringing it out to the people pouring in and made sure to give each person the exact amount.  The men, Undertaker’s men, were the first to be served along with the man himself.  She set their plates down and tried to hide her surprise when they thanked her.

 

“You’re welcome, enjoy.” Then she hightailed it back into the kitchen to start filling her serving tray up again.

 

The gates and surrounding areas of Wonderful were open during the day, so long as the Undertaker was in residence.  People were able to come and go freely, always through the arches, which served as weapon detectors.  When he left, and this was a secret only he knew, the magical protection went with him.  That was why there were soldiers patrolling the walls and the borders in shifts.  Taker wasn’t leaving anything to chance.  The DOV had tried a few times to push through, and each time, they had been sent packing.  There were too many women and children housed in Wonderful; if the DOV actually made it through… his eyes turned acid briefly.

 

Chapter 8

 

By the time 10 AM rolled around, everyone within the town, who came to the common house to eat, was served and fed.  Abigail was finally able to sit down and eat some breakfast along with Stephanie, Trish and Amy, the women all sharing a table.  The food was delicious and the biscuits…she had done a fine job on them, after two burnt batches, which Stephanie had laughed about and showed her the proper way to make them.  One thing about Abigail was she learned fast and absorbed information like a sponge.

 

“I just don’t understand why that damn DOV insists on bothering us.” Trish grunted, stabbing her biscuits and gravy like it personally did her wrong. “They have more than enough people and…from what I heard, Wyatt is building a huge army at alarming rates.”

 

“Really?” That was worrisome, though Stephanie had to wonder how he did it. “Does anyone know how or where he’s getting people from?”

 

“Nope, unfortunately not.  I mean, a woman is pregnant for 9 months, right?  They can’t possibly have that many babies to make a 200 men army and counting.” Steve did great pillow talk after Trish rocked his world and now she was discussing things with the girls, like always.

 

“Maybe he has magic on his side.” Amy suggested, shrugging when Stephanie and Trish stared at her wide-eyed. “What?  You don’t think it’s a possibility, given WHO our leader is?”

 

That was a good point. “What about you, newbie?” Stephanie asked, wanting Abigail to contribute to the conversation. “What do you think about the DOV?”

 

“They’re sick bastards and deserve to burn for what they’ve done and what they continue to do.” Abigail meant every word that came out of her mouth and hoped it happened one day.

 

“Amen to that.” Stephanie laughed, then sighed as she took a long drink from her coffee cup. “It’s a beautiful day outside… I wish Taker would use his magic to give us a hand for cleaning.”

 

“Steve says it doesn’t work like that.” Trish said absentmindedly, tossing her hair over her shoulder as she used her biscuit to sop up more gravy from her plate.  She frowned when she realized Stephanie and Amy were staring at her, eyes widening. “Forget I said that.”

 

“Oh no, no… Steve knows how it works?”

 

“No… not really.  No one does and let’s change the subject.”

 

Magic…so the theory Bray found out from Malcolm was true. “Magic?” Abigail sounded a little disbelieving, looking from one woman to the other and could tell they were uncomfortable with this subject. “That’s how he changed his appearance, right?  I wouldn’t have recognized him if Stephanie hadn’t called him ‘boss’ earlier.  Last night, he had a mask on his face and his face was all cut up and bruised heavily.  His hair was short too.  So, he’s the same guy, right?”

 

There was no point hiding the truth from Abigail, not after Trish opened her big mouth. “Yeah…you have to keep it hush-hush though because not everyone in Wonderful knows.”

 

“Only a select few.”

 

Amy looked pointedly at Trish, who had lowered her head and busied herself with her food.  She’d just spilled Taker’s secret to an outsider.  And so had Stephanie, now that she thought about it, because of the whole ‘helping clean with magic’ line.  These women were out of their minds sometimes.

 

“I won’t say anything.  I’ll forget about it.  Look see, forgotten already.” Not likely, but Abigail had to ease their minds somehow and continued eating her food. “What time do we serve lunch?”

 

“One o’clock.”

 

“What are we making for that today?”

 

“Sandwiches with chips.  People can come in and make their own, so we’ll get a small break and be able to clean up from breakfast.”

 

Stephanie had breathed a silent sigh of relief, cursing herself mentally for opening her own big mouth around this stranger.  Trish hadn’t exactly helped with that either.  Sometimes they just got carried away, but at the same time… they were usually by themselves, Abigail had just sort of been forgotten.

 

“I got to go run some errands around town, you want to come Abigail?  Got to do some ‘shopping’, and what clothes did you bring with you from Salny?” Amy asked, studying those white shoes with a frown. “You walked and hitched from Salny?  Those heels and soles must be run clear through.”

 

“They’re actually not bad, but sure, I’ll join you…if it’s alright with Stephanie.” Abigail didn’t want to flake out on her obligations to the common house, glancing at the brunette and watched her nod. “I have a couple shirts, pants and shorts, socks and undergarments…” She listed off the items that were in her bag, being completely truthful. 

 

Abigail couldn’t afford anything since Wonderful didn’t accept regular currency, so she had no idea why Amy wanted to drag her along.  Maybe to get to know her better or snoop, either way, Abigail didn’t mind the heat radiating off her as she looked around the town.  It was bustling with life, everyone looked happy – tired, but happy.  She’d never seen so many smiling faces in her life and it did her heart good.  Whatever Undertaker did to make his people this happy, she hoped he continued to do it for a long time to come.

 

“Hey Red, what you need?” Ron asked when he spotted Amy coming up his walk, cocking an eyebrow at the woman trailing behind him “Shoes?” His eyes dropped down to both women’s feet, taking in Amy’s old red high-tops and the scuffed white shoes on the other woman’s feet.

 

“Well this one here walked and hitched her way here from Salny.” Amy explained. “I figured that distance, on that terrain, she might need her shoes either resoled or replaced.”

 

“What’cha paying with today, Red?”

 

“She’s got old money coins, remember what quarters look like?”

 

“No shit?”

 

“Y-Yeah…” Abigail pulled the coins out of her pocket, not leaving them in her bag for fear of thievery and showed the dark-skinned man the paper money she also had too. “They’re silver coins, actually…” She dropped one in his hand and watched him survey the coin before popping it in the air, catching it with ease.

 

“I haven’t seen these in a dog’s age!” Ron hooted with a grin, knowing how valuable a single silver coin used to be back in the day…before the DOV took over most of Vesperia. “I’ll take them, help yourself to whatever you want in the shop and, if I need another one for payment, I’ll let you know.”

 

“I don’t really need…”

 

Before she could get the sentence out, Amy yanked her inside the shop to get her a new pair of shoes.  Honestly, her shoes were fine, just a bit scuffed, but still comfortable.  While Abigail was trying on new shoes, Amy and Ron were studying her white pair.

 

“Heels are…”

 

“Maybe she hiked barefoot?”

 

“Maybe.  Just weird is all.”

 

“What’s weird?”

 

“Boss man, what you doing here?”

 

“Checking your roof, Ron.” Taker took the shoes they were studying, recognizing them. “What’s wrong with these?”

 

“Not a thing.” That was the problem.

 

He raised a slow brow. “Ron… buff them out.” His eyes moved around the room, finally landing on Abigail. “Red, take her out today, when we go on the errands.  I want you and the new girl out there with us.”

 

“Abbie, can you ride a crotch rocket?”

 

“I’m sorry, what?”

 

“A crotch rocket, honey.” Ron raised a brow when she looked completely perplexed, slowly looking up at the boss. “I don’t think she knows what they are.”

 

“You been on a motorcycle before, Abbie?” Amy asked patiently, not surprised the new girl shook her head and rubbed her temples. “She can ride bitch then with me.  And Taker, the new girl has a name.” It was rude of him to keep referring to her as ‘the new girl’ instead of using her name.

 

Ron smirked, knowing Amy didn’t beat around the bush or put up with anyone’s crap in Wonderful, not even Taker.

 

“I know what a motorcycle is, Amy.  Is that the same thing as a crotch rocket?  Or are they different?”

 

“Don’t worry about it, you’ll just ride with me.”

 

“Okay, where are we going?”

 

“Out.  Don’t worry, you’ll enjoy it.  Now, did you pick out a new pair of shoes?”

 

“Yeah.” She held a pair of plain black tennis shoes that looked comfortable and held them out. “You can go ahead and throw the white ones out or keep them and resell them, if you want.  I don’t like white…” Never again would Abigail wear the color, already planning on making her wardrobe as colorful as possible.

 

“Umm…okay?  Sure, thanks…”

 

Ron wasn’t throwing them away; they were in pretty good condition and he didn’t like having to re-sole or repair shoes when there were perfectly good ones laying around.

 

“Your name is Abigail.”

 

“Don’t mind him, he’s weird.” Amy rolled her eyes, then scowled when an overly large hand came down on her head, mussing her hair up.

 

“Your name is New Girl, until otherwise.”

 

“Now you’re just doing it to irritate me.” Amy watched as he walked out with Ron, shaking her head. “He pulled me outta a bad spot years ago, so… he’s not so bad, not really, just… weird.  And stern, sometimes.  Sometimes I think he changes his mood as often as he changes his looks.”

 

The way he said her name sent a shiver down her spine, though Abigail didn’t show it.  She knew better.  His deep, burly, somewhat dark voice was sexy, and she could listen to him talk all day and night.  There was no way that man wasn’t taken already.  If he wasn’t, he either liked men only or wanted to be alone.

 

“Why does he do that anyway?” She asked curiously, slipping the black tennis shoes on over her white socks.  The only white thing she’d keep. “I mean, I guess it’s genius to switch up your appearance, so your enemies don’t know exactly what you look like, but…it’s still weird.  You’re right, he is weird.”

 

“Come on, let’s run those errands for Stephanie before we have to go out this afternoon on the run.” Amy made sure they were squared up with Ron before walking out, a basket on her arm to hold items she had to deliver and pick up. “Now… one of the reasons he changes his looks every day is because… well, when he goes out, nobody ever really knows who he is.  I mean, here in Wonderful, he usually sticks to something familiar, but out there… he looks like anyone else.  Keeps the DOV from realizing he’s in charge, because if they know, they’ll take him out.  What’s the Resistance without its leader?” That’s what they were known as to others outside of Wonderful’s walls – Undertaker’s Resistance.  She stopped at a stall, handing over a bottle of pills to an older woman before continuing on. “And the other… is well… this is what I heard, I mean, it’s from a good source, but still… rumor.  He had a brother, a younger brother.  His brother died in those early years, after the Dominion happened.  They set fire to the house Taker and his brother were in.  Taker was…. burnt, pretty badly.  So, I think that’s why he changes up his appearance all the time, hiding those scars.”

 

He was eavesdropping.  Sort of.  Taker was also holding a conversation with a few children, who were on their way to school.  Boys and girls; children were precious here, not a resource or a means to an end like the DOV.  Amy was mostly right.  There was more to the story then what she knew… about his younger brother, who had died, and thinking about Glen made a valuable part of him throb in response, a hand nearly convulsing as he fought the urge to feel the spot.  It had been Glen who’d had magic, something rare, something scientists back when had tried to study, but all that had been lost in the war.  Glen had saved him, the younger brother had given his life, his magical essence, to ensure he would survive.  Now, he carried not only scars from that day, but… a little something extra.  Taker was carrying a piece of Glen with him, or… his lips twitched slightly at his own musings, within him.

 

Destruction was all Bray had caused all of these people, even the leader of Wonderful.  Everywhere he went, he caused chaos and shed so much innocent blood.  It had to stop before the world of Vesperia was lost forever.  Abigail didn’t know what to say to Amy’s explanation regarding Undertaker changing his appearance.  Were the scars really that bad?  Her heart went out to him and his entire family, hating the man she used to love, the man she had followed for a decade, who had caused so much agony.

 

“That’s awful.  Nobody deserves that kind of pain.  Nobody deserves to be…tortured and ripped from their homes and forced to endure what the DOV is doing!  To lose loved ones and homes and memories and…Innocent people are dying and being killed on a daily basis, all for the sake of a goddamn religion one man created!” Abigail blinked, tears sliding down her cheeks and wiped them away angrily, gritting her teeth against her own pain she’d suffered at the hands of the DOV.  It wasn’t physical so much as mental and emotional.

 

“Abbie…”

 

“Sorry…just talking about the DOV boils my blood and it makes me so angry that innocent people are being slaughtered all for the sake of religion.  Why can’t we just…believe in what we want and live our lives the way we want?  Why does it have to be this way?”

 

“I-I don’t know…”

 

That was honestly the million-dollar question.  Why did the DOV feel the need to invade towns and villages, pillage them and take their women to treat them like cattle?  They were nothing except breeders.

 

“My family…they were killed by the DOV.” She spoke quietly while they continued walking and talking, after Abbie’s slight outburst.  Nobody blamed her, everyone here hated the DOV with a passion and wanted them gone, wiped out, forever.  It was easier said than done though. “My parents…my brother…everyone I loved and cared about was wiped out because they refused to bow down to the DOV.  They refused to join them.  My Mom had sent me away during the scourge and I barely made it out alive.  Taker is the one who found me in the woods near Wonderful and saved my life.  I owe him for that.  We all do because we’ve all been saved by that wonderful man.  That’s why the community here dubbed this town as Wonderful because it truly is the best place to be right now, especially in these times.”

 

“Amy…” Abigail wrapped her arms around the woman, hugging her close and vowed once again, silently, to make the DOV pay for every single person they hurt and destroyed. “I’m so sorry…”

 

Chapter 9

 

“Jesus Christ you two, what the hell took you so damn long?” Stephanie demanded when Amy and Abigail finally made it back. “We got to get lunch on before the run this afternoon, and Cena was sent out to help work the fields.”

 

The man was insanely strong, and Bradshaw thought it was hilarious to ‘yoke him like cattle’ and see if John’s dumb ass could drag a plow.  And he could.  Scary strong.  Lunch was sandwiches, chips and people would make their own plates, but putting out that amount of food was a pain in itself.

 

“Abbie’s going on the run with me.”

 

“Oh for fuck’s sake!”

 

“Don’t mind her, she’s normally not so… colorful.  She’s pregnant, just out of the 12-week phase, so… hormones, I guess.”

 

“Stephanie,” A grinning kid with bright green and purple hair had come running in. “Hey, so, I got the prenatals.”

 

“Thank the stars… thanks Jeff.”

 

Stephanie really hoped Taker was able to hit the old town on the other side of the river.  They had been scoping it for months, but the DOV had always been in the way.  There was a pharmacy there or had been.  From her understanding, the DOV didn’t believe in medicine.

 

“Let’s get the rest of the food on the table and get some lunch too.  You can get a nap after if you need too since I know you’re not used to this.”

 

“Oh wow, really?!” Abigail grinned at Stephanie, noticing the slight glow she had going on now that Amy spilled the beans. “Congratulations!” Going out with Amy and Undertaker was a test, otherwise Abigail would’ve remained here to help Stephanie. “I promise, I’ll help out as much as I can with dinner, if we return in time.” She had no idea how long they’d be gone for.

 

“Don’t count on it, not with Taker in charge.” Amy stage-whispered with a grin, patting Abigail on the back and went to grab some sandwiches and chips for the road.

 

“Umm what exactly are we doing again?” Abigail was going on some trip with Amy, but didn’t know the details and wanted to be prepared. “Should I change?”

 

“Put pants on.” Amy didn’t want her legs getting burned on her crotch rocket. “And put a bandana on too.” She tossed one to Abigail, smirking when she merely looked at it questioningly. “Wrap it around your head to prevent the sun from frying you up.  We’ll be gone a while and we’re going to the neighboring towns to scavenge and pick up supplies.  We might run into the DOV, do you know how to use a gun?”

 

“N-No I don’t…” That made her nervous, so Amy handed her a dagger instead, which was inside a holster.

 

“For protection.  Now go get ready, make sure to strap that around your thigh and then meet me out front in 10 minutes.  Don’t be late.”

 

~!~

 

“You sure you want to take the new woman?”

 

“There’s something off with her.”

 

“We all got our secrets, now don’t we?”

 

Steve gave his old friend a pointed look, watching as Taker stepped out from behind the curtains that usually blocked his bedroom, trying not to flinch at the sight of the real face.  He was the only person who knew what this man really looked like because he was the poor son of a bitch who pulled Taker’s burning backside out of that fire.  Steve had been passing through, thinking he could outrun what was happening.  He had heard screams, a house had been on fire, and now… now he was the right-hand of the Undertaker.  Snorting, he picked up the mask and put it on, hissing slightly.  The bone was on the mend, thankfully.  Taker didn’t think it would be necessary to wear this thing much longer and, a second later, his face was… normal.

 

“Shit, you look like the male version of Red.” Steve nodded his approval; Taker had even made himself appear shorter, more in line with normal-sized men. “Amy is taken with Abigail.”

 

“She sees suffering.” And Amy knew suffering. “Let’s go.”

 

Until Abigail knew, without a shadow of a doubt, she could trust the Undertaker, she would continue lying.  It was the only way to survive in this world nowadays and, what these people didn’t know, wouldn’t hurt them.  She wasn’t here to hurt them anyway, only for help with the DOV to liberate the innocent and stop the madness.  Hopefully, when the truth came out, everyone would understand.  Sliding the dagger out of the holster, Abigail ran her fingertips over the blackish blue metal and swallowed hard as it glinted in the sunlight.  She slipped it back into the holster, strapped it to her jean covered thigh and headed out, meeting Amy exactly 10 minutes later.

 

“All right everyone,” Steve announced, when they were all outside the gates, motorcycles and crotch rockets as the smaller, yet faster and usually easier to handle cycles were called, lined up and ready to go. “You all got your weapons?” At the nods, he nodded too. “Saddlebags are empty, everyone has a flask and a satchel waiting on their bike.  Water and dried rations incase we’re out late.  We’re going to try crossing the old bridge again, about 2 hours out.”

 

“The boss coming?”

 

“Doesn’t matter.  I’m yer boss.  Get ready, we’re leavin’.”

 

When Amy glanced at him, and then did a double take, Taker winked.

 

Abigail had to wonder if Taker wasn’t joining them on this journey today after all, figuring he probably had other pressing matters to attend to.  She sat against Amy on the crotch rocket and blinked when the woman told her to hold on as she took off with everyone else.  The wind whipped over her and Abigail was never more thankful to have her long black tresses pulled back in a braid, understanding the need for the bandana now.  She couldn’t wipe the smile from her face, the scenery bypassing her in the blink of an eye and glanced over at the long red-haired man, wondering who he was.  She didn’t recognize him at all.  Everyone else she had met, except him.  Interesting.

 

Technically, she had only met these people because she hadn’t had a day off yet.  There was a lot more in Wonderful, but he wasn’t about to ask mothers of young ones, kids or old people to come out.  Usually, only those Taker trusted and who could handle themselves were brought out, because this got dangerous.  In his absence, Wonderful’s wall and border security had been tightened, knowing he had to trust his men to take care of the town.  Those were the worst moments, the worst thoughts, wondering ‘what if’, whenever he ventured out. 

 

As long as he was within the walls, nothing he didn’t want there could get in.  When he was gone, a whole new ballgame, not that anybody but a few knew that.  They had come this way many times over the last year and, every time, the DOV had been in the territory.  Taker was hoping today would be different because they needed that pharmacy.  Canned goods would be nice too.  Just items they could use and, if there was still room left in the bags and backpacks, things people had brought to carry what they could, then they’d move onto the other side, Stephanie’s ‘wish list’ from the people.

 

Two and half hours later, they arrived at the town of Chestine and it seemed as though it was completely abandoned.  Everyone halted their bikes at the entrance and had their weapons drawn, including Abigail.  She had zero fighting abilities, so all she could hope for was having a lucky shot if they were attacked.  Or someone to protect her.  Following Amy, Steve, the red-haired guy, along with the others inside, their first priority was scanning the area to make sure no enemies, the DOV, and animals were around. 

 

Animals had become more ferocious ever since the DOV had come to power, Abigail learned, which was just another reason she hated them added to the long list.  When Steve ordered her and Amy to ransack the pharmacy, they went off carefully while the men started looking for food, canned goods, anything that was viable to bring back to cook and eat.  There was also an abandoned gas station with actual gas, so they would fill up their bikes that way before leaving.

 

“Something’s on your mind, Abbie.” Amy pointed out the obvious. “What is it?”

 

Abigail sighed, hating how easily Amy could read her sometimes. “I was just curious who the redhaired man is since I haven’t met him yet.  Not a big deal, are these the prenatal vitamins Stephanie wants?” She waved a bottle at Amy, grinning when the redhead nodded and began stuffing them into the satchels.

 

“Grab all you can.” Amy eyeballed the old gate that had been pulled down to block the pharmacy counter, looking around for the door. “We’ve been trying to get into his place for months; this is the first time we’ve been able too.  And those saddlebags would hold a lot, on top of the backpacks everyone had.”

 

She finally found the door and began kicking at it.  A long time had passed, it hadn’t been maintained, and it soon enough gave.  All this medicine was outdated by at least a decade, but it would still -mostly- work.  A lot of medicines got more potent as they sat, so they’d have to let the local doctor cut some things up for proper doses.

 

“Antibiotics… more pills… INSULIN.” They had a few diabetics; this stuff was liquid gold for those people. “Abbie, grab all the medicines you can off the OTC shelves, we’ll take all of this first and then come back for bandages and stuff.” The redheaded man was such an ass.

 

Nodding, Abigail began filling her knapsack and backpack with all different kinds of medicines, not paying attention to the labels.  She just swiped them all in the bag with her arm, going as fast as she possibly could.  While she did as Amy instructed, Abigail suddenly had an idea and looked over at the redhead, wondering if she would be up for it.

 

“Hey Amy?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Since you guys have to use weapons and whatnot…I don’t have any experience with fighting and…I was wondering if you’d help me with that.  Maybe…teach me how to fight with my dagger?  Just in case I need to defend myself if I’m gonna be venturing out like this in the future.” Abigail felt stupid for asking, but the last thing she wanted was to have her head knocked or sliced off by one of the DOV.  She didn’t know if Bray had informed everyone in the castle and the DOV about her mission. “If you don’t want to do it, I’ll understand…”

 

“Who is learning how to use a gun?”

 

“Wear bells!  What are you doing in here?”

 

“Steve said we’re to empty this place out, medicine and wound dressings are becoming a bit too scarce.” The redheaded man held up a few bags, grinning broadly as Amy took in his hair, same exact shade as hers. “Also, feminine hygiene products.” Because, as Stephanie had informed him, ‘that shit ain’t wish list, it’s a necessity unless you want us to eat you alive’.  He was good and would listen to one of his most trusted.

 

“Abbie, this is Chet.  Chet, this is Abbie, she’s new.” Amy could play along, knowing well Taker didn’t go out in what was considered one of his ‘normal’ forms. “Chet, mind raiding the tampons, pads and Midol for us?”

 

He shook his head, not minding at all. “Amy… we need to see what’s left in the baby aisles.”

 

They were screwed on baby formula; that stuff had gone bad a long, long time ago.  Milk was also something rare, though they sometimes found the powdered substance, stored in tubs, which meant it was alright to use.  They were trying to raise cows, pregnant woman and babies needed milk.  He wanted to kill Bray Wyatt, his face turning red at all the needless pain and hardship these people were suffering because that man had issues.

 

“Hi.” Abigail looked at him for a second before taking a bag he handed her and began filling them up with the rest of the medicine in the cabinets. “I’ve got the baby aisle.” Being around women that were breeders, she knew exactly what to search for and took off, not realizing ‘Chet’ was following her. “Diapers, need diapers.  Baby powder – oh, I wonder if they’ve got cornstarch here…”

 

That was a necessity for babies because of rashes and sometimes, baby powder didn’t cut the mustard.  She knew that after helping a few of the women with their babies before Bray, once again, intervened and kept her away from the ‘breeders’.  Sickening.  Now her face was turning red as she swiped as many packs of diapers in the bag as she could.  It was a huge trash bag, far bigger than regular ones and…she hoped they could strap it somewhere on the bike to bring back to Wonderful.

 

“Did you need something, Chet?” She asked, finally spotting him and raised a brow when he merely stared at her, wondering what kind of issues he had. “I think we’re pretty much cleared out for the baby stuff…”

 

“Two things,” ‘Chet’ held up two stubby fingers, staring at her. “First, take the diapers out of their packaging, we can fit more that way.” He watched as Abigail began dumping the diapers, crouching down to help her open them and replace them back into the bag. “Second,” He smiled impishly. “Grab all the baby toys you can and smuggle them in.  Not a necessity, but…” Happy, content babies meant less stressed mothers. “Teething rings, especially.  I’ll go finish up in the hygiene products, and then hit the food aisle.” Most old places like this had kept an aisle or two for groceries. “When you’re done, come help me and I’ll show you what’s safe to take.”

 

Slick bastard, Amy thought, knowing the boss could teach Abigail and get to know her, see how she did, gauge her this way. “Chet, Midol!”

 

Abigail giggled at Amy’s insistence for him to grab the Midol, shaking her head. “She’s quite a character, isn’t she?”

 

At his nod, she smiled at him and then grabbed the baby boys, teething rings, anything that would make a baby content and happy, like he ordered.  Something felt…oddly familiar about Chet, but Abigail couldn’t put her finger on what it was.  Pushing those thoughts out of her head, she continued with her task while Amy finished up with the medicine aisle.  Once she’d cleared the shelves of all that out, stuffing them in the bag with the diapers, Abigail made her way to where Chet was in the food aisle and approached him, seeing all the canned goods on the shelf.

 

“I really hope there’s enough for all the babies in Wonderful, I grabbed everything I possibly could.”

 

Chapter 10

 

“You can bet your ass Amy grabbed all the condoms and birth control she can find.” While precious and welcomed, there were those who didn’t want babies and… even without protection, were still dumb enough to have sex.  He didn’t want to dictate personal lives, not really, but if they had a baby boom, they were going to be in trouble. “So… anything in a box is probably no good.” ‘Chet’ tapped a very old box of pancake mix, the box itself was faded. “Anything in a tin… as long as it’s not bulging anywhere or rusted, is fine.” He watched as she immediately started checking out the cornstarch, frowning. “What are you doing, Abbie?” He asked curiously.

 

“Cornstarch is excellent for rashes on babies.  I’m hoping we can bring some back because baby powder, a lot of times, doesn’t work as well.” Abigail explained, picking up the box and checked to make sure it hadn’t been tampered with or anything. “It’s an old home remedy and it’ll work, so as long as you think the stuff will be okay, we should take some for emergencies.” Handing him a box, she waited to see if he approved and once again, that odd familiar feeling washed over her. “So, even canned goods can go bad if the can is bulged out or rusted?”

 

Since they usually had to rely on environmentally friendly, washcloth diapers, diaper rash wasn’t a thing.  But… this was handy, and he bet like hell it would also work on the adults who would break out in heat rashes during the summer.  Even an old dog could learn new tricks.

 

“Yes, canned food usually has an indefinite shelf life.” He explained, beginning to drop said canned goods into his open, reinforced bag.  No trash bags for this shit.

 

“Hey Chet, don’t forget to find the lollies, you know how Taker is about those.” Amy called, having finished with the pharmacy and was lugging all their loot to the doors to be collected.  She winked at Abigail. “Big boss likes to pass them out to the kids as a treat.”

 

Big boss was going to wring his pretty friend’s neck.

 

“Lollipops, you mean?  That’s sweet…weird, but sweet.”

 

Abigail didn’t think lollipops were necessities, but whatever the boss wanted, he got.  She began putting all the cornstarch in his bag, after asking permission, along with the canned goods and other supplies he wanted to grab.  He handed her another reinforced bag to continue putting canned goods in and when she tried lifting it, there was no way to do it.

 

“Wow, this is really heavy…” She grunted, blinking when he picked it up with ease and smiled sheepishly at him. “Thanks.  Is there anything else we should grab or anything else you want to show me to look out for?”

 

“We’ll have to see what else has been grabbed.”

 

Others were ransacking old public buildings currently, so this was too good an opportunity to pass up.  Taker wished they had come earlier in the day; they’d have been able to make a few trips.  As it was, he would go talk to Steve since they had a few good hours left.  They could pick a place, pile the extras there in bags, and try to come back for it tomorrow or the day after.  Clothing was something they were going to need, bedding and pillows, what might have survived… Taker groaned, rubbing his temples. 

 

He gestured Abigail to go on with Amy, turning and headed for the ‘children’ section, eyeballing the school supplies.  Unlike Wyatt, he believed in educating these kids, boys and girls, at least the basics.  Reading and math, history didn’t seem to matter so much anymore… sighing again, his mind wandered to the new woman.  She had said the lollies were weird… why?  Why was it weird?

 

They were only supposed to grab the necessities, things people needed to survive, but in the process, that had been tossed out the window.  And yes, it was weird for that giant to hand out lollipops to children.  She couldn’t picture it in her head and figured Amy was yanking her chain or something.  Undertaker was…not who she thought, that was for sure.  He was the complete opposite of Bray in every way, which was a good thing.  She remembered when Bray would give the shirt off his back to anyone in need, herself included, but now…now he had warped into a monster…and there was no fixing him. 

 

Abigail knew he had to be destroyed, by any means necessary.  Following Amy out of the first store, they went into the second one to start gathering up pillows, blankets and stuffing them in bags.  How the hell were they supposed to bring all of this stuff back without a trailer of some kind?  Abigail decided that wasn’t her problem and they’d been doing this a long time, so they knew what they were doing obviously.

 

“All right, you jackasses, unload your shit.” Steve ordered, once everyone had brought their ‘loot’ outside by the bikes.

 

He watched as those with proper motorcycle began opening their saddlebags – many of the bikes were equipped with luggage racks on the backend and, repaired many times yet still serviceable, empty luggage cases – already strapped on.  Cans were loaded by size and weight first across the saddlebags.  Diapers and feminine products were stashed in the luggage compartments attached to the backend of every bike except Amy’s, only because she had a passenger.  Everyone had brought old school backpacks, and most could manage two at a time: medicines, tools, and things of that sort were divided into them, based on who could carry what.  Within a decent time, everyone was ready to go, and Steve grinned. They had this routine down.  During those early years, they had really screwed up via trial and error, but now… now was different.

 

“Fuckin’ lollipops…” Amy pointed at ‘Chet’, shaking her head when he stuffed a bag of the sweets into his jacket, betting anything that bastard had some really big pockets.

 

“Hey, if it makes kids happy, I’d rather them be happy than miserable and whiny.”

 

Amy concurred to that and they laughed, finishing up strapping their belongings and goods to the bike.  Abigail had a feeling Amy didn’t have nearly as much on hers as she should’ve due to her, guilt consuming her.  Oh well, what was done was done.  It was weird, and interesting, how the DOV hadn’t attacked them at all.  This was technically their territory, but they had stayed back and allowed Taker’s team to do what needed to be done.  As Abigail looked around, she could tell everyone was waiting for an ambush attack, herself included, but…nobody came.  Nobody showed up, not even one soldier.

 

“Where’s the DOV, Austin?  They gotta know we’re here by now…”

 

“I know…” Steve shared a look with ‘Chet’, seeing the confusion written all over the man’s face. “Maybe it’s a miracle…” He snorted, not buying that for a second and glanced over at Abigail and Amy before straddling his bike.

 

That was worrisome.  For a year now, they had been trying to make it here, and the fact that they had so easily, didn’t set well with him.  His eyes raked over his crew again, finally resting on Amy and Abigail before glancing back at Steve.  Wonderful was relying on only the men patrolling right now… his teeth gnashed.

 

“Top off your tanks people, we’re leaving!” Steve read Taker’s mind, knowing if the DOV wasn’t attacking them here, they could be trying to breech the town again.  And Taker wasn’t there to keep them from actually doing it this time.

 

Bray, don’t do anything reckless, Abigail thought, having a feeling she knew why they were rushing back to Wonderful.  The ride back was full of tension.  From head to toe, she could feel Amy’s body rigid and not relaxed like it was on the way here.  By the time they arrived at the gates of Wonderful, all was…quiet and peaceful.  Abigail hopped off the bike with Amy while Steve looked positively flabbergasted.

 

“What the fuck is goin’ on here?  Why didn’t they attack us like all the other times?”

 

“Maybe your miracle theory is right, baldy.”

 

No, something wasn’t right, and Steve could feel it, shaking his head.  He knew Taker could feel it too.  Where was the damn DOV?  Why had they suddenly tucked tail and stayed away?  Abigail helped carry the supplies inside with Amy, their eyes peeled for any sudden movements and…nothing.  Absolutely nothing happened or was out of the ordinary.  She overheard ‘Chet’ talking to Bradshaw to ask about the patrolling and he’d said the same thing they were all thinking.  Something wasn’t right.

 

After checking in with the corner towers and watches, Taker was feeling left… unsettled.  Nothing and nobody had been sighted since they had left, hours ago.  He had shifted to one of his ‘normal’ forms: heavily tattooed, long jet-black hair and a black beard, his green eyes acidic as they narrowed in thought.  Wyatt was constantly pressing them, trying to get to the hundreds of people under his protection.  Frowning, he moved to stare over the short, stone wall to stare down into his town. 

 

It had housed thousands back in the day, and now they only used the main square and blocks outside of that.  A lot of buildings had been destroyed in the war and, what they couldn’t save, they had scavenged.  The walls had been built over the years until they were what they were now, and land had been cleared for growing their own food and raising what animals they could.  All that technology was becoming useless as the years went by; they were unable to maintain factories that put out power and he had yet to meet an engineer since the great Revolution.

 

“Something is wrong…” He hissed, his eyes landing on Abigail and Amy, who were among others unloading the supplies and he could see people milling about, waiting to collect a share of the goods.  Taker couldn’t afford to relax, not when something was afoot.

 

“Oh thank goodness, you two are back!  We could really use the help here to serve dinner!  Abbie, here.” Stephanie shoved the tray, the same tray she had last night, and pointed to the tower out of the window. “Go deliver the boss his food and then come right back, okay?  Please?” Being pregnant made her a tad pushy, but she was exhausted and dead on her feet due to all the energy the little beast inside of her sucked out of her.

 

“O-Okay, I won’t take long!”

 

Abigail could tell Stephanie was ready to drop and would be in for another long night of cooking and cleaning, rushing over to the tower as fast as she could without tipping the tray any.  Swallowing hard, she was tempted to just leave the tray outside the door and had to force herself to move forward, to actually knock the same way Steve had.  Only, it was just her this time around as her midnight blue eyes looked up at the giant once the door opened.  Once again, he was blanketed in darkness and she could only see his eyes.

 

“Good evening, Undertaker.  Stephanie sent this for you.”

 

He stepped back, flipping on a low-level light and gestured at the desk where he took his meals, turning away from her. “Why did they send you?” Taker asked, wondering what Stephanie’s damage was to send the new girl up after a long day.  He looked back, noting she was rubbing her arms, betting that heavy tray and long walk wasn’t doing her any favors.  She needed to build some upper body strength. “Amy sent word you want to learn how to use a gun.”

 

“Stephanie is running on fumes and I don’t mind.” Abigail set the tray down on the table, like she did the previous night, only they hadn’t gone upstairs. “And yes I do.  I need to protect myself from the DOV and anyone else who tries to hurt me or people I care about.  I’ll be honest, I have no fighting experience at all, but I’m a fast runner and learner.  I’m sure shooting a gun won’t be that difficult.” As long as it wasn’t a machine gun, which was some of the weaponry the patrol men used. “I asked Amy for help, and I’m sorry if that was out of line, sir…I mean Undertaker.” Damn it, she slipped up and lowered her eyes from him.

 

He eyed her doubtfully, wondering if she’d be able to handle the kickback, the recoil, from a gun, even a compact, semi-light Beretta.  Taker didn’t know what the hell she was apologizing for and moved so he was in her space, grabbing her wrists and pulling her arms up, watching her face intently. “You need to get some arm strength, woman.” He advised flatly, letting go and blinked when her arms came down like deadweight, rubbing the tip of his rather blunt nose, both amused and irritated. “Bullets are pretty precious around here,” Sort of, Mythril bullets were damn handy, but… he preferred using Mythril for things that weren’t going to be lost in a body or just lost in general.  Daggers and swords, awesome.  Bullets… could wind up somewhere besides the target and then they had to hunt that stuff down to melt and recast it. “BB gun pellets…” She could learn using those.

 

“Whatever you think is best.  Amy gave me this dagger, but I don’t know if I’ll be any good with it…” She gestured to the holster around her thigh and shrugged at his raised brow. “I guess she didn’t want me going with her and the others unarmed…” Abigail stepped back tentatively, putting some space between them.  This was day 2, it would take far more than that to convinced herself he was trustworthy. “Oh…this guy named Chet came with us today and…he said you wanted lollipops for the children.  Amy took them to the common house if you want to go grab them when you’re done eating.  I’d better get back and help out, unless…you needed something else from me?”

 

“Are you…” He raised a slow black eyebrow, having noticed how she put distance between them and didn’t care.  She was probably not used to strange men just raising her arms like that. “Tattling on Chet?” That was what it sounded like.  She could have easily said ‘we got your lollies’ and called it a day.  Taker couldn’t keep the amusement from his tone as he studied her. “And give me that dagger.” He held out a hand for it, wondering what the hell Amy was thinking passing out a Mythril dagger to someone he hadn’t given his seal of approval on. “I’ll find you something more suitable.” He promised, turning to set it down.

 

Judging by the way he took that dagger from her, Abigail surmised it WAS made of Mythril.  So that was Mythril, a bluish black stone forged into weaponry.  Bray couldn’t get his hands on it; she could feel the immense power generating from the dagger while having it on her person throughout the day.

 

Chapter 11

 

“You should give Chet a raise…or however you guys praise each other around here.  He was very helpful today and taught me quite a bit.  And I’m not tattling on him, I just figured you’d want to know where they were at.”

 

“Mmmhmm…”

 

He dropped down behind his desk, eyeing the tray.  Taker really hoped Stephanie took a damn breather.  The woman had been kept on light detail during her first 12 weeks, due to the chance of miscarriage, now she was busting her backside like she had to play catch up or something.

 

“Sit down, Abigail.” He gestured to the chair opposite him, watching as she studied the dagger, noting the thoughtful expression on her face. “What is it?”

 

“I really should get BACK…” With a wave of his hand, he planted her in the chair and Abigail felt as if she couldn’t move for a few seconds, blinking.  Her voice had risen against her will because of the shock of magic being used on her with that last word. “What the hell was that?!” She exclaimed, once she could move her limbs again and saw the devious smirk on Undertaker’s face, her own turning crimson. “Right, the magic thing.  Stephanie and the girls told me about it, somewhat.” That was extremely powerful; it felt like she’d been immobilized without the pain. “I’ve never seen a dagger like that before and was curious what it’s made out of.  The material is bluish black, it’s…interesting and beautiful.” The moment she had touched the dagger, Abigail had felt a surge of energy course through her.

 

He wouldn’t be doing that again, though usually a show of magical force once was enough.  It drained the hell out of him.  When in Wonderful, Taker was consciously exerting energy on his appearance, as well as maintaining the protective boundaries.  Expending extra just to put her backside in a chair… he was sometimes a dip.

 

“A metal that is specially forged.” He answered simply, flashing her a smile and then handed over a bowl of what looked like… soup. “Eat.  Tell me what you learned today.”

 

He wanted her to eat with him?  Did he do this with all of the newcomers?  Something told Abigail no.  So, what made her the exception?  The soup did smell delicious and her stomach rumbled, not eating since…this morning, actually.  There was no time to stop and eat when they were outside of the gates in potential mortal danger.

 

“Well, the cans for one.  If they’re bulged out or rusted, don’t touch them.  Diapers need to be ripped open, the packaging, because you fit more in a bag than if they are packaged.  Medicine, although outdated, can still be used, though the doses need to be calculated beforehand.” Amy had told her that one while they put the medicine in the backpacks and knapsacks. “Chet told me to grab teething rings and toys for the babies because it helps them not be cranky.  Good call, by the way, on that one.  Oh, this is something Chet didn’t know, I don’t think anyway.  I told him about how you can use cornstarch for diaper rash.  It works a lot better, generally, than baby powder, so I grabbed all the boxes of that for the babies.  Umm…” While she spoke, she took a couple sips of soup and paused in between telling him all that she’d learned. “Oh, I also learned that if you roll clothing, including blankets, it saves room and you can fit more into a bag.” That was a trick from Amy.  She learned a lot from the redhead, but Chet was a major help too. “I think that’s it…” Without realizing it, she finished half the soup and felt marginally better.

 

“Cornstarch, huh?  Would it help with general rashes?  Like heat?” When she nodded, he did too, taking a bite of the potato Stephanie had sent up, with plenty of pepper and not much else, which was the way he liked it. “Good.  In the summer, it’s blazing hot…” Summer was nice though, it meant they could run less electric.  They had been toying with solar energy, something that had been making a big splash before the war, something renewable. “You book smart, Abigail?”

 

“Yeah, I love to read.  I’m a book nerd.  Before I left home, I had a whole bookshelf full of them and my Mom said I was crazy.” Abigail chuckled, the lie flying out of her mouth, though it was only partial.  Bray had been the one to call her crazy with all the books she read instead of her Mom, who she didn’t know. “Any type of rash you have, cornstarch is the answer, but you’ll have to try it out and see for yourself.  It’s not for everyone.” Her eyes lit up at the possibility that just struck her. “Undertaker, is there a…library or some kind in Wonderful?  Or maybe a bookshop?”

 

“Don’t I wish…” He sighed wistfully, propping his elbow on the desk, chin in palm, looking reflective. “Before this war started, this DOV, when I was a boy, I lived a few blocks from a city library and it was huge.” His eyes softened for a moment. “So many books…” But… that was the past and he cleared his throat, returning to his meal. “What books we did have… sadly, have been used in the absence of toilet paper, or for rolling cigarettes for those that smoke, as firestarter… you get the picture.” He caught the disappointed look on her face and felt a bit… saddened too.

 

“I’m sorry…” Abigail whispered, not meaning to bring up a sore subject and felt her heart break into pieces over the fact they had no books here. 

 

The apology was on behalf of the DOV for being so heartless and forcing people to the extremes they’d gone.  To actually destroy precious books with information that should’ve lasted centuries…it was all gone.  She understood they had to be used for other things, like wiping people’s backsides and a firestarter, but the fact of the matter was, books were precious.  There was a whole slew of them at the DOV castle, and she vowed to get every single one of them once the DOV was taken down to bring back to Wonderful.

 

“I have a few books in my bag that I brought with me.  I’ve read them countless times, but if you need them for…kindle and whatnot, I’ll give them up.” Hiding those from him was pointless.

 

Green eyes widened, and he lowered his fork, staring at her. “No.  You keep them.  As long as you make it clear they’re yours, no one will touch them and besides,” He hid a smirk, taking a drink of his water. “Plenty of leaves, Abigail, people will make do.” He was curious what sort of books she read, if they were novels, or textbooks… she had been travelling fairly light, maybe paperback.  Standing, he put their bowls back on the chair, gesturing her up. “Now, show me where these lollipops are… there’s to be a bonfire tonight, celebrating our good fortune on the run.  The kids expect a few presents…”

 

“A bonfire, really?” Abigail wondered if she would be able to finish her chores in time to attend and stood up from the chair, doing it slowly just in case his magic hadn’t worn off yet. “You didn’t have to give me your soup, you know…” He pressed a finger to her lips and she merely smiled at him, understanding what he’d done.  If he was eating, he wouldn’t do it in front of her without her having something as well. “Thanks for making me eat and…rest for a few.  Come on, I’ll show you where the lollipops are, so you can spoil the kiddies.” She really wished she had a camera, this was too good to be true.

 

When Abigail returned, with the Undertaker in tow, Stephanie smiled at the sight of the giant.  He was wearing her favorite ‘appearance’, the black beard, long black hair… it was gorgeous.  If she wasn’t happy with her Johnny… well no, actually, Taker hadn’t had a woman in years, not that she was keeping track of who may have slipped into his bed a time or two because a man did have his needs.  His last steady woman had been murdered and he had sworn off relationships then, which was understandable.  Being in charge, opening up and then losing someone, but still having to go on because of all that weight on his shoulders, would suck.  They had already cleared the evening meal and the rest of the work, so she was happy. “Bradshaw, Ron, Johnny and the rest came in.  Jeff’s finishing up the dishes, and Matt’s been helping Chris haul wood.” She said by way of explanation when Abigail looked surprised.  Everything was done.  The floors were mopped, the dishes were finished and the place looked spic and span!

 

“I’m so sorry, Stephanie.  I know I promised to come right back, but…” The last thing Abigail wanted to do was tattle on the Undertaker, of all people, and swallowed hard. “I – um – got held up…”

 

She glanced up at the boss and then went behind the bar, where she knew Amy kept the lollipops and grabbed the huge bag of them.  There had to be at least a couple months’ worth in that damn bag!  It was somewhat heavy, but she managed to bring it over to him.

 

“As requested, Amy outdid herself.” Then her eyes looked toward Stephanie, feeling terribly guilty for not helping out. “I will work twice as hard tomorrow, I promise.”

 

Stephanie was staring at Abigail like she had lost her mind. “Honey, on nights like these, the boys usually come in and help out, so we can all go celebrate.” She said gently, waving a dismissive hand. “Don’t feel bad, I should have reminded you.  Why don’t you go freshen up?  In a little bit, we’ll have that bonfire and then Santa Claus over there will be handing out things that we brought back.” Because it had to be rationed.

 

“Santa Claus…” Abigail snickered, covering her mouth with her hand when he shot her a glare and hightailed it out of the eating area to the ladder that lead to her bed.

 

“Hey, maybe he can use his powers to change into Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick like he did last year.  Do you remember that?”

 

“Oh my god, yes!  The kids were ecstatic and had no idea!”

 

Stephanie beamed brightly, placing a hand on her protruding stomach.  The leader, along with his men, had gone to a toy store that was 3 hours from Wonderful in a town called Selmi.  They raided the toys, bringing them all back and one of the storage houses in Wonderful now had toys upon toys for the kids during the holidays.

 

“He’s such a softie…”

 

Amy snorted with a snicker of her own. “What was your first clue?  The lollipops, the toys or letting them beat him up whenever the mothers are at their wits ends?”

 

“All of the above.” The women laughed.

 

“Hell, he actually ATE with the new girl too.  That NEVER happens.”

 

“Yeah…that is fishy.” Stephanie eyeballed Taker, folding her arms in front of her chest and watched him walk out, wondering what was going through his mind.

 

“Well, no, I guess not…” Amy shrugged, not really caring one way or another. “We don’t get many women coming in… mostly men.” They shared a meaningful look, both knowing why many women didn’t make it.  They were caught by the DOV for breeding purposes, or killed if they were physically disabled, or old. “He does it with the men who come in; it’s how he starts feeling them out.  I guess it just seems weird because… she’s a vagina.”

 

“How’d she do today?”

 

“Not too bad actually.”

 

Cleaning up consisted of changing her jeans into shorts because it was in the middle of summer, leaving her tank top on and washing her face.  The women didn’t wear makeup because it wasn’t a necessity, so they’re natural beauty was all the men received.  Bray didn’t allow her to wear makeup either, so Abigail was used to it.  The celebration commenced with Abigail sitting near the back, watching the children dance around Undertaker, all of them squealing at the lollipops he had.  The babies were content with their teething rings, the ones that were teething anyway, while some of the others had rattles and whatnot. 

 

There was so much life here, so much happiness and peace.  These people had suffered, but nothing compared to what they could’ve at the hands of the DOV.  The men toasted each other with beer while holding onto their women.  Most of them were taken, though Abigail noticed Taker wasn’t one of them.  Taker was really good with the kids, picking a couple of them up, girls, so they could kiss his cheek and thank him for the candy.  Now she understood why he did it, why he wanted to make the children happy and smiled.  It felt foreign to smile as much as she had the past 2 days because there wasn’t anything to smile about in the DOV. 

 

It was darkness and Wonderful was light.

 

As far as they were concerned, they had plenty to be happy over.  It was summer, it was warm, they had restocked some of the food stores, and Taker had announced that they would try returning within a day to fetch the stuff that wasn’t necessarily an essential at the moment.  Come winter, however, any additional clothing or blankets they could find would be wanted and needed.  Hell, they ought to dig out one of the old trailers and try salvaging materials too, if only it wasn’t so damn far away.  His eyes moved to Abigail, taking note of the way she was just observing everything, some confusion, some joy on her face.  What kind of life had she left behind?

 

It was a bittersweet feeling to be here in Wonderful because, as much joy and happiness flowed through this place, she wanted that for everyone.  She wanted her people liberated, feeling a responsibility to them to free them from Bray’s tyranny.  Sighing, Abigail became lost in thought while staring into the fire, not realizing someone sat down beside her, until she felt a finger tap her shoulder.

 

“Santa Claus done with his duty for the night?” She joked with a smile, laughing as he rolled his eyes and shook a closed fist at her playfully. “Hey, you can thank Stephanie for that one.  But I do have a question.  Does Santa Claus receive gifts because…” Pulling something out of her back pocket, Abigail placed the small paperback book in his hand. “I know this story inside and out, so I don’t need it anymore and I want you to have it.  It’s my way of saying thank you for letting me stay here.  But you have to promise me you won’t destroy it.  This is one book you keep and read it when you want to since you like to read as much as me.  Will you do that for me?”

 

Chapter 12

 

He stared down at the book, frowning. “I don’t have time to read.” Taker grunted, pushing the book back at her.  It’d be his luck he would get lost in the story and forget what he was supposed to be doing.  At her somewhat crestfallen look, he rolled his eyes and sighed loudly, mocking exasperation. “Fine, just put those big puppy eyes away.” He took the book, eyeing it before slipping it into the inside pocket of his vest. “Thank you, and… here.” He held up his fingers, nothing.  Snapped them, and a lollipop was there.  That was just good old-fashioned, sleight of hand trickery, something his Dad had taught him a long time ago. “Go enjoy yourself.” He had to go relieve the watch, have them get down here and would man the walls alone tonight.

 

She took the lollipop from him and twirled it around, not remembering the last time she had one. “You do know, it’s okay to have fun once in a while yourself, right?” Abigail nudged him playfully, looking back down at the lollipop and then into the fire. “And I am having fun.  I’m content to sit here and watch.” Hell, she didn’t even know HOW to have fun anymore because being in the DOV sucked it all out of her.  Stephanie, pregnant and glowing, was dancing with Johnny by the fire along the other couples and singles mingling as well.

 

Taker stared down at her, frowning and stepped back.  Why was she touching him?  He felt annoyed.  This woman was new.  She wasn’t trusted yet and, as if someone were pulling his strings, he seemed to seek her out whether he wanted to or not.

 

“I have plenty of fun.” He informed her and then turned away, eyes scanning for his second in command. “Austin, I’m going to go send the boys down.”

 

“You take too long, and we’ll open up the whiskey without you, and it’s your favorite kind, boss.”

 

“And what a shame that’d be.”

 

“Not kiddin’, Taker.”

 

He was considering coming back down as Steve… naked.  Smirking, he disappeared into the darkness.  That would be hilarious.

 

Sure enough, everyone began roaring with laughter and woman turning red at the sight of Steve Austin…naked, an hour later.  What the HELL?  Abigail immediately averted her gaze, covering her mouth with her hand and then did a doubletake.

 

“TAKER, YOU SUMBITCH!”

 

Undertaker was NAKED as STEVE?!  Abigail chanced a look, moving from the clothed Steve to the naked one and immediately averted her gaze again.

 

“NOBODY LOOK!  THAT’S MY STEVIE!!” Petite Trish, standing around 5 feet tall, maybe a little taller, tried to shield Steve’s genitals from all the eyes of Wonderful, or eyes that had joined the celebration. “This is a dirty play, Calaway!”

 

Calaway?  So Undertaker DID have an actual name.  Abigail figured that much, sipping her water, since she refused to drink, and watched now that Trish had somewhat covered naked Steve up.

 

“Good lawd, I didn’t realize how hung you are, Stevie!”

 

“Damn it!  Trish, you didn’t tell us you go to bed with THAT every night!”

 

Trish turned three shades of red.

 

“What, this?” Taker gestured to the goods Trish was shielding. “Now ladies, don’t get your hopes up.  I gave him a few good extra inches because I felt sorry for the tiny bastard.”

 

“HEY!  THAT’S NOT TRUE, I’M HUNG LIKE A GODDAMN HORSE!”

 

Laughing, Taker shifted back to the long black hair and black beard look, smirking when people started to see if he was going to remain naked.  Not happening.  He was topless however.  Steve was still not amused, telling anyone who would listen about the size of his appendage.  Taker was an asshole.

 

Thank the stars the kids had been sent to bed…

 

Never in her life had Abigail laughed so hard.  Tears – actual tears of happiness and joy – slid down her cheeks from how hard she was laughing, having keeled over on the ground, holding her stomach.  Everyone was pretty much doing the same thing besides a few gawking single women, who couldn’t stop staring at him.  When he returned to his original form, or one of them, with the long black hair and beard, shirtless, Abigail had to learn how to breathe again for an entirely different reason. 

 

Taker was a beautiful man, sculpted to perfection and chiseled out of stone.  Or in this case, Mythril.  Without a shadow of a doubt, she knew that dagger he’d taken from her was made from Mythril, even though he hadn’t told her.  She knew because of Bray and Malcolm’s intel.  Abigail had to get her head in the game, knowing this wasn’t the time to have fun.  She had to stay focused and, starting tomorrow, she would begin preparing for the inevitable battle with the DOV.  They would come for her, eventually, and she had to be ready for them.  First order of business was building her upper body strength and then…she would learn how to shoot a gun, even if it was a BB gun.

 

“Hey, you sexy thing, Stephanie said you’re to stop looking so glum.” Johnny said, dancing in front of Abigail playfully, swinging his hips in wide circles.  Stephanie was taking a breather; she had been watching Abigail go from laughing to serious and ordered him to come play cheer-up crew. “Come on,” He took Abigail’s hand and led her to the area where people were dancing. “Can you dance?”

 

Taker had gone to get himself a drink, standing and talking quietly with Bradshaw, watching with a raised brow as John Cena made a fool of himself.  Stephanie had weird taste in men.

 

“No, I don’t.” Abigail was suddenly twirled and dipped before set back on her feet by Johnny, bringing a small smile to her face.

 

“Time to learn, watch me, homie girl.”

 

Abigail raised a brow, watching his feet work and tried picking it up, but ended up tripping over her own feet.  Luckily, he caught her before she’d gone into the fire. “I really don’t have a clue how to dance…” Bray didn’t allow celebrations and functions to happen at the DOV, due to the women being…preoccupied.

 

“Come on, just feel the beat!” Johnny stood behind her, placing his hands on her hips and began moving her from side to side, deciding to take baby steps. “Just close your eyes and feet the beat, let the music flow through you.” He was a huge fan of music and made sure Wonderful had a band, which was currently playing for the celebration.

 

“You’re crazy.  I don’t-” Abigail sighed when he continued swaying with her and decided to go along with it, getting the motion of her body on track before moving her feet from one to the other. “Okay, that’s not so bad, I guess…” Another trip happened seconds later. “Then again…”

 

“How the hell do you not know how to dance?!”

 

“Not a big priority where I come from, Cena.  Thanks for the lesson, but dancing’s not for me.  Sorry…homie boy.”

 

“Oh no, you’re going to learn!” Amy appeared, grabbing Abigail’s hands and raised them up over their heads. “Come on!” She started just dancing in place, grinning. “You don’t get to leave until you learn!”

 

Ron watched in amusement as Abigail tried mimicking, then spotted ‘Chet’ coming, sparing a glance over to where Taker had last been.  He spotted long black hair over that way, and then back to ‘Chet’.  That was just sneaky.

 

That was sly, and Amy smirked. “Hey Chet!  Come teach Abbie to dance!”

 

So much for just blending in and getting close without being noticed.

 

Where’d he been hiding all this time?  Abigail smiled at him while continuing to wave her hands in the air like Amy, laughing.  This was ridiculous and fun…she was having fun!  It still worried her the DOV would attack, but maybe for one night, she could let her hair down and have some fun.

 

“Okay – okay!”

 

She laughed when Chet stepped up to her and lifted her arms the same way Amy had, waving them along with his.  Now they were doing some kind of dancing where they held their nose and dipped down.  Something called the swim.  What the hell?  When they demanded her to do it, she followed suit and couldn’t help laughing.

 

“Come on Chet, you know any dance moves you wanna show me?” Once again, that odd familiar feeling washed over her, but Abigail couldn’t pinpoint why.

 

“Nah, I leave all that crazy shit to Amy.” He laughed, dancing with them. 

 

It was easier, dancing as Chet, because Chet was not a near seven-foot giant.  That looked awkward, at least for him.  Not to mention, Taker wanted to see how Abigail interacted with others more her… station, he guessed, he wasn’t sure how else to word it.

 

“Watch it, new girl!”

 

He caught Abbie before she could go flying, turning his head to watch as Melina Bautista made her way to the alcohol, frowning.  She had lost her husband not too long ago and had been… well, a bit of a mean drunk ever since.

 

“S-Sorry…” Frowning, Abigail looked up at Chet and then back at Melina, seeing she was pouring liquor down her throat like it was going out of style.  It wasn’t a surprise when he excused himself to go talk to her and her eyes grew wide when she actually splashed the whiskey in his face.

 

“Oh shit, the party’s over.” Amy mumbled, watching as ‘Chet’ transformed back into a PISSED off Undertaker and swallowed hard, seeing the shock on Abigail’s face.

 

Chet was…Abigail couldn’t believe this!!  She’d been deceived and then he forced her to not only eat with him, but to tell him what she’d learned, to basically reiterated what he taught her!  She watched as he also transformed, muscles rippling, black hair hanging down his back and he had what looked to be a devil’s beard, his eyes a dangerous acidic, though she couldn’t see them at the moment due to getting a side shot.  Melina’s husband had been Dave Bautista, a brave soldier that had been taken by the DOV, tortured for days before being executed.  His head had been sent to the gates of Wonderful in a square pine box.

 

Well, so much for the ‘Chet’ look, though Stephanie had a feeling Taker would simply come up with another one.

 

“WHY WEREN’T YOU THERE TO STOP THEM?” Melina screamed, not caring who saw her abusing their leader as she began hitting him in the chest with closed fists. “HOW WAS THE MIGHTY FUCKING UNDERTAKER NOT ABLE TO STOP THEM?!”

 

The acid died, being replaced by sadness as he let her vent her grief and anger out on him.  Simply put: he wasn’t as mighty as they all hoped.  Magic wore him out, more than he had known it would, and sometimes… things just happened.

 

That wasn’t tolerated in DOV, at all.  Melina would’ve been executed on the spot and, yet, here Undertaker was just taking her abuse.  Letting her vent her anger and frustration out on him, her heartache and pain over losing her husband.  Abigail had literally stepped into another dimension, she was sure of it.  Women actually got away with hitting men here?  With voicing their opinions and not being punished for it?  They weren’t used simply to have unnaturally born babies?  This was…normal.  Abigail wanted to stop this, seeing the pain and anguish on Taker’s face and, for some reason, her heart broke for him.  Hell, her heart had been breaking for the entire town of Wonderful.

 

“THEY TOOK MY DAVID!!  THEY TOOK HIM FROM ME AND YOU LET IT HAPPEN!!  YOU’RE SPINELESS AND YOUR MAGIC IS BULLSHIT!!  EVERYONE SHOULD JUST LEAVE!!  EVERYONE SHOULD JUST GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE BECAUSE ALL YOU’LL DO IS LEAD THEM TO THEIR DOOM LIKE MY DAVID!!”

 

“Then leave.”

 

That jolted Melina out of her rage temporarily, her eyes narrowing in on the new girl. “Excuse me?  What did you just say?”

 

“I said then leave.  Do you need your ears cleaned out or do you have selective hearing?  See those gates behind me?  Go for it, leave and see how far you get.  Because I guarantee you, sweetheart, the pain you feel now will be NOTHING compared to the pain the DOV will put you through.”

 

“H-How dare you…”

 

“How dare I what?  Speak the truth?  Tell you what an asshole you’re being to this man, who has the weight of the world on his shoulders trying to protect this entire town?  Trying to protect YOU, so the same thing doesn’t happen to you or anyone else?  Because let me tell you something, once the DOV is through with breeding their women, they kill them.  They slaughter them and burn the bodies.  Is that what you want?” When Melina just shook her head, Abigail took a deep breath and placed a hand on her shoulder. “So instead of drowning your sorrows in a bottle of whiskey and screaming at the man NOT responsible for your husband’s death, how about you stand up and fight in his honor instead?”

 

“W-Who are you?” Melina felt powerless against this woman, sniffling and could feel herself sobering up because of what the new girl said to her.

 

“I’m nobody.  Just an outsider looking in, hoping one day to be welcomed in this beautiful place.  And I realize we’re at war, so now isn’t the time to fall apart.  Are you going to let them win?”

 

“No.” Melina gritted her teeth, wiping her tears away and looked at the bottle in her hand, dropping it to the ground. “I will make every single one of those bastards pay for taking my David away from me!”

 

“Good.”

 

Abigail watched as Melina apologized to the Undertaker, crying as she did so, and the man simply consoled her.  It was still amazing to witness, no matter how many times she saw it happen.  Men and women were truly equal here.  Abigail knew Taker would be angry with her for speaking on his behalf, but…she couldn’t stand to see him verbally castrated the way he was.  Knowing she wasn’t welcome at the bonfire anymore, Abigail made her way through the crowd and into the common house to her bed, staring up at the full lit moon while laying down, eventually falling asleep.  Tomorrow, her training would begin, and she vowed to stop the DOV and Bray, no matter what.

 

“I want to know who she really is and where she really comes from.”

 

“You don’t believe her?”

 

“Anyone who speaks like that to a total stranger, while being new in a strange town, is used to being in a… protected position.” Taker argued flatly. “She’s only been here 2 days.” And apparently decided that insulting and belittling a grieving woman, a now single mother, was a good idea… “First, she is quiet and meek, and now… no, she’s used to being protected, and it is showing.”

 

“Well, Salny wasn’t all that bad a place last I knew…”

 

“Melina did need to hear that though.”

 

“Perhaps,” Taker allowed, nodding in agreement. “But I still want her watched.”

 

“You seem to do plenty of watchin’ for all of us, boss.”

 

That was also true, and he frowned, wanting to know what it was about Abigail drawing him in.

 

Chapter 13

 

A week passed, then another, as Abigail became more familiar with Wonderful.  Undertaker was snooping around, and she’d cut him off at every turn, doing it with a smile.  Her story had never changed, not once, and nobody knew anything about her, not really.  The day after the bonfire incident, she began training and pushing herself, focusing on her upper body strength.  Of course, she didn’t neglect her job at the common house, so around 4 AM every morning she would get up to start training. 

 

There was a workout facility with weights that were saved, mostly for men, and Abigail knew that’s where she had to go in order to build upper body strength.  She started out with a measly 20 pounds, doing reps, remembering how the soldiers did it in the DOV.  Then, she added more weights after a week passed by, lifting 50 pounds now.  Every morning it was the same routine along with every night.  Amy had gotten her a long stick of sorts and began teaching her something called martial arts.  It was an old-school style of self-defense and worked in a woman’s favor.  Abigail had nothing else to do, nobody to spend time with besides the girls and focused all of her strength and energy on training.

 

By week three, Amy was impressed with how fast Abigail’s ability to pick this up was and they began sparring with the sticks, crashing them together. “Watch your footwork!”


“I am!” Abigail went down as soon as she spoke, her focus still not at 100% and landed on her back, breathing heavily.  She had on just a black sports bra – Stephanie’s idea for training – and black tight shorts with her black tennis shoes on.

 

“Again?”

 

Abigail nodded, a smirk curving her lips. “Yeah, again.”

 

“I’ll take over.” He had been amused, watching, and she did not have the footwork down at all.  Abigail was applying herself, that was for sure, but… this art wasn’t something one just ‘picked up’, even Amy was still training to reach the next skill level.  Taker took Amy’s bo-staff, eyeing it and then ran his hands over it, lengthening it for his size. “Your staff is a bo-staff.” He informed Abigail, today sporting auburn hair and a mustache/goatee combo, wearing nothing but a pair of jeans and his boots. “And what she’s been teaching you is a martial art known as Bojutsu.”

 

Why did he want to train with her?  Taker had kept his distance, mostly, for the past week, after she reiterated the same story to him about her arrival the previous week.  He didn’t believe her, she could see and sense it.

 

“Bojutsu, okay…” Abigail gripped her own staff, stick, whatever it was called, and they began circling each other. “You’re going to hand me my ass, I already know that, Undertaker.” But she wouldn’t go down without a fight as their staffs began to clash and she hit the ground again. “Damn it, why can’t I get the footwork down?” He extended his hand and she took it, feeling him pull her up with ease.  Her body was already coated in a fine sheen of sweat, her black hair pulled up in a messy bun on top of her head instead of in its usual braid.

 

He had stayed away from her for several reasons.  One, he was a busy man and a single woman wasn’t more important than the collective whole.  Two, she was hiding something from him, from them.  While that wasn’t unusual, because a lot of people had their secrets, their demons, it was annoying the piss out of him because she wasn’t… like others; she intrigued him.  Taker wasn’t really alright with that.

 

“You really don’t know why you can’t get the footwork down?” He asked curiously, raising his bo-staff again.  When she shook her head, he was suddenly in her space and she went down again. “You’re relying too much on your staff to keep people away.”

 

“Okay…”

 

When he ordered her to go again, Abigail obliged and tried taking his advice, allowing her body to control the way the staff moved.  This was also spiritual, according to Amy, though Abigail didn’t know if she believed that.  To her, there was no god, not with the way Vesperia was these days.  Down she went again, groaning while staring up at the slightly cloudy sky.  Taker reached down to take her hand, pulling her up again to her feet.

 

“Thanks.  By the way, I did what you said, or advised, I guess.  Worked on my upper body strength and I think I’m getting stronger.” Maybe.  Hopefully.

 

“You are.” She was starting to develop muscles actually and he hoped she knew when to stop or else she would have very grotesque looking arms.  He rather liked her arms the way they were, his emerald green eyes raking over her thoughtfully before snapping back to attention.  His distraction cost him when Abigail lunged forward and knocked her bo-staff against his knees.  Taker started to buckle, stepping back a few paces and managed to keep himself up.  Knees on a big man, smart woman.  He would also not be checking her out again, while she was holding a weapon, and flashed her a grin.

 

“All right again, darlin’.” Staff was up.

 

While he checked her out, she gave him a scan of her own, though she wasn’t as blatant as him.  Abigail didn’t know how to feel about that; she had noticed a twinkle in his eyes and it made her smile, butterflies erupting in her stomach.  Why did she feel a strong connection with him?  She felt like a magnet being sucked in by his forcefield and she was powerless to stop it.  Her distraction cost her a shot to the arm, making her drop her staff before being tripped as she landed on her back again.

 

“Will you teach me the footwork?”

 

Amy wasn’t able to do it, but maybe Taker could as he helped her up again, midnight blue on emerald green.  Abigail didn’t realize she’d rested her hand against his sweaty bare chest, holding her staff with the other or how close they were now.  What were these sensations she felt, this heat?  Abigail hadn’t felt remotely anything close to this with Bray in all their make out sessions.

 

Taker wasn’t entirely sure what he was doing, or what he was feeling himself.  He had been in love, once, and she had… well, she had been murdered.  DOV, of course, same story as many others, like Melina, which was why he had empathized with her so much.  Except he didn’t have any children, they had talked about it of course, but… they hadn’t.  She had gone down fighting, refusing to be taken for breeding, and he had been fighting to get to her.  It had been in the early days before he knew the extent of his magical abilities.  He would never make that mistake again.

 

“Yes.” He answered quietly, not moving because then she might pull away and he was rather enjoying this.

 

Why did it suddenly feel like an inferno had sparked inside of her?  It was hot outside, but she felt as if she’d been doused in fire.  Did a simple touch really cause this much intensity?  Apparently so.  Did he feel the same way she did at that moment, like his entire body had been engulfed in flames?  Abigail sincerely hoped so and felt her heart rate kick up a notch at the color his eyes gave. 

 

Suddenly, she wondered if he’d use magic on her the same way he had a few weeks ago to eat with him.  Was he forcing her to feel this way or was this all of her?  Would he be that sneaky?  The Chet thing came to mind.  Instead of pulling her hand away, she took a chance and slid it a little more to her right – his left – over his heart.  Sure enough, it was pounding like a beating drum against his chest and it made her brows furrow in wonder.

 

“Hey, you two, enough with the fuckin’ goo-goo eyes, we got work!”

 

Steve was still holding a grudge, all these weeks later, over the penis thing… sighing, Taker pulled away from her. “Tomorrow, you’re coming with me on a run outside the gates.” He informed her, reaching down to brush a strand of her ebony hair out of her face. “Bright and early, I will clear it for you with Stephanie.” And then he realized, he probably should have asked and not told, clearing his throat. “If… you want too.” A little better.

 

“Will it be you or…Chet?” Abigail remarked softly, smiling when he rolled his eyes and giggled, nodding. “Just us?” He affirmed with a nod. “Alright, I suppose I can keep you company for a while, Taker.”

 

Winking, she walked past him and jogged off to go help with dinner, knowing she was late because of Undertaker…again.  Damn him and his distractions!  Or being a distraction!  Why did he want to spend the day with her alone?  The thought both alarmed and excited her all at the same time.

 

“I’m here, I’m here!”

 

“Geez, cutting it a little close, don’t you think, Abbie?”

 

“Get in the kitchen and get started.  You already know what we’re having tonight.” Each day was a designated set menu, so they knew exactly what rations they had and what they needed on the excursions.

 

“Sorry.” Abigail mumbled, rushing past Stephanie and began cooking.

 

~!~

 

“Thought you didn’t trust her?”

 

“How am I supposed to trust her if I don’t know her?”

 

“Since when do you care?”

 

“Man, can’t we just use magic?”

 

Johnny didn’t give a fuck who or what Taker was doing or trusted, he just wanted to get the job done.  They had been experimenting with that solar power stuff since Spring, and so far, it was working.  It was Jeff and Matt’s design, these storage things for winter and, since those weirdos were also kind of brainy, they were trying it.  But that also meant installing more of these damn solar panels.

 

“Hard work is good for you, man!” Jeff laughed wholeheartedly. “I like Abbie, she’s pretty neat.” He also thought she’d be good for Taker.  Jeff was an eccentric, sometimes kooky, sometimes overly romantic, brainiac.

 

~!~

 

“So, why did Amy come back from training early, but you didn’t?” Stephanie asked, observing Abigail kneading the dough she had spent a great deal of time on for the rolls for dinner.  Amy already told her why, but she wanted to see if Abigail would tell her the truth.

 

“Undertaker intervened and wanted to take over for her.” Abigail couldn’t stop the smile stretching across her face whenever she said his name – or at least, that’s what he called himself around everyone. “What is that look for?”

 

“You like him, don’t you?”

 

“No, of course not!” That was a big fat lie and it was horribly done. “I mean…”

 

“Don’t try denying it, girl.  I know that look, believe me.” Stephanie assured her with a smile, though it faded a little. “Abbie, he’s had it rough.  I know you have too, we all have, but…just be careful.  Don’t hurt him.  He means a lot to us.”

 

“Have you seen that man?  There’s no way I’d ever be able to…” Then she stopped, understanding what Stephanie was actually saying and felt her cheeks flare up. “He doesn’t think of me that way, so you have no worries.  He wants to take me out with him tomorrow, just us, but…” Oh god, was this a date?! “Oh shit…”

 

“Yeah, oh shit.  Look, we like you, but we love him, and we need him.  For as big a bastard as he can be, and as weird as he is, we really need him.” Stephanie’s hands dropped to her stomach, which was beginning to show. “Of course, if he messes you around, we’ll beat the magic right out of him.” She added with a smile, letting Abigail know if Taker screwed up, they had her back.  If Abigail screwed up though, they were going to have to bake her into meat pies. “So… you need a special outfit?”

 

“N-No…no I’m not going.”

 

Stephanie was absolutely right.  What the hell was she thinking?!  This was no time to go on a date or have any kind of romance!  They were at WAR and Bray would be here before she knew it.  Abigail still hadn’t told Undertaker who she really was and why she was here either.

 

“It’s stupid and I’m stupid for even considering it.  I’ll tell him when I bring him his dinner tonight.”

 

Bad idea, such a bad idea!  She was a VIRGIN for fuck’s sake and he’d lost the love of his life because of the DOV!  That cemented her decision not to go; he would have to understand and if he didn’t, well…better safe than sorry.

 

“First batch in!”

 

“You’re not taking him his supper anymore, Abbie.” Stephanie said, shaking her head when Abigail looked at her. “Nope.  One, we have a new guy who wandered in, and Taker likes to rotate out the people coming in with his meal.”

 

Anybody who was out to kill him might try poisoning him.  Not only was he getting to know the new person, but he was also seeing if they were trustworthy.  He had been poisoned two times so far.

 

“And two… if you’re bailing on him, when he goes out tomorrow on a run, after he specifically invited you, you have no business being in that tower.” Cause… why torture the guy?

 

“Okay, sounds good.”

 

Less contact with Taker, the better.  Abigail could not get distracted right now and continued cooking, alongside Stephanie and Amy.  She had a feeling Stephanie was upset with her, but she’d have to get over it.  It hurt her to make this decision, but at the same time, it was for the best.  Once dinner was done and served to everyone, Abigail began doing dishes, trying to keep herself busy.  Usually, she would stop and take a break to eat dinner, but not tonight. 

 

Her stomach was in knots because she knew Bray wouldn’t wait much longer and she had to act soon.  Not tonight, but soon.  Hell, Bray hadn’t given her a time limit and, ever since she’d been here, there wasn’t ONE problem or altercation with the DOV.  It was because of her, because he didn’t want her to get hurt and he was protecting her.  Then her thoughts turned to the new guy that came into town…Abigail hoped Bray hadn’t sent another one of his men in here or she was screwed.

 

Taker survived the night, no poison or poison attempt, which was great because the last two times had sucked.  They had been fast acting poisons and he was pretty sure the only reason he was still alive was because of his brother’s magic.  He really did owe everything to his deceased little brother and, hopefully, one day in the far future, he’d be able to thank him properly in the beyond.

 

Chapter 14

 

Bright and early the next morning, he stood in the common house, listening as Abigail tried to explain away why she was unable to go, frowning. “Get off the apron, woman, you’re coming.”

 

Amy ever so helpfully untied it and danced away, giggling.

 

“I’m gonna kick your ass in training later, Red.”

 

“Looking forward to it, sweetheart.” Amy blew her a kiss, laughing and bumped her hip against Abigail’s. “Now get outta here before Stephanie unleashes her pregnancy temper on you.”

 

“I-It’s not pretty either, homie girl.”

 

Groaning, Abigail knew she was outnumbered and reluctantly followed Taker out of the common house, wearing an orange tank top and blue jeans since they would be on his bike.  She thought her excuse of not wanting to leave Stephanie to do the majority of the cooking and cleaning would’ve gotten her off the hook.  Nope.  Not one bit.  Taker did not like hearing the word and something told her very vaguely did he not get what he wanted.  She’d braided her hair to hang over her shoulder again, hating to leave it down because it was so damn long.

 

“Alright Mr. Disguise, where are you taking me at 6 AM?” She broke the silence once they were outside of the gates, the sun already rising over the horizon.

 

“It’s a surprise.”

 

He wasn’t disguised right now, figuring since it was just the two of them, out in the open, they’d be fine.  With everyone a bit paranoid about the absent DOV, which had happened around the same time, disguises really weren’t needed at the moment.  Taker slid a pair of sunglasses on, his Harley ready to go, and led her over to it.

 

“You’re riding bitch again.” She still hadn’t learned to drive one on her own, not that he minded. “Or… you can sit in front of me… and I’ll keep an arm around you.” His eyes flashed behind the lens.

 

His arm around her the whole time they rode together sounded heavenly and Abigail found herself wanting to experience what it was like to ride in the front. “I’ve never rode in the front before, so…front.”

 

If he was surprised, his sunglasses hid it well as she mounted the bike after him, her back pressed against his chest.  Instead of holding onto the handlebars, the only other option was his thighs that also surrounded her.  Oh man, this was a bad idea because now she was burning up.  The injury he’d had was gone and fully healed with just a slight yellowish tint around his eye.  Abigail felt his arm snake around her, the Harley firing up beneath her and the vibration, combined with being held by him, put her senses on overdrive.  When he murmured in her ear if she was ready, she nodded and a few seconds later, they were off.

 

It was an hour or so, the way he drove anyway, later when they arrived at their destination.  Being one lone motorcycle meant he could take shortcuts and paths that weren’t usually feasible when all of them went out.  That required more road and easy access to get out of bad situations.  His hair today was an odd shade, it was a darkish red/brown with hints of black in certain light, a neatly trimmed mustache and goatee combo, his skin a little paler than he usually kept it and his normally green eyes were sporting flecks of gray in them. 

 

Abigail had taken rather well to his constant changes, it was… odd, actually.  Refreshing, but odd.  He cut the engine once they were in what had once been the center of a small town, looking around.  Taker hadn’t seen anything besides a few animals on their way and hardly anybody came here now.  Everything of value had been stripped away.  Dismounting, he helped her off the motorcycle before taking Abigail by the hand and navigated the ruins of what used to be an entrance.  Finally ducking under a toppled column, they stepped into the large rotunda of the town’s library.  Other than the entrance, the building was in great shape considering its age and the years of neglect.

 

“Here we are.”

 

His appearance didn’t bother her because she’d already expected the different disguises.  She just didn’t know it was done by magic…until Stephanie and Trish spilled the beans.  It had shocked her to find out he was Chet, but that hadn’t bothered her either, for some reason.

 

“Oh my god…” Abigail’s jaw dropped at the sight of the inside, covering her mouth with her free hand.  It was a library.  He brought her to an actual library! “I-I didn’t think these existed anymore…” She admitted, suddenly feeling excitement surge through her and beamed, eyes taking in everything surrounding them.  Aisle upon aisles of books that didn’t look too damaged and in fairly good condition stared back at her. “This is amazing!  Shakespeare, I have to see if they have Shakespeare here…oh and Edgar Allan Poe!  Hemingway, Stephen King, Twain and Dickens and…” She looked up at him, seeing he was trying so hard not to laugh at her and felt her cheeks burn. “Sorry, I love books…”

 

“Me too.” He said, though not quite as excitedly as she had.

 

Taker came here several times a year and usually took a few back home with him, passing them out, hoping to at least start a little library for those who might want to read.  However, during the winter, books were not as revered as they should’ve been. “Go on, have a look.  Take what you can carry and comfortably hide.” He winked at her. “I only ever take a few myself… feels wrong to take too many, you know?” How old was she?  He wondered, eyeing her thoughtfully. “You ever have a library card?  Not many people remember those…”

 

“No, I’ve never been to an actual library.  My…Mom would bring books home for me on occasion from the local bookstore down the street.”

 

Swap that for Bray and it was the truth, only it wasn’t from a local bookstore, it was a library he’d gone to three times a year.  For her.  They didn’t want to educate the women since they were killed after breeding anyway and the men cared more about fighting and growing their muscles than actually learning about reading, writing, math – the basics.  Abigail released his hand and headed down the aisle, reading the faded signs hanging from the ceiling.  She found what she was looking for, deciding she would bring back one book from each of her favorite authors.

 

He and Glen had gone to the library every week.  They would get books of all kinds, fiction and non-fiction.  They had grown up in a small town, without much outside prospects, so books had been his world and his best education.  Glen had loved renting old videos off the small shelf with it’s even smaller selection.  He had lost count of how many times they had watched an old VHS of Bambi.

 

“I’ll be over in the ‘How To’ section, darlin’.” Taker called after her before turning.  Jeff and Matt would appreciate some new material and he idly wondered if he would find something about solar power here.

 

“Okay, holler if you need me!” Abigail called back, sifting through the books and plucked out a couple, making sure they were paperback. 

 

Hardcover was great and all, but not when she had to ride on a motorcycle for an hour.  In the foster home, she would read to Bray at night, while treating his wounds, to help get his mind off the pain he was in.  Then, once he created the DOV and they’d found, and took over, the castle, that type of intimacy had gone away, and Bray didn’t want to be read to.  All he did want was to make out with her and he’d even gotten angry with her one night when she asked if he wanted her to read to him.  Sighing, Abigail headed into the next aisle, picking another one while running her fingertips over the rest, as if personally marking them.  She would be back here again, especially since Taker enjoyed the library.  Once she had 5 books, Abigail figured that was enough and went to find Taker, seeing the was still in the ‘How To’ section.

 

“Find what you were looking for?”

 

“Sort of.” Taker flashed her the cover of a textbook he was browsing through. “I’m a fairly smart guy, but this way above my pay grade.  Pretty sure Matt and Jeff will get some use out of it.” He tucked it in the leather satchel he was wearing and then smiled slightly. “I also found this for Stephanie.” He held up a paperback ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’. “We used to have a copy, years ago, but it got left out one day and we never seen it again.  Figured she might find something in here to… I don’t know… help her?” Helping birth a baby was one thing, no problem, he had done that several times, but helping a woman with questions about pregnancy, not so much.  He just knew how babies were made. “What’d you find, darlin’?”

 

He really did care about his people and never took the time to make himself happy.  Abigail had noticed that over the past month she’d been in Wonderful. “She’ll love it and appreciate it, I’m sure.  Same with the brainiacs.” Jeff was a riot to be around and made her laugh.  Matt was a creep, but a smart creep, so she supposed he was safe enough to be around. “That’s pretty incredible, you putting everyone else before yourself.  You really do care about every single person in Wonderful, don’t you?” When he muttered good-naturedly ‘not Steve’, she laughed and shook her head, not believing that for a second. “Thank you for bringing me here.  This is the…nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me.  I mean it.”

 

He knew what she thought, Taker didn’t take enough time for himself, and she was only partially correct.  He had his tower, his retreat, but doing for others who couldn’t, especially in these times, was what drove him every day.  It wasn’t because he was into self-sacrifice, he wasn’t, he could be the most ruthless son of a bitch there was, but…. someone had to step up. “You’re welcome, darlin’.” He smiled down at her, reaching out to push yet another flyaway strand of hair out of her eyes.

 

Her cheeks flushed again as she looked away from him, clearing her throat and had her own satchel he’d given her prior to coming. “Okay mister, we’re not leaving here until we find YOU something you like.  You’ve looked for others, now it’s time to look for you.” Abigail had no idea how much time he wanted to spend here and knew they had to be back fairly soon, but not before Taker treated himself.  She grabbed his hand, not minding when he laced their fingers together and guided him away from the ‘How To’ section. “Alright, you take the lead because I have no idea what kind of books you’re into.  What kind of books DO you like anyway?”

 

He promptly turned her right back around, grinning when Abigail sighed in exasperation. “Abbie, you might as well get used to it because this is what I do, it’s what I like to do.  And also…” He plucked a book right off the shelf, holding it out to her.  Hardback, filled with pictures of motorcycles and information on how to fix and tinker with them. “That right there is porn.” Now that he thought about it… he hadn’t seen actual porn in years…eyed her, trying not to smile.  She would slap him silly if she knew how his thoughts had just rambled away.

 

“Porn?”

 

Abigail didn’t know what that was due to how sheltered she’d been throughout her life – first in the foster home and then Bray.  Her world had revolved around Bray and the DOV for years.  When he just gaped at her, she cleared her throat awkwardly and rubbed the back of her neck, having a feeling it was something she probably should’ve known at age 26.

 

“As long as it’s something YOU enjoy, that’s all that matters.” She could not meet his eyes because he kept staring at her in shock. “Okay, why are you gawking at me like that?  I don’t know what porn is, there I said it, happy?”

 

“You… really?” Taker couldn’t believe that, frowning.  She had to be younger than him, but not by that much, right?  He was only in his early 30’s, she… his frowned deepened. “You are over 21, right?” When she nodded, he felt marginally better. “Sheltered life?” Another nod.  He began to grin, feeling a little… devilish. “Porn, darlin’, used to be a big thing.  Old videos, or shit on the Internet, or magazines, even books… all about sex and naked people.” Now Abigail knew, and he seen her blush. “Consenting, all done in fun.  Not… not that DOV shit.” Well, that had gone wrong.

 

“So, porn is sex…” Abigail said it thoughtfully, knowing the question was burning on Taker’s tongue and decided to save him the trouble. “I’m 26, Undertaker.” That sounded really lame because what 26-year-old didn’t know about porn? 

 

She knew about sex, somewhat, only what Bray had shown her though.  Abigail hadn’t been allowed to touch him below the belt, only caressing his shoulders, chest, arms and back, along with kissing.  She felt his eyes on her, burning into her and she shifted uncomfortably, shouldering the satchel since it felt loose.

 

“I know, shocking right?” How the hell was a book about motorcycles porn though? “Wait, you called that porn, but there’s no sex in that book.  Isn’t that what porn is based on or…never mind, forget it.” Wow, she sounded like a dipshit.

 

Taker could only gape at her again, wondering just what kind of life she had lived in Salny.  Abigail had survived the war; she would’ve been a kid back then though… a child.  How did he explain the joke?

 

“It’s… a joke.” He said, knowing he sounded like an idiot. “You know, porn was tailored to people… like…” Taker stopped, not about to talk to her about the different types of porn. “Just, forget it, darlin’.” Wow… he sounded like a pervert!

 

A joke…he thought calling a book about motorcycles was a joke?  Then Abigail realized what he’d done – it was a metaphor, something she DID know about. “Sorry.” She mumbled, feeling incredibly embarrassed and figured she might as well come clean to him about something else regarding herself. “You’re going to find this out eventually, so I’ll just tell you now.  I’m…umm…I’ve never had sex before.  I’m a virgin.  That’s why I don’t, or didn’t, know what porn was.  I’ve…done the kissing and touching making out stuff, but…never anything more than that.” Abigail let out a shaky breath, feeling somewhat of a weight lifted from her shoulders. “And I know it’s pathetic because I’m 26, so I’d appreciate it if we could keep this between us.  I don’t…need anyone else knowing about this in Wonderful.  Will you do that for me?”

 

She always said way too much when she could have just shortened it too she didn’t know much about sex.  Would have said the same thing with less words and why the hell was she telling him this? “If you don’t want people knowing you’re a virgin, then why are you telling me?  What does that have to do with anything?”

 

He was genuinely confused because, before he had had his first sexual encounter, he had still known quite a bit about sex.  People talked and joked; sex was just one of those topics a lot of people learned about early on.  And why was Abigail telling him about what she had done?  This woman made absolutely no sense at all and Taker found himself grinning at her.

 

Chapter 15

 

Taker was right. 

 

Why WAS she telling him her personal information?!

 

“I…” There was no answer, rhyme or reason for telling him she was a virgin.  At all.  Abigail blamed him because he made her flustered and she wasn’t able to think straight around him. “I don’t know.” She finally muttered, feeling mortified and rubbed the back of her neck awkwardly.  Yes, this was very awkward and humiliating and the fact he was grinning at her like a fool just made things worse. “Okay new subject, anything…and to answer your question earlier, yes, I found 5 books I’ve been wanting to read from my favorite authors.  Did you wanna look for something else?”

 

He actually came here on a mission.  Not only had she expressed a love of books, so he had wanted to surprise her, but Taker had combined that with them actually needing some books. “Solar power for the boys, motorcycles for me, probably grab something else, if anything catches my eye… and I want to check out the kid’s section.” At Abbie’s confused look, he smiled slightly. “The kids, darlin’.  I don’t know how things are done in Salny, but… we know what happens to those poor kids in the DOV, their turned into… into freaks.  We’re trying to raise these ones with… some education.” A bit of happiness too, he supposed. “Want me to see about finding you a book on sex?” His grin had turned decidedly wicked and he was rewarded with roses in her cheeks.

 

“No – no – no, that’s quite alright.  I’m good, I know the…mechanics of it with the penis in the…you know what?  I’m just gonna shut up now, okay?  Okay!” Abigail rambled when she was nervous, which didn’t happen often in the DOV because she’d learned to channel that nervousness due to Bray’s bipolar tendencies.  Kids section…kids section…Abigail found it in no time and began sifting through the books, holding out one to Mark with a serene smile.  It was on potty training. “That will definitely come in handy.”

 

“Put it back.” He rolled his eyes, shaking his head. “They have that down; you know how many kids we’ve had over the years?” Hell, quite a bit.  Not as much as the DOV, but they weren’t doing whatever the hell it was the DOV was to mutate those poor bastards. “Learning books, darlin’, like math shit, that would be those write in books, you know?  Where the kids could work out problems and shit here, but I took them all years ago and they ran out.”

 

Potty training had never been an issue.  However, panicky women, who had no idea what was going on with their bodies, was a problem.  They didn’t have a woman doctor on staff, just people who had learned medical knowledge over time.  Doing as she was told, Abigail began looking through the books again and didn’t pick one out for fear of being rejected again.  Hell, it was a potty-training book for kids.  She figured the kids would want to know WHY they had to go potty on a toilet as opposed to in a diaper, but that was just her.  It would definitely be beneficial for Stephanie and a few of the other women who had toddlers around the age of 2.  Taker knew best though, he was the boss, so she had to do as instructed.  They found a small section with math learning books, some of the pages written on, but for the most part they were clean.  There was also one for spelling, which was a huge plus, so they grabbed all of them to put in each of their satchels. 

 

At least the awkwardness was over with between them, for now.  Abigail still couldn’t believe she had told him about being a virgin.  What the hell was she thinking?!  This man didn’t want her sexually!  Hell, she would probably be a virgin until the day she died because, once Bray came for her, she planned on killing herself before letting him get his hands on her again…if Undertaker refused to help liberate her and the victims of DOV.

 

Abigail seemed miffed about his rejection of the potty training book and he hadn’t honestly known what to tell her.  They had been doing this for over a decade, potty training came as easily as teaching kids to eat.  It was natural.  Taker didn’t want to waste space on something that was just so easily picked up.  Once they found learning books, she seemed to relax more, which was good.  He had to wonder about her though.  She was so damn weird.  Sheltered.  Awkward.  It was hilarious and endearing, in a way he probably shouldn’t be thinking.

 

“Here, catch.”

 

Tossing her a book, Taker smirked when Abigail took in the cover and watched as she read the title before opening it and promptly dropped it.  Kama Sutra.  Abigail turned five shades of red, kicking the ridiculous book to the side and shook her head at a grinning Undertaker.  He had that damn grin on his face again!  This man infuriated her and lit her on fire like no other!  It was a very weird combination, and she didn’t know how to feel about it.

 

“I’m not reading about sex.  It’s not necessary.  But now I know where YOUR mind is at.” Right in the gutter, typical male. 

 

Snorting when he laughed at her, Abigail continued looking through the books, not really finding anything else teaching wise.  There were books that were fun, but she didn’t think Taker would bring those back, so she left them alone.  She was wrong; Taker walked over to a beet red Abbie and eyed the stack she had set aside, cocking an eyebrow.

 

“What’re these?” He asked, hearing her muttering something about recreational reading and shrugged. “If you want.” Taker had turned her down on the other book, then harassed her a bit, so he owed her. “Anything else you want to look at, darlin’?  The town itself was picked clean years ago; not that there was much to begin with.”

 

“No, I’m good and, like you said, we only need to bring back what can be useful.  You’re right.”

 

The kids would survive without fun books, especially since libraries were no more besides this one, apparently.  Maybe next time Abigail came here, if there was one, she would grab them if they were still here.  This place was completely abandoned, so she doubted anyone would come here to ransack a bunch of kid-friendly books.

 

“Did you wanna go somewhere else besides here or head back to Wonderful?”

 

“We can head back.  Coming here for the solar books was pretty much the point; everything else was just a bonus.” When Abigail turned, he swiped all the books she had set out in his satchel, not bothering to acknowledge that stupid potty training book he had also tossed in when she wasn’t looking. “I don’t like being away for too long, they might miss me.” Not necessarily the truth but… close enough he supposed. “You want to take the long way or short way back, darlin’?”

 

Now that her cheeks weren’t burning anymore, Abigail felt more at ease and smiled softly, stopping to wait for him to join her before they began walking together. “I don’t mind the long way.” She felt him grab her hand again and looked up at him, once again feeling the butterflies erupting in her stomach.  Whenever they were alone, which hadn’t happened often, except the past 2 days lately, they always formed, and Abigail could feel the heat engulf her all over again. “Thank you for bringing me with you today.  This was a really nice surprise, and I’ll never forget it, Taker.  And if you come back here in the future, I want to come with you again.”

 

“I only come a couple times a year, darlin’, but you’re more than welcome to join when I do.”

 

He never came during the winter; they all preferred to stay behind the walls then.  Traveling in snow with motorcycles wasn’t exactly the brightest thing to do.  Leading the way out, Taker guided her under the broken columns until they were outside, blinking.  When they had come in, it had been bright and sunny.  It was looking a little overcast now.

 

“Shit.”

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

Abigail looked up at the sky, frowning as well.  The sun was gone, and the clouds were moving in awfully fast.  She jumped when a streak of lightning lit up the sky, followed by a rumble of thunder that shook the foundation of the town they stood in.  A few seconds later, rain began pouring in gallons from the sky and Taker quickly scooped Abigail up to rush back into the library.  It didn’t matter, in that short time frame, her top had been soaked along with the top of her jeans, the material clinging to her body and curves.  Her braided hair was also soaked…and she was being held against an equally soaked Taker, though her body had shielded some of him from getting the brunt of the rain.

 

“Maybe it’ll be a quick system and we can leave afterwards?”

 

“Probably,” He agreed, though his tone was doubtful.  It was summer, and usually pretty dry.  When they got storms, those damn things lasted ages it seemed.  Taker groaned, running a hand through his wet hair after he had set her down. “Fuck all…” He snorted when thunder boomed, sparing her a glance. “Get out of those clothes, you’ll catch sick.” He stepped away from Abigail to start shedding his own as well, eyeing the material around them.  Metal trashcan, desk… he could make them a contained fire to dry things quicker.

 

“Wait, what?  Come again?” Taker wanted her to shed her clothes in front of him?!  Abigail didn’t know what to think or say, just standing there with her arms wrapped around herself while Taker had no problem shedding his clothes in front of her. “O-Oh god…”

 

She immediately turned her back to him because the man had NOTHING on under those jeans.  The front of them had gotten wet along with the bottoms, so he felt the need to get them dry by taking them off.  How the HELL was she supposed to look at him for the duration of the time they were here without turning into a tomato?!  Another crack resonated outside, echoing through the library and Abigail suddenly felt warmth against her wet back.  Taker was standing right behind her and she absolutely refused to turn around to face him, feeling her cheeks burning again.  She was terrified, hadn’t she ever seen a man naked before?  Besides Steve, though Taker supposed that didn’t count.  It was just a matter of being practical.  He wasn’t about to get sick because of false modesty and he didn’t see any reason for her to do so either.

 

“Here.” He thought about it and then grinned. “Okay darlin’, I’m decent.” When she shook her head, he walked around to stand in front of her.  He was fully dressed, and he watched as she looked at his clothes on the ground and then at him. “Uh… don’t… touch me.” He informed her when it looked like she might try. “Illusion, Abbie, I’ll feel a lot different than I look.” For example, she’d feel his naked junk.

 

Could magic really do that?  Then why couldn’t he dry them with it?  Maybe it was a different kind of magic to where he could only do disguises and illusions.  She didn’t know, and it was confusing as hell.

 

“Sorry, I’ve never…I’ve never seen a man naked before.”

 

Sure, the shock of him coming out as a naked Steve had been hilarious, but Abigail had keeled over to where the fire had blocked him.  She’d only looked for a couple seconds…and a lot of other people were around.  It was just the two of them, alone, in an abandoned old library with a storm raging outside.

 

“I don’t think…this is a good idea…” A second later, her tank top was pulled up and over her head, leaving her clad in a simple black bra. “W-What are you doing?” Abigail stammered, watching him lower to one knee and felt the button to her jeans unsnap, his fingers hooking in the waistband to push them down her legs, stepping out of them. “I’m NOT taking these off.” She referred to her bra and panties; those were NOT an option.

 

Rolling his eyes, Taker simply nodded, draping her clothes out over an empty shelf before doing the same with his clothes.  While she shivered in her bra and panties, and he was trying not to look – really, he was – he began breaking down the desk.  Time hadn’t been kind to it, so… it was fairly easy.  He dragged the metal trashcan into the center of the room, away from the books and began tossing the wood into it.

 

“Bring me my satchel, darlin’.”

 

Move, she had to move and stop standing around or else she would end up freezing, even though it was summertime.  The rain had been chilly and chilled her to the bone.  If Taker wanted to build a fire, she was all for it and brought him his satchel before helping him break the smaller parts of the desk down.  Blood pumping, she had to keep moving and took one of the longer wooden pieces that resembled a pole, setting it aside.  Once all the pieces were in the trashcan, she let Taker handle the fire part and took the pole before standing in the hallway, beginning to swing it around like Amy taught her. 

 

Training would keep her mind focused and body warm, so she didn’t freeze.  It was also a great time to work on her footing.  She’d shucked her shoes off when he removed her jeans along with her socks, so she was barefoot in just her undergarments.  Luckily, they weren’t a see-through color or Taker would’ve gotten an eyeful of bra-covered nipples since they were currently erect.

 

He carried matches everywhere, and luckily, they weren’t wet or else they would have had to rely on the old school methods.  Or, Taker could have probably used magic, but he was pretty sure he had abused it enough today.  Once the fire was going, he turned to watch Abigail, dropping down onto the old marble floor and winced.  His ass was bare… and the floor was cold.  His balls were probably tucked safely up in his body, where it was warm.

 

“Mind the puddle, darlin’.” He could just imagine that, her slipping and going splat.  When she turned, his eyes narrowed in on her breasts.  That bra might not have been see-through, but it was definitely clinging to her ample curves.

 

“Thanks…” Abigail smiled at him, not noticing the issues Taker was having and could tell he was cold, so she walked over to him, after finding another pole that was almost as long as hers. “You said you’d help me with my footwork and this is the best way to keep warm, by moving.  So, come on, train with me, please?”

 

She extended the pole to him, not seeing where hers was until she wound up tripping over it accidently and landed right in his lap.  His NAKED lap, straddling him, and her chest was pressed against his.  The clothing really was JUST an illusion, he hadn’t been lying about that.

 

“Shit, sorry, damn pole!”

 

“That’s not a pole, darlin’.” He rumbled, in a bit of shock. 

 

Chapter 16

 

He was chilling by a fire, getting warm, and she – supposed virgin that she was – had come sashaying over in those bits of hers… there was no way she was as innocent as she claimed.  That or… stupid.  His hands had automatically gone to her waist and adjusted her because he was now sporting an erection and he wasn’t letting her crush that.  His eyes darkened slightly when he felt her panty clad sex rub against him.

 

“I-I’m aware…” Abigail muttered, her eyes widening at what she brushed up against and her hands had gone to his shoulders. 

 

She did NOT sashay over to him, she had walked and went to extend the makeshift pole to him, only to trip herself up on her OWN pole!  Her coordination wasn’t that great, though she had gotten better, or so Abigail thought.  Not so much now.  Instead of getting off him like she should’ve, she made the crucial mistake of meeting his eyes and her body was no longer cold.  It was heated through from the top of her head to the tips of her toes, the sparks surging through every vein of her body.  Her cheeks were red hot, her body flushed, and she began to tremble slightly from nervous energy, trying like hell to stay calm.

 

“S-Sorry…” What else was she supposed to say?

 

Nope, in his very male mind, she had sashayed.  With a pole.  In lingerie.  It had been a long time since he had really desired a woman.  Taker had taken a few to bed for sex because he liked sex, but true desire, not so much.  He was feeling it now, and she probably was too because… he was naked.  For all intents and purposes, he was naked, and fate needed to intervene because he was starting to think of a lot of ‘metaphors’ for her.

 

“You feel that electricity, darlin’?” He could feel it coursing through his veins and he bet she was too, by the way her eyes were beginning to darken.

 

Electricity and fire…she felt both intensely and swallowed past the lump that formed in her throat, her hands moving of their own as she caressed his chest. “Y-Yes…” His eyes had darkened along with hers, the emeralds turning into forest green orbs with a hint of smoky grey in them.  There was a storm brewing between them and it was stronger than the one currently raging outside. “I-It scares me…” Abigail admitted, needing to be honest with him and felt him pull her closer to where her arms draped around his neck. “A-And excites me…at the same time…” Never once did her eyes leave his, only blinking every few seconds normally, but she couldn’t break eye contact. “I-Is it supposed to feel like this?  I-I feel like I’m fire and I can’t stop it…”

 

Now that was what he wanted to hear, and Taker practically purred his approval. “Yes, darlin’, it’s supposed to feel like that.” He whispered, his face moving ever so slowly near hers, not wanting to startle her. “Wild… fiery… passionate,” His lips brushed hers. “Uncontrollable…” If she wanted to stop him, now would be a good time, but Abigail seemed to be… a bit dazed.  Taker moved in for the kill, kissing her gently but firmly, letting her feel his mustache and goatee tickle at her skin as he tasted her lips.

 

It wasn’t her first kiss, so she knew what she was doing and moaned softly against his mouth, the goatee he sported causing a whirlwind of sensations to flow through her.  Abigail tightened her arms around his neck slightly, their chests pressed tightly together now and felt those sparks turn into a raging inferno.  Never had she experienced something so exquisite as she did with Taker.  With Bray, she had to force herself to enjoy being with him, though he was a good kisser and made all the right moves.  Taker, it was pure unbridled, unadulterated passion, something so explosive, she was afraid they’d both erupt like a volcano.